Lawsuit filed by Stanly churches against Western UMC dismissed

Published 6:42 pm Wednesday, March 29, 2023

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A lawsuit filed against the United Methodist Church which included two Stanly County churches has been dismissed.

Bethel and Palestine United Methodist churches were part of a lawsuit filed by the National Center for Life and Liberty, based in Florida, regarding 36 churches wishing to disaffiliate from the church without paying allotments.

Last week, Judge Richard L. Doughton dismissed the suit in superior court division of Iredell County for lack of subject matter on two grounds.

First, the dismissal states the defendants, the Western North Carolina Conference of the UMC, the trustees and Bishop Kenneth Clark, asked for dismissal based on First Amendment grounds. Those grounds were “asking a governmental court to intervene in the religious disputes and differences within their own denomination.”

Civil courts, the dismissal read, “are prohibited from becoming entangled in ecclesiastical matters.”

The other grounds were for the plaintiffs having a lack of standing because the WNCC is “not an incorporated entity with members.”

In one plaintiff claim which mentioned the pension plan, the dismissal stated such a plan was tax exempt and plaintiffs had no standing to make a claim.

Defendants also moved to have a change of venue motion dismissed.

In an email to The Stanly News & Press, Clark made the following statement about the dismissal: “We are grateful for the Judge’s dismissal of the lawsuit brought by 36 churches against the Western North Carolina Conference, which is a connection of other one thousand local churches, fresh expressions and campus ministries across the 44 western counties of the state of North Carolina. We believe the decision to be consistent with the separation of church and state, and the New Testament’s guidance (1 Corinthians 6). We continue to offer a transparent, gracious and fair process to those churches who wish to depart, based on our Book of Discipline.”

Rev. Kevin McCormac, pastor of Bethel and Palestine UMC, had no comment regarding the dismissal when reached by phone this week.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio has served as the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press for more than 16 years and has written numerous news and feature storeis as well. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also won an award from Boone Newspapers, and has won four North Carolina Press Association awards.

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