Tag Archives: Declaration of Trust

How a Church Can Organize To Remain a New Testament Church (Holding Money and Property in Trust for God Is a Scriptural Principle Recognized 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

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.”

 

Chapter 1: Analysis of the title to and first two paragraphs of Chapter 18 of “Approved by Man”

Related articles:

Chapter 1: Analysis of the title to and first two paragraphs of Chapter 18 of “Approved by Man”

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

Jerald Finney
Copyright © November 6, 2014

The ELC article, Chapter 18 of Betrayed by Man, begins with two paragraphs. Thereafter, it is divided into titled sections. This chapter will analyze the title and then the first two paragraphs.

The reader should especially notice that this chapter reveals that the ELC method of church organization has, by published ELC admission and according to ELC criteria for what gets a church into trouble, gotten ELC churches into trouble. The ELC method gets churches into the legal system, whereas the BLC method they attack does not.

Approved by Man: A Case for Biblical Reasonableness” by John R. Wright and Benjamin E. Townsend, leaders of the Ecclesiastical Law Center (“ELC”)), was published in 2009. Concerning the ordinary trust and the DOT, only the teachings of the Biblical Law Center (“BLC”) and this Old Paths Baptist Church “Separation of Church and State Law” ministry or those of the ELC are correct – the teachings are mutually exclusive. The ELC has publicly made this an issue. The ELC has also publicly attacked people who promote the ordinary trust including pastors, churches, and the Biblical Law Center. This booklet corrects the false ELC teachings concerning the ordinary trust and Declaration of trust; and also exposes the ill advised recommendations for church organization by the ELC for what they are.

This chapter analyzes the title to and first two paragraphs of Chapter 18, “Should a Church Be Placed In a Declaration of Trust?” which is also on the home page of the ELC website (ELC website: http://lordshipchurches.info/). Chapter 18 is analyzed paragraph by paragraph and section by section.

Analysis of the title to the chapter

173FlashABManThe title to Chapter 18 – “Should a Church Be Placed In a Declaration of Trust?” – should alert anyone with any knowledge of the subject that the author of the chapter may not understand the ordinary trust and the Declaration of Trust. One cannot “place a church in a Declaration of Trust.” A Declaration of Trust (“DOT”) is merely a document which creates an ordinary trust, a relationship whereby a trustee is to hold property for the benefit of the true or equitable owner of the property. The DOT is one manner in which one may set up an ordinary trust which is not a legal entity (or some other type of trust such as a Business Trust or Charitable Trust, both of which are legal entities). One may establish an ordinary trust with or without a DOT. In fact, when a church – as does an ELC church – entrusts tithes, offerings, gifts and/or property to a pastor or other person(s) for the benefit of the true owner, the Lord Jesus Christ, that church has established a trust with the pastor as a trustee; for a church to so establish a trust relationship without a DOT is unwise. For example, when an ELC church holds property in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the church, by the pastor, acts as a legal entity by signing the deed; that pastor is the trustee of a trust. This will be explained in detail in this series of articles. The better practice is to declare an ordinary, non-legal entity trust through a properly executed DOT. See The Only Way a Church Can Organize to Remain a New Testament Church for more on the Bible principle of trust and reasons for the wisdom of adopting a properly drafted and executed DOT.

The ordinary trust is described in Volume 76 of the legal encyclopedia AMERICAN JURISPRUDENCE 2d. “Is the ordinary trust a legal entity?” explains why this ordinary trust is not a legal entity; this question is important because the ELC insisted for years that the ordinary trust utilized by BLC churches and the Old Paths Baptist Church Separation of Church and State Law Ministry (SCSLM) was a legal entity. Only after the first 8 chapters of this booklet were published online did Ben Townsend, against public revelation of solid fact which cannot be refuted, relent and admit that the ordinary trust is not a legal entity. Chapter 13 of this booklet addresses an article written by Ben Townsend after the first 8 chapters of this booklet were published in which he finally admitted that the “trust” is not a legal entity.” Read chapter 13 to find Townsend’s ridiculous slant after that admission and this author’s response: this author actually countered Townsend’s slant in 2008 as chapter 13 reveals.

Other articles in this series fully explain the ordinary trust which is also explained in Section VI, Chapter 7 of God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application which is available free in online and PDF form. See Order Information for Books by Jerald Finney should you desire to get a softback copy. One of the many flaws in the legal research and analyses of the ELC is that they indiscriminately grab out of context statements from court cases, legal encyclopedias, etc. and just make up fictitious and incorrect law to attack the ordinary trust and DOT. As will be seen as Chapter 18 of Townsend’s book is analyzed in this and subsequent chapters, the ELC, for example, uses the law of business trusts and incorrectly applies it to the ordinary trust.

Analysis of the first paragraph

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

The article begins by saying, “We believe it [the DOT] will get churches into trouble.” Ben Townsend, an ELC leader, has gone so far as to mount a dishonest online attack against a church which places tithes, offerings, gifts and property in a trust whereby the trustee of that trust has a fiduciary duty to use the monies and properties for the benefit of the true owner of the property. The DOT has never gotten any church into trouble, although Ben Townsend has lied and stated that it has. ELC churches have to, as Wright/Townsend state in Chapter 3, page 35 of Approved by Man, “handle legal church problems.” In that chapter, Townsend not only reveals that ELC churches must go to court but also falsely leads one to believe that he can represent churches in court. He is not an attorney and he cannot represent anyone or any entity in court because he is not a lawyer. Furthermore, he is not qualified to do so; nor is he qualified, as is obvious from the analysis of Chapter 18, to do legal research, especially, as he puts it, “intense legal research.”

In Chapter 3 of Approved by Man, Townsend speaks of lawsuits involving ELC churches, tax on property of an unincorporated church, and inspections of the “church’s building.” Using Townsend’s reasoning, the ELC method admitedly gets churches into trouble all the time. Unlike the ELC churches referred to in Chapter 8, a church which places tithes, offerings, and gifts into an ordinary trust as recommended by the BLC and the SCSLM is not a legal entity which cannot be taken into court or agency process; the DOT and the ordinary trusts thereby created have kept BLC churches out of legal problems and legal actions. Chapter 3 makes clear that an ELC churches own property, can and have been taken to court, and are therefore legal entities. Because churches in general enjoy favorable public sentiment and have protections which no other institution or entity has, there has not been an in depth and dedicated study of ELC methods by government lawyers and ELC churches have not been called for what they are – legal entities who have given up much of their biblical and First Amendment protections. One should note that governments still allow sales and property tax exemptions for all churches whether legal entities or not. When a local tax board challenges a “religious use” tax exemption on property on which a local church meets, the ELC church must go through the agency process (and appeal to court, if necessary); but in a property tax challenge against trust property utilized by a BLC or SCSLM church, the church cannot be brought into the process – rather, the pastor/trustee of the trust represents the trust in obtaining the property tax exemption. To this point, no property utilized by a BLC or SCSLM trust has been denied the exemption.

The third sentence to the paragraph then states: “Pastors, Deacons, and other Christians must realize the background of this document in law, and refuse to allow the church and church property to be placed into such a document.” This sentence is totally wrong. What is important for believers to know about the ordinary trust are the biblical principles regarding trust and what the ordinary trust and the document establishing it are. See Spurious rationale for incorporating: to hold property for a biblical and legal analysis of the ordinary trust.  Contrary to the ELC assertions, believers do not place any money or property in the document, the DOT. The DOT merely declares the trust. If a church is organized according to biblical principles, there is no church property. Rather, the members of the church (who are the church) give tithes, offerings, and gifts to God and those monies/properties make up the trust estate. The true owner, as declared in the DOT, is the Lord Jesus Christ. The person who is to administer the monies/properties is the trustee (the legal owner – the person who signs deeds, vehicle titles (if any), etc. as trustee. This is necessary since the Lord is not now physically present on earth and has therefore left believers with the fiduciary duty to handle His property and monies for His benefit (for the Glory of God). The trustee has a fiduciary duty to manage the monies/properties for the benefit of the true owner.

The last sentence of the first paragraph in Chapter 18 of Townsend’s article states: “More than that, a pastor must not allow himself to sign a document referring to himself as the ‘Trustee’ which represents the church.”

From page 149 of  ELC book
From page 149 of ELC book “Approved by God”

First, that sentence is ludicrous when delivered by Townsend because pastors of Townsend’s ELC churches are trustees who represent the church. On pages 149 and 150 of the ELC book Approved by God are the following statements: “The property [of an ELC church] should be held in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner” (p. 149); and “Actually, the church, by the Pastor, can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that isn’t a viable difficulty” (p. 150). These statements make clear that the church is set up to be a legal entity because the church is the legal owner of the property and the true and beneficial owner is the Lord Jesus Christ.

From page 150 of
From page 150 of “Approved by God”

On the other hand, the last sentence of the first paragraph of Townsend’s article above is wrong on two accounts as applied to the ordinary trust: (1) it is wise for a pastor/trustee of an ordinary trust to hold money and property for the benefit of the true owner, the Lord Jesus Christ; (2) the pastor/trustee is the legal owner of the property and the Lord Jesus Christ is the true and beneficial owner:

“The trustee of an ordinary trust is the person appointed to execute a trust, and the one in whom an estate, interest, or power is vested, under an express or implied agreement to administer or exercise it for the benefit of another. In other words, a trustee is a person who holds legal title to property under an express or implied agreement to apply it, and the income arising from it, to the benefit of another.” [Bold emphasis mine.]

