Book of Discipline: ¶ 2549. Disposition of Property of a Closed Local Church

¶ 2549. Disposition of Property of a Closed Local Church—1. Except as provided in ¶ 2549.3, the district superintendent may, pursuant to this paragraph, recommend the closure of a local church, upon a finding that:

a) The local church no longer serves the purpose for which it was organized or incorporated (¶¶ 201-204); or

b) The local church property is no longer used, kept, or maintained by its membership as a place of divine worship of The United Methodist Church.

2. Procedure—a) Prior to a recommendation to close a local church, the district superintendent shall:

(1) Guide the congregation in an assessment of its potential as outlined in ¶ 213, in consultation with the appropriate agency assigned the responsibility of the conference parish and community development strategy;

(2) Obtain and consider an opinion of legal counsel as to the existence of any reversion, possibility of reverter, right of reacquisition, or similar restrictions to the benefit of any party;

(3) Develop, in consultation with the appropriate district board of church location and building, a plan for the future use of all the real and personal, tangible and intangible property of the local church; and

(4) Develop a plan for the transfer of the membership of the local church (¶ 229).

b) Upon a recommendation by the district superintendent, and with the consent of the presiding bishop, a majority of the district superintendents, and the appropriate district board of church location and building, the annual conference may declare a local church closed. If the annual conference closes a local church, title to all the real and personal, tangible and intangible property of the local church shall immediately vest in the annual conference board of trustees, who shall hold said property in trust for the benefit of the annual conference.

c) The annual conference board of trustees may retain, sell, lease, or otherwise dispose of the property of a closed local church in accordance with the direction of the annual conference, if any. It shall be the duty of the annual conference board of trustees to remove, insofar as reasonably practicable or necessary, all Christian and United Methodist insignia and symbols from such property. In the event of loss, damage to, or destruction of such local church property, the annual conference board of trustees, as the duly and legally authorized representative of such local church, is authorized to make a claim for, and collect on, any applicable insurance policies. If the annual conference board of trustees sells or leases the property, consideration should be given to selling or leasing the property to one of the other denominations represented in the Commission on Pan-Methodist Cooperation and Union.

d) If the annual conference closes any local church, the failure to complete any of the prior steps will not invalidate such closure.

3. Ad Interim Procedures—a) At any time between sessions of annual conference, a local church may voluntarily transfer title to all its real and personal, tangible and intangible property to the annual conference board of trustees following the procedures set forth in ¶ 2540 or ¶ 2541. In such case, the annual conference board of trustees shall hold or dispose of such property in its sole discretion, subject to any standing rule of the annual conference. When it next meets, the annual conference shall decide whether to formally close the local church.

b) At any time between sessions of annual conference, if the presiding bishop, the majority of the district superintendents, and the appropriate district board of church location and building all consent, they may, in their sole discretion, declare that exigent circumstances exist that require immediate protection of the local church’s property, for the benefit of the denomination. In such case, title to all the real and personal, tangible and intangible property of the local church shall immediately vest in the annual conference board of trustees who may hold or dispose of such property in its sole discretion, subject to any standing rule of the annual conference. Exigent circumstances include, but are not limited to, situations where a local church no longer serves the purpose for which it was organized or incorporated (¶¶ 201-204) or where the local church property is no longer used, kept, or maintained by its membership as a place of divine worship of The United Methodist Church. When it next meets, the annual conference shall decide whether to formally close the local church.

4. All the deeds, records, and other official and legal papers, including the contents of the cornerstone, of a closed local church shall be collected by the district superintendent and shall be deposited for permanent safekeeping with the annual conference commission on archives and history.

5. The annual conference board of trustees shall review all gifts held in trust, assets of any endowment funds, and assets of any foundation of the closed local church. The annual conference board of trustees shall dispose of the property in its discretion, unless otherwise directed by the annual conference or as required by law.

6. Any gift, legacy, devise, annuity, or other benefit that accrues to a closed local church shall become the property of the annual conference board of trustees. The annual conference board of trustees shall dispose of the property in its discretion, unless otherwise directed by the annual conference or as required by law.

7. If a local church in an urban center with more than 50,000 population is closed, any proceeds of the sale of its property must be used for new and/or existing ministries within urban transitional communities, as described in ¶ 212.

If a local church in a non-urban center is closed, any proceeds of the sale of its property may be used for new churches, new faith communities, new missional initiatives, relocating churches, churches building multi-campus facilities for the purpose of evangelistic church extension, or an organization that is a nonprofit and has values consistent with The United Methodist Church’s values and is consistent with our Wesleyan heritage, theology, and United Methodist polity. In addition, the proceeds may be used to revitalize or enhance church ministry, or be given to an organization that is a vetted nonprofit and has values consistent with The United Methodist Church’s values and is consistent with our Wesleyan heritage, theology, and United Methodist polity. In addition, the proceeds may be used to embrace or continue the work and vision of ministry with the poor in the community.

(See Judicial Council Decision 1282).
 

From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church - 2016. Copyright 2016 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.