NY Historic Black Church and Episcopal Diocese in Legal Battle Over Property

A historically black New York congregation is presently in a legal dispute over the church's property with The Episcopal Church.

St. Mathias Ministries of Wantagh's congregation seeks to keep the church property its meeting in even as the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island wants to sell the facilities.

The lawsuit on the part of the congregation to keep the over century old property will be heard before the New York State Supreme Court in Mineola next week.

The Long Island Diocese is seeking to close the church due to issues officially stemming from low attendance, reported Patrick Whittle of Newsday.

"The diocese determined that the congregation's attendance had fallen to 10 members and the church was closed," wrote Whittle. "Parishioners of the church, led by 80-year member Shirley Jackson-Hardy, formed an independent, nondenominational Christian church and continue to occupy the building."

Despite officially closing the property over lack of attendance in 2009, The Episcopal Church maintains a webpage with contact information on their site. However, the Long Island Diocese itself lists only St. Jude's Church as being in Wantagh.

Diocese representatives have told local media that they are suing the nondenominational congregation because as a land trustee they own the property.

They have also not specified what they plan to do with the property should they win the court case against the nondenominational church, reported Kristin Thorne of ABC 7.

"The diocese intends to reinvest any proceeds it might realize as a consequence to support ongoing ministry of the episcopal church in the North Bellmore area," wrote Thorne.

St. Mathias was founded in 1904 as a missionary church and has primarily had a majority African-American membership.

The Episcopal Diocese of Long Island could not return comment due to be being closed for the holiday and St. Mathias Ministries did not return comment by press time.

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