Advisors at Large

John Van Drunen

John Van Drunen is licensed as both a CPA and an attorney and serves as the executive pastor of Fellowship Bible Church (FBC) in Winchester, Virginia. Van Drunen previously served as executive vice president and general counsel for the Evangelical Counsel for Financial Accountability (ECFA)

Van Drunen has co-authored a number of tax, financial, and legal resources for nonprofits, churches, and clergy. He has received many awards, including recognition from the Virginia Bar Association for his pro bono work.

Van Drunen earned an accounting degree, magna cum laude, from Anderson University, and a juris doctor from Regent University School of Law.

Advisors at Large

Jonathan Smith

Jonathan Smith is director of technology for Faith Ministries in Lafayette, Indiana, a role he has held since 2001. Smith oversees technology for Faith’s multiple campuses. His responsibilities include financial planning and budgeting, network administration, IT support, and management of the technology team, as well as oversight of the church’s audio/visual team.

Smith is also president of MBS, Inc., a provider of technology services that exclusively serves churches and ministries. He is a published author and a frequent speaker at conferences.

Smith earned his bachelor’s degree in information technology management from the University of Phoenix. Smith lives in Lafayette with his wife and their two children. He enjoys traveling and eating.

Recent posts by Jonathan Smith

Advisors at Large

Veronica Abney

Veronica Abney is the president of Abney and Associates, a consulting firm helping ministry leaders develop and enhance their leadership and project management skills. She is also a professional church consultant for Christian organizations in the United States.

Abney possesses more than three decades of experience managing Fortune 500 client relationships and helping the development of corporate and nonprofit organizations in project management, executive leadership, and strategic planning. She also has experience consulting in community engagement, ministry programming, best business practices, and church administration.

Abney earned her Ed.D. in ethical leadership from Olivet Nazarene University, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. Abney is also a Project Management Professional (PMP), and the director of programs for the Chicagoland Chapter of the Project Management Institute (PMI). She also holds a third-term Certification in Church Administration (CCA) designated by The Church Network (TCN) and serves on the leadership team for the TCN Chicagoland Chapter.

Abney lives in Chicago, where she is a member and church consultant for the Salem Baptist Church of Chicago.

Recent posts by Veronica Abney

When the Bank Says No

Rejection is no fun under any circumstance. It can be especially disheartening for a church

Advisors at Large

Nathan A. Adams IV

Nathan Adams is a partner at Holland & Knight’s Tallahassee, Florida, office, practicing in complex commercial and appellate litigation with a special emphasis in healthcare and education issues as well as nonprofit and religious organizations. Adams has argued in federal courts nationwide and in state courts in Florida, Colorado, and the District of Columbia. In addition, he serves as outside legal consultant and general counsel for several organizations.

His representation of nonprofit and religious institutions has included work involving the First Amendment, the ministerial exception, church autonomy, tax-exempt structuring, governance and board issues, and intellectual property rights. Before joining Holland & Knight, Adams worked for the Florida Executive Office of the Governor and the Florida Department of Education, including the Division of Florida Colleges and Board of Governors.

Adams earned his Ph.D. in international political economy from the University of Florida, his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law, and an undergraduate degree from Wheaton College. His organizational memberships include serving as a board director with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Big Bend; serving on the steering committee for the Federalist Society in Tallahassee; and serving on the board of Advocates International, a global organization providing legal aid in the areas of family and community, religious freedom, justice for the poor, the sanctity of life, and more.

Recent posts by Nathan A. Adams IV

Advisors at Large

Ted Batson

Ted R. Batson Jr. is a CPA and tax attorney. He serves as a partner and Professional Practice Leader–Tax for CapinCrouse LLP, a national CPA and consulting firm, helping the Christian nonprofit community from the firm’s Indianapolis office. He has more than 25 years of experience working with nonprofits, donors, and others in the exempt organization community.

Batson is a frequent speaker at national nonprofit sector events, including the Christian Leadership Alliance Outcomes Conference and Missio Nexus Mission Leaders Conference. He is also a member of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) Trust, Estate, and Gift Technical Resource Panel and a frequent speaker at the AICPA’s annual National Estate Planning Conference, where he lectures on charitable giving tools and techniques. In addition, Batson is the chairman of the board of Charitable Allies, an Indianapolis-based legal aid firm providing legal and consulting services to exempt organizations.

Batson earned his law degree from the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. He received an MBA degree from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. He earned his undergraduate degree from Asbury University.

