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Amending Endowments: Sacred Trusts, Changing Times – A Call for Thoughtful Amendment

Endowments stand as pillars of financial strength within some United Methodist and Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) churches. They provide resources that support ministries, outreach, and the upkeep of our sacred spaces. But as doctrine and discipline change, and as our world faces new challenges, a question arises: Should our church endowments be amended? And if so, how can we do this responsibly and in line with our faith?

Understanding Church Endowments

Before we delve into the complexities of amendment, let’s clarify what church endowments are. These are funds set aside, often donated by generous members, with the principal amount invested to generate income over time. The interest or income earned is used for specific purposes outlined by the donor or by the church’s governing body.

Endowments are often meant to last in perpetuity, providing a legacy of support for generations to come. But their permanence can also be a source of debate, especially when the original intent of an endowment no longer aligns with the current needs of the church or the broader community.

Reasons for Considering Amendment

There are several reasons why a church might consider amending its endowment:

  • Outdated Restrictions: Some endowments may have restrictions that are no longer relevant or practical. For example, an endowment intended to support a specific type of ministry might no longer be needed if that ministry has ceased to exist.
  • Changing Needs: The needs of a church and its community can evolve over time. An endowment that was originally intended to support a building fund might be better used to address issues like food insecurity or social justice.
  • Ethical Concerns: Some endowments might be tied to investments or practices that conflict with the church’s current values. For example, a church might decide to divest from fossil fuels or other industries deemed harmful to the environment.
  • Financial Sustainability: In some cases, the investment strategy or the income generated from an endowment might not be sufficient to support its intended purpose. Amending the terms might help to ensure the endowment’s long-term sustainability.

The Process of Amendment

Amending a church endowment is a complex process that requires careful consideration and adherence to legal and ethical guidelines. Here are some key steps to consider:

  1. Review the Original Documents: Thoroughly examine the original endowment agreement to understand its terms, restrictions, and any provisions for amendment.
  2. Consult with Legal Counsel: Seek legal advice to ensure that any proposed changes comply with state and federal laws governing charitable trusts.
  3. Engage in Prayerful Discernment: Gather church leaders, trustees, and relevant committees to engage in prayerful discussion and discernment about the proposed amendment.
  4. Seek Donor Approval: If the original donor is still living or if their descendants are known, seek their input and approval for any proposed changes.
  5. Communicate with the Congregation: Keep the congregation informed throughout the process and address any questions or concerns they may have.
  6. Obtain Court Approval: In some cases, obtaining court approval might be necessary to modify the terms of an endowment.

Balancing Tradition and Transformation

Amending a church endowment is not a decision to be taken lightly. It involves balancing a respect for tradition with a commitment to transformation. The goal should be to honor the original intent of the donor while also ensuring that the endowment serves the current and future needs of the church and its community.


The question of whether to amend a church endowment is a complex one with no easy answers. But by approaching this question with prayer, discernment, and a commitment to responsible stewardship, we can ensure that our endowments continue to be a source of blessing for generations to come.

Let us pray for guidance as we navigate these challenging questions. And let us be open to the possibility that amending our endowments might be a faithful way to honor the past while embracing the future. And if you need assistance in amending your endowment, please contact Daniel Dalton or one of the professionals at Dalton & Tomich, PLC to discuss your specific endowment.

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