Should the government have a say in your church’s ministry? (and more 501(c)3 stuff)

The Supreme Court of the United States. Washin...
Has the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to allow the government to have a say in making churches employ certain individuals in ministry? (Image via Wikipedia)

Shortly after my recent exchange with someone here on the blog about his confusion over 501(c)3 status, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece that, to me, demonstrates how misplaced 501(c)3 concerns really are.

Before I get into that, though, let me summarize very briefly some of the questions asked about 501(c)3 status and clear answers to those questions. [FWIW, my response in the comments to the individual was a bit snarky–a reaction on my part to the original rant he tried to post which I did not allow. (I do not normally allow such posts, per my comment policy.) Hopefully this will be more straightforward and snark free. If the individual found anything helpful–or for that matter–inaccurate, perhaps he will let me know; so far I have not heard from him.] The questions below are either questions I have heard or seen before (asked of me or others) and some I created because I thought they were good ones. And, since I am neither an accountant or a lawyer, my answers are based on my own understanding and the sort of research any non-specialized schmuck like me can do.

  • Q: Is the Living Church of God a 501(c)3 organization?
    A: Yes—by the way, just like the Worldwide Church of God was under Herbert W Armstrong.
  • Q: Doesn’t that mean that the government controls you?
    A: No, just like it didn’t control the Worldwide Church of God under Mr. Armstrong, or, for that matter, the other multiple thousands of 501(c)3 organizations (Jewish, Muslim, non-church, etc.).
  • Q: How do you know that Mr. Armstrong made the Worldwide Church of God a 501(c)3 organization?
    A: The Articles of Incorporation signed by Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Portune in 1968 that changed the Radio Church of God into the Worldwide Church of God say that it is a 501(c)3 organization. And, to be frank, Mr. Armstrong was savvy and smart enough to know that the WCG easily and naturally qualified to be a 501(c)3 organization and that so filing only made sense: Knowing the non-political nature of Mr. Armstrong’s message (being, like us, “equal opportunity offenders” with the truth of the gospel), being a 501(c)3 not only fit with his purpose and message, but it maximized the effective use of tithes and offerings for the Work. [EDIT: Yes, even after the receivership crisis with the State of California, he still made the Church 501(c)3 compliant. Here is the evidnce, complete with his signature, from 1981, in force until his death.]
  • Q: If the WCG under Mr. Armstrong was a 501(c)3 organization and thus owned by the government, then how did it survive the attack by the State of California?
    A: I’m glad you asked! The answer can only be one of two choices: (1) Either everything you think you know about 501(c)3 organizations is terribly off base, or (2) the WCG was not a 501(c)3. Since the WCG was a 501(c)3 corporation, then you can know that the conspiracy stuff is off base. Like a good, simple science experiment, the fact that being a 501(c)3 didn’t produce the results you predict show those ideas to be wrong.
  • Q: Doesn’t being a 501(c)3 mean that you have to observe Sunday worship?
    A: No. This is easily proven wrong on three different counts: (1) The 501(c)3 WCG under Mr. Armstrong was strictly Sabbathkeeping. (2) We are strictly Sabbathkeeping. (3) There are vast numbers of other 501(c)3 organizations that do not keep Sunday (e.g., Jewish groups)–or the Sabbath, or Wednesday, or whatever. The day on which you worship–if any day at all–has no bearing on 501(c)3 status. Again, the facts are there for everyone to see. If these (frankly, thousands of) examples aren’t enough, then please produce the text of the legislation or regulation that convinces you to think otherwise.
  • Q: Doesn’t being a 501(c)3 mean that you can’t teach the same doctrines the Worldwide Church of God taught under Mr. Armstrong? I heard somewhere that your beliefs have to be distinct.
    A: No. This is also provably false on multiple accounts. For example: (1) There are tons of different 501(c)3 organizations that believe and preach absolutely identical sets of doctrines. (2) At the time the Global Church of God formed, the beliefs officially supported by the Worldwide Church of God were already different than Mr. Armstrong’s, so even if there were such a requirement (and there isn’t), it wound not force such a difference. (3) There simply is no such requirement. Again, if the real life examples that surround us are not enough to convince you, please produce the actual text of the legislation or regulation that convinces to you believe this against all the evidence.
  • Q: But, doesn’t being a 501(c)3 corporation mean that the government controls what you preach?
    A: No, not in any way that we would care about at all. For instance, read the actual regulation for yourself here and the IRS’s comments here. Just as Mr. Armstrong held back no aspect of the gospel message under 501(c)3, we don’t either. The 501(c)3 regulation is actually (IMHO) a very sensible and helpful regulation that prevents organizations from doing political work (e.g., pushing a presidential candidate, etc.) while pretending to be, say, a religious organization. If anyone believes that being a 501(c)3 organization restricts our message, I’d like them to produce any aspect of the truth of the Bible and the amazing Gospel of the Kingdom of God that we are unable to preach under 501(c)3 (and please show the text of the regulation prevents preaching that, not just some YouTuber’s opinion, blog page, etc.–the actual regulation). Actually, just check this blog as evidence: read my posting titled “Embryonic stem cell research decision: Absolutely vomitous” and then tell me that I am inappropriately restricted in my speech as a minster. I don’t think you can.
  • Q: Doesn’t being a 501(c)3 organization mean that you have some government employee controlling your company and the decisions you make?
    A: No. I’m blessed with the chance to go to headquarters frequently due to my work on the telecast, and I know of exactly zero such individuals. Mr. Roderick C. Meredith has the highest decision-making authority in the Church as the Presiding Evangelist, assisted by his Council of Elders. He is not under government employ or influence, nor is any single Council of Elders member I know, and I am blessed to know many. The buck stops with him—and while he is a law-abiding man as all Christians should be when those laws do not conflict with God’s, anyone thinking that Mr. Meredith takes “marching orders” from the government clearly doesn’t know Mr. Meredith!
  • Q: Well, aren’t you afraid that the government will use 501(c)3 status to restrict your message in the future, even if they can’t now?
    A: No more than how they may use any other regulation—which, actually, is the issue I wanted to discuss when I began typing this post and will discuss below after this (much longer than anticipated) Q & A thingy. But it does lead to one more question:
  • Q: OK, a 501(c)3 filing isn’t what its numerous critics crack it up to be. But what if the government does try to use it–or some other regulation–to attempt to restrict the Church’s message?
    A: Then we would do exactly as the Church did in the First Century: we would obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). [I guess you could say that we’re a 501(c)3 and an A529 organization. Yes, I actually do think that’s a funny comment.] If anyone could show us–with real regulations, not “commentary” or YouTube videos–how being a 501(c)3 organization prevents us from obeying God’s commands and going to all the world with His gospel (which means they would need to show how it prevented Mr. Armstrong from doing the same), we would do what God required of us, despite such regulations. Simple as that.

