Church Members Stuck in Court Battle Over 'A.M.E.' Name

Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- A church on the northwest side of Columbia is split over a decision to part from the A.M.E. Church.

Members of the church said they want to break the 40 year relationship, but a lawsuit may stop them.

It's now knows as the Pleasant Spring A.M.E. Church, but members question who owns the property it sits on. They say their battle started in 2006.

That's when John Corley, Jr., a member of the church, said they fought the A.M.E. Church over a road widening project related to a nearby housing development.

Since then, Corley, Jr. said they have disagreed with the A.M.E. Church on various issues relating to finances. For example, every year Corley, Jr. said they must pay the A.M.E. Church about $15,000 in affiliation fees and other charges.

It's something Corley, Jr. said the members are tired of dealing with, which led them to vote to leave the Church in April.

The A.M.E. Church filed a lawsuit and restraining order barring them from holding 'non-A.M.E. related' services on the property. They have been using another church since then, Corley Jr. said.

"It's a place of worship; to go in and be free is another thing," Corley, Jr. said. I'm tired, and I think everyone else is, too. It's an ongoing process, especially with paying the budget. We are usually short of financial resources," he said.

An attorney representing Corley, Jr. and other members of the church said the battle centered on the properties ownership because of a clause within the A.M.E. discipline that says all local church properties are held in trust for the A.M.E. Church."

"Although the property is titled to the trustees of Pleasant Spring Church, the A.M.E. Church has essentially made a claim that the property is held in trust for the A.M.E. Church," Adrianne Turner, the groups attorney said.

South Carolina falls within the Seventh District of the A.M.E. Church.

An attorney representing the Seventh District declined to comment citing pending litigation.


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