Tag Archives: trust

Question and reply concerning setting up a trust for a “ministry” from a “prophetess” dedicated to “the manifestation of prophecies”

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LETTERS AND QUESTIONS FROM PASTORS AND OTHERS ANSWERED

Jerald Finney
February 1, 2019

I received the following e-mail with questions concerning setting up a trust (identifiers omitted):

Hi,

I really appreciated your site.  I am starting a prophetic ministry.  I will be operating out of a trust to cover office and travel expenses and whatever other needs, but no salaries or profits, and relying on donations.  I was wondering if  you could answer a couple of questions:

Click the above to go to the LDS article, “5 Righteous Women Called ‘Prophetess’ in the Bible”

1) Is there anything I need to do with any conceivable “entity” to declare myself a ministry?  I am not a pastor, but a prophetess.  My ministry will be dedicated to the manifestation of the prophecies in the Bible.  To the best of your knowledge, must the ministry be connected to a church?  I am a believer in the house church and am not a part of an established church.

2) Is an IRS information return needed for donations received?  I understand that this is required of a 501c3.

3) Do I call myself a non-profit organization, or is does that apply to a 501c3?

Quote from LDS Elder, L. Tom Perry

4) I am encountering a tricky thing regarding beneficiaries, as I don’t want to name other ministries.  Truly the ones with beneficial interest are the “people of God” as a whole, especially the people of the Promised Land, which I believe to be the USA.  I don’t know if I can say that legally.  In addition, the projects that I plan to start in order to bring this about will involve people, places and things that have not yet come into being.  Do you know of anyone who can counsel me about how to establish the beneficiaries of a trust in this prophetic context, in which the Spirit will be my guide?

This comes with a prayer for you, your family, your church, and your ministry – that God may pour out His blessings on you, as you do on us!

Sister _____________________

My Reply

Dear Ms _____________________,

Thanks for your desire to please the Lord. Since you have asked me questions and given me information about what you are doing, I must answer you honestly and in love.

A New Testament ministry must be under the authority of a church under Christ in all things. One cannot separate a God ordained ministry from a church under Christ. A ministry that is not under the authority of a church under Christ is not in God’s perfect will. Also, to be approved of God, a church and a ministry must be called of God and in line with Bible teaching in all things including  leadership, makeup, doctrine, etc.

To answer to your question, “Do I call myself a non-profit organization, or is does that apply to a 501c3?” would require more time than I have, so I just address one facet of the question. If you organize a church or ministry of a church as 501c3 or 508, you have just submitted that church or ministry to a head other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Why set up a trust (a properly ordered trust, not the type of trust you envision) and defeat its purpose by placing the entity you are trying to keep completely out of man’s control, and then partially submit it to man’s control?

I can see by your e-mail that you do not understand the concept of the Bible trust and the beneficiary thereof. The “people of God” are not the beneficiaries of a church Bible trust. The trust used by this Churches under Christ Ministry is patterned after Bible trust doctrine and is recognized, not created, by American law as a non-legal entity.

These matters took me many years of Holy Spirit led study of the Bible (the KJB being the Word of God in English), history, and law. When even a lost person, much less a born again believer, grabs bits of information for which he/she has no studied understanding, he cannot implement the information with knowledge and wisdom. Only those born of the spirit can understand spiritual matters, and the basis of understanding for that person in all matters concerning faith and practice is the Word of God (the King James Bible in English).

Some people such as Peter Kershaw, Ben Townsend of the so-called Ecclesiastical Law Center push a ill-informed and flawed “trust” scheme and other deceivers misdefine and misapply the corporation sole (a type of non-profit corporation whose only difference from any other non-profit corporation is that it has only one, as opposed to several, officers) to allegedly help unknowledgeable pastors and churches organize outside man’s law.  The former mislead  churches in their application of the concept “church” trusts. The latter do not understand but nonetheless falsely promote and define “corporation sole” for unwitting churches who are seeking to do things the Bible way. These frauds who falsely claim to have specialized knowledge and skills mislead believers who seek to do things God’s way rely on these deceivers.

The Bible conclusively proves that the USA  is not the “Promised land” and reveals other errors in your e-mail which I do not have time to address.

I know no one who can help you, including myself, because one of us has been misled by the wrong spirit. I am a born again believer in God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and am convinced that God the Holy Spirit has guided me through my studies so that what I believe and teach is in line with God’s Word. I invite anyone to show me, from the KJB only without reference to any interpretation of the Bible or any other writing, where I am wrong on these matters.

Click the above image to go to ““What Books Should I Read?”: Essential Readings in Mormonism for Every Member”

Again, I trust that you are sincere, but sincerely uneducated and misinformed about many matters. The evidence suggests that you have fallen for the lies of the LDS cult; if not, your email assertions match some LDS lies. I believe that the LDS church uses the King James Bible but other books take priority and are considered as authoritative. I believe that the LDS church teaches that the King James Bible is correct insofar as it is correctly translated and interpreted and that other LDS books fill in a lot which your prophets and teachers, as led by the god of this world, assert was left out of or incorrectly preserved in the KJB. Those deceivers have to correct it and fill in so as to accommodate the teachings of the devils, disguised as angels, who inspired them to believe their lies. The LDS church teaches a false Jesus and false doctrine and leads millions to hell.

