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Vermont Agencies

Title 27 — Chapter 7: Property Held for Religious Fraternal or Charitable Purposes

Subchapter I. General Provisions

§ 701. Corporate powers

The worshipful master, senior warden and junior warden of a lodge of ancient, free and accepted masons, and the trustees of fraternal, religious or charitable organizations, elected according to the constitution and bylaws of such lodge or organization, shall have corporate powers, with perpetuity, for the purpose of taking and holding real and personal estate for the use and benefit of such lodge or organization and for other charitable purposes. 

§ 702. Mortgage or conveyance of property

Such master and wardens and such trustees, if authorized by a majority vote of the members of such lodge or organization present and voting at an annual, regular or special communication or meeting thereof, subject to the constitution and bylaws of such lodge or organization, may sell, mortgage and convey any or all of such real and personal estate. 

§ 703. Estate or interest not vested in person in office or successor

A grant, conveyance, devise or lease of real or personal estate to, or a trust of such real or personal estate for the benefit of, a person or his successors in an ecclesiastical office shall not vest an estate or interest in such person or his successor. Such a grant, conveyance, devise or lease to or for such person, by the designation of such office, shall not vest an estate or interest in a successor of such person. This section shall not be deemed to admit the validity of such grant, conveyance, devise or lease heretofore made. 

§ 704. No interest vests unless grantee is a corporation

A grant, conveyance, devise or lease of real estate for the purpose of religious worship for the use of a congregation or society shall not vest a right, title or interest in a person to whom such grant, conveyance, devise or lease is made, unless the same is made to a corporation organized for the support of the gospel and the maintenance of public worship, or to procure, hold and keep in repair a house of public worship according to law. 

§ 705. Disposition upon death of noncorporate grantee

Real estate heretofore granted, devised or demised, for the purpose mentioned in section 704 of this title, to a person in an ecclesiastical office or orders shall be deemed to be held in trust for the benefit of the congregation or society using the same. Unless previously conveyed to a corporation, as provided in section 704 of this title, such real estate, upon the death of the person in whom the legal title was vested on November 17, 1856, shall vest in the religious corporation formed by the congregation or religious society occupying and enjoying such real estate, if such a corporation, organized according to law, is in existence at the time of such death. If such congregation or society is not incorporated, the title of such real estate shall vest in the state. 

§ 706. Reconveyance by governor

When title to such real estate vests in the state, it shall be under the charge of the governor. Upon his being satisfied that such congregation or society has become a corporation according to law, he shall grant and convey such real estate and the rights, title and interest of the state to such corporation, which shall thereupon be vested with such rights, title and interest. 

Subchapter II. Insurance on Buildings Mortgaged to Charitable Institutions

§ 741. Insurance required

When funds of a charitable or eleemosynary institution are invested in a mortgage on real estate, the buildings included shall be insured by the mortgagor in such company duly authorized to transact business in this state as the trustees, directors or board of investment of such institution may designate; and the policies of insurance shall be duly assigned, or the loss made payable to such institutions. The trustees, directors or board of investment may procure or renew such policy of insurance in such company authorized to do business in this state, as they may elect, from year to year, or for a longer or shorter period, if the mortgagor neglects so to do, and, when necessary, the treasurer of such institution may sign premium notes, and may charge the amount paid for such insurance to the mortgagor. 

§ 742. Payment of insurance expenses

The necessary expenses of such procurement or renewal shall be paid by the mortgagor to such charitable or eleemosynary institution, and shall be a lien upon the property so mortgaged, recoverable with interest annually at the same rate as the debt secured by the mortgage from the time of payment, as part of the moneys secured by such mortgage. 

