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TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH CLAIRTON v. BISHOP KENNETH R. MAY ON BEHALF WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA-WEST VIRGINIA SYNOD LUTHERAN CHURCH AMERICA (06/11/86)

decided: June 11, 1986.

TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH OF CLAIRTON, INC., A NON PROFIT CORPORATION AND REV. D. DOUGLAS ROTH, WAYNE COCHRAN, HARRY DINKEL, NADINE ROTH, JOANN REILLY, REBECCA FOSBRINK AND WILLIAM FOSBRINK, APPELLANTS
v.
BISHOP KENNETH R. MAY ON BEHALF OF THE WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA-WEST VIRGINIA SYNOD OF THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA, APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in the case of Bishop Kenneth R. May, on behalf of The Western Pennsylvania-West Virginia Synod of the Lutheran Church in America, a corporation v. D. Douglas Roth, No. GD 84-19518.

COUNSEL

Thomas A. Crawford, Jr., for appellants.

Roger C. Wiegand, with him, Kenneth K. Kilbert, Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, and James J. Dodaro and Dennis R. Biondo, for appellees.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr., and Judges Rogers, Craig, MacPhail, Barry, Colins and Palladino. Opinion by Judge Rogers.

Author: Rogers

[ 98 Pa. Commw. Page 113]

This case is the companion of Reverend D. Douglas Roth v. Bishop Kenneth R. May, on behalf of the Western Pennsylvania-West Virginia Synod of the Lutheran Church in America, 3623 C.D. 1984, filed this day. Both cases arise out of the actions of the pastor and some members of a local church congregation, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Clairton, Inc. (Trinity Lutheran), as sponsors or members of a group or movement called the Denomination Ministry Strategy. These actions were believed by the pastor and members of the congregation to be in the interests of unemployed steel workers in the Monongahela Valley of Western Pennsylvania.

The Lutheran Church in America (LCA), with which Trinity Lutheran is affiliated, is a nationwide hierarchical religious denomination incorporated under the laws of Minnesota. The LCA is divided into thirty-three synods, each of which is charged with the "oversight and advancement of the mission of the church within its bounds." The membership of each Synod "consist[s] of the congregations and ministers certified to it." Trinity Lutheran is a constituent church of the Synod of Western Pennsylvania-West Virginia.

The appellee, Bishop Kenneth R. May, is the Bishop of the Synod of Western Pennsylvania-West Virginia. The Bishop is the chief executive officer of the Synod.

The appellants are: Trinity Lutheran; the Reverend Mr. D. Douglas Roth, former pastor of Trinity Lutheran; Wayne Cochran, former president of the church council of Trinity Lutheran; Harry Dinkel, former vice president of the church council; Rebecca

[ 98 Pa. Commw. Page 114]

Fosbrink, former treasurer of Trinity Lutheran; and Nadine Roth, Joann Reilly, and William Fosbrink, former members of Trinity Lutheran. They appeal from an order entered December 21, 1984, by the Honorable Emil E. Narick in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County granting Bishop May's motion for a preliminary injunction filed with his complaint in equity alleging that the appellants, a faction of the congregation of Trinity Lutheran, had defied the lawful authority of the Synod, had assumed possession of the church property, and had excluded the Bishop's designated locum tenens from conducting services. The preliminary decree directed the appellants to deliver to the Synod the real and personal property of Trinity Lutheran and enjoined them from interfering with the Synod's control of Trinity Lutheran by physically preventing the Synod by its appointed locum tenens from conducting worship services and meetings at the Trinity Lutheran church edifice.

No final decree has been sought or entered.

At the hearing conducted by the Chancellor, the Constitutions and Bylaws of the LCA, the Synod and Trinity Lutheran were admitted into evidence. The LCA Constitution provides that each congregation shall, in its application for admission into the LCA, covenant to abide by the enactments of ...


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