Wow–that’s a longer list than I had thought it would be! Though not the intended topic of this post (I’ll have to revise the title appropriately), I’m glad I wrote as much as I did, since maybe I can use a link to this post in the long-ago-announced-and-finally-coming-after-the-Feast FAQ page I’ve been meaning to add to the blog.

Just one more comment, though: Frankly, so much of the 501(c)3 stuff that is out there is so utterly without basis that it can be a great way to get a grasp of just how willing someone is to listen to and respond to sound discussion. For instance, if–after seeing so much clear evidence and/or solid arguments against it–someone is unwilling to give up their position that every 501(c)3 organization is under government control, etc., then I know there is no point in answering any further questions from them because they’ve demonstrated they don’t want answers. If the most obvious of evidence will not convince someone of the clearest of truths, then why spend any time trying to convince such a person of anything? And why listen to them on any topic at all, given what such irrational opposition illustrates about their ability to think soundly? (2 Timothy 1:7 should come to mind here.)

It is one thing to have sincere questions about such things, 501(c)3 status included, before one has seen real facts. Questions are a good sign we’re thinking! I encourage questions–both in my kids and in my congregations–and if I didn’t like answering them I’m in the wrong line of work. But it is another thing for a person to stubbornly hold on to his position when it’s obvious that he’s in willful, irrational conflict with clear evidence. Such individuals demonstrate a lack of willingness to be corrected or taught, regardless of how much they protest otherwise: their actions speak loudly than their words.

However, this isn’t exactly what I was planning to write about. 🙂

Rather, right before we left to come here where we’re staying for the Feast in New Braunfels, an interesting Wall Street Journal opinion piece caught my attention: “Washington Wants a Say Over Your Minister” by Michael W. McConnell (no paywall, so check it out!).