I write this to you in love hoping that you will see the error of your ways. I am not your enemy because I tell you the truth. I especially suggest that you diligently seek the Lord and the salvation He offers through His son (not the false Jesus of the LDS religion). I recommend the following as you seek the truth about God and eternity: What the Word of God teaches about Salvation and After Salvation.

For His Glory,
Jerald Finney

The Church Bible Trust Relationship Explained and How a Church Can Nullify Her Efforts to Remain Under Christ Only

Jerald Finney
Copyright © January 11, 2019

More and more churches are seeking to exercise their Bible freedom and duty to operate under the Lord Jesus Christ in all things; to repent, do the first works as churches of Christ before He removes their candlesticks. American churches who desire to do so are protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and corresponding state constitutional provisions. This short essay will give a simple explanation of the trust relationship used by churches in order to remain under Christ and Christ alone. Then, it will explain ways some of those churches nullify that attempt to honor the Lord Jesus Christ.

The “common law” or “Bible” trust is a fiduciary relationship with real and personal property (personal property includes intangible property such as money and bank accounts) recognized but not created by man’s law. This relationship is created by an agreement between a trustor and trustee, is private, creates no contract with the state (the state is not a party), and is not subject to control by civil government and its courts. Trust documents, if any, are never required to be filed in man’s legal system through any of its courts or agencies. This type of trust is not a legal entity. The trust relationship can be established orally or in writing; a properly drafted writing is better.  If not in writing, and if the facts show the intent to establish a relationship with property to be held by a trustee for the benefit of the true owner of the property then a trust relationship has been established. This is so no matter the terms used. It is not necessary to use the terms “trust,” “trustor,” “trustee,” “trust estate,” or “beneficiary” for a trust relationship to come into existence if the essentials of the relationship are there.

The trustor creates the relationship and names a trustee who agrees to administer a trust estate funded by the trustor (and others, if any, who wish to contribute to the trust estate) solely for the benefit of another, the true owner of the trust estate, the beneficiary. The trustor merely establishes the trust relationship. The trustee administers the trust estate solely for the benefit of the owner of the trust estate. Once assets are placed in the trust estate, those assets permanently belong to the beneficiary, not to the trustor  (in an irrevocable trust).

An inactive trust is no trust at all. The elements of valid trust are: trustor, trustee, beneficiary, and trust estate. If an element is missing, there is no trust. If there is no trustor, trustee, trust estate and beneficiary there is no trust. Without a trust estate, there is no trust. For a trust relationship to exist, all elements of the trust must exist. If there is no trust estate, there can be no trust. One cannot establish a fiduciary relationship with property if there is no property.

Some churches have properly drafted and executed documents establishing a proper trust relationship in order to remain under the Lord Jesus Christ only; but they have nullified their efforts by never listing trust property to the trust estate in an appendix to the trust document. All property and assets in the trust estate should be listed in the appendix. Again, if no property is placed in the trust estate, the trust is non-existent. The Appendix should list all personal property (song books, pews, musical instruments, etc.), real property, motor vehicles, bank accounts and other assets held in trust estate.

Another way churches who have set up a trust relationship with money and property – through a Declaration of Trust, Procedures, or whatever the document is titled – nullify their efforts to remain under Christ only is to act legally. When a church acts legally, she is a legal entity subject to the jurisdiction of civil government.

What is a legal entity? A legal entity is an entity that can be sued, sues, can be charged with a crime, enters into contracts or acts legally in any way. When a church acts legally, she has declared herself to be a legal entity.

How can a church act legally? She can, for example, hold deed to real property, open a bank account, hold title to motor vehicle(s), hold insurance, contract, borrow money, incorporate the church or a ministry of the church, get Internal Revenue Code § 501(c)(3) or § 508 status for the church or a ministry of the church, have employees, pay salaries or do anything else in accordance with or subject to man’s legal system and not according to New Testament church guidelines and example. A church who holds insurance admits that she is a legal worldly entity who can be sued. Doing anything is man’s system makes a church a legal entity subject to man’s law.

A properly implemented trust relationship with money and/or property keeps a church entirely out of man’s earthly legal systems and under the Lord Jesus Christ in all things. That is, if the church does not misstep and declare herself to be a legal entity subject to the law of man in some other way. Thank the Lord and The Trail of Blood of the Martyrs of Jesus who in putting Christ first in all things paid the price that gave all Americans freedom of religion and soul liberty as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and corresponding state constitutional provisions.

“… 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.” (Ephesians 5.25-27, 30).


Recommended Articles To Begin Your Understanding of the Trust Relationship Which Are Included in the Above Link:

  1. The Church Bible Trust Relationship Explained and How a Church Can Nullify Her Efforts to Remain Under Christ Only
  2. How a Church Can Organize to Remain a New Testament Church (Holding Property In Trust For God Is A Scriptural Principle Recognized by American Law)
  3. What God Has Committed to Man’s Trust: “Ye Cannot Serve God and Mammon”: Steward or Trustee?

Other resources which will be of help in understanding the concept of trust.

Law on Church Organization (Trusts, Property Tax, Etc.)

Links to Essays, Articles, and Other Resources:

The Bible Trust Relationship: Links to Essays and Other Resources

The Bible Trust Relationship: Essays and Other Resources


Updated May 20, 2019


Why Understanding and Applying Church and State Law Is Important for Believers and Churches (060312)


Click here to go to page with links to all Articles by Jerald Finney.

