What is the United Methodist Trust Clause? (2023)

An Integral Part of Methodism Itself

United Methodists and generations of Methodists before us have structured ourselves for ministry through a connectional system. In a connectional system, the question is not, "What is best for me or my congregation?" Instead, we consider what is best for all, the whole connection.

United Methodists today join the generations of Methodists who built and sustained the church so United Methodist ministry will continue into the future. The trust clause is one way we seek to be United Methodists, all bound together with a common vision and mission in the service of our Lord.

The United Methodist Trust Clause

The United Methodist trust clause is a statement included in legal documents (deeds) declaring that the property and assets of a local church or United Methodist body are held “in trust” for the benefit of the entire denomination. The trust clause ensures that United Methodist property will continue to be used for the purposes of The United Methodist Church.

The Book of Discipline provides the wording of the trust clause in a variety of forms, depending on whether the property in question is a place of worship, a parsonage, intended for some other use, or acquired from another United Methodist entity. The version of the trust clause for places of worship makes clear the property must continue as a place of worship for United Methodists:

"In trust, that said premises shall be used, kept, and maintained as a place of divine worship of the United Methodist ministry and members of The United Methodist Church; subject to the Discipline, usage, and ministerial appointments of said Church as from time to time authorized and declared by the General Conference and by the annual conference within whose bounds the said premises are situated. This provision is solely for the benefit of the grantee, and the grantor reserves no right or interest in said premises.” (¶ 2503.1)

The Book of Discipline requires that such a trust clause appear in all deeds of all United Methodist properties. This requirement is a “fundamental expression of United Methodism whereby local churches and other agencies and institutions within the denomination are both held accountable to and benefit from their connection with the entire worldwide Church.” (¶ 2501)

What does it mean to hold property “in trust”?

Holding property in trust for The United Methodist Church means the “holder” is required to use the property exclusively for the purposes of and to benefit The United Methodist Church. It also means that if, at any point, it becomes clear the holder can no longer or chooses no longer to function as part of The United Methodist Church, it forfeits all rights to continue to hold the property, and the property itself and all other assets transfer to the denomination. In the case of a local church, the property and all assets of the local church would transfer to the annual conference board of trustees.

What does the trust clause require of local churches?

Because a local church holds its property in trust for the denomination, it has a legal obligation to maintain and protect that property so it can continue to be used as a United Methodist church in the future.

The Book of Discipline sets forth detailed procedures a church must follow prior to taking most major actions affecting its property. For example, the district superintendent and at times the district board of location and building must consent to any sale, lease, mortgage, or extensive renovation of the church property. This consent by the district superintendent and district board reflects the denomination’s shared interest, through the trust clause, in the future of the church property.

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When a local church closes or leaves the denomination, the future care of any remaining members of the congregation is a primary concern. The district superintendent is responsible to help those who wish to relocate their membership to another United Methodist congregation.

The trust clause affects what happens to the property and assets of the local congregation. Typically, management of the property and assets transfers to the annual conference. The trustees may put the property and assets to another use or sell the property and use the proceeds, along with other remaining assets, to benefit the mission of the conference.

What happens if there is no trust clause in the written instrument of conveyance?

Occasionally, the United Methodist trust clause may not have been included in the written documents that convey property (such as deeds). The absence of the United Methodist trust clause in writing in these documents does not mean there is no trust clause. The Book of Discipline notes that whether the trust clause is explicitly present in these documents or not, any one of the following constitutes an implied trust clause with the same effect:

1. The property was conveyed to The United Methodist Church or one of its predecessor denominations;
2. The name, use, or customs (including liturgy) of The United Methodist Church or its predecessors was used by it at any previous time so that the community recognized it as part of The United Methodist Church, or
3. The congregation at any time accepted an appointment of a pastor by a bishop of The United Methodist Church (or a predecessor denomination) or an assignment of a pastoral leader by a district superintendent of The United Methodist Church (or a predecessor denomination). (See ¶ 2503.6)

What is the history of the trust clause in Methodism?

