Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Plymouth Statement of Faith

The Puritan Church approves the Plymouth Statement of Faith this 25th day of June 2014 in Plymouth, MA on the final day of the 2014 Convention with a majority of clergy and members.  There were no changes made to the 1985 version.  Delegates voted in majority to keep the rendering.  Here reads the final draft as approved.

The Puritan Church in America is a free church.  Following Puritan Church traditions. A "free church" is a Christian denomination that is intrinsically separated from civil government.  Refuses incorporation. It is A fellowship of believers. A free church recognizes strict separation of church and government.  
We Believe:

  1. The Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, to be the inspired Word of God, without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for the salvation of men and the Divine and final authority of Christian faith and life.
  2. In one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect and eternally existing in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  3. That Jesus Christ is true God and true man, having been conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He died on the cross, a sacrifice for our sins according to the Scriptures. Further, He arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven, where, at the right hand of the Majesty on High, He is now our High Priest and Advocate.
  4. That the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and, during this age, to convict men, save the believing sinner, and indwell, guide, instruct and empower the believer for godly living and service.
  5. That man was created in the image of God but fell into sin and is, therefore, lost, and only through by the power of the Holy Spirit can salvation and spiritual life be obtained.
  6. That the shed blood of Jesus Christ and His resurrection provide the only ground for justification and salvation for all who believe, and only such as receive Jesus Christ are born of the Holy Spirit and, thus become children of God.
  7. That water baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances to be observed by the Church during the present age. They are, however, not to be regarded as means of salvation.
  8. That the true Church is composed of all such persons who through saving faith in Jesus Christ have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and are united together in the Body of Christ of which He is the Head.
  9. That only those who are, thus, members of the true Church shall be eligible for membership in the local church.
  10. That Jesus Christ is the Lord and Head of the Church and that every local church has the right, under Christ, to decide and govern its own affairs. In consultation with the bishop.
  11. In the personal pre-millennial and imminent coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and that this “Blessed Hope” has a vital bearing on the personal life and service of the believer.
  12. In the bodily resurrection of the dead; of the believer to everlasting blessedness and joy with the Lord; of the unbeliever to judgement and everlasting conscious punishment.

The full statement of our faith is found in the Westminster Confession of 1649 and the Large and Small Westminster Catechisms.

This is the sole statement of the Puritan Church. This is a brief summary, our full statement of faith is the Westminster Statement and catechisms.  The Nicene and Apostle Creeds are the"official" creeds.

Westminster Confession

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Westminster Large Catechism

Creeds and Historic Documents

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Family Motion 5

Motion five has passed by a majority of clergy and members.  The Puritan Church hereby declares that the family is headed by the father as Christ is head of the church.  Marriage is between one man and one woman.  Children do not belong to the parents or community but are gifts from God and for their entire life belong to God and to no human.


Before we get into the dos and don'ts of family life, we shall look at the big picture. What is a family for? Now, the Bible clearly says the family is a God-given institution-and not something cave men stumbled into over millions of years. If God created and blessed the family, it must have a purpose.
What is it?
Romantics make family into a sort of salvation. A husband or wife or kids will solve all your problems, answer all your critics, meet all your needs, and pretty much create a heaven on earth. When this doesn't happen, people wonder why it fell short.  This overly romantic view has increased divorce rates.

The Puritan view doesn't fit into the accepted categories: it isn't liberal or conservative or traditional or reactionary. The best word for it is Christian. The purpose of marriage is not to make you happy or to have legitimate children or to build society or to prepare for retirement (though these are often byproducts of matrimony). No, to our way of thinking, what the family is for is the glory of God. Benjamin Wadsworth wrote,

"Every Christian should do all he can to promote
the glory of God.and the well ordering of matters
in particular families, tends to promote [it]".

Most Americans are not interested in theory. What difference does it make what the family is for as long as it's happy or peaceful or productive?  Christians and Puritans know better: The goal of family life will determine its priorities and practices.

For example, if the family's aim is to glorify God, will the husband and father work eighteen hours a day? Or, will the wife nag her husband into being the spiritual leader? Or will the parents neglect their kids? Or abuse them?

Keep this in mind and your family life will be dramatically better. The destination determines the road you take to get there. The purpose of the family is to glorify God. Very few couples start there. And it shows.


A well ordered Gospel believing home is run by the man of the family. Husband and father imply authority. Not brute strength, but a God-given right to govern wife and children. And not just a right to do it, but a responsibility.
William Perkins wrote,

"The husband is he that hath authority over the wife,
the two being one flesh, but he is also the head
over his wife".

On this point, the Puritans believe exactly what the Bible teaches. The husband is in charge of the home-not because society says so or tradition or religion. It is God who says so,
"The husband is the head of the wife".

If the husband has authority over his wife, it must mean he can do pretty much whatever he pleases and she has no say at all-right? Wrong.
John Robinson says the husband must rule with

"Love and wisdom. His love must be like Christ's
for His Church: holy for quality and great
for quantity".

Benjamin Wadsworth emphasizes the tenderness of the husband's rule,
"A good husband will make his government of
her as easy and gentle as possible, and strive
more to be loved than feared".

Samuel Willard even goes farther, saying the husband ought to rule his wife with such love and wisdom that,
"His wife may take delight in it, and not account
it as slavery, but a liberty and privilege".

Brothers, do we so rule our wives as to make them thankful for it? If you've turned your wife into a drone in the name of godliness, repent of your sin and taking the Lord's name in vain. Remember this: The better you rule your wife, the freer she will be.

You know what a truly liberated woman is? One who's husband leads her in love and wisdom.

If "the husband is the head of the wife", then some would say the wife has no say around the house-except for "yes sir!"
Christians and Puritans know better than this. They understand that ruling your wife includes explaining things to her (not just issuing orders) listening to her, deferring to her when she knows more than you do, and accepting her criticism.

"A man must support his cause from the Scriptures
and lay before her sufficient conviction of her duty"
(Samuel Willard).

In other words, "Because I said so" may be good enough for children and servants, it's not good enough for your wife. You should not only tell her what to do, but explain things to her from the Bible.  It is not easy if she's quarrelsome. But easy or not, it's the right thing to do.
In his diary, Samuel Sewall said he turned the family finances over to his wife because,

"She has a better faculty than I
at managing affairs".

