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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 7: Analysis of “Has it ever been tested in court?”



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Chapter 7: Analysis of “Has it ever been tested in court?”

Jerald Finney
Copyright © November 15, 2014

Note. This is a continuation of the examination of a chapter of an Ecclesiastical Law Center (“ELC”) Publication, Chapter 18 of Approved by God. This article looks at the sixth section of that chapter.

The sixth section of chapter 18 asks a question which, in and of itself, is very puzzling to the person studied in the law of the ordinary trusts. The question is, “Has it ever been tested in Court?” What is the “it” being referred to and what does “tested in court” mean?

Thank you, ELC, for waking up our brain cells.
Thank you, ELC, for waking up our brain cells.

Obviously, from the ELC point of view in the context of Chapter 18 and other ELC writings:

  1. “It” refers to “trust;” and, specifically, the ordinary Bible trust utilized by the “Separation of Church and State Law” ministry and the ordinary trust used by the BLC. If the word “trust” or “Declaration of Trust” is mentioned in a court case, anything else in the case is not significant to the Ecclesiastical Law Center. The mere fact that one or both of those words were mentioned in the reported case or the alleged case means that the ordinary trust has been tested in court. It matters not to the ELC should the courts have said, as in the following cases (not cited by the ELC, of course) involving ordinary trusts:
    (a) A trust is not a legal entity. (Stevens Family Trust v. Huthsing, 81 S.W.3d 664 (Mo. Ct. App. S.D. 2002), reh’g and/or transfer denied, (July 12, 2002)).
    (b) A trust is not an entity distinct from its trustees and capable of legal action on its own behalf, but merely a fiduciary relationship with respect to property. (Roberts v. Lomanto, 112 Cal. App. 4th 1553, 5 Cal. Rptr. 3d 866 (3d Dist. 2003), review denied, (Feb. 24, 2004).
    (c) A trust is not a legal “person” which can own property or enter into contracts, rather, a trust is a relationship having certain characteristics. (Dennett v. Kuenzli, 130 Idaho 21, 936 P.2d 219 (Ct. App. 1997).
  2. The ELC will only cite and consider, when attacking the BLC and the ordinary trust, cases which involve legal entity types of trusts (such as business trusts and charitable trusts) so that they can make the assertion that “it has been tested” in court.
  3. As shown below, the cases they cite prove nothing concerning the ordinary trust and  the issue of whether “it has been tested in court,” nor do the cases give any insight as to what the ELC means by “tested in court.”

This author was asked, at the 2011 Unregistered Baptist Fellowship” conference in Indianapolis, Indiana the same question, “Has it ever been tested in court?” and he has heard the question on numerous other occasions. At the time, he suspected that the questioner was affiliated with the ELC. He thought that the reference was to the ordinary trust into which BLC churches place their tithes, offerings, and gifts and the DOT which created that trust; and he further thought that by “tested in court” was meant, “Has the court disregarded the DOT and the trust thereby created and attempted to bring the church into court as a legal entity anyway?” As to the question in the last sentence, the author’s reply is:  In several cases the author knows of since beginning to work with the BLC, the court knew that the church was not a legal entity which was subject to court jurisdiction. In one case the prosecutor, in a zoning dispute initiated by the government, acknowledged that church was not a legal entity (the church put tithes, offerings, and gifts into a trust); therefore, the church could not be brought into court. In another such case involving an Indianapolis church which adopted the BLC recommended DOT and ordinary trust thereby created, the church members placed tithes, offerings, and gifts into the trust thereby created. The government challenged the zoning status of the meetinghouse. The DOT had nothing to do with the case and the government recognized that the church was not a legal entity; therefore, the court could not bring the church into the controversy. The case ended in victory and the use of the real estate for a meeting house was upheld.

Of course, the church which places tithes, offerings, and gifts into an ordinary trust for the benefit of the true, equitable, beneficial owner of the money/property is clearly not a legal entity. That is what the law says and that corresponds to reality. The church has to entrust someone with tithes, offerings, and gifts which are given to the Lord Jesus Christ. The person so entrusted is, by definition, a trustee and the true owner is, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ. Reality, biblical principle, and American law agree on this matter.

jurisdictionContrary to the assertions of the ELC, civil courts may assume jurisdiction over people and land (no matter how the land is held) when a proper suit within the jurisdictional boundaries of the court is initiated. Believers and others in America have been blessed. Christians and churches have the protections of the First Amendment which were won by the persecutions and sacrifices of our historical Baptist forefathers; the First Amendment protects the citizen in his exercise of religion, assembly, press, speech, and his right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. American civil government does not tax land being used for “religious purposes.” However, believers and churches in many countries – such as Korea, China, many Muslim countries, and many other nations – are not so fortunate. In many nations, if one is found with a tract, speaking positively of the name of Jesus, possessing a Bible, etc., either the government or the local religious mob will send him home to be with the Lord. No land or buildings will be allowed for meeting by Christians. If it is tried, they will be confiscated and/or destroyed.

