How Does This Affect Our necessary for all of our local churches Church Polity? to review this issue thoroughly. Some Legal experts agree that there is no of these issues also may apply to our state offices. Where applicable, the Incorporation of Local inconsistency between the legal department of the Church of God incorporation of a local Church of God also gladly will assist attorneys in and operating under our present providing form or sample corporate Churches ecclesiastical polity. If all of the above documents to assist in the requirements are met, there should be incorporation process. These no inconsistency whatsoever between documents will need to be tailored to incorporation of a local church and our present ecclesiastical government in meet requirements in each individual state. If you have any questions in the regarding this topic, please do not Church of operation. The important thing is to employ attorneys who know our hesitate to contact our legal counsel structure, and who are willing to work as follows: God with the church in complying with Church of God requirements. This will benefit the local church. Some persons have expressed a doctrinal objection to incorporation of churches, as giving too much authority Dennis W. Watkins, Legal Counsel to the state or partnering with government. However, these Church of God International Offices objections need to be viewed in light of PO Box 2430 current business and legal realities, as well as the fact that they overlook the Cleveland, TN 37320-2430 YES OR NO? realities of potential liabilities to individual members of our churches, in Telephone: 423-478-7056 some cases. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Conclusion Our local churches should strive to be current on all aspects of their day-to- day operations. Because of the change in the way that our business and legal communities operate, it is History Minutes, “Incorporation of Local answer these questions regarding the Churches,” which recognizes the different applicable state laws. The incorporation of local churches is necessity of some local churches to an emerging issue in the Church of incorporate, and provides guidelines God. Our church forefathers came in for doing so. This section also sets How to Incorporate large part from the Methodist Church, out language necessary to be placed and we inherited a governmental and in the articles of incorporation, bylaws, Presently, our local churches should property structure similar to the or charter of incorporated local know that in order to incorporate, the Methodist Church, with some variation. churches. following must occur: Included in this history has been a general disfavor of incorporation of 1. Approval must be obtained in local churches. Should Our Local Churches writing, from the General Incorporate? Executive Committee; The Church of God General Assembly Minutes, S1, IV, Subparagraph D., The question of whether or not to 2. The provisions of S46 must be Page 120, and S37, IV, Page 138, of incorporate a local Church of God placed in the corporate articles the 1998 Minutes state as follows: should be answered by competent of incorporation, bylaws, or professionals in each of the respective charter; and “That steps be taken to dissolve states where our churches are located. the incorporation of states or local 3. The Church of God deed forms Some state laws actually require the churches where practical, and must continue to be followed, incorporation of local churches, while that where it is necessary to with the proper denominational others do not allow for it. The best incorporate states or local clauses inserted therein, with advice is for our local pastors to seek churches, that said action be first the deed form going to the competent local legal counsel approved by the General corporation, and not a local regarding this issue and to consult with Executive Committee.” board of trustees. Church of God representatives, to make sure that our polity is defined in It should be noted that these Following incorporation of a local incorporation of local churches. It provisions were passed in the 1952 church, the local church must act like a should be pointed out that in some General Assembly. During the corporation, and not as an states, the failure of a local church to decades since 1952, however, much unincorporated association. It must do incorporate actually may subject the has changed in our country’s business business in the corporate form, hold individual members of that local and legal environment. Churches now regular corporate meetings, have church to exposure for payment of face unprecedented numbers of corporate minutes of all matters of judgments or liens against it. These lawsuits, and the business business passed upon, and should be states have held that members of an requirements of everyday operation of able to prove that it operated as a unincorporated local church are churches is much more complex. corporate entity. personally liable for any debts or other obligations of that local church. Sensing this need for flexibility in the business and legal operations of our This is not the holding in all states, but local churches, in 1994, the General competent local attorneys should Assembly adopted S46 of the 1998
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