Trust Worthy? – The Fount Account

As The Fount continues its quest to disaffiliate (leave) The United Methodist Church (UMC) denomination, the one major sticking point is what is called the “trust clause.” This clause is (purportedly) inserted into every property deed that local United Methodist churches hold. It says, in essence, that the real property of the church is held “in trust” for the annual conference (denomination). So that if the local church closes or otherwise leaves the UMC, its property reverts to the annual conference. In other words, the local church’s property ultimately “belongs” to the denomination, not to the local church.

The ”trust clause” is as old as the Methodist movement. It was instituted by John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, way back in the 1700’s. Its purpose was to guard against the local Methodist societies (which is what they were called back then) drifting away from the teachings of the Bible as articulated by Wesley. The big threat back then was from Calvinists, who would often infiltrate the Methodist societies and seek to turn them to Calvinist theology. It was an effective tool, because if the Calvinists (or any others group) tried to “take over” the society, the leadership under Wesley could assert their authority over the property.

Fast forward to today. The situation today is much different than it was in the 1700’s! The “trust clause” is now being used by the institutional United Methodist Church (as it is in other mostly mainline denominations) to try and drag local churches into errant theology! As the denomination drifts (some see it as more of a hard swerve) into progressive interpretations of the Bible and church doctrine, local churches who seek to remain faithful to the historic teachings of Wesley and the Bible are being attacked and forced to either remain in the denomination with which they no longer agree, or pay agregious fees to leave the denomination!

But the question arises, if the UMC is drifting away from the historic teachings of the church (which it most certainly is), is the denomination a suitable trustee in regards to this “trust clause”? Is the UMC trustworthy?

One of the biggest problems in the UMC is trust. A research study found that trust in the institution and leaders of the denomination are at an all-time low. There is a crisis of trust. Rank and file members in the UMC do not trust their bishops, their boards of ordained ministry, their conference staff, district superintendents, etc. They find a disconnect between those in the pews and those in the conference and general church offices. They read about statements made by general church agencies and wonder why they should give money to the church that then goes to support those agencies. They see bishops elected by jurisdictional conferences who do not even qualify (according to the Book of Discipline) to be ordained ministers, much less bishops. And, again, they wonder “Why?”

Currently, the California-Pacific Conference Board of Trustees is requiring over $3 million from The Fount in order to effect disaffiliation from the UMC! That is 50% of the assessed property value of the church and parsonage. For a church with a membership of 50, that comes to $60,000 PER MEMBER ($120,000 for couples who are both members)! Clearly, it is far more than is reasonable. Especially given the fact that this church has already paid for its property, maintained it for nearly 60 years, and continues to serve the community from it. Additionally, there are three other congregations sharing the property, a vital and effective preschool, boy scout troop, and other community groups. If the UMC takes over the property there is no guarantee that these other organizations would be allowed to continue meeting here. There is much at stake.

The Church Council has sent a letter to our new bishop, asking for talks to come to a reasonable compromise. So far, the bishop has not responded to the letter sent in late March. Please pray for favor from God and from the bishop and conference trustees. This is an up-hill battle, and there is no guarantee that we will get the results that we want. But let us pray for the results that God wants and the strength to walk into His future.