In Church of God in Christ, Inc. v. Bd. of T’ees of Emmanuel Church of God in Christ, Wichita, Case No. 104,859, 2012 WL 2053573 (Kan. App. June 8, 2012), the Kansas Court of Appeals concluded that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to resolve a church property dispute and so did the appellate court to review the matter. The Church of God in Christ, Inc., a hierarchical denominational church, received a default judgment and injunction against the board of trustees and several individual members of Emmanuel Church of God in Christ after the defendants purported to transfer church property to an entity they created. After three years of litigation and a ruling that the new entity held the church property in trust for the denomination, the parties participated in mediation, but the church still would not give up the property in accordance with the mediated settlement when the denomination refused to allow its request for transfer to another jurisdiction. The injunction granted the denomination “access and control” over the church property, removed the board of trustees of the new entity and named the new pastor appointed by the bishop as the chief executive officer of the corporation. The appellate court recognized that courts ordinarily lack subject matter jurisdiction over issues relating to the selection of clergy, but ruled that in this case the pastoral appointment was interrelated with a property dispute which it could decide. The appellate court observed that the defendants never filed a motion to set aside the default judgment and, thus, did not preserve the issue for appeal. Likewise, the court held that the defendants waived any affirmative defenses for failure to file an answer. Last, the court ruled that it was unnecessary for the plaintiff to name the new entity holding title to the property in the lawsuit under the “trust pursuit rule.”
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Injunction upheld granting denomination access and control over church and appointing new pastor
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