(Photo: Brian Braun)
Presbyterian Church USA's largest congregation in Texas has filed a lawsuit to seek legal protection for their property should they seek dismissal from the denomination.
The Highland Park Presbyterian Church, a Dallas-based congregation with approximately 4,000 members, filed the suit on Tuesday in Dallas County District Court.
Mark Annick of Androvett Legal Media in Dallas is working with Highland Park Presbyterian on the suit over the property.
"Regarding the status of the lawsuit, the court granted the temporary restraining order…and set a hearing date on the matter for September 23," Annick told The Christian Post.
Annick also provided CP with a copy of the lawsuit, which argues that Highland Park Presbyterian has a right to its property should it leave PC(USA) due to its relationship with the mainline denomination.
"HPPC was first organized in 1926 and first incorporated on January 31, 1928…members of the local church corporation are all those who are on the active rolls of the local congregation," reads the suit in part. "At no time in its history have the articles of incorporation for Highland Park Presbyterian Church contained any provision creating or establishing any trust…in favor of a national denomination upon the property held by or for the local church or its civil corporation," the lawsuit states in part.
At present, Highland Park Presbyterian belongs to the Grace Presbytery of PC(USA), having joined the regional body in 1983.
Regarding congregations that seek to leave the denomination, Grace Presbytery follows the "just and gracious" dismissal policy. The policy involves a multi-step process of discernment and negotiation over the rights of funds and property.
In a statement posted on their website, Grace Presbytery expressed disappointment and surprise at the lawsuit being filed against them by Highland Park Presbyterian.
"We are shocked and saddened that Highland Park Presbyterian Church (HPPC) of Dallas has chosen to file suit, today, September 10, and request an injunction that will take us into civil court," said the Presbytery. "There has been no conversation at the presbytery level to seek control of their property or establish a commission to work with the church during their period of discernment as to whether or not to seek dismissal from the Presbyterian Church (USA)."
Grace Presbytery did not return comment to The Christian Post by press time.