Trust

Essays, webpage, and PowerPoint which look at the Bible trust relationship and its recognition and application by American courts:

The numbers at the beginning of each article is the number assigned on the “Articles” webpage and indicates the order in which the article was added to this website.

Webpages:

Powerpoint:

Short Questions and Answers:

Basic Study Course with very short lessons and lectures

Book (Free online, PDF, audio forms + available in 1st Edition printed form):

Essays and articles:

123. Question and reply concerning setting up a trust for a “ministry” from a “prophetess” dedicated to “the manifestation of prophecies” (020119)
120. The Indiana Board of Tax Review Determines that Property Held in Trust for the Lord Jesus Christ Must Be Granted Property Tax Exemption (012319)
118. The Church Bible Trust Relationship Explained and How a Church Can Nullify Her Efforts to Remain Under Christ Only (011119)
86. What God Has Committed to Man’s Trust: “Ye Cannot Serve God and Mammon”: Steward or Trustee? (110817)

62. How a Church Can Organize to Remain a New Testament Church (Holding Property In Trust For God Is A Scriptural Principle Recognized by American Law) (050616)
40. Comparison of Bible Trust (ordinary trust), Incorporation (Includes corporation sole), and Ecclesiastical Law Center Trust (020815)
38. Is the “trust” recommended by this “Separation of Church and State Law Ministry” a legal entity? (103114)
61. Expose And Reject The Teachings and Methods of Church Organization Con-Artists and Charlatans (050616)
19. Spiritual versus Legal Entities (121512)
76. Exposing or Silently Co-existing with False Teaching Causes Suffering and Persecution from Within and Without a Church (050217)

37. Ecclesiastical Law Center Exposed (Booklet)
40. Comparison of Bible Trust (ordinary trust), Incorporation (Includes corporation sole), and Ecclesiastical Law Center Trust (020815)
39. Critique of Church Freedom and the Corporation Sole Website (Booklet-2015)

What God Has Committed to Man’s Trust: “Ye cannot serve God and mammon”: Steward or Trustee?

Jerald Finney
Copyright  November 8, 2017

“Trust” is a Bible relationship that is recognized, not created, by man’s law. See Endnote 1. Many historic churches have honored this Bible relationship so as to keep their churches free from entanglement with civil government. See Endnote 2. Many American churches are presently declaring this trust relationship. See Endnote 3. 

Recently, at an Unregistered Baptist Fellowship Conference, a gentleman said to me something others have commented on over the years, “We use the term steward because Biblical law is over man’s law.” His statement raises the question: “Why not use the term ‘steward’ instead of ‘trustee’ in describing the ‘trust’ relationship with property?” This article will look at Bible teaching for the answer and address some collateral matters:  the meanings of the words “steward,” “trust,” “trustee,” “beneficiary,” “trust estate;” the eternal and temporal applications of the relationship; just versus unjust stewardship according to God; and the consequences of just and unjust application of the relationship.

Both “steward” and “trust” are Bible terms. “Steward” refers to the person to whom someone commits the care and management of his goods for his benefit. The term “trust” refers to the relationship created. The term “trustee,” a derivative of the word “trust,” is the equivalent of the term “steward.”

The term “trust” refers to both temporal/earthly and eternal/heavenly or spiritual relationships. “Trust” relationships are found throughout the Bible, even when the word “trust” or “steward” is not mentioned. Luke 16 speaks of a temporal material trust, and relates that trust to an eternal spiritual trust. 1 Thessalonians 2.4, and Titus 1.11 speak specifically and solely of the eternal spiritual trust. The first time the relationship is mentioned is in Genesis 1.27-31, where obviously although not explicitly stated, the relationship is both earthly and spiritual:

  • “27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 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. 29 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. 30 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. 31 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.”

All such earthly and spiritual relationships have several essentials: the possession(s); the true, equitable, and beneficial owner of the possession(s); the commitment by the true owner of the possession(s) to another’s care and management; and the one to whom is entrusted the care and management of the possession(s) for the benefit of the true owner. Every Bible dispensation presents a specific stewardship under God.

Only once in the Bible, in Luke 16.1-13, are the words “steward” and “trust” used in the same passage. That passage is concerned with an earthly steward dealing with earthly possessions of his earthly master, the true owner of the possessions. There, “steward” refers to the person who has a duty to manage the goods of his master, for his master’s benefit. However, the Lord makes a connection between one’s earthly stewardship and his eternal stewardship (“Stewardship” means the office of a steward). The Lord says, “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? … “Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Lk. 16.11, 13).

As has been pointed out, “steward” has the same meaning as “trustee.” So why not use “steward” instead of using derivatives of the word “trust,” to include “trustee.” The conclusion will answer this question; but first, this brief article takes a further look at “steward” and “trust.”

God entrusted mankind with all possessions, real and personal as well as spiritual. He owned all things—even the body, soul and spirit of man—but left all things, including the real estate, to man to be used for Him. God trusted man with all His earthly and eternal possessions. God committed all to his trust. He was “steward” or “trustee,” the one to whom God entrusted management and care of His possessions.

Now, let us examine the term “steward” and “stewardship” from a Bible perspective. Then we will look at “trust” and related terms—“trustor,” “trustee,” and “trust estate.”