On the same point, John Milton adds,
"Particular exceptions may have place, if she exceed
her husband in prudence and dexterity, and he
contentedly yield, for then a superior law comes
in, that the wiser should rule the less wise,
whether male or female".

The Puritan way of thinking, micromanagement is mismanagement. If your wife knows money better than you do, let her manage it-and do what she says with a good attitude.

But what about criticism? Does a wife have the right to correct her husband? To tell him he's wrong?

Let's define our terms: If by "correct" you mean scold him or despise him or nag him to death, then, no, she doesn't. But if the correction is offered in humility and love, then she has every right to do it.  As Cotton Mather noted:

"Women may and must privately exhort
others.they may also privately admonish
men.she is not so subject but she may
admonish and advise her husband if
she is sure the things she speaks against
are sinful or hurtful".

One more thing: Why does the man have to be in charge? Why can't everything be done with the consent of both husband and wife? In my family, most things are done that way. Maybe 99% of things. But once in a while, the most agreeable couple disagree. 

Somebody has to make the call. Now there are only three options: Either the husband has to do it or the wife has to or they take turns. Taking turns is ridiculous, because it would cancel everything.

Schooling is important. But what my wife and I disagreed on it. The first decision is mine: We're sending them to Christian school. The next decision is hers: We're homeschooling them. Then it's my turn again: Christian school, then hers.on and on it goes. And no decision is made.

A word to wives who think it's unfair: Would you want to be married to a man who didn't have the guts to make a decision? Who deferred to you on everything? You might love the man or pity him, but you'd never respect him.

It is logically necessary for someone to have the final say. And when the husband doesn't have it three bad things must follow: the man feels rotten about himself, the wife holds him in contempt, and the Lord is dishonored.


The Puritan view of parents and children.
The Puritan big idea can be summed up in one word: stewardship. Our children are not ours, but God's. What parents are required to do, therefore, is to bring them up for Christ. 

"The children born in our families are born
unto God. God leased them out to us".
(Deodat Lawson)

This means we're responsible to God for what we do with our kids. They're not ours, but His. Therefore, they're to be brought up the way He says, and not the way we think best.

What do parents owe their children? Puritans insist on three things:
We must provide for their physical needs.
"If others suffer need, yet the children will surely
be taken care of, for as long as there is anything
to be had".

We must provide for their future. According to Cotton Mather every father is required to see that his children are instructed,

"In some honest, lawful calling, labor,
or employment, either in farming or
in some other trade profitable for
themselves and the commonwealth".

In other words, parents have to teach their children how to work for a living. This includes the basics of taking orders, cooperating with people, starting on time, being there until time to leave, even when you're not feeling perfect, and so on. 

And also vocational training or a professional education. Teaching them to work is every parent's duty. Benjamin Wadsworth stressed the importance-even if they didn't need to the money,

"If parents train their children to be serviceable
in their generation, they do better for them than
if they should bring them up to be idle, and
yet leave them great estates".

In other words, it's better to leave your kids nothing, but teach them to work than to let them be idle and leave them a fortune!
The Puritans agree with the Jewish proverb,

"The man who does not teach his son to work
teaches him to be a thief".

Insofar as we can do it, we must provide for their eternity. Cotton Mather also notes,

"Before all, and above all, is the knowledge of the
Christian religion that parents are to teach their
Children. The knowledge of other things, be
it ever so desirable for them, our children
May arrive in eternal happiness without it.
But the knowledge of the godly doctrine of Jesus
Christ is a million times more necessary for them".


There's one more subject to explore and that's the discipline of children. 
    1. Family is for-the glory of God.
    2. Family is to be governed-by the husband and father who rules in love and wisdom.
    3. Parents owe their children-a decent life, a promising future, and in as much as lies within you, eternal life. 
    4. All discipline therefore is rooted in love, not anger, wrath, or vengeance.
May God bless our families and make them what they ought to be. A kingdom Christ's people.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Motion 4, What is the Church

Passed by a majority of clergy and members.  The Puritan Church in America defines what the Church is.

The Puritans are more of a federation of churches than a denomination.  We have never claimed to "know it all"-and we would not make the claim now.  We do believe we think with a depth and a breadth that few modern believers can match. Thus, without following pastors blindly, we can learn from the scriptures which are the very word of God.  And all Christians ought to weigh the message of their pastor and the doctrines of their denomination in the light of God's Word.

The Puritan View of Church and Public Worship.


Puritans try to be clear in their thinking, we are fussy about defining our terms. Thus, before saying anything about what the Church does, we shall begin with what the Church is. John Davenport provides the fullest definition,

"It is a company of faithful and holy persons called
out of the world to fellowship with Jesus Christ, and
united in one congregation to Him as members to
their head, and one with another by a holy covenant
for mutual fellowship in holy worship and edification".

Most of us, I think, would agree with Davenport. But it's hard to understand how radical the idea was at the time of Davenport and more so today. Puritanism appears against the background of Roman Catholicism, The Church of England, American Episcopalians, Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists, Assembly of God, Pentecostals, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, and Mormons in the USA.  Around the world we mission in Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Orthodox Christian, Jewish, Atheist, and Animist native religion nations.  For many non-Christians the idea of  "church" is not readily understandable.

Catholics define the Church with the organization. To their doctrine since Vatican II, the Church is not only the people of God, but primarily the Pope, Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, and Priests who dispense the grace of God to sinners through the sacraments.

The same may be said of the Anglican, Episcopal, Lutheran, and Methodist churches.  They are a Protestant "Catholic Lite" that see the Church as God's people but also as a Christ representative administering sacraments from the altar.

Then there are the Presbyterian Christians, those of the Presbyterian, Baptist, Congregational, Church of Christ, and Disciples of Christ who view the Church as God's people together with the clergy living and worshiping together in community with the Church as a weekly rest and duty to God.

Puritans tear up this doctrine root and branch!  It simply makes sinners dependent on the Church and not Christ!

