Discipline ¶2548

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  ¶ 2548. Discontinuation or Abandonment of Local Church Property-1. Prior to a recommendation by a district superintendent to discontinue the use of church property as a local church pursuant to
¶ 2548.2 hereof, or before any action by the annual conference trustees with regard to the assumption of any local church property considered to be abandoned pursuant to ¶ 2548.3, the district superintendent should 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.
    2. Discontinuation-a) Prior to a recommendation of the district superintendent, in consultation with the appropriate agency assigned the responsibility of the conference parish and community development strategy, that a local church be discontinued, the district superintendent shall guide the congregation in an assessment of its potential as outlined in ¶ 213. A recommendation of discontinuance shall include recommendations as to the future use of the property and where the membership (¶ 229) and the title to all the real and personal, tangible and intangible property of the local church shall be transferred. On such recommendation that a local church no longer serves the purpose for which it was organized and incorporated
(¶¶ 201-204), with the consent of the presiding bishop and of a
majority of the district superintendents and the district board of church location and building of the district in which the action is contemplated, the annual conference may declare any local church within its bounds discontinued.
b) If a church has been discontinued by the annual conference without direction concerning the disposition of property, the real and personal, tangible and intangible property shall be disposed of as if it were abandoned local church property (¶ 2548.3).
c) If the annual conference declares any local church discontinued, the failure to complete any of the prior steps will not invalidate such discontinuance.
  3. Abandonment-When a local church property is no longer used, kept, or maintained by its membership as a place of divine worship, the property shall be considered abandoned, and when a local church no longer serves the purpose for which it was organized and incorporated (¶¶ 201-204), with the consent of the presiding bishop, a majority of the district superintendents, and of the district board of church location and building, the annual conference trustees may assume control of the real and personal, tangible and intangible property. If circumstances make immediate action necessary, the conference trustees, should give first option to the other denominations represented in the Commission on Pan-Methodist Cooperation and Union. The conference trustees may proceed to sell or lease said property, retain the proceeds in an interest-bearing account, and recommend the disposition of the proceeds in keeping with annual conference policy. It shall be the duty of the annual conference trustees to remove, insofar as reasonably possible, all Christian and church insignia and symbols from such property. In the event of loss, damage to, or destruction of such local church property, the trustees of the annual conference are authorized to collect and receipt for any insurance payable on account thereof as the duly and legally authorized representative of such local church.10
4. All the deeds, records, and other official and legal papers, including the contents of the cornerstone, of a church that is so declared to be abandoned or otherwise discontinued shall be collected by the district superintendent in whose district said church was located and shall be deposited for permanent safekeeping with the commission on archives and history of the annual conference.
5. All gifts held in trust, assets of any endowment funds, and assets of any foundation of the church, shall be reviewed as part of the discontinuance or abandonment. All such assets shall pass as directed by the annual conference, or, if there is no such direction, to the trustees of the annual conference, unless otherwise directed by operation of law.
6. Any gift, legacy, devise, annuity, or other benefit to a pastoral charge or local church that accrues or becomes available after said charge or church has been discontinued or abandoned shall become the property of the trustees of the annual conference within whose jurisdiction the said discontinued or abandoned church was located or shall pass as directed by vote of the annual conference.
7. When properties from the discontinuation of a congregation or abandonment are sold in urban centers with more than 50,000 population, the proceeds of sale must be used for new and/or existing ministries within that urban center.
10. See Judicial Council Decisions 119, 138, 143.