The term “steward” is found in Genesis 15.2, 43.19, 44.1, 44.4; 1 Kings 16.9; Daniel 1.11; Matthew 20.8; Luke 8.3, 12.42; 16.1,2, 3, 8; 1 Corinthians 4.1,2; Titus 1:7. The word “stewardship” is used only three times in the Bible, all in Luke 16, verses 2, 3, and 4. “Stewardship” simply means “The office of a steward.”

A steward is a man who has charge of another’s goods. As defined in the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, “steward” means: “(1) A man employed in great families to manage the domestic concerns, superintend the other servants, collect the rents or income, keep the accounts, &c. See Gen. xv. 2—xliii. (2) In Scripture and theology, a minister of Christ, whose duty is to dispense the provisions of the gospel, to preach its doctrines and administer its ordinances. It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 1 Cor. iv.”

The first meaning of “steward” is reflected in several passages of the Bible: Genesis 15.2, 43.19, 44.1, 44.4; 1 Kings 16.9; Matthew 20.8; Luke 8.3, 12.42, 16.1-13 (parable of the unjust steward). Certainly, although not directly dealing with the eternal meaning, many of those stewardships have spiritual applications: Matthew 20.8; Luke 12.42-48 (levels of punishment based upon whether or not the steward knew the Lord’s will), 16.1-13.

The eternal application alone is seen in 1 Corinthians 4.1, 2: “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.”; and Titus 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.”.

The story of a rich man and his unjust steward, which is related in Luke 16.1-13, is very instructive. The terms “trust” and “steward” are used in that parable. The master committed his goods to the steward’s trust (verses 1 and 11). The master was the beneficiary, “the true, beneficial, and equitable owner.”

The steward in this parable was an out-and-out-crook. He was guilty of malfeasance in office and misappropriation of funds. He wasted the goods of his master. His day of reckoning had come (Lk. 16.3). He was afraid of losing his stewardship, felt he could not do manual work, and was ashamed to beg. However, he, like many, was not ashamed to steal (verse 3). He did not repent, nor did he have regret or remorse for his actions. He was crooked—called “clever” by the world’s standards. He had no training for other work, his age was probably against him, he was too proud to beg, but he was not ashamed to be dishonest. He called all his master’s debtors and gave them big discounts.

The Bible tells us that the world loves its own but hates those who belong to God. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (Jn. 15:18-19). In Galatians 1.3-4, Paul says, “Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.” Again in Romans 12.2 Paul says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn. 2:15).

The first commandment of the world is “self-preservation.” A shady business deal is winked at, questionable practices countenanced, and a clever crook is commended by the world. The law is on the side of the crook and the criminal many times. Every man, according to the world’s law, is innocent until proven guilty. God takes the opposite approach. God says that a man is guilty until proven innocent. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Ro. 3.23). A man can never be innocent before God, but he can be justified before Him. When a man trusts Jesus Christ as his Savior, he is justified by faith. See, e.g., Ro. 8.1.

The master did not punish the unjust steward, but commended him. Apparently the rich man got rich using the same kind of principles that his unjust steward used and he commended him, saying that the steward had done wisely. In what way? According to the principles of the world. This is the world that hates Christ. It makes its own rules. The law of the world is “dog eat dog.” The worldly master commended his worldly steward for his worldly wisdom according to his worldly dealings. The Lord Jesus said, “… For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” That is, the children of this world, of this age, use their money more wisely than do the children of light.

Then, our Lord makes the most shocking and startling statement of all. It concerns the relationship of the “mammon of righteousness,” that is, riches, money: “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations” (Lk. 16.9). Money is not evil in itself; it is amoral. The love of money is the root of all evil. For believers, money is to be spiritual. Our Lord said that we should lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven. We should be wise in the way we use our money. Then when we “fail” or come to the end of life, we will be welcomed in heaven.

Believers are spiritual stewards (trustees) of all that God commits to their trust; all of which is spiritual. We own nothing as believers. We are responsible to God for how we use His goods. We are to use the “mammon of unrighteousness” to gather spiritual wealth:

“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).

In this parable, the Lord Jesus is saying, “Do you think God is going to trust you with heavenly riches if you are not using properly or rightly the earthly possessions which He has given you?” Are you serving God or mammon? You cannot serve both.

Now, let us look at “trust” and related terms. “Trustor,” “trustee,” and “trust estate” are derivatives of the word “trust.” The concept of trust if found throughout the Bible. The suffix “-ee” added to trust results in a new word meaning a person with to whom something is entrusted. A “trustor” is one who entrusts monies and properties to a “trustee” who holds the money and property entrusted to him in “trust” for the benefit of the true, equitable, and beneficial owner, the “beneficiary.”

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 20.25. (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.”

In the context of definition (2), the word “trust” is mentioned four times in the Bible:

  1. “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 Thes. 2.4).
  2. “According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust” (1 Ti. 1:11).
  3. “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).
  4. “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who [what trustor] 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” (Lk. 16:11-12)?

In all these references, that which God entrusted was not material and spiritual, but spiritual only—“the true riches.”

The Lord spoke of this concept of trust, in conjunction with an earthly temporal example, in Matthew 25.14-30 and Luke 19.12-27, although He used neither the word “trust” nor “steward or stewardship.” He spoke of an earthly master leaving certain amounts of his goods or money with his servants, according to their abilities. Actually, 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). Men, as servants of the Master are likewise left in trust of all things for His benefit and will be rewarded or punished according to their use of His goods.

