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Breakaway Church Can't Keep Building, Wisconsin Court Says.

A Methodist congregation that broke away from the national denomination does not have the right to keep the church building, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled.

The court ruled 5-2 May 31 that members of the Elo United Methodist Church in Pickett, Wisc., must surrender the building to denominational officials. The church building, the court ruled, was held "in trust" by the local congregation but remained the property of the United Methodist Church.

Religion New Service reported that the 119-member congregation voted to leave the Methodist denomination in 1997 due to a disagreement over doctrine. Members renamed the building the Elo Evangelical Church, removed the name "United Methodist" from all church materials and even tried to evict the pastor from the parsonage.

After two years of unfruitful negotiations, the denomination's Wisconsin Annual Conference filed suit to get the church back. Declared the court, "Although the members of a local church may secede from a hierarchical system, they cannot secede and take the church property with them." (The Wisconsin Conference Board of Trustees of the United Methodist Church, Inc. v. Culver)
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Publication:Church & State
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2001
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