Whose church is it?
Court case could have broad implications for relationship between
local congregations and their denominations.
(Kalamazoo Michigan) ''Those churches which did not accept the merger were
allowed to choose their own path,'' Spigelmyer states. ''After much debate
and a close vote,'' their church was ''persuaded to go along with the
Even so, ''we never agreed to their discipline or to their contention that
they owned the church,'' Spigelmyer said. ''We began as a German
congregation, and we've always been very independent.''
Over the years, Lane Boulevard has been at loggerheads with the UMC over its
administrative policies and its more liberal stances on a range of issues,
including the ordination of women and acceptance of gays, Lane Boulevard
church members said.
''The Methodist hierarchy is pretty left,'' said Robert Clark, a church
member and also an attorney. ''We have our way and they have their way and
our way isn't their way.''
But the denomination's stance on broader issues didn't lead to a break,
Decision was forced
That happened earlier this year when they learned that the UMC wanted to
remove their pastor, Dyke, from the pulpit. Dyke, a former Catholic priest,
has been their minister for several years. He is well-liked and has helped
the church grow to its current membership of more than 120 people.
''We were planning to go to court at some point, but that decision forced''
the church to file suit over the issue of ownership, Clark said.
Clark said the church will likely go back to court to ask Johnson to throw
out the preliminary injunction, given that the UMC changed the locks and,
instead of using the church for Methodist worship, has rented the facility
to the Pentecostal congregation.
Samuel Field, the attorney for Lane Boulevard, sent a letter on Dec. 6 to
Shearer, the UMC lawyer. In it, he wrote that Johnson's preliminary
injunction ''did not give your client authority to change the locks. It did
not give your client authority to interfere with (his client's) access to
the building. It certainly did not give your client authority to rent the
building to some non-Methodist group.''
Local Methodist officials say they have not violated the preliminary
injunction and continue to claim that the denomination, not the individual
church, controls the building and property on which Lane Boulevard Church
and a nearby parsonage are located.
''The WMC is part of a hierarchical church organization and the plaintiff
local church is under its jurisdiction and control,'' writes Shearer in a
brief for the case.