As for the supposed reform churches? It has always occupied a middle ground between Catholicism and Puritanism.   Martin Luther defines the Church as, "A congregation of faithful men".  That's the formal doctrine of Anglicans, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Methodists.  But, with its Real Presence in the Lord's Supper, its priesthood, its ceremony, costumes, sacred buildings, and so on, it leaves the impression-at least-that It is the Church and the people are only there to receive God's grace through its officers and ritual.  No more reformed than the post Vatican II Catholics.  In fact an argument can be made the Catholics in Vatican II became more Protestant than Protestants actually stopped being Catholic.  They simply became vernacular liturgy Catholics.

Puritans say no to all of this "reform".  The Church is the People-not everyone who comes to worship on Sunday, of course, but, as William Gouge said,

"Those who inwardly and effectively,
by the Spirit, believe in Christ".


If this is what the Church is-the People of God-how can you tell it from others who make the same claim? Remember, there were cults in those days-not much different than the ones we have today. They all said they were God's people. How can you know that your church is God's Church-and not a synagogue of Satan?

Puritans leave no doubt.  Improving on the Reformers, we believe the Church is identified by three marks. Richard Sibbes tells us what they are,

"The outward marks whereby a true Christian Church
is known are the preaching of the Word purely,
ministering of the Sacraments sincerely, and eccle-
siastical discipline".

The Church is first identified with the pure preaching of God's Word. By "God's Word" here, we mean the Gospel. Because there is no salvation apart from the Gospel, there can be no church where the Gospel is not faithfully preached. If the Church is like a garden, then the Gospel is its source of water. Dry up the water and there is no garden; take away the Gospel, and there is no church.

The faithful preaching of God's Word must not be confused with infallibility.  Puritans do not believe that any man or group of men was above error. John Preston,

"Not to be capable of errors is the inseparable
attribute of God Himself which cannot be said
of any creature".

No Pope, no priest, no presbyter! No one's understanding or preaching is perfect. The Westminster Confession of Faith says,

"The purest churches under heaven are subject
both to mixture and error".

It is the Word preached purely not perfectly that identifies the Church of Christ.

The second mark of the True Church is "ministering the sacraments sincerely". The only Sacraments are Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

Puritans baptize believers who are over 13 only, either by submersion, sprinkling, or by pouring.  It depends on the construction of the church and the local customs of the congregation.  A winter baptism in the river in Massachusetts is impossible in winter.  A cotton mouth infested river in Texas poses problems as well.

Under the right administration of the sacraments, Puritans really mean this: Baptism and the Lord's Supper are means of grace, but they do not necessarily convey salvation to everyone who shares in them. In other words, you're not saved by them. Churches that say you are, are not true churches.

Why not? Because Salvation by Sacrament nullifies the Gospel.

The third mark of a True Church is Ecclesiastic Discipline. If the Church is the People of God, then those who don't belong to God cannot be part of the Church. Either they're not let in at all or, if they are, they are put out after proving they're not saved by their heresies or immoral lives. That's what Church Discipline means. Without being perfect or even mature, the church is made up of, Visible Saints.

In summary, the Church is the People of God and it's recognized by Gospel preaching and holy living.


Now that we know what the Church is and what it looks like, we may look at What the Church does.

It worships Jesus Christ.  Puritans have no King but Jesus Christ.  We respect civil authority, but our first allegiance is to Christ the King.  Whatever benefit we get out of going to church, it is secondary to what Christ gets out of it. And that's worship.

Worship is the Church's first priority. How do we decide what goes into worship and what doesn't? Everyone would agree that some things are appropriate for public worship and other things aren't. But how do we make the call?

There are only three possible answers: tradition, personal preference, and God's Word.

The Roman Catholics (and to a lesser degree, Lutheran and the Church of England reformed churches) arranged their services under the guidance of Tradition. They didn't say the Bible commands us to genuflect in the service, to make the sign of the cross, to burn incense, to use holy water, and so on.  But they added the Church has long done these things, holy men have always approved of them, and many have been blessed by them. And to their way of thinking that's good enough.

Evangelical Churches don't have much of that today, but their standard tends to be personal preference. The pastor wants it; the church likes it; the experts recommend it; or, it appeals to the unsaved or the culture we mission in.

Puritans rejected both the authority of tradition and the spirit of the age.  As for culture, we are children of one God and one Gospel.  The Gospel is the sole authority. Since it is Christ being worshiped in Church it is up to Him to decide what to put in and what to leave out!

Martin Luther was not as strict as we Puritans, but long before we were born, he explained what was wrong with most worship-

"There is an amazing confusion of religious forms
in the world. This came about because all proceeded
without the Word of God, according to the opinion of
men. God does not want to be worshiped in any way
but that which He Himself prescribed".

If God is to be worshiped His way and not ours we have to know where to find His way.  Puritans tell plainly in words one cannot mistake,

"The Scripture is not a partial, but perfect rule of
faith and manners: Nothing is to be observed in
the Church.but what is contained in the Scriptures"
(William Ames).

"Scripture contains all things necessary to be
practiced in the worship of God" (John Owen).
"The New Testament is absolutely perfect for
delivering the whole manner of God's worship"
(Henry Jacob).

God is to be worshiped His way-and His way is revealed in the Bible, especially in the New Testament!
This came to be known as The Regulative Principle. It is well summed up by William Bradshaw,

"We hold and maintain that the Word of God
contained in the writings of the Prophets and
Apostles is of absolute perfection, given by
Christ, the Head of the Church, to be unto the
Same the sole canon and rule of all matters
Of religion, and the worship and service of God
Whatseover. And whatsoever cannot be
Justified by said Word is unlawful".

God's Worship in short is contained in and limited to the Word of God.  God's Worship God's Way.


Now that we know what we are aiming for and on what basis we make our decisions, it's good to ask: How did the Puritan Doctrine change the worship of the Church?
In short, it simplified thingsHere's a string of quotes from Cotton Mather:

"I am of the opinion that all things in the church
should be pure, simple, and removed as far as
possible from the elements and pomps of this world. "

"If the religion be pure, spiritual, simple, and lowly,
As the Gospel most surely is, such must the face
Of ministry be."

