Guest / Limited Access /

Ross "Buddy" Lindsay III receives phone calls every day from pastors who want his help wresting their church property from denominational control. As chancellor of All Saints Church in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, Lindsay has spent a decade immersed in church property disputes. He is one of only four Americans with a master's degree in canon law from Cardiff University in Wales.

In September, the South Carolina State Supreme Court ruled 5-0 in favor of All Saints, allowing the 800-member congregation to keep its 50 acres worth $20 million. Before leaving the Episcopal Church (TEC) in 2004, the church amended its charter, declaring that it no longer accedes to the national constitution. The court ruled the national church did not retain clear ownership of the local church property.

"The All Saints case is a roadmap for other congregations to secure their property before leaving their denomination," Lindsay says. All Saints is emblematic of passionate struggles that pit scores of breakaway congregations and entire dioceses against mainline denominations, primarily TEC and the Presbyterian Church (USA). In court papers, denominations paint local churches as secessionists, while local congregations see themselves as defenders of the faith set against an apostate national church.

Each side believes the turf wars could impact the future of church-state relations, since the U.S. Supreme Court may get involved. Lindsay says, "If the Supreme Court rules for All Saints, it could largely be the death of Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches."

Some conservative congregations in the PC(USA) contend that when their denomination has made no financial investment in a local church, it should not stand to gain when a church attempts ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only Taking the Long View
Parenting, our newest columnist, and the legacy of Carl Henry.
Current IssueThe Cosmos Is Vaster than the Ancients Imagined
Subscriber Access Only
The Cosmos Is Vaster than the Ancients Imagined
Looking at the stars is always humbling. Wrong understandings of their movement are even more so.
RecommendedCoffee: The Beverage That Fuels the Church
Coffee: The Beverage That Fuels the Church
How the church has transformed a cup of joe into a universal display of hospitality.
TrendingResearch Says: Young People Don't Want Hip Pastors
Research Says: Young People Don't Want Hip Pastors
A study of 250 congregations suggests that youth and young adults want substance rather than style.
Editor's PickThe Precarious Future of Assisted Suicide
The Precarious Future of Assisted Suicide
'Culture of Death' sounds the alarm on pending medical bioethics legislation and other troubling trends.
Christianity Today
Land and Building Wars
hide thisJanuary January

In the Magazine

January 2010

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.