IN THE SUPREME COURT OF TENNESSEE AT JACKSON April 5 2017

In The Supreme Court Of Tennessee At Jackson April 5 2017-Free PDF

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Robert L J Spence Jr Bryan M Meredith and Veronica F Coleman Davis Memphis. Tennessee for the appellees L M Haley Ministries Inc Gospel Center Temple Church. Moscow Inc Lonnie M Haley III Jeremiah R Haley Ulysses C Polk Barry C. Turner Milton Holt Sr and Erskine J Murphy,I Factual and Procedural Background. The Church of God in Christ Incorporated COGIC is a national not for profit. religious corporation established on December 12 1922 under the laws of Tennessee. with its principal business office located in Memphis COGIC has adopted a hierarchical. structure of governance for its member churches 1 The COGIC constitution which. provides for the civil and ecclesiastical structure of the church together with laws rules. and regulations for the entire church including local churches is compiled in The. Official Manual 2 Pursuant to these governing principles COGIC is divided into. Ecclesiastical Jurisdictions and a Jurisdictional Bishop presides over each Ecclesiastical. Jurisdiction The Official Manual declares that t he Pastor of the local church shall be. appointed by the Jurisdictional Bishop of the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of the Church. This provision also states All vacancies that occur in the pastorate of the local church. shall be filled by the Jurisdictional Bishop The supervision and management of the. church shall remain with the Jurisdictional Bishop or his designee until such time as a. pastor has been appointed to fill such vacancy, According to the allegations of the second amended complaint Gospel Center. Temple COGIC Temple COGIC located at 16885 Highway 57 Moscow Fayette. County Tennessee was founded many years ago At the time of its founding Temple. COGIC assumed the vows of membership with COGIC and declared it s willingness. to submit to and abide by the government of COGIC including The Official Manual. See Church of God in Christ Inc v Middle City Church of God in Christ 774 S W 2d 950 951. Tenn Ct App 1989 stating that COGIC local churches operate as part of a connectional system. Convention of Protestant Episcopal Church in Diocese of Tenn v Rector Wardens Vestrymen of. Saint Andrew s Parish No M2010 01474 COA R3 CV 2012 WL 1454846 at 20 n 16 Tenn Ct App. Apr 25 2012 hereinafter Saint Andrew s stating that connectional and hierarchical mean the. same thing, The second amended complaint from which this appeal arises states that The Official Manual. as amended is incorporated herein as if set forth in its entirety but The Official Manual actually is not. included in the record on appeal Nevertheless the relevant provisions of The Official Manual are quoted. in the second amended complaint The parties do not dispute the accuracy of these quotations and we. will accept these quotations as accurate for purposes of this appeal. In return COGIC issued Temple COGIC a certificate of membership 3 and assigned. Temple COGIC to the Tennessee Headquarters Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction THEJ. L M Haley Jr founded Temple COGIC and served as its duly appointed pastor. until his death on October 10 2009 Thereafter the Jurisdictional Bishop for THEJ. Bishop J O Patterson Jr declined to name a pastor and temporarily assumed the. pastorship of Temple COGIC as authorized by The Official Manual 4. Bishop Patterson died in June 2011 and Bishop David A Hall thereafter was. appointed Jurisdictional Bishop for THEJ Like his predecessor Bishop Hall chose to. serve as pastor of Temple COGIC rather than appoint someone else to the position. Unfortunately not everyone at Temple COGIC was satisfied with Bishop Hall s decision. and in October 2011 those dissatisfied with the decision sought the advice of a lawyer. also an elder in COGIC about their options In a letter included in the record on appeal. this attorney summarized the advice he had given explaining that the members of. Temple COGIC had an absolute right to vote to move to another Ecclesiastical. J urisdiction but cautioned that if they were to remain in COGIC they must follow. the church s polity including accepting the Bishop s appointment of Pastors He. explained that if they desire ed to fellowship with another Ecclesiastical. J urisdiction of COGIC they should present their petition to the General Board. requesting a vote of the membership, Thereafter the General Secretary of COGIC received a letter advising that a. majority of the members of Temple COGIC had voted to transfer to another. Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction 5 The General Secretary responded with a letter explaining. that the election would not be recognized as valid because it had not been conducted in. compliance with COGIC procedures contained in The Official Manual for obtaining a. transfer to another Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction The General Secretary provided a copy of. the applicable procedures and invited the recipients of the letter to contact his office. Temple COGIC s certificate of membership is not included in the record on appeal. According to allegations in the second amended complaint Bishop Patterson exercised this. option because of a conflict between various members of the family of L M Haley Jr over which of. them should be named pastor of Temple COGIC The rationale for Bishop Patterson s decision is not. relevant to the issues in this appeal, The second amended complaint alleges that notice of the election was provided only to Temple.
COGIC members favoring a transfer and that members who were believed to oppose a transfer were not. informed of the election or given an opportunity to vote on the issue Any dispute regarding these. allegations is not relevant to the dispositive issues in this appeal. should additional information or assistance be needed The General Secretary did not. receive any additional correspondence regarding a transfer. However on December 16 2011 a corporate charter was filed with the Tennessee. Secretary of State s Office creating Gospel Center Temple Church Moscow Inc. Moscow Church The Moscow Church s corporate charter listed its business address. as 16885 Highway 57 Moscow Fayette County Tennessee the same address as Temple. COGIC Neither the corporate charter nor any other document in the record on appeal. indicates that the Moscow Church was organized as a member church of COGIC. Another Tennessee corporation L M Haley Ministries Incorporated L M Haley. Ministries had been formed previously by the founding pastor of Temple COGIC and. had also listed 16885 Highway 57 Moscow Fayette County Tennessee as its registered. office and principal place of business Nevertheless according to a September 17 2000. deed the grantees for the real property located at this address were Temple COGIC Ella. Mary Cox Milton E Holt Sr Lonnie M Haley Janice Murphy John W Arnett and. Erskine J Murphy Trustees for the use and benefit of Temple COGIC and its assigns. Neither the Moscow Church nor L M Haley Ministries was listed on the deed as having. any interest in the property The September 17 2000 deed also did not expressly list. COGIC as having an interest in the property but The Official Manual includes the. following provision, Real estate or other property may be acquired by purchase gift devise or. otherwise by local churches Where real or personal property is acquired. by deed the instrument of conveyance shall contain the following clause to. The said property is held in trust for the use and benefit of the. members of the Church of God in Christ with National. Headquarters in the City of Memphis Shelby County Tennessee. and subject to the Charter Constitution Laws and Doctrines of. said Church now in full force and effect or as they may be. hereafter amended changed or modifies sic by the General. Assembly of said Church, This same language is repeated verbatim in another part of The Official Manual 6. According to the second amended complaint the quoted text appears in Part I article III. section D 9 and is repeated verbatim in Part III section A 8. Despite the language of the September 17 2000 deed and that of The Official. Manual on December 29 2011 Barry C Turner Erskine J Murphy and Milton Holt. Sr holding themselves out to be the sole Trustees of Temple COGIC executed and. recorded a Quit Claim Deed attempting to transfer the real property located at 16885. Highway 57 Moscow Fayette County Tennessee to the Moscow Church On January 2. 2012 four days after the quit claim deed was executed Bishop Hall attempted to hold. services at Temple COGIC but he was barred from entering the premises A Fayette. County Sheriff s Deputy allegedly called in by those associated with the Moscow Church. advised Bishop Hall that he should either leave or be arrested. A month later on February 2 2012 this lawsuit was filed Bishop Hall filed the. initial complaint individually and on behalf of Temple COGIC After the complaint was. amended once the defense filed a motion to dismiss The trial court concluded that. Bishop Hall may have lacked standing to file the lawsuit on his own but it granted him. permission to file a second amended complaint The second amended complaint from. which this appeal arises was filed on July 29 2013 by COGIC Bishop Hall. individually and on behalf of Temple COGIC and Temple COGIC by and through its. duly appointed trustee John Arnett collectively the Plaintiffs Named as defendants. in the second amended complaint were 1 L M Haley Ministries 2 the Moscow. Church 3 L M Haley III 4 Jeremiah R Haley 5 Ulysses C Polk 6 Barry C. Turner 7 Milton Holt Sr and 8 Erskine J Murphy collectively the