Monday, December 22, 2008

What was the Star of Bethlehem?

Currently making waves in churches abroad and here in the Philippines are the website and DVD entitled “The Star of Bethlehem” by Frederick A. Larson, a litigation lawyer and professor at Texas A&M University. Essentially, Larson says that the Star of Bethlehem was “the planet Jupiter crowning the star Regulus in a rare triple conjunction in the constellation of Leo The Lion and then rendezvousing with the planet Venus.”

Reasons why Larson's theory is wrong


(1) Contrary to Larson's view, the vast majority of Biblical scholars and archeologists date Herod's death at 4 BC, based on the writings of Jewish historian Flavius Josephus. Larson's theory therefore has a significant problem since Herod would be dead by the time the Magi arrive.

(2) Larson's theory about the Star of Bethlehem emphasizes Jupiter's retrograde motion. Some astronomers have also emphasized this retrograde motion but have come up with different explanations and conclusions.

(3) Larson's theory is based on a gross misinterpretation of Revelation 12.

Old theory, different spin

Despite what Larson's DVD seems to claim, this theory on the conjunctions of Jupiter, Regulus and Venus being the Star of Bethlehem is not original with him.
More than twenty five years ago, Roger W. Sinnott, writing in the astronomical journal Sky and Telescope, was the first to draw attention to this unusual conjunction of Jupiter and Venus in 2 B.C.E.

Seventeen years ago, Professor Ernest L. Martin in his book “The Star that Astonished the World” positively identified this conjunction of Jupiter with Regulus and then with Venus on June 17, 2 B.C.E. as the Star of Bethlehem.
Martin (a follower of Herbert W. Armstrong’ s Worldwide Church of God) even went so far as to claim that Christ’s birth took place on September 11, 2 B.C.E. Because of Martin’s research, planetariums all over the world have been showing these spectacular celestial events.

Way back in 1987, astronomer John Mosley of the Griffith Observatory wrote about Martin's theory in his book “The Christmas Star.” (Please watch the Flash movie based on Mosley’s book to learn more about planetary conjunctions and retrograde motion.)

Larson in the FAQ section of his website acknowledges the previous research of Sinnott and Martin. He distinguishes his project and DVD however as being “built upon a leap of insight which is entirely new: that the Star of Bethlehem is part of a celestial poem that begins at Christ's conception and birth, but concludes with great drama on the day of the Cross.” Larson propounds the Biblical basis for his theory in what he calls the nine points of Christ's Star. The exact quotes from his website are posted below:

In 3/2 BC, Jupiter's retrograde wandering would have called for our magus' full attention. After Jupiter and Regulus had their kingly encounter, Jupiter continued on its path through the star field. But then it entered retrograde. It "changed its mind" and headed back to Regulus for a second conjunction. After this second pass it reversed course again for yet a third rendezvous with Regulus, a triple conjunction. A triple pass like this is more rare. Over a period of months, our watching magus would have seen the Planet of Kings dance out a halo above the Star of Kings. A coronation.

By the following June, Jupiter had finished crowning Regulus. The Planet of Kings traveled on through the star field toward another spectacular rendezvous, this time with Venus, the Mother Planet. This conjunction was so close and so bright that it is today displayed in hundreds of planetaria around the world by scientists who may know nothing of Messiah. They do it because what Jupiter did makes such a great planetarium show. Jupiter appeared to join Venus. The planets could not be distinguished with the naked eye. If our magus had had a telescope, he could have seen that the planets sat one atop the other, like a figure eight. Each contributed its full brightness to what became the most brilliant star our man had ever seen. Jupiter completed this step of the starry dance as it was setting in the west. That evening, our Babylonian magus would have seen the spectacle of his career while facing toward Judea.

You can read from the website or watch from the DVD the research, Biblical and scholarly bases for Larson’s claim that the conjunctions of Jupiter, Regulus and Venus were the Star of Bethlehem. You can then decide for yourself whether he is right or not about the Star of Bethlehem. As noted above, astronomers have confirmed long ago that there was a spectacular conjunction of Jupiter and Venus in 3/2 B.C. In Larson's own research, he used the Starry Night software based on the well-established laws on planetary motions by 17th century astronomer Johannes Kepler. (Kepler himself had his own theory about the Star of Bethlehem being a supernova.)

How can the Magi interact with a dead Herod?

In a December 2007 Baptist Press article, Michael Foust quotes the objections to Larson’ theory by Professor Denny Burk of Criswell College in Dallas:

Scholars long have known Jupiter and Venus were in conjunction around the time of Christ's birth, but few have gone so far as Larson in describing it in such detail.

Denny Burk, professor of New Testament at Criswell College in Dallas, said he believes Larson's theory has some problems but applauded him for putting together a "fascinating" DVD.

Among concerns Burk has with Larson's theory is that Larson "goes beyond what the Bible teaches was the symbolic significance of the Bethlehem star," and that Matthew "gives some indications that the Bethlehem star was a miraculous sign" and not a "natural (though unusual) alignment of the stars." Additionally, Burk said, the "vast majority of scholars" date Herod's death to 4 B.C., although he said there is a minority viewpoint putting it at 1 B.C. If Herod died in 4 B.C., Larson's theory would have a significant problem, since Herod would be dead by the time the Magi arrive.

Larson in defending his work cites a recent study of Josephus’ earliest manuscripts reportedly conducted by the British Library in London and the American Library of Congress. The study allegedly revealed a copying error in 1544 that caused all of Josephus’ manuscripts in both libraries dating after 1544 to say Herod died in 4 BC when all Josephus’ writings before 1544 concluded Herod’s death was in 1 BC.

However, Nick Strobel in his article “The Star of Bethlehem, An Astronomical Perspective” defends the 4 B.C.E. date of Herod’s death. He says that Herod’s three sons (Herod Antipas, Philip, and Archelaus), among whom his kingdom was divided, all reckoned their reigns began from 5 - 4 B.C.E.

Star Wars: Aries versus Leo, other conflicting theories by astronomers

Larson emphasizes in his theory Jupiter’s retrograde motion to explain among other things, Matthew’s account that the star stopped over Christ’s birthplace. However,
Strobel in his article cites theories by astronomers Ivor Bulmer-Thomas and Michael Molnar which make use of Jupiter's retrograde motion but which differ from Larson’s view.

Molnar of Rutgers University in New Jersey, USA, explains in his website "Revealing the Star of Bethlehem" that the Star was the retrograde motion of Jupiter in the Aries constellation and a conjunction with the Moon in 6 B.C.E. As Molnar puts it, “Other investigators of what the Star was were not only looking in the wrong constellation but they were also looking for the wrong celestial phenomenon.” (Molnar first published his findings in 1991.)

Larson's theory, as noted above, is that the Star was “the planet Jupiter crowning the star Regulus in the constellation of Leo The Lion in a rare triple conjunction and then rendezvousing with the planet Venus in 3/2 BC. In a CBS 11 News (Forth Worth) story, SMU adjunct professor of astronomy and physics John Cotton said Larson's approach is flawed, in part because he did not research ancient astrology as Molnar did. (In ancient days, astronomy and astrology were indistinguishable.)

Larson also states, “This association of Messiah with the tribe of Judah and with the lion is a productive clue. It clarifies the connection between Jupiter's behavior and the Jewish nation, because the starry coronation—the triple conjunction—occurred within the constellation of Leo, The Lion. Ancient stargazers, particularly if they were interested in things Jewish, may well have concluded they were seeing signs of a Jewish king.”

Molnar, on the other hand, dismisses this association of the tribe of Judah with the constellation Leo: “For religious and astronomical reasons people have proposed Pisces the Fishes as the site of the Star. A fish is a powerful Christian symbol. Also the spring equinox moved into Pisces close to the time of Jesus’ birth. So people assumed that Pisces was the sign for the dawning of Christianity – a beautiful but erroneous conclusion. Others have proposed Leo the Lion (thinking that this was the Lion of Judah), and others like Virgo the Virgin (believing that this was the Blessed Virgin Mary). Another notion claims “the manger” of Cancer the Crab. There are other clever ideas using Greek mythology and Christian symbols which have no basis in the ancient texts on Greek astrology.”

Larsons theory is based on a gross misinterpretation of Revelation 12

In my opinion, what makes Larson’s theory wrong is his gross misinterpretation of Revelation 12. Let me explain. First let’s see what Revelation 12 is all about:

Revelation 12 (KJV)

1. And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
2. And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
3. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
4. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
5. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
6. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
7. And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
8. And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
9. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
10. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
11. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
12. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
13. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.
14. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.
15. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
16. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.
17. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
In his website and DVD, Larson explains Revelation 12 this way:
The last book of the New Testament is, in part, a prophetic enigma. But a portion of the Book of Revelation provides clear and compelling guidance for our astronomical investigation. The apostle John wrote the book as an old man while in exile on the island of Patmos. Perhaps the austerity of this exile or a lack of companionship left him time to ponder the night sky. Whatever the reason, Revelation is full of star imagery. In Chapter 12, John describes a life and death drama played out in the sky: the birth of a king.

1 A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. 4 His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron sceptre...

A woman in labor, a dragon bent on infanticide and a ruler of the nations. We have already seen this ruler in the Book of Genesis, above. This would be the Messiah, in his role as King of Kings. If that interpretation is correct, then according to the gospel story the woman would be Mary, the mother of Jesus. The dragon which waits to kill the child at birth would be Herod, who did that very thing. John says the woman he saw was clothed in the Sun. She had the moon at her feet. What can he be describing? When we continue our study of the sky of September of 3 BC, the mystery of John's vision is unlocked: he is describing more of the starry dance which began with the Jewish New Year.

As Jupiter was beginning the coronation of Regulus, another startling symbol rose in the sky. The constellation which rises in the east behind Leo is Virgo, The Virgin. When Jupiter and Regulus were first meeting, she rose clothed in the Sun. And as John said, the moon was at her feet. It was a new moon, symbolically birthed at the feet of The Virgin.

Summing up Larson’s interpretation of Revelation 12, the dragon is Herod, the woman in travail or about to give birth is Mary and the child is Christ. (This is also the interpretation of Philip Yancey in his book “The Jesus I Never Knew” if I remember correctly.)

What is the proper interpretation of Revelation 12?

1. Revelation 12 is prophecy of events yet to happen (i.e. the Tribulation) and not the Apostle John’s backward look at the events of Christmas as reported in the Gospels.

2. If King Herod was the dragon mentioned in Revelation 12, then what does verse 3 mean by the dragon having “seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads”? What exactly did Herod do when verse 3 says “his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth”?

3. If Mary was the woman mentioned in Revelation 12, what does verse 6 mean when it says, “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days”?

