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Decision No. 107

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July 19 1954
In Re: Request of Division of National Missions of the General Board of Missions for a Declaratory Decision on the Meaning of the Words "or Sub-divisions" in Paragraph 174 of Discipline of 1952

Digest of Case

The words "or subdivisions" as they appear in the second line of Paragraph 174 of the Discipline of 1952 mean sub-divisions of governmental agencies and not sub-divisions of private real estate projects.

Statement of Facts

The Division of National Missions in making a donation grant of $2,500 to the St. Luke's Methodist Church in San Angelo, Texas, specified that one of the conditions of the grant was that the title be vested in the Trustees of the said church in fee simple with the usual "trust clause" specified in Paragraph 174 of the Discipline of 1952 included. St. Luke's Church is to receive, without cost, a deed to certain property from the developer of a residential real estate subdivision who wishes to insert a reversion clause and omit the "trust clause" from the deed. It is the claim of the developer that the words "or subdivisions' in the second line of Paragraph 174 of the Discipline of 1952 permit such an arrangement. The Division of National Missions contends that the words "or subdivisions" refer to governmental agencies and that no other exceptions to the procedure of requiring the "trust clause" can be made. The Judicial Council is asked for a Declaratory Decision interpreting the words "or sub-divisions" in Paragraph 174. JURISDICTION Paragraph 914 of the Discipline of 1952 provides that, "When the General Conference shall have passed any act or legislation that appears to be subject to more than one interpretation, or when any Paragraph or Paragraphs of the Discipline seem to be of doubtful meaning, or application, the Judicial Council, on petition as hereinafter provided, shall have jurisdiction to make a ruling in the nature of a Declaratory Decision as to the meaning, application, and effect of such act, legislation, or Paragraph or Paragraphs of the Discipline." "The following bodies in The Methodist Church are authorized to make such petitions to the Judicial Council for Declaratory Decisions: (2) any General Conference Board or body, on matters relating to or affecting the work of such Board or body." Since the Division of National Missions of the Board of Missions is a General Conference body and makes a request for a Declaratory Decision on a matter relating to and affecting its work, it is properly within the jurisdiction of the Judicial Council to render such a Decision. ANALYSIS The purpose of Paragraph 174 of the Discipline of 1952 requiring that a trust clause be inserted in all written instruments of conveyance by which premises are held or acquired for use as a place of divine worship for members of The Methodist Church or other church activities is to protect the interests of The Methodist Church in the property and its financial investment therein. The only exception is made with respect to governmental agencies or sub-divisions which are unable to supply a deed without a reversion clause and with a trust clause included. To interpret the words "or sub-divisions" as referring to real estate developments so broadens the exception as to abrogate the general principle and defeat the purpose of this Paragraph. Furthermore, if "sub-divisions" referred to other than governmental agencies one would expect some such word as "from" to precede the word "sub-division." While the language would be clarified had it been made to read "or sub-divisions thereof," it is still to be interpreted to mean that the word "governmental" modifies both "agencies" and "sub-divisions." Were that not the case and the word "sub-division" interpreted as a portion of a real estate development, the further question would arise as to whether a sub-division of real estate can convey property. A sub-division refers to a plot of ground and not to a person or agency which has the power to convey real estate.

Decision

It is the Decision of the Judicial Council, therefore, that the words "or sub-divisions" found in the second line of Paragraph 174 of the Discipline of 1952 mean sub-divisions of governmental agencies, and not sub-divisions of private real estate projects.

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