The law firm of Dalton & Tomich PLC has successfully represented many local churches throughout the United States who have left the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian USA denomination over the past decade. Many local congregations wish to leave their denominations over doctrinal issues, yet struggle with the idea of leaving due to the threat of the denomination taking their real and personal property.
Dalton & Tomich, PLC represents St. Nicholas Romanian Orthodox Monastery in Troy, Michigan with its departure from the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America and through litigation has helped the organization keep its property. This case illustrates how one local church we represent successfully left its denomination and kept its property.
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After a dispute between the St. Nicholas Romanian Orthodox Monastery and the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America, a group of Romanian monks, led by Bishop Irineu resigned from the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America. Archbishop Nathaniel of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America waged a war against Bishop Irineiu and anyone who supports him and sought to take the property of the St. Nicholas Monastery in Troy, Michigan.
The issue in this case is whether a cloud on the title asserted by the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America claiming it was the owner of the property owned by St. Nicholas Romanian Orthodox Monastery. By applying neutral principles of Michigan’s longstanding property law, the Oakland County Circuit Court found that the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America had no “legally cognizable” interest in the property owned by the St. Nicholas Romanian Orthodox Monastery.
The history of religious growth in the United States can be traced in no small part to the frequency of schism within religious organizations, which is to be expected where the First Amendment absolutely protects the right to believe whatever one chooses. One result is that the United States is a country of immense religious diversity. When religious organizations divide into factions, the property owned by the organization often becomes a point of contention. The question becomes whether a local Church may leave a denomination and keep its property and whether denominational trust clauses set forth in its governance rules enforceable. We help local churches keep their property.
We would be honored to walk with your local church in evaluating the relationship that you have with your denomination and find the best path of separation. Please contact Daniel Dalton at Dalton & Tomich, PLC to help your local church prepare for and navigate through the departure process.