In other words, the trustee of the ordinary trust has a fiduciary duty to administer or exercise the property for the benefit of the true or equitable owner of the property, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is something entirely different from “representing the church.” A pastor/trustee who holds tithes, offerings, gifts, and property in the name of (for the benefit of) the Lord Jesus Christ has this fiduciary duty in the trust relationship established by a Declaration of Trust.

On the other hand, as Townsend admits in his writings, the pastor of an ELC church acts as the trustee of “church property” even though such declaration is not in a DOT (See, e.g. pp. 149-150 of the ELC book Approved by God which are photographed and inserted above.). ELC publications demonstrate that the ELC methodology clearly establishes a type of trust which is a legal entity, relegates ELC churches to legal entity status, makes the pastor of the ELC church trustee of “church property” thereby representing the church. One could admonish Townsend as follows: “The results of the first microscopic examination of ELC methodology now published in this booklet clearly prove:

“Legally and biblically, the ELC, under your leadership, puts pastors in the position of trustees who represent ELC churches – the very thing you wrongly accuse the BLC of doing through the use of the DOT and the ordinary trust thereby created. Because of this and other flaws pointed out in this booklet, the ELC needs a Bible believing, born-again lawyer who has thoroughly studied the Bible and trust law and is motivated by the love of God, not money, to help you straighten out the mess established by the ELC.”

Both the BLC and the SCSLM utilize the impeccable method which was conceived by Attorney Al Cunningham who obviously put the system under a legal and biblical microscope before implementation. The BLC and now the ELC method have both been put under a legal microscope by another attorney, Jerald Finney. Finney published his conclusions concerning the BLC methodology a long time before taking on the task of microscopic examination of the ELC attacks against the BLC and the ordinary trust recommended by the BLC.  He found that the law and the Bible prove that Al Cunningham’s ordinary trust arrangement is on solid biblical grounds and keeps a church out of the legal system. To have lied about his conclusions and the law would have dishonored the Lord. Had Finney concluded that the BLC methods were flawed, he would have informed the BLC, just as he is now informing the ELC that they have created a mess.

Microscopic examination by two lawyers has proved the BLC method to be flawless. Microscopic examination by one lawyer has proven the ELC method to be flawed both biblically and legally. The biblical and legal reasoning supporting the conclusions concerning the problems with the ELC way of doing things are clearly stated in this booklet. ELC responses to the arguments in this booklet have been facetious at best.

Understanding that the ordinary trust is not the  church and the church is not the ordinary trust is important. The church does not own the money/property held in the trust (the trust estate). Church members give to God and what they give is held in the trust estate. Money/property has to be held somewhere, by someone. In this case the trust estate holds the money/property which is owned by the equitable owner, the beneficiary. The trustee has legal title to the money/property, but he is to use it for the benefit of the true and equitable owner, the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, this is in contrast to the unbiblical method used by the ELC by which tithes and offerings are given to the church, not to God, and “church property” is held by the church through a pastor/trustee.

Analysis of the second paragraph

The ELC then alleges that the attorney who “came up with this document” (the DOT) “could only think of a legal remedy for church problems, and not a Biblical remedy.” No one should  speculate as to the thought processes of that attorney who is now deceased. What is important is the applicability of the method from a biblical perspective. As has already been shown in this chapter, the remedy of the ELC is legal, not biblical and only the unqualified could have come up with such totally chaotic methodology. They have gotten away with their nonsense because no one, until this time, has examined some of their teachings with a “legal microscope.” One can imagine what examination of all their teachings by a qualified legal analyst would reveal.

A biblical and legal analyses of the issues can be found in God Betrayed (see the link above above). The facts, citations, and reasoning supporting the conclusion that the ordinary trust is ideal for an American church are in the writings and teachings on this “Separation of Church and State Law” website. Section VI, Chapter 7 of God Betrayed explains the ordinary trust and the DOT. The first three sections of God Betrayed lay out the biblical doctrines of government, church and separation of church and state; and Section VI, Chapter 7 looks at both biblical and legal precepts concerning the ordinary trust and compares the ordinary trust to incorporation (2 entirely different things) and shows why the ordinary trust is biblical.

The ELC then states, “We believe that this attorney used an existing legal document and applied it to unincorporated churches so that they could hold property without coming under the jurisdiction of the state.” Wrong. The attorney took the concepts of ordinary trust and drafted a Declaration of Trust which declared an ordinary trust. The church who places tithes, offerings, and gifts into the estate of such a trust does not hold property. The trust estate holds the property. The true, beneficial, and equitable owner of the property is the Lord Jesus Christ. Placing God’s money and property in an ordinary trust keeps a church under the Lord Jesus Christ only and out from under civil government jurisdiction if the church is careful not to place herself under state jurisdiction in some other way. One should keep in mind that a church who holds property, opens a bank account, takes out insurance, or does some other legal act forfeits her New Testament and First Amendment status.

The purpose of the ordinary trust is to assure that there is no church property and that all properties and monies in the trust estate are administered by the trustee for the benefit of the true owner of the property (the Lord Jesus Christ). A properly worded “Resolution to Adopt a DOT” and a properly worded DOT makes clear that the trust estate is owned by the Lord and that there is no church property.

A court/agency will assume jurisdiction over a controversy concerning money or property only if the dispute is properly brought to attention of the court/agency with jurisdiction over the matter. If a legitimate action is properly brought to the attention of an appropriate court or agency, the court or agency will assume jurisdiction no matter how the property/money is held and no matter who owns the property/money. In such an action, the court will seek out the legal owner and if none is found, the court or agency will take the necessary steps to get the property/money to a legal owner. Should a church hold/money property, that church is the legal owner and the church is a legal entity; this is the case of an ELC church, but not so with a BLC or SCSLM church. When money/property is put into the trust estate of an ordinary trust, the trustee is the legal owner and the Lord Jesus Christ is the equitable owner. A court cannot bring a church into such a legal controversy if that church places tithes, offerings, and gifts into a trust administered by a trustee where the beneficiary is the Lord Jesus Christ (as long as the church does nothing that makes that church a legal entity).

The elements of the ordinary trust and the DOT recommended by attorney Al Cunningham not only comply with Bible principles, but also incorporate the elements of a DOT and “trust” explained in American lawbooks such as 76 AM. JUR. 2D, Trusts and the DOT guidelines in the accompanying forms volume. “Declaration” means: “Publication, manifestation; as the declaration of the greatness of Mordecai. Esth. X.; A public annunciation; proclamation; as the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776” (MERRIAM WEBSTER’S AMERICAN DICTIONARY OR THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE (1828) definition of “DECLARATION.”). Declaration of Trust is defined as follows:

“The act by  which the person who holds the legal title to property or an estate acknowledges and declares that he holds the same in trust to the use of another person or for certain specified purposes. The name is also used to designate the deed or other writing embodying such a declaration” (BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY 408 (6th ed. 1990) under definition of “Declaration.” This definition is consistent with the definitions in more authoritative legal references such as AM. JUR. 2D and C.J.S.).

76 AM. JUR. 2D Trusts § 65
76 AM. JUR. 2D Trusts § 65

The words in the DOT which Cunningham used are unique and are not found in any lawbook. As to the use of express or particular words or phrases to create a trust:

  • “No particular words are necessary to create a trust if there exists reasonable certainty as to the intended property, object, and beneficiary. Further, the purpose and intention, rather than the use of any particular term, determines whether a valid trust has been established. An express trust may be created without the use of technical words. All that is necessary are words or circumstances which unequivocally show an intention that the legal estate is vested in one person, to be held in some manner or for some purpose on behalf of another.
  • “Any statement that shows the ownership or control of property is vested in one person for the benefit of another is sufficient to create a trust, and it is not necessary that the words ‘trust’ or ‘trustee’ be used. Furthermore, even where present, the mere use of the words ‘in trust’ by the parties is not sufficient alone to create a trust, nor does the mere designation of a party as ‘trustee’ create a trust. Absent indications to the contrary, a conveyance using the words ‘for the use of’ or ‘for the benefit of’ demonstrates the intent to create a trust.” (76 AM. JUR. 2DTrusts § 65 (2007)).

As will be shown below, the a church which utilizes the ELC method creates a trust which is a legal entity (perhaps a charitable trust or business trust). The trust which is recommended by the “Separation of Church and State Law” ministry is not a legal entity as explained in the article Is the ordinary trust a legal entity?

Thus, the holding of property by a person (trustee) “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” creates a trust. This is a very important for ELC churches to understand since the ELC recommends that property be held by the church (pastor) in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, the true and beneficial owner and that the church can hold property (e.g., execute a deed) by the pastor, in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ. (See their exact wording below.) The legal system requires a legal tie to real estate as expressed in a deed. If no such tie to real estate exists, and this fact is brought to the attention of the proper court, the court will make sure that a legal entity, such as a person, assumes ownership of the property. Should a controversy arise as to ownership of the real estate, the legal system when properly petitioned will take jurisdiction over the matter. When real property is put up for sale, the buyer is going to want legal assurances that he is getting valid, enforceable legal and equitable ownership.

The ELC states that property may be held in three ways “(1) as a corporation, (2) as an unincorporated association and:

“(3) as an individual. How can property be held to reflect the ownership of Christ over His church? It must be held as an individual, and that individual must be the Lord Jesus Christ! The property should be held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner. In spite of the skepticism of many, churches in 22 states have placed their property in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ without incident” (Approved by God: A Case for Modern Disetablishment, by Wright/Townsend, page 149). The book goes on to say that “the church, by the Pastor, can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Ibid., 150.

