Supreme Court Rejects Church of Christ
Property Dispute

WASHINGTON -- Two elders in a local Church of Christ dispute over control of church property lost their final legal appeal January 13, when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear arguments that they -- not the entire congregation -- have authority to decide who their minister and elders will be.

Mannie Black and Moses Williams, elders of the Liberty City (Fla.) Church of Christ, argued throughout their two-year legal battle in state courts and in two appeals to the nation's high court that they possessed sole authority to hire and fire a minister and to control the congregation's purse strings.

When they sought to dismiss their minister, Freeman T. Wyche, the congregation rebelled, voting to retain him and to discharge instead the two trustees.

Black and Williams then sought relief at trial, contending Church of Christ doctrine vests such authority in the elders, not in the whole congregation. But Wyche disputed that claim, arguing church polity is congregational, leaving final decisions to the body.

After the trial court ordered a new vote to decide the dispute finally, the congregation once more voted to retain Wyche and discharge the trustees. A Florida appeals panel affirmed the vote. It was that ruling Black and Williams unsuccessfully appealed.

-- Arkansas Baptist Newsmagazine