"Our principal care and desire is to administer
the ordinances of Christ Himself in their native
purity and simplicity, without any dressing or
painting of human invention".

The Puritans simplified just about everything in the churches. For example, we simplified our Ritual. The Catholics, the Anglicans, and others excelled in ceremony; their services were multi-media presentations the Word was heard, bright colors were seen, the incense was smelled, holy water was felt, and the Wafer was eaten.  Puritans recoiled from the extravaganza. Richard Greenham said,
"The more ceremonies, the less truth".

We do not give special attention to the Church Calendar with its required feast days and fast days. Oliver Cromwell once said,

"Our Christmas Day, Easter Day, our Ascension Day, our
Whitsuntide is every Lord's Day".

Our observance of Christmas is first in the family.  Without trees, gifts, lights, and all the other distractions.  We offer our family to have Christ be born as the King of the family.  In our churches without tree, ornament, manger scene, or lights our pastors preach how Christ can be born into our hearts.  Easter is without eggs, bunnies, baskets, candy, or fashion show.  We worship Resurrected Jesus.  Puritan means we "purify" the celebration of secular and pagan nonsense and get to the Christ centered celebration.

Because the Lord's Supper is not a sacrifice, the stone altar is replaced with a wooden table. And, because the Church must be Word centered, the Table was moved to the side and the pulpit is put front and center.

We simplified Church Music. Because singing is the heritage of all God's People, choirs were dismissed and their challenging songs were replaced with Psalms set to tunes that were easy to sing and consistent with the Glory of God.

Finally, we simplified The Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church and they were replaced by the two found in the Bible, Baptism and the Lord's Supper. And these, too, were simplified, in that Puritans take the mystery (or, magic, maybe) out of them and tell the people what they really are signs of God's love and our salvation.


One last thing: What effect did the simplifying of worship have on the Puritans? It had the best effect of all: It allowed everyone to take part in the worship of God.

When the screens were taken down in front, everyone could draw near to God through Jesus Christ.

When the choirs were dismissed, everyone could sing God's praises in his own language.

When the reading and preaching of God's Word was made central to the service, everyone could know God's will for his life. William Weston was a Jesuit priest who hated the Puritans. What made him angry, made the Puritans glad,

"They held arguments, also among themselves, about
the meaning of various Scripture texts, all of them,
men, women, boys and girls, laborers, workmen,
and simpletons".

Gothic buildings, mysterious ceremonies, Latin chants, priestly costumes, and the like leave the people awed, perhaps, but still far from God. But simplify the service and you not only honor God, but bring His people home to their Father.

That's the Puritan view of the Church and Public Worship.  It is all for Christ's glory.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Raising the Standard of Christ, Motion 3 of Chapter Passed

The USA Synod with a majority of clergy and members voting do approve the following:

From a sermon by William Bradford:

Right is right even if no one is doing it, and wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it. Don't forget that! We are living in a wicked generation that calls evil good and good evil. The Bible speaks of this paradox of the sinful human nature. Isaiah 5:20, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

Desiring to raise the standard of Christ in America we in the Congregational Episcopal Church declare the need to return to our Puritan roots.  We seek to reform our denomination, churches, and families with the proven Puritan biblical principles and morals of old.

We hereby declare ourselves to be the Puritan Church in America and to be the ancestors and the stewards of Puritan teaching, tradition, and community.  We affirm the need for continual reform of self in light of the scriptures.

In the conclusion of the Jesus’ dialog with Nicodemus, John, the Evangelist, citing the Old Testament Passage- Numbers 21:9-recalls the symbolism of the bronze serpent, which through faith freed those suffering from the deadly bites of the serpents in the desert, to apply it to faith in Jesus through which they have eternal life.
Jesus is the new “bronze serpent” that instead of biting and killing, bring healing. His “bite” eliminates, at once for all, the bites of  the serpent that conquered Adam and Eve, resulting in death for all humanity.
Jesus is That one that touches us with compassion, tenderness, pardon, mercy and the love of God, His Father. His plan is that the sinner repent and is able to live.
Therefore, the dialog with Nicodemus-God wants to touch the deepest part of our being, our heart. A dialog is treated here that translates an invitation to conversion. This dialog puts in front of us two options: he who believes and he who does not believe. He who practices the love and loves darkness and he who practices the truth and draws close to the light. It falls to you to make this choice.
In this age, we are invited to conversion, to birth of the Spirit, to birth for freedom and to love, for we were made for this. Through works done in God, we unite with Jesus and we live with Him for eternity, in unity with the Father and the Spirit.
God is the only solution for our problems. Therefore, pay great attention to this: God has a plan for you. Allow yourself to be touched by the love of God.
“But to all who received Him, He gave them power to become children of God: To those that believe in Him, who were not born by blog, nor by the will of the flesh, nor by the will of man, but by God.” (John 1:12-13) God loves you and has a marvelous plan for  your life: “Because God loved the world so much that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that all that believe in Him may not perish, but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Man is a sinner and is separated from God: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
Jesus Christ is God’s only solution for man: “And the blood of Jesus, his Son purifies us of all sin.” (1 John 1:7) We need to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, through the personal invitation to conversion: “Here I am at the door, and knocking: if one hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house.” (Rev. 3:20) Therefore, do not resist! Open your door and receive Jesus as your Lord.
Our original nature is holiness, but we live in a fallen world. However, many times we do not care for our spiritual life, and, we have lack of attention in this area, we are attacked by a series of problems in our life. Know that the only solution for problems in this life is in Christ. We need to be born anew, born from God! In order that this may happen you need to receive Jesus Christ. Do not wait for later. The moment is now!
We the Puritan Church in America see the need to reform ourselves first, and then to reform our communities.  We shall raise the standard of Christ first in our churches and families then we shall raise the standard in our communities.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Chapter Meeting Motion 1 Final Draft

This is the final draft motion 1 of the Second Annual Chapter Meeting accepted by the US Synod and approved by a majority of clergy and churches.

Motion 1 of the chapter is approved as follows:

We are a Free Church.  We refuse 501(c)3 nonprofit status and state incorporation.

