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In re Foundation for Anglican Christian Tradition

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

November 5, 2014

In Re: Foundation For Anglican Christian Tradition, a corporation. Appeal of: David W. Rawson

Argued, October 8, 2014

Appealed from No. 2013-X0031. Common Pleas Court of the County of Montgomery. Judge Ott, J.

Paul B. Bartle, Christopher M. Curci and Walter H. Flamm, Jr., Blue Bell, for appellant.

Obadiah G. English, King of Prussia, for appellee Foundation for Anglican Christian Tradition.

Dean R. Phillips, Blue Bell, for appellee The Church of the Good Shepherd.

Claudia M. Tesoro, Senior Deputy Attorney General, Philadelphia, for appellee Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

BEFORE: HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, President Judge, HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge, HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, Judge, HONORABLE RENÉ E COHN JUBELIRER, Judge, HONORABLE MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, Judge, HONORABLE P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge, HONORABLE ANNE E. COVEY, Judge.

OPINION

Page 426

PELLEGRINI,  PRESIDENT JUDGE

David W. Rawson (Rawson) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County's Orphans' Court Division (trial court) sustaining the preliminary objections filed by the Foundation for Anglican Christian Tradition (Foundation) and the Church of the Good Shepherd (Church) and dismissing Rawson's " amended petition for citation to show cause why the Foundation ... and the Church ... should not be enjoined from using charitable gift " (amended petition) seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. Finding no error, we affirm.

I.

Rawson's amended petition alleges that he personally donated funds to the Foundation, a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation, and assisted it in raising additional funds " for the purpose of supporting Biblical and traditional Anglican Christian principles at [the Church]." (Am. Pet. ¶ 6; Reproduced Record [R.R.] at 16a.) Foundation funds were used to purchase real property adjoining the Church in 2000 in

Page 427

exchange for a note and mortgage on the property.[1]

According to the amended petition, Rawson subsequently demanded that the note be amended to " guarantee that [the Church] would continue to follow the precepts of [the Foundation] and the direction of [Rawson]," thereby effectuating the intent of his donation. (Am. Pet. ¶ 10; R.R. at 16a.) Specifically, Rawson alleged that the amendment sought to objectively measure whether the Church continued to follow the Foundation's principles without engaging in ecclesiastical debate, and stated: " The Church shall be in default under the Note and Mortgage if a majority of the members of the Church's vestry are removed and replaced with new members, except for removal and replacement as a result of the annual elections pursuant to the Church's bylaws." (Am. Pet. ¶ 10; Am. Pet. Ex. B; R.R. at 16a.17a, 27a.) In the event that the default provision was triggered, the Foundation had the option of demanding the unpaid balance and interest immediately.

The amended petition goes on to state that after the note was amended, a majority of the vestry's members were removed and replaced with new members outside of the annual elections. Rawson alleges that around the same time, the Church decided to put the subject property up for sale and that to avoid losing the property pursuant to the default provision, vestry and Foundation members entered into a conspiracy. Ultimately, the Foundation's Board of Directors (Board) met and voted unanimously to declare the mortgage null and void, and the Foundation filed a satisfaction of mortgage without receiving any payment of principal or interest.[2] The amended petition alleges that the ...


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