The ELC are confused since they first say that the property must be held by the Lord Jesus Christ and then they say that the property should be held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, property cannot be held by the Lord Jesus Christ since he left all earthly temporal property to be held in trust by man and has given civil government the ultimate jurisdiction over that land. If a nation honors God and His precepts, that nation will also honor God’s churches, and vice versa. If a believer or church is found out in North Korea (and many other nations), any properties which the believer owns will be confiscated and the believers will probably be executed. God allows individuals, families, churches, and nations free will to honor or dishonor him, for the time being.  The ELC, in the above statement, also says that the church, is to hold the property.

From ELC book
From ELC book “Approved by God,” p. 149

The ELC states the elements of a trust, and then make clear that the trust they recommend is a legal entity through which the church holds property thereby making the church the legal owner of the property. Some of the words of the ELC quoted above is taken straight out of legal books which define the ordinary trust, but other words compromise the trust and establish it as a legaL entity. They then say, “Held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Bold emphasis mine). For a church to hold property violates biblical principle. (See The Biblical Doctrine of the Church and The Biblical Doctrine of Separation of Church and State). Not only that, only a legal entity can hold property. There must be a legal owner of property, even if the legal and true and beneficial owner are not the same. They do not realize that they are in effect stating that the church is a legal entity.

The above illustrates that the ELC recommends compromising the position of a church who uses their method. They state that the church is to “hold the property in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner.” By so stating, they make clear that the church is the trustee of the property which is held in a legal entity type of trust; this argument is strengthened by the fact that, in their attacks against the ordinary trust they incorrectly rely on the law of business trusts as will be shown below. To repeat:

“The ELC teaches that the trust is a legal entity. They are partially correct in that some types of trusts are legal entities. However, the ELC does not quote from the law concerning ordinary trusts as to the legal entity status of the ordinary trust (see above). They do this to establish their incorrect position that the trust utilized by the BLC and this ministry are legal entities. They quote from the law concerning, for example, business trusts. See pages 175-177 of Approved by Man: A Case for Biblical Reasonableness by Wright/Townsend, for an example of where they quote from the law of business trusts and apply it to the ordinary trust. In American Jurisprudence, the law of business trusts is covered in volume 13 whereas the law concerning ordinary trusts is covered in volume 76. The two types of trusts are very distinct types of trusts.”

Thus, the ELC, in their zeal to discredit the ordinary trust, have in fact discredited their own methodology; they create a type of  trust which is a legal entity which can act legally, sue, be sued, go into debt if so desired , and enter into contracts (the ELC teaches against a church going into debt and entering into contracts.). Since they declare that the church is to hold the property for the true owner, they are declaring that the church is the trustee and, therefore the church has to be a legal entity. Only a legal entity can hold property; a spiritual entity cannot hold property. The trustee of a trust holds legal title and the beneficiary holds true or equitable title to property.

The ELC then states that “the church, by the pastor, can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Suffice it here to say that the ELC claims that the church can execute a deed. Only a legal entity can execute a deed. At the same time, they state that the church executes the deed by the pastor. Thus, the pastor effectively serves as trustee, but trustee of what kind of trust? Not a non-legal entity ordinary trust which is something they do not understand and therefore attack. He serves as trustee of a legal entity and that legal entity is the church he signs for.

Public sentiment and the lack of legal action against churches protects churches from legal scrutiny. For the foreseeable future, ELC churches do not have to worry about attacks. There are many situations, even outside the church-state context, where the legal system has not been alerted to some improprieties and therefore has not taken action. Consider the actual situation in which the owner of property has been dead for years and the man living on the property has paid the taxes for years. As long as he keeps up on the taxes and no one takes the issue to court, the man will be able to enjoy the property. Should an ELC church ever be in the legal sights of government lawyers, the ELC has subjected churches who use its methods to a compromised position and sharp government lawyers may pierce their armor. More importantly, the ELC, by not proceeding according to knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, has unknowingly dishonored the Lord.

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

Finally, the last sentence in the paragraph says, “Since his passing, the Declaration of Trust has evolved into a magic talisman of mystic proportions, designed to fill all the needs of a local church.” That sentence is patently absurd. The author, the pastors, and the believers the author knows and who place tithes, offerings, and gifts into an ordinary trust established by a Declaration of Trust do not believe in magic. Those who put their tithes and offerings in an ordinary trust estate for the benefit of the true owner of all properties, the Lord Jesus Christ, know that the trust established by the DOT is only one piece of the puzzle. There are many ways in which a church can compromise the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ over a church. And even though they believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only one who can fulfill all their needs, their focus is not on themselves and their needs but on obedience to His statutes and precepts. More importantly, they believe that all they do should be for the Glory of God.

Chapter 11: Answer to Ben Townsend’s Article, “It Really Isn’t Personal: ‘It’s Financial!'”

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Chapter 11: Answer to Ben Townsend’s Article, “It Really Isn’t Personal: ‘It’s Financial!'”

Jerald Finney
Copyright © December 21, 2014

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On November 17, 2014 Ben Townsend published online “It Really Isn’t Personal: “It’s Financial!” The article was written after Jerald Finney began to publish this booklet: An analysis of Ecclesiastical Law Center Attacks against the Ordinary Trust Recommended by the Old Paths Baptist Church “Separation of Church and State Law Ministry”.

Townsend’s article demonstrates that Finney’s hope that publication of the booklet would foster a reasoned discussion has not materialized. From Townsend’s article, studied with an understanding of what Finney has published in the above online booklet, one who knows what is going on or who takes the time to study these matters out will readily understand that Townsend is not interested in or is incapable of a reasoned argumentation; understanding, explanation, and defense of the ELC method of church organization; and/or defense of his attacks against the Declaration of Trust and the ordinary trust thereby created which is promoted by the Biblical Law Center (“BLC”) and the ordinary Bible trust of the Old Paths Baptist Church “Separation of Church and State Law Ministry” (SCSLM). Townsend sets up fictitious straw-men and attacks those straw-men instead of confronting the issues raised, incorrectly frames the issues, creates his own reality, cannot engage in any meaningful dialogue, misleads the uneducated, engages in trivialities, and dishonors our Lord Jesus Christ. In this latest of ridiculous publications by Townsend “It Really Isn’t Personal: “It’s Financial!” Townsend proves true to form.

Townsend states in his article:

“There was a certain church we were using to demonstrate the truth that Scripture never wants the pastor to be any legal officer of any legal “instrument,” including an “Ordinary Trust” (Attorney Finney’s term) or a “Declaration of Trust” (BLC’s term). These are not Biblical instruments for Lordship Churches. They attempt to tell us that their “Trust” is not like any other Trusts. And MY dog is not like any OTHER dog! You have your “Business Dogs,” your “Revocable Dogs,” “Living Dogs,”  “Charitable Dogs,” and I am sure Attorney Finney has an “Ordinary Dog.” And just because he may call his Ordinary Dog’s tail a leg, it does not make it have five legs. Actually, I would have preferred to use the BLC’s terminology and just say that I have made a “Declaration” that I HAVE a Dog. (Note: I use Dog here not making fun of anyone in the BLC or “whatever the name that other group is” who happens to be Dyslexic.)”

This paragraph demonstrates that Townsend is unlearned and incapable of honest study and debate. Prior chapters of this booklet point to the law that proves there are different types of trusts. If one does not believe what Jerald Finney writes in those chapters, he can go to the sources cited by Finney to determine whether Finney is telling the truth.

By the way, “ordinary trust” was not termed by Jerald Finney. The law of business trusts, for example, refers to the “ordinary trust,” something entirely different from the business trust.

Finney adopted the use of the term “Bible trust” or “ordinary Bible trust” to apply to the ordinary trust and related documents which he recommends for churches and which mirrors relevant Bible precepts. The pastor or other believer who is truly interested in honoring the Lord Jesus Christ can study these and other writings of Jerald Finney and find that:

  • The Ben Townsend and the Ecclesiastical Law Center (“ELC”) method creates a trust which is different from an “ordinary trust.” In other words, Ben Townsend’s method is a “dog” of a different breed.
  • Although the Ben Townsend and the Ecclesiastical Law Center (“ELC”) method does not utilize a Declaration of Trust (“DOT”) for each church, the ELC has a DOT which is published in ELC writings.
  • The ELC method creates a trust which is a legal entity and sets up the church using that method as a legal entity.
  • The Ben Townsend and the ELC method puts the pastor in the position of trustee for the church of a type of trust which is a legal entity.
  • The Ben Townsend and the ELC method makes an ELC church a legal entity.
  • The Declaration of Trust and ordinary Bible trust thereby created perfectly correspond to biblical principle. The ordinary trust thereby created is not a legal entity.
  • The church who places tithes, offerings, and gifts into the trust estate of an ordinary trust does not thereby make herself a legal entity; and she remains a non-legal entity as long as she does not act legally in any way.
  • The Declaration of Trust and ordinary trust thereby created does not make the pastor a legal office and the Declaration of Trust is not a legal document.

Townsend also suggests that money is a motivating factor for Finney. This is another ridiculous statement. This is a ministry for Finney into which he has poured a lot of money without any financial reward, and for which he has never asked (or received in gift any but insignificant) remuneration. Furthermore, this argument is another straw man which has nothing to do with the truths Finney has published in this booklet.

