Constitution

Unlike most churches, First Congregational Church in Mansfield is totally self-governed. Over the years we have written and enhanced our own Constitution developing a local structure that specifically serves the wishes of our members. It is long and very detailed. It is structured for the members, by the members, with the intent of creating an environment where our individule and group efforts serving God are as meaningful as possible. 

Restatement of

The Constitution of

The First Congregational Church of Mansfield, Ohio

Originally Approved at the Annual Meeting January 24, 2010

 

Amended:      1/25/2015

Preamble

While the history of the Church dates back to 1835, it was officially formed with the filing of its Articles of Incorporation in the office of the Secretary of State of Ohio on February 15, 1869 under the name of THE FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH OF MANSFIELD, OHIO and recorded under Charter Number 342149 of Corporate Records of the State of Ohio. As such, it is subject to the laws of the State of Ohio as to temporal matters but not as to spiritual matters.

Article I

Name

 

The name of this organization shall be THE FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH OF MANSFIELD, OHIO, referred to herein as “the Church.”

 

Article II

Covenant

 

We, the members of The First Congregational Church of Mansfield, Ohio, covenant together in a shared belief that Jesus revealed God as being present among us, showing God’s intentions for us, unfolding God’s hopes for us and expressing God’s love for us. We therefore embrace the ways and the teaching of Jesus and seek their fulfillment. To that end, we commit ourselves to creating a Church fellowship that will reflect God’s presence in our individual lives, in our community and in our world. Together we seek to share relevant worship experiences, to encourage spiritual growth and to nurture our faith in God. We are determined to grow in our knowledge of God and in our vision of God’s will for us, hoping thereby to find the strength to sustain us for living our lives in a Christ-like manner.

 

Article III

Government and Fellowship

 

Section 1

The governance of The First Congregational Church of Mansfield, Ohio is based upon a collaborative vision of its ministries, its work and its service. While subject to civil laws and regulations, the congregation ultimately retains the right of control in all of its governance. The congregation may and does refer and delegate certain powers to officers, boards and committees.

 

Section 2

The congregation is gathered around a Covenant, which identifies this Church as a fellowship of individuals who come together for spiritual enrichment, for worship, for service, and to learn from each other in an atmosphere of respect for each person’s convictions.

 

No belief-creed, no formula of prescribed religious doctrine and no test of orthodoxy shall be imposed upon members of the congregation.The congregation and/or individual members are not subject to, nor answerable to, any external ecclesiastical jurisdiction or instrumentality.

 

Section 3

Each member is encouraged to act in the freedom of conscience and right of individual discernment, while living out the covenantal relationship not only with one another, but the community in which we live; and to lift up our traditions, shared learning and the free exchange of ideas to all with whom we come into contact.

 

Article IV

Membership

 

Section 1 - Qualifications

(a) The Church welcomes into membership any person whose spiritual journey and expression of religious faith are compatible with the Congregational tradition and the covenant of this church.

Section 2 - Admission to Membership

(a) Initial Inquiry

An individual may begin the process toward membership by contacting a minister or by indicating interest in the sanctuary record books found in the pews.

 

(b) The Congregational Way Class

Each applicant is encouraged to attend the Congregational Way class, generally prior to consideration by the Deacons for membership.  However, the Senior Minister may make an exception when warranted.  The Congregational Way class will be held several times per year, usually in October, February and May (with a possible fourth time in the summer).

 

(c) Approval of the Board of Deacons

Names and biographical information of applicants will be presented to the Board of Deacons for approval for membership on a regular basis, usually in October, February and May.

 

(d) Reception into Membership

1) In most instances, a new member will be received into membership as part of a regular worship service.  The name of the new member will be presented to the assembled congregation along with the notation of the class of membership requested.

 

2) Presentation of new members to the congregation will occur three times throughout the year, usually in October, February and May.

 

3) A brief biography of each new member will be printed as an insert in the bulletin on the Sunday of new member presentation to the congregation.

 

4) Additionally, a brief biography of each new member, and if possible a photo, will be displayed within the church (for example, on a bulletin board) so people may familiarize themselves with the new members.

 

5) An appropriate ritual of membership and welcome shall follow and shall include recitation of the Church Covenant by the congregation and new members together.

 

6) The Moderator or Senior Minister may waive any of the steps of Reception into Membership if there are compelling reasons to do so.

 

Section 4 - Forms of Membership

(a) An Active Member

(1) This is the traditional and the most common form of membership with The First Congregational Church. It will follow upon a person being received into Church membership at his/her request. It may also transpire following receipt of a letter of transfer from a church where membership was previously held.

