Disaffiliation Rumors, Myths, and Opportunities #2 – What about the Property?

(This post originally appeared on my Facebook – facebook.com/j.lemastersmith on January 15, 2023, all reference are from the UM Book of Discipline 2016)

One of the myths circulating regarding The UMC split is that churches need to leave so they can have control of their property and the conference cannot snatch it out from under them. The reality in this is, yes, our property (regardless of what your deed says) is held in trust for the Annual Conference.

That is, so long as your church is a church, and doing the things a church is supposed to do as described in our Book of Discipline:

-“Under the discipline of the Holy Spirit the church seeks to provide for the maintenance of worship, the edification of believers, and the redemption of the world”(worship, formation/education/care, and mission),

-and “Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World (the mission statement),

-and if your church is intentional about ministry and can sustain itself financially (or with assistance from the conference if the church is faithfully working toward ministry), then why would we close it?

Also, we don’t just close churches, there is a process that leads to a final annual conference vote, with a series of checks along the way. Usually, if a church makes it an Annual Conference vote, it is because they have less than ten active members, are not fulfilling the mission of the church, and cannot financially sustain themselves. We repeatedly offer resources for revitalization, missional engagement, congregational formation in the forms of money, consultants, and tons of online and physical resources.

If the churches choose not to take this, then the process begins. However, if you’re at a church that has less than 65 people in worship, and you’re worried, my suggestion is to ask the question: If my church disappeared today, would the community miss it?

One of my churches just had it’s calendaring/planning meeting the year, and and the other is having their meeting this coming Sunday. We have wonderful mix of fellowship, mission, education, and worship activities planned for the coming year. Neither of these churches has more than 50 people in worship on most Sundays (excluding high holidays like Easter and homecoming). And yet, they matter. They are not in danger of closing, because they are doing ministry internally and externally. The community would miss them. No, the conference is not going to close these churches. And no, the conference is not going to close your church, if it’s actually being the church.

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