Is the church you are a member of being prepared for His coming?
Is the church you are a member of being prepared for His coming?
Ephesians 5.23-27, 30-32 states:
“For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish…. For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”
As the informed believer reads the articles which examine the parts of Chapter 18 of Betrayed by Man and related ELC writings, he will see the good, the bad, and the ugly about the ELC position for church organization.
The ELC method, by written declaration, creates a trust arrangement, places property in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ the true, equitable, and beneficial owner of the property (and money), and names a trustee (or trustees) to serve as administrator(s) of said property and money. The trustee(s) has (have) a fiduciary duty under God and man to manage the trust estate, not for the benefit of the trustee(s), but for the benefit of the true, equitable, beneficial owner, the Lord Jesus Christ. As long as no disputes over, for example, ownership of property, taxation of property, other property disputes, tort claims for injures sustained on church property, or use of funds (tithes, offerings, and gifts) arise, the ELC method will work fine and the inherent weaknesses of the ELC method and the inaccuracies in ELC teachings will not come to the forefront.
Then, having made a false statement about the "ELC method," the attorney proceeds to tell us what happens to those who follow that which we do not teach. Unfortunately, attorney Finney is unaware of the extent to which we have helped churches. Otherwise, he would realize we have, as pastors, climbed many of the hills he says we cannot climb using the "ELC method." He really should read the books. He very well may learn something. Is he writing about some other ELC of which we have no knowledge? It seems so.
The ELC trust arrangement negatively implicates the church who utilizes their method by declaring that “The property should be held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner,” and “Actually, the church, by the Pastor, can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.” The written declarations are not included in a Declaration of Trust to be adopted by a church which organizes under the method recommended by the ELC; rather, the declarations are in at least one publication which teaches ELC methods. Needless to say, their published declaration does not adequately describe the type of trust intended, the duties of the trustee, provisions for successor trustee in the event the trustee resigns, dies, etc., and other matters. These written declarations, especially when studied in conjunction with other ELC teachings, effectively set the church up as a legal entity, as opposed to a spiritual entity only. It would be far better for an ELC church to adopt a properly written DOT declaring exactly the nature of the trust established, the legal status of the church, etc. Should attacks against an ELC church arise, a properly worded DOT could be produced to establish that the church is not a legal entity, that the trust is an ordinary trust (as it now stands, the logical conclusion from ELC teachings is that the church utilizing ELC methods is a legal entity and therefore can sue, be sued and act legally).The ELC method is not according to knowledge and it therefore grieves our Lord and can result in problems for ELC churches. This articles which follow in this series delve more deeply into the matters asserted in this paragraph.
We are then told that because of some writings in our books CHURCHES have bound themselves to a trust somehow created by the ELC. Attorney Finney is certainly grasping at straws and I would have to assume that he actually knows better and must have made a misstatement here. Churches and pastors, rest assured that we at the ELC don't legally bind you to anything just because attorney Finney says so.
He says "these written declarations (in the ELC books)...effectively set the church up as a legal entity." Again, he is showing more of his own personality as a "leader" of pastors and trying to assume the same on our part. We have no manual for church unincorporation. Nobody has to sign on to anything we suggest or teach about. "ELC churches" do not belong to the ELC and the ELC does not belong to the collective of churches who we have helped. This shows a disturbing misunderstanding, as I said in my previous blog, as to proper SPIRITUAL authority in the churches. We here at the ELC promise to never try to boss you around as to what you do as pastors and churches. We are merely pastors helping pastors and you are no more legally bound to whatever imagined statements in our books attorney Finney imagines than you are to John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress."
The ELC runs a continuing campaign to convince others that the BLC (and now this “Separation of Church and State Law” ministry) are liars and that their methods are bad, should not be used, etc. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The ordinary trust (and a properly worded DOT which creates it) recommended by this ministry and the BLC, as will be shown (and already has been shown in books and online writings) is biblical and it is legal. ELC attacks include sloppy false legal arguments (at best), lies, distortions, personal attacks, etc. Some of those will be exposed for what they are in the accompanying articles. Straight forward language is the only way to get at the truth and, as will be shown in this series, the ELC has no problem either directly or indirectly, without any proof, calling truthful BLC statements lies, no problem with fabricating false, bad motivations on the part of the BLC for the alleged lies, no problem formulating ridiculous legal arguments, no problem with distorting, lying, and publishing recommendations for church organization without knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. This series of articles will prove all this.
