Local Church Property Ownership
When it comes to a local church building, it is hard for most members not to assume ‘ownership’ of the property. Especially when they and/or their family have sacrificed to give towards it. It is understandable that some would have difficulty with the requirement that all church property be titled or adhere to the Incorporation Association Agreement (if incorporated) to The Free Methodist Church in Canada or that any mortgage or sale of church property must be approved by the Management Committee of the general conference (the denomination).
There are both legal and theological reasons behind this:
- The key theological principle of all stewardship: It does not belong to us. This includes our church buildings. Everything we have, and even our ability to generously give, is because God has provided. We must hold all things lightly, as only being entrusted to us but always belonging to Him.
- The legal definition of a gift is a voluntary transfer of property without valuable consideration to the donor.
As a charity, all donations towards the building of a church must be done willingly and without any expectation of ‘ownership’. The building of any church belongs to the charity – not to the members that built it. Otherwise, it becomes a private members club and loses any tax exemption status.
The Manual provides instruction and direction on the use, mortgage, lease and sale of church properties:
- Consent of both the Society and the Management Committee of the FMCiC must be given prior to the mortgage, lease or sale of any property ¶350.1.2
- The church or parsonage property shall not be sold, mortgaged or encumbered for current expenses ¶350.1.3
- However, if real property is sold, and with the permission of the Management Committee of the FMCiC, the proceeds of the sale may be invested and the interest may be used to pay operating expenses. ¶350.2.3
- Title for all church property deeds must be in order in accordance with civil law and the trust clause in Paragraph 385 is included in all deeds. ¶ 3188.8.131.52
- Facilities of Free Methodist churches are to be rented or used only by individuals or groups that are not incompatible with the goals, values, policies and statements of The Free Methodist Church in Canada and for purposes which are not incompatible with the goals, values, policies and statements of The Free Methodist Church in Canada. ¶6184.108.40.206
- Whenever a local society ceases to exist, all real and personal property of the society must be sold and/or transferred to the conference. The proceeds may be used as directed by the conference board of administration, provided that they are first applied to clearing any remaining debts of the former society. ¶350.3