Numerous unlearned pastors and “ministries” advise churches on the matter of organizing as churches under Christ and Christ alone as opposed to legal organizations such as corporations, corporations sole, charitable trusts, unincorporated associations, and Internal Revenue Code §§ 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(1)(A) tax exempt organizations. This article will spotlight one such ministry, the Ecclesiastical Law Center.
The Ecclesiastical Law Center was founded by Robin Wright. Brother Wright was a member of the Indianapolis Baptist Temple in the 1980s. Attorney Al Cunningham helped churches, including IBT where he spent a lot of time, reorganize under Christ, as opposed to legally organizing under man’s law. During that time, Robin Wright picked Attorney Cunningham’s brain on the use of the common law trust by churches.
Brother Wright left IBT and became pastor of a church. He also founded the Ecclesiastical Law Center. He modified the principles he had learned from Attorney Cunningham, as the ELC began to help churches organize. The ELC claimed to have come up with a Biblical as opposed to a legal solution for church organization. Actually, the concept, if correct in the details, is Biblical; but neither Wright, his close confidant Ben Townsend, or the ELC originated the concept, nor did they correctly implement it and related matters.
Ben Townsend was a friend of Robin Wright at IBT. He also left IBT and remained a close associate of Wright. He co-authored books and articles dealing with the trust and other church matters with Wright. When Robin Wright passed away, Townsend took over the ELC.
The ELC advises churches to hold real estate in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. The ELC method places churches in the position of legal entities since ELC churches hold the property through a trustee or trustees. The church property is to be managed by persons or a person solely for the benefit of the true owner of the property, the Lord Jesus Christ. See, ibid. This type of church legal status does not, of course, come with all the organizational requirements as does corporate status, charitable trust status, or federal tax exempt status; but it does make the church a legal entity which is under the jurisdiction of civil government courts for some purposes.
An ELC church or trust does not and cannot get a bank account. The ELC, by admission in their own writings, are establishing a common law trust. They do so without a writing executed by the church. ELC churches operate in cash. The ELC ignorantly advises that putting the trust relationship into a written declaration will get a church into trouble. In fact, no church has ever gotten into trouble because of a properly drafted, executed, and practiced Declaration of Trust and associated documents in spite of the fictitious reports published by the ELC. Furthermore, it is wise to properly draft and execute trust documents. See, How a Church Can Organize to Remain a New Testament Church (Holding Property In Trust For God Is A Scriptural Principle Recognized by American Law).
The Churches under Christ ministry just aided a church which had obtained real estate some years ago, with the help of the ELC, in the name of “The Lord Jesus Christ with the [Name of Church] (Church) as Deacons of His Property.” The trustee of the trust saw the flaws with the methods of the ELC. He desired to open a trust bank account. He called this ministry. The trustee talked many hours with this ministry, studied materials published by this ministry, and answered Questionnaires 1 and 2. The ministry explained to him many of the problems with and misconceptions of the Townsend/ELC methodology. The church executed trust documents and is in the process of deeding the property to the trust. The property, which will be deeded to the trust and placed in the trust estate, is still owned by the Lord Jesus Christ, as in the present deed; but the property in the trust estate is not “church” property which is held by the trustee for the church. Once the property is placed in the trust estate under the new arrangement, it is no longer “church” property. The next step will be to open a bank account.
Opening a property constituted common law trust bank account in no way compromises the position of the church as a church under Christ alone or the status of the common law trust as a fiduciary relationship with property only, not a legal entity (organization) of any kind.
Churches should be diligent as they seek to glorify the Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. This requires dedicated study, and consultation with those who love the Lord and do their homework before diving into God’s preeminent matters.
I received the following e-mail with questions concerning setting up a trust (identifiers omitted):
I really appreciated your site. I am starting a prophetic ministry. I will be operating out of a trust to cover office and travel expenses and whatever other needs, but no salaries or profits, and relying on donations. I was wondering if you could answer a couple of questions:
1) Is there anything I need to do with any conceivable “entity” to declare myself a ministry? I am not a pastor, but a prophetess. My ministry will be dedicated to the manifestation of the prophecies in the Bible. To the best of your knowledge, must the ministry be connected to a church? I am a believer in the house church and am not a part of an established church.
2) Is an IRS information return needed for donations received? I understand that this is required of a 501c3.
3) Do I call myself a non-profit organization, or is does that apply to a 501c3?
4) I am encountering a tricky thing regarding beneficiaries, as I don’t want to name other ministries. Truly the ones with beneficial interest are the “people of God” as a whole, especially the people of the Promised Land, which I believe to be the USA. I don’t know if I can say that legally. In addition, the projects that I plan to start in order to bring this about will involve people, places and things that have not yet come into being. Do you know of anyone who can counsel me about how to establish the beneficiaries of a trust in this prophetic context, in which the Spirit will be my guide?
This comes with a prayer for you, your family, your church, and your ministry – that God may pour out His blessings on you, as you do on us!
Dear Ms _____________________,
Thanks for your desire to please the Lord. Since you have asked me questions and given me information about what you are doing, I must answer you honestly and in love.
A New Testament ministry must be under the authority of a church under Christ in all things. One cannot separate a God ordained ministry from a church under Christ. A ministry that is not under the authority of a church under Christ is not in God’s perfect will. Also, to be approved of God, a church and a ministry must be called of God and in line with Bible teaching in all things including leadership, makeup, doctrine, etc.
To answer to your question, “Do I call myself a non-profit organization, or is does that apply to a 501c3?” would require more time than I have, so I just address one facet of the question. If you organize a church or ministry of a church as 501c3 or 508, you have just submitted that church or ministry to a head other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Why set up a trust (a properly ordered trust, not the type of trust you envision) and defeat its purpose by placing the entity you are trying to keep completely out of man’s control, and then partially submit it to man’s control?
I can see by your e-mail that you do not understand the concept of the Bible trust and the beneficiary thereof. The “people of God” are not the beneficiaries of a church Bible trust. The trust used by this Churches under Christ Ministry is patterned after Bible trust doctrine and is recognized, not created, by American law as a non-legal entity.
These matters took me many years of Holy Spirit led study of the Bible (the KJB being the Word of God in English), history, and law. When even a lost person, much less a born again believer, grabs bits of information for which he/she has no studied understanding, he cannot implement the information with knowledge and wisdom. Only those born of the spirit can understand spiritual matters, and the basis of understanding for that person in all matters concerning faith and practice is the Word of God (the King James Bible in English).
The Bible conclusively proves that the USA is not the “Promised land” and reveals other errors in your e-mail which I do not have time to address.
I know no one who can help you, including myself, because one of us has been misled by the wrong spirit. I am a born again believer in God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and am convinced that God the Holy Spirit has guided me through my studies so that what I believe and teach is in line with God’s Word. I invite anyone to show me, from the KJB only without reference to any interpretation of the Bible or any other writing, where I am wrong on these matters.
Again, I trust that you are sincere, but sincerely uneducated and misinformed about many matters. The evidence suggests that you have fallen for the lies of the LDS cult; if not, your email assertions match some LDS lies. I believe that the LDS church uses the King James Bible but other books take priority and are considered as authoritative. I believe that the LDS church teaches that the King James Bible is correct insofar as it is correctly translated and interpreted and that other LDS books fill in a lot which your prophets and teachers, as led by the god of this world, assert was left out of or incorrectly preserved in the KJB. Those deceivers have to correct it and fill in so as to accommodate the teachings of the devils, disguised as angels, who inspired them to believe their lies. The LDS church teaches a false Jesus and false doctrine and leads millions to hell.
I write this to you in love hoping that you will see the error of your ways. I am not your enemy because I tell you the truth. I especially suggest that you diligently seek the Lord and the salvation He offers through His son (not the false Jesus of the LDS religion). I recommend the following as you seek the truth about God and eternity: What the Word of God teaches about Salvation and After Salvation.
See Spurious rationale for church incorporation: to hold property(Section VI, Chapter 7 of God Betrayed; Chapter 7 of Separation of Church and State) for an explanation of the ordinary trust. That chapter shows how the ordinary trust comports perfectly with Bible principle and why this author now co-labels the ordinary trust a Bible trust.
Chapter 1: Analysis of the title to and first two paragraphs of Chapter 18 of “Approved by Man”
The ELC article, Chapter 18 of Betrayed by Man, begins with two paragraphs. Thereafter, it is divided into titled sections. This chapter will analyze the title and then the first two paragraphs.
The reader should especially notice that this chapter reveals that the ELC method of church organization has, by published ELC admission and according to ELC criteria for what gets a church into trouble, gotten ELC churches into trouble. The ELC method gets churches into the legal system, whereas the BLC method they attack does not.
“Approved by Man: A Case for Biblical Reasonableness” by John R. Wright and Benjamin E. Townsend, leaders of the Ecclesiastical Law Center (“ELC”)), was published in 2009. Concerning the ordinary trust and the DOT, only the teachings of the Biblical Law Center (“BLC”) and this Old Paths Baptist Church “Separation of Church and State Law” ministry or those of the ELC are correct – the teachings are mutually exclusive. The ELC has publicly made this an issue. The ELC has also publicly attacked people who promote the ordinary trust including pastors, churches, and the Biblical Law Center. This booklet corrects the false ELC teachings concerning the ordinary trust and Declaration of trust; and also exposes the ill advised recommendations for church organization by the ELC for what they are.
This chapter analyzes the title to and first two paragraphs of Chapter 18, “Should a Church Be Placed In a Declaration of Trust?” which is also on the home page of the ELC website (ELC website: http://lordshipchurches.info/). Chapter 18 is analyzed paragraph by paragraph and section by section.
Analysis of the title to the chapter
The title to Chapter 18 – “Should a Church Be Placed In a Declaration of Trust?” – should alert anyone with any knowledge of the subject that the author of the chapter may not understand the ordinary trust and the Declaration of Trust. One cannot “place a church in a Declaration of Trust.” A Declaration of Trust (“DOT”) is merely a document which creates an ordinary trust, a relationship whereby a trustee is to hold property for the benefit of the true or equitable owner of the property. The DOT is one manner in which one may set up an ordinary trust which is not a legal entity (or some other type of trust such as a Business Trust or Charitable Trust, both of which are legal entities). One may establish an ordinary trust with or without a DOT. In fact, when a church – as does an ELC church – entrusts tithes, offerings, gifts and/or property to a pastor or other person(s) for the benefit of the true owner, the Lord Jesus Christ, that church has established a trust with the pastor as a trustee; for a church to so establish a trust relationship without a DOT is unwise. For example, when an ELC church holds property in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the church, by the pastor, acts as a legal entity by signing the deed; that pastor is the trustee of a trust. This will be explained in detail in this series of articles. The better practice is to declare an ordinary, non-legal entity trust through a properly executed DOT. See The Only Way a Church Can Organize to Remain a New Testament Churchfor more on the Bible principle of trust and reasons for the wisdom of adopting a properly drafted and executed DOT.