Based on the preface and the introduction, it has become obvious that attorney Finney has an agenda. Unlike him, however, I will not pretend to know his motives.
This author has seen no ELC written or online publication which, for example, looks at the law of ordinary trusts, the law upon which DOT and ordinary trust thereby created and which the BLC and the “Separation of Church and State Law” ministry recommend. Instead, the ELC mischaracterizes the ordinary trust recommended by the BLC and by this ministry as a business or charitable trust which are entirely different. Business and charitable trusts are legal entities. The ordinary trust is not; yet, relying on business trust and charitable trust law instead of ordinary trust law, the ELC continues to claim, against clear truth, that the ordinary trust is a legal entity. Here are two of many ludicrous examples of false ELC claims:
“The Ecclesiastical Law Center advises churches to not use a Declaration of Trust, a corporation, an unincorporated association, or any legal entity to hold their church assets and property.” (From Betrayed by Man, page 180)(My comments: Here again, the ELC not only misrepresents the ordinary trust, but also condemns their own method. The ordinary trust is not a legal entity. Furthermore, the church who places tithes, offerings and gifts into an ordinary trust has no assets. The ELC church has assets which are held in trust for the benefit of the true owner of the property, the Lord Jesus Christ. The ELC church is a legal entity since she holds property and has assets.)
“And placing church property in Trust is no different from placing it into a Corporation.” (From Betrayed by Man, page 177)
Again, I will point out the fact that he has misidentified the book as "Betrayed by Man." The title is "Approved by Man." Let us move on to the second mentioned "ludicrous example."
By “Trust” in the above statement, the ELC means all trusts, thereby including the ordinary trust (a fiduciary relationship with property which is a non-legal entity) with trusts which are legal entities such as business trusts and charitable trusts. In other words, the ELC again misrepresents the ordinary trust by effectively stating that all trusts are the same. The statement also equates placing a church in trust with incorporating a church. An incorporated church is a legal entity. The ELC, in attacking the ordinary trust, cites 13 AM. JUR. 2D Business Trusts and 15 AM. JUR. 2D Charitable Trusts instead of 76 AM. JUR. 2D Trusts which covers ordinary trust law. They also cite reported cases which mention charitable trusts in attacking ordinary trust law. This type analysis by the ELC is either completely dishonest or the result of incompetence in dealing with legal matters. This series of articles will thoroughly analyze, in detail, all these matters. The assertions of this author will be proven beyond any doubt.
First, we make no such statement that all trusts are the same.
Second, it is our position that as an incorporated church is a legal entity, so is a church that has entered into a Declaration of Trust as a "trustor." If it can agree to bind itself legally, exactly what basis is it to use to show it is not a legal entity? Are these "honest questions" or do I have to cite a Supreme Court decision as was required by attorney Finney of the "ignorant" pastor who dared ask the original question that brought this whole discussion about?
In many ways the law of ordinary trusts is relied upon by the ELC. The language used by the ELC in its published declaration makes that clear; language such as “property held in trust,” “for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner,” and “the Pastor, can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.” All of the elements of a trust are in that language. However, the ELC disqualifies their method as creating an ordinary trust by saying that “The property should be held in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ” and “Actually, the church, by the Pastor, can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.” This is ugly because the ELC proposes a trust which sets a church up as a legal entity while virulently opposing the ordinary trust which keeps a church in its spiritual only status (non-legal entity status). This series of articles will prove all this beyond all doubt.
This brings up some very important questions: If the ELC is what they set themselves up to be – experts in trust law – then why do they always cite law and cases which deal with business and charitable trusts and never from the law of ordinary trust in their attacks against the ordinary trust promoted by the BLC and this “Separation of Church and State Law” ministry? This ministry does not know the answer to that question, but some possibilities follow:
By so doing, they mislead those who are unstudied in these matters. Could it be that they knowingly wish to mislead others as they attack the ordinary trust with accusations that it is a legal entity? Business and charitable trusts are legal entities and the ordinary trust is not. Or could it be that they have never read the law of ordinary trusts? Or could it be that they got the language and ideas for their form of trust from the law of business trusts and/or the law of charitable trusts, but then attempted to distinguish their “trust” arrangement from those laws? Or could it be that they got the language and ideas for their method from the law of ordinary trust but do not wish to bring it up because they do not wish to bring attention to the fact that they have created some type of trust? This last conclusion is a strong possibility (1) because they would have one believe that when you do things their way, any matters which might arise concerning any property being held by an ELC church cannot be taken to court; and (2) because, to concede that their method actually requires setting up a trust would be to admit that disputes in land (property tax or otherwise) held by their “trust” can be taken to court. They make the untenable argument that there will be no lawsuits because you cannot take the true or equitable owner, the Lord Jesus Christ, to court. Of course, that is partly true. However, the falsity of the argument is that the legal owner, the trustee can be taken to court (or into an agency procedure; for example, the local property tax board).
