The Corporation Sole is one of the oldest forms of a Corporation in the world. The initial genesis of the Corporation Sole dates back to Roman Emperor Constantine in the year 323 AD (After Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire). It was first used by the Pope for use by the Bishops of the church for ecclesiastical purposes and, in particular, holding church property and other assets. The Bishop was authorized to act on his own authority, absent the control of a typical board of directors.
When the Bishop resigned his position, died, was incapacitated, or was forcefully removed from office by the presiding pope or archbishop, then title to the property passed not to the bishop’s heirs (even though Catholic bishops were not permitted to marry, it was not uncommon that they had several children), but to a successor that is designated by the corporate sole (usually another bishop). While the office of corporate sole held title to property, that property did not “belong” to the bishop personally. Rather, he held the property in trust for the church. In this sense, the bishop was very much like a trustee. Those ancient Corporation Soles were often formed under canon law (church law) and, therefore, absent the permission and jurisdiction of the state.
The use of the ecclesiastical Corporation Sole by Catholic bishops and leaders continued largely uninterrupted for a number of centuries. However, things began to radically change in the sixteenth century, regarding the fundamental nature and legal attributes of the Corporation Sole. This was largely the result of an historic phenomenon known today as “The Reformation”. The Reformation spread like wildfire throughout a number of European nations. Due to the nature of this question, I will focus attention on England and the significance of its actions in relationship to the modern day Corporation Sole.
THE GREAT REFORMATION AND THE DOWNFALL OF KINGDOM ORDER IN THE CHURCH
In 1534, King Henry VIII split from the church in an act of rebellion that is known today as, “The Act of Supremacy”. The motives behind this split were due to King Henry VIII having an affair and wanting to divorce his current wife. Because the Catholic Church was solely in charge of any potential dissolutions of marriage, King Henry VIII sought the Pope’s approval for being able to marry his mistress. The Pope denied this request, which greatly angered the King. In essence, what transpired next was the formation of one of the world’s first denominational splits. The King decided to forgo the “divine right of popes” in favor of his new doctrine of “the divine right of kings” and thus crowned himself the “lord sovereign head” of the Church of England. It was also at this time that the Church of England became Anglican (Episcopal). At this time the Church-State was effectively replaced by a State-Church. Which on a side note, if you think about why the Anglican church today has openly homosexual bishops, it’s rooted in the fact that the genesis of this church was created from the desires of a sexually deviant king! When the head is out of order, the whole body is out of order!
From this point, much of the Church of England was reformed. For example, adoration of Mary (Mariolatry) and prayer to the saints was abolished as idolatrous. Their various statues were declared “idols” and were removed from all church properties. Worship of the elements of the Eucharist was declared to be idolatry. Transubstantiation was deemed heresy. Reciting the rosary on rosary beads was deemed “vain pagan repetition”. In addition, the Latin Mass was declared superstitious and was abolished in favor of an English worship service which emphasized the preaching of God’s Word (in a language the people could understand, because up until this point, the word of God was being preached in Latin).
As a means of controlling the people, and keeping them subservient to Catholic leadership hierarchy, the Roman Catholic Church had, for many centuries, prevented the people from knowing what the Word of God says and reading it themselves. The Reformation forever abolished this. The Word of God was translated into the common tongue and eagerly given to the people. The English Bible translator, William Tyndale, foretold that, “every plowboy would read the Scripture for himself”.
But for many, the Reformation was also not as thoroughgoing as they had hoped for. Certain vestiges of Roman Catholicism remained, including the office of corporate sole. However, with the Act of Supremacy, and the king being declared the “lord sovereign head of the church”, there also began to emerge a new understanding of who (or what) was head of the Corporation Sole. In this State-Church system the Corporation Sole was promptly converted into a creature of civil law. Bishops, rather than being emissaries of the pope, were now agents of the king and of the state.
Since the Anglican Church of England was (and is) a hierarchical church governed from the top down by bishops (“episcopal” meaning “bishop rule”), and since members in such a church have little if any say in the governance of their church, the office of the corporate sole was inherently consonant with the church structure in England.