The ordinary trust is described in Volume 76 of the legal encyclopedia AMERICAN JURISPRUDENCE 2d. “Is the ordinary trust a legal entity?” explains why this ordinary trust is not a legal entity; this question is important because the ELC insisted for years that the ordinary trust utilized by BLC churches and the Old Paths Baptist Church Separation of Church and State Law Ministry (SCSLM) was a legal entity. Only after the first 8 chapters of this booklet were published online did Ben Townsend, against public revelation of solid fact which cannot be refuted, relent and admit that the ordinary trust is not a legal entity. Chapter 13 of this booklet addresses an article written by Ben Townsend after the first 8 chapters of this booklet were published in which he finally admitted that the “trust” is not a legal entity.” Read chapter 13 to find Townsend’s ridiculous slant after that admission and this author’s response: this author actually countered Townsend’s slant in 2008 as chapter 13reveals.
Other articles in this series fully explain the ordinary trust which is also explained in Section VI, Chapter 7 of God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application which is available free in online and PDF form. See Order Information for Books by Jerald Finney should you desire to get a softback copy. One of the many flaws in the legal research and analyses of the ELC is that they indiscriminately grab out of context statements from court cases, legal encyclopedias, etc. and just make up fictitious and incorrect law to attack the ordinary trust and DOT. As will be seen as Chapter 18 of Townsend’s book is analyzed in this and subsequent chapters, the ELC, for example, uses the law of business trusts and incorrectly applies it to the ordinary trust.
Analysis of the first paragraph
The article begins by saying, “We believe it [the DOT] will get churches into trouble.” Ben Townsend, an ELC leader, has gone so far as to mount a dishonest online attack against a church which places tithes, offerings, gifts and property in a trust whereby the trustee of that trust has a fiduciary duty to use the monies and properties for the benefit of the true owner of the property. The DOT has never gotten any church into trouble, although Ben Townsend has lied and stated that it has. ELC churches have to, as Wright/Townsend state in Chapter 3, page 35 of Approved by Man, “handle legal church problems.” In that chapter, Townsend not only reveals that ELC churches must go to court but also falsely leads one to believe that he can represent churches in court. He is not an attorney and he cannot represent anyone or any entity in court because he is not a lawyer. Furthermore, he is not qualified to do so; nor is he qualified, as is obvious from the analysis of Chapter 18, to do legal research, especially, as he puts it, “intense legal research.”
In Chapter 3 of Approved by Man, Townsend speaks of lawsuits involving ELC churches, tax on property of an unincorporated church, and inspections of the “church’s building.” Using Townsend’s reasoning, the ELC method admitedly gets churches into trouble all the time. Unlike the ELC churches referred to in Chapter 8, a church which places tithes, offerings, and gifts into an ordinary trust as recommended by the BLC and the SCSLM is not a legal entity which cannot be taken into court or agency process; the DOT and the ordinary trusts thereby created have kept BLC churches out of legal problems and legal actions. Chapter 3 makes clear that an ELC churches own property, can and have been taken to court, and are therefore legal entities. Because churches in general enjoy favorable public sentiment and have protections which no other institution or entity has, there has not been an in depth and dedicated study of ELC methods by government lawyers and ELC churches have not been called for what they are – legal entities who have given up much of their biblical and First Amendment protections. One should note that governments still allow sales and property tax exemptions for all churches whether legal entities or not. When a local tax board challenges a “religious use” tax exemption on property on which a local church meets, the ELC church must go through the agency process (and appeal to court, if necessary); but in a property tax challenge against trust property utilized by a BLC or SCSLM church, the church cannot be brought into the process – rather, the pastor/trustee of the trust represents the trust in obtaining the property tax exemption. To this point, no property utilized by a BLC or SCSLM trust has been denied the exemption.
The third sentence to the paragraph then states: “Pastors, Deacons, and other Christians must realize the background of this document in law, and refuse to allow the church and church property to be placed into such a document.” This sentence is totally wrong. What is important for believers to know about the ordinary trust are the biblical principles regarding trust and what the ordinary trust and the document establishing it are. See Spurious rationale for incorporating: to hold propertyfor a biblical and legal analysis of the ordinary trust. Contrary to the ELC assertions, believers do not place any money or property in the document, the DOT. The DOT merely declares the trust. If a church is organized according to biblical principles, there is no church property. Rather, the members of the church (who are the church) give tithes, offerings, and gifts to God and those monies/properties make up the trust estate. The true owner, as declared in the DOT, is the Lord Jesus Christ. The person who is to administer the monies/properties is the trustee (the legal owner – the person who signs deeds, vehicle titles (if any), etc. as trustee. This is necessary since the Lord is not now physically present on earth and has therefore left believers with the fiduciary duty to handle His property and monies for His benefit (for the Glory of God). The trustee has a fiduciary duty to manage the monies/properties for the benefit of the true owner.
The last sentence of the first paragraph in Chapter 18 of Townsend’s article states: “More than that, a pastor must not allow himself to sign a document referring to himself as the ‘Trustee’ which represents the church.”
First, that sentence is ludicrous when delivered by Townsend because pastors of Townsend’s ELC churches are trustees who represent the church. On pages 149 and 150 of the ELC book Approved by God are the following statements: “The property [of an ELC church] should be held in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner” (p. 149); and “Actually, the church, by the Pastor, can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that isn’t a viable difficulty” (p. 150). These statements make clear that the church is set up to be a legal entity because the church is the legal owner of the property and the true and beneficial owner is the Lord Jesus Christ.
On the other hand, the last sentence of the first paragraph of Townsend’s article above is wrong on two accounts as applied to the ordinary trust: (1) it is wise for a pastor/trustee of an ordinary trust to hold money and property for the benefit of the true owner, the Lord Jesus Christ; (2) the pastor/trustee is the legal owner of the property and the Lord Jesus Christ is the true and beneficial owner:
“The trustee of an ordinary trust is the person appointed to execute a trust, and the one in whom an estate, interest, or power is vested, under an express or implied agreement to administer or exercise it for the benefit of another. In other words, a trustee is a person who holds legal title to property under an express or implied agreement to apply it, and the income arising from it, to the benefit of another.” [Bold emphasis mine.]
In other words, the trustee of the ordinary trust has a fiduciary duty to administer or exercise the property for the benefit of the true or equitable owner of the property, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is something entirely different from “representing the church.” A pastor/trustee who holds tithes, offerings, gifts, and property in the name of (for the benefit of) the Lord Jesus Christ has this fiduciary duty in the trust relationship established by a Declaration of Trust.
On the other hand, as Townsend admits in his writings, the pastor of an ELC church acts as the trustee of “church property” even though such declaration is not in a DOT (See, e.g. pp. 149-150 of the ELC book Approved by God which are photographed and inserted above.). ELC publications demonstrate that the ELC methodology clearly establishes a type of trust which is a legal entity, relegates ELC churches to legal entity status, makes the pastor of the ELC church trustee of “church property” thereby representing the church. One could admonish Townsend as follows: “The results of the first microscopic examination of ELC methodology now published in this booklet clearly prove:
“Legally and biblically, the ELC, under your leadership, puts pastors in the position of trustees who represent ELC churches – the very thing you wrongly accuse the BLC of doing through the use of the DOT and the ordinary trust thereby created. Because of this and other flaws pointed out in this booklet, the ELC needs a Bible believing, born-again lawyer who has thoroughly studied the Bible and trust law and is motivated by the love of God, not money, to help you straighten out the mess established by the ELC.”
Both the BLC and the SCSLM utilize the impeccable method which was conceived by Attorney Al Cunningham who obviously put the system under a legal and biblical microscope before implementation. The BLC and now the ELC method have both been put under a legal microscope by another attorney, Jerald Finney. Finney published his conclusions concerning the BLC methodology a long time before taking on the task of microscopic examination of the ELC attacks against the BLC and the ordinary trust recommended by the BLC. He found that the law and the Bible prove that Al Cunningham’s ordinary trust arrangement is on solid biblical grounds and keeps a church out of the legal system. To have lied about his conclusions and the law would have dishonored the Lord. Had Finney concluded that the BLC methods were flawed, he would have informed the BLC, just as he is now informing the ELC that they have created a mess.
Microscopic examination by two lawyers has proved the BLC method to be flawless. Microscopic examination by one lawyer has proven the ELC method to be flawed both biblically and legally. The biblical and legal reasoning supporting the conclusions concerning the problems with the ELC way of doing things are clearly stated in this booklet. ELC responses to the arguments in this booklet have been facetious at best.
Understanding that the ordinary trust is not the church and the church is not the ordinary trust is important. The church does not own the money/property held in the trust (the trust estate). Church members give to God and what they give is held in the trust estate. Money/property has to be held somewhere, by someone. In this case the trust estate holds the money/property which is owned by the equitable owner, the beneficiary. The trustee has legal title to the money/property, but he is to use it for the benefit of the true and equitable owner, the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, this is in contrast to the unbiblical method used by the ELC by which tithes and offerings are given to the church, not to God, and “church property” is held by the church through a pastor/trustee.
Analysis of the second paragraph
The ELC then alleges that the attorney who “came up with this document” (the DOT) “could only think of a legal remedy for church problems, and not a Biblical remedy.” No one should speculate as to the thought processes of that attorney who is now deceased. What is important is the applicability of the method from a biblical perspective. As has already been shown in this chapter, the remedy of the ELC is legal, not biblical and only the unqualified could have come up with such totally chaotic methodology. They have gotten away with their nonsense because no one, until this time, has examined some of their teachings with a “legal microscope.” One can imagine what examination of all their teachings by a qualified legal analyst would reveal.
A biblical and legal analyses of the issues can be found in God Betrayed (see the link above above). The facts, citations, and reasoning supporting the conclusion that the ordinary trust is ideal for an American church are in the writings and teachings on this “Separation of Church and State Law” website. Section VI, Chapter 7 of God Betrayed explains the ordinary trust and the DOT. The first three sections of God Betrayed lay out the biblical doctrines of government, church and separation of church and state; and Section VI, Chapter 7 looks at both biblical and legal precepts concerning the ordinary trust and compares the ordinary trust to incorporation (2 entirely different things) and shows why the ordinary trust is biblical.
The ELC then states, “We believe that this attorney used an existing legal document and applied it to unincorporated churches so that they could hold property without coming under the jurisdiction of the state.” Wrong. The attorney took the concepts of ordinary trust and drafted a Declaration of Trust which declared an ordinary trust. The church who places tithes, offerings, and gifts into the estate of such a trust does not hold property. The trust estate holds the property. The true, beneficial, and equitable owner of the property is the Lord Jesus Christ. Placing God’s money and property in an ordinary trust keeps a church under the Lord Jesus Christ only and out from under civil government jurisdiction if the church is careful not to place herself under state jurisdiction in some other way. One should keep in mind that a church who holds property, opens a bank account, takes out insurance, or does some other legal act forfeits her New Testament and First Amendment status.
