After more than two years of discussion, Biltmore United Methodist Church in Asheville, North Carolina, has voted to sell its 1.9-acre property so that the congregation can devote more resources to helping those in need within the community.
The proceeds from the sale will fund an endowment to address homelessness, food access, health care, children’s needs and other priorities in partnership with local nonprofits in the city, according to The Transylvania Times.
Asheville, the city with the highest cost of living in the Tarheel State, has a total of 527 homeless people, according to The City of Asheville's 2021 Point-in-Time count conducted on Jan 27, 2021.
Imagining a new model for what a faith community can look like, Biltmore UMC Council Chair Mike Moyer told The Transylvania Times the endowment could "provide seed money for nonprofit partners to launch new initiatives." He added that "church leaders envision an ongoing ministry of presence for whichever projects they take on."
“The church is the people — not the building,” Moyer was quoted as saying. “We are a smaller community now, and we want to be free to be the hands and feet of Christ.”
At one point, the Biltmore United Methodist Church, which has been servicing Methodists since World War II, had roughly 250 congregants attending services in 1990. But over the years, membership reportedly declined due to the opening of Interstate 40 next to the campus and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the church reopened in April 2021, according to the church's Facebook page, the closure took its toll on the church.
The Transylvania Times reports that the church was separated from central Asheville over the years and surrounded by medical offices and commercial buildings. The newspaper added that the population shifted in the area toward the towns of Skyland, Arden and Fletcher, which has made it more difficult for the church to attract congregants.
With all these changes, the church faced increasing expenses. The church’s leadership considered changes that needed to be made.
The Wesley Community Development Corporation, a United Methodist-affiliated nonprofit real estate firm, will help the church with the re-purposing and selling process.
Church leaders reportedly drew inspiration from their experience in Seeds of Change, a series of workshops led by Wesley CDC for churches to learn how to better use their properties for more effective ministry.
“There’s no shortage of things we could plug into,” Moyer stated. “And we don’t want to just give out money. We want to be invested. If it means turning dirt, painting a wall … we’ll still be Christ’s disciples.”
Despite repurposing the church building, Biltmore United Methodist Church will still exist as a church. However, they will need a new place for their services.
As the sale is being finalized, the church offers live virtual church services on its Facebook page. The church has held some in-person services in various locations.
The Christian Post reached out to Rev. Lucy Robbins for comment. But no response was received by press time.
Various congregants have shared their love for the church over the last several years on the church's Facebook page.
“This church is in the word ... peppy and spirit-led,” posted church member Rebecca Austin.
“The most wonderful, warm group of people you can imagine. ... We were amazed. … They seemed like a real family of hundreds of loving people,” said another visitor, Sharon Bollum.
Another congregant, Joey Bailey, wrote on Facebook that he found the church very welcoming whenever he visited during previous Easter seasons.
“It was how I would expect from a church in welcoming visitors and engaging in a worship service focused on God,” he wrote. “Whether you are traveling and in Asheville on a Sunday to attend or living there in Asheville, take the opportunity to fellowship with these believers. I know we will be attending again.”