Police, Guns, and Lawyers become Tools of UM Leaders Against 100 Year Old Methodist Congregation
The Bible On The Ground
On July second, 1995, two church officers, twin brothers, arrived early to open the church and prepare for morning worship. Their arms were loaded down with worship materials: From bulletins to Cheerios and milk for Sunday School children. Heading for the door, with a key in his hand they heard the rough voice. If you enter the church, you will be arrested, said the Wilmington, Delaware police officer. The officer whispered into his radio and three marked police cruisers appeared so quickly, they must have been waiting just out of sight. Six uniformed officers ran from the curb up the steps of East Lake Methodist Church and ordered the church treasurer, "Put your Bible down" as if the Sword of the Spirit threatened the peace and took him away. The first policeman stepped back to the sidewalk to see what the remaining church officer would do. With tears in his eyes, he opened the Bible on the ground and found the shaped note Gospel tune, Keep on The Firing Line. He opened his guitar case and took out his twelve string Martin and started right in singing in the key of A Major. If you're in the battle for the Lord and right, Keep on the firing line, If you win the victory, brother you must fight...As the worshipers gathered they sang, preached and prayed until noon on the Church steps. They bailed the treasurer out, no charge was ever prosecuted and he returned to the church and the churchmen performed grounds maintenance until dark.
They had been worshipping at their church since 1951 and their mother had worshipped there since 1927. They have continued to worship in their church until this day and the United Methodist District Superintendent Susan Karen Kester has not dared to hire a gunman again to keep East Lakers' out of their church, but now has hired a lawyer to swindle the church from them.
In the Fall of 1889 a Sunday School was started. On June 1, 1890 a wooden chapel was erected at the corner of 30th and Tatnall Streets. No deed trust was placed on the church or parsonage deed then or thereafter. The deeds are held in the name of the corporation. It was at that time that the Methodist Episcopal Church Conference sent a pastor to be paid by East Lake. The twins and one of their wives would play in the original building as children, after it was moved to the wife's relative's farm to make way for a brick church in 1905. The first incorporation took place in 1892 and a re-incorporating took place in 1905 as both a general business and religious corporation of the State of Delaware. In 1906 the property was conveyed to the new corporations. Delaware is known as the "Corporation State", because a majority of the corporations on the New York Stock exchange are incorporated here. The corporate charter is simple and easy to understand. The members are the shareholders and the trustees hold the property in trust for the shareholders. The trustees are granted the right to buy, sell and mortgage the property as they see fit. The church was formed religiously as a Methodist Episcopal Church and worships to this day in that form of worship at the same location. The church was enlarged in 1916 and electric lights were added. A parsonage was constructed in 1918 and a church house was purchased in 1928. A further addition of the church was completed in 1952.
Wilmington, Delaware reached its population zenith during World War II, which was followed by the baby boom years of the fifties and sixties. Changes came in the nation and the area, and they were not kind to East Lake or Methodism in general. The God is dead issue raised its ugly head, despite the fact that Methodism combined again and again, the total number of members and general successes of the church collectively declined. Church after church was combined and closed. The parsonages were sold to save the churches. A little noticed fact though, is that the closed church buildings, by in large, continued to be used as churches, but of a more Baptist or Pentecostal persuasion.
East Lake is a Bible believing church that stood strong for prohibition and even proudly displayed an autographed picture of Frances Willard in the rear of the church, the founder of the Woman's Christian Temperance Movement. In the Fifties, they refused United Nations Children's Fund collections on the basis that a portion of the funds were sent to Communist countries. They rejected the World Council of Churches as the beginning of the one world government spoken against in the Book of Revelations. David Lehman and Lawrence Gibson were among the leaders in this. Mr. Gibson is most famous for modeling for the portrait of the little drummer boy which appeared on the Bicentennial Quarter. East Lake stands against abortion and homosexuality, but they believe in the Power today to save, heal and deliver. Being independent, conservative and literal Bible believers did not sit well with the United Methodists.
They sent for us to hire, one weak worn-out minister after another, which refused to read from the King James Bible. East Lake was joined to a sister church that was preferred first every time. The minister refused to live in the parsonage or have office hours at the church. In fact, in the last year before the tragic events, the minister refused to be present at any service, but Sunday worship. East Lake cut expenses, where once they had two paid janitors, organist, choir director and service men, members took over these tasks. East Lake planed to buy as estate where their elderly would have a place to live and not be sent far away and to open a school for their children. More than $250,000.00 had been accumulated towards these goals. The treasurer in 1995 guaranteed the budget for five years. They held special services, started a news letter, an internet web site and became visible in the community. East Lake desired a special Anniversary service each year. The pastor could never fit it into his busy schedule, until finally after no service in the Fall of 1993, the little girl who had played as a child in the frame chapel, by then an officer of the church picked out the date for the Fall 1994 Anniversary a year in advance. Still the pastor did not attend.
