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Honorarium vs Self Employment vs Employee

2019-09-16T17:01:03-04:00

Honorarium vs Self Employment vs Employee

  1. To be considered INCOME it must be derived from
    • the conduct of a trade or business
    • be involved in the activity with continuity and regularity, as distinguished from an occasional action
    • and the primary purpose for being involved in the activity is for income or profit.

e.g.  A tax preparer is asked to present a seminar at a tax preparer’s annual convention in which an honorarium is received.  As the tax preparer is not in the business of being a professional speaker, it is not income.  This would be an Honorarium.

e.g.  “Batok was an automobile mechanic who took a one-month job painting houses, earning $ 4,200 which he reported as other income, not Schedule C [Self-Employment].  The IRS charged SE [self-employment] tax in audit, but the court determined that Batok wasn’t “in the business” of painting houses (John A. Batok v. Comm,TCM 1992-727).”  This was neither self-employment income nor Employee Income; it was Other Income.

  1. Worker Classification as Self-Employed or Employee

The IRS and courts look at three classifications in making a determination of a worker’s status

In 2013 the IRS looked at more cases of worker misclassification than in the previous 5 years combined.

  1. Does BEHAVIORAL control over worker exist?
    1. To what extent are instructions given and taken?

An employee is general subject to the business’s instructions about when where and how to work.

  1. What training does the business give the worker?

Employees generally are trained to perform services in a particular manner.

  1. Do FINANCIAL controls over worker exist?
    1. Can the worker realize a profit or incur a loss?

An independent contractor can make a profit or loss whereas an employee can only make a profit.

  1. Is the worker’s investment significant?

An independent contractor provides the tools and has unreimbursed expenses and business and travel expenses.

  1. To what extent does the worker make services available to the general public?

An independent contractor generally workers for more than one business or is actively looking for work from more than one business.

  1. How does the business pay the worker?

An independent contractor is generally paid by the job but some professions are paid hourly.

 

  1. What type of RELATIONSHIP between the parties exist?
    1. Does a written contract exist that describes the relationship the parties intend to create?

A written contract could create a de facto employee contract if it contains HOW the work is to be performed.

  1. Does the business provide the worker with employee-type benefits, such as insurance, a pension plan, vacation pay, or sick pay?

Employee benefits are only paid to employees.

  1. How permanent, on-going, is this relationship?

Permanent and indefinite relationship indicates an employee-employer relationship, but independent contractors can have a long-lasting relationship.

  1. To what extent are the services performed by the worker a key aspect of the regular business of the company?

An employee-employer relationship exists if the success of the business is dependent upon the relationship.  E.g. Brick laying company – brick layers – employees, accountant – independent contractor.  It is essential for a company to retain a good accountant, but accounting is not the company’s regular business.

  1. Self-Employed Individuals

A 1099 must be issued to all self-employed individuals if $ 600 or more is paid for services.

A 1099 must be issued to all lawyers for ANY dollar amount paid for services.

“Employers who fail to withhold income, FICA and Medicare tax because its workers are improperly classified as independent contractors are assessed a tax of 1.5% OF THE EMPLOYEE’S WAGES FOR Federal income tax withholding and 20% of the employee’s portion of FICA and Medicare.  The percentages are doubled to 3% and 40% respectively if the employer fails to file Form 1099.”

  1. Depositing the payroll taxes

Whether a company has payroll done in house or hires a payroll service, the employer is responsible to the deposit of payroll taxes and the filing of returns.

The IRS will hold responsible persons personally liable for 100% of the corporate payroll tax.  The 100% penalty is not necessarily imposed on the most responsible taxpayer.

There is an exception for volunteer and tax-exempt organizations.  “The IRS may not impose the trust fund recovery penalty on volunteers, unpaid members or a board of trustees or directors of a tax-exempt organization to the extent that such members serve solely in an honorary capacity, do not participate in the day-to-day or financial operations of the organization, and do not have actual knowledge of the failure to pay the trust fund taxes for which the penalty is imposed.  However, the relief does not apply if it result in no other person being liable for the penalty…”

  1. A responsible person is one who had the duty to collect and pay over the taxes. The following have been held to be responsible – board members, corporate officers, manager, payroll check signers, payroll report signers. 
  2. The responsible person must have acted willfully in failing to pay the collected taxes. “Willful” can be nothing more than knowing the liability exists and paying another creditor.

The IRS has said that a person could be held liable for the unpaid trust fund taxes if they could have obtained information about the financial affairs of the corporation by simply asking for the information.  A person cannot avoid liability by “wearing blinders” to avoid obtaining actual knowledge of the tax delinquency.

  1. Employee Rights

If a person is a de facto employee but the company is treating them as an independent contractor, the individual can file a Form 8919 with their personal tax return and only pay ½ of the self-employed taxes.    The company would then be held responsible for the additional taxes, interest and penalties.

The information above comes from a 35-page continuing learning training seminar. 

The Presbytery of Tropical Florida does not provide legal or tax advice.  This is not intended to substitute for the advice of legal or tax counsel.

6/17/2014

Honorarium vs Self Employment vs Employee2019-09-16T17:01:03-04:00

WORSHIP TOGETHER | Preparing Our Hearts for Sunday 9/22

2019-09-16T15:42:09-04:00

Sunday, September 22, 2019

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time/Proper 20/15th Sunday after Pentecost

First Reading: Jeremiah 8:18-9:1
Psalm 79:1-9
Second Reading: I Timothy 2:1-7
Gospel Reading: Luke 16:1-13

The liturgical color for the day is: Green

The cheater manager is a smart, savvy guy.  It is not his dishonesty that is the takeaway.  It is his smartness and what he does.  The insight that Jesus gives us is that we are to see that moment when the man stops, considers, and thinks.  It is that moment that is a holy moment and the point of the story.

That stopping, thinking, and considering is the smart, shrewd thing the man does.  It is the call of God.  It is the point of the story.  It is the takeaway.

Stop.  Think.  Consider.  Look forward.  Ask the question—“Where are we going and where will we end up?”

It is a question of vision.  What is the vision that God gives?  What is the vision to which God is pointing?  It continues to be about clarity of identity.  We get so caught up in the flow of life that one day turns into the next and then into months and years.  We get so caught up in what we are doing that we let go of focus.  We lose our sharp edge.  We let go of where God is pointing us.  We let go of the call and the pull of God on our lives.