4. Larson’s interpretation of Revelation 12 smacks of Roman Catholic imagery and Marian veneration. Take note again of Larson's explanation: "The constellation which rises in the east behind Leo is Virgo, The Virgin. When Jupiter and Regulus were first meeting, she rose clothed in the Sun. And as John said, the moon was at her feet. It was a new moon, symbolically birthed at the feet of The Virgin."

5. I don’t agree with everything that Ptr. John Macarthur says but I think that his explanation of Revelation 12 is what the chapter really is all about. He says in his study Bible that:
[a] The woman is not an actual woman but a symbolic representation of Israel, pictured in the OT as the wife of God (Is. 54:5,6; Jer. 3:6-8; Ezek. 16:32; and Hos. 2:16). The phrase “cried out in pain” refers to Israel which is often pictured as a mother giving birth (Hos. 13:13; Mic. 4:10; 5:2,3; Matt. 24:8). Israel had agonized and suffered for centuries, longing for the Messiah to come and destroy Satan, sin, and death, and usher in the kingdom.

[b] The phrase “clothed with the sun ... moon under her feet ... twelve stars” speaks of the exalted status of Israel, the people of promise who will be saved and given a kingdom. The picture of the moon under her feet possibly describes
God's covenant relationship with Israel, since new moons were associated with worship (1 Chr. 23:31; 2 Chr. 2:4; 8:13; Ezra 3:5; Ps. 81:3).The 12 stars represent the 12 tribes of Israel.

[c]
The phrase “a male Child” refers to Jesus Christ. In His incarnation, Christ was of Jewish descent (Matt. 1:1; 2 Tim. 2:8). Despite Satan's efforts to destroy Israel and the messianic line, Jesus' birth took place as predicted by the prophets (Is. 7:14; 9:6; Mic. 5:2). The phrase “to rule all nations with a rod of iron” refers not to Christ’s earthly ministry as recorded in the Gospels but to his future millennial rule.

[d] The great dragon is Satan. The woman's mortal enemy is Satan, who appears as a dragon 13 times in Revelation. The phrase “seven heads ... ten horns ... seven diadems” is figurative language depicting Satan's domination of 7 past worldly kingdoms and 10 future kingdoms. He has inflicted relentless pain on Israel (Dan. 8:24), desiring to kill the woman before she could bring forth the child that would destroy him.

[e] The period of “one thousand two hundred and sixty days” (42 months or 3 1/2 years) is the midpoint of the Tribulation when the Antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel, puts a stop to temple worship, sets up the abomination of desolation and devastates Jerusalem (11:2). At this point, many Jews flee for their lives.
BibleGateway’s commentary on Revelation 12 and even Matthew Henrys Commentary present another view of who the dragon and the woman are. These views are somewhat different from Macarthur’s view but still, they do not equate the dragon with Herod and the woman with Mary as Larson does.

Should we really be concerned about explaining scientifically what the Star of Bethlehem was?


Larson should have presented his theory as just that, a theory. A credible theory it may be but it is not a fact. Molnar states that his explanation is probably the best answer to what the Star was. He leaves the conclusion, however, with his readers. As he states in his website, “I am told that I have the best answer. Whether it is the correct answer can only be determined by your examination of my findings.”

The issue of what the Star of Bethlehem was has been vigorously discussed and debated down through the centuries. But should we really be concerned about explaining scientifically what the Star of Bethlehem was? A. W. Tozer decades ago in his essay “That Incredible Christian” probably said it best:
The current effort of so many religious leaders to harmonize Christianity with science, philosophy, and every natural and reasonable thing is, I believe, the result of failure to understand Christianity and, judging from what I have heard and read, failure to understand science and philosophy as well.

At the heart of the Christian system lies the cross of Christ with its divine paradox. The power of Christianity appears in its antipathy toward, never in its agreement with, the ways of fallen men. The truth of the cross is revealed in its contradictions. The witness of the church is most effective when she declares rather than explains, for the gospel is addressed not to reason but to faith. What can be proved requires no faith to accept. Faith rests upon the character of God, not upon the demonstrations of laboratory or logic.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Opportunities in Internet ministries, from Internet Evangelism Day

Specific ministries and opportunities

The following ministries can use unpaid sparetime volunteers. These opportunities are posted in good faith – we believe these ministries are, to the best of our knowledge, worthwhile in practice and orthodox in belief, but you must make your own judgement about them. Volunteers must expect to go through an application and vetting process; it is likely that an organization may wish to take up references about you with your church leaders.

A few of these ministries also offer fulltime ministry in online evangelism. Often, these will require applicants to raise their own support. There are also currently fulltime vacancies Lifechurch: designers.

Organization/contact person, and opportunity

AllAboutGod.com, Randal@AllAboutGOD.com

Writing, editing; Email counseling; Providing biblical answers/response; Administration
www.Cristoweb.com, jchuks@cristoweb.com

Email counselors and evangelists; Article writers; Translators (English to Spanish); US liaison representative
www.e610.com, e610@e610.com

Writing; Posting articles; Website housekeeping (using website and reporting broken links, etc.)
www.EveryStudent.com, Marilyn.Adamson@uscm.org

Promote the site in personal conversations or in major promotion; Write & submit articles to effectively help college students understand either who God is or what it might be like to know Him. Write for unbelievers, in conversational & interesting style.
GlobalMediaOutreach.com, Marnie.Rinker@ccci.org

Email Responders: Answer emails from seekers and inquirers; Prayer Team Coordinators: Collect, develop, publish and post content for weekly prayer letter; Research Coordinators: Research countries to be profiled in newsletter; Web Site Designers: Collaborate with Chief Technology Officer to design site content; Graphic Artists: Assist design for GMO brochures, posters or websites; Computer Input Assistants: computer data entry; software design, admin support; Translators; Prayer Partners: Sign up on website for weekly prayer letter; agree to pray regularly for GMO ministry
TruthMedia group of outreach sites: contact the team via the TruthMedia.com site

Audio – introduction to TruthMedia’s email mentoring. [Dial-up] and see video presentation by Karen Schenk, team leader.

Online Mentors: Email counseling, evangelism and discipleship; Blog mentors: coming alongside people who post on their evangelistic blogs; Mentor Coordinator: Manage mentoring requests; assign emails to mentors; Writers: Offer relevant insight to university students’ concerns, touching hearts, minds and spirits; Poster Girl/Boy: Post honest, funny, incisive, intelligent, down-to-earth reactions to website articles, to help stimulate conversation and build online community; Spinmeister: Create short (10-30 word) summaries for each online article. Requires ability to synthesize, creativity and a facility with language to help move reader from site entry point to Gospel. Especially important for French site, http://www.ilyaplus.com/; Prayer supporters needed; Fulltime staff vacancies and internships frequently available
InternetEvangelismDay.com email

Experienced publicists to write and circulate news releases and promote IE Day to denominations, Christian leaders and news media: details; Technical experts for occasional consultations on style, PHP coding, and design/usability; Professional graphic designer to create occasional graphics; Experienced counselors to give email advice and mentoring to non-Christians with life problems, arising from an evangelistic site; Full-time/part-time database expert based in Derby UK
www.probe.org, field@fibertel.com.ar (for Spanish) or sue@probe.org (for Chinese)

Translators (English to Spanish); Translators (English to Chinese)
www.responsecenters.org, To contact Ministry Response Centers, follow instructions on website.

Email interaction with seekers and inquirers;• Note: This site coordinates online follow-up for a growing number of ministries and seeks to blend high-tech with high-touch, personalized, prompt response.
www.damaris.org, To contact Damaris, follow instructions on website.

Sparetime writers and contributors for the Damaris mission of relating Christian faith to contemporary culture. Also occasional vacancies for interns and full-time staff at their Southampton UK office.
www.truthmedia.com, To contact Truth Media, follow instructions on the website

Mentoring; Prayer;• Writing articles;• Witing your life story; Chat participation; Chat hosting
SettingCaptivesFree.com, Contact them via the site

Languages – translating course work and/or email correspondence; Research – respond to occasional requests for various types of information; Editing – coursework and/or testimonies; General help – respond to occasional requests for various types of assistance; Website – assist with various types of technical projects
www.acts-on-the-net.org, info@acts-on-the-net.org

Write your own page about a hobby or interest, to be posted on the Acts website.
www.dauphinbiblecamp.com

People to assist in article finding/writing, updating content, forum responses, blogging, prayer.
www.techmission.org, To contact TechMission, follow instructions on the website

Training, encouragement and support, to teach IT skills to disadvantaged communities, anywhere in the world. Follow the ‘get involved’ menu link.
www.aibi.ph, john@aibi.ph

Sparetime: co-ordinators for online courses in Russian and Thai. PHP/MySQL/Linux programmers, and help with security for CAN nations. Pastors/Bible college graduates as online facilitators for online learning courses. Course content developers. Graphic artists/web designers to upgrade website.

Various forms of Internet ministries

Be pro-active: find an online ministry with an agenda you identify with, and contact them directly. Many such sites are cited in the Web Evangelism Guide and the twice-monthly Bulletin email newsletter.

Some members of the Internet Evangelism Coalition may also need volunteers. There is a huge need for web ministry in Japan – can you be involved in any of the ministries listed on that page? You may find broader career and volunteer opportunities at churchstaffing.com/lifeway and christiancareercenter.com and Christian Volunteering. In UK, see Christian Jobs. and Christian Vocations.

Chat room evangelism (Work at home as an individual, or join a small team to cooperate and learn together.Some churches have trained church-based teams for chat evangelism: more

Bulletin boards – Yahoo Answers and other bulletin boards, or comment on blogs (Similar to chat, but you donot have to think so quickly! The new Yahoo Answers is an easy way to start. You can also contribute comments on other people’ blogs)

Social networking – just living in cyberspace and meeting people. There are many different ways to meet friends and interact with them online.

Second Life – the virtual reality parallel universe. Amazingly varied opportunities to share the Good News in this virtual world.

Video shorts (Create short video parables or other types of clip, and post them on secular social networking sites) Create a website (Consider the great potential of a Bridge Strategy site on a secular topic that interests you – for instance your hobby. Remember, there are huge needs for evangelistic sites in non-English languages. If you are not technical, you can build a site using a CMS template or the sitebuilder systems that many larger web hosts such as 1and1.com and Google provide.)

Start a blog (It is very easy to start a blog – no technical experience is needed.)

Church website (Create or assist your church in production of an effective site.)