It seems that the Justice Department is backing a lawsuit by a female church employee (“church” being the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church outside Detroit, apparently) who taught elementary school for the church and led devotions but was removed from her position after some disagreements, which I won’t even pretend to believe that the newspaper article covers thoroughly. At some point in their dispute, according to the WSJ article,

“…the church congregation voted to withdraw her ‘call’ to the ministry, and she ceased to be eligible for her prior job. She sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, with the support of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.”

As the article highlights, even though the federal statutes that are being brought to bear here–focusing on preventing discrimination against employees based on race, sex, age and disability–contain no explicitly stated exception for church employers. But apparently for the last 40 years our court system have apparently acted with what the paper calls a “ministerial exception,” based on the idea that the federal government has no business telling a church who should or should not be a minister.

(BTW: This is yet more evidence that 501(c)3 filings do not imply government ownership of a church: (1) if 501(c)3 critics were correct then this lawsuit and the Justice Department’s efforts are unnecessary, and (2) the fact is that for 40 years the courts have said that the government has no right to tell churches who can or can’t be one of their ministers, 501(c)3 or not. Again, just look at the facts and consider them. “Anti-501(c)3 evangelists” have no solid basis for their fear-mongering at all.)

The idea is that the First Amendment protects churches from government interference in such matters–that every religion has a fundamental right to choose its own ministry (which, when you think about it, is intimately intertwined with establishing its own doctrines and beliefs). The courts have always acted in concert with this principle, but no case has ever risen to the attention of the Supreme Court, itself. This case, however, will be the exception, since SCOTUS will, indeed, be reviewing the decision.

This, in and of itself, is no big deal. That’s the Supreme Court’s job: review lower court decisions in light of the Constitution. (Note: I’m not saying this is always what they actually do in practice, but I am saying that’s their job.) That the Supreme Court should review this case is no shocker, and they could normally be expected to affirm the precedent of the last four decades: the government has no business telling churches how to choose their ministers.

What is exceptional, according to the WSJ piece, is that President Obama’s administration, through the Justice Department, “asked the court to disavow the ministerial exception altogether. This would mean that, in every future case, a court–and not the church–would decide whether the church’s reasons for firing or not hiring a minister were good enough.”

There are subtleties (aren’t there always), but rather than listen to me rehash it all you can check the article out for yourself.

A number of things are noteworthy and could be discussed about the situation: modern attitudes toward Constitutional protections, the inevitable conflicts that come with the ultimately-quixotic pursuit of full separation of church and state, et al.

But what I want to mention is that while we are incredibly free in the United States to be exactly the Church we seek to be (which is, of course, what God would have us to be) and have been for ages, nothing truly guarantees that freedom other than God’s protection and mercy. Those who think that they can build some sort of “lawyer proof” wall around themselves that would prevent government interference in every circumstance are fooling themselves. It isn’t 501(c)3 filings, or submitting forms to the IRS, or incorporating, et al., ad infinitum, ad nauseum, that makes you vulnerable: Rather, it’s trying to be God’s Church in a world that is not God’s that makes you vulnerable. Period.

This is why the inordinate fear of some of these things–501(c)3s being just one example–is often so misplaced: not because it is a concern over inappropriate governmental influence, but because it seems to focus on one particular regulation over the many, many, many other regulations that exist–or could easily be made to exist–which could have a much larger impact. It isn’t the individual regulations that are a particular concern (in general); rather, it’s the fact that separation of church and state is, ultimately, a fool’s quest because no strict separation is really possible. So you’re not a 501(c)3 and choose to pay taxes, instead, so as to avoid what you to believe to be unhealthy complications–congratulations! What about EEOC compliance? What about European “anti-EU blasphemy” rulings? What about [fill in the blank]? What will insulate you from trouble from any of the legion of other regulations–or, for that matter, from future acts of Congress or future decisions of the court–some of which would never even appear on your radar screen as being remotely related to any religious enterprise at all?

My point is that rather than freezing at the thought of what could happen so that we’re too afraid to do anything, we should just accept the fact that conflict is possible, do our best to obey the laws we have while obeying God first in all things, seek to wisely navigate through the current regulations of the land, and trust Him to guide us where we need to be.