We let go of that vision of where God wants us to be and what God wants us to do.  And as we let go of that long-sightedness, we lapse into this feeling that there is just something missing and that something is not right in our lives.  We lapse into that feeling that “the harvest is passed, the summer has ended, and we are not saved,” FROM ANY OF THIS.

So, stop church.  Stop people.  Stop and consider it.  Add it all up.  And when you do—behold the vision that God has for you.  Look at the vision that God has for us together. 

Baptized.  Called.  Set apart.  Fed at his table.  Children of the living God.

Add it all up—that is the medicine.  There is balm in your life…and he is named Jesus.  There is balm in your life.

Use your smart savvy spirit and add it all up—there is that balm in your life—and he is Jesus. 

Rev. Dr. Daris Bultena
General Presbyter and Stated Clerk

WORSHIP TOGETHER | Preparing Our Hearts for Sunday 9/222019-09-16T15:42:09-04:00

WORSHIP TOGETHER | Preparing Our Hearts for Sunday 9/15

2019-09-10T10:10:29-04:00

Sunday, September 15, 2019

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time/Proper 19/14th Sunday after Pentecost

First Reading: Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
Psalm 14:1-7
Second Reading: I Timothy 1:12-17
Gospel Reading: Luke 15:1-10

The liturgical color for the day is: Green

Would we do those things?  Would we go to that effort for one lost sheep and one lost coin?  Hardly. 

But these are not stories about us and about what we would do.  And it is not really even a story about a shepherd and a woman.  No—it is more of a story about God.  It is about what God would do.  It is about what God does.  It is about who God is—this is what God does!

Do you see the extravagance in the stories of the lost sheep and the lost coin?  There is in them a going well beyond…there is in them a going to the extreme…there is in them a going the extra mile to find the lost—and then the rejoicing and celebration that comes along with it.  To us, one sheep would hardly be worth all that.  To God, one sheep is worth all that and more.

We are that one sheep.

According to these stories—both the shepherd and the woman celebrate when they find their respective lost treasures.  The image is of a party; a banquet; a celebration. 

God is celebrating; holding a banquet; rejoicing; thrilled—when we respond in faith.  God takes delight in us—and what we are as we live as Children of the Living God. 

God loves us beyond our reason.  Beyond all, God is seeking after us.  God is inviting us to the celebration of love.

Extravagant. Seeking. Celebrating.  That is God.

And when we are in that place—when that is the God we meet it is this strangely familiar territory because that is how we were created to be. 

Rev. Dr. Daris Bultena
General Presbyter and Stated Clerk

WORSHIP TOGETHER | Preparing Our Hearts for Sunday 9/152019-09-10T10:10:29-04:00

WORSHIP TOGETHER | Preparing Our Hearts for Sunday 9/8

2019-09-02T22:00:39-04:00

Sunday, September 8, 2019

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time/Proper 18/13th Sunday after Pentecost

First Reading: Jeremiah 18:1-11
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
Second Reading: Philemon 1-21
Gospel Reading: Luke 14:25-33

The liturgical color for the day is: Green

We, the followers of Jesus, are possession rich and we love our mother and brother, our father and sister…so why, why would the Jesus we love say such a thing?  Unless you give all that up you cannot follow…unless you give all that up you cannot “be my disciple.”  Why in the world would Jesus say that?

Ah, but see, that is his point.  We must get beyond the world.  We have to get beyond our relationships—important as they are.  We must get beyond our stuff—significant and weighty as it is.  We must get beyond all that in order to see the beyond this world that Jesus calls us to in seeking life in God. 

Our faith cannot be that one more thing.  Our faith cannot be like that overstuffed roller bag.  Our faith is not to be a sneaker, a sweater, or a hairdryer that we poke and push into the container that is our living.  Our faith is not a utilitarian thing that we drag out when it is needed, and other than that it is just on the stack.  Our faith is beyond that.  Our faith is bigger than that. 

Our faith is the whole bag.  Our faith is the whole enchilada.  Our faith is sum and total of all those individual pieces in our life.  Our faith is our discipleship.  Our discipleship is that which causes us to follow Christ rather than collapse under the immensity as one more thing is added to the overstuffed bag of our living.

And in all of that, where is God? 

God is at the wheel.  God is at the potter’s wheel.  And our life is like that vessel.  God is shaping it.  Just as we, the clay, hurl ourselves off course or the forces of life push out to make us lopsided—oh, just then God is there shaping.  God is there bending down.  God is there moving us along.

And look at God as God attends to the vessel of your life.  Look at God and what do you see?  You see that God’s hands and arms and torso are covered with the clay.  God is literally up to God’s elbows in our life.  God is covered in the messiness that is our existence.  We are a mess and God dives right into it—right into us.

It is who Jesus is.  It is the cross.  It is what God does.  In the messiness that is the cross, God comes to us.  In the messiness that is death and ending and finality—in that very mess God forms new life.  God is up to God’s elbows in our endings and our finalities—up to the elbows in bringing out new life and new shape for us.

Faith is knowing that the up-to-the-elbows God does not just see you as one more thing.  Faith is knowing that the up-to-the-elbows God has you, holds you, forms you, shapes you—loves you.  That the up-to-the-elbows God “prays you through.”  Such faith gets us through the storm.

Rev. Dr. Daris Bultena
General Presbyter & Stated Clerk

WORSHIP TOGETHER | Preparing Our Hearts for Sunday 9/82019-09-02T22:00:39-04:00

WARNING of Employee Misconduct

2019-08-26T15:40:27-04:00

Can One Church Warn Another of a Former Employee’s Misconduct?
A negative employment reference could create civil liability.

If Church A dismisses an employee for misconduct and the former employee is hired by Church B, does Church A have a legal duty to warn Church B about the employees’ misconduct?

This article will review a recent case addressing this question, review several cases, and conclude with a helpful checklist.

A recent case: McRaney v. Mission Board

In McRaney v. Mission Board, 304 F. Supp.3d 514 (ND. Miss. 2018), a federal district court in Mississippi ruled that it was not barred by the ministerial exception or ecclesiastical abstention doctrine from resolving a case involving a minister’s claims against a denominational missions board.

Facts

A missions agency terminated the employment of its executive director (the “plaintiff’), an ordained minister. The plaintiff said an unrelated denominational missions board interfered with his business and contractual relationships with third parties, including the agency that fired him. He cited three specific claims:

He was scheduled to speak at a pastors conference in November 2016, but alleged that missions board staff attempted, unsuccessfully, to get his appearance canceled.

The missions board intentionally took steps to have his employment with the missions agency terminated—steps that proved successful.

