In what could be a landmark case in church property disputes, a California court has ruled that a breakaway Fresno congregation may keep its property after it decided to sever ties with the United Methodist Church.
The decision by the Fifth District Court of Appeals to award St. Luke’s Community Church custody over its building and land is contrary to that in most property dispute cases. Courts typically rule that local parishes do not own their property because they are held “in trust” for the denomination.
Two years ago a lower court ruled in favor of the denomination. “We agree with the earlier decision— that’s our position,” Bishop Beverly Shamana told the Fresno Bee. “The courts did what they felt they needed to do. We are considering our options.”