Westhigh ECC Constitution

CONSTITUTION

 

Westhigh Evangelical Covenant Church

Wake County, North Carolina

 

Preamble

 

(A historical statement from the Preamble of the Constitution and Bylaws of the Evangelical Covenant

Church as adopted by the Evangelical Covenant Church in 2002.)

 

The Evangelical Covenant Church is a communion of congregations gathered by God, united in Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to obey the great commandment and the great commission. It affirms its companionship in faith with other church bodies and all those who fear God and keep God’s commandments.

 

The Evangelical Covenant Church adheres to the affirmations of the Protestant Reformation regarding

the Bible. It confesses that the Holy Scripture, the Old and the New Testament, is the Word of God and

the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine, and conduct. It affirms the historic confessions of the Christian

Church, particularly the Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed, while emphasizing the sovereignty of the

Word of God over all creedal interpretations.

 

In continuity with the renewal movements of historic Pietism, the Evangelical Covenant Church especially cherishes the dual emphasis on new birth and new life in Christ, believing that personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is the foundation for our mission of evangelism and Christian nurture. Our common experience of God’s grace and love in Jesus Christ continues to sustain the Evangelical Covenant Church as an interdependent body of believers that recognizes but transcends our theological differences.

 

The Evangelical Covenant Church celebrates two divinely ordained sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Recognizing the reality of freedom in Christ, and in conscious dependence on the work of the Holy Spirit, we practice both the baptism of infants and believer baptism. The Evangelical Covenant Church embraces this freedom in Christ as a gift that preserves personal conviction, yet guards against an individualism that disregards the centrality of the Word of God and the mutual responsibilities and disciplines of the spiritual community.

 

The Evangelical Covenant Church has its roots in historical Christianity, the Protestant Reformation, the biblical instruction of the Lutheran Church of Sweden, and the great spiritual awakenings of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These influences, together with more recent North American renewal movements, continue to shape its development and distinctive spirit. The Evangelical Covenant Church is committed to reaching across boundaries of race, ethnicity, culture, gender, age, and status in the cultivation of communities of life and service.

 

This document, which is in harmony with the above preamble, is the constitution and bylaws of Westhigh Evangelical Covenant Church of Wake County, North Carolina.

 

Article I

Name

The name of this church shall be Westhigh Evangelical Covenant Church, of Wake County, North Carolina.

 

Article II

Affiliation

The church is a member of the Evangelical Covenant Church and its Southeast Conference and is pledged to work in harmony with the Covenant and its decisions and to support its program, policies, and institutions.

Article III

Confession of Faith

The church believes in the Holy Scriptures, the Old and New Testament, as the Word of God and the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine, and conduct.

 

Article IV

Purpose

Section  1.  The purpose of this church shall be to unite Christians in fellowship for spiritual development, for the winning of persons to Christ, and for the propagation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to serve one another, this community, and the world through Christian education, home and world missions, and the institutions conducted by the Evangelical Covenant Church and its local regional conferences.

Section 2. In order to achieve this purpose, the church, in the unity of the Spirit, shall use the gifts that God has given it and the means of grace which God has placed at its disposal: The Word of God, baptism, and Holy Communion.

 

Article V

Membership

 

Membership in the church shall be granted on application to those who through faith in God’s Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, have been born anew to a living hope, have been baptized according to the Holy Scriptures, desire to live a new Christian life, and promise to support the ministry of the church and to share its fellowship and obligations.

 

Article VI

Officers

The officers of the church shall be a chair, a vice-chair, a secretary, a financial secretary, and a treasurer.

 

Article VII

Church Council

 

Section 1. The general administration of the church shall be vested in a body known as the Church Council. In circumstances or where law requires action(s) by “Trustees” the council shall be known as the “Board of Trustees” and the members of it as “trustees.” The council shall also supervise the spiritual life of the church, as stated in 1Timothy 3:8-13, through its designees and direct activity.