If a freedom is given by a nation’s government to churches that it seems prudent to accept, let’s accept it. (Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Meredith have both concluded, for example, that 501(c)3 status is such a regulation). Yet, if one is granted to churches that would seem prudent at the time to avoid (say, one that risks too many strings attached), then let’s avoid it. And let’s pray that the conditions remain as favorable as possible to do God’s work as long and as passionately as possible within the laws of man before it becomes the time comes when it is necessary to do it outside those laws. If we act prudently and faithfully within the circumstances we are in, we give God maximum room to do what only He can.

Moral of the story: If the government, any government, wants to make a stink about some aspect of our faith, or anyone’s faith, they have plenty of means available to do so. To overly fret about something that is completely unchangeable is unwise, unhealthy, unscriptural (Matt. 6:27ff), and a distraction from the Work we’ve been given to do.

Let us, rather, focus on the commission we’ve been given–preaching the gospel and feeding the flock–to the very limits of our abilities, obeying every law of man that does not conflict with the law of God, yet being ready to obey God and disobey man whenever a conflict does arise. Then let Christ worry about the rest: It’s His Church and He’s big enough to handle whatever may come our way.

(All of this said, now that we’re finally in Texas, I hope to “blog the Feast” a bit while we’re here if I can find the time! Mr. Sena always does such a remarkable job coordinating the Feast of Tabernacles, and we’re really looking forward to being a part. For those reading this who are keeping God’s Festival starting this Wednesday evening, have a wonderful Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day!)

10 thoughts on “Should the government have a say in your church’s ministry? (and more 501(c)3 stuff)

  1. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    How you found the time to write all of this I don’t know, but I’m glad you did. It’s obviously something that stirs you to considerable passion – in the sense that (to paraphrase Carl Jung) our Thinkings can get just as worked up as our Feelings when it comes to how we make decisions about the information we take in.

    Thank you for a sound-minded expose, and I look forward to seeing you in New Braunfels at the Feast. 🙂

  2. Howdy, Mr. Wheeler, and I look forward to seeing you here, too! Actually, I read the WSJ article right before we left Ohio, so I took a couple of the turns while my wife was driving to type it up.

  3. Timothy Kitchen Jr

    Hello Mr. Smith, thank you for your article.
    You asked me to find “real” sources, and here are some that i found from the official IRS website
    Exemption requirements-
    http://www.irs.gov/charities/charitable/article/0,,id=96099,00.html

    Question #1) What do you think this website says (this is the official IRS page) when it says,”Organizations described in section 501(c)(3) are commonly referred to as charitable organizations.” or Charitable Trust?

    Question #2) What did Mr. Armstrong say the Church was NOT?
    [EDIT: Since the link was to a website that would have violated my comment policy, I’m changing it to one which has the exact letter Mr. Kitchen is referring to, pp.2461-2464 of the document he linked to (see his comment below). Click here to see the letter from Mr. Armstrong he is talking about. — WGS]

    Find page 2461
    That co-worker letter shows what Mr. Armstrong said what the church was not! This clearly states that the Church under Mr. Armstrong was NOT an “Charitable organization” or “Charitable Trust”!

    Awaiting for your answers patiently. Thank you for your time
    In Agape love, Timothy

  4. Greetings, again, and thanks, Mr. Kitchen, for coming back. And thanks for this excellent question! This helps a lot in explaining where your misunderstanding might be coming from, and I’m very happy to help. I’m going to say a lot, but if it can help you then it will have been worth it. If it doesn’t help you, I am not sure what anyone would be able to do to do so.

    Let me give you the short answer to both of your questions and then take some extra time to explain in more detail:

    Question #1) This question helps to point out the mistake you are making. You equate every charitable organization with a “Charitable Trust.” You’ve put two things together that the IRS and Mr. Armstrong, both, consider distinct: not all charitable organizations (which the WCG and the LCG were and are) are “Charitable Trusts” (which the WCG was not and the LCG is not. Notice how you have to switch the words “organization” to “Trust” for your next point to be valid, but you can’t do that: those are two different things.

