Bramlett v. Young, No. 17176

CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtD. W. Robinson, Columbia; MOSS; Thereafter, the appellants filed Exceptions, seventy in number, to the Report of the Master. The Honorable W. B. McGowan; OXNER and LEGGE, JJ., and T. B. GRENEKER and J. M. BRAILSFORD, Jr.
PartiesWillie E. BRAMLETT, N. A. Hack, Thomas W. Butler and C. J. Hudson, individually, and as members of McCarter Presbyterian Church, bring this action not only for themselves but also as representatives of all other members of said church, Respondents, v. E. W. YOUNG and Manning Jones, individually, and (1) as ruling elders of McCarter Independent Presbyterian Church, not only for themselves but also as representatives of all other ruling elders of said church, (2) as members of said McCarter Presbyterian Church, not only on their own behalf but as representatives of all other members of said church, and (3) as Trustees of the respondent, The Bible Mission; O. C. Baston, individually and (1) as a deacon of McCarter Independent Presbyterian Church, representing not only himself but all other deacons of said church, and (2) as Trustee of the respondent The Bible Mission; The Bible Mission, a South Carolina religious corporation; and Edgar Watkins, as Trustee of the said The Bible Mission, (of whom the said Edgar Watkins, as Trustee of the said The Bible Mission, is a respondent), Appellants.
Docket NumberNo. 17176
Decision Date21 June 1956

Page 873

93 S.E.2d 873
229 S.C. 519
Willie E. BRAMLETT, N. A. Hack, Thomas W. Butler and C. J.
Hudson, individually, and as members of McCarter
Presbyterian Church, bring this action not only for
themselves but also as representatives of all other members
of said church, Respondents,
v.
E. W. YOUNG and Manning Jones, individually, and (1) as
ruling elders of McCarter Independent Presbyterian Church,
not only for themselves but also as representatives of all
other ruling elders of said church, (2) as members of said
McCarter Presbyterian Church, not only on their own behalf
but as representatives of all other members of said church,
and (3) as Trustees of the respondent, The Bible Mission; O.
C. Baston, individually and (1) as a deacon of McCarter
Independent Presbyterian Church, representing not only
himself but all other deacons of said church, and (2) as
Trustee of the respondent The Bible Mission; The Bible
Mission, a South Carolina religious corporation; and Edgar
Watkins, as Trustee of the said The Bible Mission, (of whom
the said Edgar Watkins, as Trustee of the said The Bible
Mission, is a respondent), Appellants.
No. 17176.
Supreme Court of South Carolina.
June 21, 1956.

Page 876

[229 S.C. 522] C. S. Bowen, Greenville, for appellants.

D. W. Robinson, Columbia, J. D. O'Bryan, Kingstree, amici curiae.

[229 S.C. 525] Leatherwood, Walker, Todd & Mann, Clarence A. Cappell, Greenville, for respondents.

MOSS, Justice.

The McCarter Presbyterian Church, located in Greenville, South Carolina, was organized in 1895 as a member of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, and was a member of the Enoree Presbytery, a judicatory of said denomination. McCarter Presbyterian Church, since its organization, was part of and subject to the government and control of the Enoree Presbytery and the Synod of South Carolina.

[229 S.C. 526] In 1905 and 1909 the trustees of McCarter Presbyterian Church acquired, in fee simple, two pieces of real estate. Upon this land a church building was erected and used continuously by the church for many years.

On October 19, 1947, at a congregational meeting of McCarter Presbyterian Church, a motion was made, seconded and passed 'for the Trustees to deed all church property to The Bible Mission Corporation, for a sum of money of Seven Hundred Fifty & 00/100 ($750.00) Dollars, and other consideration.' No such deed was executed. The Bible Mission was a religious corporation, whose officers or trustees were all officers of McCarter Presbyterian Church. The Bible Mission Corporation was part and parcel of McCarter Presbyterian Church and was incorporated because there was some talk of the Southern Presbyterians and the Northern Presbyterians uniting or merging and it was the purpose of the conveyance to put the property beyond the reach of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.

On January 11, 1948, which was after the passage of the aforementioned resolution, the McCarter Presbyterian Church building was totally destroyed by fire. Thereafter, the congregation started working towards the construction of a new church building on the same site. Funds were collected from the Sunday School treasury and the regular church treasury and transferred to McCarter Presbyterian Church Building Fund. Various persons were solicited and contributions made to such fund. No contributions were made to The Bible Mission Corporation for such purpose. The new church building was erected at a cost of approximately $17,000.

