The Church Universal and Triumphant intends to sell its 9,300-acre cattle ranch that is 40 miles north of the sect's Paradise Valley headquarters, a spokesman said Sunday.
Chris Kelley said an asking price for the property, which the church bought in 1983 and leased to another party, had not been decided. "Our lands to the north have not been relevant to what we're doing for more than five years now," Scott McBride, a Seattle member of the church board, said in a news release. "They served a purpose once, but are no longer essential to our mission of helping people everywhere realize their divine potential."
Church members got news of the sale earlier in the weekend, during the church's quarterly meeting at the headquarters near Yellowstone National Park, Kelley said.
The church intends to sell the property as one piece. The ranch has agricultural land, rangeland and timberland plus a number of buildings. "Given our mission as a spiritual activity, this land is more valuable to us as a liquid asset," said Tina Storti, a board member from Dallas. Other church property, near Yellowstone, meets needs of the church, Storti said.
"We're not giving those lands up and we're not moving from there," she said. "It's just that we don't need this other agricultural land to help people become one with God."
The Church Universal and Triumphant is a New Age sect. Last year, Congress appropriated about $13 million to buy the church's Royal Teton Ranch, next to Yellowstone. The deal called for the church to get 1,000 acres near a fallout shelter that it maintains.
The church intended to put some money from the government deal into a retirement fund for Elizabeth Clare Prophet, widow of the church founder. The church's annual report last year said that contributions fell by almost $1 million between 1997 and 1998, and that further decline was likely in 1999. The church reported 1998 revenue of $11.5 million and assets of $24.3 million, down from $25.6 million in 1997.
Kelley said Sunday that he was unable to estimate the church's membership.