Defendants. In the second amended complaint the Plaintiffs alleged that the Moscow Church. and L M Haley Ministries by and through their directors had unlawfully assumed. control of Temple COGIC s real property As factual support for this assertion the. Plaintiffs alleged that Bishop Hall Temple COGIC s duly appointed pastor and. Jurisdictional Bishop had been barred from entering Temple COGIC on threat of arrest. by a Fayette County Sheriff s Deputy The Plaintiffs also alleged that one of the. Defendants Erskine J Murphy had removed church documents from Temple COGIC. including the checkbook and financial records and that by doing so had deprived. Bishop Hall of access to materials needed to fulfill his responsibility to administer and. supervise Temple COGIC, As the basis for their claim to the real property and to control of the bank. accounts records and other personal property of Temple COGIC the Plaintiffs pointed. to the language of the September 17 2000 deed and that of The Official Manual The. Plaintiffs asked the trial court 1 to order the Defendants to remove themselves from. control of Temple COGIC and restore Temple COGIC and its property and funds to. the Plaintiffs 2 to declare the December 29 2011 quit claim deed to the Moscow. Church null and void as a fraudulent transfer 3 to restructure the September 17 2000. deed to reflect that the real property is held in trust for the use and benefit of COGIC. with national headquarters in Memphis Tennessee and subject to the Charter. Constitution Laws and Doctrines of COGIC now in full force and effect or as they. may be hereafter amended changed or modified by the COGIC General Assembly 4. to order the Defendants to account for all income and expenditures from January 1 2011. to the present and 5 to issue a temporary restraining order preventing the Defendants. from using Temple COGIC funds pending resolution of the lawsuit. In their answers to the second amended complaint the Defendants denied that. Bishop Hall was the lawful pastor of Temple COGIC 7 The Defendants also moved to. dismiss the second amended complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can. be granted and for lack of subject matter jurisdiction arguing that the Plaintiffs were. asking the trial court to exercise jurisdiction over a purely ecclesiastical and religious. dispute as to who shall be the church s pastor and thereby control the church s property. On December 6 2013 the Plaintiffs filed a memorandum of law in opposition to. the Defendants motions to dismiss 8 The Plaintiffs reiterated the allegations of the. second amended complaint and also provided a copy of a decision handed down on. November 23 2013 by an Ecclesiastical Council of COGIC The memorandum of law. stated that in February 2013 certain members of Temple COGIC brought charges. against several other members of the congregation including some of the Defendants in. this lawsuit alleging that these members were violating COGIC polity and unlawfully. exercising control over Temple COGIC property 9 An internal COGIC investigation. ensued which culminated in a trial before the Ecclesiastical Council on November 23. 2013 Those charged were notified of the trial but did not appear After the hearing at. which sworn complaints and testimony were presented the Ecclesiastical Council. rendered its decision finding that the Defendants ha d ignored the requests and. admonitions of COGIC officials to follow the polity of COGIC were operating. Temple COGIC in violation of the COGIC constitution and The Official Manual had. The Moscow Church Jeremiah R Haley Ulysses C Polk Barry C Turner Milton Holt Sr. and Erskine J Murphy jointly filed an answer by and through counsel on August 13 2013 L M Haley. Ministries and Lonnie M Haley III jointly filed an answer through counsel on August 21 2013. On November 14 2013 the Plaintiffs filed a motion asking the trial court to stay the. IN THE SUPREME COURT OF TENNESSEE AT JACKSON April 5 2017 Session CHURCH OF GOD IN CHRIST INC ET AL v L M HALEY MINISTRIES INC ET AL Appeal by Permission from the Court of Appeals

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