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DECISION No. 2003-013

This case comes before the Council by a Petition of D. D. Garrett, Sr., Member of York Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church., Western North Carolina Conference, for Declaratory Judgment and Interpretation of The Book of Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, 2000, Paragraph 653, Page 1 315 (1996, Paragraph 309, Page 309).




            The petitioner seeks a declaratory judgment on the interpretation of several paragraphs of The Book of Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, to wit: Chapter IX, Church Property, Paragraphs 496 and 498.




I.        Must a Pastor nominate a member of the Board of Trustees to succeed himself or herself if that Trustee is on a Deed of Trust for money or file permission from the lending institution?




The 2000 Discipline, Chapter IX, Section 1, Paragraph 493, P. 183 states: "… The Trustees, except the pastor, shall be elected annually by the members of the Church upon the nomination of the Pastor-In-Charge, who shall nominate one candidate for each vacancy.”


The Book of Discipline clearly gives the Pastor-In-Charge the legal right to nominate persons to serve annually as a member of the Board of Trustees.  The Trustees are elected by the members of the church and are responsible to the Quarterly Conference of the Charge.  The Quarterly Conference has the power to confirm their election, or to remove any for cause.  (Paragraph 495)


The nomination and removal of a trustee is limited by Paragraph 496, which states:  "No Trustee shall be rejected while in joint security for money unless he/she is first released from his/her obligation by the creditor(s).”


            In order for a Trustee who is a security on an obligation to be removed from his or her position as a trustee, a release from the creditor must be obtained.  If the members of the Board of Trustees have authorized a loan or mortgage, and have not held themselves as security for such loan or mortgage then this paragraph is inapplicable and the trustee can be removed without any creditor action.


II.              Whether a Pastor can prohibit the Board of Trustees from taking charge and protecting Church Property, including money, after it has been collected by the Stewards, after the Pastor, Presiding Elder and other ministerial expenses have been paid?


According to Paragraphs 491 and 493, the Pastor in Charge is a member of the Board of Trustees.  As such, the Pastor is responsible to fulfill the duty of the Board of Trustees as specified in Paragraph 498.  The Pastor, as well as other members of the Board of trustees are "to provide a place of worship and take charge of and protect the Church Property with all of its appurtenances in trust for the membership, and to make such improvements as may be necessary from time to time … and to see that order and the decorum are at all times observed … and where there is not a Board of Stewards, to perform the duties therein stated."  This paragraph gives the responsibility of the building and facilities to the Board of Trustees.  It also provides for order and the decorum within such facilities.  This paragraph only gives financial responsibility to the Board of Trustees when there is no Board of Stewards.


Chapter VII.  Pastors in Charge, Paragraph 251 (15) provides that the Pastor in Charge is ex officio President and of the Board of Trustees and the Board of Stewards.  In this capacity in the Pastor in Charge is required to oversight of the operation and duties of the Boards.


III.            Whether money is Church Property


Church Property includes all assets owned by the Church.  All funds raised by a Church are property of the Church.  However, property is classified by law as either: real or immovable; or personal or movable.  (Black’s Law Dictionary, Fifth Edition).


Money since it is movable is considered "personal".  Personal property in its broadest legal signification includes everything the subject of ownership not being land or any interest in land, as goods, chattels, money, notes, bonds, stocks and choses in action, generally including tangible property.


Real property is defined as a land, and generally whatever is erected or growing upon or affixed to land (appurtenances).

Paragraph 498, refers to a “place of worship” which is interpreted as a building or facility.

Thus, the Board of Trustees has charge over land, buildings and facilities with all its appurtenances or that which is an accessory, appended or annexed to the land.  Thus, the Church Property referred to in Paragraph 498 refers to "real property" and does not include money.




ALL Concurring


Star of Zion July 24-31, 2003, Page 3

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