Our Church Constitution (Part 2)
ARTICLE 8: OFFICERS
8.1 GENERAL STATEMENT. Jesus Christ alone is the Head of His Church (Col. 1:18). He has ordained that individual churches should be governed by Himself through officers whom He appoints, who are endowed by His Spirit with the gifts and graces needed to accomplish their work. Christ has ordained that local churches are to be administered by elders and deacons. Beside these two offices, the Scriptures acknowledge no office which continues in the church today (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1-13).
8.2.1 Conformity. All church officers must be in substantial agreement with the church’s core values, statement of faith, and constitution. Candidates for office shall inform the elders of areas of disagreement with the church beliefs. If an existing officer changes his views on any doctrine addressed in the statement of faith while in office, he shall inform the elders of his new position in an orderly manner.
8.2.2 Gender. Men and women are equally image-bearers of God (Gen. 1:26-27) and children of God
(Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11). We acknowledge and encourage the valuable gifts and contributions of women in the life and ministry of the church (Rom. 16:1-16; Eph. 4:16; Phil. 4:3; 1 Tim. 3:11). However, reflecting the diversity of roles within the Godhead, men and women have different roles in the home and in the church (1 Cor. 11:3). Therefore, in obedience to the teaching of Scripture, church officers (elders and deacons) shall be men
(1 Cor. 14:33b-35; 1 Tim. 2:8-15; 3:1-13).
8.3.1 Terminology. Those who have been called of God to rule and teach in the church are called elders, pastors, or overseers (sometimes translated “bishops”). These three titles are interchangeable and designate various functions of one and the same office in a New Testament church (Acts 20:17, 28: Eph. 4:11, 12; Titus 1:5, 7).
8.3.2 Qualifications. Anyone desiring the office of an elder must evidence to God’s people the personal, domestic, and ministerial qualifications that are set forth in the Scriptures (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).
8.3.3 Authority. The authority to oversee or rule this local church has been delegated by Jesus Christ in the Bible to the elders (1 Tim. 3:1; 5:17; 1 Peter 5:2; Hebrews 13:17). This God-given authority has both high prerogatives and important limitations:
220.127.116.11 It is Local Authority. The authority of the elders is limited to the sphere of the local church. Thus, they will not require punishments for sin beyond those of biblical church discipline, will not invade the biblically-defined spheres of other divinely-ordained human authorities (husbands, fathers, civil rulers, and employers), and will not command God’s people regarding matters not specified in Scripture except to order the house of God by the application of His Word (Matt. 22:21; Luke 12:13-14; Acts 20:28; Rom. 13: 1-7; 1 Cor. 7:25-28, 35-40; Eph. 5:22-6:9; 1 Pet. 5:2-3).
18.104.22.168 It is Accountable Authority. The authority of elders is conditioned by the fact that they are themselves members of the local church. While elders are shepherds over the flock, they are also members of the flock. Therefore, each individual elder is entitled to the same privileges, is obligated by the same responsibilities, and is subject to the same discipline as are all the other members of the church. Thus, each individual elder is both under the oversight of his fellow elders and accountable to the church as a whole (Matt. 18:15-17; Matt. 23:8-9; Gal. 2:11; 3 John 1, 9-10).
22.214.171.124 It is Shared Authority. The official authority of every elder is the same. Thus, every elder has equal rule in the church. Though gifts possessed and functions performed will vary from elder to elder, this diversity must not undermine real parity among the elders (Acts 20:17, 28; Gal. 2:11; 1 Pet. 5:1-2; 1 Tim. 5:17). Furthermore, the elders shall seek the concurrence of the members of the church regarding the sale or purchase of a church building or real estate or other such significant matters that the elders deem appropriate (Acts 6:2-6; 9:26; 1 Cor. 5:4-5; 13; 2 Cor. 2:6).
8.3.4 Pastoral Counseling. One aspect of the elders’ duties is personally shepherding the flock of God (Acts 20:20, 28; 1 Thess. 5:12), which includes privately meeting with the members of the church for pastoral counseling and discipleship when required by circumstances or requested by members.
8.3.5 Plurality. The New Testament norm is for the office of elder in each local church to be shared by more than one qualified and called man at any given time (Phil 1:1; Acts 20:17). However, this church shall not ordain unqualified men as elders merely to maintain a plurality of elders (1 Tim 5:22). The specific number of elders this local church will have at any given time will be determined by the need as assessed by the existing elders, the number of qualified men in the congregation, and the collective assessment of the church members expressed through the advisory ballot and voting process.