The purpose of the ordinary trust is to assure that there is no church property and that all properties and monies in the trust estate are administered by the trustee for the benefit of the true owner of the property (the Lord Jesus Christ). A properly worded “Resolution to Adopt a DOT” and a properly worded DOT makes clear that the trust estate is owned by the Lord and that there is no church property.
A court/agency will assume jurisdiction over a controversy concerning money or property only if the dispute is properly brought to attention of the court/agency with jurisdiction over the matter. If a legitimate action is properly brought to the attention of an appropriate court or agency, the court or agency will assume jurisdiction no matter how the property/money is held and no matter who owns the property/money. In such an action, the court will seek out the legal owner and if none is found, the court or agency will take the necessary steps to get the property/money to a legal owner. Should a church hold/money property, that church is the legal owner and the church is a legal entity; this is the case of an ELC church, but not so with a BLC or SCSLM church. When money/property is put into the trust estate of an ordinary trust, the trustee is the legal owner and the Lord Jesus Christ is the equitable owner. A court cannot bring a church into such a legal controversy if that church places tithes, offerings, and gifts into a trust administered by a trustee where the beneficiary is the Lord Jesus Christ (as long as the church does nothing that makes that church a legal entity).
The elements of the ordinary trust and the DOT recommended by attorney Al Cunningham not only comply with Bible principles, but also incorporate the elements of a DOT and “trust” explained in American lawbooks such as 76 AM. JUR. 2D, Trustsand the DOT guidelines in the accompanying forms volume. “Declaration” means: “Publication, manifestation; as the declarationof the greatness of Mordecai. Esth. X.; A public annunciation; proclamation; as the Declarationof Independence, July 4, 1776” (MERRIAM WEBSTER’S AMERICAN DICTIONARY OR THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE (1828) definition of “DECLARATION.”). Declaration of Trust is defined as follows:
“The act by which the person who holds the legal title to property or an estate acknowledges and declares that he holds the same in trust to the use of another person or for certain specified purposes. The name is also used to designate the deed or other writing embodying such a declaration” (BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY 408 (6th ed. 1990) under definition of “Declaration.” This definition is consistent with the definitions in more authoritative legal references such as AM. JUR. 2D and C.J.S.).
The words in the DOT which Cunningham used are unique and are not found in any lawbook. As to the use of express or particular words or phrases to create a trust:
“No particular words are necessary to create a trust if there exists reasonable certainty as to the intended property, object, and beneficiary. Further, the purpose and intention, rather than the use of any particular term, determines whether a valid trust has been established. An express trust may be created without the use of technical words. All that is necessary are words or circumstances which unequivocally show an intention that the legal estate is vested in one person, to be held in some manner or for some purpose on behalf of another.
“Any statement that shows the ownership or control of property is vested in one person for the benefit of another is sufficient to create a trust, and it is not necessary that the words ‘trust’ or ‘trustee’ be used. Furthermore, even where present, the mere use of the words ‘in trust’ by the parties is not sufficient alone to create a trust, nor does the mere designation of a party as ‘trustee’ create a trust. Absent indications to the contrary, a conveyance using the words ‘for the use of’ or ‘for the benefit of’ demonstrates the intent to create a trust.” (76 AM. JUR. 2DTrusts § 65 (2007)).
As will be shown below, the a church which utilizes the ELC method creates a trust which is a legal entity (perhaps a charitable trust or business trust). The trust which is recommended by the “Separation of Church and State Law” ministry is not a legal entity as explained in the article Is the ordinary trust a legal entity?
Thus, the holding of property by a person (trustee) “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” creates a trust. This is a very important for ELC churches to understand since the ELC recommends that property be held by the church (pastor) in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, the true and beneficial owner and that the church can hold property (e.g., execute a deed) by the pastor, in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ. (See their exact wording below.) The legal system requires a legal tie to real estate as expressed in a deed. If no such tie to real estate exists, and this fact is brought to the attention of the proper court, the court will make sure that a legal entity, such as a person, assumes ownership of the property. Should a controversy arise as to ownership of the real estate, the legal system when properly petitioned will take jurisdiction over the matter. When real property is put up for sale, the buyer is going to want legal assurances that he is getting valid, enforceable legal and equitable ownership.
The ELC states that property may be held in three ways “(1) as a corporation, (2) as an unincorporated association and:
“(3) as an individual. How can property be held to reflect the ownership of Christ over His church? It must be held as an individual, and that individual must be the Lord Jesus Christ! The property should be held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner. In spite of the skepticism of many, churches in 22 states have placed their property in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ without incident” (Approved by God: A Case for Modern Disetablishment, by Wright/Townsend, page 149). The book goes on to say that “the church, by the Pastor, can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Ibid.,150.
The ELC are confused since they first say that the property must be held by the Lord Jesus Christ and then they say that the property should be held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, property cannot be held by the Lord Jesus Christ since he left all earthly temporal property to be held in trust by man and has given civil government the ultimate jurisdiction over that land. If a nation honors God and His precepts, that nation will also honor God’s churches, and vice versa. If a believer or church is found out in North Korea (and many other nations), any properties which the believer owns will be confiscated and the believers will probably be executed. God allows individuals, families, churches, and nations free will to honor or dishonor him, for the time being. The ELC, in the above statement, also says that the church, is to hold the property.
The ELC states the elements of a trust, and then make clear that the trust they recommend is a legal entity through which the church holds property thereby making the church the legal owner of the property. Some of the words of the ELC quoted above is taken straight out of legal books which define the ordinary trust, but other words compromise the trust and establish it as a legaL entity. They then say, “Held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Bold emphasis mine). For a church to hold property violates biblical principle. (See The Biblical Doctrine of the Church and The Biblical Doctrine of Separation of Church and State). Not only that, only a legal entity can hold property. There must be a legal owner of property, even if the legal and true and beneficial owner are not the same. They do not realize that they are in effect stating that the church is a legal entity.
The above illustrates that the ELC recommends compromising the position of a church who uses their method. They state that the church is to “hold the property in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner.” By so stating, they make clear that the church is the trustee of the property which is held in a legal entity type of trust; this argument is strengthened by the fact that, in their attacks against the ordinary trust they incorrectly rely on the law of business trusts as will be shown below. To repeat:
“The ELC teaches that the trust is a legal entity. They are partially correct in that some types of trusts are legal entities. However, the ELC does not quote from the law concerning ordinary trusts as to the legal entity status of the ordinary trust (see above). They do this to establish their incorrect position that the trust utilized by the BLC and this ministry are legal entities. They quote from the law concerning, for example, business trusts. See pages 175-177 of Approved by Man: A Case for Biblical Reasonableness by Wright/Townsend, for an example of where they quote from the law of business trusts and apply it to the ordinary trust. In American Jurisprudence, the law of business trusts is covered in volume 13 whereas the law concerning ordinary trusts is covered in volume 76. The two types of trusts are very distinct types of trusts.”
Thus, the ELC, in their zeal to discredit the ordinary trust, have in fact discredited their own methodology; they create a type of trust which is a legal entity which can act legally, sue, be sued, go into debt if so desired , and enter into contracts (the ELC teaches against a church going into debt and entering into contracts.). Since they declare that the church is to hold the property for the true owner, they are declaring that the church is the trustee and, therefore the church has to be a legal entity. Only a legal entity can hold property; a spiritual entity cannot hold property. The trustee of a trust holds legal title and the beneficiary holds true or equitable title to property.
The ELC then states that “the church, by the pastor, can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Suffice it here to say that the ELC claims that the church can execute a deed. Only a legal entity can execute a deed. At the same time, they state that the church executes the deed by the pastor. Thus, the pastor effectively serves as trustee, but trustee of what kind of trust? Not a non-legal entity ordinary trust which is something they do not understand and therefore attack. He serves as trustee of a legal entity and that legal entity is the church he signs for.
Public sentiment and the lack of legal action against churches protects churches from legal scrutiny. For the foreseeable future, ELC churches do not have to worry about attacks. There are many situations, even outside the church-state context, where the legal system has not been alerted to some improprieties and therefore has not taken action. Consider the actual situation in which the owner of property has been dead for years and the man living on the property has paid the taxes for years. As long as he keeps up on the taxes and no one takes the issue to court, the man will be able to enjoy the property. Should an ELC church ever be in the legal sights of government lawyers, the ELC has subjected churches who use its methods to a compromised position and sharp government lawyers may pierce their armor. More importantly, the ELC, by not proceeding according to knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, has unknowingly dishonored the Lord.
As a sidenote, it is incorrect to say that property may be held as an individual, corporation, or unincorporated association. The correct way of putting it is that property may be held by or in the name of an individual, corporation, or association.
Finally, the last sentence in the paragraph says, “Since his passing, the Declaration of Trust has evolved into a magic talisman of mystic proportions, designed to fill all the needs of a local church.” That sentence is patently absurd. The author, the pastors, and the believers the author knows and who place tithes, offerings, and gifts into an ordinary trust established by a Declaration of Trust do not believe in magic. Those who put their tithes and offerings in an ordinary trust estate for the benefit of the true owner of all properties, the Lord Jesus Christ, know that the trust established by the DOT is only one piece of the puzzle. There are many ways in which a church can compromise the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ over a church. And even though they believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only one who can fulfill all their needs, their focus is not on themselves and their needs but on obedience to His statutes and precepts. More importantly, they believe that all they do should be for the Glory of God.
See Spurious rationale for church incorporation: to hold property (Section VI, Chapter 7 of God Betrayed; Chapter 7 of Separation of Church and State) for an explanation of the ordinary trust. That chapter shows how the ordinary trust comports perfectly with Bible principle and why this author now co-labels the ordinary trust a Bible trust.
Analysis of Ben Townsends Article “A Law, Made by Man, Will be Changed” and Conclusion
This is both an analysis of Ben Townsend’s article A Law, Made by Man, Will be Changed and a conclusion to this booklet. As I wrote the analysis, I saw that it would go hand in hand with an appropriate conclusion to the booklet.
A Law, Made by Man, Will be Changed makes another unexpected admission, but then states that a law of man will be changed. What a revelation and insight which only Ben Townsend can provide. Townsend should have read my books and articles because the Lord guided me to first defeat Townsend’s December 26, 2014 argument in 2008 upon publication of my first book. In that book, I not only explained that man’s laws will be changed but also examined the very Restatement Observation which Townsend cites in his December 26, 2014 article. To God be the glory – God defeated Townsend and all other arguments against doing things God’s way in advance – the Lord had already used the BLC to lay the framework and to begin to help churches; He guided others who seek to glorify God, including me, so as to cover all the bases, in advance; no one could have ever anticipated what was to come, but the Lord saw the past, present, and future, showed it to others. He showed it to me as I studied God’s word first, then history and law, as the Lord put it all together. The Lord anticipated the rantings of all those who would stand against truth, including Townsend. That anticipation was passed on to me and is reflected in my writings, some of which will be cited below. God anticipated:
possible changes not only in the law of ordinary trusts but also in the second highest law of the land—the United States Constitution and specifically the First Amendment thereto; and
the correct Bible response, in the event of such changes, by a church who wishes to remain under the Lord Jesus Christ only. In making his point, as will be seen infra, Townsend uses an Observation from the Restatement of Trusts which Finney quoted and analyzed in God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State (Austin, Texas: Kerygma Publishing Company, 2008).