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Trust clauses in Methodism go back to John Wesley himself in mid-18th century England. By 1750, John Wesley had accumulated three properties as meeting places and ministry sites for the Methodist societies. He wanted to make sure that local societies could not take control of these properties from the connection he was creating. He was aware of some other religious societies where local society members had refused to accept or sought to remove clergy or other leaders sent to them by the leaders of the larger society of which they were part. Wesley had also seen situations where people in a local society became influenced by teachings contrary to those of the Methodist movement and sought to leave while taking the society’s property with them. Wesley wanted to ensure that leaders chosen by him would never be shut out or removed by local societies. He also wanted to make certain that Methodist properties were used only and always to teach established Methodist doctrine and be available to Methodists for their ministries.

With those concerns and purposes in mind, Wesley asked several lawyers to craft deeds for the Methodist preaching houses in England at the time. These deeds served as models for all future deeds for Methodists. In 1796, a form of these deeds, often referred to as “The Model Deed,” was approved by the General Conference for American Methodists. This Model Deed and the mandate for a trust clause in all church property documents first appeared in the Book of Discipline in 1797.

Did the 2019 General Conference change the trust clause?

The trust clause itself was not altered by the 2019 General Conference.

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Instead, a time-limited provision was approved which allows congregations to leave the denomination with their property and assets “for reasons of conscience” related to changes made by the 2019 General Conference regarding homosexuality, after meeting certain requirements The requirements include the following. First, at least two-thirds of the professing members present at a church conference must vote in favor of disaffiliation. Second, the church must pay to the conference

two full years of apportionments and the congregation’s pro rata share of their conference’s unfunded clergy pension liability as determined by the annual conference. Finally, after all payments are completed, a majority vote of an annual conference session must affirm the closure of the church as a United Methodist congregation and its disaffiliation from the denomination. These provisions expire Dec. 31, 2023.

How does the trust clause benefit the church today?

Every United Methodist church is part of a larger connection of shared purpose and mission that has been in existence for hundreds of years. This connection is at the core of what it means to be United Methodist.

United Methodists today join the generations of our forebears who built and sustained the church so United Methodist ministry will continue into the future. The trust clause protects the property and assets that they have purchased, built, and improved over time so they will always be available for ministries offered by future generations of United Methodists.

— Adapted from resources by the General Council on Finance and Administration

This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.

(Video) Lloyd Lunceford Church Trust Law webinar


Who owns Methodist Church property? ›

All properties of United Methodist local churches and other United Methodist agencies and institutions are held, in trust, for the benefit of the entire denomination, and ownership and usage of church property is subject to the Discipline.

What do Methodists believe about eternal security? ›

Catholic, Methodist, Anabaptist, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox theology hold to synergism with respect to salvation and view the doctrine of eternal security as heretical, instead teaching that one's one's salvation is conditional on one's continued faith, good works, sanctification, and avoidance of sin.

What do Methodists believe about free will? ›

Christians who were influenced by the teachings of Jacobus Arminius (such as Methodists) believe that while God is all-knowing and always knows what choices each person will make, he still gives them the ability to choose or not choose everything, regardless of whether there are any internal or external factors ...

What do United Methodists really believe? ›

United Methodists believe in actualizing their faith in community — actions speak louder than words. The three simple rules are: “Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God.” Some beliefs we share with other Christians are the Trinity (God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and Jesus' birth, death and Resurrection.

Who owns the assets of a church? ›

Local churches are most often listed as the owner in the deed to the local church property, but the denominations nevertheless sometimes claim a right to determine occupancy, use and control on the basis of a “trust clause” added to the denominational constitution.

Who runs a Methodist church? ›

Bishops provide oversight of the entire church but have specific leadership responsibilities in a geographical area, called an Episcopal area. An Episcopal area is comprised of one or more annual conferences.

What do Methodists believe happens after death? ›

Methodists commonly believe that those who believe in God and love God will spend eternal life with Him. Mortal life is understood as a gift from God, and when a Methodist dies he or she is taking a step closer to eternal life with God.

What went wrong with the United Methodist Church? ›

The UMC finances rapidly decline. It is not Covid – it is former members who have stopped attending, donating and tithing to their church. Covid is the excuse, the denomination is the problem.