8.3.6 Term of Office. The New Testament does not dictate the length of an elder’s term of office. One truly called to this office is usually called to it for life. He is a gift of Christ to the church, and the gifts of God are without repentance. Only when an elder fails to meet the necessary scriptural qualifications for his office does he disqualify himself from being an elder. An elder may honorably resign from his office for a time if he is providentially hindered from properly discharging his pastoral duties. He may, at the discretion of the elders, without re-examination by the congregation, re-assume office when those hindrances have been removed.
8.3.7 Absence of Elders. Should the office of elder be vacant, the deacons shall call a church meeting over which one of their members shall preside. At this meeting the church, by vote, shall place herself under the temporary guidance of the elders of a like-minded, confessional church. This guidance shall remain in effect until removed by congregational vote.
8.4.1 Purpose. The office of deacon was ordained by the Apostles to enable the ministers of the Word to concentrate on the specific functions of their office; namely, preaching, teaching, counseling, and prayer (Acts 6:1-6; 20:20, 31; Eph. 4:11-13). Deacons are primarily responsible to administer the benevolent and business affairs of the church.
8.4.2 Qualifications. The qualifications for the office of deacon are almost identical with those for the office of elder (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:5). The only contrast between the qualifying standards for both offices is that the elders must be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2) and equipped to shepherd God’s people (Acts 20:28).
8.4.3 Relationship to the Elders. Scripture indicates that elders have authority over diaconal concerns (Acts 6:2-4; 11:30). The deacons, therefore, must fulfill the duties of their office in cooperation with, and in subjection to, the elders.
8.4.4 Number. The number of deacons shall not be fixed. The church shall choose as many as are needed from among the men who evidence the scriptural qualifications for the office and who are willing to serve
(Acts 6:1-6; 1 Tim. 3:8-13).
8.5 APPOINTMENT OF OFFICERS
8.5.1 General Statement. The appointment of elders and deacons is the prerogative of the Lord Jesus Christ alone. He has ordained, however, that each local church exercise the responsibility of recognizing those whom He is raising up to be elders and deacons in that particular church. Elders and deacons are ordained, or appointed, to office by the laying on of hands by the eldership (Acts 6:6; 1 Tim. 4:14). This is an expression of approval for which the elders are responsible (1 Tim. 5:22). Therefore, each officer must have the approval, not only of the church as a whole, but of the existing eldership in particular. The Lord’s appointment of an individual to either of these offices is recognized by means of that individual’s possession of those gifts and graces required by Scripture for the particular office and his own conviction that the Lord is calling him to minister in that office (Rom. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1-13). The recognition of officers is a matter of such importance that it should never be pursued without much prayerful waiting upon God, an honest study of the relevant passages of Scripture, and a frank evaluation of those who are being considered. Each member of the church has a spiritual responsibility to be intelligently informed regarding these matters.
8.5.2 Procedure. The recognition of those whom the Lord has appointed to bear office in this church is executed in three steps: nomination, election, and ordination.
126.96.36.199 Nomination. Nominations to either office are made by the eldership. At least once every year at the annual business meeting an advisory ballot shall be taken. On this ballot every voting member may write the name of any male member(s) and the office for which the member believes that man to be qualified. Those men named by at least twenty-five percent of the members will then be considered by the elders. If the elders agree that the nominees are suitable, they will be notified and asked whether they will accept the nomination. The advisory ballot is a tool to advise the elders, not a requirement to bind them.
188.8.131.52 Election. Any church meeting for the election of officers shall be announced on four consecutive Lord’s Days previous to its being held. The nominees shall be separately discussed and voted upon. During the discussion the nominee under consideration and members of his immediate family shall leave the presence of the assembly. The scriptural qualifications shall be read and expounded (as necessary), and the nominee’s qualifications openly discussed in the fear of God and with due respect for the reputation of the nominee. Concerning the vote, unanimity of heart and mind shall at all times be sought and prayed for (Acts 6:5), but when such unanimity is not realized, no fewer than three-fourths of those ballots cast shall be required for election. This vote shall take place by written ballot subsequent to a full and free discussion oriented to the relevant scriptural passages.
184.108.40.206 Ordination. Following the election of an officer there shall be a portion of a regular worship service set aside at which time the officer shall be ordained by the laying on of the hands of the eldership. This solemn act should always be accompanied by the special prayers of the whole church (Acts 13:1-3). The laying on of the elders’ hands signifies their approval of an officer-elect.
220.127.116.11 Chairmanship. The elders shall choose one from their number to serve as chairman of their meetings. The deacons shall do the same. Chairmanship does not imply an increased level of authority.
