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In June 12, 1815, after years of battling for authority over Richard Allen's Bethel Church, white Methodist leaders in Philadelphia launched a legal challenge to the ownership of the church building and the property on which it stood.
Acting on the legal opinion of Samuel Shoemaker and Joseph Hopkinson, two prominent Philadelphia lawyers, Presiding elder Robert R. Roberts declared Bethel to be the property of the Methodist General Conference and ordered the sheriff to sell the property at auction.
Allen outmaneuvered Roberts, who had enlisted a disgruntled former Bethel trustee to bid on his behalf, by winning the bid at more than $10,000 and claiming the deed to the property.
Other challenges to Bethel's autonomy continued, finally resulting in a January 1, 1816 decision from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that Bethel was an independent church.
Image Credit: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
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