Do Methodists believe in being born again? ›

It is a core doctrine of the denominations of the Anabaptist, Moravian, Methodist, Quaker, Baptist, Plymouth Brethren and Pentecostal Churches along with all other evangelical Christian denominations.

Whats the difference between Free Methodist and United Methodist? ›

In a nutshell, the Free Methodist church differs from the United Methodist church in that it continues to provide a more uniform expression consistent with historic Methodism.

What makes Methodists different? ›

Methodist churches vary in their style of worship during services. The emphasis is often on Bible reading and preaching, although the sacraments are an important feature, especially the two instituted by Christ: Eucharist or Holy Communion and Baptism. Hymn singing is a lively feature of Methodist services.

Can Methodists drink alcohol? ›

Yes. We do not prohibit our members from doing so responsibly “with deliberate and intentional restraint.” However, The United Methodist Church has long believed that abstinence from alcohol and other drugs witnesses to “God's liberating and redeeming love” and is part of living into the life God has prepared for us.

What religion is Methodist closest to? ›

Methodism, also called the Methodist movement, is a group of historically related denominations of Protestant Christianity whose origins, doctrine and practice derive from the life and teachings of John Wesley.

What is causing the split in the Methodist church? ›

The United Methodist Church is facing a theological split over sexuality. The prospect of permitting same-sex marriages and the ordination of openly gay clergy has not been received well by some conservatives.

Does the United Methodist Church believe Jesus is the Son of God? ›

The official United Methodist doctrine is that Jesus was the Son of God, the child of the virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit, truly God and truly Man, who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven. He is eternal Savior and Mediator, who intercedes for us and by him all persons will be judged.

What is a trust clause? ›

The Trust Clause is contained in all the deeds of all the churches in the denomination. Simply put, the Trust Clause states that the local church owns the property in trust for the annual conference.

Do pastors own their church? ›

For churches begun in this country, such as Baptist and Pentecostal, local church property usually is owned by the congregation itself. Occasionally, congregations or portions of congregations of a church of the first type break with the denomination but claim ownership of the property.

What is a house owned by a church called? ›

Definition of church house

1 : a house belonging to a church (as a rectory or a parish house) 2 South & Midland : church, meetinghouse.

What is a Methodist pastor called? ›

An elder, in many Methodist churches, is an ordained minister that has the responsibilities to preach and teach, preside at the celebration of the sacraments, administer the church through pastoral guidance, and lead the congregations under their care in service ministry to the world.

How do you address a Methodist pastor? ›

In summary, "the Reverend" is a term of address that you would or could use in writing to clergy or in introducing them. "Pastor" is a more intimate term of relationship, and it may be used as a single word or in combination with the first or last name of the pastor.

What is the new name of the Methodist Church? ›

Earlier in May, more conservative and traditional members of the UMC formed a new denomination: the Global Methodist Church.

Do animals go to heaven in Methodist? ›

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, believed — and the Bible itself implies — that heavenly animals, somewhat like redeemed humans, will be freed from the curse of sin that permeates our current, fallen world.

Does the Methodist believe in abortion? ›

21 The United Methodist Church opposes abortion, however, as a means of birth control or gender selection. 22 The church has stated that the fetus is at least a potential person, embodying divine intention. It is on the way to full personhood, and as such it is a creature worthy of care and respect.

Do Methodists have purgatory? ›

Methodist churches, in keeping with Article XIV - Of Purgatory in the Articles of Religion, hold that "the Romish doctrine concerning purgatory ... is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warrant of Scripture, but repugnant to the Word of God." However, in the Methodist Church, there is a belief in Hades ...

Is the United Methodist Church losing members? ›

When the UMC came into existence in 1968, with the Methodist Church merging with the Evangelical United Brethren church, we had a total of at least 10.7 million members. Today we have less than 6.9 million members, a loss of 3.8 million members.

How do I leave the United Methodist Church? ›

The decision to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church must be approved by a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of the professing members of the local church present at the church conference.