He was scheduled to speak in October 2016 at a missions symposium until missions board employees allegedly spoke to organizers of the event and had him uninvited.

The Lawsuit

The plaintiff sued the missions board in a federal court, alleging three counts of intentional interference with business relationships. The court rejected the missions board’s motion to dismiss the case. It noted that under Mississippi law, the elements of intentional interference with a contractual relationship are:

  • that the acts were intentional and willful;
  • that they were calculated to cause damage to the plaintiff in his or her lawful business;
  • that they were done with the unlawful purpose of causing damage and loss, without right or justifiable cause on the part of the defendant (acts thus constituting malice);
  • that actual damage or loss resulted; and
  • the defendant’s acts were the proximate cause of the loss or damage suffered by the plaintiff.

The court noted that to succeed a plaintiff “must prove that the contract would have been performed but for the alleged interference,” and that

because an essential element is that the plaintiff suffer some damage or loss, the court holds that the plaintiffs claim that the missions board intentionally interfered with his scheduled appearance at the pastor’s conference fails. Despite the board’s actions, the plaintiff admits that his speech was not canceled, and he therefore did not suffer damages. The plaintiff therefore cannot state a claim for interference with that relationship and that claim shall be dismissed.

However, the court concluded that the plaintiff could pursue his other two claims of interference with contractual relationship:

In regard to the plaintiffs other two claims for intentional inference, the court finds that he has met his initial pleading burden and that dismissal of those claims at this juncture is thus inappropriate. First, with regard to his relationship to his employer, he has alleged that the missions board intentionally acted to have his employer fire him, and that he was actually fired as a result of those actions. These allegations are sufficient at this juncture to state a claim for intentional interference under these alleged facts.

Second, he has sufficiently alleged that the missions board intentionally sought to have his speech [at the missions symposium] cancelled and that it was actually cancelled as a result, thus causing him damage. These allegations are likewise sufficient to state a claim for intentional interference at this juncture. Accordingly, the court shall deny the board’s motion to dismiss these two interference claims.

The court concluded that the ministerial exception, which bars civil courts from resolving most employment disputes between churches and clergy, did not apply since the plaintiff  was not an employee of the missions board that he was suing:

He was indisputably not employed by the missions board, this is not a claim between employer and employee, is not a claim that arises out of employment decisions made by the sole defendant, and thus the ministerial exception does not apply to mandate dismissal of any of the plaintiffs’ claims.

Four case studies

In many states, one who interferes with an existing contract between two other parties can be sued for “interference with contract.” To illustrate, assume that a church dismisses a pastor for adultery. The pastor is later hired by another church. After a few months, a denominational official learns of the pastor’s new job, and contacts the board members of the new church to inform them of the pastor’s previous misconduct. As a result of this unsolicited disclosure, the church board decides to terminate the pasta employment. The pastor may be able to sue the denominational official for interference with contract

Note that this basis of liability requires the existence of a contract. If the church had asked the denominational official for a reference prior to the date the pastor was hired, there ordinarily is no interference with contract. The timing of reference is critical. If it comes before the prospective employee is hired, there ordinarily can be no interference with contract. If it comes after the employee is hired, there may be liability if it results in the new employee’s termination.

Consider the following examples from actual cases.

CASE STUDY 1 The Alaska Supreme Court ruled that a denominational official in the Presbyterian Church (USA) could be sued on the basis of interference with contract for making disparaging comments about another minister who recently had been hired by a local church.

A Presbyterian minister left a pastoral position in Alaska and accepted a call as minister of a Presbyterian church in Tennessee. When he presented himself to the church to begin his duties, he was informed by church officials that because of derogatory information the church had received from a denomination official (an executive presbyter in Alaska), the church would not hire him. The presbyter had informed the church leaders that the minister was divorced, dishonest, unable to perform pastoral duties because of throat surgery, and that he had made an improper sexual advance to a church member in Alaska .

The minister sued the presbyter for intentional interference with his employment contract with the Tennessee church.  Generally, one who intentionally interferes with a known contract can be sued for damages. The state supreme court concluded that the civil courts can make this determination without inquiries into internal church discipline.

The court drew an important distinction between clergy who are seeking a pastoral position and those have been hired.  If a church official makes derogatory remarks about a minister who already has been hired by a local church, and if those remarks induce local church leaders to terminate the employment agreement, then the church official can be sued for interference with contract. The court insisted that claims ordinarily will not involve inquiries into core ecclesiastical issues. This suggests that church officials should be more cautious in making remarks about clergy who already have been hired by a local church or other religious organization. Marshall v. Munro, 845 P.2d 424 (Alaska 1993).

CASE STUDY 2 An Illinois appeals court dismissed a lawsuit brought by a Methodist minister against a Methodist conference for breach of contract and wrongful interference with contractual relations. The minister claimed that, despite his “good and satisfactory work” as pastor of a local church,  he was assigned by the conference to another church-which constituted “a severe demotion in terms of the number of church members, compensation, and opportunity for service.” He further claimed that the conference ordered his transfer without a “consultation” with the churches involved (as required by the Methodist “Book of Discipline”) and therefore amounted to a breach of contract. The conference claimed that the dispute was a purely ecclesiastical matter over which the civil courts had no jurisdiction, and accordingly asked the trial court to dismiss the lawsuit. A state appeals court dismissed the lawsuit on the basis of “ecclesiastical abstention” doctrine which bars the civil courts from interfering with internal church disputes that implicate doctrine or polity. Williams v. Palmer, 532 NE.2d 1061 (Ill. App. 3rd Dist. 1

CASE STUDY 3 A Louisiana court suggested that it could not resolve a priest’s claim that a church official was guilty of interference with contract as a result of the contents of a letter of reference. A Catholic priest who had been accused of molesting a child was investigated by church officials. He later filed a lawsuit claiming that a church official interfered with his employment prospects as a Navy chaplain as a result of a letter of reference that referred to “some accusations of questionable behavior and some complaints about [the priest’s] ministry.” The church official insisted that the letter of reference pertained to the fitness of the priest for assignment to a chaplaincy position-a matter beyond the reach of the civil courts. The court did not address this issue directly but seemed to acknowledge that internal communications among clergy or church leaders regarding the fitness of a minister cannot give rise to civil liability. Hayden v. Schulte, 701 So.2d 1354 (La. App. 1997).