In conclusion, the words “steward” and “trustee” signify the same thing. However, the use of the term “trustee,” a word derived from the word “trust” by adding the suffix “-ee”  is preferable to the use of “steward” when describing the entire relationship. Why? For five reasons taken together. First, the terms “steward” and “trustee” mean the same thing.

Second, the one time “trust” and “steward” are used in the same immediate verses, “steward” denotes the person with the responsibility over another’s goods and “trust” is used to signify the fiduciary relationship with the master’s goods or property (Lk. 16). Even though “steward” is the one with the duty to rightly administer the goods the master commits to his trust, the name given to the arrangement is “trust.”

Third, no where in the Bible are all the terms involved in the relationship reduced to singular (as “trustor”) or modified terms (as “trust estate”).

Thus, fourth, the use of “trust” and derivatives is more practical. The term “trust” as a noun (and as an adjective) and its derivatives, more succinctly describe all aspects of the relationship: “trustor,” “trustee,” and “trust estate.” On the other hand, the term “stewardship” is less adaptable: one can interchange “steward” and “trustee;” but the word “trust” describes the overall relationship. No word derived from “steward” describes the person who establishes the stewardship (the “trustor”). No word derived from “steward” describes the estate the steward is responsible for (“trust estate”)—er, perhaps the “stewardship estate?”; but stewardship means the office of a steward. Parallel words leave less room for argument and misunderstanding. Imagine trying to explain these matters to a lost person.

Finally, American law, although not establishing the Bible concept of trust, recognizes it. In so doing, American law uses the Bible term “trust” and its derivatives.  For example, American Jurisprudence 2d Trusts, a highly regarded encyclopedia of American law, describes “trust” in § 1, as follows:

  • “The fundamental nature of a trust is the division of title, with the trustee being the holder of legal title and the beneficiary that of equitable title. By definition, the creation of a trust must involve a conveyance of property.
  • “A ‘trust’ exists where the legal title to property is held by one or more persons, under an equitable obligation to convey, apply, or deal with such property for the benefit of other persons. A trust has been defined as a fiduciary relationship with respect to property, subjecting the person by whom the title to the property is held to equitable duties to deal with the property for the benefit of another person, which arises as a result of a manifestation of an intention to create it. The Restatement definition is similar, providing that a trust, when not qualified by the word ‘resulting’ or ‘constructive,’ is a fiduciary relationship with respect to property, arising from a manifestation of intention to create that relationship and subjecting the person who holds title to the property to duties to deal with it for the benefit of charity or for one or more persons, at least one of whom is not the sole trustee.
  • “Caution: A trust consists not only of property, but also of the trust instrument, the trust’s beneficiaries and trustees, and the trust administrator [if any].”

American Jurisprudence 2d, Trusts § 2 makes clear that a “trust” is not a legal entity, but merely a fiduciary relationship with property. For one thing, this means that the one cannot sue the trust, since it is not recognized as a legal entity. This is not true of a “business trust,” a “charitable trust” or some other legal extensions of the “trust” relationship.

“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.” American Jurisprudence 2d, Trusts § 65.

The important thing for the born again believer, regardless of the terms used, is that he handle the use of God’s properties, all of which are spiritual to a born again believer, according to the principle of trust as described in the Bible. Those faithful and wise churches who remain under God only will be blessed by their Lord. However, churches who choose to leave their first love by placing themselves at least partially under the state (for example, corporate (aggregate of sole) 501(c)(3) or 508 churches), have left their first love and betrayed their Lord’s trust. They are unfaithful and act unwisely; they act either knowingly or unknowingly and will  punished accordingly (see Lk. 12.42-48; see also Lk. 16 discussed above).

See En 4 for links to additional resources.

Endnotes

En 1: See, for explanation, How a Church Can Organize To Remain a New Testament Church (Holding Property in Trust for God Is a Scriptural Principle Recognized by the Legal System).

En 2: In 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, 1990 the court reviewed pertinent Wisconsin  statutes back to 1849 to determine if a church or religious organization must be incorporated for its property to be tax exempt [under state law]. Annotation to the law said: “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…. 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….’ 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.”

On appeal, the Wisconsin Supreme Court in WAUSHARA COUNTY v. Sherri L. GRAF, 166 Wis.2d 442 (1992), 480 N.W.2d 16,  1992 approved, but did not restate, the reasoning above.

In 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, the court inferred a “trust” from the wording of a “joint venture” in 1982 and held that 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. The court stated, as regards trusts:

  • “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].

Efforts of scholars to trace the origin have been futile. Trusts, 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. …” Of course, scholars went to ancient history, but did not go to the most ancient history, the Bible. For more insights on this, see How a Church Can Organize To Remain a New Testament Church (Holding Property in Trust for God Is a Scriptural Principle Recognized by the Legal System).

En 3: Many churches are now organized in accordance with the Bible trust relationship. More are honoring God in this matter on a regular basis: the Biblical Law Center has organized over a dozen in the last year and a half, as well as scores of churches over the last 30 years.  No matter what terms a Christian uses, he should do all in accordance with Bible principle for the glory of God.

En 4: Click here to go to links to studies which show, from the law books, exactly what incorporation and Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) are.

How a Church Can Organize To Remain a New Testament Church (Holding Property in Trust for God Is a Scriptural Principle Recognized by the Legal System)

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.

Click here to go to PDF of comments which help explain the Powerpoint directly above. The presenter also stated other things, but these notes cover the most important matters.

