Abstract of Levi Young’s obituary
German Language Newspapers in Bucks County – Volume 2
(this is at the Spruance Library, Bucks County Historical Society, Doylestown, PA)
Deaths – German Language Newspapers in Bucks County
Der Reformer and Pennsylvania Advertiser
May 1868 – December 1868
Issue Died Age
8/20/1868 8/14/1868 26 years Levi Jung, preacher, son of David and
10 months Barbara Jung. Died at the house of John
3 days Yoder of Upper Saucon, Lehigh Co. Died of
severe depression. Interment at Upper
Saucon Mennonite Meetinghouse. Officiated
by Revs. Jonas Schultz and John
Haldeman of Ohio.
Quakertown - Part 3.
[Our thanks to David E. Thomann for transcribing this article.]
OPINION OF THE COURT
1. The Mennonite Brethren in Christ is a small unincorporated religious association whose
membership lies within the German speaking districts of Pennsylvania, and in certain portions
of the states of Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, and in Canada. The statistical reports of the annual
conference show a total membership of 733, one presiding elder, 14 ordained ministers, 11
probationers and church property valued at $40,242.31. It originated about 1853, but the first
step at an organization was taken about 1858 by Father William Gehman when the first semi-annual conference was held in Upper Milford Township, Lehigh county, under the name of
Evangelical Mennonite Church of Pennsylvania. The conference consisted of two elders, three
deacons and two preachers of the word. Its membership was very small and was made up of
the persons who withdrew from other churches; in other words, they were themselves
dissenters and seceders, having withdrawn from the Oberholtzer Menonites, commonly called
Menonites No.2. The occasion for such withdrawal was that they favored holding of prayer
meetings while those from whom they withdrew did not. This association retained its original
name until 1879. About this time a religious association was found to exist whose members
held like religious views. They called themselves the United Menonites of Canada, Michigian,
Indiana and Ohio. It was found that these several religious bodies agreed in their views of the
Bible, and a union was proposed and effected under the name of Evangelical United
Menonites. This name was retained until 1883, when by common consent, the name was
changed to the Menonite Brethren in Christ, under which name the association is now known.
2. At the time of the organization in 1858 they had no churches or meeting houses and
worshiped in private houses. In 1879 when the union was effected they had four or five
churches. During this period there was practically no church discipline or form of government.
They held semi-annual conferences, but what authority they exercised, if any, does not appear.
They seem to have been religious meetings. Father Gehman, the founder of the church or
religious association testified that he was the elder during this entire period: that he preached
and performed the higher offices of the church, "such as baptizing and administering the
sacrament:" that at the time they had no regulations to select a preacher: that where they lived
the ministers preached, and if the conference took care that they had a minister and provided
one. The first attempt at a form of discipline was made in the publication of the discipline in
1867, exhibit "A". There was no evidence whatever to show the manner of holding such church
property as they then had.
3. The fundamental law is claimed to be Episcopal in form. It is in part formulated in a written
discipline annexed to the bill marked exhibit "A" and partly founded upon usages and customs
which it is claimed to have become the law of the association. These usages and customs as
shown by the plaintiffs upon the hearing are in many respects greatly at variance with the
written discipline made a part of the bill. The title page of the discipline, exhibit "A", is entitled
"Doctrine and Faith and Church Discipline of the Evangelical Menonite Society of East
Pennsylvania". And the name of the plaintiff association as averred in the bill, in 1867 the date
of its publication, was the Evangelical Menonite Church of Pennsylvania. This discipline was
prepared by William Gehman and other elders of this association, and not withstanding the
slight variance in its title was printed, it was no doubt intended and accepted by the association
as its doctrine of faith and church disciplines. No other discipline is averred in the bill.
4. The principles of faith as declared in the discipline consist chiefly of copious citations from
the Bible and their interpretations, and reference thereto is unnecessary.