The God-given truths in this booklet are:
pinning Ben Townsend against the wall where repentance is his only option if he is to not only save face but also help churches who have depended upon him and the ELC understand and apply truth as to church organization; and
flushing out the real Ben Townsend—his character, his qualifications to lead an alleged law ministry, his qualifications to teach law (none, as far as can be ascertained from Townsend’s writings and especially his responses to this booklet), and his qualifications to take part in an honest dialogue concerning trust law.
Two of Townsend’s online admissions—that the ordinary trust is not a legal entity and that he does not know much about trusts—give hope that he is coming closer to repentance and acceptance of the fact that this booklet has totally exposed his long time published and taught false teachings as to all matters concerning the biblically valid ordinary trust of the BLC, the ordinary Bible trust of the Old Paths Baptist Church Separation of Church and State Law Ministry (SCSLM), and the flawed legal entity type trust which has been recommended by the Ecclesiastical Law Center (“ELC”) and applied by ELC churches.
Actually, the truth has been there for Townsend all along; but he did not discover it. Townsend has been active in church matters and organization since at least the 1980s. The Bible along with books on law and history have been there all the time. Townsend did not study it out. The Lord led others to do so. Since a wake-up call was needed for those ELC pastors and churches who have trusted the false teachings of the Ecclesiastical Law Center (“ELC”), the Lord is again, through this booklet and Townsend’s responses, providing the truth for those ELC pastors and believers and others who love the Lord enough to strive to purify their churches and organize them in a manner which will please God.
The first preeminent matter which Townsend admitted thereby explaining his irrationality concerning trust law as demonstrated in his published writings in which he proclaimed himself to know a lot about trusts was that he did not know much about trusts. Chapters 1-8 of this booklet examine Chapter 18 of Approved by Man, in which Townsend purports to know all about trusts. Townsend violated many of God’s precepts and commandments in his method of church organization and his attacks against others. For example:
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness” (2 Timothy 2:15-16).
“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; … Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (2 Peter 1:3-5, 10)(Bold emphasis mine).
“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. ” (Exodus 20:16).
“These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, …, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” (Proverbs 6:16-19 ).
“Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” (Ephesians 1:20-23).
Now, in the article being analyzed, Townsend also admits the truth proclaimed by the BLC and SCSLM that the ordinary trust is not a legal entity. His admission exposes another of his longstanding lies since it is directly contrary to his false teachings in the ELC book Approved by Man which are also published online. For example, Townsend wrote:
“The Ecclesiasical Law Center advises churches to not use a Declaration of Trust, a corporation, and unincorporated association, or any legal entity to hold their church assets and property” (Approved by Man, p. 180. Townsend’s false teachings are also published online.).
“And placing church property in a Trust is no different from placing it into a Corporation” (Ibid, p. 177).
Townsend is gradually having to admit that some of his published teachings are wrong. Likewise, he is admitting that some of the teachings of this booklet are true because to continue to deny them would clearly demonstrate a total lack of honesty and intellect. However, he continues name calling and dishonest argumentation in an obvious attempt to defend the indefensible – the ELC methodology – and to attack even someone who is trying to show him the truth. He refers to Bible solutions but refuses the obvious one for himself and the ELC – humble, contrite repentance.
Just as one should not entrust an important legal matter to a lawyer who pretends to be competent in many areas of the law, since it is impossible for a lawyer to keep up with more than one or two specialties, one should not trust a “paralegal” who also is a full-time pastor, a lobbyist, a teacher of paralegal courses, etc.; and who, on top of all that, admits that he does not know much about the law concerning a legal matter for which others turn to him for help. Townsend is pastor of Bible Believers Church in Michigan. At the same time, he is very active politically as a lobbyist who has a box at the Indiana State House with his name on it, legally as a self-proclaimed legal authority who spends much time doing “legal research,” and teaches “College” classes (which college?) on several law topics. For anyone to be competent at any one of those endeavors requires total dedication. Competently teaching a law course on one or two topics requires total dedication. For good reason, this author’s law professors at the University of Texas School of Law were assigned to teach on only one legal subject. Trying to do all that Townsend does, as is seen by his forays into the legal arena as analyzed in this booklet, can result in a mess, to say the least.
A church is made up of many equal members. Each member is to apply his calling as part of the church body. The pastor is just one of the members and has a God-ordained role–he is the leader, the steward, the trustee, the under shepherd, and must meet the highest of standards. He is to:
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry” (2 Timothy 4:2-5).
Understanding and effectively teaching and applying the doctrines of the Bible alone requires tremendous dedication and time. As shown below, Townsend has not even mastered at least two very important Bible doctrines. His teachings addressed in this booklet, his admissions resulting therefrom, and his continued devised arguments demonstrate that he certainly does not understand trust law and its implications to both the ELC trust application and the BLC and SCSLM ordinary trust application. God made clear in the Bible that a pastor cannot do everything. Every member of a church is to exercise his God-given gift(s) for the Glory of God. No one member, including the pastor can do it all. Townsend demonstrates that God knew what he was talking about.
As pointed out in Chapters 9 and 10, Townsend, in his article Give and Take, finally admitted (as he does again in the article being analyzed here) that he does not know much about trusts. He now further admits, for the first time in the article being analyzed in this chapter, that the ordinary trust is not a legal entity by referring to 76 Am. Jur. 2d (his first time to reference that volume as far as this author knows); but he tries to save some face by showing the obvious—that the law concerning the ordinary trust is not a legal entity may change.
Townsend still does not face the fact that the Ecclesiastical Law Center (“ELC”) method of church organization, as has been proven over and over in this booklet, uses a trust which is a legal entity under existing law for ELC church organization and sets the ELC church up as a legal entity. At the same time, he falsely proclaims himself to be some kind of legal authority; calls this attorney an “ordinary attorney” (name calling and lying are two of his chief tactics); suggests that this attorney teaches that laws will not change, that one should not trust that ordinary attorney because he is selling you something when he says that the law he is relying on for “their” legal remedy will always be the same; and that Townsend has taught several college courses on several law topics. His exact words are:
“For anyone to say a law will not change is naïve on their part. Laws do not stay the same. Anyone who tells you the law they are relying on for their legal remedy will always be the same is ‘selling you something.’ Do not trust them. I have taught college courses on several law topics.”
There he goes again. He lies when he says that this attorney says a law will not change. He lies when he states that this attorney has relied on a legal remedy and suggests that the ordinary trust is a purely legal remedy (not so) when in fact Townsend not only admits in this same article being analyzed that the ordinary trust is not a legal entity, but also relies, as shown throughout this booklet, on a legal remedy—a trust which is a legal entity. Townsend is like the liberal who refuses to listen and respond appropriately and reasonably, calls the believer names, and tells the believer all about what he believes, and why he believes what he believes. Townsend, as witnessed by his writings, is so confused that he doesn’t know whether he is coming or going. In his attempts to argue, he takes himself out of the frying pan and puts himself into the fire.
Townsend, in his article, then admits that he himself seeks legal remedies and gives another example that further destroys his credibility (if that is possible). He admits that he was “head” lobbyist for the Indiana Coalition for Religious Freedom for many years. He states, “The State House staff would place in my box every bill concerning churches, day cares, Christian schools, and various and sundry Church/State relationships.” He states, “The Marriage recodification bill in 1989 was basically rewritten by me so that it could include Church Covenant Weddings. This bill was presented by State Senators on the Senate committee in my behalf.” I will not investigate the truth of his statement, but I do consider the findings I have published in this booklet as requiring at least a substantial question mark on any of his self-proclaimed accomplishments.
Townsend’s admission as quoted in the last paragraph is unbelievable in light of Townsend’s false allegation that this attorney seeks a legal remedy by relying on the ordinary trust. The Bible gives absolutely no jurisdiction over marriage to the state. God ordained marriage long before He ordained civil government. After He ordained civil government, He did not then give civil government jurisdiction over marriage—marriage remained a covenant between a man, a woman, and God (See e.g., Genesis 1-3, Matthew 19.3-9; see also, e.g., Jerald Finney’s letter on the following webpage: The Sodomite Agenda, Religious Organizations, And Government Tyranny). By lobbying for a bill which recognized “Church Covenant Weddings” in the state legislature, Townsend admitted that the state has jurisdiction over marriage, thereby dishonoring the principles of marriage in the word of God. He sought a legal remedy for a matter which the Bible teaches is outside legal jurisdiction. Pastor Jason Cooley and Old Paths Baptist Church demonstrated the correct manner of answering questions concerning marriage and the marriage covenant—they went to the Bible to figure out what the Bible teaches about marriage, how a couple is to marry, and related issues. They apply what they learned to marriages of couples who are church members. They did not lobby the legislature. The Bible answers all questions on this matter and the answer is taught and practiced by Old Paths Baptist Church without regard to state law. God gave civil government jurisdiction over marriage. For government to even address the issue is anti-Bible. This is a position believers should have taken a long time ago. This author has dealt with this more extensively in his writings. Pastor Jason Cooley has covered the matter in his sermons and teachings.
Townsend further admits that he lobbied the legislature concerning “churches, day cares, Christian schools, and various and sundry Church/State relationships.” He seeks “legal” remedies for all kinds of “church” problems. What a hypocrite, what a false teacher he is.
Townsend then shows that, although the trust (referring to the ordinary Bible trust recommended by this author and not the business trust used by the ELC) is not now a legal entity, the law is headed in that direction. This attorney had read the caveats in 76 Am. Jur. 2d and 3d Trusts, and anticipated the possible changes in the law of the ordinary trust and the necessary responses depending on the change(s) in that law when examining trust law and writing God Betrayed. This anticipation is reflected in Spurious rationale for incorporation: to hold property (the online version of Section VI, Chapter 7 of God Betrayed) which not only distinguishes the ordinary trust from incorporation but also explains how the ordinary trust corresponds to New Testament principles.
Finney published God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Applicaton in 2008. In that book, on page 408, Finney referred to the very Restatement observation which Townsend quotes in the article being analyzed. Finney wrote:
“There is a caveat which, if biblical guidelines are followed, is inconsequential to a trust relationship in which a pastor/trustee holds property for the benefit of the Lord Jesus Christ. Modern civil law is beginning to treat a trust somewhat like a legal entity, but only so far as the relationship between the trustee(s) and the beneficiary or beneficiaries is concerned. An outside party still cannot sue a trust.
“’Observation: The Restatement states that increasingly modern common-law and statutory concepts and terminology tacitly recognize the trust as a legal ‘entity,’ consisting of the trust estate and the associated fiduciary relation between the trustee and the beneficiaries. This is increasingly and appropriately reflected both in language (referring, for example, to the duties or liability of a trustee to ‘the trust’) and in doctrine, especially in distinguishing between the trustee personally or as an individual and the trustee in a fiduciary or representative capacity.’”