CASE STUDY 4 A New Jersey court ruled that a church acted properly in dismissing its music director for criminal acts.  After working for the church for a few months, the music director was arrested for possession of illegal anabolic steroids. It was later disclosed that the music director had been taking steroids to assist him with bodybuilding, and that he had ordered several shipments of steroids shipped directly to the church to avoid detection. The music director was dismissed, and later applied to another church for similar employment. His application was rejected when the church contacted the previous church and was informed by the pastor of what had happened. The music director sued his former church, alleging breach of contract. He also claimed that the pastor, by informing the other church of the music director’s criminal activities, had wrongfully “interfered with his prospective economic advantage.”

The trial court dismissed the music director’s assertion that the church had wrongfully interfered with a “prospective economic advantage.” It noted that the music director could not show that “there was an intentional, without justification, interference” with his economic advantage. Further, the court pointed out that the pastor had disclosed the information only after it was requested, and the information was of criminal conduct admitted by the music director and covered in the newspaper. Additionally, the pastor was protected by a “qualified privilege” for employment references, meaning that he could not be liable unless his reference contained information that the pastor knew to be false. McGarry v. Saint Anthon Padua Roman Catholic Church, 704 A.2d 1353 (N.J. Super. 1998).

Six Key Considerations

Typical cases

According to the principle of interference with contract (sometimes referred to as “interference with economic advantage”) a former employer may be liable if it intentionally interferes with an existing employment relationship between a former employee and a new employer. This generally means that the former employer gratuitously, and without being asked, informs the new employer of past indiscretions by the employee that result in the termination of his or her employment. These cases typically fall into o the following two scenarios:

  • A former employee of a church is dismissed due to sexual misconduct. The lead pastor late learns that this employee was hired by another church. The employee’s new employer never asked his former employing church for a reference. The pastor of the former employing church calls the pastor of the new employing church and asks if he was aware that the employee was dismissed by the former church for sexual misconduct. The pastor is shocked, and immediately decides to terminate the employee. The dismissed employee sues his former employing church for interference with contract.
  • A church dismisses an employee because of embezzlement, and the employee is later hired by another church. The pastor of the former employing church discovers that the dismissed employee is now working for another church, and he calls the pastor of the new employer and shares about the embezzlement. Based on this unsolicited communication, the employee is terminated from her new job. She later sues her former church and pastor for interference with contract.

Proving interference with contract

While the definition of interference with contract varies from state to state, most states define the term to consist of the existence of a contract (an employment relationship), and some intentional act by a former church or pastor that interfered with that contract. This basis of liability requires the existence of a contract. If an employer asks a former employer for a letter of reference prior to the date an applicant is hired, there is no interference with contract.

Some courts have extended the principle of interference with contract to the preemployment stage, referring to this as “interference with prospective contractual relations.” This requires proof of the following elements: (1) a “reasonable probability” that the plaintiff would have entered into the prospective relationship or contract; (2) a wrongful act by the defendant that prevented the relationship from occurring; (3) the defendant did such act with a conscious desire to prevent the relationship from occurring, or knew that the interference was certain or substantially certain to occur as a result of the defendant’s conduct; and (4) the plaintiff suffered actual harm or damage as a result of the defendant interference.

3.  Misunderstanding the legal duty to “warn”

Many church leaders believe that if they learn that a former employee who was dismissed for misconduct has been hired by another church, they have a legal duty to “warn” the other church of the employee’ misconduct and the potential risk he or she poses to others. But few courts have reached such a conclusion.   In a leading case, the Wisconsin Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a church does not have an affirmative duty to warn future employers that one of its ministers had molested several boys. Hornback, Archdiocese of Milwaukee, 752 N W2d 862 (Wis. 2008).

In the Wisconsin case, five adult males (the “plaintiffs”) alleged that they were sexually abused by a priest from 1968 to 1973 when he was employed as a teacher by a parochial school in Kentucky. The plaintiff’s lawsuit described an ongoing pattern of sexual abuse of children by the priest over the years. The plaintiffs alleged that, prior to 1964, he had engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct while at a Catholic seminary that between 1964 and 1966, he abused more than two dozen children while a teacher at a Wisconsin parochial school; that he subsequently admitted to sexually abusing up to ten more children at another Wisconsin parochial school; and that the pattern of sexual abuse continued while he was a teacher at parochial school in Kentucky.

The plaintiffs sued the Wisconsin diocese (the “Diocese”), claiming that it “knew or should have known the priest’s propensity for sexually abusing children and, despite this knowledge, did not refer him to police or take any other action to prevent him from continuing his pattern of sexually abusing children.  The lawsuit further alleged that the failure of the diocese to refer the priest to the police or to take “other action to prevent a continuation of his pattern of sexually abusing children” amounted to negligence, that the diocese’s negligent conduct was a substantial factor in causing the priest’s sexual abuse of, a: resulting injuries to, the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs specified that such negligence in failing to take other action specifically included a negligent failure to warn “unforeseeable third parties,” including “other dioceses within the United States, the parochial school systems or the parents of unforeseeable victims” of the priest’s propensity for sexual abuse.

The court noted that the plaintiffs’ negligence claim “is premised on an alleged failure to warn unforeseeable third parties, including any potential future employers of the priest at dioceses and parochial school systems everywhere in the country, as well as parents of unforeseeable victims.”

The Diocese insisted that the law does not “impose a duty on employers to seek out and disclose information to an employee’s subsequent employers or the public at large concerning a former employee’s history of misconduct  or antisocial  behavior,” and that under the legal theory of negligent  referral  or to warn “unless an employer gives a favorable reference to a subsequent employer or third party about the former employee while withholding negative information, there is no breach of duty established by the employer’s failure to seek out subsequent employers and alert them to prior negative history of the former employee.”

The court concluded:

The Diocese’s mere knowledge of the priest’s past sexual abuse, or a presumed knowledge of a continued sexual propensity for abuse, is not enough to establish negligence.  Reasonable and ordinary care does not require the Diocese to notify all potential subsequent employers within dioceses and parochial school systems across the country, along with all parents of future unforeseeable victims.   Requiring such notification under these circumstances would create a vast obligation dramatically exceeding any approach to failure to warn recognized either in this state or in other jurisdictions….

More importantly, in this case, the specific victims were unforeseeable. Foreseeability of specific victims becomes relevant when an affirmative obligation is argued, such as the obligation to warn. Moreover, the Diocese did not assume a special role in regard to the injured parties….

