November 27, 2009

Organizations That Can Ordain (or License)

Question:

A writer of Christian books wishes to enjoy the benefits of ministerial status. What organizations can ordain (or license) him to the gospel ministry? The minister plans to launch his ministry career from these books and would like to get a ministerial license through this ministry.

Answer:

The most frequent instance when a minister must provide proof of his status relates to the filing of Form 4361 applying for exemption from social security tax. The instructions to the form state the following:

"Enter the date you were ordained, commissioned, or licensed as a minister of a church...

"Attach a copy of the certificate (or, if you did not receive one, a letter from the governing body of your church) that establishes your status ...

"[E]nter the legal name, address, and employer identification number of the denomination that ordained, commissioned, or licensed you ...

"You must be able to show that the body that ordained, commissioned, or licensed you ... is exempt from federal income tax under section 501(a) as a religious organization described in section 501(c)(3). You must also be able to show that the body is a church (or convention or association of churches) described in section 170(b)(1)(A)(i).

"[Y]ou can attach a copy of the exemption letter issued to the organization by the IRS. If that is not available, you can attach a letter signed by an individual authorized to act for the organization stating that the organization meets both of the above requirements."

While denominational polity differs, as a member of an independent Baptist church, I believe (from a theological standpoint) that only a local assembly of believers in Jesus Christ can recognize the call to the gospel ministry upon a qualified member of the church. The IRS readily accepts this type of recognition as well. Other churches may certainly have different methods for ordination or licensure but I cannot attest to their defensibility before the IRS.

2 comments:

  1. Does the IRS have time limits between when the minister was licensed and when he can begin the exemption?

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  2. Please see January 29, 2009, post: "Timing for Opting Out of Social Security"

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