Legal Resource Manual for Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Middle Governing Bodies and Churches

Third edition (2010)

The Legal Resource Manual was updated in 2010 although Legal Services continues to review it and the department will update several sections of the Manual before the start of 2011.  As always, you are welcome to use this as a resource for information on a number of legal issues.  However, since laws in each state may be different and interpretations of laws by courts may vary both state-by-state and in state and federal courts, it is always advisable to seek guidance and advice from your local attorney.

The Office of Legal/Risk Management Services performs work for the General Assembly Mission Council, the Office of the General Assembly, the ministry divisions, and other corporations and work areas at the General Assembly level. These are our clients.

Over the years we have also provided general informal advice to the middle governing bodies and the particular churches. This third edition Manual is a compilation of some of the advice and resources we have shared over the years. Our first edition Manual (2000-2003) and second edition Manual (2004-2007) were well received and well used. We trust the same will be true for this Manual.

The law is far ranging in modern American society. This Manual does not cover every topic. Let us know if there are additional resources or changes you would like to see in future publications. Moreover, let us know if you have resources or articles to share. Some of our very best materials have been provided to us by churches, presbyteries, and synods.

The Office of Legal/Risk Management Services sincerely appreciates the contributions and work of many outside authors. Contributors to this Manual include colleagues from churches, middle governing bodies, and other General Assembly-level offices and corporations. Legal counsel from other denominations also contributed to this Manual. We especially thank the Legal Department of the General Council of Finance and Administration of The United Methodist Church. This Manual is, in part, based on the very successful legal manual published by that office.

Finally, be certain to consult your local attorney for legal advice and expert assistance. While the information in this resource Manual should be a helpful guide, it cannot substitute for your local counsel familiar with the law and facts of your particular situation. The laws, of course, continue to change. Your local counsel will ensure the current law is applied to your needs.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Section 1:        Basic Organization of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
  • Section 2:        Property
  • Section 3:        Incorporation and Boards of Trustees
  • Section 4:        Copyright and Trademark
  • Section 5:        Contracts
  • Section 6:        Personnel and Employment Matters
  • Section 7:        Immigration
  • Section 8:        Taxation
  • Section 9:        Risk Management
  • Section 10:      Estates and Planned Giving
  • Section 11:      Other Resources
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