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Church Finds Freedom in Selling Property

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Church Finds Freedom in Selling Property

Photo of Biltmore UMC with a sign in front that reads "For Sale; Wesley CDC"
Biltmore UMC's red brick campus welcomed Methodists since the years after World War II, but the current congregation believed they could better serve their community by selling the property. Photo courtesy of Rev. Lucy Robbins.

Republished with permission from Wesley Community Development news. By Mack King, Senior Director of Real Estate Services for Wesley CDC.

The congregation of Biltmore United Methodist Church has voted to sell its property and devote its energy and resources toward responding to Asheville’s most pressing social needs.

“The church is the people – not the building,” said Mike Moyer, chair of the Biltmore UMC Church Council. “We are a smaller community now, and we want to be free to be the hands and feet of Christ.”

The decision comes after more than two years of study and listening sessions to consider the church’s financial condition, prospects for growth and market value of the 1.9-acre property. Assisting with the sale is Wesley Community Development Corporation, a United Methodist-affiliated, non-profit real estate firm that helps churches re-purpose and/or sell property with an eye toward ministry and stewardship.

Acting as stewards of the history

Biltmore UMC’s stately, red brick campus overlooking Hendersonville Road has welcomed Methodists since the years after World War II, a time when church attendance peaked in the United States. As recently as the 1990s, the church was drawing 250 for Sunday worship.

But the opening of Interstate 40 next to the campus created geographic challenges. The church found itself separated from central Asheville, overshadowed by an interchange, and, in more recent years, surrounded by medical offices and commercial buildings. Meanwhile, population growth shifted southward toward Skyland, Arden and Fletcher, making it harder to attract congregants.

COVID-19 added a new layer of difficulty. The church halted in-person worship and community support groups, and ceased operations with the Asheville Creative Arts Preschool.

Faced with ever-increasing expenses for maintenance, utilities and upkeep, the leadership team began considering a different future. Church leaders 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.

Wesley CDC is the official property manager of the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. Part of its mission is to help United Methodists explore the demographics and challenges of their communities.

Responding to needs in Asheville

Wesley CDC emphasizes the idea that churches serve as anchor institutions of their communities. Oftentimes, however, the physical spaces are outdated and no longer suited to the needs of the users.

In the case of Biltmore UMC, the mission resides in places where people are hurting. 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. These are big issues in a city with the highest cost of living in North Carolina, according to a recent analysis.

The congregation will consider multiple options for a new home – perhaps leased space or a shared arrangement with another church.

Woven into the vision is a commitment to racial justice. The protests following the murder of George Floyd last year prompted the congregation to embark on conversations and calls of action to end personal and systemic racism.

“My hope and prayer is that we, as the Church, can rally around the injustice in our midst such that our world can be changed,” Pastor Lucy Robbins told the congregation. “And that begins locally.”

Biltmore UMC already partners with a number of local organizations, including Haywood Street Congregation, a United Methodist mission church that engages adults living with mental illness, addiction and homelessness.

The endowment could provide seed money for nonprofit partners to launch new initiatives. Church leaders envision an ongoing ministry of presence for whichever projects they take on.

“There’s no shortage of things we could plug into,” Moyer said. “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.”


Wesley CDC continues to position itself to assist faith-based leaders across the nation with it’s Blueprint Network program. Their work has expanded from Western NC to multiple states helping various denominations navigate their real estate opportunities. Visit to learn more.

Wesley Community Development

This story is part of Lake Institute’s story collection, the Faithful Generosity Story Shelf, which highlights congregations and other religious organizations who have sought to use their assets and resources in creative—and sometimes surprising—ways as an expression of faithful giving.

Each entry in our Story Shelf is short enough to be read and discussed during a committee meeting or other group gathering. Our hope is that these accessible vignettes will spark new questions, conversation, and imagination among clergy and laity about what might be possible with the funds, buildings, land, and other resources in their care. If you know a story that should be included in the Story Shelf, suggest it here.


DATE: January 16, 2024
TYPE: Story/Case Study
SOURCE: Faithful Generosity Story Shelf, Outside Organization, Selling/Donating Property
KEYWORDS: Endowment, Justice, Property
AUTHOR: Mack King