Religious Orders are considered to be a special type of entity. Most are Roman Catholic but there are some well established Protestant order and eastern, Buddhist and even Jewish orders. Many of these Orders are made up of people who have devoted their entire lives to communal worship and service. The members of the order express their commitment by such things as vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
- Religious orders are "personal" in the sense that their ecclesiastical jurisdiction does not depend upon geographical nor territorial boundaries.
- Religious orders carry on a variety of activities, all of which are, for one reason or another, characterized as "religious".
- Religious orders often operate various institutions, such as schools and religious "retreat" centers, and may have a specific religious "mission" or "purpose" apart from the individuals who are called out of the world, into the order.
- A church is regarded as the body of believers separate and apart from the people who attend.
- A religious order should also be apart from the people or individuals served by the order. Many religious orders are not entrenched in the mission of Jesus Christ which is to serve the people who attend to it and it to them and therefore this is a critical distinction.
Orders are like families which is why members are often called brothers or sisters.
Families are meant to be autonomous and Orders are autonomous as well but the Orders of the Church established by Jesus Christ and the Church in the wilderness who were the Levites established by Moses were also joint heirs holding all things in common..
Though they are autonomous they are connected as heirs and of course they are connected by Christ with His common purpose. Like the stones of the Altars of Abraham and Moses they must fit together without hewing them or exercising authority. Overseers, also called bishops have an oversight position but not like the governments of the gentiles because they do not eercise authority one over the other.
The Internal Revenue Service issued Rev. Proc. 91-20 in 1991 to provide guidelines for determining who may be considered to be a religious order. As stated therein, the defining characteristics are:
- The organization is described in section 501(c)(3) of the Code.
- The members of the organization vow to live under a strict set of rules requiring moral and spiritual self-sacrifice and dedication to the goals of the organization at the expense of their material well-being.
- The members of the organization, after successful completion of the organization's training program and probationary period, make a long-term commitment to the organization (normally more than two years).
- The organization is, directly or indirectly, under the control and supervision of a church or convention or association of churches, or is significantly funded by a church or convention or association of churches.
- The members of the organization normally live together as part of a community and are held to a significantly stricter level of moral and religious discipline than that required of lay church members.
- The members of the organization work or serve full-time on behalf of the religious, educational, or charitable goals of the organization.
- The members of the organization participate regularly in activities such as public or private prayer, religious study, teaching, care of the aging, missionary work, or church reform or renewal.
As with the fourteen points concerning a church, the absence of one or more of these items (with the exception of the first item) is not necessarily determinative.
The legislative history of IRC Section 170 pertaining to the deductibility of contributions, clearly indicates that the term "church" was intended to include religious orders.
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- ↑ Romans 8:17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs <sugkleronomos 4789> with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. Ephesians 3:6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs <4789>, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Hebrews 11:9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him <4789> of the same promise: 1 Peter 3:7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together <4789> of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.
- ↑ Acts 4:32 ¶ And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any [of them] that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
- ↑ S. Rep. No. 1622, 83d Congress, 2nd Session at p. 30 (1954).