Why Our Constitution and Bylaws Need to be Updated
Last January, Moderator Pam Brown called together a small task force (Pam, Ann Koniszewski (Deacon, Nominating Committee), Steve Dwyer (chair of Trustees), and me) to draft an update to the church’s Constitution and Bylaws. We hoped to clean up some outdated language, formatting, and organization issues within the document; incorporate some changes that had already been voted by the membership but never published in an updated document; and maybe – just maybe – find a way to reduce the number of elected positions needed to keep the church running. Here are just a few examples of what we found as we read our current Constitution and Bylaws:
· The Constitution references the Congregational-Christian Churches, a denomination we haven’t been a part of for many decades.
· The Constitution and Bylaws use terminology that does not fit the United Church of Christ (for example, “district” and “state” rather than “association” and “conference”; “fellowship” rather than “covenant relationship”).
· Duties for the Clerk and the Deacons are scattered throughout the Bylaws but not included in the sections devoted to those positions.
· The Scholarship Committee is not listed anywhere, though it has been serving for many years, and we don’t have a committee for the Village Preschool (in reality or in the document), even though we need one. And the current Bylaws do not make clear who the current committees report to, even though they state that the membership, the Church Cabinet, and the Boards may all appoint committees.
· The current Bylaws state the vote that is necessary to call a new pastor, but not the vote required if the church should decide to terminate a pastoral call.
· The current Bylaws prescribe a huge Pastoral Search Committee but do not state how the committee is to do its work.
· The current Bylaws have different decision-making rules for purchasing or leasing real estate than for selling it.
There are inconsistencies from one section to another about who has the authority to spend or boborrow funds over and above the budget, even in emergencies.
· The list of responsibilities for the Trustees is entirely about finance and investment, but the actual work of the Trustees is almost entirely about property management. There is no group that is currently overseeing the church’s finance and investments.
These are just some examples of the issues we found. So, the task force has proposed a broad revision of the Constitution and Bylaws, including both cleaning up language, organization, and formatting
within the document and also proposing some bigger changes. We spent well over 100 person-hours creating this proposal. We read documents on best practices in church governance, and we scouted out other churches’ bylaws. We met with individual leaders, past and present. When we had a draft, each Board had an opportunity to review the sections related to it, and we made changes based on their feedback. The Church Cabinet reviewed the whole document, made a few revisions, and voted to send the resulting version to the membership for a vote at a special meeting on June 11 after worship, in the sanctuary.
A summary report from the task force and an annotated copy of the proposed Constitution and Bylaws are available at the church. Please take time to read these documents carefully and ask questions. We believe the changes we have proposed are what the church needs, but it is not our decision. It is yours. So, in the next three weeks, please read carefully and then ask us questions, so that you will come to the meeting on June 11, ready to decide for the future of the church.