    Question #2) He said the Church was not a “Charitable Trust”–and he was right! Not all 501(c)3’s are “Charitable Trusts”—for instance, churches are generally not. You need to read up on what a “Charitable Trust” is. Mr. Armstrong was correct and the attorney general was wrong: the WCG (just like the LCG) was not a “Charitable Trust.” And not all 501(c)3’s are Charitable Trusts–in fact, most all churches (like the WCG and the LCG) are not Charitable Trusts, which Mr. Armstrong points out in his letter. To say that being a 501(c)3 makes one a “Charitable Trust” would be (1) legally inaccurate, and (2) rob Mr. Armstrong of the force of his argument (since he uses all California churches in his argument, 501(c)3’s just like Worldwide).

    Mr. Armstrong was completely right in calling him on that slight of hand, but you seem to make the same mistake as the attorney general when you equate the generic “charitable organizations” with the specific “Charitable Trusts.” Mr. Armstrong’s point is that no church is a charitable trust (least of all the true Church!) The WCG, just as the LCG, received donations–tithes and offerings–to do the Work of preaching the Gospel to the world, not as a “trust” on behalf of the donors. This is why, in Mr. Armstrong’s own words, “The California attorney general–in a political and elective office by vote of the people of ONE STATE ONLY–contends he ought to own, possess, direct, manage the CHURCH–ALL CHURCHES IN CALIFORNIA–supervise their expenditures of money.” Notice: Mr. Armstrong is saying that this action affects (his emphasis) “ALL CHURCHES IN CALIFORNIA — churches which were, like WCG, 501(c)3 organizations.

    Here are some resources to help explain and back up Mr. Armstrong’s point:

    Wikipedia entry on “charitable trust” – explains why you made the same mistake as the attorney general, which Mr. Armstrong so powerfully highlighted. In fact, here’s the opening sentence: “A charitable trust is an irrevocable trust established for charitable purposes, and is a more specific term than ‘charitable organization’. Though the WCG was a 501(c)3, it was not in a “charitable trust,” exactly as Mr. Armstrong explains.

    You could also read IRS publication 557 (here). You might note that in explaining the list of what sort of organizations may qualify for 501(c)3 status, it lists “Religious” as a separate bullet point from “Charitable” (like it lists “Literary” and “Fostering national or international amateur sports competition”–none of which fit the conspiracy-minded statements about 501(c)3 organizations, by the way). For the sake of convenience, 501(c)3’s may sometimes be referred to as charitable or non-profit organizations, that doesn’t mean that their purpose is necessarily for “Charity” (feeding the poor, etc.), another excellent point Mr. Armstrong makes in his letter and which is, again, backed up by real regulations concerning 501(c)3’s. (This is at the heart of the other point Mr. Armstrong tries to make: while tax-wise, something may be called a public charity, the language is misleading, because the Church does no “public CHARITY” (the master of emphasis by capitalization, Mr. Armstrong!)–which matches the distinction the IRS recognizes between religious and charitable purposes.) And the same publication, in the same section, says that a “trust” can qualify as a 501(c)3 but may not–again emphasizing Mr. Armstrong’s point: Though a 501(c)3, the Church–like other California churches–was not (and is not) a “charitable trust.”

    Notice Mr. Armstrong’s use of quotes, his quotation of the AG’s comment, etc. He is trying to disabuse the attorney general of the same mistake you are making: the 501(c)3 Worldwide Church of God is not a “Charitable Trust.” Mr. Armstrong’s words, themselves, explain the answer to your questions and explain how the switch the attorney general made — and which you have innocently and accidentally made, as well — was a mistake.

    I hope this helps! I really do want to help you understand, and I hope the generous amount of time I have spent answering your questions highlights that. If you still don’t see your mistake, though, then I must say that the next time you write you need to answer some questions yourself: (1) Please produce the legal or regulatory documents that support your claims that 501(c)3 status demands Sunday worship, (2) change its doctrines, (3) be owned, run, and operated by the government. (No “commentary” please, and no one’s “analysis”–just the actual regulations.) (4) After providing the documented regulations for (1)-(3), please follow up with the legal and tax code other than 501(c)(3) that Mr. Armstrong used to satisfy the IRS’ regulations for corporations (not just “churches” but corporations) receiving tax-deductible donations for his ministry whenever he told donors that the Radio Church of God and the Worldwide Church of God were “officially recognized” by the IRS as being corporations able to receive tax-deductible donations.