Townsend also states in the article:

“We have in our possession the document between the local church and the Pastor/Trustee, with RESOLUTIONS from the church body. Now, I am putting my neck out there and stating this is just paperwork that is done for you, and that NO ACTUAL business meeting was called by the church to pass these “Resolutions.” Let me define “Resolution:” “A corporate action, sometimes in the form of a legal document, that will be voted on or has been voted on at a meeting of the board of directors for a corporation.” I also have the Declaration of Trust from this same church, naming the pastor as “Pastor/Trustee.” I also have the document from an “entity” which rented part of the church’s building, naming the “Pastor/Trustee” as the “LandLORD” This “Pastor/Trustee” (according to the legal lease) “herein known as Landlord, has the right and authority to sub-let any portion of said leased premiseshe so desires.” (UNQUOTE ACTUAL DOCUMENT, emphasis added) And may I add something that Peter said: “Not for filthy lucre…neither as being LORDS over God’s heritage. (1 Peter 5:2-3).” Do you see? There is no need for Christ to be over His own church, the Pastor/Trustee/LandLORD can handle it just fine.”

Again, Townsend refers to a “corporate resolution” as though that were the only type resolution in existence. This author assumes that the reader has enough intelligence to figure this matter out and will not waste his time to show how utterly ridiculous Townsend’s reference is. This author knows that the churches he has worked with in establishing an ordinary trust have presented and explained the Resolution, DOT, and the ordinary trust to the entire church body.

This attorney would be glad to sit down with Townsend and the alleged Pastor/Trustee “LandLORD” and examine the alleged document to which Townsend refers. That is the only way this author or anyone else would be able to honestly evaluate the whole matter since one cannot depend for Townsend for the truth, only for misdirection.

This discourse between Townsend and this believer/attorney will, for those who take the time to study it out, reveal that Townsend and the ELC should not be depended upon for help in the matter of church organization. Those who blindly follow Townsend will continue in their misguided ways and thereby compromise their position as churches under the Lord Jesus Christ only as they proceed according to a chaotic ELC system of organization which is replete with scriptural and legal flaws.

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

Jerald Finney
Copyright © December 10, 2014

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

Jerald Finney
Copyright © December 11, 2014

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Ben Townsend and the ELC called for a response by unrelentingly attacking a ministry (the BLC) and the methods used by that ministry. Their attacks were based upon lies and a complete misunderstanding of the law of trusts. Truth concerning preeminent church matters is vital. This booklet responds to and analyzes a writing by Ben Townsend which is published in  Chapter 18 of the ELC book, Approved by Man and on the ELC website at http://www.lordshipchurches.info/articles.

This booklet was published online as each section and chapter was written. Ben Townsend wrote a response to this booklet, as it was being published, which he titled Give and Take.  This article will address Give and Take section by section.

Mr. Townsend, in his response, does not address or challenge any of the arguments in this booklet. Nonetheless, a reply to his response is necessary because his response continues to misdirect, manipulate, confuse the issues, and make outrageous claims.

Each section of Give and Take is in red below. This author’s response to each section is in black.

The sections of Give and Take are:

Section 1: “Give to the Poor…Take up the Cross (Mark 10.21)”
Section 2:
GIVE – ‘Ben Townsend does not know much about Trusts.’ – Ben Townsend”
Section 3: TAKE – ELC Saved Church $25 Million Dollars. – Ben Townsend”
Section 4: GIVE – I am not a Prude. – Ben Townsend”
Section 5: TAKE – “That Other Attorney IS a Prude.” – Ben Townsend”

Section 1 of Give and Take: “Give to the Poor…Take up the Cross (Mark 10.21)” states:

This is a “Response Blog.” It is in response to a Christian Attorney who has made some claims against the Ecclesiastical Law Center and its leadership (mainly me) that I would deem outrageous. So, I thought between two Law Ministries I could be the first one to make some “Stipulations.” Lay people (those of us who do not know the law but just “lay” around picking our teeth) would call it “Give and Take.” Some would call these “Admissions and Confessions.” I suppose I am not really trying to convince a bevvy of attorneys of anything anyway. But maybe a pastor or two will stumble upon this response and understand where I am going with it.

I am the Christian Attorney who wrote the online booklet to which Mr. Townsend wrote this response. The interested party who studies it out must decide whether what I wrote is outrageous. Townsend’s response was to the Preface, Introduction, and Chapters 1-8 of this booklet.

I consider what I wrote necessary in order to get the truth concerning very important church matters out to pastors and believers. The ELC and Ben Townsend have (1) actively advised and helped churches to order their affairs and (2) viciously attacked the ordinary trust used by many churches as advised by the BLC and the ordinary Bible trust recommended by the Old Paths Baptist Church “Separation of Church and State Law Ministry” for many years.

I decided to first zero in on Chapter 18 of the ELC book, Approved by Man since that Chapter summarizes the essence of the ELC attacks. Analysis of other outrageous ELC publications may follow. Chapter 18 is also published on the ELC website (http://www.lordshipchurches.info/articles) and Ben Townsend is listed as the author. My analysis also refers to some related published writings of the ELC as needed for a complete and honest analysis of Chapter 18. Hopefully, pastors who have and will consider consulting with the ELC on the matters involved in the ELC attacks addressed in this booklet will be enlightened to their benefit and for the Glory of God.

Ben Townsend’s attacks against the BLC and the DOT and ordinary trust started many years ago and continue to this day. Those attacks have been disseminated throughout his realm of influence. Townsend’s assaults which went unchallenged online for many years are ridiculous, vicious, and without knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. In addition to that, the methodology used by the ELC in “helping” churches has some serious flaws.

Townsend admits in his response that he doesn’t know much about trusts. (See below). The truth of the matter, as shown in this booklet, is that Ben Townsend and the ELC do not know what they are doing. Townsend is totally unqualified to do reliable legal research and analysis. Believers who have depended upon the ELC and those considering ELC advice should seriously study these matters out before continuing to follow ELC advice.

Section 2 of Give and Take: GIVE – ‘Ben Townsend does not know much about Trusts.’ – Ben Townsend”

Okay, I admit it. And when pastors are questioning the “other” attorney from the “other” really good law ministry, he can actually have my blessing to say, “Dr. Townsend admits that he does not know much about Trusts.” Then he can snort through his nose a little giggle, and the pastors in the audience can smile and nod to each other and chuckle. They can even designate one of their own pastors (at that moment) to cackle out loud. I would like him to stipulate that at that point he will tell the congregation of pastors, “Dr. Townsend has the same amount of knowledge on Trusts as Paul, Peter, John, and all the other writers of the Bible.” Whenever anyone would call the ELC and ask about Trusts, I would say, “Dr. Wright, phone call,” and hand the phone to Dr. Wright. Mainly, those would be people whom Dr. Wright had set up their Trust as an individual. He  personally set up hundreds of those Trusts. Some were Unincorporated Business Organizations (UBOs), some were Bare Trusts to just hold properties and assets, and one he set up for me to hold money to be used to help other missionaries and ministries in my son Jeremy’s name after his death. He sincerely tried to show me how it all worked once, and I smiled and nodded and said “Hmmm…” a lot. And with Dr. Wright having a B.A. in History, graduating from Central Baptist Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Business Administration, I figured he knew what he was talking about. Besides, I am a pastor. The only thing I really knew about Trusts was “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart.” I was not confused into thinking that was a legal Trust though.

Ben Townsend admits that he does not know much about trusts. That explains the nonsense he writes about trusts in Chapter 18 of Approved by Man which is reproduced on the ELC website. (See the entirety of this booklet for explanation.) This attorney is not snorting and giggling about Townsend’s attempts at what he calls “sarcasm.” This attorney is not at all enjoying any of this and would not pursue it were it not such an important matter.  Many good men of God have depended upon the ELC and Ben Townsend; those men of God deserve to know the truth.

Why would Townsend attack the methodology of others when he does not know what he is talking about in his attacks? Perhaps he informed those who read Chatper 18 or the online publication thereof that they should understand that he did not know what he was talking about. If so, where is such a disclaimer except in his just published article Give and Take.  Does not this admission, that he does not know what he is talking about, extend to other things he has published? It certainly extends to other matters which follow below. Dear pastors and believers who are following this controversy, please read and study Chapter 18 (book or online) and An analysis of Ecclesiastical Law Center Attacks against the Ordinary Trust Recommended by the Old Paths Baptist Church “Separation of Church and State Law Ministry”. These are not laughing matters which should by brushed aside by silly rhetoric.

For there to be an “other” attorney, there must be an attorney: who is he? Also, who is the first “really good law ministry?” He cannot be referring to the ELC as a “really good law ministry.” The ELC is a really bad law ministry. The ELC understanding of the law of trusts bears no resemblance to the actual law of trusts. The ELC methods of church organization set churches up as legal entities and has many serious flaws which are explained throughout this booklet.

Section 3 of Give and Take: TAKE – ELC Saved Church $25 Million Dollars. – Ben Townsend”

This other Christian attorney made the statement that he first met Dr. Wright when he came to speak at his church in Texas in July of 2002. He stated, “Years ago, the church I belonged to in Austin paid Robin Wright of the Ecclesiastical Law Center (“ELC”) to spend a few days at the church teaching the church on how to stay under the Lord Jesus Christ only. I, as an attorney, was asked by my pastor to talk with Mr. Wright. I spent quite a few cordial hours so doing.” So, now I will show you what “Take” means. No one on ELC staff over the years, neither Dr. Wright nor myself has ever been “paid” to do anything. We have gone wherever, free of charge, with no expectations of payment for any services rendered. Now, this church in Texas, Capital City Baptist Church, has never supported financially the ELC. The real reason Dr. Wright was invited to come to the church was because the parents of the boy who was beaten by the pastor’s sons were attempting to sue the church for $25 million dollars. Dr. Wright meeting with the church’s insurance company that week was the primary purpose for his trip. His “speaking to the church” and “cordial hours” of speaking with this attorney was incidental. I was on the phone with Dr. Wright all week because I was doing the research in Texas law concerning unincorporated churches being sued. When I presented Dr. Wright with the Texas laws that stated the unincorporated church could not be sued, he presented this research to the insurance company. The insurance company used this research to convince the parents’ attorney to drop the lawsuit against the church. Plus, the insurance agent when thanking Dr. Wright for his help, confided that they had planned to “settle” out of court with the parents for “six figures,” but decided against that when they found out the church could not be sued because it was not incorporated. The parents did end up suing the boys and got a judgment of $1.5 million, which the boys will have to repay when they get out of jail.