Recent posts by Ted Batson

Advisors at Large

Thomas Berg

Thomas Berg is the James L. Oberstar Professor of Law and Public Policy at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis. He teaches and writes on religious liberty, constitutional law, and intellectual property, and supervises students in the school’s religious liberty appellate clinic, which files briefs in cases before the US Supreme Court and appellate courts.

He is the author of five books—including a leading casebook, Religion and the Constitution (with Michael McConnell and Christopher Lund), and The State and Religion in a Nutshell—as well as more than 150 scholarly and popular articles and book chapters, and more than 70 briefs in the Supreme Court and other appellate courts.

Berg has won awards for his religious liberty scholarship and advocacy from the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, the DePaul University College of Law, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, and the Christian Legal Society.

Berg has degrees from the University of Chicago, in both law and religious studies; from Oxford University, in philosophy and politics (as a Rhodes Scholar); and from Northwestern University, in journalism.

Recent posts by Thomas Berg

Advisors at Large

Gerald Cipolla

Gerald Cipolla is the owner and principal attorney of the Cipolla Law Group, a full service immigration law firm in Chicago. Cipolla has been practicing law since 2000 and has successfully assisted thousands of businesses, professionals, investors, and families as they navigate the maze of immigration law.

Cipolla earned his law degree from DePaul University, a master of law (LL.M.) in Chinese and international law from City University of Hong Kong in China, a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Chicago, and a MBA degree from DePaul University. He is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and a member of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

He has written for numerous publications on immigration topics, and co-authored sections covering immigration law in Richard Hammar’s Pastor, Church & Law, Fifth Edition.

Advisors at Large

David Fletcher

As an experienced pastor, David Fletcher knows church life. As a professor, he delivers insightful material. As a seasoned coach, Fletcher helps people grow.

Fletcher is often called The Dean of Executive Pastors. He was a pastor for 35 years in churches ranging in size from 1,000 to 8,000 members. He oversaw single and multisite churches, as well as churches with mergers, camps, schools, apartments, and cafés.

He founded XPastor in 2003 and its free articles from hundreds of authors have become a principal resource for leaders in a complex church world. The organization’s annual XP-Seminar is one of Church Law & Tax’s perennially recommended church management conferences.

With degrees from Dallas Seminary and executive education at the Kellogg School of Management and the Harvard Business School, Fletcher brings an objective perspective, vast experience, biblical principles, and best practices. He teaches Doctor of Ministry students at Dallas Seminary and ETS India, and has written books and scores of articles for national publications.

With his wife, Tami, he loves to walk the hills near their home in Austin, Texas. Fletcher also loves scuba diving in rivers, lakes, missile silos, and the world’s oceans.

Recent posts by David Fletcher

Advisors at Large

Lina Yen Hughes

Lina Yen Hughes is the founder of Yen Hughes Law, an immigration law firm in Sacramento, California, representing churches, denominations, mission agencies, and religious workers. Hughes helps clients obtain temporary visas, permanent residency, and citizenship. She also consults employers on immigration strategy and I-9 compliance.

Hughes earned her law degree from the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law and her undergraduate degree from the University of California-Berkeley. She speaks Mandarin Chinese.

Hughes is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She is a board member of the Christian Legal Society’s Sacramento chapter; she also serves on the national board of directors of Christian Legal Society.

Hughes co-authored sections covering immigration law in Richard Hammar’s Pastor, Church & Law, Fifth Edition.

Advisors at Large

Scott Landon

Scott Landon is the executive pastor of administration for Wheaton Bible Church in Illinois, where he has served since 2004 overseeing the church’s day-to-day operations. Landon previously served as a partner with national CPA and consulting firm CapinCrouse LLP; as director of accounting and as a missionary for the Evangelical Free Church of America; as director of internal audit for a large retail company; and as a manager with Deloitte Haskins & Sells.

Landon earned his undergraduate degree from Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He is a member of the American Institute of CPAs. He has also served on the boards of two international mission organizations.

Recent posts by Scott Landon

Advisors at Large

Tim Samuel

Tim Samuel is a CPA and the chief financial officer of Bridgeway Community Church in Columbia, Maryland. Bridgeway is a non-denominational, multicultural church led by Dr. David Anderson, a noted author on race relations. By celebrating the diversity of colors, classes, and cultures, Bridgeway has become an international model for multicultural ministry, attracting more than 4,000 people weekly from more than 50 nations.

Samuel serves as a board-member for the Maryland Association of CPA’s board of directors.