The guaranteed fate of church meetinghouses in some nations.
The guaranteed fate of church meetinghouses in some nations.

Even in America, ultimately legal differences concerning land use, taxation, and ownership, if brought to the attention of the appropriate agency/court, will be decided by the agency/court. For example, should an ELC church or any other church come together as a church body at a meetinghouse in an area not zoned for religious use, the court will assume jurisdiction of the issue if and when it comes to their attention, no matter the church’s legal status. There are other possible issues concerning real estate which could result in either/or government agency or court action, but not against a non-legal entity church. The ELC admits the latter; they ask “What happens if there is a lawsuit?” (Robin Wright and Ben Townsend, Approved by God, A Case for Modern Disestablishment (Mesick, Michigan: Adorn Books, 2004), p. 150.) Their answer:

Lawsuit“There are no lawsuits. Lawsuits are leveled against legal entities, not spiritual ones. Lacking a legal organization (corporation, unincorporated association) to attack, lawsuits must ultimately prevail. There are several court cases to prove the point. Besides, it would be tough to get legal service on the owner.” (Ibid.)

Their answer is partially right and partly wrong. They are right in saying that a non-legal entity cannot be a party to a suit; but, if a piece of real estate is the center of a zoning issue, for example, the agency/court will petition the legal owner of the property. Of course, the agency/court cannot petition the Lord Jesus Christ, who under both the ELC method and ordinary trust method, is the true, equitable, or beneficial owner. If there is no legal owner of the property, the agency/court will take the necessary legal steps to take control of the property.

If there is a legal owner, the court will summon the legal owner. The ELC states:

“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.” (Ibid. 149). Actually, the church, by the Pastor, can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ibid. 150).

If the government challenged the use of a meetinghouse for religious purposes because the property was not zoned for religious use, and the church using the meetinghouse were organized according to the recommendations of the ELC, the government would not attempt to subpoena the true owner, in this case the Lord Jesus Christ. The government would petition the person who executed the deed, the pastor; the pastor, by definition, would be deemed to be the trustee holding legal title to the property. This is where the ELC method could result in the church being declared a legal entity since the ELC declares that “the church, by the Pastor, can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ibid.). As has been explained in other articles, should a government lawyer know what he is doing, he could point out that the church is a legal entity and argue that the church could be brought into the suit as the true owner for whom the pastor was only acting as trustee. The reasoning the government attorney could use:

“Only a legal entity can execute a deed and only a legal entity can hold property. The church has admitted by ELC declaration, the church being an ELC church, that ‘the church can execute a deed’ and that the property should be held by the church in trust…. Since the church admittedly executed the deed (through the pastor), the church is a legal entity.”

A properly worded Declaration of Trust which establishes an ordinary trust into which a church places tithes, offerings, and gifts makes clear that the church has no property and that the church has no interest in the money/property being placed into the trust estate and that the trust estate belongs only to the true and equitable owner, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be used for His benefit.

The ELC church could try to maintain their position that the government has no jurisdiction. The ELC might recommend that no one appear to admit jurisdiction or that someone, perhaps the trustee, make a special appearance to challenge jurisdiction only.

To begin such a case, the appropriate agency (many actions start in government agency with provisions for appeal into court should the final agency decision be contested) the agency or court would have to serve some legal entity. Every citizen of this country in his right mind is a legal entity.

Should they serve the pastor and he not appear, the agency or court would probably decide the issue (in court by a default judgment). Should they serve the church and an authorized representative of the church not appear, the result would be the same. Should the church appear and assert that she was not a legal entity, the agency/court would need proof that the church was not a legal entity. The government attorney, if he was familiar with the issue and ELC teachings, could argue that the church, by the ELC’s own admission and declaration is a legal entity such as a business trust or charitable trust.

Should a church appear and lose the jurisdictional issue, what would the next step be? The church would have already admitted that the court had jurisdiction over the jurisdictional issue by making an appearance. The court would probably and correctly rule that the church was a legal entity. Therefore, disregarding the court decision on that issue would be futile and non-appearance thereafter would probably result in a default judgment.

