BETHANY EVANGELICAL CHURCH CONSTITUTION
- WHY DO WE NEED A CHURCH CONSTITUTION?
A constitution should help church members to understand the church, the activities its supports, its style and ethos, and how they can participate in the life of a church so that potential members would know what to expect when joining Bethany.
All communities need some accepted procedures and these need to be written down. A church constitution is a list of practical arrangements, but it must also reflect the aims and objectives of the church, and something of the style that is characteristic of the local church community.
- SO WHAT DOES A CONSTITUTION PROVIDE?
A constitution provides a framework for the church and enables routine decisions to be taken effectively. A clear constitution enables everyone in the church to understand how the church functions, how matters are brought forward for discussion, who may take decisions and how that process should work.
A constitution does not make the church happen. It cannot create relationships and it cannot bring anybody to faith. However, it can express good practice in how we live together and help us understand the patterns that our church life takes. Our mission is more than the sum total of our paperwork. However, the church constitution is one aspect of that relationship between church members arising out of their faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, being worked out in everyday life.
Bethany Evangelical Church
- Vision and values
2.1 Vision: Our vision is to be a group of believers fully committed to grow as a God fearing, Jesus serving, Spirit led and people loving church.
2.2 Mission Statement: Our mission statement is that:
Bethany Evangelical Church exists to Serve, Encourage and Empower people for the glory of God.
2.3 Core values:
- To be committed to God and His Word
- To love God and one another
- To live with Integrity with God and one another
- To be inclusive of all those given by the Lord to His church
- To Serve God and One another
Bethany Evangelical Church is committed to these truths of historic, biblical Christianity.
There is one God, who exists eternally in three distinct but equal persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God is unchangeable in his holiness, justice, wisdom and love. He is the almighty Creator; Saviour and Judge who sustains and governs all things according to his sovereign will for his own glory.
- THE BIBLE
God has revealed himself in the Bible, which consists of the Old and New Testaments alone. Every word was inspired by God through human authors, so that the Bible as originally given is in its entirety the Word of God, without error and fully reliable in fact and doctrine. The Bible alone speaks with final authority and is always sufficient for all matters of belief and practice.
- THE HUMAN RACE
All men and women, being created in the image of God, have inherent and equal dignity and worth. Their greatest purpose is to obey, worship and love God. As a result of the fall of our first parents, every aspect of human nature has been corrupted and all men and women are without spiritual life, guilty sinners and hostile to God. Every person is therefore under the just condemnation of God and needs to be born again, forgiven and reconciled to God in order to know and please him.
- THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
The Lord Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin, and lived a sinless life in obedience to the Father. He taught with authority and all his words are true. On the cross he died in the place of sinners, bearing God’s punishment for their sin, redeeming them by his blood. He rose from the dead and in his resurrection body ascended into heaven where he is exalted as Lord of all. He intercedes for his people in the presence of the Father.
Salvation is entirely a work of God’s grace and cannot be earned or deserved. It has been accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ and is offered to all in the gospel. God in his love forgives sinners whom he calls, granting them repentance and faith. All who believe in Christ are justified by faith alone, adopted into the family of God and receive eternal life.
- THE HOLY SPIRIT
The Holy Spirit has been sent from heaven to glorify Christ and to apply his work of salvation. He convicts sinners, imparts spiritual life and gives a true understanding of the Scriptures. He indwells all believers, brings assurance of salvation and produces increasing likeness to Christ. He builds up the Church and empowers its members for worship, service and mission.
- THE CHURCH
The universal Church is the body of which Christ is the head and to which all who are saved belong. It is made visible in local churches, which are congregations of believers who are committed to the worship of God, the preaching of the Word, the administering of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper and to each other; for pastoral care and discipline, and for evangelism.
At Bethany Evangelical Church we believe the Bible to teach us the following core principles in living together as God’s people:
- Being a loving family in our life together
- Listening to God as he speaks through his word by his Spirit
- Everyone playing a part in the life of the church
- Reaching out to all with the good news of the gospel
- Being God-centred in all we do
The unity of the body of Christ is expressed within and between churches by mutual love, care and encouragement. True fellowship between churches exists only where they are faithful to the gospel.
- BAPTISM AND THE LORD’S SUPPER
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper have been given to the churches by Christ as visible signs of the gospel. Baptism of believers by immersion is a symbol of union with Christ and entry into his Church but does not impart spiritual life. The Lord’s Supper is a commemoration of Christ’s sacrifice offered once for all and involves no change in the bread and wine. All its blessings are received by faith.
- THE FUTURE
The Lord Jesus Christ will return in glory. He will raise the dead and judge the world in righteousness. The wicked will be sent to eternal punishment and the righteous will be welcomed into a life of eternal joy in fellowship with God. God will make all things new and will be glorified forever.
3.1 Application and conditions of membership
Church membership is for all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who are in regular attendance at Bethany Evangelical Church.
Anyone wishing to become a member should speak to one of the elders and then the elders will meet with the person. The elders will decide on the person’s suitability for membership. The church will be notified both of applications for membership and when people are received into membership.
After discussion with the elders the potential candidate for membership will be recommended to the fellowship by the elders being given two weeks for acceptance prior to their official welcome into the membership.
3.2 Responsibilities of membership
Members of the church should give themselves to living out life together as God’s people in line with our vision and values above. This includes:
- regularly attending the meetings of the church so as to spur others on and grow ourselves,
- seeking to live a life that honours God in every way as we live according to his word,
- making every effort to preserve the unity of the church as those whom Christ has reconciled,
- expressing our dependence on God by praying for each other and God’s work through the church,
- using in love the gifts God has given each individual for the benefit of all the church
- recognising our responsibility to love each other, care for each other and build each other up in the faith,
- contributing towards the church’s financial support,
- respecting the leadership of the church,
- bearing witness to the good news of the gospel as Christ has commanded us
If there are differences that lead to difficulties between members of the Church (and it is recognised that these will sometimes arise) each member should try to resolve the situation with gentleness and humility following Christian and Biblical principles.
3.3 Privileges of membership:
Every believer belongs to the universal church of God but He places us in a local church to experience the life of the family of God for development and spiritual growth
The benefits: Spiritual growth, development, accountability, consistency, unity of purpose and stability under pressure.
Membership is important because:
- It is the evidence of our salvation
- It gives us the frame for fulfilling the great commission
- It gives a structure of the Christian life
- It provides the opportunity to serve and to edify one another through the proper use of spiritual gifts
- It places the member under a specific team of elders for nurture and protection.
- It commits the member to support a specific congregation in prayer, ministry and financial giving
- It provides the member a loving family
3.4 Discipline of members
If a member’s beliefs, conduct or commitment to the church wilfully deviates from clear biblical teaching, the elders will take steps to encourage their repentance and restoration, in accordance with biblical principles. If all efforts to resolve such matters are unsuccessful, then the elders will recommend to the church that the person’s membership be suspended or terminated.
3.5 Termination of membership
3.5.1. By physical death
3.5.2. By transfer
When members in good standing whose conduct does not warrant corrective discipline desire to leave the membership of this church, they are encouraged to leave in an orderly way by privately indicating that desire to the elders giving explanation for their reasons for leaving. The elders are happy to provide a letter of recommendation for the member to serve his/her new family church.
3.5.3. By dismissal
Dismissal may be warranted for any of the following reasons:
(a) Member(s) in good standing conclude that they are not truly saved.
(b) A member ceases to maintain vital contact with this church over a period of 6 months except long term illness.
(c) A member ceases to maintain vital contact with this church due to relocation or other unique circumstances.
3.6 Conditions for membership:
Those saved, baptized and committed to our vision, statement of faith and core values.
3.7 Unity of membership
We are committed to be a balanced church: room for old and young. We believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be used according to 1 Corinthians 12-14 in orderly fashion without offending others, with public intelligible prayer, songs, preaching and service.
We are committed to “pursue peace with all men and be holy; without which no one will see God.” Hebrews 12:14. To this end we avoid divisiveness over nonessentials aspects of the Christian faith.
- Wesley put it well: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty in all things charity.”
By essentials we mean those beliefs that are essentials for one’s salvation:
- Belief in the inerrancy and authority of the Word of God
- Belief in the Trinity of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit)
- Belief in the divinity and humanity of Christ (fully God and fully man)
- Belief in the substitutionary atoning sacrifice of Christ because of our total human depravity
- Belief in genuine repentance (turn from sin and change of life) and baptism
- Belief in the resurrection and ascension of Christ to the right hand of God and His present office as High priest of His people
- Belief in the second coming of Christ
- Practice of baptism and the Communion
We obey the two ordinances of Baptism and communion as practiced and taught by the Lord Jesus Christ
We practice believers’ baptism in obedience to the command of Jesus Christ (Matt 28:19-20). Application for baptism should be made to the elders.