 

(b) An Associate Member

(1) This form of membership is, in most respects, identical to the “active member” as described above. It includes any and all of those membership privileges. It is typically the form of membership granted to a person who holds membership in a Church elsewhere, a membership which, because of family considerations, residency issues or yet other reasons, he/she does not feel free to end.   An associate member is considered a voting member of the Church and may be elected to standing committees.

 

(2) This form of membership includes non-resident students who, having joined the church following Confirmation, leave the community for post-high school education. Unless they request otherwise, their names shall not be removed from the membership rolls of the church sooner than four years following graduation from high school.

 

(3) This form of membership includes non-resident members (e.g. in retirement) who relocate elsewhere but request in writing that their membership continue on an Associate basis in this their “home congregation”.

 

Section 5 - Voting Rights

(a) All members (active or associate) in attendance at any annual or special meeting of the Congregation shall be entitled to vote. There shall be no voting by proxy.

 

Section 6 - Termination of Membership

(a) Voluntary Termination of Membership

(1) Any member may terminate his/her membership by requesting such termination, in writing. No explanation of such termination is required.

 

(b) Modification of Membership Status

(1) Among the responsibilities of the Board of Deacons is that of maintaining an up-to-date membership roster. They are empowered to remove from the membership rolls persons who have become inactive for a period of twenty-four (24) months. “Inactivity” shall be defined in this context as the complete absence of a person’s contributing and/or participating in the services and programs of the Church during the twenty-four (24) months leading up to the time that the Board of Deacons undertakes the updating of membership rolls. Wherever and whenever possible, persons whose membership is being considered for discontinuance shall be so informed in case they feel that there are extenuating circumstances to their non-participation that should be taken into consideration.

 

Section 7 – Religious and Membership Meetings

(a)Religious Meetings

(1) Regular services for worship shall be held at a stated hour or hours each Sunday, except as otherwise determined by the Board of Deacons.

 

(2) Communion services shall be celebrated no less often than quarterly and at such times as determined by the Board of Deacons.

 

(3) Christian Education programs and other services shall be conducted for the benefit of the children, young people and adults as determined and arranged by the respective boards or committees having such activities as a part of their responsibilities.

 

(4) All religious meetings and services within this Section 7 (a) shall involve the mutual cooperative efforts between or among the respective applicable boards, committees and Ministers of the Church.

 

(b)Membership Meetings

(1) Annual Meeting – There shall be an Annual Meeting of the Members in January of each year for the consideration of reports of all elected officers, boards and committees, election of officers, boards and committees, adoption of the annual budget and for the transaction of any other business that may properly come before the meeting.

 

(2) Special Meetings – Special meetings of the Members for the transaction of business may be called by the Moderator, Church Council, Board of Trustees, Board of Deacons, Church Cabinet or by the Church Clerk upon the written request of at least 10 Members.

 

(3) Notice of Meetings – Notice of any membership meeting (Annual or Special) stating the time, place and proposed agenda thereof shall be given to the Members at least two (2) weeks prior to the date set for the called meeting.  Only matters stated in the Notice of Meeting shall be acted upon at the meeting.  Notice may be given in any two (2) of the following ways:

 

                    (i) announcement from the pulpit at any Sunday service

                   (ii) announcement in the church newsletter

(iii) regular mail or electronic communication by request

(iv) publication on the church website

 

(4) Quorum and Voting – Fifty (50) voting Members of the Church shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business at any meeting of the Church Membership.  Voting shall be by ballot if so requested by at least five (5) Members present.  A majority vote by voting Members present shall be decisive except as provided in Section 1 of Article XI.

 

Article V

Ministers

 

Section 1 - Ministers

(a) Charge, Duties, Responsibilities

Ministers shall have charge of the spiritual welfare of the Church, with the assistance of the Board of Deacons, as well as be responsible for the Ministers’ Duties and Responsibilities as set forth in Appendix A.

 

Section 2 - Vacancy, Call

(a) Senior Minister

(1) When a vacancy occurs in the Senior Minister position, the Church Cabinet shall present to the Church Council a list of not fewer than nine names for consideration for service on the Ministerial Selection Committee.  The Church Council shall review these names and determine the final nine names to be presented to the membership for a ballot election at a called meeting of the church membership; notice of such meeting shall be made in the manner specified in Article IV, Section 7.

 

(2) The Ministerial Selection Committee shall proceed with diligence to investigate available ministers and select one who in its judgment should be called to the Church as Senior Minister, introduce the nominee to the Church and, at a duly called meeting of the Congregation, make a recommendation for the “call”.  The Senior Minister shall be elected by two-thirds vote of members present.

 

(3) When the Senior Minister has been called and has accepted the call, he or she shall become a member of the Church at the first opportunity.