What is the largest Methodist Church in the United States? ›

Church of the Resurrection

Is Methodist the same as United Methodist? ›

The merger in 1968 that formed the United Methodist Church brought together the Methodist Church, primarily of British background, and the Evangelical United Brethren Church, primarily of German background but very similar to the Methodists.

How do I know I am saved? ›

The Bible clearly teaches that the moment a person turns from his sin and trusts in Jesus to be forgiven of his sin, he is saved (Acts 2:37-41). He has passed from spiritual death to spiritual life (John 5:24) and has been declared not guilty in God's court of law (Rom 3:21-26).

What's the difference between Methodist and Baptist beliefs? ›

Methodists are open to baptism of both those who confess faith themselves, and those whose parents or sponsors confess faith. In contrast, Baptists traditionally hold to only baptism by immersion and only for one who is confessing faith in Jesus Christ for themselves, and old enough to responsibly do so.

What are the four alls in Methodism? ›

The Wesleyan Quadrilateral explicates the Methodist belief of prima scriptura. This method bases its teaching on four sources as the basis of theological and doctrinal development. These four sources are chiefly scripture, along with tradition, reason, and Christian experience.

Are Free Methodists conservative? ›

Since that time the Free Methodist Church has proven capable of preserving a sound commitment to classic conservative Christian doctrines such as the infallibility of scripture, salvation by faith, and the deity of Jesus Christ, along with maintaining a more conservative view on many of the moral / ethical / sexual / ...

What Bible does Free Methodist use? ›

The most common Bible translations that Methodists read are the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and the Common English Bible (CEB). The NRSV is more scholarly, and the CEB is more accessible to average readers. The KJV and NIV are also popular. Leaders don't require members to read a certain translation.

Why does the Methodist church allow female pastors? ›

Her argument was that women should be able to preach when they experienced an "extraordinary call", or when given permission by God. Wesley accepted this idea, and formally began to allow women to preach in Methodism.

What are the rules of the Methodist Church? ›

The rules from Wesley, the founder of Methodism, are simple: "Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God." These rules also apply to how we live our online lives in social media.

What is the difference between Catholic and Methodist beliefs? ›

The differences between Methodism and Catholicism are rooted in their beliefs about whether the Bible is a Christian's sole authority or if it shares authority with the Church and its office-holders. Methodism believes Scripture alone is authoritative, while Catholicism gives equal weight to tradition.

Are Methodists allowed to dance? ›

Methodists, who are open to dancing during worship services, are generally permissive when it comes to Christians dancing at weddings or in social gatherings. Those that aren't open to dancing as a form of worship (see below) and generally not permissive about Christians dancing at social occasions.

Do Methodists eat meat on Fridays? ›

The Friday Fast is a Christian practice of abstaining from meat, dairy products and alcohol, on Fridays, or holding a fast on Fridays, that is found most frequently in the Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican and Methodist traditions.

Can Methodists drink coffee? ›

If you've ever gone to church or church meetings, coffee looms essential. After services, groups of worshippers often gather in church basements to enjoy a cuppa. While most Evangelicals frown upon liquor, Baptists and Methodists and Lex Lutherans can all agree that coffee is a true blessing.

What denomination is like Methodist? ›

Methodism and Lutheranism are two of the largest and most influential Protestant Christian denominations. Many of their core beliefs are the same, yet they have important theological differences as well.

When did Baptist and Methodist split? ›

The problem was ignored as long as possible, but the 1840s saw schism in the nation's two largest Protestant denominations- the Methodists and the Baptists.

Can Methodist marry Catholic? ›

Can a Methodist marry a Catholic? Yes, certainly. However the normal conditions for marriage must be established: that the couple are entering marriage freely of their own accord, that they intend their union to be lifelong and to be faithful to each other, and to be open to having children.

What are the two sides of the Methodist Church? ›

The two general conferences, Methodist Episcopal Church (the northern faction) and Methodist Episcopal Church, South remained separate until 1939. That year, the northern and southern Methodist Episcopal Churches and the Methodist Protestant Church merged to create The Methodist Church.