[Note: The word "Church" does not refer to any physical building, but refers to the whole body of believers in Christ. The word "church" is translated from the Greek word ekklesia, which literally means "assembly" or "congregation" of people; it does not refer to any physical building. Keep that in mind when reading this article]
Joshua challenged the people: "choose you this day whom ye will serve." (Joshua 24:15). Today, government is demanding a similar choice. Today the world assumes that the church is the church because it is registered with, and defined by, the State.
The following is intended merely to provide an overview, an introduction to the whole issue of the Church and incorporation. In addition, its purpose is not meant to be a criticism of the many well meaning Christian men and women who have laboured for the Lord in these matters, but simply as a supplemental guide for the avoidance of "rendering unto Caesar" that which is not and should not be his. We shall endeavor to explore the relationship between, churches and corporations.
So what exactly is incorporation? What really happens to a church that becomes incorporated? Are there biblical principles against incorporation?
First of all, let us define the word "corporation." In the strict everyday definition of the word, a corporation is "a group of people combined into or acting as one body." This word is derived from the Latin word "corpus," which means "body." In this sense, the Christian Church is indeed a corporation. It is the "corpus Christi," the "Body of Christ." It derives its existence and authority from its Head, the risen and victorious Son of God. It is comprised of individual members who have covenanted together to further Christ's Kingdom by the preaching of the Gospel and the discipling of the nations (Matthew 28:19-20).

Christ is Sovereign over his Church
The Church's "corporate status" is well-established in Scripture: Matthew 16:18, 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27, Ephesians 1:22; 5:23b, 30, Colossians 1:18; 2:19 teach that Christ is clearly the head of the church, and we are all members of his body.
The Church is the visible manifestation of Christ's Kingdom on earth. However, as Jesus Himself stated, "My Kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). Many Christians have misunderstood this verse to mean that neither the Church nor individual Christians should involve themselves with the affairs of the world. In what is known as "pietism," a false dichotomy is erected between the "spiritual" Kingdom and the "carnal" world.
Of course, this is not what Jesus had in mind at all. He very explicitly stated elsewhere that Christians are to act as the "salt" of the earth and as a "light" in the world by permeating society and working to change it from within (Mat.5:13-16). This task of dominion is accomplished through the work of evangelism and discipleship, as Jesus commanded in the Great Commission. The Christian's purpose is indeed "worldly," insofar as it is involved in bringing the world into subjection to the Word of God (2 Cor.10:5).
Thus, the true meaning of Jesus' declaration that His Kingdom is "not of this world," is that it does not derive its authority and power from the world or its institutions. The Church is indeed a spiritual organization, but this simply means that it is "of the Spirit"-- it relies upon the Holy Spirit and the inspired Word for its existence, not upon the efforts or laws of men. This important detail should be kept in mind as we further study the subject of church incorporation.

The State is Sovereign over its Corporations
Having briefly examined the biblical definition of a corporation, let us now look at the legal definition of a corporation. According to the U.S. Supreme Court:
1. "A corporation is a creature of the state. It is presumed to be incorporated for the benefit of the public. It receives certain special privileges and franchises and holds them subject to the laws of the state and the limitation of its charter. Its powers are limited by law. It can make no contract not authorized by its charter. Its rights to act as a corporation are only preserved to it so long as itobeys the laws of its creation. There is a reserved right in the legislature to investigate its contracts and ascertain if it has exceeded its powers" (Hale v. Henkel, 201 U.S. 43).
2. "[A corporation is] an artificial person or legal entity created by or under the authority of the laws of a state. An association of persons created by statute as a legal entity.... The corporation is distinct from the individuals who comprise it (shareholders).... Such an entity subsists as a body politic under a special denomination, which is regarded in law as having a personality and existence distinct from that of its several members." Black's Law Dictionary West Publishing Company, 1991; 6th Edition, page 340.
3. "A corporation derives its existence and all of its powers from the State and, therefore, has only such powers as the State has conferred upon it. Power is used here to mean the legal capacity to execute and fulfill the objects and purposes for which the corporation was created, and the source of this power is the charter and the statute under which the corporation was organized." Len Young Smith and G. Gale Roberson, Smith and Roberson's Business Law, West Publishing Company, 1966, page 796.
Note: A corporation is created by, and derives its existence from, the State. In contrast, the church is created by, a creature of, derives its existence from, subject to, and obeys the Law of, Jesus Christ.
4. "Corporate existence is a privilege granted by the sovereign upon compliance with specified conditions" Len Young Smith and G. Gale Roberson, Smith and Roberson's Business Law, West Publishing Company, 1966, page 931. .
5. "Corporations are not citizens.... The term citizen... applies only to natural persons... not to artificial persons created by the legislature" Paul v. Virginia, 8 Wall. 168, 177; see also the Opinion of Field, J., in the Slaughterhouse Cases, 16 Wall.36,99.
Note: God teaches that Christians, his church, are citizens of the household of God (Eph.2:19, Phil.3:10).
6. Every corporation has obtained a charter from the State of Incorporation. This charter is simply permission to exist given to the corporation, without which, its operations would be consideredillegal. In addition to the charter are the articles of incorporation: "The objects or purposes for which a corporation is formed are expressly stated in its articles of incorporation, which delineate in general language the type of business activities in which the corporation proposes to engage" Smith and Roberson's Business Law, West Publishing Company, 1966, page 798.
Note: Is the church of God involved in any type of business activities? (Matthew 21:12, John 2:16).
7. "Instances of non-profit corporations are educational institutions, athletic clubs, library clubs, fraternities, sororities, hospitals, and organizations which have exclusively a charitable purpose"Smith and Roberson's Business Law, West Publishing Company, 1966, page 789.
The reader will notice that "churches" are conspicuously absent from this list of non-profit corporations. That is because our law-makers are fully aware that incorporation involves creation, and the Church simply cannot be created by the State. Furthermore, the Church's ordained purpose of preaching the Gospel can never be illegal, so no special license is required from the State to do so.
Though not all of our founding fathers were genuine Christians, they nevertheless understood that the Church of Christ is under the sole jurisdiction of its Lord, and that the civil magistrate therefore should not dare to encroach upon that authority. Because of this healthy respect for the Church, the very first sentence of the Bill of Rights reads as follows:
"Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" (U.S. Constitution, First Amendment).
According to Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black: "The establishment clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the federal government can set up a churchEverson v. Board of Education, 1947).
It was one of the principles of the sixteenth-century Reformation that the Church and the State are separate governments, and that, although they are to work together for the furtherance of God's Kingdom, they are not to either merge with one another or usurp the sphere of authority of one another (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXIII:3) The Church is forbidden by Scripture to take up the State's "sword" (Romans 13:4), and the State is likewise forbidden to assume the Church's "keys" (Matthew 16:19). However, as we will see, the latter is precisely what occurs whenever a church seeks incorporation at the hands of the State.