5. The material parts of the discipline in so far as it elates to the organization and government
of the society or association, provide as follows:
Article 1. The offices of this society are of three kinds, viz:
First: The office of elders.
Second: The office of ordinary preachers or teachers.
Third: The office of Overseers or Deacons.
Article 2. Provides for the personal qualifications of an elder.
Article 3. No one can be chosen to conduct the ordinary service of the Word of God unless he
received good testimony of the majority of his congregation or congregations in which he shall
be elected: and as the elders must be chosen from the ordinary ministers it is particularly
necessary to have regard to the capability of those that shall be elected, according to 2 Tim, 2-24"
Article 4. Decrees that as many overseers, or deacons, shall be in each congregation as shall be
deemed necessary, who must be such men (as far as the congregation can ascertain) as are
described , Acts 6, 3:1Tim 3,7".
Election of Ministers in General
“Article 1. From two persons who possess such abilities have been enumerated in Sec. 1 art. 2,
an elder shall be chosen by lot, or if no two persons acknowledged to be able, are at hand, the
congregation or congregations by a majority of votes, may elect one of the congregation or
congregations, who is acknowledged to be able according to Acts 1,23:
“Article 2. If any one receive an extraordinary call – that is, "when any one feels himself urged
by a call from God to preach, – by agreement of the congregation he shall have permission to
do so, yet he shall be on probation for one year before he shall be ordained."
“Article 3. Decrees that the ordinary ministers of the Word of God shall be chosen in the
following way and manner, namely:"When the congregation or congregations have become
unanimous to elect a Minister or Preacher, then shall a minister of the Word, before voting is
entered upon, remind the congregation particularly of the importance of the ministry and see
that throughout regard may be had to the Gospel, to elect no one that is not qualified to each,
but such a one that possesses good faculties, such as a clear and distinct voice, natural, or a
blameless life (2 Tim. 2,24), then prayerfully to nominate such, after which the congregation
shall hold an election of those nominated, and those two who shall have received a plurality of
votes shall draw lots, and he upon whom the lot falls shall be a willingly accepted by the
congregation as the minister of the Word, ordained of God."
“Article 4. Provides questions to be answered by a minister or deacon before ordination or
“Article 5. Provides for the ordination of an elder by another elder by laying on of hands.
“Article 6. When any one is elected to the ordinary Ministry, according to the order given in
Art, 2 and 3, on elder shall (and if an elder be not at hand, another ordinary minister shall)
install in the office of common ministry the newly elected one, by agreement of the
congregation in which the newly elected shall serve.
“Article 7. Deacons or almoners, can be chosen by lot or elected publicly in the congregation, as
a vote of two thirds may decide, yet in every case regard must be had to the integrity and piety
of the person of persons nominated."
“Article 8. Determines that an ordinary minister may install in office an elected deacon by
agreement of the congregation in which the newly elected shall serve"
Duties of Officers
“Article 1. The duties of an elder are to continue in prayer to proclaim the Word of God in
purity and sincerity, to exercise reason among those who are obedient to the faith, orderly to
administer baptism and the Lord's Supper according to the intention of Christ, to watch over
the ordinary ministers as well as the deacons and congregation or congregations, to become
acquainted with those who have trusted their souls to his guardianship in order that at the
proper time he may give each one his due, and to teach and practice nothing except that which
agrees strictly with the doctrine of Christ. It is his duty, in conjunction with the ordinary
ministers and deacons as also by agreement of the congregation in many cases when its counsel
is necessary, to enforce and exercise Christian order in his congregation, according to the
doctrine of the gospel. He shall be a pattern to believers, in word, in behavior, in spirit, in faith,
in purity, etc.
“Article 2. The duties of an ordinary ministers of the Word of God are in every case to support
the elder, so far as the elder will discharge the duties of his office according to the doctrine of
the gospel and as far as he is in need of his assistance. Acts 16,9."
“Article 3. No ordinary minister, as well as no deacon, can be employed by an elder for service
unless they are unanimous in doctrine, life and faith. 2 Cor. 6,14-16.