Children may be blessed before the Lord at the parents request but will not be baptised until they reach the age of discernment and express their desire to follow the Lord.
4.2 The Communion (Breaking of bread)
We will regularly observe the Lord’s Supper together in obedience to his command (Luke 22:14-20; 1 Cor 11:23-26). All those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord will be welcome to participate.
5.1 Responsibilities and qualifications
Elders are under-shepherds of the Lord Jesus who is head of the church and so they are responsible for leading the church, the teaching of the church and pastoral oversight of all areas of church life. They are to care for and lead the church with a loving servant attitude (1 Peter 5:1-4). In particular elders are responsible for:
- Ensuring that the church is well rooted in the Bible,
- Leading the life of the church as loving pastors and overseers,
- Praying regularly for the whole church family and life of the church,
- Modelling unity to the church family by working well together,
- Promoting closeness of fellowship within the church so that each member can contribute to and receive from the life of the church,
- Encouraging the use of the gifts of each member for the good of the whole church family,
- Setting an example in godly living, both personally and in family life, that others can follow.
5.2 Selection and appointment
As part of their responsibility to encourage the use of the gifts of all members, the eldership is expected to work actively to identify suitable candidates for the role of elder. Before the appointment of a new elder(s) the elders will inform the church about this proposal for prayer and consideration.
Pastors are employed by the church as staff elders. Their responsibilities are the same as for the lay elders but they may be given particular responsibility for certain areas such as the teaching of the church or aspects of leadership. In appointing a pastor the same procedure is followed as for an elder. In the case of an external candidate the membership must be allowed adequate opportunity to assess the suitability of the candidate before a decision is reached.
5.4 Removal from office
If any elder is suspected of heresy, gross incompetence or immoral conduct, or otherwise suspected of being unsuitable for their office, the elders will investigate such matters. If it becomes necessary to terminate the office of any elder a recommendation will be put to the church. The church will be informed of this decision.
5.5 Other positions of responsibility
The elders may appoint people to take delegated responsibility for an area of church life. We see this to embody the Biblical principle of ‘deacons’ (1 Tim 3:8-13).
- Other positions
The elders may appoint someone to assist in the work of church e.g. a secretary, administrator, etc. The terms of office and period of service of such positions will be decided on a case by case basis in discussion with the eldership, deacons, and trustees of the church.
- Official meetings of the church
7.1 Regularity and notification of meetings
The church will meet regularly to discuss the business of the church – this should be at least once a year: AGM (Annual General Meeting) before which at least 14 days’ notice will be given.
7.2 Reaching of decisions
It is important that all decisions taken by the church are taken responsibly, in a way which is loving, and God-honouring. In particular, nothing should be said or done which would cause unnecessary hurt or embarrassment, and that a candidate for any position should only fail to be elected for clear and identifiable reasons. Therefore:
- Any matter of interest to be discussed at the AGM should be registered in advance to the oversight at least 14 days before AGM.
- Only those who are members of Bethany Evangelical Church may take part in a vote. In all these cases a two-thirds majority of those voting is required and quorum of 50% of the membership must cast a vote (including abstentions).
- On occasions, when voting is required, only those who are members of Bethany Evangelical may vote.
- Abstentions: members are free to abstain on any vote, but abstentions do not count in the calculation of percentages for/against a proposal.
The Charity Trustees shall be responsible for the governance of the Church and the fulfilment of the Purpose through its Activities acting according to the will of God as discerned by the Church Members’ Meeting and subject to any specific or general directions of the Church Members’ Meeting.
The Charity Trustees should keep in an appropriate state of repair and maintain suitable insurance against fire and other usual risks all the asset of the church. They must ensure that suitable public liability and employer’s liability insurance is in place.
Charity Trustees’ leadership and administration of the church shall be characterised by mutual accountability, service, as well as by strategic thinking and effective management.
The Charity Trustees shall determine when and how frequently they shall meet provided that they shall convene meetings of the whole group not less than twice a year.
The Charity Trustees are jointly and severally responsible for the financial administration of the Church.
Once in each year the Charity Trustees shall present a budget of subsequent years’ projected income and expenditure at a convenient Church Members’ Meeting.
- Amendments to the Constitution
The statement of faith and church constitution may be amended by a recommendation of the elders.