Another fact must be pointed out which Finney understood when he wrote God Betrayed years ago, which he has taught pastors including his own pastor, and which he has pointed out in this booklet several times. As Finney wrote in Chapter 1 of this booklet:
“Understanding that the ordinary trust is not the church and the church is not the ordinary trust is important. The church does not own the money/property held in the trust (the trust estate). Church members give to God and what they give is held in the trust estate. Money/property has to be held somewhere, by someone. In this case the trust estate holds the money/property which is owned by the equitable owner, the beneficiary. The trustee has legal title to the money/property, but he is to use it for the benefit of the true and equitable owner, the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, this is in contrast to the unbiblical method used by the ELC by which tithes and offerings are given to the church, not to God, and ‘church property’ is held by the church through a pastor/trustee.”
As the Restatement Observation above quoted by Finney in 2008 and then picked up by Townsend on December 26, 2014 (the date of his article) makes clear:
“the modern common-law and statutory concepts and terminology tacitly recognize the trust as a legal ‘entity,’ consisting of the trust estate and the associated fiduciary relation between the trustee and the beneficiaries.”
Notice that the trustor, settlor, or grantor (the church) is not mentioned. That is because the church is not a legal entity in the framework of the “ordinary trust.” Finney continued on pages 408-409 of God Betrayed:
“This caveat should be of little or no consequence unless members of a church violate mandate of Scripture and run to civil government asserting that the pastor/trustee has violated his temporal fiduciary responsibilities.
“’Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren’ (1 Corinthians 6.1-8).
“No matter the status of a church—New Testament church or corporate 501(c)(3)—state courts may possibly attempt to assume illegal jurisdiction initiated by a disgruntled member against a pastor or others in the church as regards temporal matters (just as almost all state courts will assume jurisdiction in a divorce petition initiated by a husband or wife married solely under God without state authority and without a state marriage license). This applies no matter how property utilized by a church is held. However, a court will find it impossible to achieve jurisdiction over a New Testament church, a spiritual entity.”
You see, even should the law treat the ordinary trust as a legal entity, the BLC and SCSLM application of that trust concept does not make a church a legal entity. The pastor is a legal entity as is every citizen in his right mind—he can sue and be sued, he can be charged with a crime, etc. This legal fact applies to the pastor/trustee of the ordinary trust (recommended by the BLC and by the SCSLM) and to the pastor/trustee or trustee of the legal entity trust recommended by the ELC; it applies to every American citizen in his right mind.
The church who places tithes, offerings, and gifts into an ordinary trust as recommended by the BLC and an ordinary Bible trust as recommended by the SCSLM remains an untouchable non-legal entity as long as the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is honored and not changed or discarded and as long as the church does not compromise her spiritual only status in some other way; whereas the ELC church, as has been shown in chapters 1, 6, 8, and 12 of this booklet, has compromised her New Testament church status. Those chapters all prove, from the published words of Ben Townsend and the ELC, that the ELC method not only utilizes a trust which is a legal entity, but also sets the church which uses the method up as a legal entity. The law does not have to be changed at all for an ELC church to be implicated as a legal entity. Townsend and the ELC have, on their own and because of their incompetence in legal matters, made the issue of the effect of a change in the First Amendment on the ordinary trust of no consequence to the ELC church.
The only way for the state to use ordinary trust law to implicate the trustor, grantor, settlor church as a legal entity is to totally ignore the First Amendment as well as the very structure and meaning of the law of ordinary trusts. By its very nature the law of ordinary trust consists of the trust estate and the associated fiduciary relation between the trustee and the beneficiaries. Again, as the Restatement Observation quoted above states:
“… increasingly modern common-law and statutory concepts and terminology tacitly recognize the trust as a legal ‘entity,’ consisting of the trust estate and the associated fiduciary relation between the trustee and the beneficiaries. This is increasingly and appropriately reflected both in language (referring, for example, to the duties or liability of a trustee to ‘the trust’) and in doctrine, especially in distinguishing between the trustee personally or as an individual and the trustee in a fiduciary or representative capacity.”
Of course, if the ordinary trust is shown to be a mere facade to harbor dishonest conduct such as money laundering, profit making activities, etc., those in the know would be subject to the judgment of God and, if pursued, civil action and/or criminal prosecution. This author stresses that the ordinary trust must be completely above board under God and under man. As long as Bible precepts concerning piety are honored, the trustee need not fear God or man and the church which puts tithes, offerings, and gifts into the estate of an ordinary trust or ordinary Bible trust created by a properly worded Resolution and Declaration of Trust will remain a non-legal spiritual entity only.
The day will come when the First Amendment will not be honored. Then, in America as in China, Korea, and many other nations including most Muslim nations, churches who wish to honor the Lord as their only head will have no option but to go underground.
Townsend continues to grasp at straws in order to maintain some credibility. He has reversed himself on some matters thereby destroying his own credibility and that of his books and other writings, but he still has a long way to go. This author never anticipated that Townsend would ever admit that he knew very little about trusts and that the ordinary trust is not a legal entity. He, to this point, refuses to acknowledge the obvious—that the recommendations of the ELC as to church organization violate Bible principles because implementation thereof results in a trust which is a legal entity and a church which is a legal entity. Instead of repenting, Townsend continues with frivolous, mean-spirited, contentions and strivings about the law which are unprofitable and vain.
I recently received a call from a man who stated that Townsend wrote a libelous article which severely defamed me. The caller stated that the attacks were very vicious. Most likely, Mr. Townsend also severely defames me by slander as well. The gentleman who informed me this said that if anyone had that much bad to say about someone, he felt he should call that the person being defamed. He checked out this “Separation of Church and State Law” website and gave me a call. His call has resulted in a new friendship with one who now advises people to read my writings and who understands the ordinary trust and wishes to utilize the method
I have not read the article referred to in the last paragraph. I have covered all that I need to cover in this matter. The important thing is not what someone who has never met me and knows nothing about me says. The important thing is truth. Anyone who loves the Lord, the Lord’s churches, and truth, can read and study what I have written in this booklet, what the ELC and Townsend teaches, and find the truth for themselves. The problem for those who, like the Pharisees, refuse to honestly seek truth, is that they are so convinced of their self-created views that they will not take the time to honestly study so as to rightly divide truth from lies.
Ben Townsend, as have many who those oppose truth and even including those who used every means to counteract the teaching of the Apostle Paul and destroy his influence, resorts to profane and vain babblings which increase unto more ungodliness. His words on the issues herein addressed eat as do a canker. Townsend speaks perverse things intentionally in order to draw away disciples unto himself. He perverts the truth and has to pervert the truth in order to accomplish his purposes. He who speaks the truth will draw disciples to Jesus and not to himself. A religious leader who holds a dishonest position must pervert the truth, and accommodate it to the wishes of those whom he hopes to make or keep as his disciples
This article concludes my examination of Chapter 18 of Approved by Man.
See Spurious rationale for church incorporation: to hold property (Section VI, Chapter 7 of God Betrayed; Chapter 7 of Separation of Church and State) for an explanation of the ordinary trust. That chapter shows how the ordinary trust comports perfectly with Bible principle and why this author now co-labels the ordinary trust a Bible trust.
Chapter 12: Answer to Ben Townsend’s Article, “God is our Benefactor; He is NOT a Beneficiary”
This is a response to Ben Townsend’s article God is our Benefactor; He is NOT a Beneficiary, another attempt to discredit the Declaration of Trust and the ordinary trust thereby created which are recommended by the Biblical Law Center (“BLC”) and the ordinary Bible trust of Old Paths Baptist Church Separation of Church and State Law ministry (SCSLM).
“The last few days my soul has been troubled. A heavy burden has clouded my mind as I have dwelt upon something in this Declaration of Trust (actually every Trust has a declaration) or Ordinary Trust. I had a problem trying to think through the making of a Church of Jesus Christ as a Trustor, Settlor or Grantor. I have always had a problem with a pastor of a New Testament church being a Trustee of all the church assets. But the deep troubling in my soul has been in the unsettling fact that the Ordinary Trust of Attorney Finney makes our God, the Lord Jesus Christ, a Beneficiary of his Trust document.”
Hopefully, against hope, this lesson will help Mr. Townsend with his problem thinking and settle his troubled soul as to all his concerns expressed above. This will be done by straightening out his misunderstandings. When one understands the meanings of the words over which Mr. Townsend expresses concerns, light from heaven comes in and glory fills one’s soul.
The concept of trust is biblical. The Bible is, among other things, a Declaration of Trust (“DOT”). This is covered in some detail in Section VI, Chapter 7 of God Betrayed. (Click here for the online version of that chapter.). The Bible makes clear that God has entrusted all men, as trustees, with temporal, material things. He has trusted His children, born again believers, as trustees of the spiritual things of God as well as with the material things which God has given them. Here are a few examples: Adam and Eve were trustees of the Garden of Eden, Moses of the children of Israel, the Kings of Israel and Judah of their respective nations, the Levites of the Jewish religion, the prophets of the word of God entrusted to them, etc.
“If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own” (Luke 16:11-12)? “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4). “According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust” (1 Timothy 1:11).
The concept of the trust, trustor (God), trustee (individuals), and beneficiary (God, the true and equitable owner of all things) is clearly stated in Luke 19.12-23 and also Luke 20.9-16:
Luke 19.12-23: “He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities. And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow. And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?”
Luke 20.9-16: “Then began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time. And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out. Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him. But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid.”
Thus, the Bible makes clear that God, the true and equitable owner, has entrusted (1) all men with the temporal, legal ownership of alltemporal material things and (2) believers with spiritual matters, all for His glory. From reading the Bible, including the above verses, one can also understand how the Lord feels about believers/churches who violate their spiritual trust by organizing churches under man as legal entities such as non-profit corporations, unincorporated associations, charitable trusts, 501(c)(3) tax exempt religious organizations, etc. A trustor, settlor or grantor in context of this discussion, is one who creates a trust. God was the trustor, settlor, grantor of, for example, the Garden of Eden trust. Adam and Eve were the co-trustees. The trust estate was the Garden of Eden, the earth, and all that is in it. They were given the legal ownership of the earth and all that was in it and were to glorify Him, the true, equitable, beneficial owner, the beneficiary. Adam and Eve’s purpose, as trustees, was to glorify God.
Anytime someone gives something to a person who is to use the gift for the benefit of another, and not for the benefit of the person who is entrusted with the gift (the trustee), the giver is a trustor, settlor, or grantor. The trustee becomes the legal owner of the property, and has a fiduciary duty to use the property for the benefit of the true owner (the beneficiary). The person for whose benefit the gift was given is the true, equitable, and beneficial owner of the property. In other words, a trust relationship has been created. If the relationship is reduced to writing, the document creating the relationship is called a DOT. The relationship does not have to be made known to the legal system at the time of its creation or thereafter nor must it be in writing. However, if the relationship is brought to light in the legal system, the system will determine the type trust involved and the status of the trustor, trustee, and beneificiary. A DOT which creates an ordinary Bible trust is not to be hidden by a church since it is according to Bible precept. Believers are to proclaim truth to the world, not hide it.
