June 10, 2011
Is Christ the Head of Your Church? [Mount Olive Baptist Church| Eddie Long | 501(c)(3)]
A Cautionary Tale
A most interesting story today: Mount Olive Baptist Church, a small church in East Houston, Texas made it’s way into a The Houston Chronicle Article:
Members of an east Houston Baptist church filed a lawsuit this week to remove their minister, a man they accused of abusing alcohol, threatening parishioners with fists and a firearm, making lewd remarks to females and embarrassing the congregation by being arrested for waving a pistol while speeding down a freeway.
The plaintiffs, 70 members of Mount Olive Baptist Church, 3515 Yellowstone, also accused the Rev. Theodore Baines Sr., 49, of Rosenberg, of making unauthorized electronic withdrawals from a church account….
…Baines was selected to lead the largely African-American congregation in October 2009. However, the lawsuit contends, the minister never was formally installed. Plaintiffs say Baines, described in the lawsuit as being more than 6-feet, 4-inches tall and weighing more than 300 pounds, intimidated them into skipping the final step.
In March, the lawsuit says, church members fired Baines via certified mail, but he refused to accept the letter.
The lawsuit describes the church as being almost 90 years old, with a congregation of about 90 members.
Oh no people it gets much worse… :-O
The suit accuses Baines of bringing “shame and ridicule” upon the church through a “continuous malicious and evil course of conduct” that included threats, fraud and deception. With the assistance of another man, the plaintiffs contend, the minister had church funds transferred to his account.
Baines allegedly “uncontrollably consumed” alcohol, cursed a church officer and forced a parishioner off church property at gunpoint, according to the suit.
Rosenberg police confirmed Thursday that Baines was arrested March 11 on charges of aggravated assault and unlawfully carrying a firearm after he allegedly waved a pistol at other motorists as he drove on U.S. 59.
More on this story later as it relates to this blog, but for now, lets look more into what a 501(c)(3) is.
The 501(c)(3) – What is It?
Section 501(c)(3) is the portion of the US Internal Revenue Code that allows for federal tax exemption of nonprofit organizations, specifically those that are considered public charities, private foundations or private operating foundations. It is regulated by the US Department of Treasury through the Internal Revenue Service. In other words, these organizations which qualify for this exemption are expected to be NOT FOR PROFIT organizations which must have a ZERO balance at the end of the year, and heed to certain rules and regulations the government has put forth in order to keep their tax exemption. Wonder why you can write those tithes and offerings off on your taxes? 501(c)(3) donations are tax-deductible. Also, many states allow 501(c)(3) organizations to be exempt from sales tax on purchases, as well as exemption from property taxes, that means big savings for the work of the organization. Special nonprofit, bulk rate postage discounts are available from the Post Office to qualifying organizations as well.
If you take a gander at the IRS Official Website it explains in more depth how a 501(c)3 Corporation should operate:
To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not be an action organization, i.e., it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.
501(c)(3) organizations are highly regulated entities where strict rules apply to both the activities and the governance of these organizations. No activities or earnings from these organizations can unfairly benefit any director, officer, or any private individual, and no officer or private individual can share in the distribution of any of the corporate assets in the event the organization shuts down.
Furthermore, a 501(c)(3) is forbidden to intervene in political campaigns, participate in lobbying, propaganda or other legislative activities which are one-sided and favor one candidate over another, nor can an organization publicly endorse any political candidate, so all that lobbying the Black Churches did in 2008 on the low for Barack Obama technically endangered their tax-exempt status.
One of the more challenging requirements of the 501 (c) (3) is that you must legally incorporate to create a legal organization. The Articles of Incorporation you must file with the government would outline basic principles of your corporation, such as: your corporation’s name, duration of its planned existence, exempt purposes, specific purposes, membership, directors, prohibitions, dissolution conditions, registering agent and office, incorporator’s name, and indemnification clause. You will need to supply a minimum of 3 directors for your corporation: President, Vice-President, and Treasurer/Sec., and establish (and perhaps register) By-Laws for your corporation. Your Articles of Incorporation must contain the correct verbiage for a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) corporation via IRS rules.
What is more important to note is that almost all churches in this country have been incorporated under this status.
Houston, We Have a Problem
If you read through all of the verbiage above, I hope to raise some concerns with having your local assembly incorporated under this tax-exempt status, and it is my hope it raises some serious questions for the believer who attends one of these churches.
(Note: Not all 501(c)(3) are ungodly, it just presents problems when situations of church discipline has to occur like the examples in this blog cite.)
Here are a few points:
1. The church is not to be subordinate to any government authority in how it is structurally run. Yes we submit to the governing authorities concerning the laws of the land, but there is nothing in the law which would require a church to seek after 501(c)(3) status. It is merely a tax exemption, however many assemblies have sold out Christ for 30 shekels of silver over a tax exemption. Christ is the head of his church and he governs it through his people, and not man-made bylaws or the government.
2. Often these type of corporations take the power to exercise church discipline out of the hands of the members. They then have no way to hold leaders accountable who are listed as officers in the Articles of Incorporation.
