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In Lehigh Presbytery v. First Presbyterian Church of  Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, (PA Com Pl., Dec. 12, 2017), a Pennsylvania trial court in a 43-page opinion held that the property of a break-away congregation belongs to the Presbyterian Church (USA) because of the trust clause in the PCUSA’s Book of Order.  The court concluded its opinion as follows:Since its inception, the congregational generations of FPCB have consistently expressed allegiance, fidelity, and adherence to the national denomination now known as PCUSA.  However, rather than leaving the Church to join a different religious denomination, the majority of the congregants wish to evict the national denomination from the church; thereby repudiating the intent of those who founded FPCB and extinguishing the sacrifices, contribution, and hard work of many prior generations of congregants who built FPCB with the expectation that FPCB would remain affiliated with the national denomination of Presbyterian Churches (USA).  Thus, although we have resolved this issue under neutral principles of law, we were also struck that to do otherwise, we would ignore the express intention of those who built this congregation with the expectation that those founding principles should forever direct its mission.The Morning Call reports on the decision.

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