The plaintiffs in this case had virtually no relationship with the Diocese. There are significant gaps temporally and geographically, with the plaintiffs separated from the Diocese by several state lines and their abuse separated from the priest’s employment with the Diocese by a number of years, and the complaint never indicated that their paths crossed at all prior to the plaintiffs filing this action. Thus, the relationship between the parties in this case is quite attenuated.

There is no state in which employers are recognized as being negligent for failing to seek out, find, and warn future employers of sexually dangerous former employees. Even those states that have recognized a negligent referral doctrine do not impose liability when a referral letter is sent by a past employer to a future employer of such an employee unless actual misrepresentations are made in such a letter.

 

Thus, we conclude that the plaintiffs’ complaint fails to allege negligence sufficiently to survive a motion to dismiss. Although the plaintiffs allege that the Diocese knew that the priest had a propensity for sexual abuse, what is more pertinent is what the plaintiffs did not allege. They did not allege that the Diocese knew that he was in Kentucky, still teaching children, or working for the Archdiocese in Louisville. They did not allege any knowledge that the children at the [parochial school in Kentucky] were in any danger. They did not allege that the Archdiocese of Louisville asked the Diocese for a reference, that the Diocese made a reference recommending the priest, or that the Diocese had any communication whatsoever with the Archdiocese of Louisville regarding the priest.

The plaintiffs also fail to provide legal authority supporting their arguments. They argue that the duty of ordinary care in this case encompasses a specific obligation to warn all parochial schools and dioceses in this country, as well as future parents of unforeseeable victims, but have cited no cases in which the failure to warn third parties has been described in such sweeping terms….

We decline to rule that under the general duty of ordinary care recognized in Wisconsin, an employer may be found negligent for failing to warn  unforeseen  third  parties  of a dangerous former employee. Such a ruling would extend an employer’s obligation to warn indefinitely into the future to a sweeping category of  persons, thereby  requiring  employers to warn nearly all potential future employers or victims, as the plaintiffs in this case argue…  A decision to the contrary would create precedent suggesting that employers have an obligation to search out and disclose to all potential subsequent employers, which could include in an employment context every school in the country or beyond, all matters concerning an ex-employee’s history  The primary public policy problem with

recognizing the claim as presented by the plaintiffs is that there is no sensible stopping point to recognizing negligence claims for such an open-ended and ill-defined sweeping claim. Recognizing the plaintiffs’ claim against the Diocese in this case could result in requiring all employers to warn all unforeseen potential future employers of any number of problems related to any number of past employees. It could further result in all parents who become aware that their child was sexually abused then facing potential liability for not warning every other parent who might also have children at risk of being in contact with the perpetrator.

Note that the court suggested that its ruling might not relieve churches from liability for providing positive, unqualified references on former employees who committed sexual or other misconduct, or for failing to warn other churches where it knows such former employees are working.  But  there  is no affirmative to track former employees in order to give notice to all future employers and potential victims of the they face. It should also be noted that churches may face civil liability on the basis of interference with contract for gratuitously warning future employers of a former employee’s previous misconduct if a reference was not requested and the result of the negative reference is the employee’s dismissal.

4.  American Bar Association statistics

The American Bar Association monitors civil litigation statistics and trends. In a recent year, interference with contract had the highest “plaintiff win rate” (70 percent) of all liability claims. This means that plaintiffs who sued a former employer for gratuitously sharing information about prior misconduct resulting in the termination of the plaintiff’s job were successful in 70 percent of all lawsuits against former employer.

5.  Possible exception

In a unanimous 2012 ruling, the United States Supreme Court affirmed the so-called “ministerial exception” barring civil court intervention in employment disputes between churches and ministers. Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. E.E.0. C., 132 S. Ct. 694 (2012). The ministerial exception has been applied to a wide range of employment disputes by state and federal courts over the past half century. Some courts have ruled that the exception applies to interference with contract claims by dismissed clergy. But as the case addressed in the beginning of this article demonstrates, the courts have disagreed.

6.  Volunteers

Interference with contract generally requires an employment relationship, and for this reason most courts have concluded that this basis of liability does not apply if a former employer  warns a current employer of the past misconduct of one of its uncompensated volunteers (even if the volunteer had been an employee of the former employer).

Checklist: reducing the risk of interference with contract lawsuits

When a church dismisses an employee for misconduct, and church leaders later learn that the dismiss employee has been hired by another church, the former employing church should consider several precautions before gratuitously informing the new employer of the employee’s prior indiscretions:

  • Employers generally have no legal duty to inform future employers of the prior indiscretions of one of their employees.
  • Informing an employer of the misconduct of one of its employees that results in that employee’s dismissal may expose the former employer to liability based on interference with contract.  The idea is that the current employer could have asked the former employer for a preemployment reference-but for whatever reason chose not to do so. Under these circumstances why  should  the former employer assume the legal risk of furnishing information about a current employee that the current employer did not request when the person was being considered for employment?
  • Some church leaders may conclude that that they are compelled by ethical considerations to inform the current employer of an employee’s past misconduct and are willing to assume the risks.
  • Some courts have ruled that the “ministerial exception,” which bars civil court resolution of employment disputes between churches and clergy, applies to interference with contract claims.  But some courts have ruled that the exception does not apply.
  • For interference with contract to occur, an employment contract must exist. This means that former employee must have been hired by another employer, and that the employment “contract is terminated due to the negative information shared by a former employer. As a result, the less risk in sharing negative information about a former employee who is being considered for employment by another employer.
  • Some courts have extended the principle of interference with contract to the preemployment stage, referring to this as “interference with prospective contractual relations.” This requires proof of the following elements: (1) a “reasonable probability” that the plaintiff would have entered into the prospective relationship or contract; (2) a wrongful act by the defendant that prevented the relationship from occurring; (3) the defendant did such act with a conscious desire to prevent the relationship from occurring, or  knew that the interference was certain or substantially certain to occur as a result of the defendant’s conduct; and (4) the plaintiff suffered actual harm or damage as a result of the defendant’s interference.
  • If a church is asked for a reference on a former employee who was dismissed for misconduct, any risk of liability for providing a negative reference may be reduced by requiring the former employee to sign a release that absolves the church of any liability for providing a reference.
  • Because of the legal issues involved and the potential liability, churches that dismiss an employee for misconduct should not inform subsequent employers of the misconduct without first obtaining legal counsel.

Richard R. Hammar is senior editor ofChurchLawAndTax.com.

This content is designed to provide accurate  and authoritative information in regard to the covered.  It  is with the understanding that the publisher is not engaging in rendering legal, accounting, or· other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought.   “From, Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers Associations.”

Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully  search the site for all content related to the topic interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

Church Law & Tax – Christianity Today
Richard R. Hammar [ posted 7/15/2019]

WARNING of Employee Misconduct2019-08-26T15:40:27-04:00

WORSHIP TOGETHER | Preparing Our Hearts for Sunday 9/1

2019-08-26T15:00:00-04:00

Sunday, September 1, 2019

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time / Proper 17 / 12th Sunday after Pentecost

First Reading: Jeremiah 2:4-13
Psalm 81:1, 10-16
Second Reading: Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Gospel Reading: Luke 14:1, 7-14

The liturgical color for the day is: Green

Jeremiah’s view of things is that they opted for a faith that was more like a cracked cistern than a fountain of living water.  It was not that they had made so much of an active choice.  It was not the blatant action of idolatry which stood out as sin.  It was more the subtlety of it all.

Over time they had ceased to tell the story.  Over time they had ceased to give testimony to the one who long years ago had delivered them from slavery and sustained them in the wilderness.  It was more about drift.  They had drifted away from God so not to even notice that they had drifted away. 

Rather than their faith being active and alive, it was stagnant.  Rather than their God being vibrant and real and moving, what they hung onto was lifeless and leaky like a cracked vessel.

Our motivations can become that too, and Jesus reveals that to us with encounter at the table.  It may seem innocent enough that when we host a dinner there is an expectation that we will receive an invitation to a similar affair.  Yet, Jesus invites us to shed that expectation and go out into the streets and invite those for whom there will be no follow-up invitation.

In reality, this is exactly how God has been with us.  God has invited us into the banquet, and all we can do is receive the invitation of the gracious host.  We should look to our own lives in order to see the clear narrative of grace and mercy.  That story should cause us to turn to the world and mimic the patter of invitation as grace, invitation as mercy, and invitation as love.  Do our lives demonstrate the generosity of God’s amazing grace, mercy, and love?  And…do our churches demonstrate that enormous grace, mercy, and love of God?

Rev. Dr. Daris Bultena
General Presbyter and Stated Clerk

WORSHIP TOGETHER | Preparing Our Hearts for Sunday 9/12019-08-26T15:00:00-04:00

RECORDING KEEPING | Volunteer Applications & Background Checks

2019-08-26T14:56:42-04:00

Q&A – How long should we keep Volunteer Applications and Background Check Documents?
The Simple answer is the longer, the better.

We are in the process of conducting background checks on our workers in children’s ministry. We have worked hard to provide a safe and secure ministry for our children and follow the guidelines put forth in Reducing Risk. We currently have applications on file for children’s ministry volunteers for the last 20 years. How long do we need to keep these records on file?

It is important to recognize that state statutes of limitations for personal injury claims, which prescribe the deadline for filing a lawsuit, do not begin to run until a minor is 18 years of age.

And many courts have ruled that the limitations period does not begin to run until a victim “discovers” his or her injury was caused by the prior abuse. This so-called discovery rule can extend the period for filing a lawsuit by a minor victim for decades.

Imagine your church being sued 30 or 40 years from now for an alleged act of child molestation by a church volunteer that occurred this year.

If you do not screen volunteers, the issue of records retention is irrelevant. But if you do, and your volunteer files contain a written application, reference checks (preferably “institutional” references from other churches or institutions where the individual worked with minors), and the results of criminal records checks, then this will likely be the only evidence that the church will have to defend itself.

By disposing of these vital records, you may be depriving the church of a means of defending itself against a claim that occurred so long ago that no one can testify as to what precautions, if any, the church followed.

As a result, it is important for churches to retain these records for a long time. Since it is impossible to know in advance how the courts in a particular jurisdiction will apply the discovery rule, if at all, a specific number of years to retain volunteer applications and related materials cannot be prescribed.

The simple answer is, the longer the better. Given the importance of these records in defending a church against a claim of negligent selection, they should never be destroyed without the advice of an attorney, based on an evaluation of applicable state law.

Thankfully, with today’s technology, records can be scanned and saved online, so churches no longer have to worry about where to physically store paper copies of all these records.

This content is designed to provide accurate  and authoritative information in regard to the covered.  It  is with the understanding that the publisher is not engaging in rendering legal, accounting, or· other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought.   “From, Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers Associations.”

Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully  search the site for all content related to the topic interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

Church Law & Tax – Christianity Today
Richard R. Hammar ( posted 6/21/2011)

 

RECORDING KEEPING | Volunteer Applications & Background Checks2019-08-26T14:56:42-04:00

WORSHIP TOGETHER | Preparing Our Hearts for Sunday 8/25

2019-08-19T17:46:10-04:00

Sunday, August 25, 2019

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time/Proper 16/11th Sunday after Pentecost

First Reading: Jeremiah 1:4-10
Psalm 71:1-6
Second Reading: Hebrews 12:18-29
Gospel Reading: Luke 13:10-17

The liturgical color for the day is: Green

We have a limited view of ourselves.  We hang on to that fear that God is not nearer than the next breath.  We hang on to our isolation.  But God says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”

Jeremiah had to step up and step out.  Jesus stepped up and stepped out.  Jesus stepped into the reign of God when he did not wait for the right day.  Jesus stepped into the reign of God when he did not wait for the woman to ask for help.        

Jesus saw the woman.  Jesus helped her.  Jesus stepped out of the old norms and expectations and stepped into the reign of God where the world was repaired in the healing of the woman.  It was the new possibility and not the old limitation that God brought about in Christ.

It is the way of the cross.  The limitations of the world do not count—it is not the limitations of the world that have the last word.  That last word become the first word in God’s raising up new life from the limitations of the world.  We are that new life in the world.  We are that possibility and through us we can have confidence that God goes before us and God’s word will come through.

God is with us.  In our baptism we have been called, appointed, and consecrated.  We have been set apart and God is with us—before we were formed God was already with us.  When we live into that we are becoming the disciples God calls us to be.

Rev. Dr. Daris Bultena
PTF General Presbyter

WORSHIP TOGETHER | Preparing Our Hearts for Sunday 8/252019-08-19T17:46:10-04:00

WORSHIP TOGETHER | Preparing Our Hearts for Sunday 8/18

2019-08-12T11:07:09-04:00

Sunday, August 18, 2019

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time / Proper 15 / 10th Sunday after Pentecost

First Reading: Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalm 80:1-2, 8-10
Second Reading: Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Gospel Reading: Luke 12:49-56

The liturgical color for the day is: Green

This Jesus confronts us with the harsh reality that there is something for us to do.  We are to pay attention.  We are to do more than look to the sky to see if it is clouding up for a rain.  We are to pay attention to our lives. 

