Church Bylaws Violations

(Underlined words, phrases and sentences link to cited material)

Bylaws are legal documents, a structural guidebook containing specifics of how the organization will run. Not-for-profit corporations are required to have established bylaws. Depending on where the articles of incorporation are filed, bylaws may be submitted to the Secretary of State as a part of the process. Once bylaws are in place, the organization must adhere to all aspects as they carry out operations.

The Brooklyn Tabernacle (TBT) does not readily provide information to donors and members regarding their Board of Directors, Church Bylaws and the like. Fortunately, Kings County Supreme Court provides public access to documents, providing a small window into some of the information. A limited layout of Church Bylaws and Board of Directors, based on this publicly available information, can be found by clicking the button below.


Upon its incorporation in 1966 and until February 23, 2015, TBT functioned as an Article 8 church (Kings County Supreme Court, 8376-2015, p. 6, July 2, 2015), which includes members formally participating and voting on business matters (NY Religious Corporations, Article 8, § 160 – § 172). Meetings of members, according to New York not-for-profit religious corporations law, are formal, with specific guidelines to be met. These meetings cannot be conducted casually during the middle of a church service.

2006 Discrepancies

According to Article V of the 2006 TBT Church Bylaws, “the annual church business meeting shall be held on the second Tuesday of January” (Section 3), “a monthly assembly meeting shall be held on the second Tuesday of each month. In this meeting, the monthly financial reports shall be read” (Section 4), and “the church [members] has the final voice in all important business matters” (Section 2). Article VI states that all Deacons and Trustees “are nominated and elected by the church, Acts 6:3.”

Additionally in 2006, the church claims in a Resolution of the Congregation of The Brooklyn Tabernacle (Kings County Supreme Court, 39658/2006, p. 54-56) that the congregational members approved refinancing $59,500,000 of debt into a new, consolidated loan with America’s Christian Credit Union (ACCU), with “the foregoing Resolution was unanimously adopted by more than two thirds (2/3) of the members of The Brooklyn Tabernacle Church which constituted a quorum of the members at a duly called business meeting called for that purpose and held on the 27th day of August, 2006.”

There were no official business meetings called to order for the congregation, pursuant to Article 8 of the 2006 New York Religious Corporations Law (§163-§164). None of these statements by the church are true or were adhered to in any legitimate, transparent way.

TBT also committed directly to their new bank at the time, America’s Christian Credit Union (ACCU), that as long as they had an outstanding loan with them, “that BT’s Board of Directors shall consist of no less than eight persons and no less than four of whom shall be Independent Directors. (39658/2006, p. 48-49) According to court filings, toward the end of 2006, TBT only had 5 board members, all of whom were internal church leaders with no independence, and 2 were Pastor Jim Cymbala and Carol Cymbala. (39658/2006, p. 10, 13)

Independent Directors Added

Independent Directors were added to the Board soon thereafter. According to §164 of the New York Religious Corporations Law, election and re-election of trustees, the total number of trustees, is determined by a majority of the members who are qualified voters, at the formal annual corporate meeting. Since TBT did not conduct these annual corporate meetings, members never had an opportunity to vote for any of these Board members, thereby making their appointments invalid and a direct violation of the law.

2012 Discrepancies

According to Article V, “Meeting of the Members,” of the 2012 TBT Church Bylaws, “the Annual meeting of the Members of the Corporation shall be held on the second Sunday of January at a time selected by the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors shall cause Notice of the time and place of the Annual meeting to be read at a regular meeting of the Corporation for public worship on two consecutive Sundays preceding such Annual meeting” (Section 1). “A quorum of the Members must be present at the Annual meeting of the Members of the Corporation or at any Special meeting thereof” (Section 3). “All matters or questions shall be decided by a majority of the Members at such Annual or Special Meeting” (Section 4). “In order to amend these Bylaws, the vote of two-thirds of the Members constituting a quorum shall be required” (Section 5).

In a July 15, 2012 petition to the Kings County Supreme Court seeking confirmation to modify mortgage loans, signed by Jim Cymbala, TBT states, “…a copy of a Resolution presented and passed at a meeting of the membership congregation of The Brooklyn Tabernacle held after the meeting of the Board of Directors in Kings County, New York, on the 4th day of March, 2012. The total membership of the congregation as of March 4, 2012 was approximately 9,900. At the business meeting that the congregation held on March 4, 2012 for approval of the Loan, there were in excess of 8,800 members present who unanimously voted in favor of the borrowing by the Petitioner. The members who voted on and approved the borrowing constituted more than two-thirds (2/3) of the members of the Petitioner. The resolution approved the America’s Christian Credit Union $57,213,408.76 Loan and the $1,000,000 revolving line of credit.” (Kings County Supreme Court, 24103/2012, p. 19, paragraph 12)

There was no official “Annual meeting of the Members of the Corporation” called to order, pursuant to Article 8 of the New York Religious Corporations Law. None of these statements by the church are true or were adhered to in any legitimate, transparent way.

