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KOPSOMBUT-MYINT BUDDHIST CENTER, v. STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION, 728 S.W. 2d 327 (1986) Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Middle Section, at Nashville. Permission to Appeal Denied, April 6, 1987

First, below is a brief statement of relevant matters in the case, with the most important – for church organization purposes – point(s), then, a more extensive summary below that.

KOPSOMBUT-MYINT BUDDHIST CENTER, v. STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION, 728 S.W. 2d 327 (1986) Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Middle Section, at Nashville. Permission to Appeal Denied, April 6, 1987.

Point of importance. Property held in trust qualifies for a property tax exemption, if the property is used for religious purposes and the owner, any stockholder, officer, member or employee of such institution is not lawfully entitled to receive and pecuniary profit from the operations of that property in competition with like property owned by others which is not exempt. Property held in trust and which otherwise qualifies for the exemption is to be exempted from property tax.

Two members of a Buddhist organization formed a joint venture and bought property for a Buddhist organization. They requested a property tax exemption. The agency held that no property tax exemption applied. However, the appeals court, among other things, implied that an oral “trust” was created since joint venturers could not profit from the venture. The court stated: “A valid trust need not be in writing. It can be created orally unless the language of the written conveyance excludes the existence of a trust. The existence of a trust requires proof of three elements: (1) a trustee who holds trust property and who is subject to the equitable duties to deal with it for the benefit of another, (2) a beneficiary to whom the trustee owes the equitable duties to deal with the trust property for his benefit, and (3) identifiable trust property.” The court further held, contrary to the holding below, that the Buddhist Temple can be deemed to be the “owner” of the property for the purpose of obtaining a tax exemption.

KOPSOMBUT-MYINT BUDDHIST CENTER, v. STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION, 728 S.W. 2d 327 (1986) Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Middle Section, at Nashville. Permission to Appeal Denied, April 6, 1987 (Click this link to go to the entire case online)

(Two members of a Buddhist organization formed a joint venture and bought property for a Buddhist organization. They requested a property tax exemption. The appeals court, among other things, implied that a “trust” was created.)

IV. The Temple’s Entitlement to an Exemption

… “There has been a great deal of litigation construing Tenn. Code. Ann. 67-5-212(a)(1)’s requirement that property must be owned and used for religious purposes in order to be exempt. However, there has been little litigation concerning the nature of the entity that will qualify as a religious institution entitled to claim a tax exemption. Thus, our analysis is government by general property tax principles” The court then stated that the property had been used for religi ous purposes [in 1982].

A. The Kopsombut-Myint Buddhist Center’s 1982 Exemption

The Assessment Appeals Commission found that the Kopsombut-Myint Buddhist Center had not met the requirements of Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-5-212(a)(1) for two reasons. First, the Commission stated:

The restriction in the statute precludes ownership by an individual or individuals and by implication suggests ownership which has a foundation by law, whether the mode of its operation be by way of legislative enactment, a corporation or a trust, but imposing always an irrevocable use of the property for exempt purposes.

Second, the Commission held:

The property was acquired by Myint and Kopsombut in December 1981; the joint venture was not formalized until almost a year later on November 12, 1982 at which time a written agreement was drawn that went into substantial detail about the duties of Myint and Kopsombut, the events of default, the transfer of the property and profit or loss. It appears that the conditions placed on the two parties by the agreement in November may have had the effect of forming a trust whereas Myint and Kopsombut acted as trustees for the Buddhist Center. Until this formulation of the restrictions set out in the agreement, the joint venture was an association of two men who had equal right of control over the property. The fact that the individuals did not exercise this right is of no consequence nor is the altruistic intentions of the joint venturers. Either party or both who wished to transfer his interest in the property could have done so with impunity.

These findings indicate that the Commission denied Kopsombut-Myint Buddhist Center’s 1982 exemption simply because the joint venture agreement had not been reduced to writing prior to the beginning of 1982. We infer that the Commission reasoned that until Myint and Kopsombut executed this agreement there was no binding, irrevocable commitment to hold and use the property for exempt purposes. We disagree. In fact, all the evidence is to the contrary.

A valid trust need not be in writing. It can be created orally unless the language of the written conveyance excludes the existence of a trust. Sanderson v. Milligan, 585 S.W.2d S.W.2d 573, 574 (Tenn. 1979); Linder v. Little, 490 S.W.2d 717, 723 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1972); and Adrian v. Brown, 29 Tenn. App. 236, 243, 196 S.W.2d 118, 121 (1946). However, when a party seeks to establish an oral trust, it must do so by greater than a preponderance of the evidence. Sanderson v. Milligan, 585 S.W.2d 573, 574 (Tenn. 1979); Hunt v. Hunt,169 Tenn. 1, 9, 80 S.W.2d 666, 669 (1935); and Browder v. Hite, 602 S.W.2d 489, 493 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1980).

The existence of a trust requires proof of three elements: (1) a trustee who holds trust property and who is subject to the equitable duties to deal with it for the benefit of another, (2) a beneficiary to whom the trustee owes the equitable duties to deal with the trust property for his benefit, and (3) identifiable trust property. See G.G. Bogert & G.T. Bogert, The Law of Trusts and Trustees § 1, at 6 (rev. 2d ed. 1984) and Restatement (Second) of Trusts § 2 comment h (1957). We find that the Kopsombut-Myint Buddhist Center has proved the existence of each of these elements by clear and convincing evidence.

Both the November, 1982 agreement embodying the parties’ commitments when the property was purchased in December, 1981 and Mr. Myint’s uncontradicted testimony show that Kopsombut and Myint intended to create a joint venture that would acquire the Treutland Street property and hold it in trust for Nashville’s Buddhist Community. They agreed to restrict their interest in the property by agreeing to receive no profits of any sort and to convey the property only to The Buddhist Temple when it was incorporated. These oral agreements are sufficient to establish an enforceable trust in the Treutland Street property in favor of the temple which came into effect when the Kopsombut-Myint Buddhist Center purchased the property from the House of Prayer and Praise, Inc.

The trial court’s reason for denying the 1982 exemption differed from the Assessment Appeals Commission. It relied upon the portion of Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-5-212(a)(4) that states

“But the property of such institution shall not be exempt if the owner, or any stockholder, officer, member or employee of such institution shall receive or may be lawfully entitled to receive any pecuniary profit from the operations of that property in competition with like property owned by others which is not exempt.”

The trial court concluded that Myint and Kopsombut could have received profits from this transaction merely because they formed a joint venture to acquire the Treutland Street property. We disagree with this conclusion. A joint venture is inherently neither a for-profit entity nor a not-for-profit entity. Its nature depends upon the nature of the persons forming it and the purposes for which it was formed.

We should look to the substance of an arrangement rather than its form when we are construing Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-5-212. See National Music Camp v. Green Lake Township, 76 Mich. App. 608, 257 N.W.2d 188, 191 (1977). We have already determined that the Kopsombut-Myint Buddhist Center was holding the Treutland Street property in trust for The Buddhist Temple pursuant to an oral trust agreement. It is the character of the beneficiary of the trust, not the trustee, that determines the availability of an exemption. National Bank of Burlington v. Huneke, 250 Iowa 1030, 98 N.W.2d 7, 11 (1959).

There is no question that the beneficiary of the trust, The Buddhist Temple, is a religious institution. As the owner of the equitable interest in the property, The Buddhist Temple can be deemed to be the “owner” of the property for the purpose of obtaining a tax exemption. See Hahn v. County of Walworth, 14 Wis.2d 147, 109 N.W.2d 653, 656 (1961). See also 71 Am.Jur.2d State and Local Taxation § 366 (1973); Annot., 94 A.L.R.2d 636 § 3 (1964); and 84 C.J.S. Taxation § 231 (1954). It is also undisputed that Myint and Kopsombut, as trustees, agreed that they would hold the property only for the benefit of the temple. Therefore, the trial court’s conclusion that Kopsombut and Myint could profit from this transaction is not supported by the evidence.

The case was remanded to the trial court to determine, in accordance with the opinion of the court of appeals, whether this property was entitled to an exemption in 1982 [and a total exemption in 1983 (this depended upon the use of the property in 1983].

 

How a Church Can Organize To Remain a New Testament Church (Holding Property in Trust for God Is a Scriptural Principle Recognized, but not Created, by the Legal System)

Jerald Finney
Copyright © May 6, 2016
“Separation of Church and State Law” ministry

He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.Lk. 16:10-13
Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” 1 Co. 4.1-2
But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.” 1 Th. 2:4
According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.” 1 Ti. 1:11
O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:1 Ti. 6:20

See also, Documents Which Establish a Church under Christ Alone.

 

Note. “Property” included both real and personal property. Personal property, also referred to as movable property, is anything other than land that can be the subject of ownership, including money and bank accounts.

Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. Trust is a Bible concept
  3. The Trustor
  4. The Trustee
  5. A church Bible trust agreement and estate
  6. The wisdom of a Declaration of Trust
  7. American law recognizes and applies the concept of trust
  8. Conclusion

1. Introduction

American law recognizes, but did not originate, the concept of trust. Efforts of scholars to trace the origin have been futile. See, e.g., Fn 1Trusts, Trust-Like Concepts and Ius Commune, 8 Eur. Rev. Private L. 453 (2000), C. H. van Rhee: “… Whether these origins are Roman, Canonical or Germanic [or of some other origin] remains an unresolved question. …”

Scholars have not considered all historic evidence. Had they done so, they would have discovered that the concept of trust was originated by God in the manner in which He ordered things. “Trust” is recognized by American law as will be seen below. See, 7. American law recognizes and applies the concept of trust, below. The concept of “trust” started in the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, and is evident throughout the Word of God. In the Bible, one finds by implication “trust” (also explicitly stated), “trust estate,” “trustor,” (or “grantor” or “settlor”), “trustee,” “beneficiary,” and “fiduciary.” Actually, the concept is just part of the way things work, the way God arranged things, as He explains in His Word.