    On question 4, please consider the following comments from Mr. Armstrong in his letters (there are too many quotes to provide, so these are just a selection):

    November 11, 1949: ” As you know, the work is incorporated under the name of the Radio Church of God as a non-profit religious association. It is officially income-tax exempt by the Bureau of Internal Revenue, and all offerings sent as donations (including your tithes) up to 15% of you net taxable income are automatically deductible from your income tax.” July 12, 1954 letter, he says, “Remember, we are fully recognized and approved by the Internal Revenue Bureau, so that all your tithes and offerings sent in are deductible, up to 20% of your annual income.” July 31, 1955: ” PRAY that those who can will send in LARGE contributions—it’s all deductible on income tax, up to 20%, and the Internal Revenue Bureau officially recognizes us.” December 13, 1956: “And REMEMBER—it is all DEDUCTIBLE on your income-tax return—up to 30% of your entire income! You do not have to pay income-tax on what you put into GOD’S WORK.” December 9, 1957: ” Remember, all the tithes and offerings you put into God’s work are DEDUCTIBLE ON YOUR INCOME TAX, up to 30% of taxable income—BUT, until we get a decision now pending from Washington, D.C., if you send in over 20%, get a receipt for all over 20% and up to 30% from Ambassador College.” (Note: Awaiting “a decision from Washington, D.C.” — controlled by the government?!? Of course, not. Just law-abiding.) November 12, 1959: “REMEMBER–both the Radio Church of God and also Ambassador College are NON-PROFIT, income tax exempt institutions, fully approved by the Bureau of Internal Revenue.” June 10, 1960: ” REMEMBER–whatever is given to this Gospel work as a donation is deductible on your income tax return. This work is incorporated under the name “Radio Church of God,” and is officially recognized by the Internal Revenue Bureau as a non-profit corporation. Ambassador College is likewise incorporated, and officially recognized.” September 25, 1963: “REMEMBER ALSO, this Work is approved by the Bureau of Internal Revenue as a NON-profit corporation, and all tithes, and contributions, are DEDUCTIBLE on your income tax.” October 12, 1964: ” Of course, if you can GIVE such large sums, remember it is deductible on your income tax–up to 30% of your income (and in the case of such large contributions, we advise dividing it between Ambassador College and Radio Church of God–two separate California corporations, yet all working in the same Work of God–and each corporation approved as a non-profit corporation by the Internal Revenue Bureau)”

    Clearly, Mr. Armstrong registered the church under his direction and his ministry as a non-profit corporation able under tax law to receive tax-deductible dollars, which requires 501(c)(3) status. Yes, I am familiar with arguments out there that say a church can avoid this necessity by avoiding incorporation and that incorporation gives sovereignty of the church over to the State and away from Christ. However, Mr. Armstrong clearly did not feel this way, and neither do we. If we are guilty for making exactly the same choices as Mr. Armstrong, well, I suppose we’re guilty. But you’d need to be able to demonstrate the regulations that prove he did differently than we did to say that he and we stand and fall separately. (Given that in the 1968 articles of incorporation of the World wide Church of God signed by Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Portune declaring explicitly that the church has established IRS tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3), this would be rather difficult.)

    Again, I hope that all of this has been helpful, and I hope that the time and effort I have spent putting all of this together for you helps to communicate my concern that you be able to see past the deceptive publications of anti-government websites and videos Satan has allowed to cause so many to stumble. (I should point out that there are those who use the very same arguments you present to accuse us to accuse Mr. Armstrong of the same things–because they know that he made the same decisions in these things.) If you still don’t see where you are wrong in your concerns and wish to ask of me further questions, I must require you to first accurately answer the questions I have asked. If you can’t accurately answer them but still wish to persist in your positions, I will have to decline further attempts to communicate, since it would demonstrate that no amount of evidence will do.

    Thanks,
    Wallace Smith

  5. artnow1

    Mr. Smith, We so appreciate your blog and are looking forward to seeing you in New Braunfels this year. BTW, I am Lani Thoede and am writing under the permission (that ought to drive a few people crazy) of my husband, Art, and under his name.

    From one unspecialized schmuck to another (albeit in your case, self-styled), the only real disadvantage to being incorporated (in any sense) that I have seen is the following:

    When an entity is incorporated, it creates, in the eyes of the legal system, an “artificial person.” Because, of this, any writing by one in its employ and as its agent in the writing, such as Mr. Armstrong’s “Mystery of the Ages” belongs to that “artificial person.” Therefore, when, as recently happened, true ministry as well as the Author of same, are booted out the door, the “artificial person” continues to own the rights to all copyrighted materials and can ban their publication.

