Most churches incorporate in order to obtain a non-profit status, so that taxes are not paid by the church and members may claim contributions on their tax returns. This is known as a 501(c)(3) status. Churches with this non-profit status must have by-laws that govern the operation of the church. If you are a member of a church, you are entitled to see the by-laws.
Below is what the by-laws of one United Pentecostal Church look like. It is being provided for educational purposes as very few church members ever see documents such as this.
You may also be interested in the PDF file of the constitution from the First United Pentecostal Church of Kennett, Missouri found on their website.
The constitution and by-laws of the International Harvest Church of America at Fort Worth, Texas may be found here.
Also of interest from The United Pentecostal Church of Bay Point in Pittsburg, California, is their old application to become a member, which references abiding by the by-laws. That is found here. (This page was removed after we linked to it. However, I made screen shots of the pages that are found here & here. )
In addition, the South Texas District of the United Pentecostal Church has a PDF file on organizing a church legally, which is found here. (This page was removed after we linked to it. However, I had kept the PDF file and you may find it here.)
One note of interest is that the church in New York, whose by-laws appear below, attempted to use these by-laws in a legal case, in an effort to state they did not owe a former member money for breach of contract. You may view the PDF of the court decision, where this attempt to use the by-laws was disallowed, here. For another article on our website that cites court cases, go here.
I feel it is important when leaving an unhealthy church to officially resign as a member. You are no longer subject to church discipline once you resign and should they attempt to spread lies about you that harm your reputation, legal action would be possible. (I am by no means advocating that everyone sue their former unhealthy churches.) To read a very pointed sample resignation letter on The Wartburg Watch, go here and scroll down to where it says 'resign.' (I don't believe that most people would need to be that pointed, however it would be a very effective letter.) To read about a legal case where a former United Pentecostal Church member successfully sued her former pastor for slander, go here.
Posted September 3, 2012 - Updated April 1, 2013
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August 23, 1997
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