Counseling/ mentoring (Offer support and advice to inquirers to an evangelistic or church website)

Social bookmarks (Use social bookmarking systems such as Del.icio.us to encourage people to view good outreach sites: more information.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

And the bride wore white ... Resources for youth leaders and groups

Click here to go to Dannah’s Purefreedom website. I gave a copy of this book to the love of my life as a graduation gift March 2007. She is the second most beautiful woman in the universe. Who’s the most beautiful woman in the universe? Who else but movie actress Angel Locsin!Note: I first posted this article December 10, 2007 in my Salt and Light blog. I am reprinting it here to include the results of the 2002 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study conducted by the UP Population Institute and in view of the raging controversy over HB 3773 or the “Integrated Reproductive Health and Population Reduction Bill”. Please surf to the PRO-Life Philippines website for its critique of HB 3773. Baptist churches should make their voices heard on this issue.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Philippine statistics on teenage pregnancies and sexual experiences

Dr. James Dobson, I think, said that a million teenagers in the US get pregnant every year. In the Philippines, according to the 2003 National Demographic and Health Survey, one out of four women become mothers by age 19 while four out of 10 women in the 20-24-year-old bracket have already engaged in sexual activity.

The 2002 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study (YAFS 3) conducted by the UP Population Institute and the Demographic Research and Development Foundation, Inc. revealed the following alarming statistics:

[1] Twenty-three percent of youth have engaged in premarital sex. A considerable number of sexually-active youth have had multiple partners, with almost half of the males (49%) and 11% of the females reporting more than one sex partner. One in five of the sexually-active males had paid for sex while 12% had accepted payment for sex. Prevalence of commercial sex is negligible among females, with less than one percent of the girls having paid or been paid for sex.

Over time, there has been an increase in the proportion of sexually active youth in the country, from 18 percent (among those aged 15-24) in 1994 to 23 percent in 2002. The age of first sex is also getting younger. Based on the 2002 survey, 1.2 percent of both young males and females have already engaged in sex before they turn 13 years old. Before reaching 18 however, the probability of engaging in sex increased sharply for males (28 percent) while 12 percent would have done so among females.

Previous analyses conducted by the UP Population Institute on the sexual behavior of Filipino youth have highlighted the increasing influence of peers on young people's decision whether or not to engage in sex. Peers have also been cited as important source of information regarding sex and reproductive health matters, along with the media.

[2] While nearly all (95%) young adults have heard of HIV/AIDS, 73% believe there is no chance of them getting HIV/AIDS.

[3] The percentage of young adults who think that AIDS is curable more than doubled between 1994 and 2002. In 1994, only 12.5% thought that there was a cure to HIV/AIDS. This increased to 28% in 2002.

[4] More males than females are familiar with sexually-transmitted diseases (70% vs. 63%) although males are more likely to think that AIDS is curable (30% for males vs. 26% for females).

[5] Thirty two per cent of Filipino teenagers (15-19 years old) knew that their single female friends are sexually active while 38 percent said that their single male friends have already engaged in sex. This interesting information provides yet another clue on the extent of sexual activity among Filipino teenagers.

In addition, their report on their friends' sexual activity also shows some degree of awareness on the possible consequences of sexual activity. They said that half of their female friends who have engaged in premarital sex got pregnant. Of this proportion, 4 out of 5 pushed through with the pregnancy and slightly more than half of those who went through with the pregnancy eventually married the father of their kids.

Among their unmarried male friends on the other hand, 4 in 10 claimed that their friends got somebody pregnant. Out of this number, 2 in 5 ended up marrying the mother of their kids.
On a more personal note, I have known of incidents involving unwed pregnancies and premarital sexual activities involving pastors’ kids and teenagers who grew up in church. One pastor asked me if he could solemnize a marriage between members of his church (both minors), the girl having gotten pregnant. I informed him that under the Family Code, no person below 18 can get married, even with parental consent. One pastor in Cavite who has become frustrated by what was happening to the young people in his church once asked me what to do.

I strongly support sexual abstinence and purity programs such as True Love Waits and Silver Ring Thing. One author I highly recommend to you (whether you are a mother or father, a teenager, a pastor or youth director) is Dannah Gresh.

Resources on sexual purity before and during marriage by Dannah Gresh

Dannah’s websites are www.purefreedom.org, www.secretkeepergirl.com and www.dannahgresh.com. Her books on sexual purity before and during marriage are “And the Bride Wore White”, “Pursuing the Pearl”, and “Secret Keeper Girl”.

November 2006, I gave a lecture for the BMP-HELP pastors conference in Tagaytay City. Rushing home to Manila in the afternoon, I got to OMF Lit Bookstore in Boni Avenue, Mandaluyong just before 5 PM. From the love gift given to me by the pastors, I was able to buy at nearly seven hundred pesos the very last copy of “And the Bride Wore White”. March 2007, I gave this book as a graduation gift to the love of my life. She is the second most beautiful woman in the universe. Who is the most beautiful woman in the universe, you ask? Well, who else but movie actress Angel Locsin!

In the Purefreedom website, Dannah and her husband Bob, explain what their ministry to young men and women is all about:

It is the mission of Pure Freedom to equip men and women of all ages to live a vibrant life of purity, to experience healing from past impurity if it exists in their lives, and to experience a vibrant, passionate marriage which portrays the love Christ has for his Bride the church.(Ministry verse: Ephesians 5:31,32)

Pure Freedom provides resources with radically-unique approaches to focus on specific issues that teen girls and/or guys face in the area of purity and holiness. Our events, the hallmark of our ministry, are about sexual purity and yet they are much more about the totality of a life submitted to the will of God in a quest to enjoy the blessings of His plan.

We believe that the temptation to fail sexually comes in different forms for girls and for boys. We also believe that they will one day enjoy God's gift of sex within the confines of marriage for different reasons. Whereas the girls are primarily emotionally driven, the guys are primarily driven by sight. Because of this dichotomy, it is vital that we educate them separately and emphasize different areas of temptation.
In their seminars for young men and women, Dannah and Bob have expounded on the Bible’s principles on sexual purity through their discussion of the Hebrew word "yada". In their website, they explain that "yada" is used to both refer to holy sexuality as in that between Adam and Eve AND to refer to the holy knowing that a man can know with God. It speaks of the emotional and spiritual nature of a relationship.

Seven secrets to sexual purity

Dannah, in her book “And the Bride Wore White”, discusses the following secrets to maintaining sexual purity:

[1] Purity is a process.
[2] Purity dreams of its future.
[3] Purity is governed by its value.
[4] Purity speaks boldly.
[5] Purity loves its Creator at any cost.
[6] Purity embraces wise guidance.
[7] Purity watches burning flames.
Dannah does not simply discuss things at a theoretical level. One of the very practical tips she gives in her book on how teenagers can stay sexually pure is to "stay public and stay vertical."

The quest for a pure, passionate marriage

The second book by Dannah Gresh which I have read is “Pursuing the Pearl” (it was a gift from Bro. David Witta and his family from Massachusetts, USA). In this book, she discusses what she calls “The Enemy’s Fake Pearls” which are [1] status and stuff; [2] social acceptance; [3] giving up and starting over; [4] pride and dreams.

Locally, this book costs around four hundred pesos. That is quite steep, but what Dannah says in page pages 62 and 63 are worth the price of the book. She warns her readers, “Sexual impurity is a zero tolerance arena. You are on shaky ground if there are emotional bonds being created between you and another man (or your husband and another woman).” Dannah explains that these bonds begin with little things like:

  • Innocently having lunch alone with a man

  • Seeking advice from a man about personal issues, especially marital issues

  • Seeking or accepting frequent praise or affirmation from the same man

  • Being or becoming comfortable with being alone in an office or a home together

  • Intentionally seeking out time to be with this man

  • Manipulating your schedule to see him

  • Spending time fantasizing about him
If you are parents concerned about your teenage kids and their sexual purity, a pastor or youth leader seeking to help your youth group, or a man or woman thinking of the best Christmas gift to give the love of your life, consider giving them any of Dannah Gresh’s books.

The only book by Dannah Gresh I haven’t read yet is “Secret Keeper Girl.” Two problems. One, as far as I know, there are no copies of this book locally. Two, even if it were available, how do I go about buying the book? Hey, I am a guy and I’m thinking, what would the store clerks say if I bought a copy of this book?

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Guide Network of Internet Evangelism Day, and Digital Japan

The Global Use of Internet and Digital Evangelism (Guide) Network is an networking resource, linked with “Internet Evangelism Day” and “Web Evangelism Guide”, Internet Evangelism Coalition, Global Christian Internet Alliance, Lausanne, and visionSynergy. Its purpose is enhancing global spread of the Gospel in multiple languages via the Internet and mobile digital devices, by networking with practitioners to share resources and information, encourage Kingdom collaboration, and help the body of Christ to embrace and engage in internet/mobile evangelism ”

The vision: Networking together for web and mobile evangelism

A special emphasis is assisting in the emergence of internet/mobile evangelism in more countries and languages beyond English, including the non-western world. There will soon be the ‘second billion’ web users outside the West, and even more have mobile phones right now. So our interest also includes the development of viral video clips and cartoons that can be used with mobile phones or online. We also wish to see increased convergence, synergy and collaboration between different electronic media, for instance DVDs and radio ministry, with the Web/mobile devices.

We also wish to help the cross-cultural missions community in developing digital evangelism and discipleship integrated with their ministries on the ground.

How the Guide network can help you

[1] Link you with others

Are you wishing to do web evangelism in a particular language? Are you planning a mobile phone initiative? Perhaps you are looking for training? We can probably link you with others working in the same area. With our involvement in the cross-cultural missions community as well as the new media, we do have a unique web of relationships to draw on. Or you may be a mission agency, just wondering whether to move into web or mobile ministry. Are you the editor of a Christian publication who wishes to interview people regarding web and mobile evangelism? Whatever your needs or questions, please write.

[2] Free articles for editors

A wide range of freely re-usable articles is offered to Christian print and web editors, and bloggers, like about web evangelism, MP3 interviews and talks, freely available for podcasting and broadcasting, and other articles which are seeker/skeptic-friendly for non-Christians, and features on broader evangelism issues for Christians.

Reaching Japan for Christ through the Internet

Digital Japan aims to link together anyone interested in any form of digital outreach to Japan including any combination of outreach websites, blogs, church sites, social networking, chat rooms, mobile phone evangelism, Bluetooth broadcasting, video clips, Manga comics, cartooning, teaching English online, podcasting, audio, gaming and anything else digital. It is is a private discussion group not listed in YahooGroups directory. Messages are only viewable by members, and are not spidered by search engines. Anyone with an interest in Japan is warmly invited to join.

Please share news, ideas, questions, and encourage others to join this group. Please link to the Digital Japan Network page from appropriate webpages and blogs. Digital Japan is linked with the Guide Network and Internet Evangelism Day's Japan resource page.