During this time period, Rev. Mark Barnett-Pruett did not bring to the attention of the church that he had received a letter from an attorney in California and that an estate of thousands of dollars would be distributed to the church. This same minister would take the official baptism, marriage records and the shareholder (membership) list from the church, his excuse, "safe keeping". After over one hundred years of being safely kept in the church. He was finally fired for this insult to the officers and members. A criminal conspiracy was committed by the minister in consort with the District Superintendent James T. Seymour to defraud our corporation of its assets by his refusal to take in new members. Over the four years he was paid by the church, he never took in one member nor did he conduct a membership class for children. The officers of East Lake did not suspect what evil schemes and tricks of the Discipline were about to unfold.
In 1994 he announced that the membership had fallen to forty-nine, one short of fifty and the church must be turned over to the Board of Church Location, which would recommend discontinuance to the conference. The treasurer suggested that his wife, children and others could be taken in as members. The pastor refused to take in members and two bishops have been requested to bring charges, but none were ever brought. The mere talk of discontinuance caused many to stop contributing. The Trustees of the Conference would then claim the property and funds, which were substantial and the United Methodists could rid themselves of conservative Bible believing Christians whom they had disagreed with for decades.
In June of 1995 the United Methodist Conference voted to discontinue their association with East Lake and refused to recommend a pastor. The forty-nine members would be listed as transferred to other denominations. East Lake as a Delaware Corporation voted to continue and stated that it owned its own property and would go on. The United Methodists would write them letters asking them to hand over everything, even the corner stone and corporate seal. The purpose of seeking the corporate seal was to forge the documents to sell the property, because the deeds are held in the name of the corporation and there is no trust clause on the deeds. The best argument that the United Methodists have come up with is that the trustees of East Lake were merely holding the property in trust for them, via an constructive or implied (unwritten) trust. This is impossible, because East Lake's trustees are holding the property in trust for their shareholders, the members of East Lake and East Lake is no different than Ford Motor Company as a Delaware corporation.
The United Methodists realized that there was no easy legal way to get East Lake, so they hired a rent-a-cop (off duty Wilmington Policeman Santiago) to watch out and a locksmith to let them in as they removed a truck load of holy relics from East Lake on Saturday and eventually transported the loot across state lines and out of the jurisdiction of Delaware Courts to the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Center and Bishop Weaver. Just like the Philistines who stole the Ark of the Covenant and then found it was most convenient to return the Ark after the judgment of God fell upon them, Eastern Pennsylvania is still under the jurisdiction of God. On Sunday they planned to prevent worship by putting their hired gunman in front of the church, not trusting that changed locks would keep worshipers out. They had their hired policeman check for nuisance warrants on all worshipers they expected would come to worship and would have a dramatic arrest to scare off the congregation. Their plan did scare off some, but East Lake continues..
The United Methodists sued East Lake in September 1995. The nickels and dimes given over the years are being spent on lawyers that charge from $150 to $250 dollars an hour and the United Methodists have been required to post a $10,000 bond. All because of the greed of the United Methodists who plotted against a small church for the money it would bring and to get rid of Christians they disagreed with.
After almost three years Chancellor Chandler issued an opinion on February 13th and an order on March 5, 1998. He refused to award the UMs the property or funds, Praise God! He held that East Lake was the legal owner of its own property, but he found that a constructive (unwritten) trust created a trust in favor of the UMs. Unwritten deed trusts have never been enacted into law in Delaware. Such a practice is suspect and inherently fraudulent and a trap for many. A written trust clause would even be preferable to a specter that is forever there, but invisible, with the import never certain or always changing upon the parties. East Lake never placed the Discipline's trust clause on our deed, nor did the United Methodists compel East Lake to do so. The funds and land was donated to East Lake for use by East Lake not the Methodist Church in general. There was never any thought of closing the church and ending the worship as long as East Lake could go on. The UMs, if they had a valid unwritten claim better than East Lake's name on the deed, they had a duty to register that claim in the court house or demand that East Lake put a trust on the deed. It is only fair that the members know that when they work and give, it belongs to the UMs who can say hit the bricks when ever they feel like it. The problems continue due to the uncertainty of the situation. Plans to develop and expand are on hold for the accomplishments are claimed by UMs.
On March 11. 1998, UM attorney Thomas Eastburn, wrote a letter admitting that East Lake possesses "legal title" to its own property, but he demanded that the trustees sign over the deeds to the church and parsonage or the UMs would "...pursue any necessary remedy in order to compel the trustees" to sign over the property. The answer is NO, NEVER, not for thirty pieces of silver. The matter was argued before a panel of the Supreme Court of Delaware in December and again in February 1999. The opinion of the Chancery Court was affirmed and now Eastburn for the UMs demands the church and money. Our lawyers now see no way we can keep the church open. We serve a God that can answer by fire and we must obey God rather than man. Keep On The Firing Line! Victory in JESUS!
We have seen three miracles thus far in this battle:
John Wesley Hallowell Bailey III, President of Trustees
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