In the United Methodist denomination, local church property is “held in trust” for the denomination. In the video, I talk a little about the history of the Trust Clause and why it was so important in the early days of Methodism. In short, without the Trust Clause, I doubt we would have Methodist denominations.
Side story warning! The second home our family lived in was a split level. As soon as you walked in the front door, you could go up to the kitchen or down to the family room. When my kids heard me come home, they would run to the top of the stairs and jump knowing that I’d catch them. There were some close calls where I wasn’t paying attention, but I somehow caught them every time. My kids had more trust in my ability to catch them than I had trust in my own ability.
I think this serves as a great analogy for the Methodist movement. The early Methodists had such respect for and confidence in John Wesley and other leaders that they were willing to trust Wesley with a certain measure of control over the local church property. They jumped knowing that John Wesley would catch them.
That’s the nice view of the Trust Clause. I wish I had another cute story to serve as another analogy, but I don’t. There is another side of the Trust Clause in that it seems that John Wesley did not fully trust congregations and pastors to remain faithful to the Methodist movement. The Trust Clause here helped keep churches and pastors accountable.
What does that mean for the Global Methodist denomination which will not have a trust clause? Does it mean that they don’t think local churches will trust the denomination’s leadership? Does it mean that the denomination’s leadership has more trust in congregations and pastors to remain faithful? If I were to guess, I believe the lack of a Trust Clause in the GMC is primarily a reaction to the perceived misuses of the Trust Clause in the UMC.
I had asked Keith Boyette, current head of the GMC, about the lack of a Trust Clause and if he was worried of churches leaving. I’m paraphrasing, but his answer was that if the GMC doesn’t serve churches well enough for them to want to remain GMC, why should the churches be forced to stay.
- UMC Statement on Trust Clause: https://www.umc.org/en/content/ask-the-umc-what-is-the-united-methodist-trust-clause
- GMC Statement on Trust Clause: https://globalmethodist.org/faqs/#1626101303921-f18f6605-2f3a
- UMC Q&A: https://www.gcfa.org/media/1307/trust_clause_brochure_feb_2014.pdf