Subchapter III. Baptist Church

§ 781. Property to vest in Vermont Baptist State Convention

All property of any kind belonging to or held in trust for any Baptist church, Baptist church and society or Baptist society, hereafter referred to as the Baptist church in this subchapter, organized under the laws of this state, which has become or shall become extinct by death of all its members or otherwise, and which has been or shall be at any time affiliated with the Vermont Baptist State Convention, a religious corporation existing by virtue of number 111 of the acts of 1851, and engaged in religious missionary work and in fostering weak Baptist churches in this state or connected with any Baptist church affiliated with such Vermont Baptist State Convention, shall vest in and become the property of such Vermont Baptist State Convention. 

§ 782. When property vests; how held

A Baptist church of this state, affiliated with the Vermont Baptist State Convention aforesaid, which has ceased or failed to maintain religious worship or services, or to use the property for religious worship or services, for the space of two consecutive years immediately prior thereto, or whose membership has so diminished in numbers or in financial strength as to render it impossible or impracticable for such church to maintain religious worship or services, or to protect its property from exposure to waste and dilapidation, or to fulfill the purpose for which it was incorporated, may be declared extinct or dissolved, by an order of the superior court. The property of such church, or property which may be held in trust for such church, may be transferred to and the title and possession thereof vested in such Vermont Baptist State Convention. The avails of such property so transferred shall be held in trust and added to the permanent fund of such convention and the income thereof employed for its usual work until a local Baptist church is again organized in the same neighborhood, when the income shall be used to aid such local church as needed. (Amended 1973, No. 193 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. April 9, 1974.) 

§ 783. Procedure for transferring property

An application for such an order and disposition of property may be made by any member of the Vermont Baptist State Convention when duly authorized thereto by the board of trustees or the executive committee of the board of trustees of the Vermont Baptist State Convention, or by any member of such church, upon a verified complaint setting forth the facts authorizing such order and disposition of property. Upon the presentation of such complaint to the superior court, such court may proceed in a summary manner, after such notice as the court may prescribe, to inquire into the merits of such application. If upon examination by the court it shall appear that the making of the order and disposition of the property applied for is necessary or proper for any of the causes mentioned in section 782 of this title, such court shall make a final order declaring such church extinct, or dissolving the same, and transferring any property, and the title and possession thereof which may belong to such church, or held in trust for such church, and vest the same in the Vermont Baptist State Convention, it being the intention and purpose of this section and sections 781 and 782 of this title to preserve to the Baptist denomination in this state, as represented by the Vermont Baptist State Convention, for religious uses all property owned by or held in trust for any such church. Such an order of transfer shall not be made if objected to by five or more members of such church. This section and sections 781 and 782 of this title shall not affect reversionary interests of any person or persons in such property or any valid legal liens of creditors thereon. (Amended 1973, No. 193 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. April 9, 1974.) 

§ 784. Construction with other laws

In case of conflict between the provisions of sections 781-783 of this title and special acts of the general assembly relating to the Vermont Baptist State Convention, the provisions of such sections shall control. 

§ 785. Application to nonaffiliated church

The provisions of sections 781-784 of this title shall apply to any Free Will Baptist church or society not affiliated with the Vermont Baptist State Convention. However, the superior court shall not make any order of transfer under section 783 of this title if objection is made by a member of such church or society. Such court in making an order under that section may direct that the property of such church or society be sold and the proceeds shall be paid to such convention, after deducting necessary expenses. (Amended 1973, No. 193 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. April 9, 1974.) 

Subchapter IV. Congregational Church

§ 821. Vesting of property of extinct churches
All property of any kind belonging to or held in trust for a Congregational church, Congregational church and society or Congregational society, hereafter referred to as Congregational church in this subchapter, organized under the laws of this state, which has become or shall become extinct by death of all its members or otherwise, and which has been or shall be at any time affiliated with the Vermont Congregational Conference, a religious corporation existing by virtue of number 267 of the acts of 1872 as since amended, or with the Vermont Domestic Missionary Society, a religious corporation existing by virtue of number 268 of the acts of 1872, and engaged in religious missionary work and in fostering weak Congregational churches in this state connected with a Congregational church affiliated with such Vermont Congregational Conference or such Vermont Domestic Missionary Society, shall vest in and become the property of such Vermont Domestic Missionary Society. 