Approved by Man, p. 180
Approved by Man, p. 180

The first paragraph of the ELC article begins:

“It has been repeatedly reported by the BLC that the Declaration of Trust (‘DOT’) has never been tested in court. However, the DOT was filed and tested in the Indianapolis Baptist Temple case. And it did not succeed in protecting that church entity. To further reveal the blindness of those who propagate this document, it has been tested time and time again in every court jurisdiction over the last two hundred years. It is a document that courts recognize as a Trust agreement on which it can have jurisdiction and decide cases. If anything, this document in the IBT case could have been used by the court to prove they had jurisdiction over IBT.”

Approved by Man, p. 181
Approved by Man, p. 181

That whole first paragraph is a total distortion of what happened in the IBT (“Indianapolis Baptist Temple”) case. To fully and rationally explain all that happened in that case would require a lot of time and explanation. Suffice it to say for now and for purposes of the analysis of this section of Chapter 18 that the ELC effectively concedes in the last sentence of the above quoted paragraph that the court did not use the IBT trust document to prove they had jurisdiction over IBT. This author will offer the following true statement: the court did not (which, as pointed out, the ELC concedes in the paragraph above) and could not have used the trust document to prove they had jurisdiction over IBT.

IBT has continued since the court case was settled and the government confiscated the property. IBT has operated under a DOT since and has not been summoned into court or agency proceeding. The property tax exemption allowed the property owner who leases the property in which IBT meets (not IBT) still gets a property tax exemption on the property since the property is used for religious purposes, even though the local property tax board has contested the exemption more than once. Of course, IBT was not summoned or subpoenaed since IBT is not a legal entity.

The section “Has it ever been tested in court” then briefly mentions three cases with brief comments. The three cited cases, the ELC comments, and the ELC “reasoning” (a term loosely used here), are examined below. The first case mentioned is Tort Claimants Committee vs. Roman Catholic Archbishop. There is no citation to that case, but the author of the chapter states that the case is a “July 2006 case in Portland.” Then they state that “the court decided the following about a Declaration of Trust:

“Determining whether the Declaration of Trust created a valid, enforceable charitable trust requires interpretation of the Declaration of Trust. Under Oregon law, “[t]he same rule of construction applies in the interpretation of an instrument creating a trust as controls in construing any other document, to wit, that the intention of the maker of the instrument must, if possible, be determined and given effect.”

I did a Westlaw search of Oregon courts of appeal, Oregon Supreme Court, and United States Tax Court using the case name given in the article as well as the name of each party. I found no such name. If there is indeed such a case, any reliable writer would have included the citation so that the case could be easily found. The authors did give the citations for the next two cases, and I easily found and read them. (See below). I can therefore only analyze what is written in the first article about the alleged case, Tort Claimants Committee vs. Roman Catholic Archbishop.

On its face, it is not on point, even though the statement quoted is valid. It applies to a charitable trust, not an ordinary trust and the Declaration of Trust which created it.

The second case mentioned is “Church of Scientology vs. Commissioner, 83 TC 381. All the ELC says about this case in their article is: “the court found five Scientology groups were using a Declaration of Trust to channel ‘Tithe’ money into bank accounts overseas.”

I pulled that case up on Westlaw and examined it. (See En 1 for a summary of the case.). The case is not on point for many reasons besides the main point relevant to this this article: the trust involved was a charitable trust. I include a summary of the 105 single spaced on 8 ½ x 11 inch page case in En 1.  One can go to the law library read the case to verify the truth of this author’s assertions.

These were two of the eighteen issues in the case, the only two issues involving “charitable trust”:

11) Does the application of common law charitable trust doctrine to churches, requiring their conformity to fundamental public policy standards evidenced by criminal or civil statutes, violate the free exercise clause of the First Amendment because there are less restrictive ways of regulating church-sponsored misconduct?
12) Does the retroactive application of public policy standards derived from the common law of charitable trusts to petitioner’s operations deprive petitioner of due process of law in violation of the Fifth Amendment? Church of Scientology vs. Commissioner, 83 TC 381, 384 (1984).

Again, a charitable trust is a legal entity. An ordinary trust is not. Nothing in this case is relevant to the ordinary trust or the ordinary Bible trust and the churches who place their tithes, offerings, and gifts into such a trust. Read the summary in En 1 (or the case) to verify this.

The final case cited by the ELC in this section is Presbytery of Indianapolis vs. First United Presbyterian Church, 143 Indiana Appellate 72.

“The Appellate Court, Bierly, J., held that decision of authorized judicatory of hierarchial church denying petition of local congregation for leave to withdraw and take with it certain property was binding on state courts, notwithstanding that title may have been in corporation as grantee; use and occupancy of local church was matter of ecclesiastical government which could not constitutionally be impaired by any state legislation nor by any action by state judiciary. Reversed.” (Presbytery of Indianapolis vs. First United Presbyterian Church, 143 Ind. App. 72 (1968)).

As to the factual conclusions, the court said:

“This property appears to have been purchased * * * in the ordinary way of business, * * * and conveyed to the trustees by a general warranty deed, without condition of limitation. It is entirely clear that no trust, express or implied, is attached to the title. Appellants (plaintiffs) at no time had any interest in the property except as members of a congregation which was an integral part of the ecclesiastical society known as the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Our only duty is to determine the identity of the ecclesiastical successor of the original grantee. This we have seen has been determined for us, since the union of the Cumberland Church (which was incorporated and acquired the property as a corporation before combining with the Presbyterian Church) with the Presbyterian Church carried into the United body all its property. The validity of that union appellants cannot question, and in it they must acquiese or defy the decrees of the church to which they pledged allegiance. Consciences cannot be bound, and if in the assertion of individual opinion and conscientious dictates appellants segregate themselves from the body of the church, they must depart as they came in—empty-handed. The court did not err in overruling appellants’ motion for a new trial.” Ibid. 83-84.

The ELC quotes in their short article the following from pages 85-86 of the opinion: “The appellee church received aid through the years from the United Presbyterian Church of North America in a total sum of $45,436.31, which has never been repaid; the appellee never executed a resolution and Declaration of Trust as required by the General Assembly of the Church of North America.”

Thus, the ELC saw those words, “Declaration of Trust” and “trust,” in this case, left out the “charitable” before “trust,” included one quote out of context which contained those words, and never gave any explanation as to why that phrase in this case showed that “it has been tested in court.”

By the way, neither this “Separation of Church and State Law Ministry” nor the BLC will help a Presbyterian Church to establish an ordinary trust. It is impossible to help a Presbyterian church because the ordinary trust is as recommended by these ministries is not compatible with Presbyterian theology.

Now to the final paragraph of the section of the ELC article, “Has it ever been tested in court”:

“Many pages of the book could be filled with cases similar to the ones above. This Declaration of Trust is not a secret modern way for unincorporated churches to hold property. It is a way for the pastor to become the sole legal Trustee of all the church assets.”

Yes, should someone use the ELC method of legal research and analysis, many cases (probable thousands) similar to the cases above could be cited which have absolutely nothing to do with anything relevant to the ordinary trust and the DOT recommended by the BLC or this ministry and any rationale definition of “has it ever been tested in court?” If relevance is not to be considered, all one need do to find such cases as cited by the ELC is a Westlaw or LexisNexis search for cases which contain the word “trust” and/or “Declaration of Trust” select a few such cases and cite perhaps a sentence or two from each selected case which contain the  “trust” or “Declaration of Trust,” and/or make some nonsensical comment.

A New Testament church who puts tithes, offerings, and gifts into an ordinary trust should be careful not to do anything which makes them a legal entity: open bank account, contract, etc.
A New Testament church who puts tithes, offerings, and gifts into an ordinary trust should be careful not to do anything which makes them a legal entity: open bank account, contract, etc.

The ELC is right about the DOT when they say it is not secret and it is not modern. It has been around for hundreds of years. The concept was established by God. As to the last sentence of the ELC quote above, the ordinary Bible trust created by the DOT recommended by this author and the ordinary trust recommended by the BLC is not a way for the pastor to become the sole legal Trustee of all the church assets. When a properly worded DOT creates an ordinary trust into which a church places tithes, offerings, and gifts given to God in trust for the benefit of the true owner of the property to be administered by the trustee who has a fiduciary duty under God to use all the trust estate for God, the church remains a non-legal entity which cannot sue, be sued, contract, go into debt or act legally in any way; such a church, under the ordinary trust recommended by the “Separation of Church and State Law” ministry, has no physical assets; all the assets of such a church are spiritual. Note: Should such a church act legally (open a bank account, get insurance, etc.), the church becomes a legal entity in spite of the fact of the ordinary trust or DOT. Read the online PDF of Quick Reference Guide for Churches Seeking to Organize According to New Testament Principles for nutshell information on pitfalls for the church which utilizes the ordinary trust.

Note that a church which places tithes, offerings, and gifts in an ordinary trust estate gives to God. The church does the giving and – unlike gifts to a corporate church, a business trust church, or a charitable trust church, which are given to the corporation the business trust, or the charitable trust – the giving is to God.

None of the cases cited by the ELC make any point at all concerning the DOT and the ordinary trust created thereby; they support nothing the ELC is trying to argue. Truly, this whole ELC section is total nonsense and will serve to convince only those who are unknowledgeable concerning these matters. Most of the good folks who follow the ELC teachers never will have the time to do the studies necessary to examine ELC writing and teaching and therefore are easy prey to outright fallacies. The real tragedy is that good, well-meaning, born-again pastors and believers have followed these teachings, some for many years.


Summary of Church of Scientology vs. Commissioner, 83 TC 381, 384 (1984):

Petitioner, a Church incorporated in the State of California, was granted tax-exempt status in 1957 under sec. 501(c)(3), I.R.C. 1954. In 1967 respondent sent petitioner a letter revoking its exemption following audit of petitioner’s records which was in part sparked by litigation involving the tax-exempt status of an affiliated Church of Scientology. Subsequent to issuing the letter of revocation, respondent conducted several audits of petitioner’s records for various tax years and also reviewed the tax status of several affiliated churches. Petitioner was also investigated by several intelligence groups which respondent specially formed during 1969 through 1975 to investigate taxpayers allegedly selected by essentially political criteria. During the period that petitioner’s taxes were under administrative review, petitioner conspired to prevent the IRS from determining and collecting taxes due from petitioner and affiliated churches. Petitioner sold religious services, books, and artifacts according to a fixed fee schedule through its branch churches and franchises. Petitioner’s profits from these sales were not less than $1,494,617.53 in 1970, $881,131.18 in 1971, and $1,707,287.17 in 1972. Petitioner maintained large cash reserves in a sham corporation and in a bogus charitable trust controlled by key church officials including petitioner’s founder. HELD, petitioner was not the victim of selective enforcement of the tax laws since the notice of deficiency was based on valid regulatory considerations. HELD FURTHER, various other asserted constitutional rights of petitioner not violated. HELD FURTHER, petitioner was not operated exclusively for an exempt purpose under sec. 501(c)(3), I.R.C. 1954, since petitioner had a substantial commercial purpose, since its net earnings benefited key Scientology officials, and since it had the illegal purpose of conspiring to impede the IRS from collecting taxes due from petitioner and affiliated churches and thus its activities, dictated at the highest level, violated well-defined public policy.

Introduction: Ecclesiastical Law Center Exposed

Jerald Finney
Copyright © November 18, 2014


Related articles:

Introduction: Ecclesiastical Law Center Exposed

1For many years, the Ecclesiastical Law Center (“ELC”) has publicly attacked the Biblical Law Center (“BLC”) and the BLC method whereby churches establish an ordinary (Bible) trust by adopting a Declaration of Trust (“DOT”). The position of this author for many years has been that churches should look at all points of view, study to make sure they are not being misled, and then proceed according to Bible principle for the Glory of God. He had been asked to respond to ELC misinformation and attacks several times over the years, most recently by his pastor, Pastor Jason Cooley after he read Chapter 18 of Betrayed by Man, a book by Robin Wright and Ben Townsend of the ELCMotivated by the obvious falsehoods in ELC writings which are disseminated to many sincere and good men of God and which attack and misrepresent the DOT and the ordinary trust thereby created while promoting a very ill-advised method for a church to hold property in trust for the Lord Jesus by the pastor for the church, this author finally decided to take on the task.

This is not about the ELC, the BLC, or this ‘Separation of Church and State Law’ ministry. This is about the Lord Jesus Christ and his churches and the truth; that is why believers should be concerned about these matters, even though the issues and answers may initially seem complex. You may be a pastor of a church who has organized according to the recommendations of the ELC or according those of the BLC or this Old Paths Baptist Church “Separation of Church and State Law” ministry (“SCSLM”). You may believe the literature and teachings of your particular leaders. However, the ELC teachings are so different from those of this ministry that only one can be valid legally and biblically. For that reason, churches and pastors who are concerned about the biblical doctrine of the church need to find out which one is right. The author humbly submits that there is nothing more important than keeping the bride and wife of Christ pure and chaste and that all sides of this controversy must set aside their pride and diligently seek the truth in order that the church you are a member of may be prepared in the matter of church organization for His coming.”

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?

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

Ephesians 5.23-27, 30-32 states:

“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.”

As the informed believer reads the articles which examine the parts of Chapter 18 of Betrayed by Man and related ELC writings, he will see the good, the bad, and the ugly about the ELC position for church organization.

2The good:

The ELC method, by written declaration, creates a trust arrangement, places property in the legal name of a trustee for the church who holds and administers property and monies (the trust estate) for the Lord Jesus Christ the true, equitable, and beneficial owner of the property (and money). The trustee(s) has (have) a fiduciary duty under God and man to manage the trust estate, not for the benefit of the trustee(s), but for the benefit of the true, equitable, beneficial owner, the Lord Jesus Christ. As long as no disputes over, for example, ownership of property or some other property dispute, tort claims for injures sustained on church property, or use of funds (tithes, offerings, and gifts) arise, the ELC method will work fine and the inherent weaknesses of the ELC method and the inaccuracies in ELC teachings will not come to the forefront. Even then, unless the issues are tackled by one who is knowledgeable about ELC writings which expose the truth about their trust arrangement, the weaknesses and inaccuracies of the ELC method may not be discerned. However, should a lawyer study their writings and the relevant law, he will likely uncover his line of attack. Should he find out about and study this booklet, he will definitely discover how to mount an effective attack, unless the ELC corrects the flaws in their self-created and self-acclaimed system.

4The bad:

  • The ELC trust arrangement negatively implicates the church who utilizes their method by declaring that “The property should be held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner,” “Actually, the church, by the Pastor, can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ,” etc. These written declarations are not included in a Declaration of Trust to be adopted by a church which organizes under the method recommended by the ELC; rather, the declarations are in publications which teach ELC methods. Needless to say, their published declarations do not adequately describe the type of trust intended, the duties of the trustee, provisions for successor trustee in the event the trustee resigns, dies, etc., and other matters. These written declarations, especially when studied in conjunction with other ELC teachings, effectively set the church up as a legal entity, as opposed to a spiritual entity only. Their system is not a Bible system, as they like to say, but a legal system which establishes a church as a legal entity It would be far better for an ELC church to adopt a properly written DOT declaring exactly the nature of the trust established, the legal status of the church, etc. Should attacks against an ELC church arise, a properly worded DOT which establishes an ordinary trust, not the type trust now established by the ELC methods, could be produced to establish that the church is not a legal entity, that the trust is an ordinary (Bible) trust (as it now stands, the logical conclusion from ELC teachings is that the church utilizing ELC methods is a legal entity and therefore can sue, be sued and act legally).The ELC method is not according to knowledge and it therefore grieves our Lord and can result in problems for ELC churches. The articles which follow in this series delve more deeply into the matters asserted in this paragraph.

9The ugly:

The ELC runs a continuing campaign to convince others that the BLC (and now this SCSLM) are liars and that their methods are bad, should not be used, etc. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The ordinary (Bible) trust (and a properly worded DOT which creates it) recommended by this ministry and the BLC, as will be shown (and already has been shown in books and online writings) is biblical and has been recognized by the American law as a non-legal entity, a relationship with property and assets. Thankfully, churches can utilize an ordinary trust without placing themselves under the jurisdiction of civil government–the church is not the trust nor is the trust the church. The church remains a spiritual entity as long as she does not in some manner act legally; and she remains separate from the ordinary trust.

ELC attacks include sloppy false legal arguments (at best), lies, distortions, personal attacks, etc. Some of those will be exposed for what they are in the accompanying chapters. Straight forward language is the only way to get at the truth and, as will be shown in this series, the ELC has no problem either directly or indirectly, without any proof, calling truthful BLC statements lies, no problem with fabricating false, bad motivations on the part of the BLC for the alleged lies, no problem formulating ridiculous legal arguments, no problem with distorting, lying, and publishing recommendations for church organization without knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. This booklet will prove all this.

This author has seen no ELC written or online publication which, for example, looks at the law of ordinary trusts, the law upon which DOT and ordinary trust thereby created and which the BLC and the “Separation of Church and State Law” ministry recommend. Instead, the ELC mischaracterizes the ordinary trust recommended by the BLC and by this ministry as a business or charitable trust. Business and charitable trusts are legal entities. The ordinary trust is not; yet, relying on business trust and charitable trust law instead of ordinary trust law, the ELC continues to claim, against clear truth, that the ordinary trust is a legal entity. Here are two of many ludicrous examples of false ELC claims:

“The Ecclesiastical Law Center advises churches to not use a Declaration of Trust, a corporation, an unincorporated association, or any legal entity to hold their church assets and property.” (From Betrayed by Man, page 180)(My comments: Here again, the ELC not only misrepresents the ordinary trust, but also condemns their own method. The ordinary trust is not a legal entity. Furthermore, the church who places tithes, offerings and gifts into an ordinary trust has no assets. The ELC church has assets which are held in trust for the benefit of the true owner of the property, the Lord Jesus Christ. The ELC church is a legal entity since she holds property and has assets.)

“And placing church property in Trust is no different from placing it into a Corporation.” (From Betrayed by Man, page 177)

By “Trust” in the above statements, the ELC means all trusts, thereby including the ordinary trust (a fiduciary relationship with property which is a non-legal entity) with trusts which are legal entities such as business trusts and charitable trusts. In other words, the ELC again misrepresents the ordinary trust by effectively stating that all trusts are the same. The statement also equates placing a church in trust with incorporating a church; this is ridiculous because an ordinary trust has no resemblance to a corporation. An incorporated church is a legal entity. The ELC, in attacking the ordinary trust, cites 13 (“13” is the volume number) AM. JUR. 2D (AM. JUR. 2D is the abbreviated form of American Jurisprudence 2d, a highly regarded legal encyclopedia) Business Trusts and 15 AM. JUR. 2D Charitable Trusts. They never refer to 76 AM. JUR. 2D Trusts which covers ordinary trust law. 61 large volumes separate volumes 15 and 76 of American Jurisprudence and that separation corresponds with the difference between the ordinary trust and business and charitable trusts. They also cite reported cases which mention charitable trusts and business trusts in attacking ordinary trust law. This type analysis by the ELC is either completely dishonest or the result of incompetence in dealing with legal mattersThis booklet will thoroughly analyze, in detail, all these matters. The assertions of this author will be proven beyond any doubt.

The ELC, in its church organization methodology, relies on trust law. The language used by the ELC in its published declaration makes that clear; language such as “property held in trust,” “for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner,” and “the Pastor, can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.” All of the elements of a trust are in that language. Since Robin Wright, the brains behind the ELC, had some knowledge of trust law, this reliance is not without knowledge (See Section 2 Give and Take, an article by Ben Townsend of the ELC that was published after Chapters 1-8 of this booklet were published online). However, the ELC disqualifies their method as creating an ordinary (Bible) trust by saying that “The property should be held in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ,” “Actually, the church, by the Pastor, can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ,” etc. This is ugly because the ELC proposes a trust which sets a church up as a legal entity while virulently opposing the ordinary trust which keeps a church in its spiritual only status (non-legal entity status). This booklet will prove all this beyond all doubt.

This brings up a very important question: If the ELC is what they set themselves up to be – experts in trust law – then why do they always cite law and cases which deal with business and charitable trusts and never from the law of ordinary trust in their attacks against the ordinary trust promoted by the BLC and this “Separation of Church and State Law” ministry? Could it be that they knowingly wish to mislead others as they attack the ordinary trust with accusations that it is a legal entity? Business and charitable trusts are legal entities and the ordinary trust is not. Or could it be that they have never read the law of ordinary trusts? Or could it be that they got the language and ideas for their form of trust from the law of business trusts and/or the law of charitable trusts, but then attempted to distinguish their “trust” arrangement from those laws? Or could it be that they got the language and ideas for their method from the law of ordinary trust but do not wish to bring it up because they do not wish to bring attention to the fact that they have created some type of trust, something which they may have done because they do not understand these matters? Or could it be that a man who was later to start the ELC talked at length with Al Cunningham, while attorney Cunningham was alive and while the to be ELC leader was still a member of Indianapolis Baptist Temple, and – as a novice to legal matters – tried to create something with the elements of the ordinary trust which Attorney Cunningham recommended to churches but with changes which make the church which utilizes the method a legal entity, and then claim that what they were creating was biblical and not legal and that the concoction has all kinds of alleged benefits for a church? Al Cunningham was a great friend to Indianapolis Baptist Temple and Dr. Greg Dixon and spent a lot of time there.

In one place in their writings, they make the confused argument that there will be no lawsuits because you cannot take the true or equitable owner, the Lord Jesus Christ, to court (See Approved by God, p. 150). They state that this is so because lawsuits can be leveled against legal entities only, not spiritual ones. That statement is partly true – lawsuits can only be taken against legal, not spiritual entities. However, when money or property are taken to court, the legal owner, not the true, beneficial, or equitable owner in the trust situation, will be made a party to the action. ELC churches, by published ELC admission, are legal entities which can be taken to court (See, e.g., Approved by God, pp. 149-150 (ELC churches “hold property in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ;” “the church, by the Pastor, can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ;” etc. See also, Chapter 3 of Approved by Man where the ELC makes clear that it handles “legal church problems”). A church can hold property (in trust or otherwise), execute a deed (by a pastor or anyone else), or be taken into court only if she is a legal entity. ELC churches are legal entities. BLC and SCSLM are New Testament churches; they are not legal entities; and they cannot be taken to court.

Anytime anyone initiates a lawsuit for damages (slips on the ice at the church entrance and is damaged, etc.), a property tax challenge, or any type challenge involving a legitimate dispute over property (especially real estate) or money, the appropriate court (or agency) will assume jurisdiction and decide the dispute. Effectively, there can be no legal action for damages on property, if there is no one with a duty, or if there is no legal owner. In the case of one damaged because of the knowing, intentional, or negligent action of another who has a duty to maintain safety of a facility, the probable course of action will probably be to sue the church (which means those in the church) (1) if there is no clearly worded declaration that makes clear that the church owns nothing and is not a legal entity or (2) if there is proof that the church is a legal entity. The latter can be established as to the ELC church as well as other types of legal entity churches such as incorporated (including corporation sole) churches. In other types of disputes, if there is no legal owner, the court (or agency) will take jurisdiction over the property or money and decide to whom it belongs if ownership is at issue or whether a crime or tort was committed in the handling of the property or money. In the case of a church who is places tithes, offerings, gifts, and properties into an ordinary (Bible) trust, the church is a legal entity and cannot be sued; the legal owner of the property is the pastor/trustee.

Consider in more detail liability for damages to someone injured on the property due to the negligence of someone in charge. For example, suppose a person falls on ice while entering the premises of the real estate used as the church meetinghouse due to the negligence of the one (the legal entity/trustee) in charge of the property (the legal owner) and/or the person delegated to remove the ice from the entrance, if any. The injured party’s lawyer will seek out the legal owner, who will not be hard to find. An investigation will be done. That is when the ELC church can be, due to the published statements of the ELC, implicated as the legal entity who holds legal title to the property. When the church is implicated, the members are implicated since the members are the church. Should that scenario arise, the church would be better off incorporated, from a worldly perspective (but see, Spurious rationale for church incorporation: limited liability/incorporation increases liability of church members (Section VI, Chapter 6 of God Betrayed; Chapter 6 of Separation of Church and State) for the heavenly perspective). However, when the recommendations of the BLC and this “Separation of Church and State Law” ministry are followed, the church cannot be implicated and the insurance company from whom the trust (not the church) has bought liability insurance on the real estate will take care of the damages. Of course, should the party responsible for the real estate be proven negligent or responsible for not removing the ice, he and anyone given the responsibility to remove the ice can also be included in the lawsuit; this is true no matter how the church is organized. And this is as it should be. It is biblical and it is legal to hold one who intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with negligence injures another or causes another to be injured.

Should a lawyer who knows the ELC teaching and the basic law of the various types of trusts be involved in any legal action against land, money, or against one responsible for injury and damages to another, that lawyer could establish that the ELC church is a legal entity and include the church in the dispute, something which ELC publications establish; an impossibility for the church which places tithes, offerings, and gifts into an ordinary trust which is a non-legal entity in which a trustee administers the trust estate for the benefit of the true, equitable, beneficial owner or the property, the Lord Jesus Christ and is careful not to inadvertently act legally and thereby set herself up as a legal entity. Fortunately for the ELC, no lawyer before the publication of this booklet was called to take the time to study out ELC teaching.

These matters will be explained in much more detail, with cited authority, in the accompanying articles, the links to which will be included at the beginning of this article as they are completed. May everyone put aside their pride and seek the truth, for His Glory. Addressing all these matters will be require a little time and study by the novice. You who are interested in these things must patiently go through these articles and do some self-study to determine the truth. Following this teaching as it develops piecemeal will give the interested party time to check the assertions of this author and sources and do some study yourself. If anyone who has studied the teachings of the ELC or the teachings of this “Separation of Church and State Law” ministry is confused or has an honest disagreement based on in-depth studies, this author will be glad to examine an issue with you. Again, if this author can be shown to be wrong, he will publicly repent and present corrections.

Now to the task.

Go to the following link for links to all the articles in this series: 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”: Preface.