Monday, February 11, 2008

Breakaway churches face a new battle
By Jennifer Garza
Sunday, February 10, 2008

For 55 years, members of Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church have tithed their 10 percent, money that often went toward maintaining 12 acres of tree-lined church property.

Now they've been told that the church where generations have worshipped does not belong to them – but rather to the national denomination they believe has lost its biblical authority and want to cut ties with.

"What about the blood, sweat and tears of the congregation – all of us who have given all these years?" said Jane Constance, a member since 1982 whose four children were baptized and raised in the church. "It's unthinkable to me, to most of us, that it could belong to them because of a clause most of us didn't know about."

Fair Oaks Presbyterian and other Sacramento-area churches splitting from their denominational bodies over theological differences are now set to battle in court over a more worldly issue – real estate.

Presbyterians and Episcopalians, from Virginia to California, are fighting over who gets church property when congregations break away. Millions of dollars are at stake in arguments that have moved from the church sanctuaries to the courts and have pitted pastors against one another.
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