8.6 REVIEW OF OFFICERS
8.6.1 Regular Review. There shall be a review of each officer’s qualifications for office four years after his initial appointment and every fourth year thereafter for as long as he occupies the office in this church. The review shall take place during the next annual church business meeting following the individual officer’s four-year anniversary date. The procedure for review is outlined in Section 8.6.3.
8.6.2 Special Review. There may arise reasons that would require an officer to be reviewed before the regularly scheduled time. Such a review meeting may be called by a majority of the church officers. The members may also request such a meeting. This request can only be made after two or three witnesses (1 Tim. 5:19) have met with the officer in an attempt to resolve the issues of concern. The request must be set forth in writing with the signatures of one-third of the voting members in good standing and presented to the church officers. The church officers may elect to go forward with the requested review meeting or they may elect to call in an advisory council of at least three elders from like-minded churches. The advisory council will advise the church whether to go forward with the review meeting or to dismiss the issue. The review meeting would also follow the procedure of Section 8.6.3.
8.6.3 Procedure for Review. Any meeting for the review of an officer shall be announced on four consecutive Lord’s Days prior to its being held. There shall be discussion and a vote by written ballot regarding the officer under review. During the discussion the officer under consideration and members of his immediate family shall leave the presence of the assembly. The scriptural qualifications shall be read and expounded, and the officer’s qualifications openly discussed in the fear of God and with due respect for the reputation of the officer. Any member who publicly suggests in such a meeting that the officer being reviewed is unqualified for his office must have previously spoken with the officer himself and informed the elders of the church of his concerns (1 Tim. 5:19). He must also present biblical and factual warrant for his concerns at the review meeting. Just as it is wrong for a church to retain an officer who is not biblically qualified, so also it is rebellion against the Head of the church to reject an officer for any but biblical grounds. Additionally, any officer about whom such concerns are raised must be permitted, if he wishes, to return to the meeting and defend himself. Concerning the vote, unanimity of heart and mind shall at all times be sought and prayed for (Acts 6:5), but when such unanimity is not realized, no fewer than three-fourths of those ballots cast shall be required for the confirmation of an officer in his office. Any officer failing confirmation no longer holds office in the church.
8.6.4 Resignation. An officer may resign his office without prejudice if he does so in an orderly fashion. This resignation together with its reasons and the date upon which he wishes his resignation to be effective shall be submitted in writing to the elders of the church.
8.7 FULL SUPPORT OF ELDERS
8.7.1 General Considerations. Elders will be maintained in material necessities and disentangled from the cares of another vocation according to their gifts, the needs and capability of the church, and the direction of Christ her Head (1 Cor. 9:4-14; 1 Tim. 5:17-18). Though all elders are equal with respect to the authority of their office, not all elders possess qualifications warranting full financial support in the office. The Bible teaches that special ability in ruling the church and, more especially, in public teaching and preaching are gifts worthy of full support (1 Cor. 9:1-14; Gal. 6:6; 1 Tim. 5:17). Thus, before it undertakes his full support, the church must recognize that an elder or nominee to the eldership possesses special ministerial gifts and that he is excelling in the employment of those gifts for the benefit of the church in ways appropriate to his opportunities. Special caution should be exercised in giving full support to an elder for the following reasons: (1) full support necessitates his removal from a secular vocation, which, in the interests of Christ’s Kingdom and of his family, might be a more advantageous position for him to serve Christ and His kingdom; (2) a major portion of the church’s financial stewardship is involved, for which its Head will hold it accountable; and (3) a fully supported elder has a greater influence upon the church, for good or ill. The provisions of this section apply to any proportion of financial support required by an increase of ministry that would hinder an elder’s full-time employment in a secular vocation.
8.7.2 Procedure. The elders may recommend to the church that an existing elder or a nominee to the eldership be fully supported.
18.104.22.168 For a Nominee. In the case of a nominee, full support may be considered in conjunction with the consideration of his qualifications for the eldership. In such a case, the elders will inform the church of their recommendation when the business meeting for this purpose is announced. A distinct discussion and vote for both election to the office and full support in the office is not necessary.
22.214.171.124 For an Existing Elder. In the case of an existing elder who is being recommended for full support, a church meeting to consider this recommendation shall be announced on four consecutive Lord’s Days prior to its being held. Such a recommendation may be considered in conjunction with the review of the elder involved. A distinct discussion and vote for both confirmation in the office and full support in the office is not necessary.