To pay attention is to attend to our lives.  We attend to our lives by making decisions constantly about how things will work for us.  We don’t just get up in the morning and wait and see what comes along.

We are to get up.  We are to set our minds on Christ.  We are to determine and discern how God will have us be in the world and what God wants of us in our living.  We are to challenge ourselves and we are to challenge each other to live into the call of God for us.

That will not make for an easy life.  The easy way out is always to do what makes people happy.  The easy way out is to do what makes for peace in the family.  The easy way out is to keep the peace.  But keeping the peace is not the goal—keeping faithful is the way that leads to life.

Living into that faithfulness involves making deliberate decisions.  It involves our putting our whole selves into it.  We cannot make deliberate decisions by just letting life happen.  The Jesus of Luke’s Gospel here is a Jesus that demands we attend to really being a player in determining how we will live.

Hard decisions are always part of the Christ-like life.  We will be called to make hard decisions over and over again.  It won’t be that we make one today and we’re good to go for a year or two.  We are called to make hard decisions over and over again.

Will we go along with the crowd?  Will we speak up when see injustice?  Will we just be quiet and stay in our corner thinking that no one will notice, or at least not notice this time? 

Making hard decisions is done daily.  Will we take the easy way out?  Will we go the hard way?  Will we live with integrity?  Will we do it even when no one is watching? 

God has expectations of us—Jesus does not let us off the hook of paying attention to those expectations.

Rev. Dr. Daris Bultena
PTF General Presbyter

WORSHIP TOGETHER | Preparing Our Hearts for Sunday 8/182019-08-12T11:07:09-04:00

WORSHIP TOGETHER | Preparing Our Hearts for Sunday 8/11

2019-08-05T11:26:27-04:00

Sunday, August 11, 2019

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time/Proper 14/9th Sunday after Pentecost

First Reading: Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23
Second Reading: Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Gospel Reading: Luke 12:32-40

The liturgical color for the day is: Green

Faithfulness.  It is about faith, and it is not about fear.  The consistent message of scripture is that we need not be afraid—oh, how we need that message in a culture rife with anxiety and fear.

We are called to faithfulness.  As such, it is a call to be ready.

How do you get ready?  How do you be prepared?  What is it that you prepare for?

There is so much fear—it is impossible to escape.  “Jesus’ teaching offers an extraordinary word of comfort in an increasingly threatening world: ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.’” (v. 32)

The consistent message throughout the passage is not to be ready so that you will avoid punishment, but rather “be ready so that you will receive blessing.”

God’s providence enables a response that runs counter to the human propensity to be afraid…

God’s good pleasure = God’s delightful decision.

Is an invitation to an orientation that life is an abundant gift from a generous God—a gift that can be given away with abandon…

Faithfulness calls for us to be open to God’s delightful decision to be oriented toward us.  In that, the power of fear diminishes. 

May such be “the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not (yet) seen.”

Rev. Dr. Daris Bultena
General Presbyter

WORSHIP TOGETHER | Preparing Our Hearts for Sunday 8/112019-08-05T11:26:27-04:00

WORSHIP TOGETHER | Preparing Our Hearts for Sunday 8/4

2019-07-30T14:19:42-04:00

Sunday, August 4, 2019

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time/Proper 13/8th Sunday after Pentecost

First Reading: Hosea 11:1-11
Psalm 107:1-9, 43
Second Reading: Colossians 3:1-11
Gospel Reading: Luke 12:13-21

The liturgical color for the day is: Green

The writer of Colossians says: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

Yet, the writer of Colossians here says, in essence, “Picture it…”  “Picture your life not as you are headed toward death.  Picture it, you baptized people you, that you have already died in baptism and you have been raised up to this new life.  That picture is to become a portrait of this life where we set our minds, as he puts it, on ‘seek(ing) the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.’”

It is a wonderful picture of our lives—that we have been raised up.  As those raised up ones, we can set our minds, our lives, and our actions on that which is above—we can set ourselves on Christ. 

This is why when the world looks at us, they should be getting a question on their faces.  How is it that we can be so positive, so up-beat, so hopeful in the world that we are in?  How is that possible?  It is possible because we not only have “set our minds on things that are above,” but because we are taking confidence in that which is above. 

The picture of our life that we project to the world is different.  For many in the world it is just a march to the grave.  For us it is a march to victory.  Look at that portrait of your life and see how you have been and have the opportunity to live with the view of life as resurrected and secure.

It is what the writer of Colossians means when he says that your “life is hidden with Christ in God.”  That is about security.  Your life is secure through Christ in God.  We are not held back but can live this full life in Christ with this incredible security that God-so-has-us!!  Picture it…your life with Christ in God.

Rev. Dr. Daris Bultena
General Presbyter

WORSHIP TOGETHER | Preparing Our Hearts for Sunday 8/42019-07-30T14:19:42-04:00

WORSHIP TOGETHER | Preparing Our Hearts for Sunday 7/28

2019-07-22T13:29:42-04:00

Sunday, July 28, 2019

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time/Proper 12/7th Sunday after Pentecost

First Reading: Hosea 1:2-10
Psalm 85
Second Reading: Colossians 2:6-15 (16-19)
Gospel Reading: Luke 11:1-13

The liturgical color for the day is: Green

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

Oh, those Colossians!  They needed to come back to their relationship with the living Christ and ask themselves about the vitality of that relationship.  They needed to do that over and over again.

We are the Colossians in our church and our lives.  We can get distracted by many things.  We can get involved in many day-to-day activities that call our attention away from what really matters.  We can get absorbed into success and survival.  In both our lives and our church we will fluctuate between striving for success and then in our moments of desperation striving to survive.

God calls us neither to success nor survival.  God calls us to keep coming back our relationship with God and those whom God loves.  The challenge is to emerge from the success and survival race to the resurrected living of a vibrant relationship in Christ.

Paul’s invitation to “continue” matters much.  The distractions are abundant, yet the task is clear—keep coming back to that which matters.  Remember your baptism and wonderful reality that you are in Christ.

Rev. Dr. Daris Bultena
General Presbyter

WORSHIP TOGETHER | Preparing Our Hearts for Sunday 7/282019-07-22T13:29:42-04:00

UNRELATED BUSINESS INCOME and a Noodle Company

2019-07-15T18:34:28-04:00

UNRELATED BUSINESS INCOME
and a Noodle Company

In recent months I have spoken to many churches and written about Unrelated Business Income.  As a reminder, Unrelated Business Income is income from an activity that is a trade or business, is regularly carried on, and is not substantially related to furthering the exempt purpose of the church.  For example, renting parking spaces for special events; renting space on the church property to a for-profit school; a bookstore which sells more than just bibles, crosses, Christian education books.  Unrelated Business Income is based on how the income is EARNED and not on how the income is USED.

Now, why do we have to worry about this income?  Well it is because of a noodle factory. 

In 1947 a couple of wealthy alumni donated the Mueller Pasta Co. to the NYU School of Law.  The profits from the noodle company were used successfully to refurbish and expand the Law School and the funds became so important that the main hall on the campus was nicknamed “Noodle Hall”.

Controversy appeared when it was discovered that NYU was attempting to maximize profits by extending it own tax-exempt status over the pasta business.  Finally, in 1950 the Congress passed a law limiting the extension of tax exemption only to organizations that were relevant to the original tax-exempt body.

So, our churches have to pay unrelated business income tax because of noodles.

Because of this noodle tangle the policy of the Presbytery is that all lease with FOR-PROFIT organizations must be approved by the Presbytery prior to a lease being signed.  And just remember that just because an organization is named something that sounds NOT-FOR-PROFITy does not mean that it is.  Before signing any lease please ask the renter for a copy of non-profit status and check on the status of the corporation on the Florida Sunbiz.org website (http://dos.myflorida.com/sunbiz/).

 

 

This information in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as specific legal advice.

UNRELATED BUSINESS INCOME and a Noodle Company2019-07-15T18:34:28-04:00

EMPLOYER AGREEMENT – The Board of Pensions

2019-07-15T18:27:17-04:00

EMPLOYER AGREEMENT
The Board of Pensions

The Annual Employer Agreement for 2020 will be available on Benefits Connect July 15 through October 11, 2019.

This is the annual opportunity for you to review, select, and change the benefits offered to your employees.  The 2020 Employer Agreement must be completed by 10/11/2019 even if your church is not changing any of the selections.

The benefits offered are:

  • Medical Plan (PPO, EPO, and HDHP options)
  • Dental Coverage
  • Vision Eyewear Coverage
  • Flexible Spending Accounts
  • Retirement Savings Plan
  • Pension Plan
  • Death and Disability Coverage
  • Group Term Life Coverage

There will be a live webinar from The Board of Pensions on Monday, July 22, 2019 from 2:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. ET regarding the benefits available, how to access Benefits Connect and your Employer Agreement, how the Employer Services team can assist you, and how to use the flexibility of the benefits offerings to support your church’s staff.  The webinar is already closed but will be recorded and made available on The Board of Pensions website after the live event.

 

This information in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as specific legal advice.

EMPLOYER AGREEMENT – The Board of Pensions2019-07-15T18:27:17-04:00

WORSHIP TOGETHER | Preparing Out Hearts for Sunday 7/21

2019-07-15T10:05:37-04:00

Sunday, July 21, 2019

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time/Proper 11/6th Sunday after Pentecost

First Reading: Amos 8:1-12
Psalm 52
Second Reading: Colossians 1:15-28
Gospel Reading: Luke 10:38-42

The liturgical color for the day is: Green

There is a way to read this story that Martha is active, and Mary is learning.  It becomes a dichotomy of action over intellect.  While that is a way to read the story, it may miss the point that Jesus wants to make with Martha.  It is not that study and learning are preferred over action.  Faithfulness involves both learning and doing.  Faith is more than a noun it is also a verb—it is active—it involves both sitting at the feet of Jesus and attending to the needs of others.

The real issue is seen in the unsettled nature of Martha.  In the story she is about as unsettled as can be while Mary is settled.  Mary is not only settled she is intentional.  She has made an intentional choice.  Mary’s intentional choice is to be taking in this moment when Jesus is there and learn all she can from him.

Martha has not made intentional choices—she has just been going on with the flow of how things happen.  She has been the unintentional victim of “life happens.”  And the unsettledness of that comes out in the clear hostility she demonstrates towards her sister.  Hey, we always demonstrate our deepest frustrations on those closest to us.

You see, the intentional choice that Mary has made is all about Jesus.  The unintentional choice that Martha has made is that this is all about Martha. 

The words of Jesus to his disciples are clear: “Follow me.”  We are told that James and John left their nets and followed.  They made an active choice.  They did not just let life happen they made an active choice—it was an intentional choice.  May we make intentional choices in our life in Christ.  

Rev. Dr. Daris Bultena
General Presbyter

WORSHIP TOGETHER | Preparing Out Hearts for Sunday 7/212019-07-15T10:05:37-04:00

WORSHIP TOGETHER | Preparing Our Hearts for Sunday 7/14

2019-07-05T15:18:06-04:00

Sunday, July 14, 2019

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time/Proper 10/5th Sunday after Pentecost

First Reading: Amos 7:7-17
Psalm 52
Second Reading: Colossians 1:1-14
Gospel Reading: Luke 10:25-37

The liturgical color for the day is: Green

Jesus turns to the lawyer and asks him, “Which of the three was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hand of the robbers?  The lawyer responds, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Yes.  The right answer.  Jesus tells him, “Go and do likewise.”

We are not the lawyer.  We are that one on the road.  We are that one who has been left there.  And God is the one who comes along in Christ and through the cross binds up our wounds and takes us in to care for us.  God is the one who saves us.  God is the one who meets us on the road when the rest pass us by and pass us over.

We are the ones who have been rescued.  As such the challenge to the lawyer is the challenge to us too.  “Go and do likewise.”  We are to be that neighbor.

Of such is the call of God.  Of such is the makings of our apostleship in Christ.  It is what it means to be baptized and to be called into faithfulness.  It is what it means to be Christian.

For Amos there was that prophecy of the plumb line.  Things were literally crocked and that which is crocked will not endure.  A structure that is built out of plumb or out of “true” is one that will not last.  We find our “true” not by drawing the line but by realizing that God has so drawn us in that we are rescued on the road.  We are the saved.  We have been drawn on the God side of the plumb line.

Our mission…our opportunity is to “go and do likewise.”

Rev. Dr. Daris Bultena
General Presbyter

WORSHIP TOGETHER | Preparing Our Hearts for Sunday 7/142019-07-05T15:18:06-04:00