“Article 4. The ordinary ministers, or the deacons shall be allowed to discharge all the duties of
the different offices, yet only in case of necessity shall they be permitted to administer the
breaking of bread of the Lord's Supper."
“Article 5. At all times the counsel and consent of a congregation are Called for when anything
of importance shall be undertaken and transacted in it. "
“Article 6. Confers upon the ordinary ministers all the powers and duties of an elder, "except
the exercise of those high duties that are Pointed out in the 4th article under section 3, that all
always be done in order. "
“Article 7. Provides for the visitation of the poor and sick and to administer alms &c, as
deemed necessary by the congregation; and article 8 authorizes the deacon to receive all
moneys given by the congregation for the poor, &c.
“Article 9. It is the duty of the deacon to see that there is always order in the congregation. He
shall also inform his fellow ministers or the congregation when he discovers anything which
threatens danger to the congregation soon counsel may be taken in regard to it, and that a right
watchful eye may be had upon the doctrines and church of Christ, as is becoming."
Articles ten and eleven can have no bearing on the controversy.
“Article 1. The sitting of the conference shall be held semi-annually.
“Article 2. Divine services shall be held publicly in the forenoon of the day appointed for the
sitting of the conference.”
“Article 3. There shall be a president and a secretary. These shall be elected by a majority of the
members of the conference only for one sitting, yet by the agreement shall be eligible again.”
“Article 4. It shall be the duty of the president to open the meeting with singing and prayer,
and then to hold the election to choose president and secretary.”
“Article 5. The official and moral conduct of the preachers and deacons shall be examined.”
“Article 6. It shall be the duty of the secretary to enter all the transaction of the conference in a book.”
“Article 7. The members of the conference shall only be engaged in such matters that aim at the
welfare and edification of this society, as well as the kingdom of Jesus Christ generally.”
Section 5 (Page 38, Discipline)
Articles one, two, three and four provide for the disciplining by the congregation of its
offending members, and article five prescribes the forbidden acts, etc.
“Article 6. Shows that when an elder, ordinary minister, or deacon has Become guilty of such a
crime the congregation shall authorize someone to investigate the matter without delay: and
incase the matter shall be confirmed, he shall be suspended until the sitting of the next
conference. If the accused cannot free himself then, and if he will show no sincere sorrow, to
the satisfaction of the congregation, he shall be deposed from his office until he manifest
sincere and unfeigned repentance.”
Article 7. Provides that always two witnesses who command respect be required to convict an
officer of any offence.
Articles twelve and thirteen provide that no additions, annulments or alterations to this
discipline shall be made without the consent of two-thirds of the members of the conference.
The foregoing extracts from the discipline cover all that can possibly relate to the controversy.
The discipline provides for no trustees, nor any method for acquiring, holding or controlling of church
6. This discipline has never been altered or amended. At the hearing counsel for plaintiffs
offered in evidence a book, purporting to be the discipline of 1888. The offer was not
accompanied with an offer to show that it had been adopted. The defendants objected on the
ground that plaintiffs based their bill upon the discipline of 1867, which was made part of it.
The objection was sustained . The plaintiffs did not ask for leave to amend the bill.
7. While the law of the association stood as above set forth, the Quakertown congregation or
class was founded, and the work which related in the organization of a church at Quakertown
was started. This was about 1868. Jonas Musselman was the preacher. Services were held in
private houses and later in the hall. Then came up the question of building a church. The
members of the congregation or some of them, made application to the Court of Common Pleas
of Buck County to be incorporated into body corporate under the name and title of the
"Evangelical Menonite Church of Quakertown, Bucks County, Pa." It is frequently referred to
by the witnesses as the Quakertown Church, and also as the Third Street Church.
