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how to incorporate a church

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									    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

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:

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:


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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