Starting with some of the public vitriol in recent weeks:
- The ELC has its tentacles in many places: conferences, Baptist history tours, other churches (the organization sends out what it calls 007 spies to monitor and report (usually it misreports)) what is going on in the target churches, the web, etc.
The ELC has tentacles? We send out spies? I wish I had known this. I would have applied for the position. "007 Spy" would look much better on the business card than "research director."
We dare go to conferences? We dare send someone associated with the ELC to the Baptist History Tour (that was me, by the way...great tour)? We dare to go to churches that are not our own? I suppose attorney Finney would have us sit at home and write books about other organizations, trying to promote ourselves on the back of another law center that is attempting to help pastors and churches through their teachings. At least he is leading by example.
I would like to draw your attention to the recently added preface of his new "book" on the ELC.
- This book answers, exposes, and defeats the long published and continuing attacks by an organization called the Ecclesiastical Law Center (“ELC”) against the Declaration of Trust (“DOT”) and the ordinary trust thereby created which are promoted by the Biblical Law Center (“BLC”) and this Old Paths Baptist Church “Separation of Church and State Law” ministry. This series of articles will prove the fallacies of the former and the validity of the latter. The central focus will be Chapter 18, “Should a Church Be Placed In a Declaration of Trust?” of the ELC book, Approved by Man: A Case for Biblical Reasonableness, by Robin Wright and Ben Townsend. The ELC has no lawyers to guide them in their forays into the legal arena.
It is the position of the ELC that the Bible is the final authority for all matters of faith and practice. These are spiritual matters and the local New Testament church is included within this realm. Where in scripture are we told to go to the lawyers for answers as to church organization? Christian, is the Word of God not sufficient for a pastor to understand how a church is to be organized and conducted? Not according to attorney Finney.
- Some may think that is a good thing, and in some cases it is.
At least we have a concession here. Attorney Finney says that in some cases, it is desirable to keep an attorney away from church issues. I suppose our disagreement then is only a matter of the extent of keeping an attorney away.
- Spiritual matters should never be addressed by an unsaved person, including an unsaved lawyer or a “Christian” lawyer whose legal education controls his spiritual beliefs and earthly actions. Both legal and biblical issues are involved in the application of the biblical doctrines of government, church, and separation of church and state; and understanding all those doctrines and making the proper applications so as to keep a church out of the legal arena is absolutely necessary for a church who wishes to glorify God. On the other hand, without serious training in legal research and analysis, one will find it very difficult to navigate the legal landscape in search of answers to church related issues. To understand the law of trusts, for example, one must be able to properly research the vast collections contained both online and in legal libraries. This is not to say that one who has watched a lawyer do a simple thing such as successfully countering a church property tax challenge cannot then, himself, do the same thing. On the other hand, researching and applying more complex and/or intricate legal issues may require the skills of one trained in the law.
By writing a “Declaration of Trust” between the church and the pastor, Jerald Finney wants us to believe he is keeping churches out of the legal realm? Can we really not administrate Christ’s church without a lawyer to guide us? Questions to consider:
Where in the bible is the pastor called the "Trustee?"
Where in the bible is the church to execute a "Declaration of Trust" with the pastor to hold property?
Where in the bible is the pastor told he has the power to bind the entire church (which is a spiritual entity) to financial debt or lease agreements?
- The BLC was started by Al Cunningham, a born-again lawyer, who initiated the use of a DOT which creates an ordinary trust into which a church may place their tithes, offerings and gifts to be administered by a pastor/trustee for the benefit of the true, equitable, and beneficial owner of the money and property held by the trust (the trust estate). The church is the trustor but the ordinary trust is not the church, and the church is not the trust. The ordinary trust is not a legal entity, and the church remains a non-legal entity (a spiritual entity only) so long as the church does not act legally in any way.
Again, attorney Finney is unable to think spiritually and must view all things legally. Is there a pastor who is truly comfortable calling the church over which he has oversight a “trustor” and himself a “trustee?” There is a reason a pastor should be uncomfortable with this. It is legal terminology, not biblical.
- This author became lead counsel for the BLC in 2005, sometime after Al Cunningham went home to be with the Lord. His first great task in that position required him to do extensive Bible first and legal second research to satisfy himself that the trust created by the DOT utilized by the BLC was in line with both biblical and legal principles. The initial period of intense study resulted in the book God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application. The author has continued his studies to this day and has published several smaller books, booklets, and tracts as well as many articles and audio teachings. All these resources are free online, most of the books in online, PDF, and/or Kindle form. One can order 4 of the books in both Kindle and softback – go to Order information for books by Jerald Finney. This book is now available in online form only. The author concluded beyond any doubt that the DOT and the ordinary trust thereby created which are recommended by the BLC and now by this ministry is flawless, both Scripturally and legally.
“The author” borders on delusional. Which of us would say that our teaching is perfect, flawless both scripturally and legally? He is not coming from the same mindset of most pastors and church leaders that I know. The statement is made that his teaching is “beyond any doubt.” Of course there is doubt, otherwise we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Many pastors have taken a look at the “Declaration of Trust” and have decided it would be unwise and unbiblical to bind a spiritual entity to an agreement between a “Trustee (the pastor)” and the “Trustor (the church).” I am certain that he is aware of this and it that grates him to think there are those who do not hold him as an authority.
As a Christian service, I am informing others that, yes, you too can check even an attorney’s writings and teachings with scripture as the Bereans did. In fact, it is Christian duty. In an earlier incarnation of this book (while it was still a series of articles), attorney Finney lambasted a Christian brother who dared to ask a question. He does not like his authority to be challenged, but don’t you think God knows more about a church being a church than even attorney Finney?
- After an honest examination of ELC teachings concerning the DOT and the trust, one can safely conclude that the ELC attacks are without knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Their teachers and leaders are untrained novices in the science of legal research and analysis. One purpose of this book is to expose the fallacies of their attacks and teachings; but that is not the main purpose. The primary reason for this book is to educate everyone who has an interest in these matters. Nothing is more important than keeping the local church pure and chaste. Hopefully, the ELC and those churches who depend upon them will come to a knowledge of the truth and repent. This ministry will repent of any error brought to our attention. Our goal is to glorify God, and that cannot be done by letting pride, motive, or bias overrule truth.
If the person has to tell you they are honest, well you know the rest. Here we are accused of being without knowledge, without understanding, without wisdom and acting as untrained novices. Also, though, notice that attorney Finney says that those who do not have a Declaration of Trust need to “come to the knowledge of the truth” and “repent” of not having the DOT.
It takes an extraordinary amount of arrogance to claim one needs to “come to the knowledge of the truth” of the Declaration of Trust and “repent” of not having done so sooner. This is especially true considering the fact that the Declaration of Trust is not found in the Bible!
Attorney Finney, show us your argument from scripture and please quit using biblical terminology such as “repent” and “heresies” regarding your teachings. They are not on the same level.