2014 Discrepancies

According to Article V, “Meeting of the Members,” of the 2014 TBT Church Bylaws, “the Annual meeting of the Members of the Corporation shall be held on the second Sunday of January at a time selected by the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors shall cause Notice of the time and place of the Annual meeting to be read at a regular meeting of the Corporation for public worship on two consecutive Sundays preceding such Annual meeting” (Section 1). “A quorum of the Members must be present at the Annual meeting of the Members of the Corporation or at any Special meeting thereof” (Section 3). “All matters or questions shall be decided by a majority of the Members at such Annual or Special Meeting” (Section 4). “In order to amend these Bylaws, the vote of two-thirds of the Members constituting a quorum shall be required” (Section 5). This verbiage is the same as the 2014 sections provided in the previous paragraph.

In a June 16, 2014 petition to the Kings County Supreme Court seeking confirmation to refinance 2 mortgages, signed by Jim Cymbala, TBT states “…a copy of a Resolution presented and passed at a meeting of the membership congregation of The Brooklyn Tabernacle held in Kings County, New York on the 15th day of June, 2014. The total membership of the congregation as of June 15, 2014 was approximately 9,900. At the business meeting that the congregation held on June 15, 2014 for approval of the Loan, there were in excess of 8,800 members present who unanimously voted in favor of the borrowing by the Petitioner. The members who voted on and approved the borrowing constituted more than two-thirds (2/3) of the members of the Petitioner. The Resolution approved the Investors Bank $56,000,000 Loan.” (10196/2014, p. 15, paragraph 13)

Additionally in 2014, the church claims in their Amended and Restated Certificate of Incorporation of The Brooklyn Tabernacle (8376-2015, p. 108) thata meeting of the Church was duly called and held pursuant to Article 8 of the Religious Corporations Law at 17 Smith Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201 on November 18, 2014, at which meeting a majority of the qualified voters of the Church, being at least six in number, were present and voted” (#4). “At the meeting, it was decided that the Church should operate as a free church under Article 9 of the Religious Corporations Law of New York….” (#5).

There were no official business meetings called to order for the congregation, pursuant to Article 8 of the 2014 New York Religious Corporations Law (§163-§164). No copy of the resolution was presented. None of these statements by the church are true or were adhered to in any legitimate, transparent way.

Election and Salary of Ministers

Until the rights of the congregation were taken away from them without their formal consent, TBT remained as an Article 8 church through the last part of November 2014, with formal reclassification to Article 9 occurring in February 2015. As an Article 8 church up until that point, one of the legal requirements has to do with the election and salary of ministers, pursuant to §170 of the New York Religious Corporations Law:

“The ministers of any such church shall be called, settled or removed and their salaries fixed, only by the vote of a majority of the members of such corporation duly qualified to vote at elections present and voting at a meeting of such corporation specially called for that purpose, in the manner hereinbefore provided for the call of special meetings; and any such corporation may, by its by-laws, make the call, settlement or removal of its ministers dependent upon a concurrent vote of the unincorporated church connected with such corporation; and in that case the concurrence of a majority of the members of such unincorporated church, present and voting at a meeting thereof, called for that purpose, shall be necessary to the call, settlement or removal of such ministers.”

Up until the end of 2014, there were many changes in pastoral leadership, hiring, firing, salary changes, and not one formal business meeting “specially called for that purpose” where the election and/or salary of any minister at TBT was decided. The members never had a say. This, and all examples listed, are apparent violations of the New York Religious Corporations Law.

Who Can Fire the Senior Pastor Now?

Prior to the February 2015 improper, unethical re-classification as an Article 9 church, The Brooklyn Tabernacle bylaws in 2012 and 2014 stated that the Senior Pastor will occupy both the Chief Executive Officer of the corporation and the Chairman of the Board, who “may not be removed except by voluntary resignation or for gross error. Gross error is defined as severe deviation from the teachings of the Bible (old and New Testaments read together as a whole), which would tend to spiritually endanger and lead the members of the fellowship away from the Lord, the God of the Bible. Such determination shall be made upon recommendation of the Board of Directors by the vote of at least 80% of the Members of the Corporation at a meeting specially called for that purpose.”

After the Article 9 reclassification, TBT bylaws were changed by the Board of Directors, with drastic changes to how the senior pastor is handled, found as recent as 2019 in court documents (Kings County Supreme Court, 3333-2019, p. 36-49):

Article II, Section 3: “The trustees, excluding the Senior Pastor shall be elected at the annual meeting of the Board….”

Article II, Section 5: “Any trustee, excluding the Senior Pastor may be removed, with or without cause, at any time by an affirmative vote of a majority of the entire Board of Trustees.”

Article III, Section 2: “Any officer may resign by written notice to the Corporation and, with the exception of the Senior Pastor, may be removed with or without cause by a majority vote of the entire Board.”

With these bylaws changes securely in place, the Senior Pastor of The Brooklyn Tabernacle can, in effect, no longer be fired for any reason. Where is the accountability? Is anyone above reproach?