Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Sept. T., 1960, No. 574, in case of James L. Rankin v. Rev. William Phillippe et al.
Victor J. Roberts, with him High, Swartz, Roberts & Seidel, for appellant.
Desmond J. McTighe, with him Edward F. Hitchcock, John R. Graham, Henry W. Maxmin, Philip D. Weiss, and Duffy, McTighe and McElhone, for appellees.
Watkins, Montgomery, Jacobs, and Hoffman, JJ. (Ervin, P. J., Wright and Flood, JJ., absent). Opinion by Watkins, J. Ervin, P. J., Wright and Flood, JJ., took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
[ 206 Pa. Super. Page 28]
This is an appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County denying a motion to take off the compulsory non-suit granted the defendants-appellees, Rev. William Phillippe, Rev. John Magill and Richard Messmer, in a trespass for libel action brought by James L. Rankin, the plaintiff-appellant.
[ 206 Pa. Super. Page 29]
The appellant is a member of the bar of Delaware County and an ordained elder of the Third Presbyterian Church of Chester, Pennsylvania. The appellees were appointed by the Presbytery of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America as members of an Administrative Commission to deal with certain controversies within the Chester Church. The appointment of the Commission was at the request of the Chester Church and the Presbytery gave the Commission "the power of investigation, report, and such administrative power as in the judgment of the Commission is necessary to order whatever pertains to the spiritual welfare of the Third Church".
A written report of the investigation was made at a meeting attended by the members of the Presbytery and some of the members of the Chester Church. The report read in part:
"A check to be used as a down payment in securing an option was sent to Mr. Rankin, who informally has represented the church in many legal matters, and in spite of an adequate amount of time in the matter of consummating this transaction, the lot was sold to another bidder, and the church lost its opportunity for a relocation to the lot chosen. . . .
"It is the opinion of the majority of the members of the Session that in each of these specific situations the influence and the activity of Mr. Rankin were being exercised to a degree that added to the tensions already felt in the life of the church. . . .
"It is to be lamented, however, that he had not always been an outgoing Presbyterian in his churchmanship and has too often acted independently, rather than showing a reliance upon the more democratic procedures of the judicatories of our denomination; that he knowingly or unknowingly has caused some to fear the possibility of ...