Just as God stated his principles of trust, trustor, trustee, and beneficiary in the Bible, a book or document written for the light of the world, a church who wishes to establish an ordinary trust in line with Bible (and legal, in America) precept is wise to do likewise through a Declaration of Trust. God proclaimed the principles to all the world; his children should do likewise. Believers are not to follow the principles of Satan and his followers, who love darkness rather than light. Believers are to shine the light of God in a dark world. Likewise, believers are not to operate as does the Ecclesiastical Law Center which perverts the Bible and corresponding American principle of trust; God desires his children to act according to knowledge, understanding and wisdom.
The legal system recognizes several types of trusts. A trustor, settlor, or grantor can create several types of trusts either by written declaration, by actions, or words which encompass all the elements of a trust. The BLC and this SCSLM recommend non-legal entity type of trusts which in trust law is sometimes called an ordinary trust. This type of trust complies with biblical precept. Wisely, the BLC recommends creating the ordinary trust and the SCSLM advises creation of the ordinary Bible trust by means of a Declaration of Trust.
The ELC method of church organization also recommends the creation of a trust, but a legal entity type of trust which does not comply with biblical precept in several ways. The ELC explicitly state that their method creates a trust, that the true and beneficial owner of the property held in trust is the Lord Jesus Christ, and that the property “should be held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ.” The wording they use makes clear that the trust is a type of legal entity and that the church is a legal entity since the church holds the property. Only a legal entity can hold property. In the Townsend article being examined, notice that he says, “I have always had a problem with a pastor of a New Testament church being a Trustee of all the church assets.” If a church holds assets, that church is a legal entity. (Also see below in red and in the copies, infra, of pages from the ELC book, Approved by God.).The ELC trust makes clear that the church is the both the settlor-grantor-trustor as well as the legal owner of the property held in trust.
According to the Bible, and according to American trust law, one may infer both an ordinary trust (BLC trust or SCSLM Bible trust) and a legal entity trust (ELC trust). American law says:
“No particular words are necessary to create a trust if there exists reasonable certainty as to the intended property, object, and beneficiary. Further, the purpose and intention, rather than the use of any particular term, determines whether a valid trust has been established. An express trust may be created without the use of technical words. All that is necessary are words or circumstances which unequivocally show an intention that the legal estate is vested in one person, to be held in some manner or for some purpose on behalf of another….” (76 AM. JUR. 2D, Trusts, § 65 (2007)).
“A trust may be inferred, under some circumstances, from precatory words. There must be compliance in the creation of a trust by precatory words with requisites pertaining to the creation of a trust generally, such as manifestation of intention to create a trust, and clarity and certainty in the terms, subject matter or object, and beneficiaries…. ‘Words of request, recommendation, suggestion, or expectation are known as “precatory words.’” (76 AM. JUR. 2D, Trusts, § 66 (2007)).
The ordinary Bible trust of the SCSLM does not make the Lord Jesus Christ a beneficiary of “Jerald Finney’s” trust document. as Mr. Townsend puts it. The trust document (the Declaration of Trust (“DOT”)) creates the ordinary Bible trust. The true, equitable, and beneficial owner of the trust estate of that trust is the Lord Jesus Christ. This type trust is not a legal entity, nor is the church that utilizes that trust a legal entity (See Is the Ordinary Trust a Legal Entity? for explanation.). Neither the DOT nor the trust itself makes the Lord the beneficiary, but rather the DOT which creates the trust recognizes by declaration that the He is the true and beneficial owner of all things including the trust estate, and makes clear that there is no “church property,” only “God’s property.”
On the other hand, the trust utilized by the Ecclesiastical Law Center (“ELC”), as has been shown in prior chapters:
is a legal entity,
sets up the ELC church as a legal entity,
makes the pastor the trustee of the church who “can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ,”
and states that “The property should be held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner.”
As has been shown in prior chapters of this booklet, the ELC trust arrangement makes the Lord Jesus Christ the beneficial owner, and the ELC trust makes the ELC church the legal owner. This is distinguished from the BLC and SCSLM trust arrangement in which the DOT and the ordinary trust thereby created do not make the Lord Jesus Christ the beneficiary of the trust estate; rather they recognize that the Lord Jesus Christ is the owner of all things, that He has entrusted every person with the possessions He has provided to that person, and that every person, as trustee of those possessions, is given the freedom to use those possessions either for the Glory of God or for some unacceptable purpose. As shown above, according to the Bible, God is the true, equitable, and beneficial owner of all things; but He has left the temporal legal ownership of all things on this earth in the hands of men.
The New Testament makes clear that although every church member is a trustee under God, God has entrusted every pastor with a very distinct relationship as trustee of the church he under-shepherds and oversees. Pastors are entrusted with spiritual leadership of a church. “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called” (1 Timothy 6:20). Pastors are entrusted to watch for the souls of the other members of a church: “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (“Hebrews 13:17). If pastors have this special trustee position concerning the very souls of church members, cannot they be trustees of that which is temporal? After all, pastors are held to the highest standard, even though there may be another or others within a church who might also meet those standards who are not called to be pastor. These matters are dealt with in much detail in the writings and teachings of Jerald Finney, especially in Chapter 7 of God Betrayed (click to go directly to that chapter). That chapter explains both the biblical and legal attributes of the ordinary trust and compares the ordinary trust to incorporation. The DOT and the ordinary trust thereby created do not make the Lord Jesus Christ the beneficiary; they recognize that Jesus Christ is the beneficiary (defined as the true, equitable, beneficial owner).
Townsend is in quicksand when he makes this argument because the trust set up by ELC makes the Lord Jesus Christ the beneficiary of the ELC trust relationship; the trust thereby set up is a legal entity as is the church who utilizes the method. He condemns his own methodology but hopes no one will have studied ELC publications and, perhaps, this booklet and recognize his chaotic offering for what it is. The following statements in red are the ELC’s own published words concerning the trust relationship created by the ELC trust arrangement:
The ELC states that for property be held to reflect the ownership of Christ over His church “the property should be held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner.” (Robin Wright and Ben Townsend, Approved by God: A Case for Modern Disestablishment(Mesick, Michigan: Adorn Books 2004), p. 149).
The ELC states that property may be held in three ways “(1) as a corporation, (2) as an unincorporated association and:
“(3) as an individual. How can property be held to reflect the ownership of Christ over His church? It must be held as an individual, and that individual must be the Lord Jesus Christ! The property should be held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner. In spite of the skepticism of many, churches in 22 states have placed their property in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ without incident.”Approved by God: A Case for Modern Disestablishment, p. 149. The book goes on to say that “the church, by the Pastor, can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Ibid., 150.
“The Ordinary Trust document that Attorney Finney uses does indeed make God the Beneficiary of the offerings and the property. In other words, the Church and the People are the Benefactors of God. They give because they can Benefit God? That is blasphemy! Neither the Church nor the People would be able to give anything unless a Gracious God provided for them first….”
Townsend’s analysis is total deconstruction of the truth. The ordinary Bible trust document, as explained above, does not make God the beneficiary since God is the beneficiary. Of course, this author knows that only God is his benefactor and that he can do nothing to be a “benefactor of God.” The ordinary trust recognizes and implements biblical precepts.
Again, Townsend condemns his own ELC methodology since the trust relationship created thereby makes the Lord Jesus Christ the beneficiary of the ELC legal trust. As has been pointied out in this and other chapters of this booklet, the ELC states “the property should be held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner.” The Lord Jesus Christ is the beneficiary of the ELC trust, a legal entity which also makes the church a legal entity.
Hopefully, Mr. Townsend will read and study this chapter and the rest of this booklet so that he can straighten out his problem and confused thinking, repent of his false teachings, modify the ELC methodology so as to comply with Bible precept, restructure all the churches which the ELC has helped to organize, and settle his troubled soul as to all his concerns expressed in his article.
See Spurious rationale for church incorporation: to hold property (Section VI, Chapter 7 of God Betrayed; Chapter 7 of Separation of Church and State) for an explanation of the ordinary trust. That chapter shows how the ordinary trust comports perfectly with Bible principle and why this author now co-labels the ordinary trust a Bible trust.
Chapter 11: Answer to Ben Townsend’s Article, “It Really Isn’t Personal: ‘It’s Financial!'”
Townsend’s article demonstrates that Finney’s hope that publication of the booklet would foster a reasoned discussion has not materialized. From Townsend’s article, studied with an understanding of what Finney has published in the above online booklet, one who knows what is going on or who takes the time to study these matters out will readily understand that Townsend is not interested in or is incapable of a reasoned argumentation; understanding, explanation, and defense of the ELC method of church organization; and/or defense of his attacks against the Declaration of Trust and the ordinary trust thereby created which is promoted by the Biblical Law Center (“BLC”) and the ordinary Bible trust of the Old Paths Baptist Church “Separation of Church and State Law Ministry” (SCSLM). Townsend sets up fictitious straw-men and attacks those straw-men instead of confronting the issues raised, incorrectly frames the issues, creates his own reality, cannot engage in any meaningful dialogue, misleads the uneducated, engages in trivialities, and dishonors our Lord Jesus Christ. In this latest of ridiculous publications by Townsend “It Really Isn’t Personal: “It’s Financial!” Townsend proves true to form.
Townsend states in his article:
“There was a certain church we were using to demonstrate the truth that Scripture never wants the pastor to be any legal officer of any legal “instrument,” including an “Ordinary Trust” (Attorney Finney’s term) or a “Declaration of Trust” (BLC’s term). These are not Biblical instruments for Lordship Churches. They attempt to tell us that their “Trust” is not like any other Trusts. And MY dog is not like any OTHER dog! You have your “Business Dogs,” your “Revocable Dogs,” “Living Dogs,” “Charitable Dogs,” and I am sure Attorney Finney has an “Ordinary Dog.” And just because he may call his Ordinary Dog’s tail a leg, it does not make it have five legs. Actually, I would have preferred to use the BLC’s terminology and just say that I have made a “Declaration” that I HAVE a Dog. (Note: I use Dog here not making fun of anyone in the BLC or “whatever the name that other group is” who happens to be Dyslexic.)”
This paragraph demonstrates that Townsend is unlearned and incapable of honest study and debate. Prior chapters of this booklet point to the law that proves there are different types of trusts. If one does not believe what Jerald Finney writes in those chapters, he can go to the sources cited by Finney to determine whether Finney is telling the truth.
By the way, “ordinary trust” was not termed by Jerald Finney. The law of business trusts, for example, refers to the “ordinary trust,” something entirely different from the business trust.
