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Church challenges denominational trust clause in Missouri

Things are getting ugly as delayed United Methodist Church General Conference spurs actions to claim property, money from smaller churches

Detroit—April 2, 2020—Daniel P. Dalton, a religious property attorney, co-founder of Detroit-based Dalton + Tomich,and author of a new eBook about protocols for the United Methodist Church separation entitled, What the Proposed UMC Separation Means for Your Church, says things are getting ugly in the United Methodist Church as the delay in the UMC General conference due to COVID-19 is creating extra time for the UMC to take property and money from smaller churches.

Working with Bertrand Law Firm in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Dalton filed a lawsuit and a temporary restraining order on April 1 against the Missouri United Methodist Church Conference on behalf of Hobbs Chapel United Methodist Church, a 100+ year old church in Cape Girardeau. (Hobbs Chapel United Church, Inc. v the Missouri Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.)

Dalton explained that Hobbs Chapel United Methodist Church owns a parcel of property worth about $2 million, has cash assets, and hired its own Pastor in 2019 when the Conference would not provide one.  On January 27, 2020, the Conference District Superintendent came to the Church’s annual meeting to thank them for paying their yearly apportionments (the yearly amount assessed to the Conference) and then told them the Conference would be closing their property on April 19, one week after Easter Sunday.

This is a trend that is happening around the United States, including in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, California, Iowa, and Delaware, according to Dalton, as many small United Methodist Churches seek to separate from the UMC denomination.

“When a Conference learns that a local church is leaving, it takes steps to take that church’s property  prior to allowing the local church to leave the denomination after the General Conference, which will split the Church in 2021,” Dalton said. “The fact is, with limited funds and a dwindling membership, local annual conferences want to convert church property into cash as soon as they can. That’s why now is the time for local churches to take immediate steps to preserve their property before the local Conference moves in to claim it.”

In February 2020, Dalton looked at the financial implications for local churches who opt to leave – or stay with – the United Methodist Church after the General Conference. A quick analysis of cost considerations can be viewed here.

What the Proposed UMC Separation Means for Your Church is available for complimentary download on the Dalton + Tomich website.

About Dalton + Tomich

Detroit-based Dalton + Tomich PLC is comprised of land use, denominational trust law, and business law attorneys. Serving as a partner to religious organizations, Dalton + Tomich is a national leader in religious property law land use, notably with cases related to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and denominational splits. Learn more about our services for businesses and religious organizations at https://www.daltontomich.com/.

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