Entities are fundamental to the way we live and function in a host of ways.
A few years ago now, illustrated by an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, raised a generic question which is relevant to a wide range of situations not least Christian Churches and Missions.
The generic question - "Just what is the appropriate entity?"
Although an old illustration, it applies today. The story was that Australian Air Express gained a judgement in its favour against Gasp Jeans Australia. Gasp Jeans Australia's spokesperson stated that to claim against an entity which never had any dealings with you is the equivalent of Australian Air Express suing the Herald Sun, that's how absurd it is, and that nothing's stopping them issuing proceedings against the correct company, which the claim is Gasp Jeans Chadstone.
This question – 'Just who is the appropriate entity' - is not an uncommon situation in business and corporate situations where a number of entities are registered and each one is engaged in a particular sphere of activity.
There are many reasons for this. Many are management processes, some are specifically to separate the front desk from things such as sales, manufacturing, importing, internal business interests. This means profits of one entity not being subject to the losses of another, and the like.
There are also issues of taxation involved as well as careful business enterprise planning so as to maximise the business interests as defined by legislation. It could even enable them to put at arms length those areas of the business that deal with troublesome or even militant trade unionists.
These things are never simple, many accountants and accountancy firms have a wealth of experience in such matters and when something goes awfully wrong with an entity, the manoeuvring is equal to military planning for a decisive battle where lives, states, nations could possibly be at stake. In the case of business it is money, wealth, reputation, money and money.
The ultimate question is that when something goes terribly wrong, who to go after? Which entity is it? Was this or that entity the culprit. Many of the same people might be involved, but each entity is quite separate and one needs to be very careful that the correct entity is challenged.
Church Business and Politics
Church business and Church politics is like this too. Many very large churches today have so many different separate legal entities that the process at the heart of the matter may well be to separate them as 'good business practice', or more likely to 'protect those who need protection'.
Church politics is deadly at this level. Many in church politics know how to use the systems in place to see that specific outcomes fall in the right way. At a personal level, it could be to see off rivals or those no longer welcome.
This is a perennial issue within the Christian scene. Recently someone sought counsel over their married son and his family. The family found themselves at the wrong end of such politics in their local church and they ended up leaving that congregation and dropping out of church life altogether.
This is an all to common story, I have written to the Christian Management Association with suggestions to incorporate in their seminars: "How to deal with the nastier side of church and mission politics".
Paul and Barnabas had a huge disagreement and they separated from each other and conducted missions in different geographical locations thus doubling the mission effort of the early church (Acts chapter 15 verses 38-41). This is often the only-out in such situations.
I am reminded of a 2004 seminar put on by the NSW Department of Fair Trading for Public Offices in Associations Incorporations in Batemans Bay when we were living in Moruya. One question related to internal politics and the spokesperson running the seminar said they were not set up to handle disputes. There were 32,000 Associations Incorporations and 32,001 would make no difference. In effect, the Paul and Barnabas solution.
When all else fails whenever a dispute of any kind is pondered, the first step to consider is, which 'entity' is it. Getting that right seems to be the first step. It appears also to be the first step in Matthew 18 where Jesus makes the point that when in a dispute go to the brother.
It may seem stupid at first, but knowing which brother (the entity) is clearly a critical issue which may or may not be very clear in the heat of battle. Often it's not that simple. I'm aware of in-numerous cases of disputes between church laity and ministers including unconstitutional frightful actions against ministers.
There are ill disciplined lay leaders leaving many damaged ministers for which John Mark Ministries 'ministers'. In so many situations an emissary was sent to say 'sorry' to the minister, it wasn't for restitution but to attend an ambush meeting. How many times have we witnessed this. Who is the appropriate entity is fraught with difficulties, trickery, seduction, lies and bad behaviour - all part of the drama.
In 1998 as the Public Officer for the sports chaplaincy ministry (SLM at that time) I undertook an ATO audit which included a review of the corporate (the structure) and the outworking. In 2021 as the Public Officer for Well-Being Australia I similarly undertook a review come audit of the corporate by the ACNC.
There is a case to be made from the Proverbs -
The Proverbs consistency warns us to be careful, watchful, disciplined and Jesus affirmed such wisdom in his parables. This is not about forgiveness. Rather it is the entanglements we find ourselves in and observing clarity of thought and clear definitive action, and often in the midst of fog.
Dr Mark Tronson - a 4 min video
Chairman – Well-Being Australia
Baptist Minister 45 years
- 1984 - Australian cricket team chaplain 17 years (Ret)
- 2001 - Life After Cricket (18 years Ret)
- 2009 - Olympic Ministry Medal – presented by Carl Lewis
- 2019 - The Gutenberg - (ARPA Christian Media premier award)
Gutenberg video - 2min 14sec
Married to Delma for 45 years with 4 children and 6 grand children