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

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

Jerald Finney
Copyright © November, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

The ELC states in this section:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Approved by God, p. 149

Approved by God, p. 149

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

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

Approved by God, p. 150

Approved by God, p. 150

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the second paragraph, the ELC states:

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

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


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