He earned his undergraduate degree in accounting from Messiah College in Pennsylvania.

Samuel excels in the art of inclusion and being a bridge builder, and he loves what he does as a CPA. He lives in Columbia with his wife and their three children.

Recent posts by Tim Samuel

Advisors at Large

Robert Showers

Robert Showers co-founded Simms Showers, a Baltimore, Maryland-based law firm, in 2002 as a principal partner and now heads up the firm’s new Northern Virginia/Metropolitan D.C. office. His practice focuses on civil and commercial litigation and church, nonprofit, and business law. Showers regularly handles numerous lawsuits for and against churches, nonprofits, and small businesses. He also provides guidance on a variety of matters, including risk management, tax exemption, land use, and employment issues to defend against current or future legal liability.

Showers has served hundreds of churches, denominations, and nonprofits nationwide throughout his career, including the Southern Baptist Convention, the Assemblies of God, the Presbyterian Church of America, Americans United for Life, and Youth With a Mission. Prior to entering private practice in 1989, Showers served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General and served as Executive Director of the National Obscenity Enforcement Unit (NOEU), later called the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), within the US Department of Justice.

Showers sits on numerous boards. He serves as past president on the national board of directors of Christian Legal Society, and as chairman of Gateway Community Church. He previously served as a member of the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee.

Showers earned his law degree from Wake Forest University School of Law in 1980. He earned his undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University in 1977.

Recent posts by Robert Showers

Advisors at Large

Theresa Lynn Sidebotham

Theresa Lynn Sidebotham founded Telios Law in 2012, where she advises organizations in the United States and internationally, with a focus on religious and nonprofit law, employment law, child safety, and investigations, including large historical investigations.

Telios Law advises on legal and policy issues, with an emphasis on First Amendment protections, international law, child protection policies and practices, and employment practices. It also coordinates legal audits and assists with internal investigations, including sexual harassment, child abuse, and other alleged misconduct investigations.

She also directs Telios Teaches, an affiliated company that provides training in sexual harassment, child protection, and other human resources issues.

Sidebotham graduated first in her class from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. She was mentored by judges at the Colorado Court of Appeals and worked at a large law firm serving religious institutions and doing general litigation before opening her firm. Sidebotham grew up as a missionary kid, and also served as a missionary with her husband before returning to the US and attending law school.

Advisors at Large

Nicholas Smith

Rev. Nicholas A. Smith is the executive pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Lindenwold, New Jersey, where he assists pastor/teacher Bishop David G. Evans.

Smith accepted Christ at the age of nine and knew he was called to ministry. He frequently went to prisons and churches to minister, teach, and preach during his adolescence. He became licensed to preach at the age of nineteen, and was ordained as a minister three years later. In December of 2003, Smith became executive pastor at Bethany Baptist, a role that involves assisting Bishop Evans, overseeing staff, operations, and church ministries.

Smith’s life scripture is Jer. 1:5–10. His desire is to preach a life-giving word for souls to be saved and to teach a life-altering word to build up the Christian community to fulfill their God-given purpose.

Advisors at Large

Erik Stanley

Erik Stanley is an attorney with Provident Law in Scottsdale, Arizona. Stanley has more than 20 years of experience handling religious liberty cases and advising religious institutions on various matters, including employment, tax, zoning and land use, and bylaws and policies.

Stanley previously served as senior counsel and the director of the Center for Christian Ministries at Alliance Defending Freedom. He has litigated cases involving churches and ministries across the United States and has argued numerous cases in both trial and appeals courts. He also helped represent clients before the United States Supreme Court in two cases (Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer (2017) and McCreary County v. ACLU (2005)).

Stanley has been interviewed by numerous outlets and written many articles on the topics of religious liberty and church autonomy, appearing in The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, NPR, Los Angeles Times, and World magazine, among others.

Stanley earned his master of divinity from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in 2013. He earned his law degree in 1999 from Temple University School of Law. He earned his undergraduate degree from Asbury College in 1995.

Recent posts by Erik Stanley

Advisors at Large

Myron Steeves

Myron Steeves is founder and senior attorney at the Church Law Center of California, and former dean of Trinity Law School. Steeves serves charities, religious organizations, trade associations, political organizations, and higher education institutions through his practice by offering sound legal guidance from a faith-based perspective.