The Roman Catholic “Church,” with all its heresies understood the this matter, although with some distortion, a long time ago:

“Trust-like devices were popular in the Church [speaking of the Roman Catholic ‘church’], since they allowed this institution to accumulate the necessary means to discharge its tasks. At the same time, these devices preempted the criticism that the Church was not practising [sic] its own teachings on the spiritual dangers of wealth. The wealth accumulated by the Church was not regarded as property owned by the Church itself. According to S. Herman, it was said to belong to God the Father as sovereign Lord, the Pope and his clerical lieutenants acting as His stewards. In trust terminology: God acted as ‘settlor’, while the Pope and his clerical lieutenants acted as trustees. Christ, the meek, the poor and the congregation were usually designated as ‘beneficiaries’. God, as the settlor, also figured as the ultimate beneficiary of creation. In this way, the wealth of the Church could be justified, since the Church simply acted as a depositary of goods created for all. Church officials were charged with managing the goods entrusted to them as ‘trustees’ and with using them for the good of the community. ” See Trusts, Trust-Like Concepts and Ius Commune Op Cit.

Of course this Catholic misunderstanding allowed the Institution of the Roman Catholic “Church” to prosper and the clergy to live a luxurious life (the “beneficiaries” in practice although not in name) because the trust estate was not used for the benefit of God, the true owner of all things, and all mankind. The Catholic Church, accordingly, has stored up tremendous wealth and actually worships mammon. Nonetheless, even though misapplying the concept, Catholicism recognized it.

Most contemporary “Bible believing Christians” in America have no idea of the concept. Rather, most prostitute their churches through the use of various legal entity devises such as church incorporation and Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) or 508 status.

This article examines the Bible doctrine of trust and its proper application by churches. A church can operate according to the principles of the New Testament only should she apply the concept of trust. God entrusts a New Testament (“NT”) church to her members. He wants each church to operate and organize according to His precepts as laid out in the Bible. According to the NT, a church is to be a spiritual entity only. A spiritual entity cannot hold property or money, sue, be sued, enter into contracts or act legally in any way. Only a temporal entity can do those things. See, for explanation, What Is a Church  Under Christ (a New Testament Church) and What Upholds Her Integrity? (article); see also, Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities? (book).

God wants members of His churches to give to Him, not to their church. If church members (a church is made of her members ) give to a church, that church gives to herself. Of course, many believers in non-NT churches while giving to the churches they are members of, not to God, believe in their heart they are giving to God. I believe God will honor their giving, even though not according to knowledge, understanding and wisdom. However, when one grows to understand the truth about giving to God, he has a responsibility to begin to do things God’s way.

This article will answer the question, “How can a church organize such that the church complies with Bible principles?” The answer in a nutshell is by complying with Bible teaching on the matter. There is only one Bible way to do so. That is by establishing a trust relationship with money and property. When church members give to God, they should entrust their gifts and offerings to someone who holds and manages God’s money and property for the benefit of the true owner, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The principle of trust originated with God. God embedded this precept in His word and it is seen from Genesis to Revelation. God has administered his rule over the world in various dispensations or economies as He progressively works out His purpose of world history. The principle is still effectual to this day. Primarily, dispensations are stewardships. All in a particular dispensational economy are stewards, although one man usually stands out. For example, Paul was used by God more than any other to reveal His grace. Nonetheless, all the apostles and every other believer are also stewards of God’s grace. All have a responsibility to respond to that grace. God will judge those who fail to do so. (Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pp. 56-57; for an more detailed analysis of dispensations and dispensationalism, see the short article The Essence of Dispensationalism).

God created all things and owns all things. (Ge. 1.1). After the creation, God “saw every thing that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Ge. 1.31).

God is trustor or settlor – God established the trust relationship whereby man holds God’s property in trust for God, the owner. Man is trustee under God with a fiduciary duty to use all God has given him for the glory of God. Obedience to God brings blessings. Disobedience brings curses.

God entrusted the earth to man. God as trustor or settlor established the trust agreement. The trust estate is His. Man was trustee. Man, as trustee, has a fiduciary duty, under God, to care God’s earthly trust estate for Him. Man’s God-given purpose is to glorify God in all things.  “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (Corinthians 10:31).

Jn.3.20-21_2Every man has a choice of glorifying God or not glorifying God. The first step is salvation. The light  of salvation comes to every man (See John 3.16-22); some come to it, some do not. Even after salvation, new light continues to shine through; one either comes to that light or rejects it. Only the saved man is made privy to additional light from God; when that light comes to him, he either accepts and acts on it or rejects it. “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (John 3:20-21). “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light” (Romans 13:12; written to believers).

God made man trustee of that which God gave him. A trustee is one who holds money or property for the benefit of someone else. He has a fiduciary duty to do so.

The beneficiary of all things is God. Man, as trustee, is to hold and manage all things for the benefit of the true, beneficial, and equitable owner of all things, for God.

God gave the first man man only one commandment or rule—not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Man violated the rule and fell. All was no longer good. God judged the serpent, Adam, and Eve. Man remained trustee of all that God had given him; but God changed things. Churches, in general, continue to dishonor rather than to glorify God by rejecting God’s trust relationship and replacing it with some kind of earthly man-made organizational scheme which places them under some authority other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. Trust is a Bible concept

Some meanings of trust, as given in the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary, are:

  1. Confidence; a reliance or resting of the mind on the integrity, veracity, justice, friendship or other sound principle of another person. He that putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe. Proverbs 29:25.
  2. Something committed to a person’s care for use or management, and for which an account must be rendered. Every man’s talents and advantages are a trust committed to him by his Maker, and for the use or employment of which he is accountable.

Both definitions are Biblical. This article will deal with definition 2 above. From that definition, one can see that the God ordained trust arrangement with mankind has a trust estate, a trustor, a trustee, a beneficiary. The true, beneficial, and equitable owner of all things, both material and spiritual, is God; He is the beneficiary. The creator, trustor, or settlor of the trust arrangement is God. God established the trust estate, made up of both material and spiritual elements. Man is the trustee of all the trust estate. As trustee, he is to manage all that God entrusted to him for the benefit of, God, the true owner of the estate.

God owns everything—not only the land, but also everyone and everything. That ownership is implicit in the fact that He created it all. (Ge. 1). He clearly stated His ownership of all in His Word:

  • God said, “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:” (Ex. 19.5).
  • God said, “The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.” (Le. 25.23).
  • “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee [God], and of thine own have we given thee.” (1 Chr. 29.14).
  • “The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” (Ps. 24.1).
  • God said, “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.” (Ps. 50.10).
  • “The heavens are thine [God’s], the earth also is thine: as for the world and the fulness thereof, thou hast founded them.” (Ps. 89.11).
  • “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Hag. 2.8).

For example, when a church assembles together, God owns the land upon which they meet. The land is temporarily loaned to man for the benefit of God, the true owner. Although man has the temporal and legal title to the land, God is the true, beneficial, and equitable owner. An equitable owner is “[o]ne who is recognized in equity as owner of the property, because real and beneficial use and title belong to him, even though bare legal title is invested in another.” (BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY (6th Ed. 1990), 539). “In a trust relationship, as distinguished from a ‘contract,’ there is always a divided ownership of property, to which the trustee usually has legal title and cestui [que trust] an equitable title.” (90 C.J.S. Trusts § 1, fn. 13 (2007). C.J.S., like AM. JUR 2D, is a highly respected, used, and cited legal encyclopedia).

Re.4.11The Bible teaches that God, the true owner of all things, entrusted man, under God, with the earth and all that was in it. God entrusted man with His property. Man was put in trust to administer God’s earthly property according to God’s plan. Man did not own the earth, but, of course, man benefited from use of the property entrusted him. Man was to use the property God entrusted him with for the glory of God, for God’s pleasure. (Re. 4.11).

The word of God also teaches that God entrusted a New Testament church to the members of the church.

A trustee is “a person to whom anything is committed, in confidence that he will discharge his duty.” Man was trustee of God’s property. Church members are trustees of the church they are members of.

Man was a fiduciary. Fiduciary, as a noun, means “One who holds a thing in trust; a trustee.” Man, as trustee, had a fiduciary duty to hold and administer God’s property for the benefit of God. Church members have a fiduciary duty to organize and operate the church they belong to according to God’s guidelines as stated in the New Testament. Fiduciary as an adjective means, “Not to be doubted; as fiduciary obedience” or “Held in trust.” Man benefits from use of God’s property and church members benefit from belonging to a church under God only.

 “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Ge. 2:16-17). Eating of the true of knowledge of good and evil was a violation of man’s fiduciary duty to administer God’s property for the benefit of the true, beneficial, and equitable owner of the property.

God entrusted Adam and Eve with the earth and all that is in it and gave them responsibilities:

Ge.1.26-28“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.  And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.  And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.  And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” (Ge. 1.28-31).

Man violated his duty and God held him accountable. Satan lied to man and tempted him to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and man fell or violated his fiduciary duty with bad results.

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.  And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” (Ge. 3:6-7).

God then judged man, woman, and Satan. Things changed. No longer was all that God had made good.

 “And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” (Ge. 3:22-24)

Man remained in trust of all that God gave him. Mankind continued as trustee of God’s earthly property. Man had legal title to God’s earthly propery. The perpetual principle that nations—Gentile nations and Israel—and individuals were left in trust of land and all things for the benefit of God runs throughout the Bible and continues.

As recorded in the NT, God ordained his church, an institution made up of local autonomous spiritual bodies.

3. The Trustor

As shown above, God is trustor or settlor of all things. A trustor or settlor is the one who establishes a trust agreement. This is  because He owns all things. Once God created man, He gave man the duty to oversee His creations; God put man in trust with His earth and all that is in it. God put church members in trust with His churches.

Lk.19.27The Lord spoke of the concept of trust in at least two parables as recorded in the books of Matthew and Luke. (Mt. 25.14-30; Lu. 19.12-27). He spoke of an earthly master leaving certain amounts of his goods or money with his servants, according to their abilities. The more important parallel spiritual meaning was to the Lord and His servants. The master had an absolute right to his own goods, but he distributed to his servants to be used for the benefit of the master, the servants to be awarded according to their profitable use of the property entrusted to them. Some used the money productively and upon the master’s return presented him with a profit. The property belonged to the master, and the servants were to use it for the master’s benefit, not for their own benefit. Of course, they would be rewarded if they used the property wisely for the benefit of the master. One servant in each example returned only the original amount left in trust with them. The master instructed that the goods which he had left with the unprofitable servants be taken from them, and they were left with nothing. The profitable servants were rewarded by the master. In the story found in Matthew, the Master said, “[C]ast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mt. 25.30).

The parables of the last paragraph speak of the heavenly master (trustor) and his earthly trustees. Men, as servants of the Master are left in trust of all things for His benefit and will be rewarded or punished according to their use of His goods.