Finney adopted the use of the term “Bible trust” or “ordinary Bible trust” to apply to the ordinary trust and related documents which he recommends for churches and which mirrors relevant Bible precepts. The pastor or other believer who is truly interested in honoring the Lord Jesus Christ can study these and other writings of Jerald Finney and find that:
The Ben Townsend and the Ecclesiastical Law Center (“ELC”) method creates a trust which is different from an “ordinary trust.” In other words, Ben Townsend’s method is a “dog” of a different breed.
Although the Ben Townsend and the Ecclesiastical Law Center (“ELC”) method does not utilize a Declaration of Trust (“DOT”) for each church, the ELC has a DOT which is published in ELC writings.
The ELC method creates a trust which is a legal entity and sets up the church using that method as a legal entity.
The Ben Townsend and the ELC method puts the pastor in the position of trustee for the church of a type of trust which is a legal entity.
The Ben Townsend and the ELC method makes an ELC church a legal entity.
The Declaration of Trust and ordinary Bible trust thereby created perfectly correspond to biblical principle. The ordinary trust thereby created is not a legal entity.
The church who places tithes, offerings, and gifts into the trust estate of an ordinary trust does not thereby make herself a legal entity; and she remains a non-legal entity as long as she does not act legally in any way.
The Declaration of Trust and ordinary trust thereby created does not make the pastor a legal office and the Declaration of Trust is not a legal document.
Townsend also suggests that money is a motivating factor for Finney. This is another ridiculous statement. This is a ministry for Finney into which he has poured a lot of money without any financial reward, and for which he has never asked (or received in gift any but insignificant) remuneration. Furthermore, this argument is another straw man which has nothing to do with the truths Finney has published in this booklet.
Townsend also states in the article:
“We have in our possession the document between the local church and the Pastor/Trustee, with RESOLUTIONS from the church body. Now, I am putting my neck out there and stating this is just paperwork that is done for you, and that NO ACTUAL business meeting was called by the church to pass these “Resolutions.” Let me define “Resolution:” “A corporate action, sometimes in the form of a legal document, that will be voted on or has been voted on at a meeting of the board of directors for a corporation.” I also have the Declaration of Trust from this same church, naming the pastor as “Pastor/Trustee.” I also have the document from an “entity” which rented part of the church’s building, naming the “Pastor/Trustee” as the “LandLORD” This “Pastor/Trustee” (according to the legal lease) “herein known as Landlord, has the right and authority to sub-let any portion of said leased premiseshe so desires.” (UNQUOTE ACTUAL DOCUMENT, emphasis added) And may I add something that Peter said: “Not for filthy lucre…neither as being LORDS over God’s heritage. (1 Peter 5:2-3).” Do you see? There is no need for Christ to be over His own church, the Pastor/Trustee/LandLORD can handle it just fine.”
Again, Townsend refers to a “corporate resolution” as though that were the only type resolution in existence. This author assumes that the reader has enough intelligence to figure this matter out and will not waste his time to show how utterly ridiculous Townsend’s reference is. This author knows that the churches he has worked with in establishing an ordinary trust have presented and explained the Resolution, DOT, and the ordinary trust to the entire church body.
This attorney would be glad to sit down with Townsend and the alleged Pastor/Trustee “LandLORD” and examine the alleged document to which Townsend refers. That is the only way this author or anyone else would be able to honestly evaluate the whole matter since one cannot depend for Townsend for the truth, only for misdirection.
This discourse between Townsend and this believer/attorney will, for those who take the time to study it out, reveal that Townsend and the ELC should not be depended upon for help in the matter of church organization. Those who blindly follow Townsend will continue in their misguided ways and thereby compromise their position as churches under the Lord Jesus Christ only as they proceed according to a chaotic ELC system of organization which is replete with scriptural and legal flaws.
See Spurious rationale for church incorporation: to hold property (Section VI, Chapter 7 of God Betrayed; Chapter 7 of Separation of Church and State) for an explanation of the ordinary trust. That chapter shows how the ordinary trust comports perfectly with Bible principle and why this author now co-labels the ordinary trust a Bible trust.
Chapter 10: Reply to Ben Townsend’s Article, “Give and Take”
Ben Townsend and the ELC called for a response by unrelentingly attacking a ministry (the BLC) and the methods used by that ministry. Their attacks were based upon lies and a complete misunderstanding of the law of trusts. Truth concerning preeminent church matters is vital. This booklet responds to and analyzes a writing by Ben Townsend which is published in Chapter 18 of the ELC book, Approved by Man and on the ELC website at http://www.lordshipchurches.info/articles.
This booklet was published online as each section and chapter was written. Ben Townsend wrote a response to this booklet, as it was being published, which he titled Give and Take. This article will address Give and Take section by section.
Mr. Townsend, in his response, does not address or challenge any of the arguments in this booklet. Nonetheless, a reply to his response is necessary because his response continues to misdirect, manipulate, confuse the issues, and make outrageous claims.
Each section of Give and Take is in red below. This author’s response to each section is in black.
Section 1: “Give to the Poor…Take up the Cross (Mark 10.21)”
Section 2: “GIVE – ‘Ben Townsend does not know much about Trusts.’ – Ben Townsend” Section 3:“TAKE – ELC Saved Church $25 Million Dollars. – Ben Townsend” Section 4: “GIVE– I am not a Prude. – Ben Townsend” Section 5: “TAKE– “That Other Attorney IS a Prude.” – Ben Townsend”
Section 1 of Give and Take: “Give to the Poor…Take up the Cross (Mark 10.21)” states:
This is a “Response Blog.” It is in response to a Christian Attorney who has made some claims against the Ecclesiastical Law Center and its leadership (mainly me) that I would deem outrageous. So, I thought between two Law Ministries I could be the first one to make some “Stipulations.” Lay people (those of us who do not know the law but just “lay” around picking our teeth) would call it “Give and Take.” Some would call these “Admissions and Confessions.” I suppose I am not really trying to convince a bevvy of attorneys of anything anyway. But maybe a pastor or two will stumble upon this response and understand where I am going with it.
I am the Christian Attorney who wrote the online booklet to which Mr. Townsend wrote this response. The interested party who studies it out must decide whether what I wrote is outrageous. Townsend’s response was to the Preface, Introduction, and Chapters 1-8 of this booklet.
I consider what I wrote necessary in order to get the truth concerning very important church matters out to pastors and believers. The ELC and Ben Townsend have (1) actively advised and helped churches to order their affairs and (2) viciously attacked the ordinary trust used by many churches as advised by the BLC and the ordinary Bible trust recommended by the Old Paths Baptist Church “Separation of Church and State Law Ministry” for many years.
I decided to first zero in on Chapter 18 of the ELC book, Approved by Man since that Chapter summarizes the essence of the ELC attacks. Analysis of other outrageous ELC publications may follow. Chapter 18 is also published on the ELC website (http://www.lordshipchurches.info/articles) and Ben Townsend is listed as the author. My analysis also refers to some related published writings of the ELC as needed for a complete and honest analysis of Chapter 18. Hopefully, pastors who have and will consider consulting with the ELC on the matters involved in the ELC attacks addressed in this booklet will be enlightened to their benefit and for the Glory of God.
Ben Townsend’s attacks against the BLC and the DOT and ordinary trust started many years ago and continue to this day. Those attacks have been disseminated throughout his realm of influence. Townsend’s assaults which went unchallenged online for many years are ridiculous, vicious, and without knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. In addition to that, the methodology used by the ELC in “helping” churches has some serious flaws.
Townsend admits in his response that he doesn’t know much about trusts. (See below). The truth of the matter, as shown in this booklet, is that Ben Townsend and the ELC do not know what they are doing. Townsend is totally unqualified to do reliable legal research and analysis. Believers who have depended upon the ELC and those considering ELC advice should seriously study these matters out before continuing to follow ELC advice.
Section 2 of Give and Take: “GIVE – ‘Ben Townsend does not know much about Trusts.’ – Ben Townsend”
Okay, I admit it. And when pastors are questioning the “other” attorney from the “other” really good law ministry, he can actually have my blessing to say, “Dr. Townsend admits that he does not know much about Trusts.” Then he can snort through his nose a little giggle, and the pastors in the audience can smile and nod to each other and chuckle. They can even designate one of their own pastors (at that moment) to cackle out loud. I would like him to stipulate that at that point he will tell the congregation of pastors, “Dr. Townsend has the same amount of knowledge on Trusts as Paul, Peter, John, and all the other writers of the Bible.” Whenever anyone would call the ELC and ask about Trusts, I would say, “Dr. Wright, phone call,” and hand the phone to Dr. Wright. Mainly, those would be people whom Dr. Wright had set up their Trust as an individual. He personally set up hundreds of those Trusts. Some were Unincorporated Business Organizations (UBOs), some were Bare Trusts to just hold properties and assets, and one he set up for me to hold money to be used to help other missionaries and ministries in my son Jeremy’s name after his death. He sincerely tried to show me how it all worked once, and I smiled and nodded and said “Hmmm…” a lot. And with Dr. Wright having a B.A. in History, graduating from Central Baptist Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Business Administration, I figured he knew what he was talking about. Besides, I am a pastor. The only thing I really knew about Trusts was “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart.” I was not confused into thinking that was a legal Trust though.
Ben Townsend admits that he does not know much about trusts. That explains the nonsense he writes about trusts in Chapter 18 of Approved by Man which is reproduced on the ELC website. (See the entirety of this booklet for explanation.) This attorney is not snorting and giggling about Townsend’s attempts at what he calls “sarcasm.” This attorney is not at all enjoying any of this and would not pursue it were it not such an important matter. Many good men of God have depended upon the ELC and Ben Townsend; those men of God deserve to know the truth.
Why would Townsend attack the methodology of others when he does not know what he is talking about in his attacks? Perhaps he informed those who read Chatper 18 or the online publication thereof that they should understand that he did not know what he was talking about. If so, where is such a disclaimer except in his just published article Give and Take.Does not this admission, that he does not know what he is talking about, extend to other things he has published? It certainly extends to other matters which follow below. Dear pastors and believers who are following this controversy, please read and study Chapter 18 (book or online) and An analysis of Ecclesiastical Law Center Attacks against the Ordinary Trust Recommended by the Old Paths Baptist Church “Separation of Church and State Law Ministry”. These are not laughing matters which should by brushed aside by silly rhetoric.
For there to be an “other” attorney, there must be an attorney: who is he? Also, who is the first “really good law ministry?” He cannot be referring to the ELC as a “really good law ministry.” The ELC is a really bad law ministry. The ELC understanding of the law of trusts bears no resemblance to the actual law of trusts. The ELC methods of church organization set churches up as legal entities and has many serious flaws which are explained throughout this booklet.