Is a Church required to Incorporate under the Government?
According to the Internal Revenue Code, "a church, its integrated auxiliaries, and conventions and associations of the church are excluded from taxation." United States Code, Title 26, § 508(c)(1)(A).
Section 508(c) of the Internal Revenue Code provides that churches are not required to apply for recognition of Section 501(c)(3) status in order to be exempt from federal taxation or to receive tax deductible contributions. Churches are automatically exempt from Federal income tax, and contributions to churches are deductible by donors under section 170.
Elsewhere, the IRS states: "Although a church, its integrated auxiliaries, or a convention of churches is not required to file Form 1023 to be exempt from federal income tax or to receive tax deductible contributions, such an organization may find it advantageous to obtain recognition of exemption (Tax Exempt Status for Your Organization, IRS Publication 557).
Just what "advantage" is there for a church in obtaining 501(c)(3) recognition and thereby exchanging its sovereignty for a subordinate status in relation to the federal government? Most people would answer that such grants the church exemption from taxation. However, we have already seen that the federal government has never been able to tax the Church of Christ; the Church is not exempt from taxation, it is immune. The "advantage" is something else entirely:
"By establishing its exemption, potential contributors are assured by the [Internal Revenue] Service that contributions will be deductibleTax Exempt Status for Your Organization, IRS Publication 557.
The tragic irony of all this is that, according to the Internal Revenue Code, financial donations to an unregistered, unincorporated church are automatically tax-deductible (26 USC 170-B)! But is this biblical?
"God loveth a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians 9:7). But the government promises, "Incorporate, and I will return to you up to thirty-five percent of your tithes and offerings!" And the Bridegroom wept. Now Jesus knows that His bride "purposeth in [her] heart . . . grudgingly, or of necessity." (2 Corinthians 9:7). God had no respect towards Cain's offering because he did not give from the heart(Gen.4:3-6).
The IRS, of course, knows very well that it has no constitutional authority over the Church, and that it may not violate the First Amendment protection against government interference with the Church. In fact, the IRS may not violate the constitutionally secured rights of any American Citizen or group of Citizens, and is able to gain jurisdiction only when such is given to it voluntarily. Thus, the IRS holds out the unbiblical "advantage" of 501(c)(3) corporate status as bait to clergy ignorant of the law in hopes that these men will "bite," thereby placing themselves and their congregations firmly on its jurisdictional hook.
Once the bait has been taken, and the catch is reeled in, another church has been transformed into a "legal fiction" subject to the tyrannical control of the federal government. The truth is that "incorporated churches" are not, by definition, churches at all! They are merely "non-profit organizations" (or should I say "non-prophet organizations"). The truth is, any "church" that is incorporated has deposed Jesus Christ from His rightful position as Head over His own Body and has surrendered that Body to the dominion of the State.
The truth is, "incorporated churches" are subject to total governmental control -- whom they may hire, what they may and may not teach and preach, they cannot conflict with "public policy" nor assault the hearer's sense of mental well-being, self esteem, sexual orientation, etc. The IRS prohibits such organizations from "carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting to influence legislation" (26 USC 501-C-3). This prohibition extends, not only to the endorsement of a political candidate, but also any other attempts to "influence legislation," including taking a public stand against such government-protected abominations as abortion or homosexuality. Now, the church is discovering that favors from Washington, DC have strings attached. In this case, the string is a rope that is being used to throttle her once-powerful voice, to squeeze out her very life and, eventually, to hang her by the neck until dead!
Should the Bible itself one day be ruled by the government to be "politically incorrect," incorporated churches will find themselves on the horns of a very serious dilemma. After all, in a civil suit, a corporation's defense is limited to the terms specifically enumerated in its charter and articles of incorporation. All other "extrinsic evidence," including the Bible or any historical Christian creeds or standards, will be disallowed in a State court case, because they are "not contained in the body of [the] contract." (Black's Law Dictionary, p. 588). Outside of its own walls, the incorporated church may not stand on the authority of the Scriptures regarding any political or civil issue, because it is bound by the "higher laws" of the State. Consequently, the Christian Church in America, little by little, ceases to be the "salt" and "light" to society that it was commanded to be (Mat.5:13-16). And all this for a simple tax deduction! Because of money! This directly contradicts Jesus' teaching, "make not my Father's house an house of merchandise" (John 2:16).

Operating as a Government Business
There are profit-making businesses and there are non-profit businesses, but a business is a business in the eyes of government. An incorporated church simply cannot deny the fact that it has requested permission of the State to operate as a business. Not only does it have its charter and articles of incorporation on file with the Secretary of State, but it is also required to list a President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer. None of these offices were instituted by Christ in His Church (Eph.4:11-12), because they exist to control the business dealings of a corporation, not the sacramental duties of the Body of Christ.
Many churches, since 1984, have begun to list the minister and other ecclesiastical leaders as "employees" for Social Security purposes. The IRS exists to regulate revenue which is internal to the federal government. Consequently, in the Internal Revenue Code, an "employee" is specifically defined as follows: "an officer, employee, or elected official of the United States, a State, or any political subdivision thereof" (26 USC 3401-C). By listing the minister as an "employee" who earns "income," the incorporated church is unknowingly identifying him as one who works for the federal government. A free, unincorporated church cannot be held to the standards of a corporation doing "business" as a church. A church congregation is a private assembly of individuals, coming together as a family, to worship their Lord. Biblical worship is not a "public" activity. Jesus Christ, not the State, ordained the assembling together of believers.

