HAROLD R. GUNN
FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH ET AL.
18, 2018 Session
from the Circuit Court for Gibson County No. H4061 William B.
Acree, Senior Judge
a member of First Baptist Church of Humboldt, appeals the
trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of
Appellees, the church, its pastor, and chairman of the
deacons. Appellant challenged the vote to change the name of
the church to "The Church at Sugar Creek." Finding
that the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine acted as a
jurisdictional bar, the trial court granted summary judgment.
Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Court is Affirmed and Remanded
Ross Gunn, pro se, Humboldt, Tennessee, Appellant.
Dean Burleson, Jennifer Vallor Ivy, Jackson, Tennessee, for
the Appellees, First Baptist Church (Humboldt, TN), Greg
McFadden, and Gerry Brittain.
Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which
J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., and Arnold B. Goldin, J.,
February 26, 2017, members of First Baptist Church of
Humboldt ("the Church") voted to change the name of
the Church to "The Church at Sugar Creek." Harold
R. Gunn ("Appellant") is a member of the Church and
was upset with the Church's vote to change its name.
30, 2017, in the Circuit Court of Gibson County at Humboldt
("trial court"), Appellant filed a Complaint
against the Church, its pastor, Dr. Greg McFadden, and the
Chairman of the Deacons, Gerry Brittain (together with the
Church and Mr. McFadden, "Appellees"). Appellant
alleged that the vote to change the Church's name was
illegal and, thus, void. Appellant asked the trial court to
set aside the vote, to order a new vote, and to enjoin the
Church from changing its name. Appellees filed a joint Answer
on June 30, 2017 and an amended answer on August 31, 2017.
August 23, 2017, Appellees filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment, arguing, inter alia, that the
ecclesiastical abstention doctrine deprived the trial court
of subject matter jurisdiction over the case. On September
20, 2017, Appellant filed a response in opposition to
Appellees' motion. By order of November 28, 2017, the
trial court granted Appellees' Motion for Summary
Judgment. The trial court held that it did not have subject
matter jurisdiction over the case because the ecclesiastical
abstention doctrine precluded the trial court from
adjudicating any issue regarding the internal affairs and
management of the Church. The trial court explained that
Appellant's primary concern was whether each person who
voted on the Church's name change was a member of the
Church. Applying the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine, the
trial court concluded that it did not have authority to
determine whether each voter was a member of the Church and,
thus, could not adjudicate the matter because it lacked
jurisdiction. Accordingly, the trial court granted summary
judgment, dismissing the case. Mr. Gunn appeals.
raises four issues on appeal; however, we perceive that there