Section 2.  The council shall consist of the officers of the church (chair, vice-chair, secretary, financial secretary, and treasurer) and other members as specified in the bylaws. The senior pastor shall be an ex-officio member of the council.

Section 3. The council shall organize itself in a manner specified in the bylaws.

 

Article VIII

Congregational Business Meetings

 

Section 1. Congregational business meetings shall be held at stated intervals, but not less than semi-annually. The annual congregational meeting shall be held as near to the beginning of the church business year as feasible. At the annual meeting, written progress reports shall be submitted by the pastor and by each committee of the church. Financial reports (reviewed and audited in accordance with the bylaws) shall be submitted by the treasurer for the church and each of its organizations. New council members of the church for the ensuing year shall be elected by ballot. The church budget shall also be submitted for action.

Section 2.   Notice of all congregational business meetings shall be mailed to members  not less than two weeks  prior to the meeting and shall include the date, time of the meeting, and an annotated  agenda of  business to be transacted.

 

Article IX

Property

In the event of schism within the church, from which we earnestly pray God to spare  us, the title of all church property, real or personal, shall remain with the group which abides by this constitution, as determined by the  executive board of the conference.   In the event of dissolution, the property and all assets of the church shall become and be property of the Evangelical Covenant Church and the Southeast Conference.

 

Article X

Amendments

 

Amendments  in harmony with this constitution and the  Model  Constitutions for Local Government Churches and not in conflict with Covenant  principles and policies may be adopted by a two-thirds vote of those  present and voting in an annual meeting of the congregation, providing the proposed amendment was presented in written form at the preceding annual meeting.  Article IX and X may be amended only with the approval of the executive board of the regional conference.

BY-LAWS

 

Article I

Membership

Section 1. Admission into membership

  1. a) Application for membership. A written application for membership shall be delivered to the pastor or the chairman or the secretary of the council. The applicants must be at least eighteen years of age and should complete a new members class taught by the pastor(s) or designee. After attending the new members class, applicants shall meet with at least two current or previous council members to give their confession of Christian faith. Applicants who have not been baptized must be baptized, after confession of faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. When the council has reviewed their applications and received their testimonies favorably, they may be welcomed as new members during a worship service of the church. Applicants who are accepted into membership of the church shall make a public confession of their Christian faith during this service.
  2. b) Transfer of membership. Applicants from other Covenant churches shall submit letters of transfer, when available, to the pastor or the chairman or the secretary of the council. Applicants who transfer into membership of the church will be welcomed at the next available service. If a letter of transfer is not available, applicants from other Covenant churches may apply for membership in accordance with Section 1a of this article.  

 

Section 2. Children of members.  Children of members of the church and its constituency shall be nurtured under its spiritual care.  Age-appropriate materials and instruction shall be provided to give children a Biblical context and encouragement in which to commit themselves to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.  Members’ children may apply for membership in accordance with Section 1, Paragraph a) of this article.

 

Section 3.  Responsibility of membership.   All members of the church shall assume the responsibilities and obligations placed upon them by the Word of God and the church.  They shall, through their witness by life and word, consecrated service, prayer, and financial support further the cause of Christ in the local church, regional conference, and the Covenant. God’s word to the church is infallible, but our hearing is not, so we look to His working in our midst by His voice to our body as a whole. Thus, the responsibility of membership is considered to include prayerful participation in discussions of policy and polity in those matters left to the discretion of the local congregation, as well as acceptance and support of decisions which have been voted upon favorably by the members of the church.

 

Section 4. Discipline.