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, 1990

The complete opinion may be accessed online by clicking here.

This case was appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. To go to my brief of that case click: 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, 1992.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court stated, in its opinion, that:

  • The court of appeals had no obligation to look beyond the issues raised by Bible Baptist, but had the discretion to do so. The “church” was organized as a trust. The principle issue which it in its discretion addressed was the circuit court’s conclusion that for a ‘church’ to claim a tax exemption, it must be incorporated under the laws of Wisconsin or another state. The Supreme Court of Wisconsin agreed with the conclusion of the appeals court that the church need not be incorporated to claim a tax exemption.The Court stated: “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].

This page will look at only the circuit courts analysis that led to the conclusion that a church, which was organized as a trust, need not be incorporated to claim a tax exemption. The following excerpt is from  the opinion of the court of appeals, 157 Wis. 2d at 539-49, on that matter:

We hold only that the church was not required to show that it was incorporated as a religious society or corporation under ch. 187, Stats., or otherwise, to establish that its property is exempt from taxation under sec. 70.11(4).

[2]

We recognize that “[o]ne who seeks to have his property exempt from taxation is required to bring himself within the terms of the exemption statute…. The taxpayer has the burden of demonstrating that it is entitled to tax-exempt status…. This is especially true in situations where, as here, there is a great potential for abuse because a church is controlled by an individual, a family or a small group of individuals. Id. The church must come forward with candid disclosure of the facts bearing on the exemption application. Id. What the ninth circuit said with respect to the Church of Scientology’s request for exemption from income tax under sec. 501(c)(3), I.R.C., is equally applicable to the Basic Bible Church’s claim of exemption under sec. 70.11(4), Stats. However, the county, on appeal, does not argue that the church has not brought itself within sec. 70.11(4), Stats., except for the insufficiency of its organization.

We turn therefore to the issue of whether the Basic Bible Church was required to show that it was incorporated to establish that it was an “entity” which could claim tax exemption under sec. 70.11(4), Stats. The statute does not impose the requirement. Ordinarily, this finding would end the case. A combination of factors, however, creates an ambiguity which persuaded the circuit court that to be exempt from taxation under sec. 70.11(4), a church or religious association must be an incorporated entity.

[3]

The first factor is the church’s failure to take formal action under state or federal law to “charter” the church. The court cited ch. 187, Stats., and I.R.C. sec. 501(c)(3). Ambiguity may be created by the interaction of separate statutes. State v. Kenyon, 85 Wis. 2d 36, 49, 270 N.W.2d 160, 166 (1978).

The second factor is the church’s failure to seek exemption from federal income tax under I.R.C. sec. 501(c)(3). Section 501(c)(3), I.R.C., however, does not provide for the incorporation or chartering of churches or religious organizations. Tax exemption thereunder is limited to a corporation, community chest, fund, or foundation. The Basic Bible Church does not claim it qualifies as one of the enumerated organizations. No significance can be attached to the church’s failure to seek tax exemption under I.R.C. sec. 501(c)(3).

The final factor is the decision in In re Zarling, 70 Bankr. 402 (Bankr. E.D. Wis. 1987). In Zarling, the court voided a transfer by the debtor of his interest in his farm to the Universal Life Church Charter No. 22406. The court found that the transfer was fraudulent. The court held that because a certificate acknowledging the existence of the Church as a corporation was not filed pursuant to secs. 187.01(2) or 187.09, Stats., prior to the conveyance, the Church-grantee was “a non-existent entity.” The court’s holding must be viewed in context. The debtor, Zarling, filed a certificate of incorporation under sec. 187.09 five years after the transfer, and attempted to make the filing “nunc pro tunc” the transfer. If Zarling is limited to its holding that the filing did not incorporate the Church “nunc pro tunc,” it is good law. To the extent that the decision declares all unincorporated churches or unincorporated religious associations “non-existent entit[ies],” we reject it.

We conclude, however, that these factors are sufficient to make it uncertain whether a church or religious organization must be incorporated for its property to be exempt under sec. 70.11(4), Stats. We therefore examine the legislative history of the pertinent statutes. “One of the most valuable extrinsic aids of judicial construction is legislative history.” [Citations omitted}.

The first exemption from taxation of the property of churches and religious organizations appears 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. Section 24 exempted from taxation every church, parsonage and schoolhouse belonging to any religious society, with the land belonging thereto, not to exceed three acres in any one town, village or township, or one city lot. 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 sec. 1038, subd. 3, 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.]

Thus, the legislature distinguished a church, as the spiritual body, from a religious society, incorporated under the statute, as the legal body of a voluntary association of persons united for religious purposes.

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). The county does not claim that the trust pursuant to which the subject property was conveyed to Sherri L. Graf and Barbara J. Pogue as trustees for the church is invalid.

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 said that the power given to trustees of a religious corporation formed under ch. 91, R.S. 1878, was limited to the particular purposes expressly or impliedly named in the act of incorporation. The court further said that “[w]hat has been said is in harmony with the law regarding trusts for religious useswhether 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.

[4]

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. We further conclude that the legislative history of the pertinent statutes does not disclose a legislative intent to require that a church or religious association be incorporated before it may claim tax exemption under sec. 70.11(4).

By the Court.—Judgment reversed.

 

 

 

 

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, 1992.

Click here to go to online publication of he entire case.

