SALE OF CHURCH PROPERTY
THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF
THE AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL ZION CHURCH
IN THE MATTER OF
THE PETITION OF SADYE W. PORTER, ET. AL
DECISION No. 2000-011
This matter comes before the Council by Petition of Sadye W. Porter, Marian Jordan, Robert Jordan, Gladys Reid, and Savannah Potter, Esq., members in good standing of the A.M.E. Zion Church, for Declaratory Judgment to set aside Fraudulent Sale of Church Property; and for Declaratory Judgment of the denial of right of appeal to the Quarterly Conference of Shaw Temple A.M.E. Zion Church, Atlanta, Georgia.
FACTS OF THE CASE
1. The Petition alleges that Reverend Louis Hunter, Pastor of Shaw Temple A.M.E. Zion Church (hereinafter “Shaw Temple”), and a Presiding Elder of the Georgia Conference (hereinafter “Respondent Hunter”); Fred Brooks, Chairman of the Board Trustee Board of Shaw Temple A.M.E. Zion Church, Atlanta Georgia; Brady Barnett, a member of the Trustee Board of Shaw Temple A.M.E. Zion Church, Atlanta Georgia (hereinafter “Respondent Barrett, and the Right Rev. Joseph Johnson, Presiding Bishop of the Georgia Conference (hereinafter “Bishop Johnson”), Respondent, did fraudulently sell, or authorize the sale of property owned by the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.
2. Petitioners alleged that on all about June 27, 1999, at a Members Meeting of Shaw Temple called by Respondent Hunter, then Pastor of Shaw Temple, announced that church property, to wit: a Church Building, located at 38 Hightower Road. (now renamed Hamilton Holmes Drive.), would be sold to Grace Covenant Baptist Church on July 1, 1999, for $866,000.00.
3. Petitioners allege that at the meeting it was also disclosed by the Pastor, Respondent Hunter, that the Trustee Board had not only approved the sale without permission of the Members, but had also agreed that a broker’s fee would be paid to Respondent Barnett, a Member of the Trustee Board of Shaw Temple, which amounts would be deducted from the sale price, thus creating a conflict of interest on the part of Respondent Barnett.
4. The Petition further alleges that the lending institution, South Trust Bank, upon a notice of defect, required Respondent Hunter to sign a Deed of Conveyance to guarantee the required authority to sell.
5. Petitioner alleges that on about July 11, 1999, Respondent Hunter convened a meeting of the membership of Shaw Temple written notice having been given, for the specific purpose of calling for a vote to ratify the sale of the aforementioned property consummated on or about June 30, 1999. Petitioners allege they were denied the opportunity to speak in opposition of the proposed ratification, and that a motion offered for the purpose failed for lack of a second. Petitioners further alleged that on July 13, 1999, the Quarterly Conference of Shaw Temple was convened by Respondent Hunter, serving in the dual capacity of Pastor and Presiding Elder. Petitioner Savanna Potter alleges that she was denied the right to verbal appeal from the decision of the Pastor and Trustees, and that her request to enter a written appeal into the Record of the Quarterly Conference was summarily denied.
Consent of Members.
The 1996 Discipline, Chapter IX, § 4, ¶ 498 (1), Page 187 states: ”The Trustees shall not in any case whatsoever dispose of Church property by sale or otherwise without the consent of the majority of the Members in Full Connection, expressed by vote in a meeting called for that purpose, of which notice has been given. Provided, however, that no congregation, Pastor, nor Trustee Board or agent of the corporation shall mortgage or sale any property of the A.M.E. Zion Church without confirmation of the Quarterly Conference and written consent of the Bishop of the District or Annual Conference.
In this connection, the term “consent” means informed consent with the requirement of knowledge of the terms and conditions of the contract of sale, informed consent as to each detail in the contract, as well as informed consent for voting on brokers fee, of the majority of the Members in Full Connection, with due notice.
“Consent” also means informed consent with written permission of the presiding Bishop that the requisite procedures in Chapter IX, § 4, ¶ 498 (1), Page 187 had been complied with.
Conflict of Interests.
Each state has laws with respect to conflict of interest, as alleged and described in the petition. The Discipline, however, is silent on the issue of conflict of interests and the issue is therefore beyond the scope of this Council’s jurisdiction.
Denial of Right to Appeal at Quarterly Conference.
The 1996 Discipline, Chapter VI, § 13, ¶ 178, at page 66 states: “The Quarterly Conference shall have original jurisdiction over its own members and shall constitute a Court of Appeals for Lay Members.”
The failure of the Quarterly Conference to hear appeals of Members in Full Connection is a violation of § 178.
Vote of ratification.
The Discipline does not provide for a “vote of ratification” to cure a defect of the process mandated in Chapter IX, § 4, ¶ 498 (1).
1. The sale of Church property without the expressed consent of a majority of the local church Members in Full Connection is in violation of Chapter IX, § IV, ¶ 498(1), page 187 of the 1996 Discipline of the A. M. E. Zion Church.
2. A warranty deed executed by Sharon Baptist Church on the 28th day of October 1958, and filed in the Office of the Clerk of Fulton County, Georgia, on October 30, 1958, grants possession of the demised premises, known as and by the Street number 38. Hightower Road., Atlanta, GA, to the Church Extension Department of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, which entity has the sole authority to sell, transfer or authorized the sale of said property. Absent such authority, the sale is in violation of the Discipline (see Chapter IX on Sale of Church Property).
3. The failure of the Quarterly Conference to hear an appeal of any member in
Full Connection is a violation of Church Law (See Chapter VI, § 13, ¶ 1996 Discipline.
BY ORDER OF THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL, THIS 1st DAY OF AUGUST 2000,
Justice Rev. Dr. Alex Brower, for the Council.
Star of Zion July 24 – 31, 2003, p. 3