The leadership of some United Methodist churches in Oklahoma and across the country are aware of the possibility of disaffiliating from their denomination. One thing that could prevent these congregations from leaving is concern over ownership of a congregation’s real estate and other property.
Conflicts within the church
The United Methodist Church has, for decades, faced tensions within the denomination over several issues, including the issues of same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQA+ individuals. In recent years, resolutions and changes in church practice and policy have resulted in some local congregations deciding to leave the denomination.
Paragraph 2553 and asset ownership
Traditionally, the United Methodist denomination has held local congregational buildings and assets in trust. This means that if a congregation left the denomination, the United Methodist Church could strip the congregation of its buildings, lands, and other property.
A recent decision by the denomination, codified in its Book of Discipline as “Paragraph 2553,” allows some churches the right to leave the denomination and keep their assets. However, multiple delays in the implementation of the plan to divide the denomination, as well as questions over the interpretation of Paragraph 2553, have left the leadership of some congregations confused and wary over plans to leave.
Considerations for congregations
Due to the recent global health crisis, the United Methodist General Conference, a denomination-wide planning meeting, has been repeatedly delayed, which has inhibited the implementation of the church’s policies regarding its division. The General Conference is now scheduled for the spring of 2024.
Congregations would do well to pay close attention to the decisions made at this event and to communicate with their district superintendents, as well as their bishops, when making plans for their church.