8. By its charter the said corporation was authorized to hold real estate “by gift, grant, bargain,
sale, conveyance, devise, bequest or otherwise from any person or persons whomsoever." It
also thereby further provided as follows:
Jonas Musselman, Henry M. Smith and Jacob Horn shall be trustees of the church to remain in
office until their successors shall have been elected. The election of trustees and all other
officers shall be provided for by-laws of this corporation. The president of said board of
trustees shall be the president of this corporation.
The temporal affairs of the corporation shall be managed and conducted by the trustees of said
church, but no real estate shall be sold except by a majority of the male members of said
The object of the association are the worship of God according to the directions given in the
The pastor of the church shall be elected by a majority of the members of said church in good
standing, and no one shall be allowed to preach in said church except by consent of the
preacher and majority of the elders, deacons and trustees.
The spiritual affairs of said church shall be under the control of the pastor and all the elders
and deacons, and they shall decide by a majority of votes as to the proper qualifications of
members applying for admission to said church.
The members of said corporation were given the power to make by-laws, but no by-laws were
ever in fact made.
The decree of incorporation was made on September 16, 1872, and no alterations or
amendments have since been made.
8. On the following day, September 17, 1872, a conveyance of the lot on which the church in
controversy was erected was made to the "Evangelical Menonite Church of Quakertown of
Quakertown Borough, its successors and assigns" in whose name the title to the lot now stands.
A house of worship was there upon erected on said lot. It was constructed partly from
materials taken from an old meeting house in Haycock township, which had been used as a
place of worship by the Evangelical Menonites, and partly from new materials. Much of the
labor was contributed by the members of the congregation as well as by friends who did not
belong to the church. The necessary money was chiefly collected by Jonas Musselman, the
preacher or elder of the congregation, and in charge of the erection of the church, some from
members of the congregation, some from members of other congregations of the association,
and some from
people connected with the Evangelical Menonite Church, its then name. Some of the
contributions were made upon the express representations of Mr. Musselman that the church
should be free and independent from any denominational or ecclesiastical body. Mr.
Musselman also stated to some of the contributors that the legal steps had been taken for the
incorporation of the church which was for the purpose of securing the church property from
ecclesiastical control. There is nothing in the charter to subject the said church to the control,
management or discipline of the Evangelical Mennonite Church of Pennsylvania, its then
name. The members of the congregation as it existed at the time of the incorporation, allowing
for deaths, removals, etc., with such as have since associated themselves with it, have
continuously worshipped in said church to this date, except seven or eight who voluntarily
ceased the worship there, and who have since erected Beulah Chapel as a place of worship,
through whom as the adherents to the general organization of the Menonite Brethren in Christ,
the plaintiffs in this bill, seek to recover.
9. From 1879, after the union with the other churches was effected, under the name of
Evangelical United Menonites, the church policy became more defined as Episcopal in form.
These innovations were made in disregard of the printed discipline of 1867, exhibit "A". They
are founded upon usages and customs established from time to time, and rest solely upon the
testimony of the witnesses and the records of the proceedings as recorded in the minutes of the
annual conferences. From that date the semi-annual conferences were dispensed with. A
general conference was established which meets every four years. Its jurisdiction was not
defined. An annual and quarterly conferences were established. Classes were then organized.
By a class is understood where a quarterly conference was held. Individual churches and
congregations are also referred to as classes. The person in charge of a congregation or class is
called an elder, preacher or teacher. A presiding elder was chosen from their own number. He
is the highest officer. He holds an presides over the annual and quarterly conferences, and
performs the higher functions of the church such as the administration of the sacraments. At
the annual conference, the elders, preachers or teachers are assigned to the several
congregations or classes. For this purpose they have a stationing committee. This consists of the
presiding elder and the lay delegates one from each congregation or class. The stationing
committee goes into secret session and assigns the elders or preachers in the respective
congregations or classes. The elders or preachers so assigned are expected to go to the posts to
which they have been assigned without objection. The selection of the preachers or elders by
lot, or by vote of the congregation as provided for in the discipline of 1867 is disregarded. The
conference gradually extended its authority not only over spiritual, but also over the temporal
affairs of the various churches. It assumed to appoint trustees over them and thus acquire
control of the church property of the various congregations or classes. It was the attempt on
the part of the quarterly conference to elect or appoint a trustee or trustees for the Quakertown
church that led up to the controversy now before the court.