BRIEF OF CASE:

The Procedural History and Opinions [Trial Court, Court of Appeals, Supreme Court of Minnesota]:

  •  Trial Court: The issue considered was “whether the holding of religious services on a parcel of real estate, even though extending over a period of time, exempts that property from real estate taxation. In holding that it does not, the trial court concluded: “[Basic Bible has] not followed any of the traditional or authorized means of obtaining tax exempt status on this property. They have indicated that there is no need to do so. Under the position proposed by respondents, any person could contend, and could actually hold religious services upon a parcel of real estate and declare it exempt from taxation. This could be carried to an unworkable extreme. There would be no control and no means of follow-up. Since all lands are subject to tax unless exempted by law, the burden is upon respondents to show why they are They have failed in meeting this obligation. (Emphasis supplied).”The court found that since Basic Bible was not incorporated and had no 501(c)(3) status, there was no entity to claim  exemption as a church or religious association  [The alleged church held property through trustees.]. The court found that the County complied with the statutory foreclosure requirements, that Basis Bible was not a legal entity, and held that Basic Bible was not tax exempt. It placed emphasis on Basic Bible’s failure to incorporate.
  • Basic Bible, acting, pro se, appealed through three of its members, raising only two issues: (1) Did the trial court err in proceeding without responding to challenges to its jurisdiction? (2) Did the trial court have the authority to hear a case concerning the property of a church (nonstate entity)?

    Court of Appeals: Reversed the judgment of the trial court, totally ignored the only issues raised by Bible Baptist, reviewed the entire trial court decision and concluded that the trial court’s holding that a church must incorporate before it can claim tax exempt status before it can claim tax exempt status under the statute was erroneous. The court held that, by not arguing on appeal the bona fides of Basic Bible waived that issue. The court further held that the title to the real estate was properly held in the name of the trustees for the benefit of Basic Bible, and that the trust was an “entity” which “could claim tax exemption. The court did not decide whether Basic Bible was tax exempt.
  • The county appealed to the Supreme Court of Wisconsin: 

    The Court stated that the court of appeals had no obligation to look beyond the issues raised by Bible Baptist, but had the discretion to do so. The principle issue which it in its discretion addressed was the circuit court’s conclusion that for a “church” to claim a tax exemption, it must be incorporated under the laws of Wisconsin or another state. The Supreme Court of Wisconsin agreed with the conclusion of the appeals court that the church need not be incorporated to claim a tax exemption. The Court stated: “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 analysis in that opinion will also be looked at and added as a post on this webpage). That conclusion was, however, substantially irrelevant. It was not outcome determinative of the fundamental question posed by this litigation: Did Basic Bible meet its burden to demonstrate that it was tax exempt?” The Court stated that Basic Bible did not even assert on appeal a basis for tax exemption. It only asserted that the circuit court was without jurisdiction. However, [the law] confers plenary subject matter jurisdiction upon the circuit court and [the law] grants circuit courts the jurisdiction to hear tax foreclosure cases.As to the assertion that the court was without jurisdiction “bordered on the frivolous,” and this, the only issue before the court of appeals, could have been dealt with fully in a very summary opinion affirming that court. The fact that the court of appeals correctly concluded that the circuit court erred as a matter of law when it held that incorporation was necessary for a tax exemption did not in itself warrant a reversal of the circuit court. The only question posed is whether the taxpayer has sustained its burden to prove tax exemption. It is clear from the record that it did not. The appeals court concluded that the entire record, which demonstrated taxpayer’s lack of proof of right to exemption, was non-existent because the county waived any objection to the bona fides of the church by not attacking the bona fides on appeal.

    The county had no reason at all to assert or argue a position on which it had prevailed—a position that was not assailed by the appellant in the court of appeals. It is obviously unfair to expect the “respondent” to “respond” to issues not raised by appellant. The record shows a total failure of proof of tax exempt status. The trial court’s error in that respect cannot be converted into an affirmative tax exempt status. It merely demonstrated that one of many reasons for not affording tax exempt status was incorrect. The controlling issue on this review is whether Basic Bible is a “church” or “religious association” entitled to property tax exemption under sec. 70.11(4), Stats. The burden of proving tax exempt status is upon the taxpayer. “Tax exemption statutes are matters of legislative grace, and they are to be strictly construed against the granting of the exemption.” Where the facts are established, the determination of whether a taxpayer is a “church” or “religious organization” under sec. 70.11(4), Stats., is subject to de novo review.

    The court then stated five tests necessary to prove that a church” or “religious association” entitled to tax exempt status under [the statute]: (1) the taxpayer must be a bona fide church or religious association; (2) the property must be owned and used exclusively for the purposes of the church or religious association; (3) the property involved must be less than 10 acres; (4) the property must be necessary for location and convenience of buildings; and (5) the property must not be used for profit.

    The first test requires the circuit court to consider the sincerity of the organization’s asserted beliefs, considering all the evidence and determining whether the beliefs are held in good faith or whether the “forms of religious organization were erected for the sole purpose of cloaking a secular enterprise with the legal protections of religion. [two federal cases cited which accept this means of determination]. “Moreover, it avoids the inherent constitutional difficulty in attempting to define “church” or “religious association” in a theistic manner.”

