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Albertos Polizogopoulos: lawyer for the Lord

On May 9, 2024, the LORD called Albertos Polizogopoulos to Himself, completing his task on earth at the age of 41.

Not long after starting law school, Albertos was introduced to his wife-to-be Faye Sonier, a follower of Christ. Albertos decided to investigate the Christian faith for himself and was convicted by God’s Word. He proceeded to dedicate the rest of his life to his Lord Jesus Christ, who drew him closer and closer.

Unlike the United States, Canada doesn’t have many Christian lawyers devoted to upholding constitutional freedoms. Albertos has been one of the few exceptions. He regularly defended life and freedom in Canada’s courts, including ten appearances before the Supreme Court of Canada.

When I first met Albertos, through our mutual friend and colleague André Schutten, he jovially compelled us to stay up well into the early hours of the new day. He loved to tell stories and debate, while enjoying a good cigar. But as the years progressed, he changed his priorities and devoted his time to his family.

ARPA Canada worked with Albertos regularly through the years, either by retaining him or intervening alongside him. He also wrote for RP recently about the coming battles over church property.

His obituary testified to how the LORD continued to change Albertos and draw him closer, especially since he was diagnosed with cancer three years ago.

“Albertos frequently spoke about how Christ changed his life. He exhibited peace about his terminal diagnosis and a profound trust that God was sovereign…. Days before his death, he looked at his wife from his hospital bed and said, ‘I don’t think I know anyone more blessed than I am.’”

There are very few lawyers who have the willingness and ability to devote their full-time career to upholding the value of human life, and our fundamental freedoms. I thank God for Albertos. His earthly race has completed, and I pray that more young Christians will pick up his baton and keep running.

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The coming battles over church property

Same-sex “marriage” and sexual morality were hot topics in evangelicalism in the late-90s and early 2000s. Since the legalization of same-sex “marriage” in 2005, the issue appeared to have been resolved within the church: the affirming and orthodox churches had staked out their respective positions. However, the issue has recently resurfaced in several denominations and will likely lead to further schisms in those communities. Denominational schisms Perhaps the most prominent of these recent examples is in the Christian Reformed Church in North America (“CRC”) whose Synod, at a meeting in June of this year, affirmed the orthodox biblical view of marriage and sexual morality. It raised the issue to the status of an explicit confession stating that “The church must warn its members that those who refuse to repent of these sins – as well as of idolatry, greed, and other such sins – will not inherit the kingdom of God.” The consensus is that many congregations will split from the CRC over this issue. Several CRC churches have, over the years, admitted individuals who are married to their same-sex partners or otherwise openly and unrepentantly living a homosexual lifestyle into church membership and even church leadership. How can these churches remain in the CRC? Will they warn their membership of the consequences of engaging in these sins, while some of their leadership does so? That is unlikely, and thus a schism will develop within this denomination. And the CRC is not the only denomination facing this challenge. There are other denominations where particular congregations are no longer operating within the theological parameters of their denomination. The CRC is simply more front-and-center right now, given the publicity generated by their June Synod. Legal implications Many complex legal issues arise when churches split from their denominations or associations. Churches whose names include “Christian Reformed” will likely need to amend their legal names and any trademarks they may hold. CRC-affiliated educational institutions which have adopted an affirming stance on same-sex “marriage” and sexual morality, like Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, may need to re-apply for government accreditation under their new identity. Perhaps the most difficult and important issue they will face is related to church properties. Over the last decade, church property disputes arose after splits relating to beliefs over same-sex “marriage” in both Anglican and Episcopal churches in Canada and the USA. The schism resulted in protracted litigation over the proper ownership of church buildings and lands in both examples. We will likely see similar litigation here in Canada, perhaps in the CRC, or perhaps in other denominations or in non-denominational churches. Different churches have different property ownership and governance structures. There could be a variety of legal cases and outcomes. Who owns the church building or the private school? Some may be owned by the congregation. Some congregations may be incorporated while others are not. Some may be owned by the original trustees who founded the congregation. Some may have been bequeathed by an estate for specific use by the CRC. Some may have been purchased by an existing congregation. The issues are complex and case-specific. Some congregations’ membership or leadership may disagree on whether to split from the denomination. Divisions may arise not only within denominations but within individual congregations and councils. In the past, we’ve seen such schisms divide communities and families. Churches need to brace for controversies that may be coming – theologically, relationally, and legally. Be clear, early I write this as a Christian first and a lawyer second. I am deeply concerned about churches caving to cultural pressures and denying Scriptural truths. I am also concerned about such practical costs as I see in my line of work – legal disputes that are financially and relationally costly. Denominations need to prepare themselves for potential battles ahead and should be consulting legal counsel pre-emptively to examine their risks and responsibilities. Ask yourself: is it clear where your church stands on certain controversial issues? Are you prepared legally to address divisions over such issues within your church? Albertos Polizogopoulos is co-founder of the Acacia Group and a constitutional litigation lawyer who specializes in freedom of religion. The Acacia Group is Canada’s only openly Christian law firm devoted to offering legal and crisis communications services to churches, organizations, individuals, and businesses. ...