The Church, the IRS, and the Federal Court of Appeals

It is not to often that we find the IRS and the Federal Court of Appeals making accurate theological declarations; especially in regards to the church. But here is an interesting story.

Most often in Scriptures the Greek word ecclesia means something like “assembly” or “local church body.” The emphasis is on the local rather than the universal. It seems that the Federal Courts basically agree with this idea. The internet church called Foundations of Human Understanding argued that they are a “real” church. The Court disagreed.

“The Foundation argued that it met the associational test by gathering a ‘virtual congregation’ of believers when its members listened to sermons broadcast over radio and the Internet at scheduled times. The Foundation’s ‘electronic ministry’ also included a call-in show, allowing members to call and interact directly with the clergy.”

“The Court of Appeals applied the associational test, which defines a church as a religious organization that, as a principal means of carrying out its religious purpose, holds regular religious services for a regular, cohesive body of believers to associate with one another and to engage in communal worship.”

The conclusion of this matter:

“The court’s ruling in the case gives guidance – and warning – to churches that use newer technologies to broadcast sermons and other religious messages to reach a wider, and perhaps younger, audience. To maintain ‘church’ status with the IRS, churches that take advantage of technological advances should ensure they are holding regular communal worship services for congregations that are physically present, and that such communal worship is not merely incidental to virtual activities.”

Interesting! Now would be a great time to revisit the definition of what the church is, and what it is not. Who wants to start?

(HT: 9Marks and Deepak Reju)

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One Response to “The Church, the IRS, and the Federal Court of Appeals”

  1. yes.

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