What Does the Church Have to Do with “Company”?
By Rev Arnold Chow
December 4, 2022
As members of NPAC, I believe you and me in the past have had no need for a long time to handle any statutory matters of the church. Other than getting an annual receipt for our tithe and offering from the church to claim tax exemption, our church life seems to have nothing to do with a limited company.
As a matter of fact, Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA) Hong Kong has, for a long time, been operating as a limited company and charitable organization with the aim of advancing evangelism, mercy ministries and social services locally, as well as overseas mission work.
During the 1950s, mainland missionaries moved to Hong Kong and so C&MA started to develop in a number of areas here. NPAC was one of the churches established at that time. At the end of the 1950s, as led by the Alliance Mission, a number of churches set up the Church Union. In order to localize, the Church Union registered with the government as a limited company in 1968. All properties of the member churches were then transferred to the Church Union.
So “corporatization” is nothing new. It is only that in the past, the Church Union has been taking up legal matters at the limited company level, including opening bank accounts and purchasing church premises so that member churches can focus on pastoring and evangelism.
This structure has been used by God to facilitate the steady growth of C&MA in the early days. In 1983, the number of member churches has grown to more than 40. The Church Union’s Executive Committee Chairman then, Rev Philip Teng, laid down a 10-year church-planting plan for C&MA Hong Kong (which was later updated with growth targets were extended). On the eve of year 2000, the number of member churches already grew to 93, and it reached 120 in 2021. Besides, under C&MA is various organizations such as a publishing house, a mission agency, a social services centre, etc. It has also founded 10 kindergartens, three primary schools and one secondary school.
Just by looking at the number of member churches and organizations under the Church Union’s purview, we will understand its heavy workload involved operating as a single limited company as it also has to coordinate the administration, accounting and property management work, etc., of member churches and organizations. In compiling the annual consolidated financial report, for example, the Church Union has to collect and integrate data and information from more than 100 autonomous churches and organizations. It is no easy task.
Meanwhile, since all member churches come under the same limited company, it is possible that any member church can get legal liability for litigation arising from other member churches, with the risk of having its premise properties seized by claim. It can be seen that the centralization of all resources under one limited company has both advantages and disadvantages.
As the social environment becomes increasingly complicated, the Church Union decided last year to have structural reorganization within the denomination. At the same time, it encourages member churches to corporatize. Simply speaking, the move will see the restructuring of a single registered limited company comprising over a hundred member churches and organizations as more individually registered limited companies.
Thanks be to God, the company registration application of NPAC has been approved. We have also obtained charitable organization status recently. Later, I will share with you the transitional arrangements and progress.