Update on San Francisco’s Glide Memorial UMC

Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Google street view.

New action has taken place by the California-Nevada Annual Conference filing suit against Glide Memorial United Methodist Church over Trust Clause issues. Such action shows what might happen in the event other congregations try to leave the denomination.

In a previous post, I described the conflict going on between California-Nevada Annual Conference Bishop Minerva Carcaño and the 89-year-old Glide Memorial Church, on paper one of the largest congregations in our denomination. The conflict revolved around the fact that Glide no longer conducts Christian worship and is not faithful to United Methodist doctrine and practice. Instead, they have embraced a form of interfaith “worship” that encompasses atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, Hindus, and many others in addition to Christians (and one assumes, some United Methodists).

The crisis erupted when the pastor at Glide resigned because he was not able to exercise full leadership of the church, unhindered by the Glide Foundation’s board of directors. Longtime Pastor Cecil Williams, while long retired, still appears to be making the leadership decisions for the church. Bishop Carcaño attempted to appoint a new pastor, but the Foundation board rejected the person. She then appointed all the pastoral staff to different churches, leaving Glide without a regular pastor.

Six months of negotiations between the conference and Glide have not yielded a fruitful resolution to the disagreement. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the conference recently filed suit against Glide in order to protect the Trust Clause and the conference’s ownership of Glide’s property.

The Glide Foundation board maintains that the conflict is about the conference trying to gain control of the millions of dollars held by the Foundation, 95 percent of which goes to support social service ministries in the community. Carcaño assures that the conflict is about making Glide accountable to United Methodist doctrine and processes and honoring the original intent of donor Lizzie Glide, who established the foundation in order to provide for a Methodist Church in San Francisco.

There have been conflicting decisions about church trusts in California, but the most recent decisions have favored the denomination. The controversy will potentially now play out in a courtroom that will determine the obligations of the Glide Foundation in relation to The United Methodist Church.

One hopes that this high-profile lawsuit is not a precursor to what might happen in the future if congregations try to leave The United Methodist Church. General Conference can alleviate this concern by passing a fair, equitable, and standardized exit path for congregations as a part of its actions at the February special session.

Comments

  1. http://Lloyd%20J.%20Lunceford says

    The legal resolution of trust clause issues is a state law question. California, like most states, uses the “neutral principles of law ” method to resolve disputes over church property– but with a twist that is in unique to California. California has an only-one-of-its-kind-in-the-nation-statute that says that if a hierarchical denomination adds a trust clause to its denominational charter then it will control even if there has not been compliance with ordinary state trust law requirements. Therefore, the binding extension or application of a court ruling in the Memorial Glide case ( if it does not settle) will be limited to churches located in California, and will present California churches with a daunting challenge not found in other states that use the neutral principles of law method.

    For a more “global”, standardized exit path, another mainline denomination that faced similar issues may furnish an instructive model. When the Presbyterian Church ( U.S.A.) was first formed the denomination adopted a standardized, nationwide rule that was in effect for several years. Churches were given an option of leaving the denomination and retaining possession of their property if a congregational meeting was held with a quorum of at least one third of voting congregational members present and a motion to request dismissal from the denomination passed by a “super-majority” of at least two-thirds of the voting members in the congregation present. ( These were stricter requirements compared to the normal quorum requirement of one-tenth and the normal passage requirement of a simple majority of 50.1%).

  2. http://Ken%20Cale says

    I recently reviewed information on the United Methodist Church conference. In my review, I found that the policy if a Church is not able to confirm to the decision of the conference, they would be allowed to split off from the Methodist body. They would be required to fund any pension and other local obligations. Yet it seems the property would be theirs. While I may be missing addition information, or misinformed on my reading. Yet if this is the case why is this not the same with Glide.

    • Thank you for your question, Ken. This is only a proposal, but it has not been enacted by the church. That is why such an option is not available to Glide. We hope it will be enacted. However, the provision of doing this requires disagreement over homosexuality, which may or may not exist for Glide.

      In Christ,
      Tom

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