Subject to Taxation Via Social Security
Yet another indication that an incorporated church is a government agency is its participation in Social Security. Seen in this light, payment into Social Security by incorporated churches brings us to an astonishing conclusion: Incorporated 501(c)(3) churches are not exempt from taxation after all! It is an established legal principle that "the power to tax is the power to destroy." The government only has the power to destroy that which it has created.
Another related issue here is that of the "corporate franchise." According to law, "a corporation must have a franchise" (Len Young Smith and G. Gale Roberson, Smith and Roberson's Business Law, p. 786.) In the case of an incorporated church, who are its franchises? If you guessed the members of the congregation, you are correct. In fact, they are legally "shareholders" in the business. This is proven by the fact that the so-called "congregational meetings" of the incorporated church must follow the legal guidelines of any other corporate meeting. For example, motions must be made and minutes must be kept of the proceedings. By-laws must be maintained and any additions (amendments) must be voted on by the members of the church.
Furthermore, at the end of the year, members and contributors will receive an itemized report of their financial contributions to the church for tax purposes, and distributes contribution records that shows a beginning and ending "balance" for each member. This practice directly contradicts the Bible's command about giving alms before men (Matthew 6:1-4).
The pastor of an incorporated church may therefore inform the congregation of the tax-deductibility of their gifts only if he warns them that a tax write-off may be the only reward they will receive (Matthew 6:4).

The Incorporated Church Surrenders its God Given Laws
Man, created by God in the image of God, was granted by God certain "unalienable rights" which are constitutionally protected. Corporations, created by the State, are not "real" or "natural" persons and, therefore, have no constitutionally secured rights!
It is a common belief that an incorporated church may refuse to disclose its financial records, particularly its tithing records, to the State should such be demanded. However, such a naive belief will not protect the church or its members from harassment from the Internal Revenue Service or any other federal agency: "[A] corporation is not considered as a person within that clause of the fifth amendment to the constitution which protects a "person" against self-incrimination" Len Young Smith and G. Gale Roberson, Smith and Roberson's Business Law, p. 787.
According to the ruling of the Supreme Court: "There is a clear distinction in this particular between an individual and a corporation and that the latter has no right to refuse to submit its books and papers for an examination at the suit of the State. While an individual may lawfully refuse to answer incriminating questions unless protected by an immunity statute, it does not follow that a corporation vested with certain privileges and franchises, may refuse to show its hand when charged with an abuse of such privileges. Hale v. Henkel, 201 U.S. 74-75.
"Whenever a corporation makes a contract it is the contract of the legal entity ...The only rights it can claim are the rights which are given to it in that charter, and not the rights which belong to its members as citizens of a state" Bank of Augusta v. Earle, 13 Pet. 586).
In other words, a corporation has no rights, only privileges which may be revoked any time its creator sees fit. Individual members ("share-holders" or "corporate franchises") also surrender their rights on account of their legal union with the corporation. Thus, the IRS may audit the corporation's financial records at any time, because, as one former IRS commissioner stated, "The churches... hold in trust that which belongs to the government." This is the law, and it cannot be changed by amendments to church by-laws, or even by the good intentions of church leaders.
Can an incorporated church refuse to disclose its financial records to the IRS on the grounds that it did not know that such consequences would arise from incorporation? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Incorporation is a form of "non-positive," or "contract law." According to Black's Law Dictionary, p.322, a contract is "an agreement between two or more persons which creates an obligation to do or not to do a particular thing." The laws comprising the contract do not apply to either party until the contract is agreed upon, at which time it is legally binding upon both. Claiming ignorance of the specifics of the contract will not excuse either party from their obligation once the contract is signed:
"As a general proposition, a party is held to what he signs.... One cannot obtain a release from contract liability upon the ground that he did not understand the legal effect of the contract" Len Young Smith and G. Gale Roberson, Smith and Roberson's Business Law, p. 70
By incorporating, the pastor and elders of a church need to realize that they have, in effect, signed a contract with the federal government which they have become legally and morally liable to obey (Romans 13:1). They cease to exist as a "real" First Amendment association with "unalienable" rights, and are transformed into a federal institution under the complete jurisdiction & control of "Acts of Congress." A church can no more change the nature of a contract after the fact than a private individual.

The Unbiblical Status of Limited Liability
Finally, let us take a brief look at the biblical problems of church incorporation. As we have seen, the Bible teaches that the Christian Church is a spiritual corporation that derives its existence from its Head, who is Christ. Each individual member is in covenant with the others and exercises their gifts for the benefit of the collective group. This is the concept of unity in diversity. The whole derives its substance from its individual parts. Therefore, the actions of the individual indirectly affect the whole.
We see this concept of covenantalism numerous times throughout Scripture. For example, in the Old Testament economy, the sin of Achan brought judgment upon the entire nation of Israel (Joshua 7), and the righteous act of Phineas brought God's blessings (Numbers 25). This principle did not pass away with the Old Testament economy, however. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul exhorted the Corinthian church to "put away" from them the unrepentant adulterer with the following illustration (verse 6b-7a).
The corrupting influence of sin should never be underestimated, and God's judgment on an entire congregation is risked if one of its members is allowed to continue in open rebellion against His Word. This is why it is so important for the elders to protect the Church from moral and spiritual disintegration by removing the ungodly member via excommunication. Likewise, it is equally the responsibility of individual members of a church to disassociate themselves from an apostate church, so that they might not "partake of her sins" (Revelation 18:4).
Church incorporation flies in the very face of biblical covenantalism. This is seen primarily in the privilege of "limited liability," which means that the corporation cannot be held legally responsible for the actions of the individual members: "A corporation... should be distinguished from the individuals who compose it and those who control it as well as from the property which it owns" Len Young Smith and G. Gale Roberson, Smith and Roberson's Business Law, p. 785.
God certainly did not deal with the nation of Israel on the basis of limited liability, so why should modern churches seek this unbiblical status for themselves? In giving the church her orders, Jesus promised: "All power is given unto me . . . I am with you alway." (Matthew 28:18,20). Apparently, this was not enough for the church. The State promised to protect the church from lawsuits and other attacks from without if only she would incorporate. Turning her back on the promised care of her Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, the church accepted her lover's "protection."
Supposedly, limited liability protects the individual members from personal lawsuit. However, this is simply not the case. Franchises of a corporation are just as susceptible, if not more so, to a lawsuit than any other organization. Furthermore, the incorporated church itself greatly increases its own susceptibility to a lawsuit due to the fact that a business is far more likely to be sued than is a strictly religious organization. Unincorporated churches are immune, they cannot sue, nor be sued by, anyone.

