Decision Number 137
Standards for Wesley Foundations
The Trustees of an Annual Conference can dispose of funds belonging to the Woman's Society of Christian Service of a discontinued church as directed by the Annual Conference.
Statement of Facts
On May 25, 1957, at a regular session of the North Indiana Annual Conference a motion was offered to authorize the Trustees of the Conference to dispose of the assets of a discontinued church, including, $1,000.00 deposited to the credit of the Woman's Society of Christian Service of that Church. The propriety of this action was questioned and by common consent it was determined to defer the action until a decision might be secured from the Judicial Council. A motion was then passed requesting a declaratory decision on the matter from the Judicial Council.
We take jurisdiction under Paragraph 914 (8) of the 1956 Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
Chapter IV, Section IX, Paragraph 188.1 of the 1956 Discipline after referring to the duty of a Board of Trustees of a discontinued or abandoned church to dispose of its property as the Annual Conference directs, provides:
" * * * if no such lawful trustees remain, or if for any reason said trustees fail to make such disposition, then it shall be the duty of the trustees of the Annual Conference to sell or dispose of said property in accordance with the direction of the Annual Conference * * * "
Since the Annual Conference was proposing to authorize its trustees to dispose of the assets we take it that there were no local church trustees remaining or that they had failed to make a disposition.
The meaning of the rest of the provision quoted seems clear to us. It comes from the Chapter dealing with property in the part of the Discipline pertaining to the local church. Part of Paragraph 281 in the last chapter in that part of the Discipline says: "In every local church there shall be a Woman's Society ofChristian Service." (Underlining ours.) When established the Society is part of the local church, and subject to the general provisions of the Discipline governing the local church, where there are no special ones pertaining to the Society. When the whole ceases to exist, the parts making it up necessarily cease to exist. Though it is true the funds secured by the local Society belong to it subject to certain obligations to the Woman's Division of Christian Service (Paragraph 282, 1956 Discipline), there is no provision in the Discipline concerning them other than that quoted above when the local church of which the Society is a part ceases to exist.
That being true the disposition of any property belonging to any such body at the time of abandonment or discontinuation of the local church is governed by Paragraph 188, particularly since the broad word, "property" is used in it. To us the intention of the provision is to provide a method of disposing of the assets of an abandoned or discontinued church and the bodies connected with it that is final and most beneficial to The Methodist Church. We feel that holding the Annual Conference has broad power to do so is consonant with the language and intent of the Discipline.
It is the decision of the Judicial Council that the Trustees of an Annual Conference may dispose of funds belonging to the Woman's Society of Christian Service of a discontinued church as directed by the Annual Conference.