Appeal from the Decatur Circuit Court. The Honorable Timothy B. Day, Judge. Cause No. 16C01-1302-PL-58.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: Andrew G. Jones, Law Office of Andrew G. Jones, Indianapolis, Indiana.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: Judy L. Woods, Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff LLP, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Friedlander, Judge. Kirsch, J., concurs. Crone, J., concurs in part and dissents in part with separate opinion.
¶1 Steven Matthies appeals from the grant of summary judgment in favor of The First Presbyterian Church of Greensburg Indiana, Inc. (First Presbyterian).
On appeal, Matthies argues that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of First Presbyterian.
¶2 The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is a national religious denomination governed by its Constitution, which provides for a hierarchical or connectional system of governance wherein each lower governing body is answerable to a successive higher governing body. The Presbytery of Whitewater Valley, Inc. (the Presbytery) is the regional governing body responsible for the mission and governance of the Presbyterian Church in central and northeastern Indiana, including all of Decatur County, where First Presbyterian is located. First Presbyterian is the local church that is ruled by its pastor(s) and ruling elders, who make up the Session, the lowest level of governance for the Presbyterian Church. The Session observes and carries out the instructions of the higher governing bodies, including the Presbytery.
¶3 On October 17, 2010, Reverend Steven Matthies was " called" to the office of Designated Pastor for the congregation of First Presbyterian. Appellant's Appendix at 72. On that date, Reverend Matthies entered into a Designated Pastor Contract (Contract) that covered a three-year period beginning on October 18, 2010. The " Terms of Call" set forth in the Contract provided that Reverend Matthies would receive a stated salary, housing, and other benefits, including, as pertinent to this case, five weeks of vacation. Id. at 13.
¶4 In the summer of 2012, the relationship between Reverend Matthies and the First Presbyterian congregation began to deteriorate. First Presbyterian maintained that Reverend Matthies alienated himself from the congregation when he " neglected his pastoral responsibilities" by failing to make himself available for pastoral counseling services, missing scheduled appointments with parishioners, and refusing to keep the Session informed of his whereabouts and activities even after being asked to do so. Id. at 65. First Presbyterian maintains that from June 2012 into July 2012, Reverend Matthies " abandoned" his pastoral duties and was absent from church, without informing the Session or obtaining consent to take vacation time. Id. at 66. First Presbyterian asserts that by August 2012, Reverend Matthies " failed repeatedly to provide pastoral services to [First Presbyterian] without explanation." Id. Reverend Matthies asserts that during the timeframe in question, he utilized two of the five weeks of vacation he was entitled to and ...