126.96.36.199 Conduct of the Meeting. During any meeting where full support is being considered, special attention shall be given to the relevant teaching of Scripture (1 Cor. 9:1-14; Gal. 6:6; 1 Tim. 5:17). During the discussion the man under consideration and members of his immediate family shall leave the presence of the assembly. Such discussion must at all times reflect the fear of God, the claims of truth, and the gravity of the matter. Any vote upon full support requires no fewer than three-fourths of those ballots cast for approval.
188.8.131.52 Review of. The full support of elders as well as their continuation in office will be subject to review (see Section 8.6). Normally, a review of full support will take place in conjunction with the review of an elder’s qualification for office, whether at regular intervals or at special review meetings. However, circumstances may arise in which an elder’s full support may need to be reviewed as an issue separate from his continuation in office. In such cases, a review shall follow the applicable procedures outlined above. Continuance of full support shall require no fewer than three-fourths of the ballots cast.
ARTICLE 9: LEGAL OFFICERS
9.1 PURPOSE. In order to comply with California State law governing non-profit organizations, this church shall have such officers as the law requires to represent the church before the state.
9.2 QUALIFICATIONS. Legal officers shall be regular members in good standing (Section 5.3).
9.3 AUTHORITY. Legal officers operate under the authority of the elders. Since their office is not biblically mandated, legal officers have no role in governing the affairs of this church.
9.4 APPOINTMENT. Appointment of legal officers shall be the responsibility of the elders. The duration of their term of office shall be for one year, but may be renewed indefinitely.
ARTICLE 10: CHURCH BUSINESS MEETINGS
10.1 GENERAL STATEMENT. All congregational meetings shall be called by the elders. There shall be an annual business meeting of the church held near the end of January for the hearing of reports, the taking of the advisory ballot (Section 184.108.40.206), and the transaction of other business which the elders bring before the church. Special business meetings may be called at other times at the discretion of the elders.
10.2 NOTICE OF MEETINGS. Notice of all congregational meetings in which business is to be transacted shall be announced at regular services for at least two (2) successive Sundays. Other business meetings at which there is no business transacted by vote may be called at the discretion of the elders without such notice.
10.3 QUORUM. Fifty percent of the voting membership shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business.
10.4 CHAIRMANSHIP. The elders shall appoint one from their number to preside at all business meetings.
10.5 VOTING. All adult members, except those suspended by the church or those in an extended absence status as well as minors, shall constitute the voting membership of the church. All voting members should regard their presence at a duly called church meeting with the same seriousness with which they would regard their attendance at a worship service. The elders shall determine whether absentee votes will be permitted on a case-by-case basis as members make known their reasons for absence. Unanimity of heart and mind shall at all times be sought and prayed for (Acts 6:5), but when such unanimity is not realized, no less than a two-thirds majority of those voting will make a resolution valid. In other matters wherein the constitution requires a different proportionate vote, this two-thirds requirement will be overridden by the express statements of the constitution regarding those categories of business.
ARTICLE 11: CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY
11.1 EXTENT. This constitution, as with any other non-inspired document, is not infallible. It does, however, reflect an earnest and sincere attempt to apply the principles of Scripture in ordering the life of this local church. Furthermore, we as members of this church, including the elders, have solemnly committed ourselves to follow this constitution in ordering the life of this church (see the preamble). Therefore, the demands of the ninth commandment, and the sanctity of truth in general, require that the elders and all other members of this church abide by our mutual commitment.
11.2 LIMITATIONS. Only when we must obey God rather than the provisions of this constitution may its requirements be disregarded (Acts 5:29). If at any time a member of this church becomes aware that adherence to this constitution would violate biblical principle, he should make it known to the elders. If the elders conclude that biblical principle requires disregarding a provision of this constitution, they are obligated to communicate this together with the reason(s) for their conclusion to the church within one month at a duly called meeting of the church. Furthermore, relevant amendments to this constitution must be submitted to the church and acted upon in accordance with the provisions of Section 11.3 within one year following this informational meeting.
11.3 AMENDMENTS. Amendments to this constitution may be adopted by a three-fourths majority of members present and voting at a duly convened church business meeting. Proposed amendments shall be distributed to the congregation in written form at least two weeks prior to such a meeting.
ARTICLE 12: DISESTABLISHMENT
This church can be disestablished by a three-fourths majority of members present and voting at a duly convened church business meeting. In the event of disestablishment, all church property, assets, and possessions, including real estate, shall be transferred, disposed of, or liquidated as determined by the legal officers. After the members have voted to disestablish the church, the legal officers shall represent the church in executing the transfer of church property and dissolving the legal corporation.