On November 7, 1949, the Trustees of McCarter Presbyterian Church conveyed one of the tracts of land belonging to the church to the Bible Mission for a consideration of $1. It was testified by one of the trustees for McCarter Presbyterian Church that this deed was made in order to facilitate the obtaining of a mortgage loan so that the new church building could be completed. He was assured that the [229 S.C. 527] property would not pass out of the control of the McCarter Presbyterian Church. No rent was ever paid to the Bible Mission by McCarter Presbyterian Church, nor was any ever charged or attempted to be collected.

Page 877

There was no change in the use and occupancy of the church building before or after the execution of the deed.

McCarter Presbyterian Church was without a regular pastor, and Rev. Douglas Parris, who was an instructor at Bob Jones University, was approved by the Enoree Presbytery for several six months periods as a supply pastor. Finally, in 1953, the Presbytery notified McCarter Presbyterian Church that this arrangement could be no longer continued. Shortly thereafter, and on May 10, 1953, at a regular called meeting, the congregation of McCarter Presbyterian Church, which had a total membership of sixty-seven, voted 38 to 2 to withdraw from Enoree Presbytery. The Clerk of the Session of McCarter Presbyterian Church notified the stated Clerk of Enoree Presbytery of the congregational action and of the intention of the church to secede and to sever all relationship with the Presbyterian Church in the United States and of the intention to continue as the McCarter Independent Presbyterian Church. It appears that a large sign was placed in front of the church building which read 'McCarter Independent Presbyterian Church.'

It appears that those who withdrew and seceded from Enoree Presbytery and Presbyterian Church in the United States constituted a majority of McCarter Presbyterian Church. However, there was a group of eleven members which remained loyal to Enoree Presbytery and the Presbyterian Church in the United States, and they petitioned the aid of the Presbytery. This loyal group of the old congregation was recognized by the Presbytery on September 22, 1953, as constituting McCarter Presbyterian Church. This group, with the aid of the Presbytery, has a minister, holds regular church services, and is conforming to the government and discipline of the Presbyterian Church in the United States.

[229 S.C. 528] This loyal group brought the present action to have themselves declared to be McCarter Presbyterian Church and entitled to the possession and control of the church property; and to have the court construe and reform the deed of the Trustees of McCarter Presbyterian Church to the Bible Mission so as to show that the premises are held by the Bible Mission, in trust, for the use and benefit of McCarter Presbyterian Church, and the minority group representing said church; and for a permanent injunction prohibiting the majority constituting the McCarter Independent Presbyterian Church, and each and every member thereof, from interfering with the rights of the minority group constituting the McCarter Presbyterian Church.

All of the defendants, with the exception of Edgar Watkins, as trustee of the Bible Mission, jointly answered the said petition, on behalf of themselves and as representatives of the other members of the church, denied the material allegations of the petition, demanded that the action be dismissed, and among other defenses alleged that the property was owned by the Bible Mission in fee simple, in its own right, and that the McCarter Presbyterian Church had no interest therein, and that since they and those whom they represented constitute a majority of the membership of the said church were not subject to being barred from the use and enjoyment of any property of said church, nor from participation in its possession and control. An answer was filed in behalf of Edgar Watkins, as Trustee of the said Bible Mission, admitting the allegations of the petition and joining in the prayer thereof.

This entire matter was referred to the Master in Equity for Greenville County. He conducted references and, thereafter, filed his report, finding that the petitioners, who constitute a minority of the McCarter Presbyterian Church, but who were loyal to the denomination and who had been recognized by Enoree Presbytery as constituting the McCarter Presbyterian Church, are entitled to the property of the church as against the appellants, who are a majority of the [229 S.C. 529] former congregation but

Page 878

who have withdrawn from the denomination, severed all connection with the Presbytery, and in form and fact have constituted themselves an independent congregational type church, all without the consent or approval of Enoree Presbytery. He also found that the deed from the trustees of McCarter Presbyterian Church to the Bible Mission did not intend to convey away the title of McCarter Presbyterian Church to such property, but was intended to convey the title to the Bible Mission in trust for the use and benefit of McCarter Presbyterian Church, and that such deed should be reformed so as to show such intention. He also found that the premises should be surrendered to the group who remained loyal to the denomination, and that the appellants here should be enjoined from interfering directly or indirectly with the occupancy and use of the church premises and property.

