Judge Rules Mississippi Church Is Owner of Its Property

A judge has ruled that First Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) of Starkville Mississippi – not the Presbyterian Church (USA) – owns its property.

“It is undisputed that the deeds to all the property at issue have no trust provision,” wrote Davidson. “Regardless of the claim of trust, a strict reading of the recorded deeds reveal no trust provision in any other party as trustee, not is there a reverter clause contain in any of the instruments.” Davidson said there was no “traditional express trust … nor any legally enforceable and separate traditional trust instrument that would operate to vest a beneficial interest in and over the legally titled property of FPC to PCUSA.”

 

A judge has ruled that a Mississippi church – not the Presbyterian Church (USA) – owns its property.

In First Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) of Starkville Mississippi vs. Presbytery of St. Andrew, the Presbyterian Church (USA) Inc., the Honorable H.J. Davidson Jr., granted the church’s motion for summary judgment “affirming its right to hold title to its property without interference of claim from the PCUSA.”

FPC-Starkville filed a lawsuit in early 2015 with the Chancery Court of Oktibbeha County in Miss., asking for a declaratory judgment “recognizing that FPC Starkville alone is the absolute, full, exclusive, fee simple owner of all real or personal property that is owned by FPC Starkville.”

Further, it asked the court to declare that neither the presbytery, nor the PCUSA, had “no right to or interest in any of the real or personal property so owned by FPC Starkville.”

The Order

“Simply put,” Davidson wrote in his July 27 order the court is being asked “who is entitled to or controls the real property occupied by FPC?”

Davidson was very clear that “The underlying reason for the schism is not the issue before this court, nor should it be. The issue is the relationship between the local church (FPC) and the parent church (PCUSA) and whether such relationship gives rise to a trust property interest in PCUSA to the real and personal property located in Oktibbeha County, title to which is held of record by FPC.”

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