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2012-UP-210 - Progressive Church v. Black

THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE.  IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 268(d)(2), SCACR.

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Court of Appeals


Progressive Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Inc., by the Board of Bishops, Appellants,

v.

Elder Roscoe Black, Arthur Alford, Williams Stephens, Aquilera Black, Antonio Black and Aderia Black individually and as Trustees for Progressive Church of Bishopville, Respondents.


Appeal From Lee County
 S. Bryan Doby, Master-In-Equity


Unpublished Opinion No. 2012-UP-210
Heard January 12, 2012 – Filed March 28, 2012   


AFFIRMED


I.S. Leevy Johnson, William T. Toal, and Yvonne R. Murray-Boyles; all of Columbia, for Appellants.

Louis D. Nettles, of Florence, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM:  This case arises from a property dispute between Appellant Progressive Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Inc. (the Progressive Church), and Respondents Elder Roscoe Black, Arthur Alford, William Stephens, Aquilera Black, Antonio Black, and Aderia Black, individually and as trustees for the Progressive Church of Bishopville (the Bishopville Congregation).  On appeal, the Progressive Church argues: (1) it is the owner of the disputed property; (2) it has standing to bring this suit; and (3) neutral principles of law require that it be declared owner of the disputed property. We affirm.

1.  As to the ownership of the property, we apply a neutral principles of law approach and find the Progressive Church failed to meet its burden of demonstrating error in the trial court's determination that the Bishopville Congregation is the owner of the disputed property. See Lewis v. Lewis, 392 S.C. 381, 392, 709 S.E.2d 650, 655 (2011) (stating the trial court's factual findings will be affirmed unless the appellant satisfies the court that the preponderance of the evidence is against the trial court's findings); All Saints Parish Waccamaw v. Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of S.C., 385 S.C. 428, 445, 685 S.E.2d 163, 172 (2009) ("[W]here a civil court can completely resolve a church dispute on neutral principles of law, the First Amendment commands it to do so."); Crystal Pines Homeowners Ass'n v. Phillips, 394 S.C. 527, 533, 716 S.E.2d 682, 685 (Ct. App. 2011) ("If the reviewing court determines a deed is ambiguous, it must interpret the deed."); K&A Acquisition Grp., LLC v. Island Pointe, LLC, 383 S.C. 563, 581, 682 S.E.2d 252, 262 (2009) ("In construing a deed, the intention of the grantor must be ascertained and effectuated, unless that intention contravenes some well settled rule of law or public policy.") (internal quotation marks omitted).  Specifically, we find evidence in the record on appeal that the Bishopville Congregation was operating as an unincorporated church at the time of the conveyance of the deeds.  See Jeffery v. Ehrhardt, 210 S.C. 519, 523, 43 S.E.2d 483, 485 (1947) (finding the conveyance of a deed to an unincorporated church vested clear title to its members).

2.  We decline to address the remaining issues on appeal. See Futch v. McAllister Towing of Georgetown, 335 S.C. 598, 613, 518 S.E.2d 591, 598 (1999) (providing that an appellate court need not address additional issues if the resolution of another issue is dispositive).

AFFIRMED.

HUFF, PIEPER, and LOCKEMY, JJ., concur.