On Congregationalism: Highlights of Bylaw Changes.Posted: January 24, 2012
Here are several of the most important changes to our proposed new bylaws.
Get rid of the Trustees. In our old bylaws we had Trustees. This was a group with one function: to disperse church assets in the event of church dissolution. In these new bylaws this role is now part of the responsibilities of the Board of Directors. This simplifies our bylaws tremendously. This also strengthens our congregational roots as the Board is selected by our members whereas the Trustees were not.
Change Board Terms. In our old bylaws board terms lasted for three years with board members being able to serve two consecutive terms. In our new proposed bylaws board terms last for two years with board members being able to serve three consecutive terms. This subtle change offers more board accountability to our members as they are elected every two years not every three.
Change Board’s Replacement Authority. In our old bylaws, if a board member or board members resigned during their term then the board had the authority to appoint new board members without member approval. In our new proposed bylaws, the board has no such authority. All board members must be approved by the members. This significant change increases board accountability to our members.
Change How Membership Meetings are Called. In our old bylaws, the board called membership meetings but there were no regularly scheduled meetings according to the bylaws. Consequently, a board could simply refuse to call any membership meetings and members could not do anything about it. In our new proposed bylaws, there are three regularly scheduled membership meetings (Sept, Jan, May). Additional meetings may be called but we’ll always have at least three.
Change Allowing Emergency Membership Meetings and Specifying What Can Occur at an Emergency Meeting. In our old bylaws, it was difficult to call an emergency Membership Meeting—a meeting without 2 weeks notice. In our new bylaws, it is easy to call an emergency Membership Meeting. However, emergency meetings can only be informational. No decisions can be made. This is a good change. We can talk with members immediately if a crisis arises. But we are protected from major church decisions being made without proper notice.
Change Qualifications of Members, Board, Lead Pastor. We’ve made them the same. What we ask of members is what we ask of our board is what we ask of our lead pastor. Different gifts are necessary for the different roles, but the character and commitment are the same for all our leaders in the church.
Change Super-Majorities. We’ve made them the same. In our old bylaws some super-majorities required a two thirds majority while others required a three-quarters majority. This was a bit confusing.
Change Order. We’ve made it flow. In our old bylaws the section dealing with members and the section dealing with membership meetings were separated by lots of other sections. This made following the bylaws unnecessarily confusing. Now the sections are together.
Simplify. We’ve tried our best to simplify the language of the bylaws in order to make them as clear and readable as possible. So in a line by line comparison of the old bylaws and the new proposed bylaws, you’ll see the new bylaws eliminate extraneous wording. Nevertheless, since this is a legal document, some legalese remains.
If you’ve gotten this far in the blog, thanks! I hope this helps orient you towards the major changes we’re proposing.