Join using the normal YahooGroup procedure (you will need to mention in a few words why you wish to join.)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

An Open Letter from Internet Evangelism Day about Web Ministry Training

To: Bible College and Seminary Principals, Deans of Study, Training Administrators, Evangelism Tutors, Missiology Departments, Magazine Editors

From: Tony Whittaker, Internet Evangelism Day Coordinator, Jul 2008

At Internet Evangelism Day, we recognize the vital role that colleges play in equipping our generation for ministry and evangelism in a rapidly-changing world. You are probably already using the Internet in many ways – to reach your supporting public, network with your students and perhaps offer online distance-learning modules too. May we write to you about the potential of the Web for direct evangelism, and the possibilities for training in this area?

A new baby
In 1996, a birth took place which has already dramatically affected many of that year’s other 80 million babies. For it was then that the Internet emerged as a mainstream communication medium after its gestation period as a minority hobby. By the end of the century, it was becoming clear that the Web would be as significant as Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press – which transformed society, communication, the church and the entire way that the Gospel was proclaimed. M Rex Miller, in his book The Millennium Matrix [1], proposes that we now live in a ‘digital communication culture’, and that this is rapidly superseding the previous ‘broadcast communication culture’ (the radio and TV era from about 1950 onwards), which itself had to a considerable extent replaced the ‘print communication culture’ that Gutenberg started.
Those who grew up with computers as children can be truly said to have been born in this new ‘digital country’. Those of us who were adults before the computer revolution are at best ‘immigrants’, and perhaps still only occasional tourists in a strange new land.

A God-given tool
With well over one billion current users, and ‘the second billion’ expected to come online in the next few years (who will be almost entirely in the non-western world), the Web has enormous potential for cutting-edge evangelism (not least in the difficult 10/40 Window countries), as well as in nurturing believers. Unlike previous communication systems, it is not primarily a one-way linear medium (‘print on a screen’), but a powerful two-way relationship builder that can target any affinity group.

We thank God that some ministries and missions are already ‘seizing the day’ and using the Web effectively for outreach. But unfortunately, these are the exception. Although there are vast numbers of Christian websites and blogs, the overwhelming majority are only for Christians. Church websites can be very off-putting to outsiders. The situation is even worse in non-English languages. Most cross-cultural mission agencies are not using the Web for evangelism. The opportunities to use this God-given tool are immense, but not yet being grasped.

We wonder if this is a gap that colleges like yours could be poised to fill. With your vision, experience and resources, you could help to shape and establish a web evangelism movement that will impact the world for years to come. This new medium also offers many opportunities for student placements, assignments and research projects. A college could also initiate [2] a web evangelism project of its own.

Internet Evangelism Day’s role
Internet Evangelism Day is an initiative of the Internet Evangelism Coalition [3], a grouping of major ministries with a vision for online outreach. Its purpose is to encourage the worldwide church to understand and use this powerful new tool. We do this with an annual focus day on the last Sunday of April, and through a year-round resource website [4].

This site explains the nature of the Web as a medium, and explores principles and strategies to reach non-seekers, in both the West and the non-western world, including:

  • church websites that reach outsiders in their community
  • social networking and chat rooms
  • video clips
  • mobile phone outreach
  • outreach websites
  • blogging
  • gaming and the Second Life virtual world
We do believe that these are insights which any Christian in full-time ministry needs to understand, whether as pastor, evangelist or missionary. May we respectfully suggest that you might consider the possibility of a web ministry module within your curriculum, if you do not already do so. Our resources can be starting place for such a module. You can build an introductory seminar(s) of 1-3 hours using our free downloads [5]: PowerPoint, video clips, drama scripts, music, discussion questions and handouts. We can also offer seminar lecturers [6], in person or via video-conferencing. Our free articles [7] are available for reproduction in college magazines and alumni newsletters.

Many of our other resource pages and external links can provide a basis for additional seminars and lectures, and are frequently used for this purpose. We offer them to you free of charge – we have no other agenda than equipping Christians and catalyzing new web evangelism initiatives. Unlike mediums such as video production, much web ministry requires surprisingly little technical knowledge, and training courses do not need technical expertise or expensive equipment. If you are considering a more extensive course, here is a possible curriculum [8] and book-list [9].

The Web also offers students the opportunity to participate [2] in direct web ministry as part of their course, either through the creation of their own evangelistic projects, or by volunteering to do email mentoring or other ministry as a placement within an existing web outreach ministry. There are also many areas of need [2] for research-based dissertations in the area of web evangelism.

Can we interact on this?
Would you share your experience and thoughts with us? Do you already cover any of these subjects within your curriculum? (We will create a listing on this site of colleges offering training in these areas.) Do you have online publicly-available research or resources about digital media outreach and strategy? Are there other materials that we could provide for you? Would you like to network with others on these questions? Please email [10].

This letter can be freely reprinted, republished or otherwise copied. You can also download it as a PDF file [11]. Please discuss it, blog about it, pass it to others [12] in the academic Christian community, or suggest they read it online at InternetEvangelismDay.com/college.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The 19th Fundamental Bible Conference in Metro Manila, October 28-31, 2008

Click to get an enlarged view of this flyer for downloading The theme of this year’s conference is "Be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises." (Hebrews 6:12). Keynote speaker is Mr. Doug Whitley (as the Apostle Peter, the Apostle Paul, Dwight L. Moody, R.A Torrey and Charles H. Spurgeon). Mr. Whitley is a former professor at Pillsbury Baptist Bible College in Minnesota and his full-time ministry now is to revive voices of preachers from the past (like George Mueller and Hudson Taylor) and mimic them in full costume while delivering a Bible message.

Other speakers in the conference are Ptr. Cornelio Guiang, Grace Baptist Church; Ptr. Vince Bacquiller, Living Faith Baptist Church, Tondo, Manila; Dr. Phil Kamibayashiyama, Director, Bob Jones Memorial College, Quezon City; Ptr. Eric Garcia, former missionary, Gospel Light Baptist Church, Kent, Washington; Ptr. Sammy Villafranca, Foundation Baptist Mission, Valenzuela City; and Ptr. Leo Lorenzana, Promised Land Baptist Church, Malabon City.

The purposes of this conference and ministry are:

1. To provide a haven of wholesome Christian fellowship for born again believers of like-precious faith;

2. To Biblically address (theological, doctrinal, ethical, moral, philosophical, legal) issues that pose as a threat to the spiritual well-being of the Bible-believing Christians;

3. To heed the Scriptural admonition in Jude 3 to "earnestly contend for the faith."

The venue is the IBP Auditorium, Integrated Bar of the Philippines Bldg., #15 Julia Vargas St. Ortigas Center, Pasig City, Metro Manila, nightly, 6:00 - 9:30 pm. One-time registration fee: P150/head (Fellowship meal for Friday afternoon excluded).

For more information, please contact Dr. Roberto-Jose Livioco, conference chairman, at tel. nos. 636-5535 and 829-4474.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Should Bible schools apply for recognition from the CHED?

Update as of November 22, 2017:

The United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, in Illinois Bible Colleges v. Anderson (decided on August 29, 2017), ruled against Dayspring Bible College and the other Illinois Bible colleges, stating that the Constitutional rights of the Bible colleges have not been violated:

“The Bible Colleges and student Pietsch seek a complete exemption from the Illinois statutes governing oversight of post-secondary education based on the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the constitution. But the Illinois statutes apply equally to secular and religious post-secondary institutions and are thus neutral and generally applicable. The State also has several secular reasons for requiring Board oversight of the educational institutions—to safeguard students and employers from sub-standard or fraudulent degrees and to protect legitimate institutions of higher learning from dilution of their degrees. The statutes also do not advance or inhibit religion or excessively entangle the government with religion. Accordingly, the district court properly dismissed the plaintiffs’ religious-clause claims.”

Update as of January 18, 2017

Illinois Bible Colleges Head to Court of Appeals (Illinois Review, December 5, 2016)

On March 28, 2016, almost one year after the parties finished briefing on the State’s motion to dismiss, District Court Judge Sharon Coleman dismissed the Bible colleges’ case. Although the lower court took a long time to issue a ruling, the Court of Appeals promptly scheduled oral argument and has allotted each side twenty-five minutes to present arguments.

The Bible colleges are encouraged that the Court of Appeals has decided to act quickly and that it has granted almost three times as much time for oral argument than the average case. These signs indicate that the Court of Appeals appreciates the significance of the Bible colleges’ constitutional arguments and the impact that a ruling will have on religious liberty in post-secondary education.

Christian colleges don't have implicit constitutional right to award degrees free of state regulation, judge says (Cook County Record, March 29, 2016)

The First Amendment does not shield Christian colleges from state authority to regulate degree-awarding higher educational institutions, a federal judge has ruled.

On March 28, U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled in Chicago federal court to dismiss a legal challenge brought in 2015 by the Illinois Bible Colleges Association, several affiliated institutions and a student at one of the colleges, asserting the Illinois Board of Higher Education should not have authority under the U.S. Constitution to set standards by which religious colleges can be allowed to confer degrees to graduates.

“Plaintiffs here are essentially seeking to teach any subject in any manner and to describe student achievement in whatever way they choose, entirely free from government oversight, under the auspices of religious freedom,” Coleman wrote.

“They should seek the exemption through the legislative process rather than by injunction,” she said, adding, “Such a result simply is not compelled by the First Amendment.”

The decision delivered a blow to the efforts by the association and its member institutions to secure a declaration Christian colleges and similar religious educational institutions should be free, under the U.S. Constitution, to award degrees to students without first meeting curricular and other requirements demanded by the IBHE and similar state regulators of colleges and universities.

Update as of March 26, 2015:

Should Unaccredited Bible Colleges Be Allowed to Grant Degrees? (Christianity Today)

“College students strive for one goal: a degree. Dayspring Bible College and Seminary wants to give them one after they complete its programs. But the suburban Chicago school only issues certificates and diplomas. The Illinois Board of Higher Education forbids Dayspring from offering a ‘degree’ because it doesn’t meet accreditation standards.

“Earlier this year, Dayspring and a handful of other Illinois-based Bible colleges filed a federal lawsuit accusing the state board of overstepping the First Amendment and infringing on their rights to free religious exercise and free speech.”

Illinois Bible colleges sue for right to issue degrees (Chicago Tribune)

“Bible colleges in Illinois have filed a federal lawsuit against state education regulators, seeking the unencumbered right to award degrees to students who complete their programs.”
Bible schools run by evangelical or fundamentalist churches can be found all over the Philippines, and in this post, I will discuss whether recognition or accreditation with the Commission on Higher Education is necessary or not. At present, only a handful of Bible schools are recognized by the CHED. Some Bible schools in Metro Manila, on the other hand, have sidestepped the issue of CHED recognition by networking with a US seminary. It is the US seminary that grants the degree, not the Bible school in the Philippines.

(Please read the article Musings about Accreditation by Dr. Kevin T. Bauder of the Central Baptist Theological Seminary.)

