A national Christian organization is suing a small church in Lee, saying it’s the rightful owner of the church’s property now that the congregation has cut its ties with the national group.
The Colorado Springs, Colorado-based Christian and Missionary Alliance sued the New Beginnings Church of Lee in U.S. District Court in Bangor on Dec. 10 following the church’s vote to end its affiliation with the national organization.
The New Beginnings Church’s affiliation with the Colorado alliance dates back to 1983, when the national organization accepted an application from the Lee church to join its fold.
Now, “we are claiming that the church in Lee ignored the commitment it made to the CMA,” said Bernard Kubetz, the alliance’s Bangor-based attorney.
The 15-member church decided to end its national affiliation after 36 years because of a stipulation in the alliance’s bylaws stating that the Colorado organization would gain ownership of the church’s property if the Lee church ended the affiliation, Board Chair Searle Crocker said.
“We are claiming that the property belongs to the New Beginnings Church of Lee,” said Brett Baber, the Bangor-based attorney who represents the church.
“We agreed to these bylaws not knowing some things in there,” Crocker said. “We never would’ve signed that if we knew this.”
The church is located on land that a Lee resident donated to the original members in 1981, before the Christian and Missionary Alliance became involved. That resident, 99-year-old Lester Delano, said he never intended for the land to become the property of the national organization.
“We gave it to the people in the church,” Delano said.
The primary purpose of the affiliation with the Christian and Missionary Alliance was to supply pastors to the local church, Baber said. However, the organization did not always deliver on this promise.
“We went over five years without a pastor from CMA, and we’ve had local pastors come in and substitute,” Crocker said.
However, over the 36 years of the partnership, the Christian and Missionary Alliance invested tens of thousands of dollars in the Lee church in the form of support, said Kubetz, who also represents the Bangor Daily News.
“The church in Lee agreed that if it left the alliance, the property belonged to the alliance,” he said.
The church’s response in the lawsuit is due Dec. 31.