Corporations have no Soul
"Man has been created by, in, and for, the Word of God, and this makes him the being who is responsible. Masses, collectives, and species have no responsibility; they are not capable of assuming responsibility. They [corporations] cannot commit trespass nor be outlawed nor excommunicated, for they have no souls." 10 Rep.32 b.
"Human beings are called 'natural persons' to distinguish them from 'artificial' personas or corporations. To acquire the status of artificial or legal personality, the group seeking it must be incorporated, i.e., must obtain a formal state license. In modern civil law, while incorporation is necessary for some purposes, chiefly in commercial law, and group of persons, acting as a unit, may be treated as an artificial or legal person." Warren Co. v. Heister, 219 La. 763, 54 S.2d 12." Radin Law Dictionary (1955), page 249.
Can you imagine the early church of the Apostles passing the hat to help Caesar out? To ask the Lord's church to collect a tax to finance every wicked thing on this earth, including the murder of millions of babies each year, is tyranny at its worst.
Because a 'person' has no access to any law outside the law creating it, then no constitutional arguments can ever be raised by the person, or corporation, successfully. Government is the person created by constitutions and no officer can make any arguments against the power establishing his office by using law which is not given him by the superior power. In the same vein, a 'person' created by legislation can use no law outside the law creating it for any arguments against the superior power creating 'it'.

Organism or Organization?
Is the body of Christ an Organism or an Organization? An organism is a living thing. I am living, and I am part of the body of Christ. The body of Christ is the church. An incorporated Church is not an organism, but an organization. An organization is a creature of the State, and as such must hold allegiance to the creator of their organization.
All those who join with an organization that is under corporation status accept the debt of that organization, and become subject to that debt of another. I do not need to tell you what scripture tells us about this debt. Borrowing money, for expansion, from the ungodly bankers, is not a biblical principle and, as such, cannot be blessed by God.
Black's Law Dictionary, 5th Edition, defines 'organization' as a "corporation or government subdivision or agency, business trust, partnership or association or any other legal or commercial entity". This definition shows that an organization (even if it functions as a church) is recognized as commercial and public; an incorporated Church is legally interpreted as a commercial entity. But didn't Christ say "make not my Father's house an house of merchandise" (John 2:16)?
The real benefit the 501(c)(3) Church looks for with incorporation is the ability to borrow large amounts of debt capital. This enslaves every man, woman, and child whose name appears on the membership roles of the Church. How can this be? Because every officer and member of the Church pledges themselves as surety for the commercial debts of the Church, whether they know it or not. Why is this? Because the member's name that appears on the Church rolls is a beneficiary of the Church 'services', which are also construed as commercial by the government (the term 'service' is a commercial term, and means either to get paid for an occupation, or it means an act giving assistance or advantage to another, which results in a benefit). Additionally, the 'tax-deductible contributions' are further evidence of the commercial connection to the corporation.
A maxim of law states: "He who accepts the benefit must also bear the burden," meaning if one accepts any benefit of the incorporated Church one is liable for the debts and acts of the church leadership. If the Church is sued and a cash settlement is ordered by the court, there is virtually no limit as to how far the court can extend its power to collect from the members, even if they are not the officers responsible for committing the civil crime. "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Mat.11:30).
"Although it was once said that 'a corporation is not indictable, but the particular members are' [Anon., 12 Mod. 559], it is now well settled that a corporation may be indicted for omission to perform a public duty imposed upon it by law." Reg. V. Birmingham & G. Ry. Co., 3 Q.B. 233; New York & G.L.R. Co. v. State, 50 N.J.Law 303, 13 Atl. 1, affirmed in 53 N.J.Law, 244, 23 Atl. 168.
In Jesus' day, the chief priests bound themselves to Caesar (John 19:14-15). Who were they a priest of? Caesar. Who did they minister for? Caesar. Who does the 501(c)(3) Church now minister for? "We have no king but Caesar." They have a United States flag in every one of their Churches. "We don't make political statements from the pulpit anymore, we don't ever preach against the one for whom we minister. We don't want to lose our tax-exempt status!" So, we had fascism in Christ's day, the same fascism we have today.

It is time for the churches in America to wake up to the fact that they have seriously compromised the headship of Christ by incorporating. The very first sentence of the Bill of Rights states, "Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion." No law means no law. Christian churches do not need to obtain a special "operating license" to avoid taxation; the government simply cannot tax them to begin with! The church is already immune to all taxation.
The Church of Jesus Christ is forbidden by Scripture to merge with the State because the two exist as separate entities. The State is not to claim jurisdiction over the Church, and the Church is not to place herself in such a position. The Church does not need to request of the State permission to exist as a legal entity. Its charter is the Bible, and its article of incorporation are the commandments of God. As Jesus said, "No man can serve two masters" (Matthew 6:24). If this principle applies to an individual, how much more so to his church?
Church members should confront their pastors and elders on these issues. Do not let them simply brush you off with the claim that the subject has "been studied already," or that "we have always done it this way." Challenge them to produce a copy of the IRS statutes which state that a Christian church must incorporate as a 501(c)(3) organization in order to carry out its God-ordained functions. They will not be able to do this, because such a law simply does not exist. You may find yourself unwelcome in your church, but at least you will have the satisfaction of having stood for the truth and for the sole prerogative of Christ to govern His own Church.
We clergy and members of the Congregational Episcopal Church renounce 501(c)3 nonprofit status and state incorporation.  Monday, June 16, 2014 all churches shall begin the legal process of ending their nonprofit status and also their state incorporation.  As of Sunday, June 15, 2014 the Congregational Episcopal Church publicly declares it is a free church..