However, nearer to the 1700’s, attitudes in the American Colonies about church polity were altogether different. Rather than a top-down bishop-rule hierarchy, most Colonial American churches were governed bottom-up, usually by elders elected by the local congregation, and such elders were always accountable to those who had elected them. Accountability was the key to preventing the potential tyrannies of bishops endemic in both Catholicism and Anglicanism.
As the Rev. Cotton Mather put it: “Never entrust a man with more power than you are content for him to use; for use it he will.” A great many of the Colonists had known first-hand the abuses of the English Bishopric, as exercised through the office of corporate sole. Star Chamber abuses, or “examinations”, under torture, including widespread executions at the hands of the bishops, had become a major factor in “religious nonconformists” coming to America.
THE CORPORATION SOLE FINDS ITS WAY TO AMERICA
Ultimately, the Corporation Sole did find its way to America by way of England. However, the Corporation Sole never gained recognition in the American Colonies as a canon law institution. In fact, it’s impossible to identify any specific historic example of the use of the canon law Corporation Sole in America, either before or after America gained independency, whether by Catholics or anyone else. Catholic scholars deny that the Corporation Sole, as used in America, has ever been anything other than a civil law entity.
Because the Corporation Sole was so rarely used by the early colonists and states, there are almost no records of its existence in many states historical records. In fact, it is so rare that currently, no state east of the Mississippi even has a Corporation Sole law (even in the Bible belt of America)! Because of its rarity here in America, it is currently not taught about in ANY known seminary school, theological university, or law school here in the United States of America. Not a single minister we’ve spoken with (which have been thousands) has even heard of its existence when getting their ordination licenses.
THE GREAT TRAVESTY OF 1969 – THE SILENCING OF THE CHURCH
Right now, since 1969, the United States government has done everything within its power to silence the modern day Body of Christ from all matters of politics. The genesis of the law of 501c3 actually came as a direct result of the church standing up during the civil rights movements of the 1960’s. In 1964 and 1968, church leaders all over America stood in solidarity against segregation. Leaders such as Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were instrumental in forming what we know today as, “The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1968.” The government (specifically then Senator Lyndon B. Johnson) fearing the power of the church to influence legislation and politics, immediately began drafting the 501c3 law into existence. In October 9th, 1969 the 501c3 was written and signed into law by then Senator and eventually President Lyndon B. Johnson.
It also needs to be historically relevant to note that President Johnson was known as a man that exhibited both fear and manipulation. Many historians nicknamed his manipulation tactic “The Johnson Treatment”. His Presidency was also considered at that time as the height of modern day liberalism here in America. Is it any wonder that 501c3 creates such fear and manipulation in churches? Its law was written by a man that did nothing but promote fear and manipulation!
THE ONLY THING NECESSARY FOR THE TRIUMPH OF EVIL IS FOR GOOD MEN TO DO NOTHING
I have a quote on the first page of my prayer journal from Edmund Burke that declares, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing.”
Presently, Christians account for more then 70% of registered voters. If churches reorganize their financial structures to a Corporation Sole and thus bring the entirety of their ministry out from underneath the manipulative ‘conditional privilege’ of tax-exemption under the law of 501c3 and instead brought the church under both 26 § 508(c)(1)(a) and 26 U.S.C § 6033(3)(a)(1-3) – which contain NO conditions to the privilege of tax exemption – then we would experience a gigantic “Kingdom Shift” in this country. The Internal Revenue Service would leave the church alone. Policy makers would be treating the church as the most significant voter base in America and would be begging us for political favor. Laws such as DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) wouldn’t even need to exist because the church would have taken all power to license marriage out of the hands of the state and bring it into the hands of the Body of Christ where it belongs in the first place!
These, and many more reasons listed below are why we here at The Empowerment Center, wish to see every Christian church in America reorganized properly with a Corporation Sole.
By Joshua Kenny-Greenwood
Sr. Pastor of The Empowerment Center Church