Our Practice

Church Property Law

Practice Contact: Lloyd Lunceford

Representing Churches locally, regionally and nationally throughout the United States in defending against trust claims brought by their national denominations, the Church Property Law practice at Taylor Porter is nationally renowned, recognized and published with attorney Lloyd Lunceford serving as the General Editor for
A Guide to Church Property Law, 2nd edition, Reformation Press, 2010, 478 pages. In the course of this practice, our attorneys have advised and represented more than 100 churches in 25 states, ranging in size from 20 to 8,000 congregation members, and churches whose property value ranged from a few hundred thousand dollars to as high as an estimated $100 million.

Local churches are most often listed as the owner in the deed to the local church property, but the denominations nevertheless sometimes claim a right to determine occupancy, use and control on the basis of a “trust clause” added to the denominational constitution. The question then becomes, “Who really owns the church building?” Recent court decisions in the United States have generated significant publicity and concern, prompting many congregations to seek review of the status of their local church property.

Our attorneys help churches evaluate their property-related documents to determine whether or not they have a viable claim to own their property without any trust attaching to it in favor of the denomination, and in obtaining civil court judgments that establish full and unfettered ownership.

Additionally, if the local church decides it wants to change denominations, our attorneys help manage their risks as they navigate to that destination, whether by district agency vote of “dismissal” or congregational vote of “disaffiliation.”

Our Church Property Law practice representative/sample cases and clients include:

  • Obtained injunctions that prevented immediate hostile takeovers by district denominational representatives, on behalf of churches in Delaware, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Missouri, Indiana and elsewhere.
  • Represented Carrollton Presbyterian Church of New Orleans against the Presbytery of South Louisiana in successfully establishing the local church’s right to sell its property without Presbytery permission being required. The local church was awarded $480,000 in sanctions levied against the Presbytery for its bad faith litigation.
  • Served as co-counsel for Highland Park Presbyterian Church in successfully obtaining an injunction that barred Grace Presbytery from interfering with the local church’s property use and decision to change denominations.
  • Served as co-counsel for First Presbyterian Church of Houston in successfully obtaining summary judgment on behalf of the local church, declaring that it owned its property free of any trust in favor of the denomination.
  • Filed amicus curiae briefs, in both Episcopalian and Presbyterian cases, with the State Supreme Courts of South Carolina, Texas, Indiana, and Oregon, successfully urging the adoption of neutral principles of law as the exclusive method for resolving church property disputes.

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