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Chapter 10: Reply to Ben Townsend’s Article, Give and Take

Jerald Finney
Copyright © December 10, 2014

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Chapter 10: Reply to Ben Townsend’s Article, “Give and Take”

Jerald Finney
Copyright © December 11, 2014

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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.

The sections of Give and Take are:

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 virtue knowledge; 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]

For much more on this see the following webpage: After Salvation.

Chapter 8: Analysis of “The Questions will keep coming”

CoverApprovedByMan

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Chapter 8: Analysis of “The Questions will keep coming”

Jerald Finney
Copyright © November, 2014

Note. This is a continuation of the examination of Chapter 18 of Approved by God  written by Ben Townsend of thd Ecclesiastical Law Center (“ELC”), a chapter which attacks the ordinary trust.

One may be thinking, “Why should anyone get into this? It seems complex and it looks like Jerald Finney and the ELC each have a vendetta.” Or you may be a pastor of a church who has organized according to the recommendations of the ELC or according those of the Biblical Law Center (“BLC”) or those of the Old Paths Baptist Church “Separation of Church and State Law” ministry (“SCSLM”) and believe your leaders. The reason for a believer to take these matters seriously is that there is nothing more important than keeping the bride and wife of Christ pure and chaste. Ephesians 5.23-27, 30-32 states:

Is the church you are a member of being prepared for His coming?
Is the church you are a member of being prepared for His coming?

 “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish…. For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”

The ELC states in this section:

“The Director of the Biblical Law Center stated that Indianapolis Baptist Temple did not lease the property that the church now occupies, but the lease contract was made with the Pastor/Trustee and not the church. This is also an incorrect statement. The lease was made by the church and signed by the Pastor/Trustee. It seems like they would love to have the best of both worlds: entangle as much as possible, all the while convincing everyone that they are not entangled.” Robin Wright and Ben Townsend, Approved by Man: A Case for Biblical Reasonableness (Mesick, Michigan: Adorn Books 2009), p. 182.

CoverApprovedByGodAs amazing as this may sound, the ELC in the above paragraph explains the state of affairs that would exist had Indianapolis Baptist Temple organized according to the manner prescribed by the ELC, and not the state of affairs that exists due to the Declaration of Trust adopted by Indianapolis Baptist Temple and the ordinary trust thereby created. According to the declarations of the ELC, they recommend a type of trust (a business trust) by which “property should be held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner.(See, Robin Wright and Ben Townsend, Approved by God: A Case for Modern Disestablishment (Mesick, Michigan: Adorn Books 2004), p. 149.) Those are their actual words, and their surrounding words dig them into a deeper pit. See below for a more thorough analysis of their statements (which are in red below) and the ramifications of those statements.

Should any reader believe not believe this, get the ELC books, Approved by Men, and read Chapter 18 and also pages 149-150 of Approved by God. Then study these matters out. It is obvious that the author of Chapter 18 did not have a clue about the ramifications of ELC recommendations for church organization or the truths concerning the things they attack – the Declaration of Trust and the ordinary trust thereby created.

One can clearly understand these matters by correct study and analysis.
One can clearly understand these matters by correct study and analysis.

The trust document which creates an ordinary trust into which Indianapolis Baptist Temple places tithes, offerings, gifts, and properties is administered by the pastor/trustee for the benefit of the true owner of the money/property. The document lays out the power of the trustee which would certainly include provisions for a meeting place for the church body. Exactly what the law says concerning whether or not an ordinary trust is a legal entity is explained in the article: Is the ordinary trust a legal entity? That article quotes the relevant law and includes a page directly from 76 AM. JUR. 2D which states that the ordinary trust is not a legal entity with supporting case citations. The law makes clear that the type trust described in 76 AM. JUR. 2D is not a legal entity. It also makes clear that the trustee of the ordinary trust  is the legal owner of the trust estate and that the true, equitable, and beneficial owner is the Lord Jesus Christ (the beneficiary), and that the trustee has the fiduciary duty to administer the money/property in the trust estate for the benefit of the Lord Jesus Christ. The church is the trustor or settlor of the trust. That simply means that the church gives their tithes, offerings, and gifts to the Lord Jesus Christ. They do this by placing tithes, offerings, and gifts in the trust estate. The trustee administers the trust estate, not the church. The church does not hold, control, or administer the trust estate. The trustee administers the money/properties for the benefit of the Lord Jesus Christ, not for the church. The church who creates an ordinary trust through a properly worded Declaration of Trust does not become a legal entity thereby. Of course, such a church must be careful not to do anything which will declare themselves to be a legal entity (e.g., hold a bank account or take out insurance in the name of the church). For a quick look at some of the matters involved see Quick Reference Guide for Churches Seeking to Organize According to New Testament Guidelines.

