Christian Ministries and the Law

By H, Wayne House
Grand Rapids : Baker (1992). 249 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Richard Mayhue
4.1 (Spring 1993) : 106-108

H. Wayne House has served the church well with this primer on the church and law in the late 20th century. House, a man trained biblically and legally, acted as both compiler and contributor along with six other practicing attorneys (6). In his preface he delivers the appropriate disclaimers that point to Richard R. Hammar's Pastor, Church and Law as the more complete volume for which House's work serves as an introduction.

The book is divided into four parts:

     Part 1 - The American Legal System

     Part 2 - Counseling, Church Discipline, and Conflict Resolution

     Part 3 - Corporation, Christian Schools, Property, Taxes, and Political Activity

     Part 4 - Counseling Church Members Regarding the Law.

Though not all pastors or leaders of a para-church ministry will encounter each issue discussed, they certainly will be faced at sometime in their ministries with many of the ones addressed.

For pastors, the following chapters could be of particular significance:

      "A Look at the First Amendment" (chap. 5, 43-53)

      "The Minister as Counselor" (chap. 6, 57-64)

      "Church Discipline and the Right of Privacy" (chap. 7, 65-78)

      "Reconciling Disputes among Christians" (chap. 8, 79-88)

      "Tax Planning for Religious Workers" (chap. 13, 141-50)

      "Charitable Giving: Funding the Christian Challenge" (chap. 14, 151-64)

      "Should Christians Sue?" (chap. 16, 175-82)

      "Is Bankruptcy Ethical for the Christian?" (chap. 17, 183-191).

Among the four appendixes, Appendix D, a listing of Christian Conciliation Ministries of North America (219-20) is immediately the most helpful since this information is not readily available to most pastors. The volume has a medium-sized bibliography (235-38) that emphasizes more the legal side of the issues than the practical side as faced in the church. These materials are a bit out-of-date in that the majority are clustered in the mid-1980's.

Of special significance to pastors is chap. 6, "The Minister as Counselor." Jeffrey A. Aman contributed this summary of the nowfamous Nally v. Grace Community Church of the Valley clergy malpractice case. As one familiar with the details of the case, this reviewer found it to be a helpful summary for those who have watched at a distance and/or have received incomplete information.

This book is recommended to all pastors, leaders of Christian organizations, and professors of pastoral ministry in schools preparing men for ministry. It surveys a majority of the church/state and legal issues that Christian workers face in the late-20th century and certainly will face well into the 21st century.