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Memorandum No. 1039

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April 27 2006
In Re: Review of Bishop’s Decision of Law in the Mississippi Annual Conference Related to Removal of Trees from Property of a Local Church.


During the 2005 regular session of the Mississippi Annual Conference, a clergy member requested a decision of law regarding ¶¶ 2528 and 2539 of the 2004 Discipline as follows:

My question is, at what point and in what portion of the Discipline does the action of the Administrative Council supercede (sic) the responsibility of the Charge Conference as it relates to the disposal of property under the Board of Trustees of the local church. I further ask if this power can be obtained by the Administrative Council in creative and innovative ways outside of the Discipline, would not the mandate of Paragraphs 2528 and 2539 of the 2004 Discipline apply. Is any agency exempt from abiding by that law? If the aforementioned paragraphs do not apply, why? I therefore am formally requesting a ruling on a point of law regarding Paragraphs 2528 and 2539.
Bishop Hope Morgan Ward received the question of law and ruled that the Discipline was not violated in the instance of Aldersgate Church and the removal of trees. She further ruled that this issue is a matter to be handled by the local church, not the Annual Conference. The request for the decision of law arises out of the removal of trees from the church property of Aldersgate United Methodist Church. This local church had developed a long range plan for building a parking lot on the tree-covered property as part of a plan to expand the church’s facilities. The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2609.6 of the 2004 Discipline. Paragraph 2528(2) provides that the local church charge conference has the authority to direct the board of trustees “with respect to the purchase, sale, mortgage, encumbrance, construction, repairing, remodeling, and maintenance of any and all property of the local church.” Paragraph 2539 deals with the sale, transfer, lease, or mortgage of real property owned by an unincorporated local church. No real property owned by the local church has been sold, transferred, leased, or mortgaged. The bishop’s decision of law is affirmed, including her decision that the removal of trees is a local church matter and not the business of the annual conference.
The decision of law of Bishop Hope Morgan Ward that the removal of trees from the property of a local church does not require charge conference direction to the board of trustees is affirmed. April 28, 2006

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