§ 822. Dissolution of church by superior court

A Congregational church of this state, affiliated with the Vermont Congregational Conference or the Vermont Domestic Missionary Society, which has ceased or failed to maintain religious worship or services for the space of two consecutive years immediately prior thereto or whose membership has so diminished in numbers or in financial strength as to render it impossible or impracticable for such church to maintain religious worship or services or to protect its property from exposure to waste and dilapidation or to fulfill the purpose for which it was incorporated, by an order of the superior court, may be declared extinct or dissolved. (Amended 1973, No. 193 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. April 9, 1974.) 

§ 823. Property to vest in Vermont Domestic Missionary Society as trustee

Upon such extinction or dissolution, the property of such church or property which may be held in trust for such church shall be transferred to, and the title and possession thereof vested in, the Vermont Domestic Missionary Society. The avails of such property so transferred shall be held in trust and added to the permanent fund of such society and the income thereof employed for its usual work until a local Congregational church is again organized in the same neighborhood, when the income shall be used to aid such local church. 

§ 824. Application for dissolution

An application for such an order and disposition of property may be made by a director of the Vermont Domestic Missionary Society when duly authorized thereto by the board of directors or the executive committee of the board of directors of such society, or by a member of such church, upon a verified complaint setting forth the facts authorizing such order and disposition of property. 

§ 825. Court order transferring property; intention of the law

Upon the presentation of such complaint to the superior court, such court may proceed in a summary manner, after such notice as the court may prescribe, to inquire into the merits of such application. If, upon examination by the court, it shall appear that the making of the order and disposition of the property applied for is necessary or proper for any of the causes mentioned in section 822 of this title, such court shall make a final order declaring such church extinct, or dissolving the same and transferring any property, and the title and possession thereof, which may belong to such church, or held in trust for such church and vest the same in the Vermont Domestic Missionary Society, it being the intention and purposes of this and sections 821-824 of this title to preserve to the Congregational denomination in this state, as represented by the Vermont Domestic Missionary Society, for religious uses all property owned by or held in trust for any such church. (Amended 1973, No. 193 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. April 9, 1974.) 

§ 826. Objection to transfer

Such an order of transfer shall not be made if objected to by five or more members of such church. 

§ 827. Effect of transfer on reversionary interests or liens

Sections 821-826 of this title shall not affect the reversionary interest of a person in such property or a valid legal lien of a creditor thereon. 

§ 828. Construction with other laws

In case of conflict between the provisions of sections 821-827 of this title and special acts of the general assembly relating to the Vermont Congregational Conference or the Vermont Domestic Missionary Society, the provisions of such sections shall control. 

§ 829. Exceptions

The First Congregational Church and society of Rochester and Bristol are expressly excluded from the operation of sections 821-828 of this title. 

Subchapter V. Methodist Church

§ 861. Powers of trustees to hold realty

The trustees of the several circuits and stations of the United Methodist Church and their successors in office shall have corporate powers, with perpetuity, for the purpose of taking and holding real or personal estate to support religious worship or for church sites, buildings or parsonages and to maintain and support deaconesses' homes and other religious work. (Amended 1969, No. 180 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. March 5, 1970.) 

§ 862. Powers of trustees to convey

Such trustees and their successors in office may convey such real estate, if authorized by vote of two-thirds of the members of a quarterly conference in the circuit or station where such estate is situated, and, by vote duly recorded, may authorize one of their number to convey such property. 

§ 863. Powers as to campgrounds

Such trustees and their successors in office may erect within their respective circuits, upon grounds used for camp meetings under the usages of such church, boarding tents for such persons as attend and furnish board and lodging during such meetings. 

