New Hope Lutheran Ministry v. Faith Lutheran Church of Great Falls, Inc.Annotate this Case
In 1988, Faith Lutheran Church of Great Falls, Inc., which held certain property in its own name, affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) denomination. In 2010, seventy-one percent of members voted to terminate Faith Lutheran’s affiliation with ELCA. Thereafter, the majority continued as Faith Lutheran, and approximately half of the minority formed the group that would become New Hope Lutheran Ministry. New Hope subsequently filed an action seeking a declaration that the minority was the rightful owner of all church property, including property held by the Foundation for the Endowment of Faith Lutheran Church, Inc. The district court determined that New Hope was entitled to all Faith Lutheran property and all property held by the Foundation. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the district court (1) correctly determined that New Hope was entitled to property held by Faith Lutheran because the ninety percent super-majority necessary for Faith Lutheran to retain the property under its constitution was not obtained; but (2) erred in holding that New Hope was entitled to the Foundation’s property because New Hope failed to prove that an express trust existed over the Foundation’s property in favor of the church members.