Governments around the world, including the Philippines, have generally been strict over the use of the words “college, university, seminary, credit, and degree.” If schools want to use these words as part of their name or want to grant degrees to their graduates, then they must seek accreditation from government authorities.

In the Philippine context, that accrediting authority is the CHED, which was established in May 18, 1994 through Republic Act 7722 or the “Higher Education Act of 1994.” The CHED’s policies on voluntary accreditation in aid of quality and excellence in higher education are outlined in Commission Order 31, s. 1995. The CHED can close down any school that violates its regulations.

Conflicting views on the necessity or desirability of accreditation of Bible schools

Some Bible colleges in the US see nothing wrong with obtaining accreditation from the State. For example, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas is a fully accredited private, non-profit institution of higher learning.

On the other hand, some Bible schools in the US believe that State regulation of Bible schools is un-Biblical. These schools also believe that the establishment of a Bible school is an exercise of the Constitutionally-protected freedom of religion. In brief, “freedom of religion” implies unfettered freedom to worship, to print instructional materials, and to train teachers and organize schools in which to teach things that include religion. “Freedom of religion” means that any church or denomination can organize and maintain a Bible school without having to seek authority from the State.

Benefits from and criticism of accreditation, Philippine context

In the Philippines, those who desire CHED recognition of Bible schools say that recognition is beneficial and desirable for several reasons:

(1) Recognition makes it easier for foreign students to come into the country and study in Bible school.

(2) Bible school graduates who want to pursue higher education or other college courses can do so because the subjects they have taken or the degree they have obtained will be credited in secular colleges.

(3) Bible school graduates can find employment in secular jobs because the degree they received will be accepted by companies.

(4) Quality standards of teaching and facilities will be guaranteed.

The main criticism against these so-called benefits of CHED recognition is that Bible schools exist primarily, if not exclusively, to equip and train pastors, missionaries, evangelists, church workers, and lay leaders for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

Under what circumstances should a Bible school seek accreditation? Does the government have authority to control the training of pastors and ministers?

My main point is this: CHED recognition becomes necessary if (1) the Bible school uses the word “college” or university as part of its name or (2) grants degrees like Bachelor of Theology, Bachelor of Christian Education, etc.

Thus, if the Bible school uses the words “institute” or “seminary,” then CHED recognition is not necessary. If the Bible school does not grant degrees but gives to its graduates, for example, a certificate of merit for completing a training program for pastors or missionaries, then again, CHED recognition is not necessary. The guiding principle is that “the State has no authority or competence to control the training of pastors and ministers.” (More on this below)

Can the Philippine government compel Bible schools to seek accreditation with the CHED?

Several pastors who have church-based schools using the ACE or School of Tomorrow curriculum have approached me for legal advice. They told me that the Regional Offices of the Department of Education have been pressuring them to obtain government recognition through the submission of some 17 to 25 documentary requirements. My answer has always been for these pastors to network with other leaders of church-based schools that are experiencing the same kind of problem and to ask for legal help from the SOT itself.

The question is, can the Philippine government through the CHED force Bible schools to submit to regulation or accreditation?

In the United States, 22 states regulate religious schools to varying degrees, while 28 states have no regulations. Some of the private entities that accredit Bible schools in the US are the Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Talmudic Schools (AARTS); Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS); Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE), and Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS).

Non-accreditation can lead to penalties or even the closure of the school. For example, in 1998 the state of Texas fined Tyndale Theological Seminary and Bible Institute (a non-accredited school in Fort Worth) $173,000 for issuing degrees as without a license and for its unauthorized use of the term “seminary”. Tyndale is an evangelical and dispensational Bible school.

The facts of the HEB Ministries/Tyndale case (from the text of the Texas State Supreme Court August 2007 decision)

Petitioner HEB Ministries, Inc., a church in Fort Worth operates a school, Tyndale Theological Seminary and Bible Institute, which was founded in the early 1990s to offer a biblical education in preparation for ministry in churches and missions. By 1999, its campus consisted of a library, four or five classrooms, administrative offices, a small bookstore, and a computer department, and its enrollment was 300-350 students, with over three-fourths in correspondence courses.

Tyndale’s 1997-1998 course catalog stated: At Tyndale our focus is upon you — the professional minister or motivated layman who wishes to make a difference for Christ in our world. You are the most important part of the TYNDALE equation. Our job is to meet your needs — to meet you half-way with quality Bible courses that help you in your ministry endeavor.

The catalog also contained a lengthy “Doctrinal Statement” setting out Tyndale’s positions on issues of faith. The catalog listed 172 courses, 162 of which were in religious subjects. Of the other ten, three were in general education — “Basic English Grammar & Composition”, “Read, Research & Study Basics”, and “Ancient World History” — and seven were in typing, word processing, and use of the Internet, offered by the “Department of Theological and Biblical Research”. The catalog offered 20 “diplomas”, all in religious subjects.

Tyndale’s catalog offered no “diploma” in any secular subject and no “degree” of any kind, but it characterized programs of study required for a diploma as equivalent to programs of study required for a degree at the same level. For example, the catalog referred to its “Diploma Of Theological Studies” program as a “bachelor equivalent program” and “bachelor equivalent course of studies”, and the “Master of Arts Level Diploma” in “Counseling” as a “Masters Level Program”.

The course catalog did not state that Tyndale’s diplomas were the equivalent of college degrees, but neither did it state that they were not; it was silent on the subject. The catalog stated that Tyndale and Louisiana Baptist Theological Seminary were “going forward with parallel programs [in prophetic studies] and exchange of credits between the two institutions”, but did not otherwise say that Tyndale academic credits could be applied toward earning degrees.

In 1998, Tyndale had never been accredited by an agency recognized by the Coordinating Board and had never obtained a certificate of authority from the Board. Tyndale never sought accreditation or a certificate of authority for what it describes as “doctrinal reasons”. In its 1997-1998 course catalog, Tyndale described its position on accreditation as follows:

Many seminaries are on shifting sands. They feel they must impress the world or the culture with their intellectualism. Thus, some schools are spending large sums of money on appearance and are no longer focusing on the substance — strong theology, solid Bible courses, practical language exegesis, etc.

What validates Tyndale? Tyndale believes it is affirmed by its Board of Advisors, Board of Governors, the students attending and, the world-class Guest Faculty who give our students the best of academics and the greatest training in the spiritual message of the Scriptures. But again, many schools seek RECOGNITION and AFFIRMATION from the state, from secular associations or professional groups that really have no business meddling in biblical matters.

The approach of many seminaries and Bible schools is obsolete and antiquated. They are still trying to be, as they call it, “traditional” schools. But mainly, they simply try to keep up with the Joneses. They attempt to look and act like secular universities. But in reality, a school like Tyndale, and other schools with our convictions, are the ones that are traditional, not the other way around.

For example, in the 1960s, most Christian schools were not accredited, nor did the best want to be. They were satisfied with serving the Lord by being complete and whole within their framework and calling. As well, a student could get the best education at these institutions and know he had not been compromised with the culture. But in the 1970s, a push was on for state approval and accreditation. “We want state and federal government approval. We want the world to like us?” [sic] Did any of this have anything to do with the quality or teaching message of those schools? It did not! When one of the big seminaries became accredited in the 1970s, almost all of the older faculty and all of the graduates testify that the school went down hill — not in a certain secular quality manner, but in its message and commitment to truth and the Gospel.

One of the largest Christian Universities in America has said, “We will not become accredited!” That school today is highly respected and other schools want their graduates. Accreditation or lack of it has not had anything to do with the school’s quality or mission.


At commencement exercises on June 26, 1998, Tyndale recognized graduates with 34 awards, listed in the program with titles as follows:

“Certificate of Biblical Studies (Cert. BS)” — two;
“Diploma of Basic Biblical Studies (Dip. BBS)” — three;
“Associate of Biblical Studies (ABS)” — one;
“Diploma of Advanced Biblical Studies (Dip. ABS)” — one;
“Bachelor Level Diploma in Biblical Studies (BBS)” — two;
“Bachelor Level Diploma in Theological Studies (Dip. Th.S.)” — six;
“Diploma of Christian Studies (DCS)” — two;
“Master of Arts (MA)” — nine;
“Master of Theology (Th.M.) — two;
“Doctor of Ministries (D.Min)” — one;
“Doctor of Theology (Th.D)” — two;
“Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)” — three.
In conferring these awards, Tyndale did not use the word “degree.” Nevertheless, the Commissioner of Higher Education fined Tyndale $173,000.00 for for using the word "seminary" and issuing theological degrees without receiving government approval.

Attorneys of the Liberty Legal Institute then filed a suit in district court against the state for violating the U.S. and state constitutions. The suit, entitled HEB Ministries v. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and filed on behalf of Tyndale as well as two other other seminaries in Texas, argued that government attempts to control the religious training of seminaries are unconstitutional. The Austin Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the state and the case was appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.

“The State has no authority or competence to control the training of pastors and ministers”

In August 2007, the Texas State Supreme Court ruled in favor of Tyndale, saying that “state education requirements affecting the institutions ‘impermissibly intrude’ upon religious freedom protected by the U.S. and Texas constitutions.”

The Court ruled that “since the government cannot determine what a church should be, it cannot determine the qualifications a cleric should have or whether a particular person has them. Likewise the government cannot set standards for religious education or training.”

Does the HEB Ministries/Tyndale ruling apply here in the Philippines?

The freedom of religion clause of our 1987 Constitution is of American origin. Thus, interpretations and decisions of the United States Supreme Court with regards freedom of religion are given great weight by our own Supreme Court. In the landmark case of Estrada vs. Escritor (which I also discussed in this blog) for example, our High Court cited numerous passages from US Supreme Court decisions.

Should the issue of accreditation (or non-accreditation) of Bible schools in the Philippines ever reach our courts, then we can cite the Texas State Supreme Court ruling in Tyndale that “the State has no authority or competence to control the training of pastors and ministers.”

Read the complete Tyndale decision of the Texas State Supreme Court

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Soul Winning Leadership Conference with Dr. Mike Wells, September 8-11, Bethany Makati

Free and open to all churches in Luzon areas. Please call 831-7734 and 831-4123 for details.

1.
Starts from 9 AM general assembly Monday and will run daily from 6:30 AM campus outreach until the evening service. The Team is led by keynote speaker - Dr. Mike Wells. Other members of the team are Dr. Marshall Carson and Bro. Anthony Jones. Dr. Dimver Andales will speak in the morning services from Monday to Wednesday.

2.
Conference will conclude on Thursday September 11 morning service with Dr. Wells as speaker.

3.
Every delegation from church or mission church in Luzon area should include preferably the pastor, wife and 3 workers. This is to accommodate all churches who wish to participate.

4.
Register early and avoid the rush. In-house guests from outside Metro Manila, please pre-register at 831-7734/831-4123.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Registering a local Baptist church with the SEC as a religious society or aggregate; what is a corporation sole?

I have previously written about the desirability and necessity of registering local Baptist churches with the Securities and Exchange Commission. I subsequently wrote about sample Constitutions and by-laws which local churches can use instead of the SEC-issued forms. In this post, I will discuss:

  1. Registering a church as a religious society or aggregate
  2. Provisions of the Corporation Code of the Philippines on religious society or aggregate
  3. Powers and capacity of a corporation
  4. Revocation of SEC registration for non-submission of annual reportorial requirements
  5. Church registration with SEC good only for 50 years; how to extend the term
  6. Consequences for a church losing its legal personality through expiration of corporate term or revocation of SEC registration
  7. What is the difference between a deacon and a trustee?
  8. Practical difficulties with a religious society or aggregate
  9. What is a corporation sole?
  10. Can a non-Filipino pastor, bishop, elder, etc. be a corporation sole?
  11. In a corporation sole, if the church buys real property, who will be registered in the title as the owner?
  12. Practical problems with a corporation sole
  13. Does the concept of the corporation sole conflict with the Baptist distinctive of congregational church government?
  14. Provisions of the Corporation Code of the Philippines on corporation sole
Registering a church as a religious society or aggregate

A church can be registered with the SEC as a religious society or aggregate (multiple directors, with minimum of five). Posted below are the provisions of
BP 68 Corporation Code of the Philippines on religious society/aggregate:

Sec. 116. Religious societies. - Any religious society or religious order, or any diocese, synod, or district organization of any religious denomination, sect or church, unless forbidden by the constitution, rules, regulations, or discipline of the religious denomination, sect or church of which it is a part, or by competent authority, may, upon written consent and/or by an affirmative vote at a meeting called for the purpose of at least two-thirds (2/3) of its membership, incorporate for the administration of its temporalities or for the management of its affairs, properties and estate by filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, articles of incorporation verified by the affidavit of the presiding elder, secretary, or clerk or other member of such religious society or religious order, or diocese, synod, or district organization of the religious denomination, sect or church, setting forth the following:

1. That the religious society or religious order, or diocese, synod, or district organization is a religious organization of a religious denomination, sect or church;

2. That at least two-thirds (2/3) of its membership have given their written consent or have voted to incorporate, at a duly convened meeting of the body;

3. That the incorporation of the religious society or religious order, or diocese, synod, or district organization desiring to incorporate is not forbidden by competent authority or by the constitution, rules, regulations or discipline of the religious denomination, sect, or church of which it forms a part;

4. That the religious society or religious order, or diocese, synod, or district organization desires to incorporate for the administration of its affairs, properties and estate;

5. The place where the principal office of the corporation is to be established and located, which place must be within the Philippines; and

6. The names, nationalities, and residences of the trustees elected by the religious society or religious order, or the diocese, synod, or district organization to serve for the first year or such other period as may be prescribed by the laws of the religious society or religious order, or of the diocese, synod, or district organization, the board of trustees to be not less than five (5) nor more than fifteen (15). (160a)
Powers and capacity of a corporation

Sec. 36 of BP 68 Corporation Code of the Philippines enumerates the powers and capacity of a corporation:
Every corporation incorporated under this Code has the power and capacity:

1. To sue and be sued in its corporate name;

2. Of succession by its corporate name for the period of time stated in the articles of incorporation and the certificate of incorporation;

3. To adopt and use a corporate seal;

4. To amend its articles of incorporation in accordance with the provisions of this Code;

5. To adopt by-laws, not contrary to law, morals, or public policy, and to amend or repeal the same in accordance with this Code;

6. In case of stock corporations, to issue or sell stocks to subscribers and to sell stocks to subscribers and to sell treasury stocks in accordance with the provisions of this Code; and to admit members to the corporation if it be a non-stock corporation;

7. To purchase, receive, take or grant, hold, convey, sell, lease, pledge, mortgage and otherwise deal with such real and personal property, including securities and bonds of other corporations, as the transaction of the lawful business of the corporation may reasonably and necessarily require, subject to the limitations prescribed by law and the Constitution;

8. To enter into merger or consolidation with other corporations as provided in this Code;

9. To make reasonable donations, including those for the public welfare or for hospital, charitable, cultural, scientific, civic, or similar purposes: Provided, That no corporation, domestic or foreign, shall give donations in aid of any political party or candidate or for purposes of partisan political activity;

10. To establish pension, retirement, and other plans for the benefit of its directors, trustees, officers and employees; and

11. To exercise such other powers as may be essential or necessary to carry out its purpose or purposes as stated in the articles of incorporation.
Non-submission of annual reportorial requirements leads to revocation of SEC registration

Some pastors and churches think that they do not have to do anything else once they have registered with the SEC. Please take note that the SEC requires all registered corporations to submit annually certain requirements (audited financial statement, names of elected officers, etc). The SEC imposes penalties for non-submission of these requirements. The total amount of penalties is commensurate with the number of years the church has not submitted its reportorial requirements. One pastor I know told me that his church has been penalized Php 50,000.00 for its non-submission of the reportorial requirements for the last five years.

The SEC revokes the certificate of registration of a church as a religious corporation if it fails to file the reportorial requirements and pay the penalties. Two Baptist pastors have told me that since their churches could not pay the penalties, they have opted to register their respective churches as new corporations.

Church registration with SEC good only for a period of 50 years; how to extend the term

Section 11 of BP 68 Corporation Code of the Philippines states:
Sec. 11. Corporate term. - A corporation shall exist for a period not exceeding fifty (50) years from the date of incorporation unless sooner dissolved or unless said period is extended. The corporate term as originally stated in the articles of incorporation may be extended for periods not exceeding fifty (50) years in any single instance by an amendment of the articles of incorporation, in accordance with this Code; Provided, That no extension can be made earlier than five (5) years prior to the original or subsequent expiry date(s) unless there are justifiable reasons for an earlier extension as may be determined by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Please take note that Section 11 does not distinguish as to private corporation, educational corporation, religious corporation, stock or non-stock corporation. It simply states that “A corporation shall exist for a period not exceeding fifty (50) years from the date of incorporation unless sooner dissolved or unless said period is extended.” Section 116 also does not provide that a religious society or aggregate is exempt from the coverage of Section 11.

(Please take note also that prior to 1980 when BP 68 Corporation Code of the Philippines became effective, the governing law for corporations was Act 1459 which became effective on April 1, 1906. Act 1459 provided for a maximum non-extendible corporate term of 50 years. However, Republic Act 3531 amended Section 18 of the Corporation Law, allowing domestic private corporations to extend their corporate life beyond the period stated by the articles of incorporation for a term not exceed 50 years in any one instance. This amendment is now part of Section 11 of BP 68.)

The 50-year period starts upon the issuance to the church of the certificate of registration as a religious corporation by the SEC. If a church registered with the SEC is nearing the end of its 50-year term, it should therefore file for extension. The filing can be done as early five years before the end of the 50-year term. (Some of the pioneer Baptist churches in the Philippines were registered with the SEC in the 1950s and 1960s; they should take note of this 50-year limit and take the necessary steps.)

Consequences if the church as a religious corporation loses its legal personality through revocation of SEC registration or failure to file for extension of its corporate term;
winding up period of three years

As Section 11 provides, the church as a religious corporation will lose its status as an SEC-registered corporation and its legal personality as such. As a consequence of losing its legal personality, the church as a religious corporation (or any corporation for that matter) will lose its powers and capacities under Section 36.

Under Section 122 of BP 68, however, the church as a religious corporation (like any other corporation) has a three-year period from the end of its corporate term to “wind up” its corporate affairs. The said section states:
Sec. 122. Corporate liquidation. - Every corporation whose charter expires by its own limitation or is annulled by forfeiture or otherwise, or whose corporate existence for other purposes is terminated in any other manner, shall nevertheless be continued as a body corporate for three (3) years after the time when it would have been so dissolved, for the purpose of prosecuting and defending suits by or against it and enabling it to settle and close its affairs, to dispose of and convey its property and to distribute its assets, but not for the purpose of continuing the business for which it was established.

At any time during said three (3) years, the corporation is authorized and empowered to convey all of its property to trustees for the benefit of stockholders, members, creditors, and other persons in interest. From and after any such conveyance by the corporation of its property in trust for the benefit of its stockholders, members, creditors and others in interest, all interest which the corporation had in the property terminates, the legal interest vests in the trustees, and the beneficial interest in the stockholders, members, creditors or other persons in interest.

Upon the winding up of the corporate affairs, any asset distributable to any creditor or stockholder or member who is unknown or cannot be found shall be escheated to the city or municipality where such assets are located.

Except by decrease of capital stock and as otherwise allowed by this Code, no corporation shall distribute any of its assets or property except upon lawful dissolution and after payment of all its debts and liabilities.
Please take note that this “winding up” period of three years is for settling and closing the affairs of the church as a religious corporation (I will discuss below the distinction between the church as an SEC-registered corporation and as a Biblical institution). As the Supreme Court ruled in the 1968 case of Alhambra Cigar & Cigarettes Manufacturing Inc. vs. SEC (24 SCRA 269), the three-year period is for the final closure of the corporation’s affairs. The period is specifically for:
(1) Prosecuting and defending suits by or against it and enabling it to settle and close its affairs; and

(2) Disposing of and conveying its property and to distribute its assets to trustees for the benefit of stockholders, members, creditors, and other persons in interest, but not for the purpose of continuing the business for which it was established.
What will happen if the church as a religious corporation failed to file for extension of its corporate term and the three year period for winding up either lapsed without its knowledge or without complying with Section 122? Well, as Section 122 states, the properties of the corporation can possibly be escheated in favor of the town or city where the properties are located. This means that the properties of the corporation will now become the properties of that town or city. Escheat proceedings are governed by Rule 91 of the Rules of Court.

What will happen to the properties of the church if it is dissolved or loses its legal personality?

