The Community of Elders have been praying and working on changing a variety of items in the Constitution to better reflect our life together as a church family over the last several years. At our Family Meeting on June 26, 2016, the Community of Elders introduced proposed changes and initiated a conversation for the congregation to get familiar with these changes and give feedback. To give sufficient time for the process, we will vote on these changes at our Family Meeting on February 4, 2017.
In the presentation packet was a Cover Letter and the Draft of Constitutional Revisions. You can see more about those documents and download/print them below. The cover letter gives an excellent introduction to the background behind the changes. Please make sure to become familiar with that first before jumping into the details.
Please feel free to contact Pastor Phil Helfer with any questions, concerns, or recommendations you might have. Our intent is to make this process as participatory and transparent as possible. Thank you and God bless!
Draft of Constitutional Revisions June 2016
Here are the proposed Constitutional Revisions June 2016 [PDF] to view online, download or print.
Note: This Draft has colors and strikeout. The colors other than black have no special significance other than to draw your attention to the changes. The strikeout is to show items deleted.
June 2016 Cover Letter
Text below or download/print: Constitution Revision June 2016 cover letter [PDF]
From time to time it’s necessary to examine our governing documents and update them to reflect our present practices and understanding. To this end, the elders have produced a draft revision for your perusal and input. Our intention is to receive input over the summer, make any necessary changes and then bring the final document to a vote of the congregation this fall. Your participation is greatly appreciated.
We are addressing several areas with these changes. Some are meant to clean up ambiguous language, some changes are minor, and others delete or rework whole sections. As a governing document, our constitution establishes those things we must do as a church. This can have the effect of requiring us to practice certain things in certain ways even when there is no longer a need or desire to do so. Because of this, we’ve concluded that less is more. Removing these requirements will not prohibit us from any practice we deem good and necessary and will provide us with flexibility to organize in whatever way is most effective. Our constitution should reflect our beliefs, establish our basic organization, and provide guidelines for how we pursue our God given mission together as a family. It is our hope that these changes will accomplish just that.
Below are some examples of the types of changes the elders are recommending.
The words church, congregation, and members, etc. were used interchangeably throughout the constitution. We have attempted to clarify which specific group of people is meant in each case.
All non-profit corporations must designate another non-profit corporation to receive their assets should the first corporation dissolve. Presently, our designated corporation is Grace Brethren North American Missions. GBNAM no longer exists. We are suggesting that Encompass World Partners, formerly Grace Brethren International Missions, as a suitable replacement.
The elders are recommending the removal of the section dealing with deacons and deaconesses. There are many in our church family who are fulfilling their calling as “servants” (This is what deacon means) and we greatly appreciate all they do. Some have been formally recognized and some have not. Removing this section from the constitution will not change any of this. We will still have the ability to formally acknowledge them and organize them in appropriate ways but we will no longer be required to do so according to the prescription laid out in the document.
The elders are also recommending changes to the ways we refer to church leadership. Our understanding of Scripture leads us to believe that all believers are called (ordained) by God to do the good works which has prepared for them to do. We all have a part to play and those who lead are not meant to be “over” those who follow. We all are to follow Jesus and those He calls to lead are to do so by serving and caring for those they lead. Those whom Jesus calls to serve as leaders in the overall church family, we acknowledge as Elders. Those we’ve been referring to as Senior and Associate Pastors come from this group. There are many people whom God uses as leaders in our family. There are those who lead particular ministries like Youth and Children, those who teach and lead our Sunday Adult Communities, those who lead us in worship, and a variety of other things. Some receive financial support and some do not but they are all leaders just the same. When the church decides to provide financial support for an individual, we do so because we believe that person’s particular calling is such and the needs of the ministry are such that both would be unduly limited by outside employment. The changes we are making to this section are attempts to reflect these principles.
Our overriding goal in recommending these changes is to bring our constitution into line with our present practice and understanding.