  1. a) Inactive members.  The membership of the church should properly reflect those persons actively engaged and supportive of the life and mission of the church. Inactive members are defined as those who have been determined by council to have neglected their duties, or failed to attend services of the church regularly, or failed to contribute to its support according to their means. Inactive members shall be contacted by the pastoral staff or council to determine whether there are unmet needs ministering to the member that led to the member becoming inactive and to encourage active participation in the fellowship of the church. Ministry needs, if any, shall be communicated to the appropriate church staff and kept in confidence. The constitution requires members to be in active relationship with Christ and with the body of believers at Westhigh, sharing in its fellowship and obligations.  Members whose circumstances do not allow regular attendance and participation, such as students, active military, or those temporarily working out of town, are not considered inactive members. If there are no unmet ministry needs, and/or if there is no desire to continue in the fellowship of Westhigh, the inactive member(s) shall be informed that they are at risk of be removed from the membership rolls of the church. If there is no renewed participation within a reasonable time, they will be removed from membership by vote of the council.
  2. b) Erring members.  Any member determined by pastoral staff or member of council to be living in unrepentant sin shall be counseled according to the procedure outlined in Matthew  18:15-18 and Galatians 6:1. If the erring member is unresponsive, the situation may be brought another member of council or pastoral staff, who shall likewise seek correction.  If he or she fails to heed this counsel of council, the situation will be brought before the full council, who are representatives of the church body.   If the erring member is steadfastly unwilling to repent of their sin(s), they may be removed from the membership rolls of the church, with grace, love, and due regard for the welfare of the individual as well as the church by a supermajority (2/3rds) vote by council. The member may appeal the council’s decision to revoke membership by appealing to the congregation at the earliest congregational business meeting. The congregation must then vote by supermajority (2/3rd) on whether to approve the member’s appeal.
  3. c) Forfeiture of rights.  A member who has been properly dismissed from the church, or has withdrawn  membership, has forfeited all rights and privileges of membership in the church.

 

Section 5.  Transfer of members.  Members who move to another community should soon thereafter identify themselves with a local Christian church.  If it is a Covenant church, they should apply for transfer of membership.  This request shall be made in writing to the pastor, who shall issue the transfer to the church with which a member is uniting.  Withdrawal of membership shall be reported through the council, where  it shall be made a matter of record.

 

Section 6. Withdrawal of membership. Members who are withdrawing from membership shall be requested to provide a written explanation regarding why they are leaving and this explanation will be both recorded in the church records and, as appropriate, discussed by the church council.  Verbal explanations shall be used in lieu of a written explanation if a written explanation is not provided.  Members who choose to not notify council or the pastoral staff may be rendered as inactive members after a period time in accordance with Section 4(a) and any known reasons for withdrawal will be recorded in the church records.

Section 7. Nonmember regular attenders. The church and its pastor shall serve nonmember regular attendees in all their spiritual needs, and they shall be encouraged to consider this as their church home. They shall be kept informed of the activities of the church. Nonmembers can attend congregational meetings, but cannot vote on action items.

 

Article II

Pastor(s)

 

Section  1.  Qualifications.  The pastor(s) of the church shall meet the New Testament requirements of their office (I Timothy 3:2-7) and be members of the Covenant Ministerium and follow the Rules of the Ordered Ministry of the Evangelical Covenant Church.  They shall by virtue of call be members of the church.

 

Section 2. Duties. The pastor(s) shall devote themselves to the service of the church, preaching and teaching the Word of God, administering the sacraments, and faithfully giving themselves to pastoral work. They shall provide the church with an accurate record of their pastoral acts and present a written report to the congregational annual business meeting. They shall practice good administrative procedures and cooperate with the church council. The senior pastor shall be an ex-officio member of the council and all committees of the church.

 

Section 3. Cooperation. The pastor(s) shall, both in word and precept, work in harmony with the Covenant, the regional conference, and other Covenant ministers.

 

Section 4. Call. The pastor(s) shall be called at a regular or special congregational business meeting, the purpose of which shall be announced two weeks in advance. The pastor(s) shall be nominated by a pastoral search committee.  This committee shall be elected at a congregational business meeting. It shall be representative of the congregation and have five to nine members and shall work closely with the regional conference superintendent. The pastor(s) shall be called by ballot with a two-third vote required for a call. The call shall be for an indefinite period of time with a minimum of six weeks notice required by the church or the pastor(s) for termination of  duties.