As a sidenote, who is the Christian attorney which must be assumed when Mr. Townsend says “other Christian attorney?” As far as is known, the ELC has, and never has had an attorney – there must be one Christian attorney before there can be another Christian attorney.

The claim that the ELC saved the church $25 million dollars is so ridiculous that this author is almost dumfounded. Mr. Townsend has a fertile imagination which he freely exercises.

Dr. Wright received ample reward for the time he spent at the church. He was called to teach on how to organize a church. This author was present for all his teachings and still has his extensive notes. Dr. Wright taught at the Bible Institute during the days and at the church every evening while he was at the church. Dr. Wright’s teaching on church organization was ignored by the pastor.

Even if Dr. Wright was also called to advise the civil attorneys on the fact that an unincorporated church could not be sued, his efforts failed. This author talked with the attorneys about that matter and knows what they had to say about it. Unlike Dr. Wright, they were far more educated in and qualified to do legal research, litigation, and negotiations than Mr. Townsend or Dr. Wright. The truth is that the whole thing was a lot more complicated than Mr. Townsend will ever be able to know.

Here are just a few facts and legal considerations. The Pastor of the church had made the truthful claim that the church was an unincorporated association (a legal entity).  In order to hold every person in a church which is a legal entity (corporation, unincorporated association, etc.) liable for damages, the plaintiff would have had to prove that the whole church or the church leadership encouraged or knew about or encouraged what the boys did. That was not the case. The church had a long-standing policy that no person in the church was to discipline any child not their own. The young man who did the discipline was pastor of a Spanish church and the boy was the son of a couple who attended the Spanish church. The Spanish church was autonomous.

Had the church been a non-legal entity, only those who took part in the crime could have been implicated. Of course, should an entire church accept and/or promote illegal or criminal activity which is preached from the pulpit, the whole church, no matter how it is organized, may, under the right facts, be implicated in a lawsuit. The lawyers for the plaintiff and the insurance company lawyers discussed the law and the facts in their negotiations and the church was never in any real danger, before or after Dr. Wright’s appearance, of being held liable.

The insurance company did settle for six figures. No one knows the exact amount for sure, but it was over $1,000,000 but less than $2,000,000. Looks to me like that is six figures. The insurance company paid that settlement.

In short, Dr. Wright’s legal help in the matter, if any, was useless. This author spent a lot of time with Dr. Wright while he was in Austin as well as with the lawyers. They never mentioned to him that they had talked to Dr. Wright and Dr. Wright never mentioned them or that he had talked to them. Dr. Wright did discuss some of the matters involved in the criminal suit – this author, out of courtesy and respect did not inform him that he was out of his field of expertise.

Section 4 of Give and Take: GIVE – I am not a Prude. – Ben Townsend”

I think anyone who knows me, knows that I really enjoy having a great time, and really enjoy making fun of legalists and Baptist Pharisees. Dear Brother Ben Mott, very proper mind you and very ethical, but not a prude, heard me singing a bunch of my silly songs after one of our conferences were all over. People were still hanging around and I went to the piano and started singing “The Cat Got Dead” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQMDgVCikP0 or “If My Nose Was Running Money” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nhSW6QxGPs at 5 minutes into the radio video, and many others. Bro. Mott at first did not know what in the world was happening. Afterwards he came up to me and made this statement in perfect English, “Dr. Townsend, I now know what you are all about; you shine a light on Pharisees.” He was right. I blast Calvinists with “Super-Hyper-Calvanistic-Predetermined-Theory” sung to the tune of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Knit-Pickers with “Swallow the Fly,” and I help pastors with songs like, “If You Don’t LIke My Apples, Don’t Shake My Tree” and “Don’t Tell the Pastor.” Sometimes I get flak from people who do not understand what I am all about. Usually it is from those who completely believe one should be serious about everything. Now, I am serious when I preach in the pulpit. But even when I joke from the pulpit, I am very serious. I never make fun of the things of the Lord. I do tend to make fun of myself and people who need to loosen up or consider themselves too high and mighty to laugh at themselves. And it’s okay, I can take this criticism of not being a prude. Or worse criticisms like, “He calls his attacks on certain other believers ‘sarcasm;’ I do not look at it that way.” “He sets himself up as a legal authority and he is anything but.” Hey, I just do whatever I can to be a blessing to people. I don’t set myself up as anybody. I don’t even care what people think of me, only what the Lord thinks. I have an audience of One. I only want to please Him.

One cannot bless people by ruthlessly attacking them and their good actions and methods based upon nonsense. One cannot bless people in churches by peddling to them – without knowledge, understanding and wisdom – a method of church organization which makes a church a legal entity. Is Mr. Townsend saying, in the last section above, that Chapter 18 is meant to be a blessing to people, something which will please the Lord? I look at Chapter 18 and some of his other blatantly false attacks against the BLC, the DOT, and the ordinary trust and his method of church organization as serious violations of some biblical precepts.

Truth is one necessary ingredient of revival. Truth concerning church organization is at the center of this debate. Another ingredient of revival is repentance.

The ruthless, groundless, inaccurate ELC attacks have been going on for years. To know whether the ELC attacks are correctly characterized, readers should read and analyze both Chapter 18 of Approved by Man and this booklet.

This author would be glad to help Ben Townsend and the ELC in their attempts to help churches organize according to New Testament principles. This author holds no hatred or grudge against Townsend or the ELC. He does hold an allegiance to truth and to the Glory of God.

Section 5 of Give and Take: “TAKE – “That Other Attorney IS a Prude.” – Ben Townsend”

Now, a “Prude” is defined as: “One who is excessively concerned with being or appearing to be proper, modest, or righteous.” (The Free Dictionary.com) Examples of terms from his writings that expose his prudishness are “I started an intense study,” “after years of intense study,” “having done extensive studies,” “knowing the tactics of ELC,” “are thoroughly covered in” his teachings, “I myself instructed them (somehow meaning ELC),” “extensive knowledge,” and the many times he states that he will “repent and publish” his repentance if someone shows him he is wrong. It is so funny to me how guys will state they will repent when so many times in their writings they show that they already know everything so intensively, extensively, and exhaustively that there is no other knowledge left in the world which could ever make them change their minds. (sigh) He even stated in an email he sent me that when he was with the BLC, “I was straight on everything.” Folks, when everything the person deals with is referred to as a “very serious matter,” something is prudish about the fellow. But my nature as a Non-Prude is to point out the mistakes of the Prudish every chance I get. Does that mean we will never get along? Well, I can meet a person like this half-way. I can even go overboard, meaning just say the things I want to say out loud just to myself, and smile a lot. I know God uses all kinds of personalities and Spiritual gifts. My Spiritual gift (Exhortation) is to get everyone to “lighten up” and do not think to seriously of themselves all the time. Now, if this fellow says my calling him a “Prude” is an “Attack” on his character, then everyone will finally know he is a Prude. If he were ever to just say, “That Townsend, what a nut. I can’t believe he would say I was a Prude. He’s so flaky,” then Revival might just break out, or the Lord might just return. But please do not tell me a man is “humble” when he gets mad about what is said about him. True Humility is realizing we are worthless, so whatever anyone says about us is just not that important. Besides, if they knew ALL my sins, they would realize that I am much worse than what they think I am.

As of yet, no one in the ELC has addressed any of the analysis in this booklet.

Since my  salvation, I have had to repent of sins and of false beliefs many times. I could write a book on that. I  have been confronted with many new truths which revealed to me much nonsense which I had accepted as truth for many years. I repented and redirected. I am still learning. If the ELC or anyone can enlighten me on anything, especially anything in the above article, which is not correct, I will publish my repentance.

I would suggest that Mr. Townsend, if he is truly interested in the Glory of God and revival, would do better to quote the Bible than to quote the dictionary definition of “prude;” than to give his worldly philosophy of how this matter should be handled; than to make light of God’s truths.  If he wants to enter into a God-honoring communication is search of truth, I will be glad to accommodate him.

I do not deal with everything as a very serious matter.  When the Lord calls me to do so, I do deal with misrepresentations about the church and other serious Bible principles and matters very seriously.

I am not mad about what anyone has done to me or about what anyone has said about me. This booklet was written to address the inaccuracies and baseless attacks against the BLC, the DOT, and the ordinary trust thereby created, not to address what someone said about me. I do care about what the Lord thinks about me – thank the Lord for His mercy, His grace, His discipline, His  love, His comfort, His leading, His word, His truth, His churches, etc. etc. The ELC has done something against our Lord and Bible truth and I am mad about that. My heart goes out to those good men of God who would listen to the counsel of Ben Townsend concerning church organization, the DOT, and the ordinary trust.

I can only glory in the Lord. I am not wise after the flesh, mighty, noble. I am one of the foolish things of the world, one of the base things of the world, one of the despised things of the world, one of the things which are not. My flesh cannot glory in God’s presence.

Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. To him, and to his disciples and millions of Christian martyrs who refused to compromise their Bible beliefs, including their belief in separation of church and state, the church was a serious matter. I have read nowhere in the Bible or history where any of them treated church doctrine with levity. Nowhere can one find any of them who made light of such serious matters. Isaiah 53:3:  “[Jesus Christ] is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

I suggest that the following verses may be more relevant in these matters than what Mr. Townsend writes in this section:

2 Peter 1:2-10  “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:  Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:” [Bold emphasis mine]

Hosea 4:6  “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.” [Bold emphasis mine]

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

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

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

Jerald Finney
Copyright © November 15, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How can property be held to reflect the ownership of Christ over His Church? It must be held as an individual, and that individual must be the Lord Jesus Christ! The property should be held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner.  In spite of the skepticism of many, churches in 22 states have placed their property in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ without incident.” (Ibid. 149). Actually, the church, by the Pastor, can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ibid. 150).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first paragraph of the ELC article begins:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As to the factual conclusions, the court said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endnote

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

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

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

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

Jerald Finney
Copyright © November, 2014

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

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

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

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

The ELC states in this section:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ELC states that for property be held to reflect the ownership of Christ over His church “the property should be held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner.” (Robin Wright and Ben Townsend, Approved by God: A Case for Modern Disestablishment (Mesick, Michigan: Adorn Books 2004), p. 149).

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

The ELC states that property may be held in three ways “(1) as a corporation, (2) as an unincorporated association and:

“(3) as an individual. How can property be held to reflect the ownership of Christ over His church? It must be held as an individual, and that individual must be the Lord Jesus Christ! The property should be held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner. In spite of the skepticism of many, churches in 22 states have placed their property in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ without incident.” Approved by God: A Case for Modern Disestablishment, p. 149. The book goes on to say that “the church, by the Pastor, can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Ibid., 150.

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

The ELC is confused since they first say that the property must be held by the Lord Jesus Christ and then they say that the property should be held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, legal earthly title to property and money cannot, at this point in time, be held by the Lord Jesus Christ since he left all earthly temporal property and assets to be held in trust by man and has given earthly civil government temporal jurisdiction. If a nation honors God and His precepts, that nation will also honor God’s churches, and vice versa. If a believer or church is found out in North Korea (and many other nations), any properties and assets will be confiscated and the believers will probably be executed. God allows individuals, families, churches, and nations free will to honor or dishonor him, for the time being.  The ELC, in the above statement, also says that the church is to hold the property.

The ELC states the elements of a trust, but then compromises the legal position of their trust by always referring to the law of trusts which are legal entities, not to the law of the non-legal entity ordinary trust. Some of the words of the ELC quoted above is taken straight out of legal books which define the trust. But then they say, “Held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Bold emphasis mine). For a church to hold property violates biblical principle. (See The Biblical Doctrine of the Church and The Biblical Doctrine of Separation of Church and State). Not only that, only a legal entity can hold property. There must be a legal owner of property, even if the legal and true and beneficial owner are not the same. They do not realize that they are in effect stating that the church is a legal entity.

This all clearly shows that the ELC recommends compromising the position of a church who uses their method. They state the church is to hold the property” in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner.” By so stating, they open the door to a rational argument that the church is the trustee of the property which is held in a business trust, a legal entity; this argument is strengthened by the fact that, in their attacks against the ordinary trust they incorrectly rely on the law of business trusts.

The ELC teaches that the trust is a legal entity. They are partially correct in that some types of trusts are legal entities. However, the ELC does not quote from the law concerning ordinary trusts as to the legal entity status of the ordinary trust (see above). They do this to establish their incorrect position that the trust utilized by the BLC and the ordinary Bible trust used by SCSLM are legal entities. They quote from the law concerning, for example, business trusts. See pages 175-177 of Approved by Man: A Case for Biblical Reasonableness by Wright/Townsend, for an example of where they quote from the law of business trusts and apply it to the ordinary trust. In American Jurisprudence, the law of business trusts is covered in volume 13 whereas the law concerning ordinary trusts is covered in volume 76. The two types of trusts are very distinct types of trusts.

Thus, the ELC in their zeal to discredit the ordinary trust, reveal that they have created a type of  trust, a business trust, which is a legal entity. A business trust is a legal entity which can act legally, sue, be sued, go into debt if so desired, and enter into contracts (the ELC teaches against a church going into debt and entering into contracts.). Since they declare that the church is to hold the property for the true owner, they are declaring that the church holds the property through a trustee; therefore, the church has to be a legal entity since only a legal entity can hold legal title to property; a spiritual entity cannot hold title to property. The trustee of an ordinary trust holds legal title and the beneficiary of the trust holds true, beneficial or equitable title to property.

The ELC then states that “the church, by the pastor, can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Ibid.

The ELC claims that the church can execute a deed. Only a legal entity can execute a deed. At the same time, they state that the church executes the deed by the pastor. Thus, the pastor of an ELC church effectively serves as trustee for the church, but trustee of what? Not a non-legal entity ordinary trust which is something they do not understand. He serves as trustee of a legal entity and that legal entity is the church he signs for.

Public sentiment and the lack of legal action against churches protects churches from legal scrutiny. For the foreseeable future, ELC churches do not have to worry about attacks. Consider the situation in which the owner of property has been dead for years and the man living on the property has paid the taxes since. As long as he keeps up on the taxes and no one takes the issue to court, the man will be able to enjoy the property. Should an ELC church ever be in the legal sights of government lawyers, the ELC has subjected churches who use its methods to a compromised position and sharp government lawyers who study this out should have no trouble in piercing their armor. More importantly, the ELC, by not proceeding according to knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, has unknowingly dishonored the Lord.

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

In the second paragraph, the ELC states:

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

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

Chapter 1: Analysis of the title to and first two paragraphs of Chapter 18 of “Approved by Man”

CoverApprovedByMan

Related articles:

Chapter 1: Analysis of the title to and first two paragraphs of Chapter 18 of “Approved by Man”

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

Jerald Finney
Copyright © November 6, 2014

The ELC article, Chapter 18 of Betrayed by Man, begins with two paragraphs. Thereafter, it is divided into titled sections. This chapter will analyze the title and then the first two paragraphs.

The reader should especially notice that this chapter reveals that the ELC method of church organization has, by published ELC admission and according to ELC criteria for what gets a church into trouble, gotten ELC churches into trouble. The ELC method gets churches into the legal system, whereas the BLC method they attack does not.

Approved by Man: A Case for Biblical Reasonableness” by John R. Wright and Benjamin E. Townsend, leaders of the Ecclesiastical Law Center (“ELC”)), was published in 2009. Concerning the ordinary trust and the DOT, only the teachings of the Biblical Law Center (“BLC”) and this Old Paths Baptist Church “Separation of Church and State Law” ministry or those of the ELC are correct – the teachings are mutually exclusive. The ELC has publicly made this an issue. The ELC has also publicly attacked people who promote the ordinary trust including pastors, churches, and the Biblical Law Center. This booklet corrects the false ELC teachings concerning the ordinary trust and Declaration of trust; and also exposes the ill advised recommendations for church organization by the ELC for what they are.

This chapter analyzes the title to and first two paragraphs of Chapter 18, “Should a Church Be Placed In a Declaration of Trust?” which is also on the home page of the ELC website (ELC website: http://lordshipchurches.info/). Chapter 18 is analyzed paragraph by paragraph and section by section.

Analysis of the title to the chapter

173FlashABManThe title to Chapter 18 – “Should a Church Be Placed In a Declaration of Trust?” – should alert anyone with any knowledge of the subject that the author of the chapter may not understand the ordinary trust and the Declaration of trust. One cannot “place a church in a Declaration of Trust.” A Declaration of Trust (“DOT”) is merely a document which creates an ordinary trust, a relationship whereby a trustee is to hold property for the benefit of the true or equitable owner of the property. The DOT is one manner in which one may set up an ordinary trust which is not a legal entity (or some other type of trust such as a Business Trust or Charitable Trust, both of which are legal entities). One may establish an ordinary trust with or without a DOT. In fact, when a church – as does an ELC church – entrusts tithes, offerings, gifts and/or property to a pastor or other person(s) for the benefit of the true owner, the Lord Jesus Christ, that church has established a trust with the pastor as a trustee; for a church to so establish a trust relationship without a DOT is unwise. For example, when an ELC church holds property in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the church, by the pastor, acts as a legal entity by signing the deed; that pastor is the trustee of a trust. This will be explained in detail in this series of articles. The better practice is to declare an ordinary, non-legal entity trust through a properly executed DOT.

The ordinary trust is described in Volume 76 of the legal encyclopedia AMERICAN JURISPRUDENCE 2d. “Is the ordinary trust a legal entity?” explains why this ordinary trust is not a legal entity; this question is important because the ELC insisted for years that the ordinary trust utilized by BLC churches and the Old Paths Baptist Church Separation of Church and State Law Ministry (SCSLM) was a legal entity. Only after the first 8 chapters of this booklet were published online did Ben Townsend, against public revelation of solid fact which cannot be refuted, relent and admit that the ordinary trust is not a legal entity. Chapter 13 of this booklet addresses an article written by Ben Townsend after the first 8 chapters of this booklet was published in which he finally admitted that the “trust” is not a legal entity.” Read chapter 13 to find Townsend’s ridiculous slant after that admission and this author’s response: this author actually countered Townsend’s slant in 2008 as chapter 13 reveals.

Other articles in this series fully explain the ordinary trust which is also explained in Section VI, Chapter 7 of God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application which is available free in online and PDF form. See Order Information for Books by Jerald Finney should you desire to get a softback copy. One of the many flaws in the legal research and analyses of the ELC is that they indiscriminately grab out of context statements from court cases, legal encyclopedias, etc. and just make up fictitious and incorrect law to attack the ordinary trust and DOT. As will be seen as Chapter 18 of Townsend’s book is analyzed in this and subsequent chapters, the ELC, for example, uses the law of business trusts and incorrectly applies it to the ordinary trust.

