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Breakaway Ariz. UMC congregation leaves church property after losing lawsuit to denomination

Breakaway Ariz. UMC congregation leaves church property after losing lawsuit to denomination

The former building of Camp Verde Community Church, which had to leave the property after losing a legal battle against the Desert Southwest Conference of The United Methodist Church. | Kim Soule

An Arizona congregation that was once affiliated with the United Methodist Church has finalized its departure from a church property that a court determined belonged to the national denomination and not the local congregation.

Camp Verde Community Church, which opted to leave the UMC in 2017, moved out of their church property months after a judge ruled that the UMC Desert Southwest Conference owned the building.

Bishop Robert T. Hoshibata of Desert Southwest told United Methodist News Service in an interview published earlier this month that the whole case brought “a sense of deep sadness.”

“We tried for a considerable amount of time — which is why this has taken so long — to come to a resolution both before and after the legal proceedings were begun,” said Hoshibata.

“We tried to have conversations with the pastor and members of the church. We agreed to professional mediation. None of it was met with any success.”

Hoshibata confirmed in a letter to the conference dated April 15 of this year that the Camp Verde property had fully returned to the possession of the UMC.

The issue between the conference and the congregation, according to Hoshibata, was a difference of opinion on the debate over whether to change the UMC’s stance on LGBT issues.

Adhering to the Bible, the UMC's Book of Discipline explains that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching” and prohibits the blessing of same-sex marriages or the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals.

While the Desert Southwest regional body supports changing the denomination's position on homosexuality, Camp Verde supported the biblical position on sexual ethics.

“[Camp Verde] was upset because of the way the annual conference was moving in terms of being open and accepting,” claimed the bishop, as reported by UMNS.

The Christian Post reached out to the Conference and Camp Verde. A conference spokesperson directed CP to the UMNS story, while Camp Verde did not return comment by press time.

Last November, after conference had filed a lawsuit against Camp Verde to keep control of the property, the conference announced that they were closing the building down.

“In consultation with former and current members of CVUMC and the cabinet, the bishop has discerned that we will not be able to restart a Camp Verde United Methodist congregation at this time,” Desert Southwest said at the time.

“Closure of Camp Verde UMC will be presented for confirmation at the Annual Conference in June 2020 where the years of faithful service will be honored and celebrated.”

On Dec. 26 of last year, Arizona Superior Court Judge Krista Carman ruled in favor of the conference, arguing that the UMC had control of the property due to a “trust clause.”

“Defendants [claim] that Arizona law presumes that trusts are revocable,” stated Carman. “The history of the local church in Camp Verde demonstrates that it has held all real property in trust for the UMC.”

“The Court finds the Trust Clause of the Book of Discipline applies to the subject property and was not followed by CVUMC in transferring the property to CVCC …”   

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