 

Section 5. Charges against pastor. Charges against a pastor shall be submitted in writing to the church council, charging a pastor with indiscretion, immorality, doctrinal error, unethical behavior, or disloyalty to the Covenant (Matthew 18:15-18). If in the judgment of the church council there is substance to the charges, the case shall be referred to the regional conference superintendent. The superintendent shall confer with the Covenant executive secretary of the ministry. These two officers shall confer and determine the order of responsibility in pursuing the matter according to the Rules and Regulations of the Board of the Ministry of the Covenant regarding discipline, prior to further action by the church.

 

Article III

Officers

 

Section 1. Qualifications. Officers of the council shall be members in good standing who are active in support of the ministry of the church, financially, and otherwise. They shall exhibit character in keeping with the Biblical requirements for church leadership as given, for example, in I Timothy 3. Officers are expected to model, in attitude and actions, humility and reliance upon God, regardless of natural abilities or background.

 

Section 2.  Duties.

  1. a) The chair shall preside at all business meetings of the church and meetings of the council. Care shall be taken to confer with the senior pastor in preparing the agenda for such meetings, and shall utilize the counsel that the pastor can give by virtue of his or her training, experience, and calling.  The chair shall be responsible for the leadership of the church services in the absence of the pastor.
  2. b) Vice-chair. The vice-chair shall assist the chair, and during his or her absence assume that office and its duties.
  3. c) The secretary shall keep and preserve the minutes of the congregational business meetings of the church and meetings of the council, and shall conduct and preserve all official correspondence as shall be delegated to the secretary. The secretary shall also be responsible for the official seal and documents of the church.
  4. d) Financial secretary. The financial secretary shall be responsible for receiving, recording, and depositing all funds contributed to the church.
  5. e) The treasurer shall be responsible for all funds committed to him or her and shall make disbursements as authorized by the church or the council. The treasurer shall also present a written report of the receipts and expenditures to each regular meeting of the council and to each congregational business meeting. The treasurer shall provide for periodic independent audit of the financial records of the church.

 

Section 3.  Election and tenure. The chair, vice-chair, secretary, financial secretary, and treasurer shall be elected from the current council membership for the coming year by the council. Officers are elected for a one-year term within their three-year council term, but may serve consecutive terms as an officer.  

 

Article IV

Church Council

 

Section  1.  Qualifications.  Members of the council shall be members in good standing who are supportive of the ministry of the church, financially, and otherwise. They shall exhibit character in keeping with the Biblical requirements for church leadership as given, for example, in I Timothy 3. Council members are expected to model, in attitude and actions, humility and reliance upon God, regardless of natural abilities or background. As in any service in the name of Christ, ongoing personal spiritual growth is the individual’s responsibility and a necessity in sustaining effective participation.

 

Section 2.  Size, composition, election, and tenure.

  1. a) The council shall consist of six members, both men and women as God provides, to administer the practical and spiritual well-being of the church. The senior pastor is an ex-officio member whose comments and advice are sought in recognition of the gifting, training, and call of God on the life of one given to the church as pastor. To the extent possible, the council shall consist of an odd number of voting members.
  2. b) The members of the council shall include the five (5) church officers who shall be elected to one-year terms for their specific offices (chair, vice-chair, secretary, financial secretary, and treasurer) in accordance with Article III, Section 3, of the By Laws. Council members shall serve for terms of three years in such manner that the terms of approximately one-third of those members shall expire each year. They shall not serve more than two consecutive terms, but are eligible for re-nomination to the council after a lapse of one year. Should a council member step down during his or her term, a replacement for this council member shall be elected by the congregation to serve the remainder of this council member’s term.

 

Section 3. Organization. The organization and coordination of the ministries of the church is the responsibility of the council, with advice from the ministry staff. The council will design the ministry organization and assure that sufficient guidance, resources and coordination are provided for effective function of each area of church ministry, in line with its Biblical mission. Following the annual congregational business meeting, the council shall convene to appoint from its own number ministry partners for each ministry organization of the church.

