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NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued January 8, 2002

This case involves an intrachurch dispute over eligibility for nomination to elective office in a religious organization. The intrafaith conflict is actually rooted in a deeper doctrinal schism leading to a challenge by a breakaway congregational faction for control of church governance and administration. Plaintiff Solid Rock Baptist Church (Solid Rock) appeals the “eligibility” determination of the chancery court – allowing floor nominations without preliminary recommendations from and prequalification by the nominating committee – as violative of church process and procedure and as an unwarranted judicial intrusion into matters of church doctrine and polity. By democratizing the nominating process, plaintiff contends the court below fundamentally and impermissibly reordered church structure, transforming a congregational church with an internal governing body into a church entirely controlled by its membership. Defendant Rudy Carlton, the ousted pastor “recalled” as a result of the court-monitored elections, and his intervenor- supporters counter that the chancery judge properly enforced the clear and express terms of church by-laws that, they claim, provide for floor nominations without pre-screening and prequalification by the nominating committee.

 
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