Section 3 of Give and Take:“TAKE– ELC Saved Church $25 Million Dollars. – Ben Townsend”
This other Christian attorney made the statement that he first met Dr. Wright when he came to speak at his church in Texas in July of 2002. He stated, “Years ago, the church I belonged to in Austin paid Robin Wright of the Ecclesiastical Law Center (“ELC”) to spend a few days at the church teaching the church on how to stay under the Lord Jesus Christ only. I, as an attorney, was asked by my pastor to talk with Mr. Wright. I spent quite a few cordial hours so doing.” So, now I will show you what “Take” means. No one on ELC staff over the years, neither Dr. Wright nor myself has ever been “paid” to do anything. We have gone wherever, free of charge, with no expectations of payment for any services rendered. Now, this church in Texas, Capital City Baptist Church, has never supported financially the ELC. The real reason Dr. Wright was invited to come to the church was because the parents of the boy who was beaten by the pastor’s sons were attempting to sue the church for $25 million dollars. Dr. Wright meeting with the church’s insurance company that week was the primary purpose for his trip. His “speaking to the church” and “cordial hours” of speaking with this attorney was incidental. I was on the phone with Dr. Wright all week because I was doing the research in Texas law concerning unincorporated churches being sued. When I presented Dr. Wright with the Texas laws that stated the unincorporated church could not be sued, he presented this research to the insurance company. The insurance company used this research to convince the parents’ attorney to drop the lawsuit against the church. Plus, the insurance agent when thanking Dr. Wright for his help, confided that they had planned to “settle” out of court with the parents for “six figures,” but decided against that when they found out the church could not be sued because it was not incorporated. The parents did end up suing the boys and got a judgment of $1.5 million, which the boys will have to repay when they get out of jail.
As a sidenote, who is the Christian attorney which must be assumed when Mr. Townsend says “other Christian attorney?” As far as is known, the ELC has, and never has had an attorney – there must be one Christian attorney before there can be another Christian attorney.
The claim that the ELC saved the church $25 million dollars is so ridiculous that this author is almost dumfounded. Mr. Townsend has a fertile imagination which he freely exercises.
Dr. Wright received ample reward for the time he spent at the church. He was called to teach on how to organize a church. This author was present for all his teachings and still has his extensive notes. Dr. Wright taught at the Bible Institute during the days and at the church every evening while he was at the church. Dr. Wright’s teaching on church organization was ignored by the pastor.
Even if Dr. Wright was also called to advise the civil attorneys on the fact that an unincorporated church could not be sued, his efforts failed. This author talked with the attorneys about that matter and knows what they had to say about it. Unlike Dr. Wright, they were far more educated in and qualified to do legal research, litigation, and negotiations than Mr. Townsend or Dr. Wright. The truth is that the whole thing was a lot more complicated than Mr. Townsend will ever be able to know.
Here are just a few facts and legal considerations. The Pastor of the church had made the truthful claim that the church was an unincorporated association (a legal entity). In order to hold every person in a church which is a legal entity (corporation, unincorporated association, etc.) liable for damages, the plaintiff would have had to prove that the whole church or the church leadership encouraged or knew about or encouraged what the boys did. That was not the case. The church had a long-standing policy that no person in the church was to discipline any child not their own. The young man who did the discipline was pastor of a Spanish church and the boy was the son of a couple who attended the Spanish church. The Spanish church was autonomous.
Had the church been a non-legal entity, only those who took part in the crime could have been implicated. Of course, should an entire church accept and/or promote illegal or criminal activity which is preached from the pulpit, the whole church, no matter how it is organized, may, under the right facts, be implicated in a lawsuit. The lawyers for the plaintiff and the insurance company lawyers discussed the law and the facts in their negotiations and the church was never in any real danger, before or after Dr. Wright’s appearance, of being held liable.
The insurance company did settle for six figures. No one knows the exact amount for sure, but it was over $1,000,000 but less than $2,000,000. Looks to me like that is six figures. The insurance company paid that settlement.
In short, Dr. Wright’s legal help in the matter, if any, was useless. This author spent a lot of time with Dr. Wright while he was in Austin as well as with the lawyers. They never mentioned to him that they had talked to Dr. Wright and Dr. Wright never mentioned them or that he had talked to them. Dr. Wright did discuss some of the matters involved in the criminal suit – this author, out of courtesy and respect did not inform him that he was out of his field of expertise.
Section 4 of Give and Take:“GIVE– I am not a Prude. – Ben Townsend”
I think anyone who knows me, knows that I really enjoy having a great time, and really enjoy making fun of legalists and Baptist Pharisees. Dear Brother Ben Mott, very proper mind you and very ethical, but not a prude, heard me singing a bunch of my silly songs after one of our conferences were all over. People were still hanging around and I went to the piano and started singing “The Cat Got Dead” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQMDgVCikP0 or “If My Nose Was Running Money” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nhSW6QxGPs at 5 minutes into the radio video, and many others. Bro. Mott at first did not know what in the world was happening. Afterwards he came up to me and made this statement in perfect English, “Dr. Townsend, I now know what you are all about; you shine a light on Pharisees.” He was right. I blast Calvinists with “Super-Hyper-Calvanistic-Predetermined-Theory” sung to the tune of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Knit-Pickers with “Swallow the Fly,” and I help pastors with songs like, “If You Don’t LIke My Apples, Don’t Shake My Tree” and “Don’t Tell the Pastor.” Sometimes I get flak from people who do not understand what I am all about. Usually it is from those who completely believe one should be serious about everything. Now, I am serious when I preach in the pulpit. But even when I joke from the pulpit, I am very serious. I never make fun of the things of the Lord. I do tend to make fun of myself and people who need to loosen up or consider themselves too high and mighty to laugh at themselves. And it’s okay, I can take this criticism of not being a prude. Or worse criticisms like, “He calls his attacks on certain other believers ‘sarcasm;’ I do not look at it that way.” “He sets himself up as a legal authority and he is anything but.” Hey, I just do whatever I can to be a blessing to people. I don’t set myself up as anybody. I don’t even care what people think of me, only what the Lord thinks. I have an audience of One. I only want to please Him.
One cannot bless people by ruthlessly attacking them and their good actions and methods based upon nonsense. One cannot bless people in churches by peddling to them – without knowledge, understanding and wisdom – a method of church organization which makes a church a legal entity. Is Mr. Townsend saying, in the last section above, that Chapter 18 is meant to be a blessing to people, something which will please the Lord? I look at Chapter 18 and some of his other blatantly false attacks against the BLC, the DOT, and the ordinary trust and his method of church organization as serious violations of some biblical precepts.
Truth is one necessary ingredient of revival. Truth concerning church organization is at the center of this debate. Another ingredient of revival is repentance.
The ruthless, groundless, inaccurate ELC attacks have been going on for years. To know whether the ELC attacks are correctly characterized, readers should read and analyze both Chapter 18 of Approved by Man and this booklet.
This author would be glad to help Ben Townsend and the ELC in their attempts to help churches organize according to New Testament principles. This author holds no hatred or grudge against Townsend or the ELC. He does hold an allegiance to truth and to the Glory of God.
Section 5 of Give and Take: “TAKE– “That Other Attorney IS a Prude.” – Ben Townsend”
Now, a “Prude” is defined as: “One who is excessively concerned with being or appearing to be proper, modest, or righteous.” (The Free Dictionary.com) Examples of terms from his writings that expose his prudishness are “I started an intense study,” “after years of intense study,” “having done extensive studies,” “knowing the tactics of ELC,” “are thoroughly covered in” his teachings, “I myself instructed them (somehow meaning ELC),” “extensive knowledge,” and the many times he states that he will “repent and publish” his repentance if someone shows him he is wrong. It is so funny to me how guys will state they will repent when so many times in their writings they show that they already know everything so intensively, extensively, and exhaustively that there is no other knowledge left in the world which could ever make them change their minds. (sigh) He even stated in an email he sent me that when he was with the BLC, “I was straight on everything.” Folks, when everything the person deals with is referred to as a “very serious matter,” something is prudish about the fellow. But my nature as a Non-Prude is to point out the mistakes of the Prudish every chance I get. Does that mean we will never get along? Well, I can meet a person like this half-way. I can even go overboard, meaning just say the things I want to say out loud just to myself, and smile a lot. I know God uses all kinds of personalities and Spiritual gifts. My Spiritual gift (Exhortation) is to get everyone to “lighten up” and do not think to seriously of themselves all the time. Now, if this fellow says my calling him a “Prude” is an “Attack” on his character, then everyone will finally know he is a Prude. If he were ever to just say, “That Townsend, what a nut. I can’t believe he would say I was a Prude. He’s so flaky,” then Revival might just break out, or the Lord might just return. But please do not tell me a man is “humble” when he gets mad about what is said about him. True Humility is realizing we are worthless, so whatever anyone says about us is just not that important. Besides, if they knew ALL my sins, they would realize that I am much worse than what they think I am.
As of yet, no one in the ELC has addressed any of the analysis in this booklet.
Since my salvation, I have had to repent of sins and of false beliefs many times. I could write a book on that. I have been confronted with many new truths which revealed to me much nonsense which I had accepted as truth for many years. I repented and redirected. I am still learning. If the ELC or anyone can enlighten me on anything, especially anything in the above article, which is not correct, I will publish my repentance.
I would suggest that Mr. Townsend, if he is truly interested in the Glory of God and revival, would do better to quote the Bible than to quote the dictionary definition of “prude;” than to give his worldly philosophy of how this matter should be handled; than to make light of God’s truths. If he wants to enter into a God-honoring communication is search of truth, I will be glad to accommodate him.
I do not deal with everything as a very serious matter. When the Lord calls me to do so, I do deal with misrepresentations about the church and other serious Bible principles and matters very seriously.
I am not mad about what anyone has done to me or about what anyone has said about me. This booklet was written to address the inaccuracies and baseless attacks against the BLC, the DOT, and the ordinary trust thereby created, not to address what someone said about me. I do care about what the Lord thinks about me – thank the Lord for His mercy, His grace, His discipline, His love, His comfort, His leading, His word, His truth, His churches, etc. etc. The ELC has done something against our Lord and Bible truth and I am mad about that. My heart goes out to those good men of God who would listen to the counsel of Ben Townsend concerning church organization, the DOT, and the ordinary trust.
I can only glory in the Lord. I am not wise after the flesh, mighty, noble. I am one of the foolish things of the world, one of the base things of the world, one of the despised things of the world, one of the things which are not. My flesh cannot glory in God’s presence.
Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. To him, and to his disciples and millions of Christian martyrs who refused to compromise their Bible beliefs, including their belief in separation of church and state, the church was a serious matter. I have read nowhere in the Bible or history where any of them treated church doctrine with levity. Nowhere can one find any of them who made light of such serious matters. Isaiah 53:3: “[Jesus Christ] is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
I suggest that the following verses may be more relevant in these matters than what Mr. Townsend writes in this section:
2 Peter 1:2-10 “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtueknowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:” [Bold emphasis mine]
Hosea 4:6 “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.” [Bold emphasis mine]
Churches under Christ Ministry is under the authority of Charity Baptist Tabernacle of Amarillo, Texas, Benjamin Hickam Pastor. Jerald Finney, a Christian Lawyer and member of Charity Baptist Tabernacle explains how a church in America can remain under the Lord Jesus Christ and Him only. "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church" (Ephesians 1.22).