 

(b) Other Ministers (ie Associate, Assistant, Interim, etc.)

(1) In the event of a call or vacancy, a committee appointed by the Church Council and comprised of the Moderator, not more than two representatives from the Board of Trustees and two representatives from the Board of Deacons shall be formed. This committee, assisted by the Senior Minister, shall determine the vacancy to be filled or called, research available candidates and make a recommendation to the Church Council for employment.

 

(2) The Church Council is responsible for extending the employment offer, then negotiating the employment agreement.

 

(c) Responsibilities

(1) While the Senior Minister shall be the primary spiritual leader, other duties associated with each Minister are found in individual employment agreements.

 

Section 3 - Term, Resignation, Dismissal

(a) Term - The term of the Ministers shall be indefinite unless otherwise defined in the Employment Agreement.

 

(b) Resignation - A Minister may resign at any time, giving at least a sixty (60) day notice, unless otherwise stated in the Employment Agreement.

 

(c) Dismissal - The congregation may call a special meeting for the purpose of termination of the ministerial relationship subject to rules for special meetings as noted in Article IV, Section 7 (b) (2).  The decision must be by a majority vote, and will be effective sixty (60) days after the vote, except in the case of loss of ministerial standing, in which termination will be effective immediately.

 

Article VI

Church Officers

 

The Church Officers shall be the Moderator, Moderator Elect, Clerk, and Treasurer.

 

Section 1 - Moderator

The Moderator is the representative of the Congregation and is elected by the Congregation at an Annual Meeting to serve for a single three-year term. The Moderator is an ex-officio member, without vote, of all Boards and Committees of the Church. In addition, the Moderator shall:

 

(a) Act as a coordinating influence and a bridge between and among the Congregation, the Ministers, the Staff and the various Boards and Committees of the Church.

 

(b) In consultation with the applicable Board or Committee Chairperson and the Senior Minister, the Moderator shall appoint persons to fill vacancies on any Board or Committee until the next Annual Meeting, at which time the vacancy will be filled by vote of the Congregation.

 

(c) Preside at all official meetings of the Congregation, call and chair all Church Cabinet and Church Council Meetings and represent the Congregation in religious and community events.

 

(d) While acting as Moderator, the individual must remain an actively engaged member of the Church.

 

 

Section 2 - Moderator Elect

The Moderator Elect is elected by the Congregation at the Annual Meeting beginning the last year of the current Moderator’s term to serve a one-year term at the end of which the Moderator Elect will become Moderator. The Moderator Elect shall:

 

(a) Assist the Moderator.

 

(b) Attend at least one meeting of each Board and Committee during the year.

 

(c) Be an ex-officio member of the Church Cabinet and Church Council.

 

(d) Remain an actively engaged member of the Church.

 

Section 3 - Clerk

The Clerk is the General Secretary for the Church and the Congregation, and is elected by the Congregation at an Annual Meeting to serve for a term of three years and may be re-elected without limitation as to successive terms. In addition, the Clerk shall:

 

(a)Be responsible for the custody and care of all records of the Church membership, baptisms, marriages, deaths, and other ceremonies and details.

 

(b)Serve as recording secretary to the Church Cabinet and Church Council, issue official calls for Congregational meetings and act as recording secretary for such meetings.

 

(c)Issue or delegate the issue of all letters of transfer of membership and of dismissal, after the required actions thereon, prepare written reports of the Church, keep an accurate history of the Church, and prepare the Annual Report.

 

(d)While acting as Clerk, the individual must remain an actively engaged member of the Church.

 

Section 4 – Treasurer

The Board of Trustees may designate and appoint a person to serve as the Treasurer (or Financial Officer) of the Church and may employ a person to provide services and assistance to the Treasurer, such person to be designated as the Financial Secretary.  The Treasurer (or Financial Officer) and the Financial Secretary, if any, shall have such duties and responsibilities and shall serve for such period of time and for such compensation as the Board of Trustees shall, from time to time, designate and specify in writing, by contract or resolution of the Board of Trustees.

 

Section 5 - Vacancies

Vacancy in the offices of Moderator, Moderator Elect or Clerk shall be filled until the next Annual Meeting by the Church Council, unless otherwise provided in this Constitution.

 

Article VII

Governance, Responsibilities and Accountability

 

Section 1 - Areas of Authority

(a) The ultimate operating authority of the Church rests with the members of the Congregation, when gathered in a properly called official meeting of the Church while proceeding in a manner consistent with the laws of the State of Ohio and in accordance with the applicable provisions of the Internal Revenue Code relating to organizations organized under Section 501 (c) (3) of the Code.

