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PENNSYLVANIA BAPTIST CONVENTION v. REGULAR BAPTIST CHURCH SMETHPORT (06/04/54)

June 4, 1954

PENNSYLVANIA BAPTIST CONVENTION
v.
REGULAR BAPTIST CHURCH OF SMETHPORT, APPELLANT



Appeal, No. 96, Jan. T., 1954, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of McKean County, December T., 1950 No. 46, in case of The Pennsylvania Baptist Convention v. Regular Baptist Church of Smethport and L. C. Wilcox. Judgment affirmed. Ejectment. Before WEAVER, J., specially presiding. Verdict for defendants; plaintiff's motion for judgment n.o.v. granted. Defendants appealed.

COUNSEL

William P. McVay, with him Robert B. Apple, James F. McVay and McVay & McVay, for appellants.

William D. Gallup, with him E. G. Potter, Robert J. Healy, Romain C. Hassrick and Gallup, Potter & Gallup, for appellee.

Before Stern, C.j., Jones, Bell, Chidsey, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.

Author: Musmanno

[ 377 Pa. Page 632]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO

The plaintiff and the defendant in this case are both religious organizations, but the subject of the lawsuit is a very mundane one: real estate.

On July 18, 1940, the defendant, Regular Baptist Church of Smethport, turned over to the plaintiff, The Pennsylvania Baptist Convention, a deed for the property used as a parsonage for the Smethport Church. On the following day the Convention deeded back the same property with this reversionary clause in the deed: "It being understood and agreed that in the event the grantee its successors or assigns ceases to function as a Baptist Church in accordance with the definition of cooperative church, as prescribed by the official action of the Pennsylvania Baptist Convention then title in the premises shall revert to the Pennsylvania Baptist Convention."

Both deeds were recorded on October 28, 1940.

About ten years later, the defendant Church severed all relationship with the Pennsylvania Convention, whereupon the Convention demanded a surrender of

[ 377 Pa. Page 633]

    the parsonage in accordance with the reversionary clause in the deed of July 19, 1940. The defendant Church refused to give up the parsonage, and an action in ejectment followed. At the ensuing trial the plaintiff proved the making and delivery of both deeds, the failure of the defendant to remain a "cooperative church," and its refusal to vacate the premises.

The defendant contended that its deed to the plaintiff on July 18, 1940 had not been properly authorized by a majority of its lay members and that the title to the property in question had not left the Church; therefore, the plaintiff's deed, ...


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