    Again, the court stated that incorporation is not a prerequisite to tax exempt status. 459. “It is clear that had the legislature intended to require churches and religious associations to incorporate to gain tax exempt status, it in all likelihood would have specifically so provided…. Most importantly, however, the trial court must consider whether the alleged religious beliefs are sincerely held or whether they are merely a subterfuge designed to evade taxation. 460. As the trial court noted, any person could contend, and could actually hold religious services upon a parcel of real estate and declare it exempt from taxation. In 1978, the acting IRS Commissioner described a modern ‘tax avoidance device’:

    “Some individuals and organizations are marketing and promoting ‘plans’ to avoid income taxes. While the ‘plans’ vary in certain respects, a common theme calls for an individual taxpayer to obtain minister’s credentials and a charter for a church or religious order by mail for a fee from churches that may or may not be recognized as exempt from federal income tax under I.R.C. § 501(c)(3). No profession of adherence to a creed, dogma, or moral code is required and no duties or fiduciary responsibilities are undertaken in order to receive and administer these charters or credentials.

    “The ‘plan’ then calls for the individual to take a ‘vow of poverty’ and to assign his assets (house, car, savings account, etc.) and the income earned from current employment to the purported church or order. A major portion of the income assigned to church or order from this unrelated occupation is set aside for housing, food, clothing, and other items

    “. . . .

    “Those interested in protecting the preferences for churches must agree that the Service has an obligation to be vigorous in stopping such schemes.”

    The court then examined the facts in the record and concluded that the record as a whole supports the conclusion that Basis Bible is not a bona fide church or religious association under [the law—sec.70.11(14]. “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 is not tax Exempt.

Facts:

Basic Bible conveyed real estate to Sherri L. Graf and Barbara J. Pogue in trust for the church’s benefit. Basic Bible was not incorporated, nor did it obtain 501(c)(3) status. Basic Baptist filed a property tax exemption certificate with the local tax assessor and the exemption was not granted. The county began in rem tax foreclosure proceedings.

“Basic Bible responded that it was a religious organization, and pursuant to sec. 70.11(4), Stats., was not subject to taxation on the real estate because it was used for religious purposes. Basic Bible presented numerous witnesses, all of whom testified that they had attended “religious services” on the property at various times since 1977. Other activities on the property included bible studies, a memorial service, counselling, agricultural training, and legal research.

“Sherri Graf, an ordained minister in the Life Science Church, testified that she is a trustee of Basic Bible, that her husband, Wilbert Kelly, is the pastor of Basic Bible, and that they have resided on the property since 1977. Sherri Graf testified that the parent church in Minneapolis is an exempt organization under I.R.C. sec. 501(c)(3), but acknowledged that Basic Bible had not applied for and did not have such status. Sherri Graf acknowledged that Basic Bible had not taken any action under any state or federal law to incorporate or formally charter Basic Bible. Her testimony revealed that neither she nor Wilbert Kelly had any income and that they lived on donations from individuals visiting Basic Bible. Sherri Graf stated that Basic Bible was always open and was open to everyone.

“Assertedly, Basic Bible’s beliefs are based upon the King James version of the Bible, the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Among the “fundamental beliefs” of Basic Bible, set forth in a cover letter its members are charged to distribute along with the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, is the following:

“The Laws of Nature and of Nature’s Creator are in part set out in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. These are the fundamental Laws and are recognized by the Basic Bible Church.

“The members of the Basic Bible Church are bound by oath or affirmation to support these Fundamentals as these represent the Will of the Creator and the Laws of Nature in part; a sacred belief is that each individual owns the right to his own life, that he owns no right over the life of any one else, and that no one else owns any right over his life.

“Other beliefs include a conviction that income taxes are illegal, and that federal reserve notes are “frauds” in violation of the law of God and of the Constitution.

Other facts brought out in the Supreme Court of Wisconsin opinion:

“Included in the record of this case is a solicitation letter issued by the parent church of Basic Bible, which states:

  • “The Basic Bible Church of America offors [sic] a religious program whereby you can set up an Auxiliary Church of the Basic Bible Church of America out of your own home, office or business and use the Auxiliary Church that you and your trustees have complete control of the assets of to distribute the church tenets and doctrine to the general public.
  • “This auxiliary church may compliment your own particular church and gives you the opportunity for religious fulfillment and practice of your own religion according to the dictates of your own conscience.
  • “As is shown in the brief attached hereto, as an incidental benefit you can become completely exempt from income taxes, in some states, property taxes, Social Security Taxes and sales taxes in most states, plus-discounts at most stores and airlines.
  • “The Basic Bible Church of America is incorporated under the laws of Minnesota and as shown by the tax exempt letter attached hereto, has a Federal Tax Exempt letter of recognition.

“Attached to the letter is a ‘brief’ discussing the attributes of a ‘religious organization’ under the IRS Code. Of nine pages included in the letter, one is the above invitation to join, one is a statement of the “fundamental beliefs and philosophy” of the Basic Bible Church, and fully seven pages are devoted to the tax exempt status of the church. The only inference that can be drawn from this letter is that the Basic Bible Church of America is a subterfuge designed to evade taxation. Sherri Graf’s testimony at trial strengthens this inference:

  • “Our Church Charter also informs us that we are created pursuant to 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. As far as state tax exemption, to the best of my knowledge, Chapter 11000 has not applied for such an exemption. We believe, under the laws, the first amendment, as well as the Constitution of the State of Wisconsin, and the tax laws in the State of Wisconsin, that Church property is exempt and that we are doing what is required and would fall into consideration under such law.”

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.”