Thereafter, the appellants filed Exceptions, seventy in number, to the Report of the Master. The Honorable W. B. McGowan, Judge of the Greenville County Court, after full and complete arguments, overruled appellants' exceptions to said report and affirmed such.

The appellants come before this Court on thirty exceptions to the judgment of the lower court. In addition thereto they have, for the first time, and without exceptions, questioned the jurisdiction of the Greenville County Court to hear and determine the issues raised in this case. They assert that the Greenville County Court has no jurisdiction for the reason that this action is one for the recovery of specific real property of a value of more than $5,000, thereby exceeding the jurisdictional limitations of the County Court. The respondents contend that this action is not one for the recovery of specific real property but is an action brought on the equity side of the Court for the reformation of a...

To continue reading

Request your trial
49 practice notes
  • Sloan v. Greenville County, No. 3704.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • December 8, 2003
    ...damages were sought, but plaintiff offered no proof of damages at trial and no damages were awarded by the court); Bramlett v. Young, 229 S.C. 519, 534-35, 93 S.E.2d 873, 881 (1956) (examining the substance of the pleadings throughout the case and the evidence introduced at trial in its det......
  • Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of S.C. v. Episcopal Church, Appellate Case No. 2015-000622
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • August 2, 2017
    ...involving ownership and control of church property); Adickes v. Adkins, 264 S.C. 394, 215 S.E.2d 442 (1975) (same); Bramlett v. Young, 229 S.C. 519, 93 S.E.2d 873 (1956) (same).58 The lead opinion agrees this is the correct starting-point in the analysis.59 See generally Md. & Va. Eldership......
  • St. John's Presbytery v. Central Presbyterian Church of St. Petersburg
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • May 9, 1958
    ...of Weehawken, 80 N.J.L. 572, 78 A. 207; Reid v. Johnston, 241 N.C. 201, 85 S.E.2d 114. Also see, to the same effect, Bramlett v. Young, 229 S.C. 519, 93 S.E.2d This is an abounding array of authorities but they all treat some phase of litigation growing out of church schisms in which both f......
  • Comm'rs of Pub. Works of Laurens v. City of Fountain Inn, Appellate Case No. 2015-001894
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • May 16, 2018
    ...complaint, it must control, unaffected by the prayer for relief or the intention or characterization of the pleader." Bramlett v. Young , 229 S.C. 519, 531, 93 S.E.2d 873, 879 (1956) (quoting Speizman v. Guill , 202 S.C. 498, 514-15, 25 S.E.2d 731, 739 (1943) ). "While the prayer constitute......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
49 cases
  • Sloan v. Greenville County, No. 3704.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • December 8, 2003
    ...damages were sought, but plaintiff offered no proof of damages at trial and no damages were awarded by the court); Bramlett v. Young, 229 S.C. 519, 534-35, 93 S.E.2d 873, 881 (1956) (examining the substance of the pleadings throughout the case and the evidence introduced at trial in its det......
  • Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of S.C. v. Episcopal Church, Appellate Case No. 2015-000622
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • August 2, 2017
    ...involving ownership and control of church property); Adickes v. Adkins, 264 S.C. 394, 215 S.E.2d 442 (1975) (same); Bramlett v. Young, 229 S.C. 519, 93 S.E.2d 873 (1956) (same).58 The lead opinion agrees this is the correct starting-point in the analysis.59 See generally Md. & Va. Eldership......
  • St. John's Presbytery v. Central Presbyterian Church of St. Petersburg
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • May 9, 1958
    ...of Weehawken, 80 N.J.L. 572, 78 A. 207; Reid v. Johnston, 241 N.C. 201, 85 S.E.2d 114. Also see, to the same effect, Bramlett v. Young, 229 S.C. 519, 93 S.E.2d This is an abounding array of authorities but they all treat some phase of litigation growing out of church schisms in which both f......
  • Comm'rs of Pub. Works of Laurens v. City of Fountain Inn, Appellate Case No. 2015-001894
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • May 16, 2018
    ...complaint, it must control, unaffected by the prayer for relief or the intention or characterization of the pleader." Bramlett v. Young , 229 S.C. 519, 531, 93 S.E.2d 873, 879 (1956) (quoting Speizman v. Guill , 202 S.C. 498, 514-15, 25 S.E.2d 731, 739 (1943) ). "While the prayer constitute......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT