by Norman Edwards
I attended the National Unlicensed Church Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, April 15 to 18. It was sponsored by the Mercy Seat Christian Church, at the Zoofari Conference Center. The main speaker was Peter Kershaw of Heal Our Land Ministries (208 E College Suite 304, Branson, Missouri 65616; 417-337-7533, www.hushmoney.org).
Attendance was well over 200 with about a third raising their hands to identify themselves as “church pastors”. Most were Sunday-observing, but I also found some Seventh Day Adventist and Church of God Seventh Day brethren there. They tended to be an “activist” group with many involved in anti-abortion efforts, home-schooling and other conservative causes. A few had been arrested dozens of times for standing outside abortion clinics attempting to talk young mothers out of killing their babies. But they also had a string of names of children who are alive today because of their efforts—and the names of some mothers who listened to their message and are raising their once-doomed child by biblical principles.
I found the people quite friendly and very committed to what they were doing. I freely acknowledged that I was from an independent Sabbath-observing congregation and did not feel that anyone disdained me for being “jewish” or a “legalist”.
This report will summarize what I believe to be some of the more significant parts of the conference. A complete set of professionally made tapes of the conference is available from Heal Our Land Ministries (see the end of this article). A written syllabus is also included with the tapes. A list of the sessions is found on this page.
The first four sessions covered the history of church-state relationships—largely corresponding to Peter Kershaw’s book, In Caesar’s Grip. There were many historical quotes showing the great extent that freedom of religion played in the founding of the United States of America. England still had a “state church”, the Anglican church, of which the King was the head. There were many other denominations in England at the time, persecuted to varying degrees by the King. The King insisted that all preachers in America be licensed by the king—and put some to death for refusing licenses.
These independent preachers saw themselves involved in a giant Matthew 18 process (Matt 18:15–17). They read Romans 13 that told them civil authorities are empowered by God. But they also read verse 3 which states “for rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil” and realized that they were being terrorized for good works, not for evil works. Seeing this situation, they followed Matthew 18 and wrote to King George of England, expressing their grievances in papers called “remonstrances”. Then they proceeded to the next step and asked other witnesses to write with them. The King almost never directly responded to these. The difficulty was with the King, not the British people—the Declaration of Independence refers to them as “British brethren” in its next to last paragraph.
The final step in Matthew 18 is to take an issue “to the church”. A church is an “assembly”. To which assembly should this issue go? The Declaration of Independence is the final step of the Matthew 18 process. It avoids all mention of the British Parliament and the Church of England. The Americans did not believe that they could get a fair hearing there. The Declaration of Independence contains numerous complaints about the King dissolving any American attempt to form assemblies. The last paragraph summarizes the whole issue by stating:
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown…
The final step in the process was taking the issues to “the church” or “assembly”, in this case, “the Representatives of the United States of America… Assembled”. Their authority for making this decision was an appeal directly to God, “the Supreme Judge of the world”. At this same time, many of the founding fathers also gave up their efforts to reform the Anglican Church and resigned from it.
All sessions presented by Peter Kershaw unless noted.
Sunday, April 15 (evening):
Economic Solutions (on the Federal Reserve & money problems)
Monday, April 16:
The Unlicensed Clergy: America’s True Founding Fathers
Christ Or Caesar: Who Is the Church’s Sovereign? part 1: The Church Gagged, part 2: The Erastians
WWJ, Inc. (what would Jesus incorporate?)
With that 501c3, you even get a free muzzle! (Problems with IRS tax exempt status)
Are Marriage Licenses Biblical? by Ralph Ovadal
Unlicensing the State-Church: an overview
Dissolution of a State-Church and Organizing a Free-Church
Questions and Answers (What went wrong with the Indianapolis Baptist Temple?, etc.)
Tuesday, April 17:
The Free-Church and Banking: banking without an EIN.
The Free-Church and Taxes: being non-taxable vs. being tax-exempt.
Social Security: Contrary to God’s Way by Matt Trewhella
Jurisdiction and Verbal Obfuscation: jurisdictional traps, various ways government agencies presume jurisdiction, and language to avoid
Zoning Out Christianity by Eric Hovind
The Free-Church and Assets
Organizational Documents, and Methods For Avoiding Disputes and Litigation
Questions and Answers (Should a church be organized as a corporation sole?, etc.)
The saying “we have no King but Jesus” was popular during the American Revolution. They were not saying it lightly, as Christians today might. The King they had rejected in order to follow Christ had armies and was sending them after his opponents. Many suffered and died to create a government where there were no human kings controlling the state or church organizations. (Today, many Christians are afraid to place their church congregation directly under Christ and trust His protection, even when there is no immediate persecution for doing so—they prefer a state-granted incorporation because the state promises them liability protection and other benefits).
The Constitution was not an effort to create a Godless state. Nearly all the writings of the founding fathers mention God as the source of individual rights. Rather, the constitution was an effort to make sure that the state did not impose a certain religion upon its citizens and to be sure that no church organization used the power of the state. The First Amendment states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
It was “establishments of religion” that were not to be involved with government. Individual rights to assemble, speak, publish and petition the government were recognized here—the very things that King George refused to grant the American preachers before the Revolution.
Most of the state churches and big denominations of Europe were “incorporated” churches. They had received a corporate charter from the state government to own property and conduct business in the name of their church. After the Revolution, most citizens of the USA were not interested in government created and controlled corporations—either for churches or business, so they were few in number. Churches simply operated as churches—local congregations being a part of the greater body of Christ. The state of Virginia went as far as passing a law against church incorporation, which remains to this day. It is not until the 1900s that churches began to incorporate on a large scale.
Today most churches are incorporated, and they apply to the Internal Revenue Service for “Tax exempt Status”. We should not be surprised. This is the method of doing “church business” that is taught by nearly all law schools and religious seminaries. Nor should we be surprised that the number of lawsuits against churches has grown incredibly during the past century. Courts do not have Jurisdiction over free churches, that is, over churches that have not asked the state for permission to operate. But courts automatically have jurisdiction over corporations—including church corporations. Corporations must hire licensed attorneys to represent them.
The issues of advantages verses disadvantages of incorporation and “tax exempt status” are quite often poorly represented by attorneys. Many of them do not even know how churches can operate as churches. The issue of what is the right way to carry out the work of the Living God is even more important.
Most of the rest of Peter Kershaw’s lectures covered the technical methods one can use to create a new free-church and terminate a corporate church. Some of the information is covered in our free paper, Starting a Local Congregation. For those serious about changing the form of their local congregation, this is probably the most important part of the conference. The issues of preparing church documents, avoiding taxes, opening bank accounts, handling assets and other important issues were all handled in detail. This is a place where “a little knowledge can be dangerous”, so we will not attempt to cover it here. But to those who are at all interested in changing their form of church organization, this author highly recommends that they obtain Peter Kershaw’s material (see the end of this section), or consult the more extensive list in our paper Starting a Local Congregation.
In one of the question and answer sessions, someone asked Peter Kershaw about the use of lawyers. The Constitution gives citizens the right to represent themselves in court, but today many people wonder what was so important about that. If they get involved in a court case, are not they more interested in the government providing a lawyer to help them? They might be, but we are seeing history repeating itself. The framers of the constitution included the ability for people to represent themselves, but also the right to have counsel. This was a reaction to some English courts where a “professional” was appointed to represent the accused, but who often was more concerned about carrying out government policy than helping the person he represented. Those early Americans suffered due to these unjust practices and wanted to make sure that an individual could represent himself, rather than suffer at the hands of some uncaring representative.
Today, most people are unaware that licensed attorneys are first, officers of the court; second, representatives of the public good; and third, representatives of their clients. Even though the client pays the bill, attorneys do not have to always have their clients interests first. It is not illegal for a judge and attorneys on a case to get together and decide that one of their clients might be right in his case, but that deciding in his favor would be against the public good, so they will work together to make sure that client loses the case. It is more and more common for judges to tell the accused that they must be represented by a licensed attorney, when that is simply not so. But if the accused does not know his rights, the court is not required to inform him.
Will the Hearers or the Doers of the Law Be Justified?
For decades, the Church of God groups preached that individuals would suffer for their personal sins, but that our nation would also be punished for its national sins. Numerous scriptures show that to be the case. But did we ever ask, “Who is responsible for stopping and correcting our national sins?”
In countries where the people have the ultimate authority to elect leaders, are not all the people collectively responsible for the national policies? Yet many “Church of God” groups taught that Christians should not be involved in voting or attempting to influence legislation. This means that each new person who accepted their entire message was one more person who would no longer influence the nation for its good. Even if 99% of the country became “Church of God” members and therefore refrained from any influence on government, then the remaining 1% would be the only ones to vote and run the country, and nearly all of our sinful national policies would remain! Is that what God wants?
Some will say, “Our government is so corrupt that an individual cannot do anything”. If that is true, how can God hold anyone responsible for our national sins? If we regard a nation as all individuals who can do nothing, they are all guiltless for its sins. If we regard a nation as a group of individuals who all have a little responsibility for its national sins, then we expect each person to do what little they can to remove the nation’s sins. That may include voting, writing letters, or getting involved in some action to promote righteous laws and principles. (Obviously, Christians should not become part of the typical corrupt political practices of using government to obtain power and money for oneself or one’s organizations. That probably means that one cannot join the biggest political organizations—in general, they do not have Godly solutions for the nation anyway.)
What will God say about the punishment for our national sins in the judgment? Will God commend His people who were preaching and hearing about what needed to be done—hoping that unbelievers would hear their message and do it? Can only unbelievers govern? Or will God commend His people who were doing what needed to be done? If he punishes the nation, will it be for lack of preaching or lack of doing?
“For not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified” (Rom 2:13). — NSE
In the 1700s, the legal system recognized “counselors”, “advocates” and others who helped in courts, but who were not licensed attorneys. These positions have largely disappeared from modern courts (without Americans paying much attention). Today, there is a growing body of “paralegal” workers (of which Peter Kershaw is one) who help people with legal matters and help them represent themselves in court when necessary. They are not attorneys and are not officers of the court or responsible for “public good”. Paralegals frequently have to fight off attacks from lawyers and governments claiming that they are “practicing law without a license”, but they have defended themselves well and there is now some case history in their favor.
It is especially important for free churches to be careful when hiring a licensed attorney. Hiring an officer of the court may be considered giving jurisdiction to the court.
Ralph Ovadal gave a very interesting presentation from the viewpoint of “what honors God and what is right?” Marriages were frequently handled by contracts or simply recorded in family Bibles during the early years of this country. State laws still recognize such marriages, but if everyone stops using them, they may eventually be repealed.
When the state asks couples to fill out forms and take tests to obtain a marriage license, the couples cannot help but believe that when the state approves them, they are ready to be married. In reality, the entire emphasis should be upon “does God think you are ready to be married?”
The state has no righteous purpose in determining who gets a marriage license. Spouse beaters, criminals, habitual divorcees, homosexuals and people with other serious problems all can get licenses. Wisconsin marriages are still considered valid by the state even if the wrong forms were used or if wrong information was supplied on them. Nevertheless, the state collects a fee of $49.50 for each marriage, primarily to require social security numbers and medical tests designed for people who live a promiscuous life style. While the authority of the state is not now exceptionally oppressive, with no resistance, will it continue to grow?
Furthermore, when couples have trouble in their marriages, they frequently turn to the state who gave them their licenses—which is also more than happy to give them divorces. If people saw that their marriage was an agreement between man, wife and God, they would be much slower to consider a divorce.
Marriage licenses do easily take care of each spouse’s legal rights to the other’s property, insurance benefits, government benefits, inheritance, etc. All of these things can be done without a license, but more work may be required. A couple should not bypass a marriage license without learning about these things. On the other hand, once a marriage license has been obtained, there is no way to rescind it—the state remains a part of the marriage forever.
Mr. Ovadal and others at the conference spoke of successful marriages where no license was involved. They recommended keeping records signed by witnesses, putting pictures and articles in the newspaper, legally changing the woman’s name, and recording the marriage with the county recorder.
Mark Trewhella made this presentation, which in some ways resembled the one on marriage licenses. He read from the scriptures about children’s responsibility to take care of parents, and of the churches responsibility to take care of those in need. He pointed out how the Government taxes hard working people to the point where they are poor, then gets all the glory for providing for the old and infirm. People look to the state for sustenance, rather than their families and God.
Mr. Trewhella went as far as saying that Social Security is a religion. Many people have far more trust in that system than they do in God. People dependent upon their checks will do almost anything not to lose them.
One case was related for a church member who had her baby in a hospital and then wanted to leave without obtaining a social security number for the infant. The nurse in charge could not understand why anyone would not want to be a part of this wonderful system and said that they would not let the baby leave the hospital until the parents filled out the form. The father asked the hospital employee to “please state the precise terms of this kidnapping so I can begin negotiating for my child’s release”—they were on their way in a few minutes.
The Social Security system destroys the lives of many. People who have a hard time meeting others are not forced to interact, so many spend the last 20 years of their lives collecting government checks that take care of their physical needs, but leave them completely lonely. Others collect a $500 check every month, spend it on drugs and alcohol in a few days, and then starve or steal until the next check comes—and die at age 40. The government is unable to provide love, Biblical teaching and the power of Christ to these millions.
Mr. Trewhella encouraged his listeners not to be harsh or judgmental upon those that do participate in the system. Many cannot avoid paying into it, and some do not know how to go on living without it. The important point is that we should recognize it as contrary to God’s way, avoid participating in it when possible, and work towards its elimination. It took years to grow and it will take years to undo peacefully. Gradually raising the benefit age, and allowing individuals to opt out of the system for their lifetime would be a start. Christians supporting the needy most go hand in hand with it.
Mr. Trewhella said that he hopes to “die on the field of battle” (of Christian duty), but that if he does live to be old and infirm, he believes his eight children will be able to take care of him.
A separate “mini-conference” was held on Sunday night, before the main conference. Most of the people attending were the same.
Peter Kershaw related several personal accounts of how he went to restaurants or hotels, thanked the workers there for the good service, but then told them that he did not have any money to pay for it. They became somewhat irate, and asked the usual questions about any credit cards, debit cards, checks, friends who would pay, etc. He went on to explain that he had some Federal Reserve Notes that he would be willing to give them in exchange for the service, but that those Notes did not have any real value. Their only use was the fact that he had found some people who were willing to accept them in place of money, so perhaps the hotel and restaurant people could find someone who would take them, too.
By this time, he was usually talking to restaurant and hotel managers. Frequently, a crowd had gathered to see what would happen to this man who had no money. The demands to be paid continued as well as the rejections of these Federal Reserve Notes that Peter was offering. Sometimes there were threats to call the police. Sometimes, someone asked to see one of these valueless Federal Reserve Notes that Mr. Kershaw was offering.
So he would pull some of the Federal Reserve Notes out of his wallet. People were shocked when they saw the Notes—they looked just like the “money” in their own wallet. Some of the employees even compared them with a magnifying glass. Yes, they looked the same—just like the Federal Reserve Notes in your wallet! The problem is, most people do not know that Federal Reserve Notes are not money and do not have any real value—they are just commonly accepted. If one reads the Note, it simply says “this note is legal tender for all debts, public and private”—it cannot be redeemed for gold, silver or anything of value. Yes, the Hotels and restaurants usually agreed to accept the Federal Reserve Notes—some even forgave Mr. Kershaw’s bill for teaching them a valuable lesson.
The Bible teaches us:
You shall have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure, that your days may be lengthened in the land which the Lord your God is giving you (Deut 25:15).
The weights and measures referred to in this scripture were used to weigh and measure the products sold, such as grain, oil, wool, etc. But standard weights were also used to weigh quantities of silver and gold—used as money (Gen 23:16; Jer 32:9). Indeed, the same Hebrew word, keceph, is used hundreds of times in the Bible both for “money” and for “silver”. The priests had a standard “shekel” (weight) of money by which other merchants could check their weights (Ex 30:13, etc.). God wanted people to earn money by just labor, not by some kind of cheating scheme like buying with a set of light money weights (paying too little) and selling with a set of heavy money weights (charging too much) (Deut 25:13).
Using gold, silver or any other real, easily divisible commodity for money was fair as long as it was measured justly. This has been done for millennia. During the past few hundred years, after the invention of paper, sometimes people preferred to deposit their gold or silver in a guarded warehouse, which would issue a paper receipt. People found that it was more convenient to trade the receipts than to actually carry the heavy gold or silver around. These receipts were the first paper money—redeemable for gold or silver—and the warehouses, primarily in Europe, were the first banks.
But some evil warehouse men found that they could get things for themselves by issuing bogus receipts for gold that they did not have. They looked exactly like the genuine receipts, so people accepted them. As long as everybody did not try all at once to collect their gold from the warehouse, the system still appeared to work, though the warehouse men were unjustly profiting at the expense of others. In some of the worst cases, the warehouse men actually took much of the gold and silver entrusted to them and moved it to a secret location, so that when their system collapsed, they would still have the real wealth.
The United States started out using real gold and silver as money. Banks began to issue notes, which were promises to pay upon demand in gold or silver. As the the number of institutions issuing notes grew, so did the number of bogus, worthless notes—they might be traded many times as money until someone tried to return them to the issuing institution and found that it did not exist, or had no precious metals to back up its note. Eventually the government of the United States of America began to issue gold and silver certificates—bills fully redeemable for precious metal.
But our economic situation today is far worse than any of the situations we have described here. There is no gold or silver to back any of the bills put into circulation today. The Federal Reserve is a private organization that has never been audited. It pays no taxes. It issues its Federal Reserve Notes according to its own rules, and lends to banks and governments bogus dollars which it creates from nothing—just like the bogus receipts from the evil warehouse men of old.
Even though news reports often talk about Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan “cutting interest rates to stimulate the economy” or “raising interest rates to prevent inflation”, they never seem to make the point that he is not an elected official, and not responsible to the USA government in any way. The Federal Reserve Board members are appointed by the US President, but it is a private organization and its actions are not subject to review by anyone. It came into existence from what was claimed to be a “routine banking bill” passed in 1913 as most congressmen were leaving for a break.
Yet much of the trillions of dollars of “national debt” supposedly owed by this country originated as interest owed on Federal Reserve loans—money the Federal Reserve created out of thin air, simply by making accounting entries.
Article 1, section 8 of The Federal Constitution states that Congress has the right “To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures”. We have given this right away to a private group of people who have no supervision and have never been audited. The Bible says, “a good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children” (Prv 13:22). What are we doing as a nation when we leave our children and their children trillions of dollars of debt that they must repay in high taxes? If any group is allowed to create money from nothing, should not it be our own government, rather than a private organization that enriches itself and impoverishes the nation by collecting interest for lending money it never had?
The problems with the Federal Reserve are more complex than this simple description, but the principles here are quite true. This evil continues because most people (I was one for decades), either do not know anything about it or are afraid to try to do anything about it. All too many wealthy and government people profit from the present evil system, so very few openly oppose it.
In both Old and New Testaments, the Bible commands believers to make just judgments. The people, the ultimate governing body of the USA, sit in judgment of their leaders when they vote, when they write letters to them, when they write letters to publications, and when they speak to others who will do the same. We must learn to follow God, and not fear men.
You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for the judgment is God’s (Deut 1:17) .
As believers, we do not have to feel that we have failed if we do not eliminate the Federal Reserve in ten years—or even in our lifetime. But it is very important that each Christian make righteous decisions with whatever resources and governing abilities he or she has—and to teach future generations to do the same. God will certainly judge us based upon what we do.
For More Information
More information is available on operating churches without incorporation and IRS filings from Heal Our Land Ministries, 208 E College Suite 304, Branson, Missouri 65616; 417-337-7533; www.hushmoney.org.
The book, In Caesar’s Grip ($20) covers the historical aspects. A complete set of conference tapes and a syllabus costs $250, and are very helpful for setting up a free church.