Analysis of the first paragraph

174FlashABManThe article begins by saying, “We believe it [the DOT] will get churches into trouble.” Ben Townsend, an ELC leader, has gone so far as to mount a dishonest online attack against a church which places tithes, offerings, gifts and property in a trust whereby the trustee of that trust has a fiduciary duty to use the monies and properties for the benefit of the true owner of the property. The DOT has never gotten any church into trouble, although Ben Townsend has lied and stated that it has. ELC churches have to, as Wright/Townsend state in Chapter 3, page 35 of Approved by Man, “handle legal church problems.” In that chapter, Townsend not only reveals that ELC churches must go to court but also falsely leads one to believe that he can represent churches in court. He is not an attorney and he cannot represent anyone or any entity in court because he is not a lawyer. Furthermore, he is not qualified to do so; nor is he qualified, as is obvious from the analysis of Chapter 18, to do legal research, especially, as he puts it, “intense legal research.”

In Chapter 3 of Approved by Man, Townsend speaks of lawsuits involving ELC churches, tax on property of an unincorporated church, and inspections of the “church’s building.” Using Townsend’s reasoning, the ELC method admitedly gets churches into trouble all the time. Unlike the ELC churches referred to in Chapter 8, a church which places tithes, offerings, and gifts into an ordinary trust as recommended by the BLC and the SCSLM is not a legal entity which cannot be taken into court or agency process; the DOT and the ordinary trusts thereby created have kept BLC churches out of legal problems and legal actions. Chapter 3 makes clear that an ELC churches own property, can and have been taken to court, and are therefore legal entities. Because churches in general enjoy favorable public sentiment and have protections which no other institution or entity has, there has not been an in depth and dedicated study of ELC methods by government lawyers and ELC churches have not been called for what they are – legal entities who have given up much of their biblical and First Amendment protections. One should note that governments still allow sales and property tax exemptions for all churches whether legal entities or not. When a local tax board challenges a “religious use” tax exemption on property on which a local church meets, the ELC church must go through the agency process (and appeal to court, if necessary); but in a property tax challenge against trust property utilized by a BLC or SCSLM church, the church cannot be brought into the process – rather, the pastor/trustee of the trust represents the trust in obtaining the property tax exemption. To this point, no property utilized by a BLC or SCSLM trust has been denied the exemption.

The third sentence to the paragraph then states: “Pastors, Deacons, and other Christians must realize the background of this document in law, and refuse to allow the church and church property to be placed into such a document.” This sentence is totally wrong. What is important for believers to know about the ordinary trust are the biblical principles regarding trust and what the ordinary trust and the document establishing it are. See Spurious rationale for incorporating: to hold property for a biblical and legal analysis of the ordinary trust.  Contrary to the ELC assertions, believers do not place any money or property in the document, the DOT. The DOT merely declares the trust. If a church is organized according to biblical principles, there is no church property. Rather, the members of the church (who are the church) give tithes, offerings, and gifts to God and those monies/properties make up the trust estate. The true owner, as declared in the DOT, is the Lord Jesus Christ. The person who is to administer the monies/properties is the trustee (the legal owner – the person who signs deeds, vehicle titles (if any), etc. as trustee. This is necessary since the Lord is not now physically present on earth and has therefore left believers with the fiduciary duty to handle His property and monies for His benefit (for the Glory of God). The trustee has a fiduciary duty to manage the monies/properties for the benefit of the true owner.

The last sentence of the first paragraph in Chapter 18 of Townsend’s article states: “More than that, a pastor must not allow himself to sign a document referring to himself as the ‘Trustee’ which represents the church.”

From page 149 of ELC book
From page 149 of ELC book “Approved by God”

First, that sentence is ludicrous when delivered by Townsend because pastors of Townsend’s ELC churches are trustees who represent the church. On pages 149 and 150 of the ELC book Approved by God are the following statements: “The property [of an ELC church should be held in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner (p. 149); and “Actually, the church, by the Pastor, can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that isn’t a viable difficulty (p. 150). These statements make clear that the church is set up to be a legal entity because the church is the legal owner of the property and the true and beneficial owner is the Lord Jesus Christ.

From page 150 of
From page 150 of “Approved by God”

On the other hand, the last sentence of the first paragraph of Townsend’s article above is wrong on two accounts as applied to the ordinary trust: (1) it is wise for a pastor/trustee of an ordinary trust to hold money and property for the benefit of the true owner, the Lord Jesus Christ; (2) the pastor/trustee is the legal owner of the property and the Lord Jesus Christ is the true and beneficial owner:

“The trustee of an ordinary trust is the person appointed to execute a trust, and the one in whom an estate, interest, or power is vested, under an express or implied agreement to administer or exercise it for the benefit of another. In other words, a trustee is a person who holds legal title to property under an express or implied agreement to apply it, and the income arising from it, to the benefit of another.” [Bold emphasis mine.]

In other words, the trustee of the ordinary (Bible) trust has a fiduciary duty to administer or exercise the property for the benefit of the true or equitable owner of the property, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is something entirely different from “representing the church.” A pastor/trustee who holds tithes, offerings, gifts, and property in the name of (for the benefit of) the Lord Jesus Christ has this fiduciary duty in the trust relationship established by a Declaration of Trust.

On the other hand, as Townsend admits in his writings, the pastor of an ELC church acts as the trustee of “church property” even though such declaration is not in a DOT (See, e.g. pp. 149-150 of the ELC book Approved by God which are photographed and inserted above.). ELC publications demonstrate that the ELC methodology clearly establishes a type of trust which is a legal entity, relegates ELC churches to legal entity status, makes the pastor of the ELC church trustee of “church property” thereby representing the church. One could admonish Townsend as follows: “The results of the first microscopic examination of ELC methodology now published in this booklet clearly prove:

“Legally and biblically, the ELC, under your leadership, puts pastors in the position of trustees who represent ELC churches – the very thing you wrongly accuse the BLC of doing through the use of the DOT and the ordinary trust thereby created. Because of this and other flaws pointed out in this booklet, the ELC needs a Bible believing, born-again lawyer who is motivated by the love of God, not money, to help you straighten out the mess established by the ELC.”

Both the BLC and the SCSLM utilize the impeccable method which was conceived by Attorney Al Cunningham who obviously put the system under a legal and biblical microscope before implementation. The BLC and now the ELC method have both been put under a legal microscope by another attorney, Jerald Finney. Finney published his conclusions concerning the BLC methodology a long time before taking on the task of microscopic examination of the ELC attacks against the BLC and the ordinary trust recommended by the BLC.  He found that the law and the Bible prove that Al Cunningham’s ordinary trust arrangement is on solid biblical grounds and keeps a church out of the legal system. To have lied about his conclusions and the law would have dishonored the Lord. Had Finney concluded that the BLC methods were flawed, he would have informed the BLC, just as he is now informing the ELC that they have created a mess.

Microscopic examination by two lawyers has proved the BLC method to be flawless. Microscopic examination by one lawyer has proven the ELC method to be flawed both biblically and legally. The biblical and legal reasoning supporting the conclusions concerning the problems with the ELC way of doing things are clearly stated in this booklet. ELC responses to the arguments in this booklet have been facetious at best.

Understanding that the ordinary trust is not the  church and the church is not the ordinary trust is important. The church does not own the money/property held in the trust (the trust estate). Church members give to God and what they give is held in the trust estate. Money/property has to be held somewhere, by someone. In this case the trust estate holds the money/property which is owned by the equitable owner, the beneficiary. The trustee has legal title to the money/property, but he is to use it for the benefit of the true and equitable owner, the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, this is in contrast to the unbiblical method used by the ELC by which tithes and offerings are given to the church, not to God, and “church property” is held by the church through a pastor/trustee.

Analysis of the second paragraph

The ELC then alleges that the attorney who “came up with this document” (the DOT) “could only think of a legal remedy for church problems, and not a Biblical remedy.” No one should  speculate as to the thought processes of that attorney who is now deceased. What is important is the applicability of the method from a biblical perspective. As has already been shown in this chapter, the remedy of the ELC is legal, not biblical and only the unqualified could have come up with such totally chaotic methodology. They have gotten away with their nonsense because no one, until this time, has examined some of their teachings with a “legal microscope.” One can imagine what examination of all their teachings by a qualified legal analyst would reveal.

A biblical and legal analyses of the issues can be found in God Betrayed (see the link above above). The facts, citations, and reasoning supporting the conclusion that the ordinary trust is ideal for an American church are in the writings and teachings on this “Separation of Church and State Law” website. Section VI, Chapter 7 of God Betrayed explains the ordinary trust and the DOT. The first three sections of God Betrayed lay out the biblical doctrines of government, church and separation of church and state; and Section VI, Chapter 7 looks at both biblical and legal precepts concerning the ordinary (Bible) trust and compares the ordinary trust to incorporation (2 entirely different things) and shows why the ordinary trust is biblical.

The ELC then states, “We believe that this attorney used an existing legal document and applied it to unincorporated churches so that they could hold property without coming under the jurisdiction of the state.” Wrong. The attorney took the concepts of ordinary trust and drafted a Declaration of Trust which declared an ordinary trust. The church who places tithes, offerings, and gifts into the estate of such a trust does not hold property. The trust estate holds the property. The true, beneficial, and equitable owner of the property is the Lord Jesus Christ. Placing God’s money and property in an ordinary trust keeps a church under the Lord Jesus Christ only and out from under civil government jurisdiction if the church is careful not to place herself under state jurisdiction in some other way. One should keep in mind that a church who holds property, opens a bank account, takes out insurance, or does some other legal act forfeits her New Testament and First Amendment status.

