Thursday, 23 December 2010

A Religious Marriage of Convenience?

Tucked away in the Order Paper for Tynwald this Tuesday (see we see as Item 4:

“The Hon Member for Glenfaba (Mr Anderson) to move –That under Standing Order 4.34, on the petition of the Promoters, John Bingham, Robert Terence Easton and Avril Kneale Teare as the Trustees of the Broadway Baptist Church, and as the Trustees of the Alpha Centre Trust, and of the said John Bingham, Robert Terence Easton, Avril Kneale Teare and Clive Graham Swift as the Trustees of the Well Trust, the petitioners having certified the required compliance with Standing Orders, leave be given to introduce the Broadway Baptist Church Bill 2011.”

So, what’s that all about?
Well, if anyone was to ask officials at our second most bonkers local evangelical cult, they’d probably explain that the 19th century charitable trust which established the church was a little out of date, and so they’re tidying up a little, also combining the charitable trusts which established their bookshop/cafĂ© and their various ‘outreach’ programs.
This is true – sort of – in that charitable trusts can only carry out the tasks mentioned in their charter, and benefit those named. Charity law – even on the Isle of Man – is irritatingly obstructive to faith-based fraudsters and tax dodgers, especially if the trust was drawn up way before the modern business and charity law which paved the way for our offshore finance sector.
But closer analysis of the Bill reveals more interesting things.
What the Batshits are actually doing is winding up the trusts, in particular the 19th century one for the church itself. The problem is, winding up a trust requires that you hand what assets are left over to the named beneficiaries, who my guess would be are something like paid up bona fide members of the church or other local Christian worthies, and my other guess is those now controlling the gaff don’t want to do that.
What they actually want is for real ownership and power to pass from ordinary local Christians (who can’t be trusted to go with the program the cabal running Broadway Baptists are drawing up) and to an English silent partner in their shady deals. The way they seem to be planning to do it is to close the charitable trusts and regroup the assets and enterprises into a limited by guarantee company, which will also be registered as a Manx charity.
The main advantage of this is that a limited by guarantee company has named guarantors (usually three or four folk playing a trustee-like role who agree to contribute a token pound or so if the company is wound up) not named shareholders. So, the real ‘owners’ of the company are not on record, or even traceable through any nominee shareholders who represent them.This would be extremely advantageous if those owners were, say, a religious organisation in another country which doesn't want the world at large to know it has offshore assets, or religious zealots in an offshore jurisdiction to know that their place of worship is owned by money-grubbing foreigners who will flog it to the highest bidder.
The real clue comes in section 8 of the explanatory literature, that dealing with dissolution, where it casually mentions that “The ultimate beneficiary shall be Spurgeon’s College”.
Oh dear!
Just a short guide to trust law jargon here. Trusts have ‘beneficiaries’, who are individuals or institutions who the person or institution settling the property of the trust wants to have some day to day benefit – could be, for example, a relative of the settlor needing school fees, the homeless or someone getting a grant to study something. The ultimate beneficiary is the person or thing that gets everything when the trust is wound up.
Another clue is in the blurb about the ‘Statement of Faith’, and the desire to change this so as to fit in with the Evangelical Alliance ‘basis of faith’. The EA has come up in this blog a few times (for example, their attempts to prevent civil partnership ceremonies, their opposition to schools tackling bullying of seemingly gay pupils, their strange decision to revise the definition of a ‘cult’ so as to allow the dangerous Jesus Army cult to join the Alliance), but would be familiar to anyone who studies nutjob evangelicals of the UK.
To anyone else - they’re Fruitcake Central, with numerous links to Westminster, seats on all the QUANGOs going, and also pretty much run the religious advisory bodies at the BBC. Most baffling of all, although they’re amongst the most homophobic and sexist elements of the UK Christian community, their head honcho, Joel Edwards, sits on Equal Opportunities bodies on the dubious basis that he and a few other EA figures are black, ergo nasty educated liberals and gays are somehow ‘discriminating’ when they object to the theofascist cretinism sometimes spouted by EA affiliates as ‘sincere’ faith.
Spurgeon College , which is named as ‘ultimate beneficiary’, is, by the way, the EA’s ‘educational resource’ – more accurately, a fundie bible college which actually detracts from the sum of human knowledge.
This, added to various adverts which have been appearing since early 2009 in UK Baptist newspapers and magazines unsuccessfully appealing for a new Broadway pastor, suggests that the place is in serious trouble.
Will it close?
Sadly, I fear not, and I also doubt that it’s a sign that pitifully poorly informed civil servants and politicians will finally pull the plug on dubious ‘social outreach’ schemes which run from the Alpha Centre.
What it might signal is that the only serious asset the church has left, i.e. the property, is being lined up for sale and redevelopment at a convenient future point. The area immediately around it is deteriorating fast and, as coincidence would have it, the property developer most likely to snap it up used to employ the retiring Attorney General (to whom the whole current deal has to be referred) and also the only local legal authority on ecclesiastical law.
Convenient coincidence or cunning planning?
We may have to wait another year or so to find out.

No comments: