Something drew you here, whether simple curiosity, the quest for wisdom, a developing situation, or an impending crisis. You need answers. We can help.
Sadly, the church in America is quickly losing its deferential status and is no longer revered as a pillar of society. Churches now face unprecedented issues involving denominational splits, church property disputes, internal disputes, subpoenas, lawsuits, zoning issues, and more.
It is our experience that a timely response with Biblical wisdom is vitally important, as your answer will typically decide the size of the problem and the outcome.
Christian Lawyers with Servant Hearts.
We are Christian lawyers and counselors at law offering our legal expertise to churches of all denominations. Our training comes from serving and representing churches and ministry leadership. Our ecclesiastical church lawyers have a combined experience of over 23 years.
The Church Must Become Proactive.
The last 50 years have witnessed a seismic spiritual and moral decline few thought possible. We can better understand how Christianity is but one generation from apostasy: “a new generation arose that did not know the Lord nor the works he had done for Israel.” Judges 2:10.
The church must recognize the growing hostility beyond its walls and take steps to make itself a less attractive target. A wise servant will have his house in order before the storm strikes. Every faith ministry should have a knowledgeable church lawyer on speed dial. Most church problems can be minimized – and thus contained – if handled properly. Countless times we have seen potentially insurmountable problems seemingly fade away with few long term effects.
A Special Kind of Lawyer.
It takes a special type of lawyer to represent churches and faith ministries. Why? Because those who come against the Lord’s church are skilled, ruthless, and often not God-fearing. We believe in Divine guidance and protection. We believe God is still in the miracle business. We will stand with you in prayer because we want to see your ministry grow and prosper. We can provide you with:
wise counsel resulting from the infusion of Biblical principles with seasoned legal experience.
The most common cause of internal strife is failing to maintain up-to-date church bylaws. This is unfortunate, as it is the easiest pitfall to avoid. Yet, far too often we find churches embroiled in conflict because their bylaws do not reflect current practices. Whenever there is a conflict between a board resolution or a practice and the church bylaws, the bylaws always prevail.
Issues of church governance also occur when there is a struggle for control of the church. In non-hierarchical churches, disputes can arise between rival factions fighting for control of church governance.
Ownership of Church Property.
Mainline denominations will continue to crumble from within as they heedlessly rush to embrace cultural and moral relativism. Local congregations seeking to break away from their denomination will discover they do not own the church land and buildings. In most denominations and hierarchical structured churches, the local congregation holds all church property “in trust” for the larger denomination. A church or congregation seeking to leave with its property must first seek and obtain permission. If permission is granted, the church will likely have to pay a severance fee for clear title to the property it thought it owned.
The Church Property Lawyer helped a church leave a national denomination with all of its property on good terms with payment of a reasonable severance fee. Don’t despair – it can be done. However, such an exodus requires a lot of prayer, congregational unity, advance planning, wise counsel, and timely execution.
Protect Your Church’s Reputation and Children.
Protecting children is a moral and Biblical responsibility. Jesus had strong words on this subject (Matt 18:6). Recent child abuse scandals has prompted increased scrutiny of all institutions and the tightening of child abuse prevention laws in every state.
Every church should have a sexual abuse policy and a child abuse prevention plan in place to protect children from abuse and avoid unfounded accusations of impropriety against church staff and volunteers. If there is an allegation of sexual or physical abuse, the prompt, skilled handling of the situation is critical to the church’s well-being and larger witness.
Ministers Required to Report Suspected Child Abuse.
Michigan law was changed in 2002 to make ministers mandatory reporters of suspected or actual child abuse or neglect. However, state and church canonical laws also require that ministers keep parishioners’ confidences sacred. An uneasy tension has developed between the centuries old clergy-penitent privilege and recent mandatory child abuse reporting laws, particularly in cases where child abuse may be suspected but unverified. These situations can be agonizing in questionable cases, as calling child protective services is a breach of trust and will have serious repercussions.
When in doubt – call us. We have counseled numerous pastors and church staff on such difficult issues. We can review or assist you develop written abuse prevention policies and procedures. The church lawyer successfully handled a highly publicized case where a minister of the gospel was accused, arrested, jailed, and criminally charged for failing to report suspected child abuse of a parishioner. The criminal charges were thrown out and the State’s appeals to two higher courts unsuccessful.
Other Areas of Skill and Ability.
- Criminal defense of ministers, pastor’s wives, children, or members who have may (or may not) have made a mistake.
- Representation in lawsuits, contractual disputes, and subpoenas.
- Review, update, or creation of corporate articles and church bylaws.
- Denominational trust clauses, denominational issues, church government, and legal ownership of church property.
- Zoning, land use, and First Amendment protections for church buildings.
- Christian dispute resolution services.
- Contract review of dumpster, copier, and landscaping contracts.
Consult with a Michigan Church Lawyer and Church Property Dispute Lawyer.
For more information on how to put our years of legal experience to work for your church or faith ministry, contact the Church Law Attorneys through our Contact Page or call us at (616) 676-8770.
Our wisdom and ability comes from years of hands-on experience advising and assisting countless churches and leaders throughout Michigan. We have served on church elder boards and committees, and represented churches, church leadership, elder boards, deacon boards, classis, session, board of trustees, and church members throughout Michigan. The Church Lawyer has extensive trial experience in both civil and criminal cases. The Church Lawyer wants to join you in building a strong foundation for your church and its greater mission to help complete the Great Commission.