Unincorporated Churches

Title into an unincorporated church (e.g., Prayerful Presbyterian Church), itself, is not considered valid since it is not a legal entity and therefore, cannot acquire or transfer title to real property. Therefore, when insuring a conveyance into an unincorporated church, title must vest in the trustees or other specifically designated representatives of the church, although it is not necessary to list the actual names of such trustees or representatives. For example, title vested in the Trustees of the Prayerful Presbyterian Church would be considered acceptable.


When insuring a conveyance out of an unincorporated church or an encumbrance of church-owned real property, the deed or mortgage must be executed by all the then-named current church trustees. It is necessary to obtain a certificate stating the names of the current trustees of the church from the pastor, secretary, or other church-authorized administrative person, and a resolution of the governing body of the church attesting to the authority of that person to act. 


Generally speaking, the above holds true for all unincorporated church transactions involving real property with the possible exception of a Methodist Church. A conveyance of Methodist church-owned property requires a certified copy of the resolution of the Quarterly Conference of the church which sets forth approval of the sale, sales price, and empowerment of the trustees to execute and deliver the required documents and accept the proceeds from the sale. A certificate, signed by the clerk or secretary of the Quarterly Conference – stating that due notice of the Quarterly Conference was given by announcement from the pulpit at a regular church service at least 10 days prior to the meeting – should accompany such resolution. 


In addition to the resolution and clerk’s certificate, the pastor and district superintendent of the church must execute the deed – along with the named trustees – so as to evidence their assent to such sale at the agreed upon price and terms (see guidelines at the end of this chapter for some specific denominations ).