10. The Quakertown congregation or class worshipped in accordance with the teachings and
practices of the Evangelical Mennonites, later called the Evangelical Mennonites, later called
the Evangelical United Mennonites now the United Brethren in Christ, and affiliated with that
body. It sent its lay delegates to the various conferences, and the elder or preacher in charge
and the lay delegates participated in the proceedings. It made its financial reports to the
conference. The annual conference through its stationing committee assigned the elder or
preacher to the Quakertown class for the year ensuing such conference in the same manner as
for other churches or classes, and the elder or preacher so assigned was accepted by the
congregation. Mr. Zyner had been assigned and was acting as preacher or elder under such
11. At the last quarterly conference for 1893, the conference elected or appointed a trustee for
the Quakertown Church. This was the first time such an attempt was made by the conference
to appoint a trustee for the Quakertown Church. Though the appointment was not repudiated,
it created strife, contention and dissatisfaction in the congregation, and between the
congregation and the conference. At the last meeting of the following year, (1894) held at
Hatfield, the quarterly conference again asserted the right to appoint a second trustee for said
church. Mr. Zyner, the elder or preacher in charge, protested against such action, on the
ground that the members of the Quakertown Church were an incorporated body; that they had
a charter from the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County and held the church property as a
corporate body; that the conference had no control over the property; that they had the right
under the charter to elect their own trustees; that they had done so before and desire to
continue to do so. In the face of this objection the quarterly conference declined to make the
appointment. It was arranged between Mr.Zyner and the presiding elder to refer the matter to
the next annual conference to convene in February following. This arrangement was not
approved by the Quakertown class or congregation. The members of the church or
congregation then held the usual corporate meeting on the first day of January for the election
of trustees and other officers, and elected a trustee for three years as usual. At the same
meeting they elected Mr. Zyner as the elder or preacher. This action was taken in the exercise
of their charter rights.
12. At the annual conference which convened on February 1, 1895, the matter was taken up
and it was resolved by the said conference.
1. That the conference continue to elect the trustees at the last quarterly conference of each
2. That the annual conference appeal to the next general conference to specify the place and
time for the election of trustees more definitely.
3. That the election of trustee in Quakertown class since the last quarterly meeting was illegal.
13. Mr.Zyner was then charged with disloyalty, untruthfulness, and conspiracy, and convicted,
and it was directed that no appointment should be assigned him. It was also ordered and
directed that if he did not humble himself, severe measures should be taken. Mr. Zyner refused
to comply. A committee was appointed in this matter recommended to the conference
resolution which was adopted, and which is in the following form: "That the conference does
not recognize him (Zyner) as a member of our conference or denomination from henceforth".
Following this resolution twenty two members of the Quakertown class or church, withdrew
their membership in "M. B. in Christ Church and conference" to take effect from the date
thereof, February 5, 1895.
By what authority this action was taken by the conference does not appear. The discipline
annexed to the bill does not provide for it. Nor does it provide for an appeal.
14. The trustees of the Quakertown Church ignored the action of the annual conference as to
the appointment of trustees and the assignment by the conference of Rev. Wilson Steinmetz as
their elder or preacher and refused him and others who were later assigned permission to
preach in the church.
