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Berymon v. Henderson

OPINION FILED AUGUST 6, 1985.

LIONEL BERYMON ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,

v.

REV. GEORGE HENDERSON ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. George A. Higgins, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE PERLIN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiffs appeal from an order of the circuit court of Cook County which denied their motion to vacate three previously entered court orders and which granted defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings.

Plaintiffs, members of the board of directors of defendant The Greater Garfield Park Missionary Baptist Church, a not-for-profit corporation, filed a complaint seeking injunctive and other relief against defendant Reverend George Henderson, pastor for the church. Plaintiffs alleged that Henderson had used church funds "for the purpose of acquiring and establishing a new church"; that he had entered into a contract for the purchase of a new church building, and had obtained a mortgage loan thereon "without obtaining prior approval of the Board of Directors and the membership of the church."

Plaintiffs further alleged that Henderson had "taken immediate steps to sell the main church building of the Church," and contended that Henderson's actions were "without proper authority of the Board of Directors and the membership of the church" and "in contravention of the By-Laws" of the church. Plaintiffs requested the court to enjoin Henderson from performing any acts in connection with the sale of the old church, to require Henderson to account for "all monies transferred from the accounts" of the church and for imposition of a constructive trust "upon the real property" alleged to have been purchased for use of a new church.

On July 28, 1983, the court entered, without notice to defendant, a temporary restraining order enjoining Henderson from executing any documents involving the sale of the church property.

In August 1983, the temporary restraining order was dissolved, but acceptance by the pastor of any offer to purchase the church property was made subject to order of court.

Plaintiffs thereafter filed a second motion for a temporary restraining order, contending that Henderson was removing certain church personal property from the church. The court entered an order which precluded any further moving of church property and provided for an inventory of the property. The case was continued for a status check to September 9, 1983. On that date an order was entered which provided, in part, that plaintiffs were "reinstated to the Board of Directors" of the church and directed:

"(2) that the Board of Directors [of the church] convene a meeting for the purpose of:

(1) setting down a general meeting of said church for the purpose of voting upon the acquisition of the property at 2140 N. Richmond, Chicago [the new church], and any other business.

(2) The sending out of proper written notice to the congregation at least five (5) days prior to said meeting

(3) the setting down of the place of such general meeting and who is to moderate same

(4) and that such meeting shall be conducted under Robert's Rules of Order, or as otherwise agreed by the Board

(5) that said general meeting shall be held prior to Sept. 18, 1983."

The order was prepared by Peter Apostal, plaintiffs' attorney.

In September plaintiffs filed a motion for temporary restraining order requesting the court to enjoin Henderson "from conducting a general meeting of the congregation" at the new church location. In response the court ordered both sides to "confer regarding the validity of the church membership" and to report back to the court.

On December 28, 1983, the parties filed a document entitled "STIPULATION" which provides, in part, that "for the purpose of partial settlement, it is hereby stipulated and agreed by the parties hereto by and through their respective attorneys, as follows:" The stipulation then provides that "all voting members" of the church shall vote on the issue of whether to purchase the new church and whether to sell the old church. The parties also stipulated that an attached list of names and addresses constituted all members of the church who were eligible to vote. Finally, ...


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