We ARE guilty of promoting a church existing as a church and not executing a Declaration of Trust (a legal agreement) between a church and a pastor. I will ask again, how is it that a church must execute a legal document in order to NOT be a legal entity, but another church that does not and simply exists as a church IS a legal entity?
Poor Isaac Backus. If only he would have known of the Declaration of Trust, he could have had the proper viewpoint on church organization in America. The church he pastored must have been a legal entity. To my knowledge, he never executed a Declaration of Trust between the church and the pastor.
Anytime anyone initiates a lawsuit for damages (slips on the ice at the church entrance and is damaged, etc.), property tax challenge, or any type challenge involving a legitimate dispute over property (especially real estate) or money, the appropriate court (or agency) will assume jurisdiction and decide the dispute. Effectively, there can be no dispute if there is no legal owner. In the case of one damaged because of the knowing, intentional, or negligent action of another who has a duty to maintain safety of a facility, the probable course of action will probably be to sue the church (which means those in the church) if there is no clearly worded declaration that makes clear that the church owns nothing and is not a legal entity. In other types of disputes, if there is no legal owner, the court (or agency) will take jurisdiction over the property or money and decide to whom it belongs if ownership is at issue or whether a crime or tort was committed in the handling of the property or money.
Consider in more detail liability for damages to someone injured on the property due to the negligence of someone in charge. For example, suppose a person falls on ice while entering the premises of the real estate used as the church meetinghouse due to the negligence of the one (the legal entity/trustee) in charge of the property (the legal owner) and/or the person delegated to remove the ice from the entrance, if any. The injured party’s lawyer will seek out the legal owner, who will not be hard to find. An investigation will be done. That is when the church can be, due to the published statements of the ELC, implicated as the legal entity who holds legal title to the property. When the church is implicated, the members are implicated since the members are the church. Should that scenario arise, the church would be better off incorporated, from a worldly perspective (but see, Spurious rationale for church incorporation: limited liability/incorporation increases liability of church members (Section VI, Chapter 6 of God Betrayed; Chapter 6 of Separation of Church and State) for the heavenly perspective). However, when the recommendations of the BLC and this “Separation of Church and State Law” ministry are followed, the church cannot be implicated and the insurance company from whom the trust (not the church) has bought liability insurance on the real estate will take care of the damages. Of course, should the pastor be proven negligent or responsible for not removing the ice, he and anyone given the responsibility to remove the ice can also be included in the lawsuit. And this is as it should be. It is biblical and it is legal to hold one who intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with negligence injures another or causes another to be injured.
Should a lawyer who knows the ELC teaching and the basic law of the various types of trusts be involved in any legal action against land, money, or against one responsible for injury and damages to another, that lawyer could make the argument that the ELC church is a legal entity and include the church in the dispute; an impossibility for the church which places tithes, offerings, and gifts into an ordinary trust which is a non-legal entity in which a trustee administers the trust estate for the benefit of the true, equitable, beneficial owner or the property, the Lord Jesus Christ and is careful not to inadvertently act legally and thereby set herself up as a legal entity.
These matters will be explained in much more detail, with cited authority, in the accompanying articles, the links to which will be included at the beginning of this article as they are completed. May everyone put aside their pride and seek the truth, for His Glory. Addressing all these matters will be require a little time and study by the novice. You who are interested in these things must patiently go through these articles and do some self-study to determine the truth. Following this teaching as it develops piecemeal will give the interested party time to check the assertions of this author and sources and do some study yourself. If anyone who has studied the teachings of the ELC or the teachings of this “Separation of Church and State Law” ministry is confused or has an honest disagreement based on in-depth studies, this author will be glad to examine an issue with you. Again, if this author can be shown to be wrong, he will publicly repent and present corrections.
Now to the task.