Religious corporations (whether religious society or aggregate or corporation sole) are classified as non-stock corporations. Subject to the three-year winding up period under Section 122 of the Corporation Code as discussed above, the church must comply with Sections 94 and 95:
Sec. 94. Rules of distribution. - In case dissolution of a non-stock corporation in accordance with the provisions of this Code, its assets shall be applied and distributed as follows:

1. All liabilities and obligations of the corporation shall be paid, satisfied and discharged, or adequate provision shall be made therefore;

2. Assets held by the corporation upon a condition requiring return, transfer or conveyance, and which condition occurs by reason of the dissolution, shall be returned, transferred or conveyed in accordance with such requirements;

3. Assets received and held by the corporation subject to limitations permitting their use only for charitable, religious, benevolent, educational or similar purposes, but not held upon a condition requiring return, transfer or conveyance by reason of the dissolution, shall be transferred or conveyed to one or more corporations, societies or organizations engaged in activities in the Philippines substantially similar to those of the dissolving corporation according to a plan of distribution adopted pursuant to this Chapter;

4. Assets other than those mentioned in the preceding paragraphs, if any, shall be distributed in accordance with the provisions of the articles of incorporation or the by-laws, to the extent that the articles of incorporation or the by-laws, determine the distributive rights of members, or any class or classes of members, or provide for distribution; and

5. In any other case, assets may be distributed to such persons, societies, organizations or corporations, whether or not organized for profit, as may be specified in a plan of distribution adopted pursuant to this Chapter. (n)

Sec. 95. Plan of distribution of assets. - A plan providing for the distribution of assets, not inconsistent with the provisions of this Title, may be adopted by a non-stock corporation in the process of dissolution in the following manner:

The board of trustees shall, by majority vote, adopt a resolution recommending a plan of distribution and directing the submission thereof to a vote at a regular or special meeting of members having voting rights. Written notice setting forth the proposed plan of distribution or a summary thereof and the date, time and place of such meeting shall be given to each member entitled to vote, within the time and in the manner provided in this Code for the giving of notice of meetings to members. Such plan of distribution shall be adopted upon approval of at least two-thirds (2/3) of the members having voting rights present or represented by proxy at such meeting. (n)
In terms of properties donated to the church, either paragraph (2) or (3) of Section 94 will apply. The terms and conditions of the Deed of Donation must be looked into to determine which sub-paragraph applies.

(Please take note that under the New Civil Code of the Philippines, donations worth more than five thousand pesos or of real property are required to be in writing. Also, I have mentioned elsewhere that mother churches should consider setting terms and conditions in donating real property to their daughter churches or mission works. Such terms and conditions must however must take into consideration the Baptist distinctive of the autonomy of local churches.)

If the church as a religious corporation loses its legal personality through the expiration of its corporate term or through revocation of its SEC certificate of registration, is it no longer a church?


Here we have to make distinctions between the church as a Biblical institution and as an SEC-registered religious corporation.

Section 122 of BP 68 states that if a corporation has been dissolved “… it shall nevertheless be continued as a body corporate for three (3) years after the time when it would have been so dissolved, for the purpose of prosecuting and defending suits by or against it and enabling it to settle and close its affairs, to dispose of and convey its property and to distribute its assets, but not for the purpose of continuing the business for which it was established.” Thus in the cases of “Buenaflor vs. Camarines Sur Industry Corp” (108 Phil 472) and “Cebu Port Labor Union vs. States Marine Corp” (101 Phil 468), the dissolved corporations were not allowed to continue their business (selling ice and shipping respectively) during the three-year winding up period. Can the same be true of an SEC-registered church that has lost its legal personality through non-extension of its corporate term or revocation of its registration?

The Supreme Court decisions on the matter of corporate dissolution have involved private corporations engaged in business activities and not religious corporations. The SEC registration is a prerequisite before business licenses by various government agencies or offices can be issued. Without such registration, therefore, business licenses could not longer be issued or remain valid.

The activities of a church, on the other hand, are evangelism, worship and missions, for which no government licenses are required or necessary (unlike in some countries like Bangladesh or Restricted Access Nations). As I noted in my Legal Updates blog post on registering local Baptist churches with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the church as a Biblical institution can exist even without SEC registration. One reason however why it is desirable or necessary for the church to register with the SEC as a religious corporation is to be able to purchase and own property under its own name, rather than under the name of the pastor or of some members. Without such SEC registration, the property cannot be titled in the name of the church.

Thus, a church that has lost its legal personality through non-extension of its corporate term or revocation of its SEC registration can, as a Biblical institution, continue its “business” of evangelism, worship and missions since no government license is necessary for such activities under the freedom of religion clause of our Constitution. However, as with private corporations engaged in business, the church as a religious corporation can no longer exercise the corporate powers and capacity enumerated under Section 36 of BP 68.

US Supreme Court decision on the two entities of the incorporated church

The United States Supreme Court in 20 AM JUR 2D § Religious Societies 5 (2007) stated:
“In determining the threshold question of the applicability of religious corporation law, a court will look to the provisions of the corporation’s certificate of incorporation as well as the actual practices of the organization as revealed in it papers.

“A church society, by incorporating does not lose its existence or become wholly merged in the corporation. The religious corporation and the church, although one may exist within the pale of the other, are in no respect correlative. The objects and interests of the one are moral and spiritual; the other deals with things temporal and material. Each as a body is entirely independent and free from any direct control or interference by the other.

“Thus, where is an incorporated church, there are two entities – the one, the church as such, not owing its ecclesiastical or spiritual existence to the civil law, and the other, the legal corporation – each separate, although closely allied. The former is purely voluntary and is not a corporation or a quasi corporation. On the other hand, a corporation which is formed for the acquisition and taking care of the property of the church, must be regarded as a legal personality, and is in no sense, ecclesiastical in its function.”
What is the difference between a deacon and a trustee?

Deacon is a Biblical officer, the other officer being the pastor (bishop or elder). On the other hand, trustee refers to the officer of the religious society or aggregate as provided by law. Some churches therefore have a board of deacons and, to fulfill the legal requirement, also have a different board of trustees. On the other hand, some churches in the election (or selection) of deacons provide that the deacons will automatically be the trustees.

Practical difficulties with a religious society or aggregate

The practical problems that some churches have with a religious society/aggregate are the difficulty of calling for meetings and of arriving at decisions. At the trivial end, some pastors have said, "Do we still need to have a meeting just to talk about whether we should buy a can of floor wax?" At the other extreme, some churches have been dominated by the board of trustees at the expense of the Biblical leadership of the pastor. (The ideal church, as someone said, is pastor-led, board of trustees-supported, deacon-served and congregationally-approved.)

With a corporation sole, what is being incorporated is not the church itself but the office of the pastor, bishop, elder, etc.

Update as of June 10, 2017:

In registering a corporation sole, the SEC previously used the general format “Pastor (Bishop) of Baptist Church of ________” for the name. For example, you may have “Senior Pastor of Grace Baptist Church” or “Bishop of Faith Baptist Church Metro Manila” as the name of a corporation sole.

But recently, the SEC has allowed the use of, for example, “Grace Baptist Church” or “Faith Baptist Church Metro Manila” as the name for the corporation sole.

I don't agree with this new SEC policy for two reasons.

First, as I discussed, in a corporation sole, it is not the church, but the office of the pastor or bishop that is being incorporated.

Second, the new SEC policy causes confusion. For example, with “Senior Pastor of Grace Baptist Church”, you can immediately know that it is a corporation sole. But with the name, for example, of “Grace Baptist Church”, you don't know whether it is a corporation sole or a religious society (aggregate). You need to examine the certificate of registration or inquire with the SEC.

The corporation sole
is the second kind of religious corporation provided under the Corporation Code of the Philippines. There are a lot of misconceptions about what a corporation sole is. For example, one church in Metro Manila states in its website that the name of the church is Baptist Church of ________ but its corporate name is Senior Pastor of Baptist Church of ________”. Please take note that with a corporation sole, what is being incorporated is not the church itself but the pastor, bishop, elder, etc. (or technically, the office of such religious leader).

Once the pastor, bishop. elder, etc. (or technically his office) has been formed into a corporation sole, he now acts by himself in administering and managing the affairs, properties, etc. of the church. Needless to say, the church itself does not have to register with the SEC although it will have its internal, binding rules for church membership, rights and responsibilities of members and officers, etc. There is no legal or practical point for a church to register as a religious society or aggregate AND at the same time register the office of its pastor as a corporation sole.

Perpetuity of the corporation sole

For example, Pastor “A” who formed the corporation sole dies. Once Pastor “B” the successor to the office of the pastor has been chosen or elected according to the rules of the church, then Pastor “B” is now the corporation sole. This called in law as “perpetuity”. The Supreme Court in “Roman Catholic Apostolic Adm. of Davao, Inc. vs. LRC” (102 Phil. 596, December 20, 1957) citing an American case, said,
“A corporation sole consists of one person only, and his successors (who will always be one at a time), in some particular station, who are incorporated by law in order to give them some legal capacities and advantages, particularly that of perpetuity, which in their natural persons they could not have had.”
Please take note that this so-called “perpetuity” does not exempt the corporation sole from the coverage of Sections 11 of BP 68 (50-year corporate term as discussed above).

What if the pastor resigns, retires, or dies? Disputes as to who the rightful corporation sole is

[1] There must be rules as to the succession of the corporation sole: As discussed above, there is perpetuity in the office of the corporation sole. Section 111, paragraph 4 of the Corporation Code of the Philippines requires that the articles of incorporation of the corporation sole must provide for the manner in which any vacancy occurring in the office of chief archbishop, bishop, priest, minister, rabbi or presiding elder is required to be filled, according to the rules, regulations or discipline of the religious denomination, sect or church to which he belongs. Section 114 of the Corporation Code of the Philippines outlines the process of filling vacancies in the office of the corporation sole.

[2] Please read the Supreme Court decision in “Natanael B. Juane, Petitioner, vs. Iglesia Evangelica Metodista En Las Islas Filipinas (IEMELIF), Inc., Respondent, G.R. No. 179404”. In this case, Reverend Natanael B. Juane of the IEMELIF Cathedral in Tondo, Manila contended that the transformation of IEMELIF from a corporation sole to a corporation aggregate was legally defective, and that therefore, he was the corporation sole, not Bishop Nathanael P. Lazaro. The Supreme Court ruled:
Even if the transformation of IEMELIF from a corporation sole to a corporation aggregate was legally defective, its head or governing body, i.e., Bishop Lazaro, whose acts were approved by the Highest Consistory of Elders, still did not change. A corporation sole is one formed by the chief archbishop, bishop, priest, minister, rabbi or other presiding elder of a religious denomination, sect, or church, for the purpose of administering or managing, as trustee, the affairs, properties and temporalities of such religious denomination, sect or church. As opposed to a corporation aggregate, a corporation sole consists of a single member, while a corporation aggregate consists of two or more persons. If the transformation did not materialize, the corporation sole would still be Bishop Lazaro, who himself performed the questioned acts of removing Juane as Resident Pastor of the Tondo Congregation. If the transformation did materialize, the corporation aggregate would be composed of the Highest Consistory of Elders, which nevertheless approved the very same acts. As either Bishop Lazaro or the Highest Consistory of Elders had the authority to appoint Juane as Resident Pastor of the IEMELIF Tondo Congregation, it also had the power to remove him as such or transfer him to another congregation.
(In my research with the PRU on corporation sole, I came across the articles of incorporation of a corporation sole which provided in its rules of succession this very amusing provision: “I shall occupy the position of Chief Elder until my death. Upon my death, my position shall be occupied by a person that I will appoint.”)

