NW Methodists sue outgoing congregation over land
— Legal complaint here
— Newspaper article on the story
— Below is press release by Oregon-Idaho Annual (regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church
By Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
Ontario, Oregon — A lawsuit was filed yesterday in Malheur County Circuit Court against Ontario Community Church Inc., an independent non-denominational church in Ontario, Oregon, its corporate directors, and its pastor. The suit was filed by the Oregon-Idaho Annual (regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church to recover property and funds that are held in trust for the mission and ministry of The United Methodist Church.
The complaint [attached below] contends that members of the church did not have the right to take United Methodist Church property and divert it for use as a non-denominational church. In addition to the church building itself, the lawsuit calls for the turnover of bank accounts and other property in the building including historic documents and membership records.
The United Methodist Church (formerly The Methodist Church) founded the Ontario Community United Methodist Church in 1945 and it has operated as a constituent part of The United Methodist Church since that time. The United Methodist Church’s rules have always made clear that local church property is held in trust for the entire denomination. In June of this year some members of the Ontario Community United Methodist Church took that church’s property from The United Methodist Church, action which is not permitted by church law. Since then they have been operating as Ontario Community Church, Inc.
After unsuccessful attempts to negotiate a resolution of the dispute, the Board of Trustees for the Conference voted to file suit in order to regain possession of the church property and funds. According to Greg Tollefson, Chair of the Board, “It’s unfortunate when a church dispute must be resolved in court; however we have been unsuccessful in trying to resolve the matter short of litigation. In addition, we have an important responsibility to protect property which has been part of The United Methodist Church for 65 years. We understand that certain current members wish to leave the denomination, but this departure does not entitle them to occupy property of The United Methodist Church or appropriate church funds for other purposes.”
The Oregon-Idaho Annual (regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church consists of over 200 churches in Oregon and Southern Idaho.
Greg Nelson, Director of Communications
Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference
United Methodist Church
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