On the other hand, the organization recommended by the ELC makes the church a legal entity, since according to their own unknowledgeable arguments against the Declaration of Trust used by the BLC and this ministry, they in effect attack their own method of holding property. This may require some study for the novice in these matters, but once one gets a grasp on these concepts, the truth is obvious. However, without studying these matters out and carefully analyzing what the ELC is stating, one can be deceived by their language.

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).

Approved by God, p. 149
Approved by God, 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.

Approved by God, p. 150
Approved by God, p. 150

The ELC is 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, legal earthly title to property and money cannot, at this point in time, be held by the Lord Jesus Christ since he left all earthly temporal property and assets to be held in trust by man and has given earthly civil government temporal jurisdiction. 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 and assets 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, but then compromises the legal position of their trust by always referring to the law of trusts which are legal entities, not to the law of the non-legal entity ordinary trust. Some of the words of the ELC quoted above is taken straight out of legal books which define the trust. But then they 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.

This all clearly shows that the ELC recommends compromising the position of a church who uses their method. They state 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 open the door to a rational argument that the church is the trustee of the property which is held in a business trust, a legal entity; this argument is strengthened by the fact that, in their attacks against the ordinary trust they incorrectly rely on the law of business trusts.

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 the ordinary Bible trust used by SCSLM 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, reveal that they have created a type of  trust, a business trust, which is a legal entity. A business trust 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 holds the property through a trustee; therefore, the church has to be a legal entity since only a legal entity can hold legal title to property; a spiritual entity cannot hold title to property. The trustee of an ordinary trust holds legal title and the beneficiary of the trust holds true, beneficial 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.” Ibid.

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 of an ELC church effectively serves as trustee for the church, but trustee of what? Not a non-legal entity ordinary trust which is something they do not understand. 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. Consider the situation in which the owner of property has been dead for years and the man living on the property has paid the taxes since. 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 who study this out should have no trouble in piercing their armor. More importantly, the ELC, by not proceeding according to knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, has unknowingly dishonored the Lord.

As a sidenote, I believe that it is incorrect to say that property may be held as an individual, corporation, or unincorporated association. I believe that the correct way of putting it is that property may be held by or in the name of an individual, corporation, or association.

In the second paragraph, the ELC states:

“Now, I am not saying these people are ‘evil.’ I am saying they are ‘wrong.’ I’m saying they do not know Trust law. And their ‘wrongness’ has caused them to continue to misunderstand the facts, and misrepresent their Trust document. To perform a Declaration of Trust is a wrong position to take for any church. We believe that it will do more damage to unincorporated churches in the long-run than the ‘help’ and ‘accommodation’ it may give in the short run.”

Now, this author is not saying these ELC people are ‘evil.’ He is saying they are ‘wrong.’ He is stating the obvious: The ELC and Ben Townsend do not know Trust law. And their ‘wrongness’ has caused them to continue to misunderstand the facts, the relevant Bible precepts, and the law, and to recommend a manner by which a church should hold property thereby putting the church in the position of being a some type of legal entity. They rely on the law concerning business trusts to attack the ordinary trust and the Declaration of Trust which creates the ordinary trust. The ELC method has the potential do more damage to churches in the long-run than the ‘help’ and ‘accommodation’ it may give in the short run. As long as no one rocks the boat, and as long as the civil government does not zero in on churches organized according to the ELC method, those churches should have no problems. However, the Lord is grieved since the ELC has proceeded hastily without knowledge, understanding and wisdom. They do not know how to do legal research and  analysis nor can they correctly apply the law to the facts. If they do not believe the conclusions of this author, he challenges them to ask the local property tax board, the lawyer of the person who was hurt on ELC church property, or the lawyer on the other side of any dispute involving ELC church money or property to contact this attorney for advice on how to include the ELC church in the action. For this author to help would not dishonor the Lord since such help might wake all those believers and pastors up who are unknowingly dishonoring the Lord by depending upon the ELC for help.