Do Epworth Heights residents pay property taxes?

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This has been well-known about Epworth for years and years.  Same holds true for other communities, such as Traverse City.  Old Mission Peninsula has this exact type of "Methodist Community."  Yes, they are exempt from paying taxes, as it is considered a "religious organization."

How this all came about...who knows?  But, the original thoughts behinds this "church organization," has definitely changed.  The founders of these types of "Religious Communities" have likely passed on.  So, it appears these "secretive Methodist Communities" have been "grand-fathered."

Jasper could you clarify what you mean on Old Mission Peninsula? I know that there are Conservation Groups that are tax exempt that buy land to keep it away from developers and I know that they passed a millage to do the same thing. But that is not exactly an apple to cherry comparison.

"How this came about...who knows?" Actually this came about a little more than a century ago. The former city fathers traded the land at Epworth if they provided 15 years of staging a Chautauqua event. " A Chautauqua Assembly brought entertainment and culture for the whole community, with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and specialists of the day."(wiki) Sounds like the kind of deal our current city councilors and manager would love.

There are religious "camps" all over Michigan. They began years ago just like Epworth and they continue to enjoy tax exemption that most other cottage owners do not. If the arraignment is that the "church" owns the land and is therefore responsible for taxes if any, then that's a legitimate tax exclusion. It's not as if this is a scam because these camps go back years, however it does seem unfair that others must make up for the lack of support from Epworth.

I remember long ago a man named Pastor Jim Jones whom had a religious cult similar to this. Then there was another in Waco Texas with a similar cult. Both of those secret religious cults had to be dismantled at later dates. So, while Epworth isn't exactly a cult per se, it does reflect a secretive and secular society. I don't see other local churches with a congregation that lives on the church compound, and pays less property taxes as a result. Why just this (UMC), United Methodist Church sect has this special arrangement with our local government? 

I just came across this thread and it struck me as odd. I am new to the area so I don't have the negative background or history as I am reading now. I went to Sunday service last month on a whim, I had no invitation. I saw on their website the services are open to the public. 

It was a very normal Methodist service in a very old wood building (no communion though) with a guest minister from New York. I have not gone back as I realize fellowship takes more than a summer to develop...then what would I do in the winter? 

I suggest Aquaman you visit one Sunday. Its not any type of cult as I could tell. Wait!  There was an weekly flyer I picked up with a reminder that no alcohol is to be consumed outside of the cottage. It was an odd notion, a total 1900's throwback. And I saw several Texas license plates!


Epworth may not be a Religious cult but they certainly are a cult of tax dodgers. How nice that they own second homes that qualify for religious tax exemptions that require the rest of the property owners outside of Epworth to be burdened with Epworth's share of property tax responsibility.

It is not hard to learn all you want to know about the origin of Epworth Heights. The Assembly has a great deal of power in how the resort is run, but it surely is no cult. The tax situation is neither exotic or unusual. Hundreds of summer camps were created in the 1880s and 1890s under the auspices of various religions. The Methodists created quite a few. 

My wife's family owns a cottage on the resort and acquired it 80 years ago. I have visited most summers for the last 20 years. We are simple, middle-class folks and understand completely the resentment Ludington residents feel. There are a great many rich, we're-so-entitled people who own cottages. We simply do not associate with them. Most look down their noses at us.

As to the contention that there is some secretive cabal at Epworth, I have 20 years of visits and long conversations with a dozen or so owners and have not heard the slightest whisper of such a thing. Some are ridiculously wealthy, yet they treat us like equals. When a group of us go into town to eat, they are good patrons demanding no special treatment.

It is true that lots of Epworth people are complete jerks. We butt heads with them. Our cottage fronts to the lake and is the same cottage that was built in 1908. Right behind us is a monstrosity built in the last 10 years. They insisted that a tree on our lot be removed to make their lake view better. 

That tree provides late afternoon shade for us, and on hot days, that is important. So, we fought for our tree. After extended negotiations, we had some lower limbs removed. That helped them some. My point is, that level of entitlement, extending to another person's home and environs, is distressingly common at Epworth.

My purpose in replying is to let everyone know that Epworth is not a monolith. Yes, there are Senators and other high-ranking government folks (Boehner visited while I was there back when he was Speaker). There are captains of industry and high-powered folks from academia.

And... there are regular people like my wife and me.

Are you by chance a member of any procrastinator clubs?

On a more serious note will the recent ruling that Christian resorts must allow non Christians to become members have any bearing on Epworth?

And how is your beach holding up with the current high water?

It use to be Epworth was more open with information but now they seemed to have gone totally dark.

I have no idea about assembly membership. I know services are public. If there is any formal membership ceremony or requirement, I am ignorant of it. We certainly get plenty of donation requests for people who almost never attend Epworth worship services and have never claimed to be members of any church, anywhere.

This is just my own sense of it, but it feels like the resort committee is where most issues are decided. How much is assessed per owner (this is a big 4-digit number every year), the fees and other charges which add up to thousands, all of these are determined by the non-church part of the organization.

No clue about the beach. As mentioned in another comment, we have not been to Ludington and Epworth in several years.

Shinblind, if you ever want to hear the sounds of silence, just create an environment where wealthy people feel like their toys are threatened. I have no personal knowledge, but lots of issues are coming up these days. Clearly, the tax exemption for the entire resort (the land, not the cottages) is not sustainable. The question is how to move from the way things are to a new structure.

You know Willy , I would be happy if they just took a little more pro active stance regarding local charities and such seeing as they get a free ride on their land value of their property. Maybe the junior Epworthians could show up at the next  Habitat for Humanity house under construction and swing a hammer or a paint brush.  Would do the local food bank good to if they would make a donation when they close up for the year. Then the locals could also enjoy some escargot and caviar to go with their rice and beans.

The proponents of Epworth have recently now taken a more active stance in making the media aware that Epworth residents/United Methodist Church, is giving more now than in the past to local charities. They want the media to promote that idea and info. as much as possible nowadays, so the locals will not downgrade them now for past transgressions. My parents gave quite a lot to various charities every year, and did not solicit any attention nor credit for it. Their motto was that deeds and actions speak louder than words. How pretentious and hypocritical these Epworth people are imho. 


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