Religious property attorney outlines key legal areas of contention in separations
Detroit—June 18, 2020—Daniel P. Dalton, a religious property attorney, co-founder of Detroit-based Dalton + Tomich, and author of an eBook about protocols for the United Methodist Church separation, notes that two other Protestant Churches – the Reformed Church in America (RCA) and the Christian Reform Church (CRC) – are prepping for denominational splits, similar to the United Methodist Church, over disagreements in theology.
“Both the Christian Reform Church and the Reformed Church in America have deep roots in American history,” Dalton said. “The Reformed Church in America is the first church in America and began with a sole church in New York City – then called New Amsterdam – in 1628. Today, there are approximately 900 congregations in the Reformed Church in America and 750 congregations in the CRC. So, while these are much smaller denominations in the U.S. than the Methodist Church, which has over 32,000 churches, they reflect the continuing trend of religious separations over theological disputes.”
The Christian Reform Church has an established process for churches that plan to disaffiliate, but the Reformed Church in America does not. Dalton, who has worked with several Methodist Churches in the disaffiliation process, is now working on a separation with an RCA Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Reformed Church holds its General Synod in June 2021, but some churches, including Dalton’s client, don’t want to wait that long.
“The pandemic has already delayed the Synod for a year, and many churches, like my client, want to move forward now to establish an independent, non-denominational church that is consistent with their traditional beliefs,” Dalton said.
At issue with the Dalton’s client and many other Reformed Churches in America – as well as Christian Reformed Churches, Methodist churches and other Protestant denominations that seek separation – are the following key areas:
- Real estate
- Personal Property
- Yearly gifts
“The business of religion can be profoundly uncomfortable for pastoral leaders, and that creates additional emotional and operational stressors for churches that seek separation,” Dalton said. “Yet the legal issues surrounding the separation are generally critical to their future viability as independent church, so it’s imperative that they be settled quickly and comprehensively.”
The Dalton + Tomich website has multiple resources concerning the ownership of religious property available for complimentary downloading.
About Dalton + Tomich
Detroit-based Dalton + Tomich PLC is comprised of land use, denominational trust law, and business law attorneys. Serving as a partner to religious organizations, Dalton + Tomich is a national leader in religious property law land use, notably with cases related to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and denominational splits. Learn more about our services for businesses and religious organizations at https://www.daltontomich.com/.