§ 864. Property of extinct circuits or stations

All property of any kind belonging to or held in trust by any circuit or station of the United Methodist Church within the bounds of the Troy Annual Conference of the United Methodist church in the state of Vermont which by order of the superior court may be declared extinct or dissolved, shall be transferred to and the title and possession thereof vested in the Troy Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, a corporation, under the following circumstances:

(1) When such circuit or station has become or shall become extinct by the death or removal of all its members or otherwise; or

(2) When such circuit or station has ceased or failed to maintain religious worship or services or to use its property for religious worship or services for the space of five years immediately prior thereto; or

(3) When the membership of such circuit or station has so diminished in numbers or financial strength as to render it impossible or impracticable to maintain religious worship or services or to protect its property from exposure and waste or to fulfill the purpose for which such property was held. (Amended 1969, No. 180 (Adj. Sess.), § 2, eff. March 5, 1970; 1973, No. 193 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. April 9, 1974.) 

§ 865. Complaint to dissolve circuit or station

The trustees of the Troy Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church or any member of the board of trustees, when duly authorized thereto by a vote of the board, may apply by complaint to the superior court within the county where such circuit or station is located for the relief prayed for in section 864 of this title. Upon the filing of such complaint in such court, a hearing shall be had upon such notice as shall be ordered by such court. If upon hearing it shall be found by such court that the case is brought within the provisions of section 864 and that the transfer of property prayed for ought, in equity and good conscience, to be made, the court shall make a decree in the premises that the circuit or station in question is dissolved or extinct and transfer the property described in the complaint to the Troy Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church to be held and used according to the discipline of such church and the provisions of its charter. (Amended 1969, No. 180 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. March 5, 1970; 1973, No. 193 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. April 9, 1974.) 

§ 866. Recording decrees affecting realty

When any property affected by a decree of the superior court as provided for in section 865 of this title is real estate, a copy of such decree duly certified by the clerk of such court shall be recorded in the land records of the town where such property is situated. (Amended 1973, No. 193 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. April 9, 1974.) 

Subchapter VI. Protestant Episcopal Church

§ 901. Taking title to land

The rector, wardens and vestrymen of a parish of the Protestant Episcopal Church and their successors in office, elected according to the canons and usages of such church, shall have corporate powers with perpetuity for the purpose of taking and holding real or personal estate to support religious worship or for church sites, buildings or rectories. 

§ 902. Conveyance of property

Such rector, wardens and members of the vestry may by majority vote give, sell and convey real or personal estate belonging to such parish when empowered so to do by a majority vote at an annual meeting of the parish or one called for that purpose, and by vote duly recorded may authorize one of their number to execute all proper conveyances. In like manner they may give, sell and convey real or personal estate belonging to such parish to the Trustees of the Diocese of Vermont to receive and hold the same for the purpose specified in the act of incorporation thereof and amendments thereto. Provided, however, that the rector, wardens and members of the vestry shall not encumber or alienate any real or personal estate belonging to such parish or alienate any part thereof (save for refinancing of an existing loan) without the written consent of the bishop and standing committee of the Diocese of Vermont. (Amended 1991, No. 58.) 

§ 903. Rights of parish conveying property

A parish making such a conveyance to the Trustees of the Diocese of Vermont shall have no right or authority to charge such real or personal estate with any debts of such parish incurred subsequent to the making of such conveyance. Real and personal estate heretofore conveyed by a parish to the Trustees of the Diocese of Vermont shall not be liable for the debts of the parish incurred subsequent to November 15, 1898. 

§ 904. Transfer of property of extinct parishes and missions

All property of any kind belonging to or held in trust for a parish or mission of the Protestant Episcopal Church, which, under the canons and usages of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of Vermont, ceases to exist as a parish or mission, shall vest in and become the property of the Trustees of the Diocese of Vermont, a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the state of Vermont, the property, or the avails thereof, to be used by said trustees for the aid, benefit or advancement of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of Vermont in the manner authorized by the corporation charter of November 19, 1880 as amended. (Added 1969, No. 96, § 1.) 

