Tax-Exemption, Favors, and Incorporation

At this point I must add that in conjunction with the issue of whether the church should repudiate any and all tax exemptions, it was also brought to the attention of the General Conference that free land was available for mission stations in Mashonaland, South Africa. This land was being offered by the British South African Land Company which, in reality, was actually an arm of the British Colonial government. Needless to say, the Foreign Mission Board accepted the free land (12,000 acres) offered by the Company, although they, at first, tried to purchase land. There were, however, conditions attached. The most prominent being the request of Dr. Jemison, Secretary of the Company.

In August of 1894, as the Foreign Mission Board struggled to find personnel for the new mission field, a letter was written by F. M. Wilcox to W. C. White concerning the slow progress of the mission work and the report of Dr. Jemison’s request:

“Dr. Jemison, the Governor, was called upon at that place, and talked very favorably of giving to our work twelve thousand acres of land, six thousand at Bulawayo, and six thousand near Fort Salisbury. However, he would want to give this land on conditions that we make the work self-supporting, employing native labor, and teaching then useful arts. He understands very fully the object of our work there, and that we propose to evangelize the natives to what we believe to be the truth for this time; but he does not seem to have any religious prejudices against our work.” –F. M. Wilcox to W. C. White, Aug. 17, 1894.

In response to the acceptance of the land by the Foreign Mission Board, leading brethren in the U.S. relentlessly published articles in the American Sentinel condemning the act.

“The Sentinel has protested, and, will continue to protest, against all such donations, whether of land or of money, and whether made by the Government of the United States or by the Governor of Mashonaland; for if the principle is worth anything, it is just as good in the wilds of Africa as on the plains of our own fair West or in the alleys of our Capital City. At the time we had in mind certain grants of land made in Africa for mission purposes by the British South African Company. It was thought and urged by some that these grants were legitimate because made by a company. But we now have in our possession the annual reports of said company from 1890 to 1893, inclusive, and are in a position to prove conclusively, that the British South African Company is nothing less than a British Colonial government, and that grants of land from it differ in no sense from similar grants from any other civil government.” –American Sentinel, Nov. l, 1894.

Such a strong response led to long disputes and correspondence between the president of the General Conference, O. A. Olsen, and several other leading brethren. As time progressed, contentions sharpened. Eventually, the question was raised by S. N. Haskell if Ellen White had any light concerning the much debated subject. But before a response could be given by Sister White, the General Conference of 1895 met and passed several resolutions concerning government grants and donations:

“Your Committee on Resolutions would respectfully submit the following:

Whereas, Opportunities have arisen and doubtless will arise in the future to secure from various civil governments grants and donations, and,—

Whereas, To seek or even to accept any such thing from any civil government in any country would be a violation of the fundamental principles of separation of Church and State, therefore,—

  1. Resolved, That we ought not as a denomination either to seek or accept from any civil government, chief, ruler, or royal chartered company, supreme, local, or otherwise, any gift or donation, concession or grant, either of land, money, credit, special privilege, or other thing of value, to which we are not in common with all others justly entitled as men without any reference to our religious profession or religious work. This does not preclude the receiving of aid from rulers, royal personages, or private individuals when such assistance is rendered by these parties in their individual capacities.
  2. Resolved, That in harmony with this resolution, the General Conference Association be instructed to pay an equivalent for all government land that may be secured in Africa or elsewhere.” –General Conference Bulletin, 1895, p. 283.
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    March 30, 2017 at 9:03 pm — Reply

    Hi Demario,

    I have just read your article on tax-exemption etc. It gave a very good historical perspective and I found it interesting. However, having just done AB…’s taxes this year, I did a little research and even asked a friend, my brother-in-law, who is retired from HRBlock (I think that’s the name) I found that yes indeed, an organization must be a 501(c)(3) corporation for one to get tax credit when they donate to it.

    However, there is an exception. If it is a religious church, even if it is not a 501(c)(3) corporation, as long as it is a church, one can still get the same tax credit when they donate to it.

    So, it matters not whether you are a 501(c)(3) corporation, or not, people can still get credit with their donations to it on their tax returns.

    Your brother in Christ
    Michael Brown

    • October 2, 2017 at 2:42 am — Reply

      Hello brother Michael,

      Thank you for the comments. I’m not sure if this point was clear or not in my article, but what you are saying is exactly what I was trying to communicate. A church is automatically exempt from taxes, yet as long as it is organized as a church, it can give tax deductible receipts to it’s donors. It doesn’t have to apply to the feds for a 501C3 recognition. Thanks for your feedback. I hope this reply makes sense.

      Yours In Christ
      Demario Carter

    January 2, 2018 at 2:58 am — Reply

    Most of this article went over my head so I am hoping I can get an understanding in simple English. Are you 501c3 or you are not? I do not believe God has meant for His church to mix with the state for anything. I like listening to you but I have come to learn not to trust many claiming to be workers for the LORD. I have learned to do more homework before investing my time, energy or money in online ministries. Please do not take this personal but I have trusted a few online Pastors and it came to find out they were corrupt and total enemies of God. Wolves in sheep clothing.
    What is your take on the church depending on the state? I could not really understand the article as I would like to have understood it. I am looking for someone I can truly trust to be loyal to God and keep his sheep. If I sound somewhat bitter I am because who do the sheep trust, especially at such a time as this in the world?

    • January 5, 2018 at 8:13 pm — Reply

      Hi Lisa,

      We are not officially 501C3, but we are tax-exempt. I sent you an email further explaining our position.

      In Christ service,
      Elder Demario

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