The purpose of the ordinary trust is to assure that there is no church property and that all properties and monies in the trust estate are administered by the trustee for the benefit of the true owner of the property (the Lord Jesus Christ). A properly worded “Resolution to Adopt a DOT” and a properly worded DOT makes clear that the trust estate is owned by the Lord and that there is no church property.

A court/agency will assume jurisdiction over a controversy concerning money or property only if the dispute is properly brought to attention of the court/agency with jurisdiction over the matter. If a proper action is properly brought to the attention of an appropriate court or agency, the court or agency will assume jurisdiction no matter how the property/money is held and no matter who owns the property/money. In such an action, the court will seek out the legal owner and if none is found, the court or agency will take the necessary steps to get the property/money to a legal owner. Should a church hold/money property, that church is the legal owner and the church is a legal entity; this is the case of an ELC church, but not so with a BLC or SCSLM church. When money/property is put into the trust estate of an ordinary trust, the trustee is the legal owner and the Lord Jesus Christ is the equitable owner. A court cannot bring a church into such a legal controversy if that church places tithes, offerings, and gifts into a trust administered by a trustee where the beneficiary is the Lord Jesus Christ (as long as the church does nothing that makes that church a legal entity).

The elements of the ordinary trust and the DOT recommended by attorney Al Cunningham not only comply with Bible principles, but also incorporate the elements of a DOT and “trust” explained in American lawbooks such as 76 AM. JUR. 2D, Trusts and the DOT guidelines in the accompanying forms volume. “Declaration” means: “Publication, manifestation; as the declaration of the greatness of Mordecai. Esth. X.; A public annunciation; proclamation; as the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776” (MERRIAM WEBSTER’S AMERICAN DICTIONARY OR THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE (1828) definition of “DECLARATION.”). Declaration of Trust is defined as follows:

“The act by  which the person who holds the legal title to property or an estate acknowledges and declares that he holds the same in trust to the use of another person or for certain specified purposes. The name is also used to designate the deed or other writing embodying such a declaration” (BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY 408 (6th ed. 1990) under definition of “Declaration.” This definition is consistent with the definitions in more authoritative legal references such as AM. JUR. 2D and C.J.S.).

76 AM. JUR. 2D Trusts § 65
76 AM. JUR. 2D Trusts § 65

The words in the DOT which Cunningham used are unique and are not found in any lawbook. As to the use of express or particular words or phrases to create a trust:

  • “No particular words are necessary to create a trust if there exists reasonable certainty as to the intended property, object, and beneficiary. Further, the purpose and intention, rather than the use of any particular term, determines whether a valid trust has been established. An express trust may be created without the use of technical words. All that is necessary are words or circumstances which unequivocally show an intention that the legal estate is vested in one person, to be held in some manner or for some purpose on behalf of another.
  • “Any statement that shows the ownership or control of property is vested in one person for the benefit of another is sufficient to create a trust, and it is not necessary that the words ‘trust’ or ‘trustee’ be used. Furthermore, even where present, the mere use of the words ‘in trust’ by the parties is not sufficient alone to create a trust, nor does the mere designation of a party as ‘trustee’ create a trust. Absent indications to the contrary, a conveyance using the words ‘for the use of’ or ‘for the benefit of’ demonstrates the intent to create a trust.” (76 AM. JUR. 2D Trusts § 65 (2007)).

As will be shown below, the a church which utilizes the ELC method creates a trust which is a legal entity (perhaps a charitable trust or business trust). The trust which is recommended by the “Separation of Church and State Law” ministry is not a legal entity as explained in the article Is the ordinary trust a legal entity?

Thus, the holding of property by a person (trustee) “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” creates a trust. This is a very important for ELC churches to understand since the ELC recommends that property be held by the church (pastor) in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, the true and beneficial owner and that the church can hold property (e.g., execute a deed) by the pastor, in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ. (See their exact wording below.) The legal system requires a legal tie to real estate as expressed in a deed. If no such tie to real estate exists, and this fact is brought to the attention of the proper court, the court will make sure that a legal entity, such as a person, assumes ownership of the property. Should a controversy arise as to ownership of the real estate, the legal system when properly petitioned will take jurisdiction over the matter. When real property is put up for sale, the buyer is going to want legal assurances that he is getting valid, enforceable legal and equitable ownership.

76 AM. JUR. 2D Trusts § 65 continued
76 AM. JUR. 2D Trusts § 65 continued

The ELC states that property may be held in three ways “(1) as a corporation, (2) as an unincorporated association and:

“(3) as an individual. How can property be held to reflect the ownership of Christ over His church? It must be held as an individual, and that individual must be the Lord Jesus Christ! The property should be held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner. In spite of the skepticism of many, churches in 22 states have placed their property in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ without incident” (Approved by God: A Case for Modern Disetablishment, by Wright/Townsend, page 149). The book goes on to say that “the church, by the Pastor, can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Ibid., 150.

From ELC book
From ELC book “Approved by God,” p. 149

The ELC are confused since they first say that the property must be held by the Lord Jesus Christ and then they say that the property should be held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, property cannot be held by the Lord Jesus Christ since he left all earthly temporal property to be held in trust by man and has given civil government the ultimate jurisdiction over that land. If a nation honors God and His precepts, that nation will also honor God’s churches, and vice versa. If a believer or church is found out in North Korea (and many other nations), any properties which the believer owns will be confiscated and the believers will probably be executed. God allows individuals, families, churches, and nations free will to honor or dishonor him, for the time being.  The ELC, in the above statement, also says that the church, is to hold the property.

From ELC book,
From ELC book, “Approved by God,” p. 150

The ELC states the elements of a trust, and then make clear that the trust they recommend is a legal entity through which the church holds property thereby making the church the legal owner of the property. Some of the words of the ELC quoted above is taken straight out of legal books which define the ordinary trust, but other words compromise the trust and establish it as a lega entity. They then say, “Held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Bold emphasis mine). For a church to hold property violates biblical principle. (See The Biblical Doctrine of the Church and The Biblical Doctrine of Separation of Church and State). Not only that, only a legal entity can hold property. There must be a legal owner of property, even if the legal and true and beneficial owner are not the same. They do not realize that they are in effect stating that the church is a legal entity.

The above illustrates that the ELC recommends compromising the position of a church who uses their method. They state that the church is to “hold the property in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner.” By so stating, they make clear that the church is the trustee of the property which is held in a legal entity type of trust; this argument is strengthened by the fact that, in their attacks against the ordinary trust they incorrectly rely on the law of business trusts as will be shown below. To repeat:

“The ELC teaches that the trust is a legal entity. They are partially correct in that some types of trusts are legal entities. However, the ELC does not quote from the law concerning ordinary trusts as to the legal entity status of the ordinary trust (see above). They do this to establish their incorrect position that the trust utilized by the BLC and this ministry are legal entities. They quote from the law concerning, for example, business trusts. See pages 175-177 of Approved by Man: A Case for Biblical Reasonableness by Wright/Townsend, for an example of where they quote from the law of business trusts and apply it to the ordinary trust. In American Jurisprudence, the law of business trusts is covered in volume 13 whereas the law concerning ordinary trusts is covered in volume 76. The two types of trusts are very distinct types of trusts.”

Thus, the ELC, in their zeal to discredit the ordinary trust, have in fact discredited their own methodology; they create a type of  trust which is a legal entity which can act legally, sue, be sued, go into debt if so desired , and enter into contracts (the ELC teaches against a church going into debt and entering into contracts.). Since they declare that the church is to hold the property for the true owner, they are declaring that the church is the trustee and, therefore the church has to be a legal entity. Only a legal entity can hold property; a spiritual entity cannot hold property. The trustee of a trust holds legal title and the beneficiary holds true or equitable title to property.

The ELC then states that “the church, by the pastor, can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Suffice it here to say that the ELC claims that the church can execute a deed. Only a legal entity can execute a deed. At the same time, they state that the church executes the deed by the pastor. Thus, the pastor effectively serves as trustee, but trustee of what kind of trust? Not a non-legal entity ordinary trust which is something they do not understand and therefore attack. He serves as trustee of a legal entity and that legal entity is the church he signs for.

Public sentiment and the lack of legal action against churches protects churches from legal scrutiny. For the foreseeable future, ELC churches do not have to worry about attacks. There are many situations, even outside the church-state context, where the legal system has not been alerted to some improprieties and therefore has not taken action. Consider the actual situation in which the owner of property has been dead for years and the man living on the property has paid the taxes for years. As long as he keeps up on the taxes and no one takes the issue to court, the man will be able to enjoy the property. Should an ELC church ever be in the legal sights of government lawyers, the ELC has subjected churches who use its methods to a compromised position and sharp government lawyers may pierce their armor. More importantly, the ELC, by not proceeding according to knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, has unknowingly dishonored the Lord.

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

Finally, the last sentence in the paragraph says, “Since his passing, the Declaration of Trust has evolved into a magic talisman of mystic proportions, designed to fill all the needs of a local church.” That sentence is patently absurd. The author, the pastors, and the believers the author knows and who place tithes, offerings, and gifts into an ordinary trust established by a Declaration of Trust do not believe in magic. Those who put their tithes and offerings in an ordinary trust estate for the benefit of the true owner of all properties, the Lord Jesus Christ, know that the trust established by the DOT is only one piece of the puzzle. There are many ways in which a church can compromise the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ over a church. And even though they believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only one who can fulfill all their needs, their focus is not on themselves and their needs but on obedience to His statutes and precepts. More importantly, they believe that all they do should be for the Glory of God.