§ 905. Procedure for transferring property

Upon presentation to the superior court of the county in which said property is situated of a complaint signed by the Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of Vermont requesting an order transferring the title to property of any kind belonging to a parish or mission to the Trustees of the Diocese of Vermont on the ground that such parish or mission has ceased to exist as a parish or mission under the canons and usages of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of Vermont, such court may proceed in a summary manner, after such notice as the court may prescribe, to inquire into the merits of such complaint. If, upon examination by the court, it shall appear that the making of the order and disposition of the property applied for is necessary or proper for the cause mentioned in section 904 of this title, such court shall make a final order transferring the title to the property of such parish or mission to the trustees of the Diocese of Vermont for the purposes and uses set forth in section 904 of this title. (Added 1969, No. 96, § 2; amended 1973, No. 193 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. April 9, 1974.) 

Subchapter VII. Universalist Church

§ 941. Transfer of property of extinct churches

All property of any kind belonging to or held in trust for any Universalist church and society or Universalist society, hereafter referred to as the Universalist church in this subchapter, organized under the laws of this state, which has become or shall become extinct by death of all its members or otherwise, and which has been or shall be at any time affiliated with the Universalist Convention of Vermont and the Province of Quebec, a religious corporation incorporated under No. 224 of the Acts of 1888, as amended by No. 398 of the Acts of 1912, and engaged in religious missionary work and in fostering weak Universalist churches in this state, or connected with any Universalist church affiliated with The Vermont and Quebec Universalist Unitarian Convention, shall vest in and become the property of The Vermont and Quebec Universalist Unitarian Convention. 

§ 942. Transferred property held in trust

Any Universalist church of this state affiliated with the Vermont and Quebec Universalist Unitarian Convention aforesaid, which has ceased or failed to maintain religious worship or services, or to use the property for religious worship or services, for the space of two consecutive years immediately prior thereto, or whose membership has so diminished in numbers or financial strength as to render it impossible or impractical for such church to maintain religious worship or services, or to protect its property from exposure to waste and dilapidation, or to fulfill the purpose for which it was incorporated, by an order of the superior court, may be declared extinct or dissolved, and the property of such church or property which may be held in trust for such church, be transferred to and the title and possession thereof vested in the Vermont and Quebec Universalist Unitarian Convention. The avails of such property so transferred shall be held in trust and added to the permanent fund of the convention, and the income thereof employed for its usual work until a local Universalist church is again organized in the same neighborhood, when the income shall be used to aid such local church as needed. (Amended 1973, No. 193 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. April 9, 1974.) 

§ 943. Manner of effecting transfer

Any application for such an order and disposition of property may be made by any member of the Vermont and Quebec Universalist Unitarian Convention when duly authorized thereto by the board of trustees or the executive committee of the board of trustees of the Vermont and Quebec Universalist Unitarian Convention, or by any member of such church upon a verified complaint setting forth the facts authorizing such order and disposition of property. Upon the presentation of such complaint to the superior court, such court may proceed in a summary manner, after such notice as the court may prescribe, to inquire into the merits of such application. If upon examination by the court it shall appear that the making of the order and disposition of the property applied for is necessary or proper for any of the causes mentioned in section 942 of this title, such court shall make a final order declaring such church extinct or dissolving the same, and transferring any property, and the title and possession thereof, which may belong to such church, or held in trust for such church, and vest the same in the Vermont and Quebec Universalist Unitarian Convention. It is the intent and purpose of this section and sections 941 and 942 of this title to preserve to the Universalist denomination in this state, as represented by the Vermont and Quebec Universalist Unitarian Convention for religious uses all property owned by or held in trust for any such church. Such an order of transfer shall not be made if objected to by five or more members of such church. This shall not affect reversionary interests of any person or persons, in such property, or any valid legal liens of creditors thereon. (Amended 1973, No. 193 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. April 9, 1974.)