History

The ties that bind: The United Methodist Trust Clause

Pages from "The Doctrines and Disciplines of the Methodist Episcopal Church 1864." Courtesy of GCAH.
Pages from "The Doctrines and Disciplines of the Methodist Episcopal Church 1864." Courtesy of GCAH.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, kept the various Methodist societies and small groups bound together through covenants, shared practices (such as love feasts and night watches) and the model deed, or "trust clause." The model held all church property under a shared trust and ensured the various societies and bands used their assets and facilities to faithfully carry out Methodist practices everywhere.

Today United Methodists are still bound by trust clauses. No one trust holds all United Methodist property. Instead local church property is held by each annual conference under a common trust. This is in accordance with the connectional nature of the denomination.

To learn more about the trust clause, its history and its continued importance within The United Methodist Church, read “Mr. Wesley’s Trust Clause: Methodism in the Vernacular” by Dr. John Topolewski as published in April, 1999 in Methodist History, the official historical journal of The General Commission on Archives and History.