Steeves is an active member of the nonprofit committees of both the California Bar Association and the American Bar Association. He frequently speaks on a wide array of issues involving Christianity and the law, including the integration of faith and law, legal careers as tools for Christian ministry, law and public policy, and law and theology

He earned his law degree from Georgetown University School of Law and his undergraduate degree from Biola University.

Recent posts by Myron Steeves

Advisors at Large

Kaylyn Varnum

Kaylyn Varnum is a partner and the assistant national director for tax services at Batts Morrison Wales & Lee (BMWL), an Orlando-based national CPA firm serving churches and nonprofits. Varnum’s primary responsibilities include performing research and analysis related to technical tax issues at the federal, state, and local tax levels; providing tax advisory services for exempt organizations; obtaining and maintaining federal, state, and local tax exemptions; and evaluating exempt organizations’ tax compliance.

Varnum has been a conference speaker on nonprofit taxation issues at both the local and national levels. She is a contributing editor of BMWL’s Nonprofit Feature Articles and Special Alerts.

Varnum earned her undergraduate degree in accounting from Stetson University, where she graduated with highest honors.

Recent posts by Kaylyn Varnum

Senior Editorial Advisors

Sally Wagenmaker

Sally Wagenmaker is a founder and partner in the Chicago office of Wagenmaker & Oberly, a law firm serving churches and nonprofits nationwide. She provides legal counsel in corporate, tax, employment, and real estate matters for clients, including churches and other religious organizations, social service providers, and schools. Her law firm’s values include trustworthiness, cost efficiency, creative collaboration, mutual respect, and community engagement, consistent with Proverbs 11:24–25.

Wagenmaker speaks regularly and writes through her law firm’s blog. She has authored numerous articles on tax-exempt topics, including religious liberty issues, state exemption, governance, and political advocacy. Wagenmaker is past-president of Christian Legal Society. She is also a member of the Illinois and Georgia bars.

Wagenmaker earned her law degree from Emory University School of Law and her undergraduate degree from the University of Mississippi.

Senior Editorial Advisors

Sarah E. Merkle

Sarah is one of five attorneys in the world to have earned the credentials Certified Professional Parliamentarian-Teacher and Professional Registered Parliamentarian. She helps boards, associations, churches, nonprofits, and public bodies navigate rules applicable to governance and business meetings. Sarah is the editor of the blog, The Law of Order: A Resource on Parliamentary Procedure & the Law, providing accessible answers to organizations’ most common questions.

Sarah became an Editorial Advisor for Church Law & Tax in 2018, and a Senior Editorial Advisor in 2020.

Recent posts by Sarah E. Merkle

Senior Editorial Advisors

Erika E. Cole

Erika E. Cole, Esq., known as The Church Attorney®, is one of only a handful of attorneys in the nation who practices exclusively in the area of church law. Erika has dedicated her life to being willing to help churches of all denominations and sizes ensure that their legal affairs are in order so they can focus on spreading their message, serving their communities, and growing their ministries.

For nearly two decades, Erika has partnered with ministries to address everything from church planting and new leadership transitions to buying and selling property, succession planning, and helping leadership address the spectrum of governance matters. Leading churches and denominations have selected her to serve as their General Counsel. When she isn’t serving as General Counsel for her clients, she has also assisted churches and ministries in obtaining 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status with a 100% success rate.

Whether handling an unexpected legal crisis or legal audit or helping churches through the buying, selling, and construction of property, Erika’s philosophy has remained the same: to provide the same level of excellence, diligence, and counsel across the board.

She has shared her skills by teaching the next generation of lawyers and community leaders as a past professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law and Loyola College of Maryland in their MBA program.

Her calling to support churches and empower its leaders propelled her to join a year-long mission in Latin America where she worked with churches and their members and advanced human rights. Upon returning, she started a missions ministry at her own church and subsequently participated in almost a dozen other mission trips.

Erika’s reputation as a thought leader in the church law community has attracted a myriad of opportunities, such as:

2011: Appointed to the Panel of Legal Experts for the Commission of Accountability for Religious Organizations.

2013: Appointed to Board of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

2016: Admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court.

2017: Combined her law firm with Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, LLP, a law firm with more than 160 attorneys, providing an expanded platform for her services as The Church Attorney®.

Erika became an Editorial Advisor for Church Law & Tax in 2017, and a Senior Editorial Advisor in 2020.

Erika and her husband Brien are happily married and are the loving parents of two sons.

Recent posts by Erika E. Cole

Part 4 of 4

Finalizing a Merger

Moving through the final stages of merging churches—and other options if a merger is not right for you.
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