Can a church organize in such a way that all its members can avoid paying income taxes?
No, says Dan Rehak of the Internal Revenue Service in St. Paul. Or rather, what he said was: "Based on present law as I know it and as it's being interpreted around the country, members of such a group would not be granted tax-exempt status."
However, the Rev. David Holmes, of the Miletus Church, Inc., in suburban Wayzata, says it's not only possible, but it is being done by his group. Members of Miletus Church can legally avoid paying income taxes without being required to apply for tax-exempt status, he says.
The Miletus Church functions as a religious order, similar to orders of nuns and monks in the Roman Catholic Church, and calls each member family an "integrated auxiliary" of the order.
Holmes says that by organizing itself as an order, the Miletus Church can offer its members exemption from paying income taxes. Any other church could do the same, he said, "and I expect multitudes will."
But Holmes' interpretation of the IRS code has not been tested and IRS officials said that they doubted that the idea would stand up under a test case.
"You can't just say your members are in a religious order," Rehak said. "They have to be performing some sacerdotal function for the church - and you'd have to prove that these people are authorized by some church to do that."
Holmes says that's exactly what the approximately 100 adult members of the Miletus Church do. His church, a two-year-old band of "New Testament Christians," takes seriously the concept of the priesthood of all believers. Every adult member is considered a priest with "circumscribed duties."
Father Joseph L. Charron, assistant general secretary of the United States Catholic Conference and National Conference of Catholic Bishops since last September, has been promoted to associate general secretary for the NCCB. He succeeds Father Thomas C. Kelly, who was named general secretary of the two conferences in March.
The Secretariat for Black Catholics of the Archdiocese of Washington has held elections for seats on the board of directors. The eight seats were filled by:
Lillian Queen of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Parish; Melody Lawson of St. Benedict the Moor; Emma Brooks of Holy Redeemer Parish; Sr. Rosetta Brown and Sr. Helen Therese Stanis Laus of St. Gabriel and Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian parishes, respectively; the Rev. William L. Norvel, pastor of St. Benedict the Moor parish; the Rev. Robert Pittman, director of Corpus Christi House in northeast Washington, and the Rev. Cleveland Anderson, of St. Gabriel's.
Robert Shafer, Washington conductor and choral director, has been appointed music director of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception by Msgr. John J. Murphy, shrine director. He will succeed Joseph Michaud, who will retire June 30.