FAIRBANKS - A Superior Court judge has stopped the eviction of one church group by another, saying just who owns a Fairbanks church and parsonage is still in dispute.
Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins of Juneau dismissed a motion to grant the United Methodist Alaska Missionary Conference legal authority to evict the former St. Paul United Methodist Church from the two properties and seize control of them. Collins was filling in for Fairbanks Judge Richard Savell, who was ill on the hearing date.
The conference made the motion as part of a lawsuit it recently filed against St. Paul United Methodist, which was disbanded from the conference in May and now operates without the United Methodist distinction.
Collins ruled earlier this month that the request was premature because the dispute about who owns the properties has not been resolved.
In its lawsuit, which also lists several church members as defendants, the conference argues that even though St. Paul is listed as the owner on the title for the properties, the ownership is in trust for the benefit of the conference, an agreement St. Paul entered into when it signed its articles of incorporation in 1984.
The locks on the brown frame church have been changed several times by both sides since the church was ousted from the conference on a 61-1 vote in May.
Some members of the congregation have been holding weekly services in the church since early summer.
The church is now called St. Paul's Church and "United Methodist" has been painted out on its outdoor sign. Collins made no ruling regarding ownership issues at the Oct. 11 hearing and said those matters would likely be addressed during future proceedings