A church, under God, acts as the trustor of a church Bible trust agreement—the church by so doing is recognizing and acting on the Bible principles regarding trust.

4. The Trustee

According to Scripture, who should be the trustee named in a church Bible trust agreement?

1Ti.6.20-21Timothy was a preacher with a special position of trust. Timothy was a trustee of a spiritual heritage: “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:” (1 Ti. 6.20). Likewise, elders, which includes pastors, must meet specific requirements which not every man in a church can meet. (See, for example, Tit. 1.5-9). These elders must hold fast the Word of God, “that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers” (Tit. 1.9-16, 2.2; see also, Ac. 11.30, 14.23, (ordained elders in every church), 15.2, 4, 6, 22-23, 16.4, 20.17, 21.18; 1 Ti. 5.1 (“rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father”), 1 Ti. 5.17-19; Ja. 5.14-15; He. 13.7, 17; 1 Pe. 5.1 (Peter the Apostle was an elder, here writing to “the elders who are among you”; 1 Pe. 5.5 (younger to submit to the elder, and all to submit to one another); 2 Jn. 1 and 3 Jn. 1 (John the Apostle was also an elder);

Biblically, a pastor must meet stringent God-given requirements:

  • “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop [pastor], he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.  Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (1 Ti. 3.1-7).
  • “For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;” (Tit. 1.7).

These requirements are strict because a pastor, and every member of a church, is entrusted by God to “take care of the church of God.” (1 Ti. 3.5). He is a trustee of God.

“The elders [pastors included] which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” (1 Pe. 5.1-5).

The Bible proclaims: “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the Word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.” (He. 13.7). “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” ( He. 13.17). “Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints….” (He. 13.24). “Them” is plural, and includes the pastor  and other elders of a church.

The elders, including the pastor, are to oversee a church: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” (Ac. 20.28). Paul was speaking to the elders of the church at Ephesus (Ac. 20.17-18).

A pastor is responsible to act as a ruler, trustee, steward, and overseer of a church. As such, he should be as qualified as any other elder to be the trustee given oversight of a trust established by a church.

Likewise, all men are trustees over that with which God has entrusted them. A father is a trustee of his family. A civil government is a trustee which is to operate under God within its God-given jurisdiction. God has appointed every human being who has ever lived as trustee over himself, all that God has given him, his spiritual heritage, and his spiritual destiny. The earth is still God’s, but He told man care for and possess His earth. Mankind is “trustee” of the earth. The pastor is a trustee, and a prominent trustee, of a church.

5. A church Bible trust agreement and estate

A church can remain a spiritual entity only by utilizing the Bible concept of trust, whether declared in writing or not. In a Bible trust arrangement, God’s spiritual and temporal rules are honored. Regarding money and property, a church is trustor, the  appointed temporal and legal owner of the trust estate is the trustee, and the Lord Jesus Christ is the beneficiary. The beneficiary is, by definition, the true, beneficial, and equitable owner of the property held in the trust estate. Gifts, tithes, and offerings are to God (to the trust estate which is owned by God), not to the church. The church is the giver, God is the recipient and owner.

This type of trust arrangement is Scriptural. The church is not the trust and the trust is not the church. The church remains totally under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and His word. The trustee does not hold the property for the church. The trustee holds the property for the benefit of the true owner of the property, the Lord Jesus Christ. The trustee is the legal owner of the property and the Lord Jesus Christ is the true, equitable, and beneficial owner. The trustee has a fiduciary duty under God to use the property, not for his own or the trustor church’s benefit, but for the benefit of the Lord Jesus Christ.

As to property on which a church meets, the state will declare someone to be legal owner of that property if no one lawfully has title and if it is brought to the attention of the state. The law requires someone to hold legal title to real property. A New Testament church is to be, according to Scripture, a spiritual entity only. Therefore, a New Testament church cannot hold title to property. Should a church hold title to property through a trustee or trustees, that church is no longer a spiritual entity only because she has entwined herself with the legal system. A title is a legal declaration of ownership.

Only a legal entity can act legally, sue, be sued, enter into contracts, or be charged with a crime. To assume ownership of property is to act legally. Every American citizen in his right mind is a legal entity. Likewise, corporations (aggregate of sole, profit or non-profit), charitable trusts, business trusts, and Internal Revenue Code § 501(c)(3) and § 508 organizations are legal entities. A church who owns property through one of these legal devises is asserting ownership. A  church who does not hold property or money but puts money and perhaps property into a trust estate whose owner is the Lord Jesus Christ is not acting legally. The trustee of such a trust holds legal or earthly title to the money are property, if any, in the trust estate. He is to administer the money and property, if any, for the benefit of the true owner of the property, the Lord Jesus Christ. On the other hand, a church who holds property through a trustee for the benefit of the Lord Jesus Christ is a legal or earthly entity.

Holding property in the recommended manner has additional benefits. Not only does holding property in this manner comport with biblical principles, it also lessens the chances that the property, and especially the buildings, will become idols. “Their idols are … the work of men’s hands.  … They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.” (Ps. 115.4-8). Finally, holding property in this way assures that a church has chosen not to be structured like a business or a government created organization; that church can operate according to the principles in the New Testament.

6. The wisdom of a Declaration of Trust

4Wisdom dictates that the best course of action—for a church who meets on property entrusted to a trustee for the benefit of the true owner of the property, the Lord Jesus Christ, and or hands over tithes, offerings, and/or gifts to a trustee to be held and used for the benefit of the Lord Jesus Chris—is to properly write and execute a declaration with supporting document(s) of the principles and terms of the trust. A “declaration” is a publication or manifestation. A good name for this type of writing is “Declaration of Trust (‘DOT’).” This section will cover the reasons why wisdom recommends the use of such a declaration.

First, a DOT which describes a Bible Trust relationship totally conforms to Scriptural principles and guidelines. It, with supporting documents, makes clear to all that the church, as trustor or settlor, remains a spiritual entity and closes the door to all legitimate arguments that the church is not a legal, as opposed to a spiritual, entity.

Second, a well written and executed DOT and supporting documents settle arguments about the terms of the trust and the intended use of the trust estate. No disgruntled church member can rewrite (without support of the other members) or control the terms of the trust agreement. No such member can argue that any type of contract, charitable trust, or other legal arrangement was intended or implemented. The door is closed for such a member to control the church property (the Declaration makes clear that the trust property and monies belong to God, not to the church), and/or to control the spiritual direction of the church. No government agent can argue the type of trust created or the intent of the creator(s) of the trust agreement. The written Declaration, if in conformity to Bible principles, serves as the light and authority as to intent and terms. Should anyone dispute the terms of the trust relationship, the Declaration serves as the standard.

Third, if such Declaration and supporting document(s) reflect Bible principles, they serve as an educational tool to church members, other churches, the lost, and the saved. God’s light shines through the documents. The documents proclaim the Bible truths being implemented.

Fourth, a properly worded and executed Declaration and supporting document(s) are solid proof that neither the trust agreement thereby created and declared nor the trustor church is a business trust, charitable trust, non-profit corporation, unincorporated association, or other type of creature of the state which is legally organized under state law.

Fifth (to repeat the first for emphasis), a properly worded and executed DOT and supporting document(s) make clear that no type of business or government entity is thereby created and that the church is a spiritual entity under God only, not a two headed monster partially under the state and partially under God.

7. American law recognizes and applies the concept of trust

One can start his legal research to verify this matter in many places. He can do a word search on a legal website such as Westlaw or Lexis. Since access to these websites is expensive, for the most part only lawyers and paralegals who regularly practice or research law will find it practical to use them. One can also go to the law library and go to case digests, treatises, case reporters, legal encyclopedias and other sources.

On the subject of trusts, this author started with a legal encyclopedia, American Jurisprudence 2nd, Volume 76, Trusts. In explaining the concept of trust, this author used that resource, with some information from Corpus Juris Secundum, another legal encyclopedia, to give an overall explanation of the concept in its use by churches to remain spiritual entities only, as opposed to incorporated 502(c)(3) legal organizations. See, Chapter 7 of PDF of 2nd Edition of Separation of Church and State: God’s Churches – Spiritual or Legal Entities?

See Fn2 for some excerpts from some cases which define and apply the trust relationship.

8. Conclusion

God instituted the concept of trust in the beginning, in the Garden of Eden. It is a biblical concept which, when properly implemented, keeps a church under God (the Scriptures) only. If a church is a NT church, that church has established a trust agreement with the Lord; her gifts are to a trustee. The trustee holds any money or property given to the Lord for the benefit of the true owner or the money and property, the Lord Jesus Christ. A properly worded and executed Declaration of Trust and supporting documents serve as a standard for church members and for the world as to the intent of the creators of the trust agreement and as a light to the world.

The American legal system did not legislate the concept of trust, but merely recognizes the concept. A basic trust is not a legal entity. See, Powerpoint: The Basics of the Bible Principle of Trust in Church Organization; Explanation of “Trust,” as opposed to “Business Trust,” “Charitable Trust,” and other kinds of trusts. How can you know who to trust for the truth about these matters? How can you know if what is presented here is the truth? Etc. Of course, the legal system has expanded the basic concept of trust far beyond its original God established meaning. “Business trusts,” “charitable trusts,” and various other types of trusts are legal entities. The legal system recognizes the basic “trust” in the church and religious institution context, as shown above.

Should any member dislike the way the Lord’s money is spent by the trustee, he can quit giving his money to the Lord’s estate. Should he complain about property which were paid for in part or whole by his past giving, he can take it up with the Lord since the property is the Lord’s.

downloadThe church, the trustor or settlor, implements God’s guidelines as to both eternal spiritual and temporal material matters. The trustee holds property (if any) and money in a trust estate for the benefit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the true, equitable, and beneficial owner of all things. As trustee, he is the temporal and legal owner of the Lord’s properties and monies held in the trust estate.

The trustee has a duty as a fiduciary to manage the trust estate for the benefit of the Lord Jesus  Christ, not for his own benefit. He is not to utilize the property as a profit-making venture in any way. If he violates his fiduciary duties as God’s trustee, God will certainly hold him accountable. “For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (He. 10.30-31).

For a basic understanding of the concept as it should be applied by churches see PowerPoint: The Basics of the Bible Principle of Trust in Church Organization. “Trust” Explained and Differentiated from “Business Trust,” Charitable Trust, and other kinds of trusts. (If you click the link, the PowerPoint will download onto your computer.

Footnotes

Fn 1. Trusts, Trust-Like Concepts and Ius Commune, 8 Eur. Rev. Private L. 453 (2000), C. H. van Rhee:  This article concludes:

Trust and Ius Commune: an Assessment
On the basis of the above, several conclusions may be drawn. Firstly, it may be concluded that it is very likely that the origins of the trust cannot completely be traced. Whether these origins are Roman, Canonical or Germanic remains an unresolved question. A link between Romanocanonical usus -Roman usus in a Canonical guise- and the trust seems the most promising of all possible links. However, much research needs to be conducted of ecclesiastical records both on the continent and in England. Examining these records should be the primary aim of legal historians interested in the origins of the trust.

“Secondly, the nineteenth-century shift from Roman law to indigenous law as the alleged origins of the trust did not change the position of the trust as a concept which may be placed in the ius commune tradition. Both the Germanic and Romano-canonical origins of the trust are of interest to scholars studying the question of whether trusts are part of a shared European tradition. As we know, ius commune comprised elements from both the Germanic and the Romano-canonical legal traditions.

“And thirdly, it may be concluded that it is very unlikely that there has been an exact
continental equivalent to the English ‘use’ or trust. The conclusion may be drawn that trust law cannot be viewed as an amalgam of concepts from the Corpus Iuris. This conclusion has also been drawn by Kenneth Reid (see his paper), who alleges that the modern trust is a relatively new concept, which cannot be explained solely by a contract/real right model. Nevertheless, we must continue to ask the question whether the uncovered similarities amount to more than parallels reflecting similar social conditions. My answer to this question is that it is very likely that English trust law was influenced by ideas on the Continent. This is not too bold a statement paying regard to the influence of the ecclesiastical courts in England as well as to the fact that English civilians frequently used Roman and Canon law texts when describing trusts.”

An interesting except from the article: 

“Trust-like devices were popular in the Church [speaking of the Roman Catholic ‘church’], since they allowed this institution to accumulate the necessary means to discharge its tasks. At the same time, these devices preempted the criticism that the Church was not practising [sic] its own teachings on the spiritual dangers of wealth. The wealth accumulated by the Church was not regarded as property owned by the Church itself. According to S. Herman, it was said to belong to God the Father as sovereign Lord, the Pope and his clerical lieutenants acting as His stewards. In trust terminology: God acted as ‘settlor’, while the Pope and his clerical lieutenants acted as trustees. Christ, the meek, the poor and the congregation were usually designated as ‘beneficiaries’. God, as the settlor, also figured as the ultimate beneficiary of creation. In this way, the wealth of the Church could be justified, since the Church simply acted as a depositary of goods created for all. Church officials were charged with managing the goods entrusted to them as ‘trustees’ and with using them for the good of the community. “

Fn2 You may go directly to the cases by clicking the casename.

KOPSOMBUT-MYINT BUDDHIST CENTER, v. STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION, 728 S.W. 2d 327 (1986) Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Middle Section, at Nashville. Permission to Appeal Denied, April 6, 1987. IMPORTANT POINT: The court itself declared that the property at issue was held in trust even though there was no writing directly proclaiming a trust. The court did this in order to uphold a property tax exemption. Property held in trust for a Buddhist Temple qualifies for a property tax exemption, if the property is used for religious purposes and the owner, any stockholder, officer, member or employee of such institution is not lawfully entitled to receive and pecuniary profit from the operations of that property in competition with like property owned by others which is not exempt. Property held in trust and which otherwise qualifies for the exemption is to be exempted from property tax.  Of note, for emphasis, it was obvious that corporate, 501(c)(3) status was not a prerequisite for religious property tax exemption. Also, this case deals with a “trust,” not a “business trust” “charitable trust” or some other type of trust that is a legal entity.” The opinion states:

  • “A valid trust need not be in writing. It can be created orally unless the language of the written conveyance excludes the existence of a trust. Sanderson v. Milligan,585 S.W.2d 573, 574 (Tenn. 1979); Linder v. Little, 490 S.W.2d 717, 723 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1972); and Adrian v. Brown, 29 Tenn. App. 236, 243, 196 S.W.2d 118, 121 (1946). However, when a party seeks to establish an oral trust, it must do so by greater than a preponderance of the evidence. Sanderson v. Milligan, 585 S.W.2d 573, 574 (Tenn. 1979); Hunt v. Hunt, 169 Tenn. 1, 9, 80 S.W.2d 666, 669 (1935); and Browder v. Hite, 602 S.W.2d 489, 493 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1980).
  • “The existence of a trust requires proof of three elements: (1) a trustee who holds trust property and who is subject to the equitable duties to deal with it for the benefit of another, (2) a beneficiary to whom the trustee owes the equitable duties to deal with the trust property for his benefit, and (3) identifiable trust property. See G.G. Bogert & G.T. Bogert, The Law of Trusts and Trustees § 1, at 6 (rev. 2d ed. 1984) and Restatement (Second) of Trusts § 2 comment h (1957). We find that the Kopsombut-Myint Buddhist Center has proved the existence of each of these elements by clear and convincing evidence.” [p. 333].

WAUSHARA COUNTY v. Sherri L. GRAF, 166 Wis.2d 442 (1992), 480 N.W.2d 16, Supreme Court of Wisconsin. Submitted on briefs October 4, 1991.Decided February 17, 1992The Supreme Court of Wisconsin reviewed the evidence and concluded that “The evidence indicates that Basic Bible was established to evade taxation. Basic Bible failed to meet its burden of proving that it is a “church” or “religious association” under [Wisconsin law]. The court held that Basic Bible was not property tax exempt.” The fact that the church held “in trust” the property for which a property tax exemption was sought was not a factor in the decision. The Court concluded that incorporation and 501(c)(3) status is not a prerequisite for church property tax exemption; and, again, made clear that the fact that the church held the property “in trust” did not disqualify the church from property tax exemption.

Note. Many, many cases are on the record involving denials of “church,” or “religious organization” property tax exemption for incorporated 501(c)(3) tax scams. See, for some examples, III. Organizations which created religious scams in order to obtain Property Tax Exemption on the webpage, Law on Church Organization (Trusts, Property tax, etc.). WAUSHARA COUNTY v. Sherri L. GRAF is the only case I have found in which a “church” or “religious organization or society” which held property and/or money in trust was held to be such a scam. Also, by reading this entire case with knowledge, one versed in these matters readily sees that Basic Bible did not understand the law nor the Bible. One could write a lengthy analysis proving that. Also very interesting is the analysis of the pro se representation in this case.]. This case reminds one of the unjust steward, an outright crook, in Luke 16. “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” Luke 16.13.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court stated, in WAUSHARA COUNTY v. Sherri L. GRAF:

  • “We need not reiterate the excellent discussion and analysis underpinning that conclusion that appears in the court of appeals opinion. 157 Wis. 2d at 539-49” [the citation for this case].

The opinion from the court of appeals referred to by the Wisconsin Supreme Court was WAUSHARA COUNTY v. Sherri L. GRAF, 157 Wis.2d 539 (1990), 461 N.W.2d 143, Court of Appeals of Wisconsin. Submitted on briefs December 8, 1989. Decided August 2, 1990Here are some very important points made on pp. 539-49 of that decision:

The court examined the legislative history of the pertinent statutes to determine if a church or religious organization must be incorporated for its property to be tax exempt [under state law].

  • The court started with examination of the first exemption from taxation of the property of churches and religious organizations—in sec. 24, ch. 47, Revised Statutes of 1849. “Chapter 47 prescribed the procedure by which persons belonging to a church congregation or religious society, “not already incorporated,” could incorporate. … The exemption was not limited to religious societies incorporated under ch. 47.
  • “Chapter 130, Laws of 1868, provided for the assessment of property for taxation and for exemptions therefrom. Section 2, 3d exempted “[p]ersonal property owned by any religious, scientific, literary or benevolent association, used exclusively for the purposes of such association, and the real property necessary for the location and convenience of the buildings of such association . . . not exceeding ten acres. . . .” Chapter 130 did not define “association.”
  • “Section 2 of ch. 130, Laws of 1868, was incorporated, without substantial change, in Section 1038, Wisconsin Statutes of 1898. Section 1038, subd. 3 was renumbered sec. 70.11(4), Stats., by sec. 16, ch. 69, Laws of 1921. Throughout its history, the exemption from taxation of property of churches and religious associations has been accorded in substantially the same language. No “linkage” has existed between the exemption statutes and those affecting the organization of churches and religious associations or societies.
  • “Chapter 411, Laws of 1876, provided for the incorporation of religious societies. Apparently this act replaced ch. 47 of the revised statutes of 1849. Chapter 411 is silent as to the taxation or exemption of the property of religious societies incorporated thereunder.
  • “The procedures for the incorporation of religious societies were included in ch. 91, Revised Statutes of 1878. Nash’s Wisconsin Annotations (1914), sec. 1990, ch. 91 at 753, states: ‘The revisers of 1878 in their note said: ‘Chapter 411, 1876, is taken to have been intended as a revision of the law for the incorporation of religious societies.’ The privilege of organizing a corporation is extended to all classes and denominations, it not being supposed the law means to be intolerant of any religious belief or to be partial in its offer of privileges.’
  • “The same annotation at page 755 states: ‘Church’ and ‘Congregation.’ A church consists of those who are communicants, have made a public profession of religion and are united by a religious bond of common spiritual welfare. It is the spiritual body, not the legal one. But a religious society or congregation, under the statute, is a voluntary association of persons, generally but not necessarily in connection with a church proper, united for the purpose of having a common place of worship and to provide a proper teacher to instruct them in doctrines and duties, etc. [Citations omitted.]
  • “Decisions interpreting ch. 91, Revised Statutes of 1878, make plain that failure of a church or religious organization to incorporate thereunder did not affect the power of the church or religious organization to hold title to property. “Under the repeated decisions of this court, we must hold that the mere fact that [a] church or religious society had not yet been incorporated at the time of the delivery of [a] deed in no way frustrated the trust thereby created, if such trust was otherwise valid.” Fadness v. Braunborg, 73 Wis. 257, 278-79, 41 N.W. 84, 90 (1889) (emphasis in original).
  • “In Holm v. Holm, 81 Wis. 374, 382, 51 N.W. 579, 581 (1892), the facts included that the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Roche-a-Cree was a voluntary association until February 7, 1889. The court noted that “[p]rior to that date the title to the churches in which the members of the association worshiped was vested in trustees named in . . . deeds, and their successors in office. . . . The trusts imposed by such deeds appear to have been valid upon the principles stated by this court in Fadness v. Braunborg. . . .” Id.
  • “In Franke v. Mann, 106 Wis. 118, 131, 81 N.W. 1014, 1018-19 (1900), the court further said that ‘[w]hat has been said is in harmony with the law regarding trusts for religious uses, whether the trustees be officers of a religious corporation or of an unincorporated ecclesiastical body. . . .’ Id. at 131-32, 81 N.W. at 1019 (emphasis added).
  • “It is plain from these decisions that the court did not consider that the legislature, by offering to ecclesiastical bodies the advantages of incorporation, intended to impose corporate structure upon such bodies. The property of unincorporated ecclesiastical bodies was commonly held in trust for the benefit of the members.
  • “The Basic Bible Church established that title to the real estate subject to foreclosure was held in the name of the trustees for the benefit of the church. We conclude that the trust constituted an “entity” which could claim tax exemption under sec. 70.11(4), Stats., for the benefit of the Basic Bible Church.”

 

Expose And Reject The Teachings and Methods of Church Organization Con-Artists and Charlatans

Jerald Finney
May, 2016

This article concerns those who falsely claim legal expertise in the area of church/state relations and ends with Bible justification for standing against forces of darkness which invade the arena of church organization in America.

A remnant of believers in America seek to do all things the Bible way, God’s way. One perplexing and somewhat complex matter for those believers concerns the organization of a New Testament church. Believers who study and believe the New Testament quickly come across passages which make clear that Christ wants his churches to be under Him only. Some of those believers, including some of God’s good pastors, seek help in organizing churches. Tragically, many come in contact with and rely on charismatic pseudo-Biblical/legal experts.

Truly, a believer must be well-studied in both the relevant Bible and legal principles in order to intelligently and correctly organize a church such that she remains under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ (Scripture) only. Knowing the Bible without true legal competence is a recipe for disaster. For example, the Ecclesiastical Law Center alleges Bible as opposed to legal solutions to church organization, but due to legal incompetence organizes churches legally, not Scripturally.

Jethro on the Beverly Hillbillies often stated that he wanted to be a brain surgeon. Some pastors are wannabe “lawyers,” some even going so far as to claim lawyer status even though they never produce any reliable proof of such and even though a diligent examination of their attempts to keep churches under the authority of God and the Scriptures only belie their claim. Of course, few if any believers have the time to check out what they are told about such matters and many follow people who are skilled “Christian” con-artists and charlatans. Most get to liking and even loving their misguided mentors and many lash out at anyone who would try to discredit them. It is hard to confront uncomfortable or damnable truths about those one loves.

Complicating the matter is the fact that many “Christian” lawyers either prove to be incompetent or are trained in the law but not studied in the Bible. Their standard for all matters in faith and practice is not the Bible. Their authority for all matters is the law. As they amass their earthly fortunes, they teach and apply legal, not Bible, principles. For example, David Gibbs relies on the Internal Revenue Service, not the Bible, definition of “church,” and instructs churches to become legal, not spiritual or New Testament entities. These spiritual/legal con-artists, while deceiving and being followed by multitudes, also cause some to distrust all lawyers without further examination.

For years, this lawyer shied away from confronting false teachers. For example, he knew for many years that the Ecclesiastical Law Center (“ELC”) was not qualified to deal with church and state matters even though they falsely claim to have “Bible” as opposed to “legal” solutions to church organization. His attitude was that it is up to believers seeking help to sort out and apply good versus bad advice; and, additionally, he did not wish to attack the ELC because he knew and liked one of their leaders who spoke at his church on the subject of church organization several years before he delved into an extended study of Bible (first), and historical (second), principles and methods of church organization. After completing that study, he studied law to assure that he correctly navigated around the legal landscape in a manner which did not inadvertently result in organization of a church as a legal, as opposed to spiritual only, entity.

However, after coming in contact with many of good men of God who were deceived and who parroted the ridiculous rhetoric, the false teachings, and the foolish and unlearned questions of the ELC and after witnessing relentless and untrue ELC attacks against others over a period of years, this author finally took the time to do an examination of the ELC and their teachings. The result was an online booklet, Ecclesiastical Law Center Exposed.

The corporation sole and Internal Revenue Code § 508 method of church organization is another scam used by skilled but unethical charlatans to deceive the unwary. Critique of “Church Freedom and the Corporation Sole” Website exposes that fraudulent deception.

So far the message of this article to believers and churches seeking help in organizing New Testament churches is, “Beware of false teachers and unskilled pseudo-lawyers.” Do your homework. Look at qualifications and testimonies. Seek truth and apply it, even if you must confront false methods and teachings of others you love. Base all conclusions on Bible precepts and verifiable facts.

Now to the question, “Why is this article justified, under God?” What is the Bible basis for exposing deceivers? As soldiers of the Lord, one is to contend against the forces of darkness, to fight the good spiritual fight of faith. Only a few of many verses which support this conclusion are quoted:

Speaking of deceptions within the churches, Jude wrote: “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ…. Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities…. But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.” Jude 3-4, 8.

Ep.6.10-12As to Christ’s relationship with his churches, the Apostle Paul wrote: “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.” Ephesians 5:25-27. Speaking to the church at Corinth, he said: “For I am jealous over you  with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:2-3.

Fight the good fight. Keep the faith. Expose false methods and teaching in all matters, including the preeminent  area of church organization. Make sure you get it right. Is not the Lamb of God worthy of your diligence efforts to keep his body pure and undefiled?

The False and Misleading Teachings and Advertisements of StartCHURCH, Another Spiritual and Legal Deceiver

Jerald Finney
Copyright © September 13, 2012

Pastors and churches today, generally speaking, are enticed by everything but the truth. Many Christians are easy prey for the humanistic, inaccurate, heretical, and/or apostate teachings of many Bible Colleges, churches, online “ministries,” television “ministries,” etc. Today’s spiritual quacks use business models, lies about civil law, psychology, and other inappropriate fields of study to attempt to achieve their secular goals for individual, family, church, and civil government. In order to implement their methods and plans, they must reject the foundation of truth; thus, they build their houses upon Biblical heresies. When Biblical history, precept, and teaching obviously contradict the earthly desires and mindsets of such pastors and other believers, they, instead of remaining true to the Lord, rush to adopt the ways of the world and twist truth to support and condone their perverted beliefs, practices and teachings. Their motivations are fear, greed, power, pleasure, and their own temporal happiness.

A prime example, among many, of enterprises designed to take advantage of earthly minded believers is StartCHURCH (online at http://startchurch.com). StartCHURCH is outside their field of expertise both Biblically and legally. A Biblically knowledgeable believer can quickly spot many spiritual heresies, distortions, and lies in the information posted on http://startchurch.com. In addition to the spiritual ignorance of StartCHURCH, the organization further delves into another field in which it demonstrates itself either totally inept and/or dishonest: the legal arena. They combine Biblical heresies with legal falsities. Only one example of their dishonesty or ineptitude will be documented in this article.

Someone recently forwarded to this author an online advertisement from StartCHURCH which is reproduced in relevant part in En1. That ad used fear, a familiar tactic, to get the interest of pastors and church members. Additionally it demonstrates that StartCHURCH is not of sound mind. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). After its attempt to arouse fears, the article gives a listing of seminar dates and times and issues which StartCHURCH will address at those seminars. Upon reading the advertisement, this author, a licensed attorney knowledgeable in church and state law, immediately realized that it was, at a minimum, misleading. It contradicted what he has learned from an intense study of civil law and what he has extensively taught concerning liability of church members. Consequently, he went to the law library and looked up the case mentioned in the ad, Hutchins v. Grace Tabernacle United Methodist Church. The entire case, with Lexis/Nexis headnotes, is reproduced in En2.

The author(s) of the ad and the accompanying article, which can be read in its entirety by clicking “All Members of One Church Get Sued at the Same Time” or by reading En3 below, is (are) extremely deceptive. Yes, as the article points out, the plaintiff in the case attempted to include all the members, in addition to the church and one employee, as defendants in the suit. Plaintiff sued defendant church and an employee in tort and contract and later filed a request to certify the action as a class action (to include all members of the church). However, the court ruled that the plaintiff would not be allowed to sue all the members. The court said:

“The members of an unincorporated association are not bound by the unauthorized or ungratified representation of a member….  If the members of an association assent to or ratify a contract in its name, they become liable under them….  Members of an unincorporated association may become liable for a contract by estoppel….  Members of an unincorporated association are individually liable for tortious acts of agents or employees of the association if the tort is committed within the scope of their authority” (See En2 below to verify all quotes and to ascertain whether this author is being truthful about the case while StartCHRUCH is misleading, as alleged). The court affirmed the order of the lower court which denied plaintiff’s request to certify her action against defendant church and employee as a class action because defendant church could not adequately and fairly protect the interests of the class. In other words, the court said the plaintiff could not sue all the members of the church.

Thus, the case supports what the author, a practicing attorney, knows and teaches and not the thesis of StartCHURCH. No matter how a church is organized, (a) member(s) of that church can only be charged or sued for crimes or torts in which the legal elements are proven or admitted and in which (that) (those) member(s) were somehow personally involved; that is, took an active part, authorized, or encouraged.

Furthermore, neither unincorporated association or corporate status are the best way to protect church members from liability. The best way is the manner advocated by Jerald Finney, the author of this article, and others with whom he is associated. A church can choose to operate in conformity to both Biblical principle and American civil law; and, in so doing, not only please the Lord Jesus Christ but also, among other things, minimize exposure to liability from criminal charges and civil suit.

Most importantly, a church who becomes an earthly, or legal, entity such as a corporation or unincorporated association violates Biblical principle and grieves the Lord. Jesus Christ makes clear that institution of the church (made up of local autonomous New Testament churches only), is His bride. He also compares the church to a wife, He being the Husband (See Ephesians 5:22-33). He wants no other authority over His bride.

Jerald Finney explains all the Biblical and legal principles, facts, and consequences involved on his websites, books, and audio teachings. See En4 for more information. Unlike StartCHURCH and many similar “ministries,” Finney’s motivation is love for the Lord Jesus Christ. He has not made any money in his “Church and State Law” ministry. He has received love gifts (which he reports as income to the Internal Revenue Service), but those gifts and income from the sale of books are far outweighed by the expenses of the ministry. His goal is “the glory of God.”

Jerald Finney challenges StartCHURCH or any other such “ministry” to examine his teachings and debate him on any matter with which they take issue. He also challenges believers to grow in knowledge and wisdom so that they can begin to please the Lord in the matter of church and state law.

Endnotes

En1.                  All Members of One Church Get Sued at the Same Time

Several years ago a church in Texas ran into some trouble when a man wanted to sue the church. The problem, however, was that the church was not incorporated, and so it could not be sued. Instead, he filed a class action lawsuit against every member of the church. Could he sue every member? Does the law allow members to be sued personally? The court that heard the case stated, “An unincorporated association is a voluntary group of persons, without a charter, formed by mutual consent for the purposes of promoting a common enterprise.” The court also stated, “Members of an unincorporated association are individually liable for tortious acts of agents or employees of the association if the tort is committed within the scope of their authority” (Hutchins v. Grace Tabernacle United Pentecostal Church).

Unincorporated churches with voting members are most at risk

This court case brings up something that ought to make its members think twice about their . . . click here to read the entire article

The Conference   That Has Helped Thousands of Pastors Sleep Well

During   this conference we will cover many topics that are absolutely critical to   operating your church or ministry in a way that simultaneously benefits the   church and pastor while protecting all involved from the ever-increasing   scrutiny of the government. Many pastors confess that they know their   church books are a mess, but they feel too intimidated to do anything about   it. They often times lose sleep over it. This conference has you in mind!

En2. 

ERA L. HUTCHINS, Appellant v. GRACE TABERNACLE UNITED PENTECOSTAL CHURCH AND CLIFFORD PARKER, Appellees
No. 01-90-00481-CV
COURT OF APPEALS OF TEXAS, First District, Houston
804 S.W.2d 598; 1991 Tex. App. LEXIS 285
January 31, 1991, Delivered
January 31, 1991, Filed

PRIOR HISTORY: [**1] On Appeal from the 333rd District Court; Harris County, Texas; Trial Court Cause No. 89-17354; Hon. Davie Wilson.

DISPOSITION: Order affirmed.

CASE SUMMARY

Procedural History: Plaintiff appealed an interlocutory order of the 333rd District Court (Texas) denying her request to certify an action against defendant church and employee as a class action under   Tex. R. Civ. P. 42.

Overview: Plaintiff sued defendant church and employee in tort and contract. Plaintiff sought actual and punitive damages, return of real property, a declaration of her rights and status under a lease, and in injunction against defendant church, its members, and its employees to prevent them from harming or returning to the property. Plaintiff later filed a request to certify the action as a class action under Tex. R. Civ. P. 42. The trial court denied the request and plaintiff appealed. The appeals court affirmed he denial because defendant church could not adequately and fairly protect the interests of the class. The court noted that while the members of the association who signed the contracts could be liable, as an unincorporated association, defendant church could n be liable for its own contracts. Hence, as a party who could not be liable, defendant church was not in a position to be the representative party for those who could be.

OUTCOME: The appeals court affirmed the denial of plaintiff’s request to certify her action against defendant church and employee as a class action because defendant church could not adequately and fairly protect the interests of the class. The court reasoned that as an unincorporated association, defendant church could not be liable for its on contracts, while the members of the church could be liable.

Hn1 An unincorporated association is not liable on its contracts, which are regarded as the liability of the individuals who sign them. The members of an unincorporated association are not bound by the unauthorized or unratified representations of a member. If the members of an association assent to or ratify a contract in its name, they become liable under them. Members of an unincorporated association may become liable for a contract by estoppel.

Hn2 Members of an unincorporated association are individually liable for tortious acts of agents or employees of the association if the tort is committed within the scope of their authority.

Hn3 Tex. R. Civ. P. 28 authorizes suit by or against an unincorporated association in the common name for the purpose of defending or enforcing a substantive right, but does not enlarge or diminish any substantive rights or obligations of parties. Rule 28 does not create in an unincorporated entity ability to hold real estate.

Hn4 The burden of proof is on plaintiff to establish her right to maintain an action as a class action.

Hn5 The standard the appellate court uses to review a district court’s refusal to certify a class is whether the court abused its discretion. The trial court abuses its discretion when it does not apply the law to the undisputed facts.

Hn6 The principal question underlying all class action decisions is: Will a class action furnish the most economical method for adjudicating a large number of related cases? If the answer is yes, and if the party moving for the certification of a class proves all the necessary elements for a class in Tex. R. Civ. P. 42, the trial court abuses its discretion in refusing to certify a class.

Hn7 Under Tex. R. Civ. P. 42(a), a party may bring a class action suit if: (1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable; (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class; (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class, and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.

Hn8 In determining whether to certify a class, it is not necessary that all questions of law and fact be common to the class, just the principal ones.

COUNSEL: Bruce Ian Schimmel, Stephen P. Dillion, Houston, Texas. Don Stocking, Conroe, Texas.

JUDGES: Michol O’Connor, Justice. Chief Justice Evans and Justice Hughes also sitting.
OPINION BY: O’CONNOR

OPINION

The question here involves the propriety of the trial court’s refusal to certify a suit as a class action. Era L. Hutchins, plaintiff, appeals from an interlocutory order denying her request to certify a class action under TEX.R.CIV.P. 42, which is an appealable interlocutory order under TEX.CIV.PRAC. & REM. CODE ANN. § 51.014(3) (Vernon Supp. 1991). We affirm.

1. The liability of associations

The underlying suit involves the liability of an unincorporated religious association and its members for the contracts and torts of a church. An unincorporated association is a voluntary group of persons, without a charter, formed by mutual consent for purposes of promoting a common enterprise. BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY 1373 (5th ed. 1979). Hn1 An unincorporated association is not liable on its contracts, which are regarded as the liability of the individuals who sign them. Summerhill v. Wilkes, 133 S.W. 492, 493 (Tex.Civ.App. — Dallas 1910, no writ)(contract signed by the chairman of the building committee was not the liability of the unincorporated church association). The members of an unincorporated association are not bound by the unauthorized or unratified representations of a member. Kiteman v. Lacy, 144 S.W. 1184, 1186 (Tex.Civ.App. — Austin 1912, no writ). If the members of an association assent to or ratify a contract in its name, they become liable under them. Hardy v. Carter, 163 S.W. 1003, 1010 (Tex.Civ.App. — Amarillo 1914, writ dism’d or ref’d)(op. on reh’g). Members of an unincorporated association may become liable for a contract by estoppel. Abrams v. Brent, 362 S.W.2d 155, 158-59 (Tex.Civ.App. — Austin 1962, writ ref’d n.r.e.).

Hn2 Members of an unincorporated association are individually liable for tortious acts of agents or employees of the association if the tort is committed within the scope of their authority. Golden v. Wilder, 4 S.W.2d 140, 143-44 (Tex.Civ.App. — Fort Worth 1928, no writ)(op. on reh’g).

2. Plaintiff’s allegations

Plaintiff sued Grace Tabernacle United Pentecostal Church, and an employee of the Church, Clifford Parker, in tort and contract. Plaintiff seeks actual and punitive damages, return of the Malone Street property, a declaration of her rights and status under the lease, and an injunction against the Church, its members, and its employees to prevent them from harming or returning to the Malone Street property.

In her petition to certify a class action, plaintiff made the following claims: Plaintiff and her husband owned several contiguous lots in Tomball, known as 612 Malone Street, which they acquired piecemeal through deed, foreclosure on a deed of trust, litigation, and adverse possession. The Church building and parking lot are located on the Malone Street property. On August 15, 1972, plaintiff’s husband and V.E. Hall, a trustee of the Church, entered into a five-year lease for the Malone Street property. The lease was extended by oral agreement. Since 1987, the Church has refused to pay rent under the lease. Parker told plaintiff and her husband that he would help them clear their title to lots 27 and 28 by representing them before the local taxing authorities and by informing them when the Malone Street property was to be sold for taxes. Instead, Parker and the Church, in violation of a fiduciary duty to plaintiff and her husband, bought a fractional interest in lots 27 and 28 of the Malone Street property at a tax foreclosure sale.

Because the Church is an unincorporated entity, plaintiff contends the individual members are jointly and severally liable for breach of contract and the misconduct of the Church and Parker. Plaintiff states she is entitled to maintain a class action under TEX.R.CIV.P. 42 against all individuals who were members of the Church or have become members since September 1987 to the date of judgment.

Assuming for purposes of this opinion only that plaintiff will be able to prove all allegations in her petition, the question is how plaintiff can establish liability against the members of an unincorporated association. Plaintiff has only two choices: Plaintiff can join all members of the Church, past and present, going back to September 1987, or plaintiff can bring the suit as a class action. Plaintiff chose to bring the suit as a class action. The issue for this appeal is whether, on this record, the trial court erred in refusing to certify the suit as a class action.

3. The Church’s response

The Church filed a response to plaintiff’s motion for certification, stating there is no showing that the class should be liable for tortious conduct such as misrepresentation and conspiracy. The Church says that, because it is a voluntary organization subject to changes in membership, not all members would necessarily be liable for conspiracy or misrepresentation of the Church or of Parker. The Church contends there are individual members who have individual defenses that are inconsistent with the defenses of the Church and Parker. Thus, the Church goes on to say, it would be a burden for the attorney for the Church to inform all the members of their individual defenses.

The Church suggests that if any willful conduct is demonstrated against the Church, the liability for individual members can be satisfied in post-judgment proceedings. The Church cites no authority to support its suggestion that individual liability be established in post-judgment proceedings.

The Church also argues that under TEX.R.CIV.P. 28, plaintiff is required to sue the Church and is prohibited from suing the individual members. The Church misreads the rule. Hn3 Rule 28 authorizes suit by or against an unincorporated association in the common name for the purpose of defending or enforcing a substantive right, but does not enlarge or diminish any substantive rights or obligations of parties. TEX.R.CIV.P. 815; Parrish v. Looney, 194 S.W.2d 419, 424 (Tex.Civ.App. — Galveston 1946, no writ). Rule 28 does not create in an unincorporated entity ability to hold real estate. Id.

In brief, the Church wants both the advantage of an unincorporated entity (no liability for the entity), and at the same time wants the advantage of a corporate entity (no liability for its members).

4. The hearing on the certification

At the certification hearing, Hn4 the burden of proof was on plaintiff to establish her right to maintain an action as a class action. Life Ins. Co. of the Southwest v. Brister, 722 S.W.2d 764, 770 (Tex.App. — Fort Worth 1986, no writ). To support her motion to certify the class, plaintiff introduced the Church’s answers to interrogatories and the documents attached to the answers. Other than that evidence, the hearing was limited to argument of counsel.

5. The appeal

In two points of error, plaintiff maintains the judge erred in denying the certification of a class action on the issues (1) of title and possession of real property, and declaratory and injunctive relief, and (2) the damage issues.

Hn5 The standard we use to review a district court’s refusal to certify a class is whether the court abused its discretion. Parker County v. Spindletop Oil and Gas Co., 628 S.W.2d 765, 769 (Tex.1982); Townplace Homeowners’ Ass’n, Inc. v. McMahon, 594 S.W.2d 172, 177 (Tex.Civ.App. — Houston [1st Dist.] 1980, writ ref’d n.r.e.). The trial court abuses its discretion when it does not apply the law to the undisputed facts. Wiggins v. Enserch Exploration, Inc., 743 S.W.2d 332, 334 (Tex.App. — Dallas 1987, writ dism’d); see Camp v. Shannon, 162 Tex. 515, 518, 348 S.W.2d 517, 519 (1961).

6. Prerequisites to a class action

Hn6 The principal question underlying all class action decisions is: Will a class action furnish the most economical method for adjudicating a large number of related cases? Wente v. Georgia-Pacific Corp., 712 S.W.2d 253, 255, 257 (Tex.App. — Austin 1986, no writ). If the answer is yes, and if the party moving for the certification of a class proves all the necessary elements for a class in rule 42, the trial court abuses its discretion in refusing to certify a class. Plaintiff claims that she satisfied all the requirements of subpart (a) of rule 42.

Hn7 Under rule 42(a), a party may bring a class action suit if

(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable;

(2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class;

(3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and

(4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.

a. Numerous members of the class

The first requirement is that the class be so numerous that joinder of all members is impractical. As part of its answers to interrogatories, the Church filed a list of 76 members of the Church. We hold that 76 potential defendants are a sufficient number of parties to meet the first requirement.

b. Common questions of law and fact

The second requirement is that questions of law or facts are common to the class. The central question of law in this case will be the liability of the individual members of an unincorporated church for the actions of the trustees. The central question of fact in this case will be whether the membership ratified or assented to the actions of the trustees, or if the membership is estopped to deny the actions of the trustees.

The Church contends that the individual members will assert different factual defenses, whether they were members at the time the Church did not pay its rents. Hn8 It is not necessary that all questions of law and fact be common to the class, just the principal ones. Franklin v. Donoho, 774 S.W.2d 308, 312 (Tex.App. — Austin 1989, no writ). Here, plaintiff plead that all members are responsible for the actions of the Church and its trustee under the theory of respondeat superior. At trial, the principal questions will be common to all members of the Church; if a person was not a member of the Church at the time of non-payment of the rent, that person would not be a member of the class.

c. Claims or defenses of representatives are typical

The third requirement is that the claims or defenses of the representative party are typical of the class. Plaintiff has named the Church as the representative party. Plaintiff’s claims against the Church are the same as plaintiff’s claims against the members of the Church: the Church and its members owe plaintiff for unpaid rent and for torts committed by the Church; plaintiff wants a declaratory judgment that she owns the land; and plaintiff wants an injunction against the membership from returning to the Malone Street property. In addition, plaintiff has claims against the trustees: the trustees defrauded her by taking property at the tax sale.

d. The class representative

The last requirement is that the designated class representative will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class. In the pleadings for the certification of the class, plaintiff asked that “the Defendant Church” be appointed as the class representative. The Church is an unincorporated association that cannot be liable for its own contracts, see Summerhill, 133 S.W. at 493, or torts, see Kuteman, 144 S.W. at 1186. Liability belongs to the members of the association who sign the contracts, Summerhill, 133 S.W. at 493, or to the members when agents or employees of the association commit torts within the scope of their authority, Golden, 4 S.W.2d at 143-44. Accordingly, we hold that the Church, which cannot be liable, is not in a position to be the representative party for those who can be.

We affirm the order.

En3.

All Members of One Church Get Sued at the Same Time
March 12, 2002 by Paul Rivera

Several years ago a church in Texas ran into some trouble when a man wanted to sue the church. The problem, however, was that the church was not incorporated, and so it could not be sued. Instead, he filed a class action lawsuit against every member of the church. Could he sue every member? Does the law allow members to be sued personally?The court that heard the case stated, “An unincorporated association is a voluntary group of persons, without a charter, formed by mutual consent for the purposes of promoting a common enterprise.” The court also stated, “Members of an unincorporated association are individually liable for tortious acts of agents or employees of the association if the tort is committed within the scope of their authority” (Hutchins v. Grace Tabernacle United Pentecostal Church).

Unincorporated churches with voting members are most at risk

This court case brings up something that ought to make its members think twice about their legal status as a church. There are many churches that have voting members who vote on many issues such as salaries, purchase contracts, and other important things like real estate transactions and lease agreements. In essence, when members of the unincorporated church vote on a particular item, they are taking upon themselves potential personal liability because they become a direct personal party to the contract or transaction. This could bring disastrous results.

One of the first acts of a church

Incorporating ought to be one of the first acts of any church. In 2010, approximately 1,000 churches per month were sued. That number is likely to keep rising because today, many churches are starting in homes, hotel conference rooms, and schools, which means they have to sign more contracts and enter into unusual contracts. It is important to ensure that your church forms a legal structure to protect its members, board, and trustees. As mentioned before, incorporating should be done before conducting your first service.

What happens when you incorporate your church?

The legal concept of an artificial person exists where state law has created laws recognizing a corporation. The laws of all fifty states allow churches to create a corporation that exists separate from that of its members, officers, and board. The church uses the corporation to conduct its business and manage its assets.

What is indemnification?

When a church forms a corporation, it receives special power to indemnify its pastors, board members, and employees from liability for the action they take in behalf of the church. This allows one to serve on the board with the confidence of knowing that the acts he/she performs in behalf of the church will not come back to haunt him/her.

Where is your church?

Right now, there are many churches operating on a deficient legal foundation. Most pastors I have met state that from the first day they started their church, they had always intended on doing things the right way, but then ministry, preaching, and life got in the way. That does not have to be you. Today is the best day to start getting right.

[Added by Jerald Finney: To learn how to do things the right way, disregard all teaching and advertisments from StartCHURCH, and begin to study your Bible and the writings of Jerald Finney (see En5 below). Contact Jerald Finney at no charge when you are knowledgeable and ready to do things God’s way.]

En4. One may have access to all of Jerald Finney’s teachings at no cost by going to his “Separation of Church and State Law” website. Two of his books, The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls and Render Unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses have now been completely reproduced on that website (click the links to go to the online versions of the books). The other two books are in the process of being reproduced there. All his books are covered in his audio teachings which are on that site. One may find his other website “Church and State Law,” to be useful as well.

God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application (Link to preview of God Betrayed): may be ordered from Amazon by clicking the following link: God Betrayed on Amazon.com or from Barnes and Nobel by clicking the following link: God Betrayed on Barnes and Noble. All books by Jerald Finney as well as many of the books he has referenced and read may also be ordered by left clicking “Books” (on the “Church and State Law” website) or directly from Amazon by going to the following links: (1) Render Unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses (Kindle only); (2) The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls (Kindle only); (3) Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities? (Link to preview of Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities?) which can also be ordered by clicking the following Barnes and Noble link: Separation of Church and State on Barnes and Noble.

Christ, the Bridegroom/Husband/Head of His Churches


Jerald Finney
Copyright © January 8, 2011


Click here to go to “Self-exam Questions: Christ, the Bridegroom/Husband/Head of His Churches


Preface

This series of articles develops the biblical doctrine of the church. This article is the third in this series. The first is “Introduction to articles on the doctrine of ‘church.” The second is “Definition, organization, and purposes of a church” (Note. Simply left click blue underlined links to go directly to link). In order to understand why incorporated 501(c)(3) churches have violated biblical principle and grieve our Lord Jesus Christ, one must first be saved. Second, he must understand the biblical principles of government, church, and separation of church and state. He must then understand the facts about and legalities of incorporation and 501(c)(3). Finally, he must apply principles to facts and law. May we believers continue to grow in knowledge, understanding, and wisdom as we seek to please our God and Savior.


Christ, the Bridegroom/Husband/Head of His churches

11_head-bodyThe Bible teaches that Christ desires to be the Bridegroom/Husband/Head of His churches. As to the issue of separation of church and state, this is particularly important. This article will look at biblical teaching on this issue. To understand how churches violate the biblical principle of the headship of Christ over His churches, one must apply the biblical principles to the facts and law—e.g., what is incorporation, what is Internal Revenue Code § 501(c)(3) (See, for thorough studies, Sections III, IV, and VI of God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application which is reproduced on this website in both PDF and online form. See Review of Books by Jerald Finney and Order infomration for books by Jerald Finney for information on this and other books by Jerald Finney.). This blog publishes articles that will systematically examine the biblical principles as well as historical and legal facts necessary to understand the mind of God on the issue of separation of church and state in general and specifically applied to the American landscape.

Churches are called the bride of the Lamb. Christ is the bridegroom of the church: “Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled” (Jn. 3.28, 29).

The New Testament speaks of a church as a virgin espoused to one Husband; Eve is a type of the church as bride and wife of Christ:

  • “Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him” (The Holy Spirit writing to the church at Corinth in 2 Co. 11.1-4).
  • “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” (Ro. 7.4).

Paul likens the marriage relationship of husband and wife to the relationship of Christ and His churches:

Ep.5.25“For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 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 no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 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. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Ep. 5.23, 25-27, 29-33).

The Lamb will marry His wife:

Rapture (1)“And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints” (Re. 19.6-8).

All believers will be married to Christ at the marriage of the Lamb:

“But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,  And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel” (He. 12:22-24).

Various people in the Old Testament are types of Christ, the Bridegroom, and the church, the bride. For example, Rebecca was a type of the church, the “called out” virgin bride of Christ. Isaac was a type of the Bridegroom, who loves through the testimony of the unnamed Servant: “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Pe. 1.8). Isaac was a type of the Bridegroom who goes out to meet and receive his bride:

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Th. 4.14-16).