Paid ministry positions will have job descriptions and objectives as well as means or measures to determine strengths, weaknesses, and priorities for improvement.

 

Section 4. Duties. The council in its administrative responsibility in cooperation with the pastor shall fulfill the functions defined by the constitution and bylaws, including the following:

  1. a) Encouraging and supervising church membership, including recommendations related to reception or removal of members.
  2. b) Designing and updating the ministry organization and appointing ministry partners from among the council.
  3. c) Encouraging participation in the ministry of the church of every person, including recognition of gifts and sensitivity of calling as God works in the life of each believer.
  4. d) Assisting the pastor in nurturing the spiritual life of the church and in the servicing of communion as planned by the pastor, in cooperation with the worship ministry leader.
  5. e) Establishing administrative and program policies in conformity with the spirit of the church constitution.
  6. f) Evaluating the total church program on a continuing basis.
  7. g) Planning and recommending the annual budget and stewardship opportunities for the church.
  8. h) Reviewing and approving the schedule of church activities and personnel.

Article V

General Provisions

 

Section 1. Executive Committee. The executive committee, consisting of the church chair, the secretary, and the treasurer, together with the senior pastor of the church, shall strive to promote effective working relations and communication in the church. The committee shall have no legislative power, but shall function in an advisory capacity to the council, unless specific responsibilities shall have been assigned to it by the council or the church.

 

Section 2. Celebrating the sacraments. The sacrament of Holy Communion shall be celebrated monthly or as determined by vote of the church. It shall be served to the congregation by current or previous council members, or, as necessary, council approved servers. The sacrament of baptism shall be celebrated in keeping with Covenant policies and according to the needs of the constituency.

 

Section 3.  Congregational  business meetings.  Congregational business meetings shall be held as specified in Article VIII of the constitution. Special congregational meetings may be called by the chair of the church in consultation with the senior pastor or by the council. Decisions required by congregation vote shall be determined by a simple majority, unless a higher percentage is defined by council prior to the meeting.

 

Section 4. Church council and ministry committee meetings.  Regular meetings of the council shall be held not less than monthly. Ministry committees shall determine the frequency of their meeting

 

Section 5. Parachurch activities and special events. Relationships with parachurch organizations and special events conducted by the ministries of the church shall be approved by the council.

 

Section 6. Quorum.

  1. a) Twenty-five  percent of the membership,  but not less than less than ten members, present and voting at a congregational  business meeting properly shall constitute a quorum.
  2. b) The quorum for the council, committee, and task force meetings shall be a majority of their respective memberships.
  3. c) Council may approve voting by absentee ballot as desired

 

Section 7. Rules of order. All business meetings of the church and of the boards, committees, and organizations of the church shall be conducted according to Robert’s Rules of Order.

 

Section 8. Review and Audit of Church and Organization Finances. The financial records of the church and its organizations are to be maintained by their custodians such that they are continually in good order and open to inspection and review at the direction of the Treasurer or the Council. Such records are, at a minimum, to be reviewed and audited annually as at a level deemed appropriate by the Treasurer and Council. Every 3 years, or coincident with the election of a new church Treasurer, the church financial records will be audited by an external auditing organization. The financial records of any church organization will be submitted to an equivalent level of independent audit.

 

Section 9. Church Year. The Church business and fiscal year shall be the calendar year.

 

Article VI

Amendments

Amendments to these bylaws not in conflict with the constitution or with the Model Constitutions for Local Covenant Churches may be adopted at any regular business meeting called for that purpose by a two-thirds vote of the members present and voting, providing that such amendments have been presented in writing to the executive council of the church and subsequently at a preceding regular congregational business meeting.

 

Reviewed by C&B committee 8-23-15, 9-15-15, 12-7-15; unanimously adopted 12-13-15 by Westhigh Evangelical Covenant Church congregation.