At this time the class or congregation of the Quakertown Church consisted of forty-two
members. Of this number seven or eight voluntarily ceased to worship in the Quakertown
Church. They were never excluded from the church for the purpose of worshipping or
otherwise. They were David Bosler and his wife; Titus Taylor, the trustee appointed by the
quarterly conference, and whose appointment was not recognized by the congregation, and his
wife; a Mrs. Sterner and two or three others whose names were not given. These then
worshiped under the ministration of the Rev. Wilson Steinmetz who had been assigned by the
conference, and later under the ministration of Rev. George Campbell and others who had
likewise been assigned by the conference. A chapel was afterwards built on Juniper street,
called Beulah Chapel, where others who have since associated themselves with them, now
worship under name of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ under the ministration of Elder W. S.
Hottel who is assigned to the Quakertown class by the conferences, and who is one of the
plaintiffs in the bill.
The other thirty-four members (twenty-two of whom had formally withdrawn their
membership from the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church and conference) repudiated the
action of the annual conference, and thereafter elected their own trustees as they always had
done, and thereafter elected the elder or preacher in pursuance of article six of the charter. Mr
Zyner was elected the preacher or elder, and has since been re-elected from year to year, and is
now the preacher in charge and one of the defendants in this bill.
They have ever since been in the actual possession of the church and have ceased all relations
with the quarterly and annual conference of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ.
Henry M. Smith, Stephen Trumbauer and Frank Schuler, three of the defendants named in this
bill, are the duly qualified trustees of the corporation under its charter, and the said M. A.
Zyner is the duly elected pastor of said church by a majority of its members as provided for by
Conclusion of the Law
1. The Evangelical Menonite Church of Quakertown, Bucks County, Pa., is a separate and
independent body corporate duly organized and existing under the laws of said state.
2. The real estate in question is conveyed to, owned and held by the said corporation.
3. The temporal affairs of the corporation are managed and conducted by the trustees of said
church, selected by the members thereof, as provided for in the carter, and the real estate of
said corporation is under the management and control of the trustees of said corporation.
4. The said corporation under its charter is not allied with any denomination nor made subject
to the discipline, usages or custom of any particular denomination but it is organized for the
sole purpose of "the worship of God according to the direction given in the New Testament,
and there being no restrictions or reservations in the deed, the real estate of the corporation is
held for the uses and purposed set forth in the charter.
5. The complainants have not shown any title, legal or equitable, to the church property in
question, or any rights or authority over the same, as against the trustees and the corporation
now holding possession thereof, and are therefore not entitled to the relief prayed for.
6. The bill should be dismissed.
The law in this state is settled beyond controversy, that the title to church property of a
congregation that is divided is in that part of the congregation that is in harmony with its own
laws, usages and customs as accepted by the body before the division took place, and who
adhere to the regular organization, and that in such case it does not matter that a majority of
any given congregation annual conference is with those who dissent. Krecker et al v. Shirley et
al. 163 Pa.,534.
The difficulty in this case is to determine whether under the facts the plaintiffs bring
themselves within the established rule.
The plaintiffs claim title and control of the property in question on the theory that they are the
adherents to the regular organization of an unincorporated association of Christian people,
now known as Menonite Brethren in Christ, but who were known at the time of the
organization of this congregation as Evangelical Menonites: that this congregation or class was
one of a number of congregations which constituted the association of Evangelical Menonites:
that the incorporators of this congregation were adherents to this association: that some money
had been contributed for the erection of the church by members of the association who were
not members of this congregation or class: that the materials of an abandoned meeting house of
Evangelical Menonites had been used in the construction of said church that the congregation
worshiped according to the doctrines, usages and customs of the Evangelical Menonites: that
the congregation sent delegates to the several conferences who participated in the deliberations
and official actions thereof: that the congregation made financial reports to the conferences:
that they accepted the preachers or elders assigned to them by the annual conferences: that by
reason of the above acts and practices of said congregation and the individual members
thereof, they became a constituent part of the general body of Evangelical Menonites, now
Menonite Brethren in Christ and that when the defendants, through a majority of the
congregation , refused to accept the appointment of a trustee and preacher or elder by the
annual conference in February 1895, they seceded, and thereby forfeited their rights to the
church property: and that the minority who voluntarily ceased to worship in said church, and
thereafter worshiped in private houses under the ministration of the preacher assigned by the
conference, are the adherents of the general body of Evangelical Menonites; and as such are
entitled to the possession and control of the church property in question.
The question involved is whether the title to this property, legal or equitable, was ever in the
unincorporated association of Evangelical Menonites, represented by the plaintiffs in this bill.
If it was, then the case is with the plaintiffs. The defendants would then occupy the position of
seceders from the parent church, and as such would have forfeited all their rights in the church
But the defendants take the position that they are an independent corporate body: that they are
the true representatives of this corporate body, and that such of the plaintiffs who had been
members of it by their voluntary withdrawal, had forfeited their rights in its property: and that
the unincorporated association of Evangelical Menonites never had any interest whatever in
the property in question.
The conveyance of the property is from the vender to the corporation by deed in the usual
form. It is clear that the legal title is not the unincorporated association . Has it an equitable
title? The deed contains no declaration of trust: nor is it averred that a declaration of trust was
intended; neither does it provide that said corporation shall hold it subject to the customs,
usages or discipline of said unincorporated association. Some of the money and labor, if not
most of it, were contributed upon the express representation that the church should be free and
independent from any denominational body, and that the corporation was formed for the
expressed purpose of securing that end. The charter itself bears strong evidence of such a
purpose. The sole object declared in the charter is "the worship of God according to the
directions given in the New Testament." It would have been difficult to declare a more general
and more liberal object. It placed the temporal affairs and the control of its property into the
hands of trustees: three persons were made trustees to remain in office until their successors
were elected and trustees and other officers to be elected as provided by the by-laws. No by-laws were ever made but one trustee was elected on January first of each year by the members
of the congregation to serve three years. This was done every year until 1894, when the
conference assumed to appoint trustees. The sixth article provided that “the pastor of said
church shall be elected by a majority of the members in good standing, and no one shall be
allowed to preach in said church except by the consent of the pastor and a majority of the
elders deacons and trustees.” Generally all powers conferred by the charter were to be
exercised by the church through its pastor, elders, deacons or trustees elected by its members.
No powers were conferred upon any other body. The corporation was formed for the express
purpose of taking title to the property, and the conveyance was made on the day after the
decree of incorporation was made, September 17, 1872. Two of the early preachers of this
congregation, Jonas Musselman and William N. Shelly, singed the application for the charter,
and one of them, Musselman, who collected the funds to erect the church, was made a trustee
under the charter. The matter was then fresh in the minds of those concerned and no
concealment, fraud or mistake is averred. We must assume that what was done was intended
to be done.
The plaintiffs make the discipline of 1867 a part of the bill, and thereby seek to establish their
claim. But in this they also fail. Assuming for the sake of argument that the Quakertown
church at its formation was allied with the general body of Evangelical Menonites, the
discipline so far as it goes, leaves all matters in which the congregation is concerned to the
congregation itself for final determination. The church polity under the discipline is
congregational rather than episcopal in form. There is nothing in the charter that is really at
variance with the discipline. There is nothing in it regulating the acquiring or holding or
control of church property by the unincorporated association, or by any congregation made up
of its adherents. At the time it was adopted the religious meetings were held at the dwelling
houses of the members. No distinct places of worship were maintained. Father Gehman
testified, that at the first union (1879) there were only for or five congregations that had church
property. He also testified that during the early period of the association they had no
regulations how to select a minister; that where they lived ministers preached; and if there
were none in the community the conference took care that they had one. The discipline of 1867
provided a method for the selection of ministers or preachers, but it was still left to the
congregations. It was done in two ways. Either by election by a majority of the congregations,
or if there were a number of candidates, the preacher was selected by lot from the two having
the highest number of votes. The discipline provided for a conference but it did not provide
for the assignment of preachers by the conference. If a minister offend “the congregation shall
authorize someone to investigate the matter without delay, and in case the matter be
confirmed, he shall be suspended until the sitting of the next conference; if the accused cannot
free himself then, and if he shall show no sincere sorrow, to the satisfaction of the
congregation, he shall be deposed” &c. Section 3, article 5, provides that “at all times the
counsel and consent of a congregation are called for when anything of importance shall be
undertaken and transacted in it.” The spirit of the discipline throughout is to make the
congregation the controlling body of all matters pertaining to it own affairs.