    Some may think this a huge disadvantage; however, as the evolution of our own “branch” has shown, the ministry retain control of their minds, intellect, and knowledge, and can easily (proportionately) reproduce those materials necessary to the preaching of the gospel.

    HOWEVER, again, this seems to be a minor issue compared to the other advantages, of which I will only mention one here: the ability of God’s people, who contribute so willingly, and we do mean willingly; to the furtherance of the work, to deduct those amounts given from their reported income tax preparation time.

    So there are minor disadvantages. Such is the world in which we live. Decisions must be made; for our part, we feel the church is doing do appropriately.

    Thanks again for the blog. You don’t have to publish this if you don’t wish to. It is one way to let you know there are still right-thinking folks in your audience. ☺

  6. Steve

    I never believed the government conspiracy stuff, but you explained the subject loud and clear. Very good article; very good points.

  7. Timothy Kitchen Jr

    Thank you Mr. Smith for your comments
    You maybe right, He may have incorporated the Worldwide Church of God under 501c3. By what he wrote about the incorporation. Though we don’t have proof if he incorporated as “501c3”,(incorporation papers, etc etc) By what he wrote, it looks that way( he doesn’t say 501c3 though). Even Stanley Rader in his book (which Mr. Armstrong commended him for) doesn’t say the words 501c3. It really doesn’t matter now if he did. It looks like he did though.
    I have one more Question though, Do the Members of the Living Church of God(people in the field) are they a part of the Incorporated body? Are they members of the Living Church of God Inc.? Is the Body of Christ Incorporated?
    Thanks again for your informative comments

  8. Greetings, again, Mr. Kitchen — you’re welcome, and thanks for writing. I know I’ve seen the 1968 incorporation papers (or a copy), as I mentioned, which he and Mr. Portune signed changing the name to “Worldwide” from “Radio”, and that one did, indeed, make the corporation a 501(c)(3). But you’re right: even without that it is unreasonable to think that he did otherwise, given that was most every church did in California and how helpful it is to the work (all the more given those comments in his letters).

    I’m glad that you’ve come to believe that it no longer matters that he incorporated and that he did so as a 501(c)(3), though I would like to hear about your change of heart. Your feelings against such actions seemed to be very strong, and you seemed as though you were quite sold on what many people out there said about such actions (incorporating and being a 501(c)(3)). Have you decided that all of that is wrong or that Mr. Armstrong committed a horrible mistake? Hopefully the former. 🙂

    As for your new question, I am not sure exactly what you are asking, but let me give you my thoughts on the matter and hopefully the answer you need will be somewhere in there! 🙂

    We view incorporation as Mr. Armsrong did: It is a tool in this world, but the Church is a spiritual organism. The Body of Christ exists according to the will and word of God, not man’s laws, and is composed of those who have been given the Spirit of God. Given the current set of laws we’re under in the U.S., incorporation is a tool the Church can use; but should that change, we will change.

    The split up of Global is a good example of that. Individuals took control of the “corporate board” but they could not take control of the Body of Christ. Mr. Meredith’s authority as an evangelist comes from Jesus Christ in heaven, not some corporate board, just as the membership of each individual in the Body is not defined by man’s laws but the fact that are begotten children of God.

    I hope this helps and that you are having a profitable Feast.

  9. Timothy Kitchen Jr

    Thanks again for your comments Mr. Smith,
    You said,”I’m glad that you’ve come to believe that it no longer matters that he incorporated and that he did so as a 501(c)(3), though I would like to hear about your change of heart.”
    WelL I believe it really doesn’t matter that he incorporated. I researched it a bit, and found the Church members are not part of the Incorporated Area. The Body of Christ is “unincorporated” , The Worldwide Church of God Inc. , Ambassador College was the incorporated part, They were the “corporations in which God used Mr. Armstrong to Preach the Gospel to all the World as a witness. The Only members of those “corporations” were those who signed the incorporation papers. He explained this in the worldwide News>> [EDIT: Link removed due to comment policy. For those wish to look up his reference on their own, though, it is the March 1981 Worldwide News article, “Congress of leading ministers hears defined and reemphasized spiritual organization of Church” — WGS]