Can a non-Filipino pastor, bishop, elder, or missionary be a corporation sole?

There are foreigners (Americans, Koreans, etc) who are the chief archbishop, bishop, priest, minister, rabbi or presiding elder of their religious denomination, sect or church. As Baptists, we are all familiar with American missionaries.

[1] The Corporation Code of the Philippines does not state a Filipino citizenship requirement for a pastor, bishop or missionary in becoming a corporation sole. It may therefore be argued that an American or Korean missionary, for example, may register as a corporation sole.

[2] In the case of Roman Catholic Apostolic Adm. of Davao, Inc. vs. LRC, 102 Phil. 596, December 20, 1957, the Supreme Court ruled that a corporation sole with an alien as administrator may acquire private land which is held in trust for the benefit of the faithful residing within its territorial jurisdiction. In this case, the Roman Catholic Apostolic Adm. of Davao, Inc. was a corporation sole organized and existing in accordance with Philippine law, with Msgr. Clovis Thibault, a Canadian citizen, as actual incumbent.

If the church buys a piece of land, who will be registered in the land title as the owner of the property?

Since the church itself is not registered with the SEC and therefore has no legal personality, the title to any land or property it purchases will be registered in the name of the corporation sole (Republic vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, 168 SCRA165, November 29, 1988).

Section 113 of the Corporation Code of the Philippines (posted below) governs the acquisition and alienation of property by a corporation sole. In our example above, the land purchased by the church will be titled in the name of “Senior Pastor of Baptist Church of ________”.

Please take note again that in a corporation sole, the pastor, bishop or elder acts as the trustee and manager of the church's property. In case the pastor dies, the property (in our example, the piece of land) will not be inherited by his heirs. (Please read my post guidelines and precautions in buying church property.)

Can a corporation sole be transformed into a religious society or aggregate?

Yes. The Supreme Court ruled in “IEMELIF et al vs. Bishop Nathanael Lazaro et al”, G.R. No. 184088, July 6, 2010 that such change can be done by mere amendment of its articles of incorporation without the need of going through the process of dissolution.

Practical problems with a corporation sole

[1] Unlike with a religious society or aggregate, the SEC does not have ready-made forms or documents for a corporation sole. A pastor, bishop, chief elder, etc. has to consult a lawyer in drafting the articles of incorporation and other documents like authorization from the congregation, rules of succession, etc. He can also do some research with the Public Reference Unit (PRU) of the SEC and get samples of these documents on file.

[2] Some members of the church might misunderstand what a corporation sole is. They might think that the pastor now owns all the properties of the church.

[3] As the church grows in membership, the pastor will find it more difficult to combine his responsibilities of teaching and preaching with the administration of the church. Some big churches have a pulpit pastor who is responsible only for preaching and teaching, an administrative pastor (the term is self-explanatory), a youth pastor, a pastor for visitation and follow-up, etc.

[4] The pastor, bishop, elder, etc. as a corporation sole acts by himself without having to deal with a board of trustees. If he has a domineering personality or is carnal, he may abuse his authority.

Does the concept of the corporation sole conflict with the Baptist distinctive of congregational church government?

Once the corporation sole has been registered with the SEC, the pastor, bishop or elder as the case may be, now acts by himself (without having to deal with a board of trustees) in managing the affairs, temporalities and properties of the church. But what about the Baptist distinctive of congregational church government? For example, what if a missionary to a foreign field is asking for financial support from the church? Can the pastor as the corporation sole decide all by himself whether to support or not this missionary? If he decides one way or another, isn’t he disregarding this distinctive of congregational form of church government?

Another example: What if the pastor wants an increase in his salary? Can the pastor as the corporation sole decide on this matter by himself or would such require congregational approval?

(It must be noted that some Baptist churches in the Philippines follow what they call a theocratic form of church government, that is, God rules the church through the pastor. One church I know of follows a theocratic form of church government but amazingly is registered with the SEC as a religious society or aggregate.)

For more information about the congregational form of church government, please read “Congregational Church Governance” and “Baptist Congregational Church Governance: A Challenge”.

If a church decides on a corporation sole instead of a religious society or aggregate, here are some suggestions:

[1] Section 111, paragraph 4 of the Corporation Code of the Philippines states that the rules, regulations and discipline of the religious denomination, sect or church are not inconsistent with and do not forbid the formation of a corporation sole. As part of the registration requirements, the pastor must submit either his notarized affidavit or an authorization letter or affidavit from the congregation allowing him to form a corporation sole. If a Baptist church observes the congregational form of church government BUT allows its pastor to form a corporation sole, it must define in the letter or affidavit the limits of the pastor’s authority or what matters require congregational approval.

[2] In the articles of incorporation to be submitted by the pastor to the SEC or in the authorization letter or affidavit, the church’s Articles of Faith, Church Covenant, Constitution and By-laws and other rules and regulations must be stated therein or included as annexes.

Provisions of the Corporation Code of the Philippines on corporation sole
Sec. 109. Classes of religious corporations. - Religious corporations may be incorporated by one or more persons. Such corporations may be classified into corporations sole and religious societies.

Religious corporations shall be governed by this Chapter and by the general provisions on non-stock corporations insofar as they may be applicable. (n)

Sec. 110. Corporation sole. - For the purpose of administering and managing, as trustee, the affairs, property and temporalities of any religious denomination, sect or church, a corporation sole may be formed by the chief archbishop, bishop, priest, minister, rabbi or other presiding elder of such religious denomination, sect or church. (154a)

Sec. 111. Articles of incorporation. - In order to become a corporation sole, the chief archbishop, bishop, priest, minister, rabbi or presiding elder of any religious denomination, sect or church must file with the Securities and Exchange Commission articles of incorporation setting forth the following:

1. That he is the chief archbishop, bishop, priest, minister, rabbi or presiding elder of his religious denomination, sect or church and that he desires to become a corporation sole;

2. That the rules, regulations and discipline of his religious denomination, sect or church are not inconsistent with his becoming a corporation sole and do not forbid it;

3. That as such chief archbishop, bishop, priest, minister, rabbi or presiding elder, he is charged with the administration of the temporalities and the management of the affairs, estate and properties of his religious denomination, sect or church within his territorial jurisdiction, describing such territorial jurisdiction;

4. The manner in which any vacancy occurring in the office of chief archbishop, bishop, priest, minister, rabbi or presiding elder is required to be filled, according to the rules, regulations or discipline of the religious denomination, sect or church to which he belongs; and

5. The place where the principal office of the corporation sole is to be established and located, which place must be within the Philippines.

The articles of incorporation may include any other provision not contrary to law for the regulation of the affairs of the corporation. (n)

Sec. 112. Submission of the articles of incorporation. - The articles of incorporation must be verified, before filing, by affidavit or affirmation of the chief archbishop, bishop, priest, minister, rabbi or presiding elder, as the case may be, and accompanied by a copy of the commission, certificate of election or letter of appointment of such chief archbishop, bishop, priest, minister, rabbi or presiding elder, duly certified to be correct by any notary public.

From and after the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission of the said articles of incorporation, verified by affidavit or affirmation, and accompanied by the documents mentioned in the preceding paragraph, such chief archbishop, bishop, priest, minister, rabbi or presiding elder shall become a corporation sole and all temporalities, estate and properties of the religious denomination, sect or church theretofore administered or managed by him as such chief archbishop, bishop, priest, minister, rabbi or presiding elder shall be held in trust by him as a corporation sole, for the use, purpose, behalf and sole benefit of his religious denomination, sect or church, including hospitals, schools, colleges, orphan asylums, parsonages and cemeteries thereof. (n)

Sec. 113. Acquisition and alienation of property. - Any corporation sole may purchase and hold real estate and personal property for its church, charitable, benevolent or educational purposes, and may receive bequests or gifts for such purposes. Such corporation may sell or mortgage real property held by it by obtaining an order for that purpose from the Court of First Instance of the province where the property is situated upon proof made to the satisfaction of the court that notice of the application for leave to sell or mortgage has been given by publication or otherwise in such manner and for such time as said court may have directed, and that it is to the interest of the corporation that leave to sell or mortgage should be granted. The application for leave to sell or mortgage must be made by petition, duly verified, by the chief archbishop, bishop, priest, minister, rabbi or presiding elder acting as corporation sole, and may be opposed by any member of the religious denomination, sect or church represented by the corporation sole:

Provided, That in cases where the rules, regulations and discipline of the religious denomination, sect or church, religious society or order concerned represented by such corporation sole regulate the method of acquiring, holding, selling and mortgaging real estate and personal property, such rules, regulations and discipline shall control, and the intervention of the courts shall not be necessary. (159a)

Sec. 114. Filling of vacancies. - The successors in office of any chief archbishop, bishop, priest, minister, rabbi or presiding elder in a corporation sole shall become the corporation sole on their accession to office and shall be permitted to transact business as such on the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission of a copy of their commission, certificate of election, or letters of appointment, duly certified by any notary public.

During any vacancy in the office of chief archbishop, bishop, priest, minister, rabbi or presiding elder of any religious denomination, sect or church incorporated as a corporation sole, the person or persons authorized and empowered by the rules, regulations or discipline of the religious denomination, sect or church represented by the corporation sole to administer the temporalities and manage the affairs, estate and properties of the corporation sole during the vacancy shall exercise all the powers and authority of the corporation sole during such vacancy. (158a)

Sec. 115. Dissolution. - A corporation sole may be dissolved and its affairs settled voluntarily by submitting to the Securities and Exchange Commission a verified declaration of dissolution.

The declaration of dissolution shall set forth:

1. The name of the corporation;

2. The reason for dissolution and winding up;

3. The authorization for the dissolution of the corporation by the particular religious denomination, sect or church;

4. The names and addresses of the persons who are to supervise the winding up of the affairs of the corporation.

Upon approval of such declaration of dissolution by the Securities and Exchange
Commission, the corporation shall cease to carry on its operations except for the purpose of winding up its affairs. (n)

Note: Jerald Finney, a Baptist and a lawyer, in his book “Separation of Church and State” and in his blog of the same title argues strongly against the incorporation of churches. He states in Chapter 3 of his book:

“A New Testament church cannot be organized according to the principles of both the Bible and civil law. Should a church organize, even partially, according to the principles of civil law, that church cannot also be in conformity to the principles of church organization laid down in the Word of God. For example, a church which incorporates is not a New Testament church.”

Finney’s blog contains a lot more articles of interest for pastors considering whether or not to incorporate their churches or ministries. Biblical Law Center, a ministry of the Indianapolis Baptist Temple under Dr. Greg Dixon, also provides a lot of articles on the issue of non-registration of churches.