The declared purpose of the corporation is the “worship of God according to the directions
given in the New Testament.” It is not averred that the church is applied to any other use.
There is no question of religious faith or doctrine involved in this case.
Stress is laid upon the fact that material from an abandoned meeting house were used in the
erection of the building. This was but one of the many contributions that were received. “The
property does not belong to the contributors, but to the corporation, to be used by the
corporation according to its charter.” Bethlehem Boro v. Perseverance Fire Co., 81 Pa., 458.
“Those who contributed their money did so with full knowledge, or without injury, and must
beheld to have given of their substance upon implied understanding, at least that it was subject
in its appropriation and use to the purpose for which the chapel was founded.” Rector of
Christ Church &c. vs. Rector &c of Holy Trinity, 8 W. N. C. 550. The circumstances of their
permitting others, not claiming to be members of that church, to join them in improving the lot,
and afterwards in the exercised of public or divine worship performed there, could not divest
them of their right acquired under the deed; nor could they, indeed, dispose of the same in any
way whatever so as to defeat the primary object of the granters.” Means v. Presbyterian
Church 3 W. & S., 313.
There is no doubt that in religious belief and form of worship the members of this congregation
were in harmony with the unincorporated association of Evangelical Menonites, now Menonite
Brethren in Christ; that they affiliated with them in their services; that they sent delegates to
the quarterly and annual conferences who took part in the proceedings; that they rendered
their accounts to such conferences; that they accepted the preachers assigned by the annual
conferences through the stationing committees. Does this deprive the congregation of its
corporate rights and divest it of the control of its corporate property? We think not. In Sarver
and Others’ appeal 81* Pa., 193, it is said: “In the last case, (Baptist Congregation v. Scannel) it
is also held that the congregational meetings can not control, or the customs of church meetings
take away the chartered rights of the incorporated society. ‘The customs of one portion of the
society cannot as such, deprive the other portion of its rights.’ It is plain, therefore, that the acts
of the majority, in the violation of the fundamental article of the charter of this corporation,
persisted in wilfully, are the subject of control by a bill in equity in the court of Common Pleas,
which will use all the powers of a chancellor to compel them to desist and return to an
observance of their charter duty.” This is especially applicable to a case like this, where as soon
as it was known that the conference assumed the unwarranted authority to appoint trustees
and thereby get control of the corporate property, the congregation objected, and asserted the
right to select their own trustee as they has always done. It was this controversy that led to the
suspension and final removal of Mr. Zyner from the office of preacher by the conference. By
what authority he was tried and removed does not appear. It was surely not done under the
provisions of the discipline made part of the bill. Nor is there a right of appeal provided for.
The charge was made by the presiding elder and the action was taken by the conference.
Notwithstanding his deposition by the conference, the congregation at their annual meeting for
that purpose elected him as the preacher of said church and he has officiated as such to this
date. This they could lawfully do because there is nothing in said charter to require the
selection of a preacher from such as are connected with any particular faith, denomination or
association. All that is required under the charter is the “worship of God according to the
directions given in the New Testament.” It is not alleged that this requirement is not met.
Under all the facts in this case the court is of the opinion that the Evangelical Church of
Quakertown is an independent corporate body, and that the defendants herein named are the
true and lawful representatives thereof.
Now, May 20, 1907, this case came on to be further heard at this term, and was argued by
counsel, and upon consideration there, it is ordered and adjudged and decreed that the bill be
dismissed at the costs of the plaintiffs.
By the Court,
Mahlon H. Stout,
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