What is the purpose for a church becoming a corporation? Does this make the state the head of the church?
One definition of a corporation is “A body that is granted a charter legally recognizing it as a separate legal entity having its own rights, privileges, and liabilities distinct from those of its members.” While this is not in my field of expertise and while I do not know all the reasons for the state’s insistence on this for churches, I think the issue here regarding a church becoming a corporation is at least a two-fold matter. First, it is a form of protection for the church and allows them to have tax exempt status. The law only states that the church must have some form of By-Laws or Constitution, but it does not dictate what that Constitution must say or do and it does not make the state the head of the church.. Second, the Scripture clearly tells us government is ordained by God and that we are to be in submission to the government for it is established by God for our protection (Rom. 13:1f).
Obviously, there are limits to this just as Peter and the other apostles refused to quit preaching the gospel when told to do so by the Jewish officials in Acts. These officials, while Jewish, were still operating under the authority of Rome. When charges were brought against Paul, he appealed to his lawful rights under Caesar an as Roman citizen. Where we can and where it does not force us to go contrary to the mandates of the Word of God, we are obligated to obey the laws of the land and be the best citizens we can be. We are to render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is His. God has also told us to do all things decently and in order (1 Cor. 14), and having a church charter or constitution, being a corporation, etc., could fall under that category. We have to follow the laws of the land in all sorts of matters in connection with church property, building a church, etc. There are codes and restrictions and this is as it should be for the protection of citizens. Now obviously, Satan can pervert the laws and misuse them to create persecution and inequitable conditions, but where we can and where it does not truly infringe on God’s authority (and I don’t think it does in this case), we should seek to obey the laws of the land.
Related Topics: Ecclesiology (The Church)