“Typically, the book of Ruth may be taken as a foreview of the church—Ruth, as the Gentile bride of Christ, the Bethlehemite who is able to redeem” (1917 Scofield Reference Edition, Headnote to Ruth, p. 315. The author quotes Scofield only when he agrees with the quote. Scofield was not right about everything, but he was right about some matters. A open-minded Holy Spirit led study of the word of God will lead one to truth, including the truth of the biblical teachings of any man.).

3The coming of the Bridegroom is cause for great rejoicing by the believer, the friend of the Bridegroom: “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled” (Jn. 1.29).  The marriage of the Lamb to His bride will be a glorious event which will occur in heaven, unlike the restoration of Israel which will take place on the earth:

“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, “These are the true sayings of God” (Re. 19.7-9; see also Re. 21.9-22.17).

The husband is to be the only head of the wife, and Christ is to be the only Head of His churches. See Ephesians 5.23, 25-27, 29-33 quoted above. “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church” (Ep. 1.22).  After Jesus was born, “there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (Mt. 2.1-2).  “‘The King’ is one of the divine titles (Psa. 10.6), and so used in the worship of the Church (I Tim. 1.17), but Christ is never called ‘King of the Church.’ He is ‘King of the Jews’ (Mt. 2.2) and Lord and ‘Head of the Church’ (Eph. 1.22, 23)” (1917 Scofield Reference Edition, n. 1 to Matthew 2.2, p. 995). “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Col. 1.15-18).

Christ, likened unto a husband, because of His love for the church, gave Himself to redeem the church. He is, in love, sanctifying the church, and will present the church to Himself as a reward for His sacrifice and labor of love, a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, a perfect church without spot or blemish, “one pearl of great price” (Mt. 13.45-46).

Jesus is the Father’s love-gift to the world. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3.16).

The believer, the church member, is His reward, given Him as a love-gift by the Father. 1917 Scofield Reference Edition, n. 3 to John 17.2, p. 1139. “As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him” (Jn. 17.2). “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word” (Jn. 17.6). “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine” (Jn. 17.9). “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled” (Jn. 17.11-12). “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” (Jn. 17.24).

Just as a bridegroom gives gifts to his earthly bride, so Christ gives gifts to His bride, to those whom the Father gave Him (1917 Scofield Reference Edition, n. 3 to John 17.2, p. 1139). (1) He gives His bride eternal life: “As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him” (Jn. 17.2). (2) The Father’s name: “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word…. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them…. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (Jn. 17.6, 26; 20.17). (3) The Father’s words: “For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me…. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (Jn. 17.8, 14). (4) His own joy: “And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (Jn 1.7.13). (5) His own glory: “And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one” (Jn. 17.22).

bridewaitingLoving God is preeminent for a believer and for a church. One does not love God by just asserting that he loves God. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (Jn. 14.15) The greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mt. 22.37; Mark 12.30; Lu. 10.27).

Love is action. This love between Christ and His church is seen in the Song of Solomon. The Song of Solomon, “[p]rimarily, is the expression of pure marital love as ordained of God in creation, and the vindication of that love as against both asceticism and lust—the two profanations of the holiness of marriage. The secondary and larger interpretation is of Christ, the Son and His heavenly bride, the Church (2 Cor. 11.1-4, refs.)” (1917 Scofield Reference Edition, Headnote to Song of Solomon, p. 705). “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would be utterly contemned” (Song of Solomon 8.7). “Contemned” means “despised, scorned, slighted, neglected, or rejected with disdain” (AMERICAN DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, NOAH WEBSTER (1828), definition of “CONTEMNED”). God despises, scorns, slights, neglects, or rejects with disdain all that a church does, whatever professions of love she makes, if those acts and/or professions are without love. A church who does not honor Christ as a wife is to honor her bridegroom and her husband, by remaining pure and chaste, does not display love for the Lord. Thus, loving ones neighbor by witnessing to him, sending missionaries to him, helping him materially or any other way in obedience to the second commandment—“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”—is vanity in God’s eyes if one ignores the greatest commandment. The love of the temporal—e. g., worldly organization, ownership of property, worldly power and prestige, etc.) by a church infringe the total love (charity) which Christ desires of his churches.

This fact is also articulated in the New Testament. The Lord Jesus is jealous over His church.  If we do not love the Lord Jesus, He despises all the “Christian” work we do and the money we put in the offering plate. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” (1 Co. 13.1-3). “Charity” speaks of God’s kind of love. “In a theological sense, [‘charity’] “includes supreme love to God and a universal good will to men. 1 Cor. xiii. Col. iii. 1 Tim. i” (AMERICAN DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, NOAH WEBSTER (1828), definition of “CHARITY”). Love is an act of the will. A church refutes its proclamations of love for the Lord when it wholly or partially takes the church from under the headship of her Husband, the Lord Jesus Christ or operates in any manner which is contrary to the principles for a church given in God’s word.

Love “[r]ejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth” (1 Co. 13.6). Iniquity means “Injustice, unrighteousness, … [w]ant of rectitude [rightness in principle or practice], … a sin or crime; wickedness…” (AMERICAN DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, NOAH WEBSTER (1828), definitions of “INIQUITY” and “RECTITUDE”). Bible truth makes clear that the love of Christ for His church is immense, that He wants to be the only Head and companion of the church who is likened to His bride and wife, and that for a church to even partially put herself under or associate with another entity is a great wickedness and repudiates all professions of love for the Lord. As is shown in Section VI of God Betrayed (online version or link to PDF) and Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities? (online version or link to PDF), the church who incorporates and secures a 501(c)(3) tax exemption commits wicked sinful acts in violation of biblical principle, and rejoices in iniquity by putting herself partially under two other heads (the state of incorporation and the federal government),.

Re.2.4The Lord Jesus gave a warning to the church at Ephesus:

“I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Re. 2.2-5).

As Dr. J. Vernon McGee teaches us, this warning was for every church who has lost her love for the Lord Jesus:

“It was a warning of danger of getting away from a personal and loving relationship with Jesus Christ. The real test of any believer, especially those who are attempting to serve Him, is not your little method or mode or system, or your dedication, or any of the things that are so often emphasized today. The one question is: Do you love Him? Do you love the Lord Jesus? When you love Him, you will be in a right relationship with Him, but when you begin to depart from the person of Christ, it will finally lead to lukewarmness. The apostate church was guilty of lukewarmness. It may not seem to be too bad, but it is the worst condition that anyone can be in. A great preacher in upper New York state said: ‘Twenty lukewarm Christians hurt the cause of Christ more than one blatant atheist.’ A lukewarm church is a disgrace to Christ” (J. Vernon McGee, RevelationVolume I (Pasadena, California: Thru the Bible Books, 1982), pp. 121-122).

Ep.5.31-32As the Lord Jesus Christ is jealous over His churches, so should pastors and church members be jealous, with a godly jealousy, over the church they belong to, just as Paul was: “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.  For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him” (2 Co. 11.2-4; Lu. 18.8; 2 Ti. 3.1-8).

The church who really loves her Husband, the Lord Jesus Christ, will seek to maintain her purity, to be subject to her Husband in all things. All the professions of love, all the good deeds, the hymns sung, and the messages preached by a church who does not totally submit herself in all things to her Husband, are contemned by the Lord. A church who takes a 501(c)(3) tax exemption, an incorporation, a license, or any type permit from the state, or puts herself under the state in any way, becomes an earthly legal entity subject to the jurisdiction of earthly powers, the state and federal government. Such a “church” is in fact a two headed monster. Such a “church,” in spite of any professions of love for the Lord, according to her acts shows that she does not love the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Biblical Doctrine of the Church

Jerald Finney
© October, 2009

Have you ever done an in depth study of the biblical doctrine of the church? Every Bible believer, and especially every pastor, should have done such a study. Every Bible institute and college should give priority to such a study. Did not Christ “love the church and give himself for it?” Included in that study should be a study of the application of the doctrine of the church. In other words, a scholarly spirtual study of the church would require an in depth study of the definition, organization, and purposes of a church. This  would require a study of such matters as the organization of churches as corporations, unincorporated associations, corporations sole, etc. and seeking Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3) of churches. Do such devices comport with biblical principles? Is our Lord grieved when such devices are employed by churches? What are the consequences to churches, individuals, families and the nation?

The players below will teach on the biblical doctrine of the church. In conjunction with other audio teachings on other pages of this blog, a spirit filled believer will be given the knowledge to answer all the questions in the paragraph above and more. You may or may not agree with all this teaching, but this study will be invaluable to the Bible believing Christian who wants to do things God’s way. This study is patterned after Section II of the book God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application (Ordering information for this and other books is on the “Books” page of churchandstatelaw.com.).

To play, just click the link. To download, right click link and then left click “Save link as.”

1. Introduction to the biblical doctrine of the church (Section II, Chapter 1 of God Betrayed) (The audio opens with a song by Brother Rocky Otwell, “Wilt Thou Be Made Whole?” followed by opening remarks and prayer. That portion of the audio is 5 min. 3 sec. in length. The total length is 14 min. 55 sec.).

2. Definition, organization, and purposes of a church (Section II, Chapter 2 of God Betrayed) (27 min. 22 sec.).

3.  The love relationship between Christ and His church (In God Betrayed, but not a specific chapter) (52 min. 16 sec.). This is covered in the booklet which is reproduced on this website at The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls?)  This may be the most important teaching concerning the issue of separation of church and state. The last few minutes of the audio is of poor quality because of technical difficulties that were later corrected).

4. Heresy and apostasy (Section II, Chapter 4 of God Betrayed) (Begins with a song, “In Times Like These,” sang by Rocky Otwell and prayer. Prayer ends at 3 min. 31 sec. Total length of segment is 28  min. 15 sec.).

5. Recent accelerated apostasy in America (Section II, Chapter 5 of God Betrayed) (14 min. 22 sec.).

6. Apostasy at the end of the church age (Section II, Chapter 6 of God Betrayed) (3 min. 30 sec.)(This audio teaching has been significantly revised. Click “Apostasy at the end of the church age”  to see the revisions).

7. The church will reign with the Lord (Section II, Chapter 7 of God Betrayed) (1 min. 56 sec.)(This audio teaching has been significantly revised. Click “The coming universal church will reign with the Lord”  to see the revisions).

8. Conclusion (Section II, Chapter 8 of God Betrayed) (Conclusion is 5 min. 41 sec. followed by song and prayer. Total length is 8 min. 51 sec.).

I am adding a new study of specific books and teachings on the Bible Doctrine of the Church. Click here to go to that study series.

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For His Glory,
Jerald Finney
Christian and practicing attorney