Take Eddie Longs
Church Corporation as another example. According to Crossroadsnews.com New Birth Missionary Baptist Church’s members have NO CONTROL over the direction of the church based on the Bylaws in their Articles of Incorporation.
If it came to that, who can make Long leave his church?
According to New Birth’s restated articles of incorporation, filed with the Georgia Secretary of State on April 14, 1997 – none of its 25,000 members.
In fact, according to those articles, New Birth, the corporation, has no members, and its purpose is “to receive and maintain real or personal property.”
None of its 11 Articles of Incorporation indicate anything about it being a church or propagating Christianity.
That is quite frightening if you think about it. So even if Eddie Long were taken to court and were found guilty of all the charges he paid hush money to hide, if it were true that he had inappropriate sexual contact with 4 young teenage boys, no one would have any power via the set up of the church as a 501 (c) (3) to do anything about it.
Long became the church’s pastor in 1987.
Ten years later, the church restated its articles of incorporation, depriving its members of a vote and omitted all mention of Jesus Christ and the Bible. Long was named CEO.
Article 9 of the restated articles states:
“The purposes for which the corporation is organized are to receive and maintain real or personal property, or both” and “to use and apply the whole or part of income for charitable, religious, scientific, literary or educational purposes” related to the corporation’s nonprofit status.
Article 6 reads:
“The Corporation hereby elects to have no members.
“Any action which would require a vote of members shall require only a vote of members of the Board of Directors, and no meeting or vote of members shall be required for this Corporation, any provision of the Articles of Incorporation of this Corporation or the Bylaws to the contrary withstanding.
“All rights which otherwise would vest in the members shall vest in the Directors.”
Among some of South DeKalb’s large churches, pastors as CEO are common and many exclude members, but New Birth, since 1997, stands alone in stating a purpose that does not reference Jesus, the Bible, or Christianity.
The “Lay Member’s” Dilemma – Christ or the Government?
I don’t even know where to start. How about a reading of 1 Timothy 3 or 1 Cor 5? Apparently the 70 members of Mount Olive Baptist Church have read it, and they make up for 78% of the church’s 90 members named in the lawsuit. That is a heck of a lot more than 2 or 3 witnesses, which by the way are MORE witnesses accusing Eddie Long at the moment. Two very different responses to accusations against both pastors. What ties them all together is the apparent problems a 501(c)(3) presents to the members who can’t get rid of the CEO of their corporation.
But this is what bothers me the most about the whole situation: These people feel as if they are powerless to do anything, so much so that at this point that they are suing another believer in court. The four young men who settled out of court with Eddie Long for a reported $25 million dollars went to the courts as well before they went before believers. Someone see anything wrong with that?
The truth is that if the members of Mount Olive really want this pastor out of their fellowship, or if these young men wanted Eddie Long to be accountable for what he allegedly has done, they may not have any other recourse but a legal one, because of the structure of the organization they are part of. That is a sad commentary on the state of the church today. Many church organizations are structured to mimic worldly corporations and governments, which place most if not all the power and decision-making into the hands of a few, or in many cases, ONE person…. the PASTOR, and in many of the Articles of Incorporation of many institutional churches, the Pastor has made himself the CEO, Principal, and Presiding Officer of your church. And the pastors in question, Theodore Baines Sr. and Eddie Long, no doubt have that kind of clout at their respective churches, or the worldly authorities wouldn’t have needed to be called.
What is wrong with this you ask? ====> PLENTY, and is a scathing indictment on the Institutional Churches of America.
Eddie Long is not only remaining pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, he is opening a new satellite church in Birmingham, Alabama, and according to a CNN report, he asking New Birth Members for $1,000 donations each to support the expansion. Theodore Baines Sr. despite his arrest record as pastor there, remains in a position of power and the people are powerless to do anything about it.
Your Support Means Your Approval
This is why I believe if your church is a 501(c)(3), the laws of the land and the courts have proven to be the final authority in your fellowship, not Jesus Christ or the Bible. Your institutional church is set up so that you automatically have to appeal to the governing authorities instead of Christ who is the head of the church for resolving issues like dismissing a pastor who allegedly is a whoremonger, drunk, thief, homosexual, etc. You aren’t a church, you are but a corporation.
Why do you have to SUE to get a pastor out of an office he is disqualified for? Just don’t participate. Do not be a follower of these corrupt leaders. Stop supporting the building, vote with your wallet, and your presence (or lack thereof.) Stop giving tithes and offerings to men who are already rich! Stop supporting the corrupt institution which allows men who are accountable to no one to stay in power and not obey the scriptures. After all, it is “their” church instead of God’s, and they consider you “their” members instead of members of Christ. They made this corporation and getting them out will be almost impossible, so why fight or run to the authorities and sue? If someone has committed a crime PLEASE use the law, but otherwise, and if you find that Christ isn’t the head of your church, vote with your attendance and take the advice of the scriptures:
“Come out of her, my people,
so that you will not share in her sins,
so that you will not receive any of her plagues…