Who owns Methodist Church property? ›

All properties of United Methodist local churches and other United Methodist agencies and institutions are held, in trust, for the benefit of the entire denomination, and ownership and usage of church property is subject to the Discipline.

What does disaffiliation from the United Methodist Church mean? ›

The disaffiliation plan offers a limited way to release congregations from The United Methodist Church's centuries-old trust clause, which states that church property is held in trust for the benefit of the entire denomination. The provision permits such disaffiliations through Dec. 31, 2023.

Do Methodists wear crosses? ›

Many Methodists wear crosses as an expression of their Christian faith. Methodists generally don't wear crucifixes, which include Jesus' body on the cross. Some Methodists wear a cross design that includes two flames of fire because that is the historic symbol of the United Methodist Church.

Does the Methodist church believe in predestination? ›

The Methodist church doesn't believe in predestination, as Calvinist and Reformed theologians define the term. Methodist theology emphasizes an individual's freedom to seek God and accept the salvation Jesus Christ offers. The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, was passionately opposed to Calvinistic predestination.

Does the Methodist church baptize in the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit? ›

United Methodists recognize the baptism of other Christian denominations who baptize people in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as generally understood in historic Christianity. We do not re-baptize as baptism is an act of God who always remains faithful on the divine side.

Does Church of God believe in eternal security? ›

As the Church of God (Anderson), our understandings of eternal security have generally rejected both of these broad positions, asserting instead the necessity of holy living for salvation.

Does the Wesleyan Church believe in eternal salvation? ›

SUMMARY Wesleyans believe in one God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Savior of all persons who put their faith in Him alone for eternal life. We believe those who receive new life in Christ are called to be holy in character and conduct, and can only live this way by being filled with the Lord's Spirit.

On what do you base your assurance of salvation? ›

The Bible tells us that assurance of salvation rests primarily in the character of God, the work of Jesus Christ, and the truth of God's promises.

Does the Assembly of God believe once saved always saved? ›

Therefore, the Assemblies of God disapproves of the doctrines of double predestination and the unconditional security of the believer, which holds that once saved it is impossible for a person to be lost.

Is once saved always saved in the Bible? ›

The doctrine of “once saved, always saved” teaches that it is not possible for a child of God to sin in such a way that he will be lost. Many people, who undoubtedly are very sincere and possess a desire to do what is right, find tremendous comfort in this doctrine. This doctrine, however, is not taught in the Bible.

Do Presbyterians believe once saved always saved? ›

The Bible doctrine is that everyone who is truly converted by the power of God's Spirit and genuinely believes in Christ is saved forever and cannot be lost.

What is the difference between United Methodist and Wesleyan? ›

The United Methodists are decidedly more liberal. They will ordain women and are more of a social justice gospel rather than the Wesleyan spiritual centeredness model. The Methodists are also more liturgical, while the Wesleyan group is more of a Baptist-type service.

Why did the Wesleyan Church split from the Methodist Church? ›

The Wesleyan Methodist Church in America was created in early 1843 as a result of a schism from the Methodist Episcopal Church over slavery, holiness, and the arbitrary use of episcopal power by the parent church.

Is Wesleyan different than Methodist? ›

The Wesleyan Church, also known as the Wesleyan Methodist Church and Wesleyan Holiness Church depending on the region, is a Methodist Christian denomination in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Indonesia, and Australia.

How do I know if I'm truly saved? ›

Put simply, our salvation depends solely on the person and work of Jesus Christ. As we continue to trust in him, we will experience the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives to make us more like Jesus. When we see this happening, our assurance that we truly are one of God's children grows.

What are the 5 assurances of salvation? ›

The five assurances
  • Assurance of salvation.
  • Assurance of answered prayer.
  • Assurance of victory.
  • Assurance of forgiveness.
  • Assurance of guidance.
23 May 2019

How do I know that I'm saved? ›

In addition to the Word of God and the Spirit in us, we can know we're saved because we have genuine love for our fellow Christians, even for those who may be very different from ourselves. This love isn't something we had before we were saved, and it's not something we manufacture after we're saved.


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