    The Only Problem I have with the Churches (the ones that claim to follow Mr. Armstrong, is They don’t follow what God taught through him. They change the teaching or modify it.
    Notice what Mr. Armstrong taught,

    “God’s Word, the Holy Bible, is “a lamp unto our feet” to guide us out of the darkness of error and into the daylight brightness of TRUTH. The oil that produces the light in the lamp or lantern, causing it to light up to our understanding, is the Holy Spirit (of Psalms 119:105, Matthew 25:1-13).
    So comprehend the illustration. We all were lost in the dark woods of sin. On first realization of it, with repentance and belief, we received the first portion of God’s Holy Spirit. The Bible begins to light up. It is as many as are led by the Spirit of God that are the begotten sons of God . (Romans 8:14) The Spirit of God, by lighting up the Bible leads us a step at a time, into more and more truth. And a step at a time out of error and sin. But if and when you reject one point of truth, it is like stepping aside in the dark woods. You are no longer being led by the Spirit of God opening the Bible to right understanding. The light – the Spirit of God – leaves you. God’s TRUTH marches on! It leaves you behind. You are in darkness again. Lost again in the darkness of sin! You stumble around in the thick dark woods trying to find the lighted lantern. But every step you now take is taking you farther away from the lighted lantern proceeding on the SURE path out of the woods.
    In other words, if you reject one point of truth, or take one step aside into one point of error – unless you repent immediately and get back to the light – you will take more and more steps into erroneous beliefs, and one by one give up the points of TRUTH you had seen and accepted.
    Take the example of some ministers who left God’s Church. Some tried to incorporate new “churches” of their own. But they were not GOD’S churches. These men had all rejected one or more points of truth, or Church doctrine. They almost immediately began to add new points of false doctrine of their own – not of God. Soon they began rejecting points of TRUTH. Perhaps it was tithing. Perhaps healing. Perhaps voting in this world’s governments. Perhaps it was God’s Government in the Church. Soon they were rejecting God’s annual Holy Days and Feasts. Soon they were rejecting more and more of GOD’S TRUTH and turning to more and more FALSE doctrines and errors. THEY, PROFESSING TO FOLLOW CHRIST in their new way, WERE GOING FARTHER and FARTHER AWAY FROM HIM. They were going closer and closer to Satan and Satan’s WAY.
    Now HOW DID IT ALL START?
    It started, in every case, by taking one step in Satan’s direction – compromising – becoming “liberal” – or resenting and rebelling against GOD’S GOVERNMENT in His Church – or letting a spirit of SELF enter in – it could be self- righteousness or self-centeredness in COVETING POWER. More than one has been led into spiritual darkness by coveting POWER in God’s Church. Unfortunately, conferring on leading ministers such rank or titles as “Evangelist,” or “Vice-President,” went to some heads, sparking a coveting of POWER in the Church. It almost seems strange – it was NOT in these men a lust or greed for more money – it was a coveting of POWER – of the TOP SEAT – of AUTHORITY – or of the resentment of authority over them.”

    “YOU LET DOWN YOUR GUARD AND ALLOW SATAN TO DECEIVE AND USE YOU when, once you have known the truth, repented, received God’s Spirit, started on GOD’S WAY, you take a step away from that way, begin to liberalize, compromise with Satan.”

    Quotes taken from “Satan Deceive and Use me -NEVER!! -HWA -Worldwide News Dec 8 1980”

    If we walk one step away from what God taught, if we compromise what God taught through Mr. Armstrong. Then we are letting Satan deceive us, and use us. That is what started the topic of 501c3 with me. Thank you for allowing me to research the facts. And I’m happy we have solved the issue of 501c3.

    Thank you for your comments, and for us discussing this out to find the Truth.

  10. Thanks, Mr. Kitchen, and I agree: I’m thankful to be a part of an organization which adheres to what Mr. Armstrong taught us, including those things overlooked by those who recreate him in their own image.

    And I’m glad that this has given you a chance to study and realize the truth about 501(c)(3) status and the false things that some incessantly say about it.

    It’s nice to be able to wrap things up pleasantly. 🙂 Have a great day, and I hope your observance of God’s Feast is profitable.

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