 

Section 2 - Interim Authority

Between officially called meetings of the Members, the Church Council, the Moderator, the Boards and the Committees are granted authority to exercise oversight of the Church’s ministries, administrative necessities, day-to-day decisions, and other such systemic requirements, being careful to avoid overlapping activities and responsibility of other boards and committees and to avoid duplication and conflict.

 

(a) Under no circumstances shall any board, committee (or a member thereof) or any officer or staff member have authority to, on behalf of the Church and the Congregation, unilaterally acquire or dispose of Church property, encumber the Church with indebtedness, affiliate the Church with any outside organization, claim to represent the Congregation in matters of belief, ideology, ethical precept, or to hire senior or associate clergy on his, her or its sole authority. Any action on any such matter will require action by an official called meeting of the Congregation.

 

Section 3 - Boards and Committees of the Church

(a) Boards and Committees of the Church include (but are not limited to) the following:

           

            Boards

 

   Board of Trustees

 

   Board of Deacons

 

   Board of Endowment Fund Trustees

 

   Committees

 

   Stewardship

   Deaconesses

 

   Missions

 

   Children’s Ministry

 

   Church Life

 

   Stewards

 

   Information Technology and Media

 

   Music and Fine Arts

 

   Youth Ministry

 

   Ladies League

 

   Ministerial Support

 

 

 

 

The purposes, responsibilities, functions and limitations, if any, of all existing boards and committees, and those hereafter existing, shall be set forth in Appendix B.

 

(b) General Provisions

Except as otherwise specifically provided, the following shall apply to all Boards and Committees:

 

(1) Each Board with a rotating membership shall elect a Chairperson for two years from its continuing members at its last meeting preceding the Annual Meeting of the Church. Each Committee with a rotating membership shall elect a Chairperson for one (1) year from its continuing members at its last meeting preceding the Annual Meeting of the Church.  The Chairperson shall call a reorganization meeting of the Board or Committee, including newly elected members, within 30 days after the Annual Meeting. If the Chairperson fails to call a reorganization meeting, it shall be called by the Moderator. The Chairperson is an automatic member of the Cabinet and is expected to attend meetings of the Church Cabinet called by the Moderator.

 

(2) Vacancies on any elected Board or Committee shall be filled by the Moderator, in accordance with Article VI, Section 1 (b) of this Constitution.

 

(3) It shall be the duty and obligation of each Board or Committee member to attend meetings regularly and to participate in the activities and meetings of the Board or Committee.

 

(4) A member of any Board shall be eligible for more than one (1) term on the same Board.  These terms may not be consecutive, but must be separated by an interim of not less than one (1) year.  A member of the Board of Trustees may serve two (2) consecutive terms.  A member of any Committee shall be eligible for more than one term, served consecutively, on the same committee.

 

(5) Persons serving on any Board must be an actively engaged member or associate member of the Church. A termination of membership shall be considered a resignation from the Board.

 

(6) Persons serving on any Church Committee may be any actively engaged participant in the Church.

 

Section 4 – The Church Council and Church Cabinet

 

(a)The Church Council

The Church Council shall be an executive body whose purpose shall be to envision the meaning and task of the Church, in accordance with this Constitution, to work with the Ministers, Staff and all Boards and Committees, to establish long and short term strategies, goals and priorities, and to encourage the formation and implementation of a vital and expanding program with the support and direction of the Congregation. The duties, responsibilities and membership of the Church Council are as set forth under Article VIII of this Church Constitution.

 

(b)The Church Cabinet

The Church Cabinet being broadly representative of all Boards and Committees of the Church will generally act as a bridge between and among all Boards and Committees to avoid duplication of efforts and provide coordination of efforts when necessary. The duties, responsibilities and memberships of the Church Cabinet are as set forth under Article VIII of the Church Constitution.

 

Section 5 – Endowment Fund Trustees

 

(a)The Endowment Fund Trustees shall work to preserve the principal of the Endowment Fund in perpetuity while honoring the wishes of the donors.

 

(b) The Endowment Fund Trustees shall review and/or prepare biennially for  approval by the members of the church, the Endowment Fund policies and/or resolutions defining the purposes of the Fund, principles and policies, organization of the Fund Trustees, qualifications of the Trustees, promotional efforts, categories of gifts, distribution policies, investment policies and goals, IRS compliance assurance and other related matters.

 

(c)Should the Endowment Fund Trustees vote not to fund a project or program that exceeds allowable distributions according to approved Endowment Fund policies, the Church Council may override the Endowment Trustees by calling for a vote on the matter via a Congregational meeting.  At least 20% of the total Congregational membership must agree to override the vote of the Endowment Fund Trustees.

 

 

Article VIII

Church Council – Church Cabinet

Duties, Responsibilities, Memberships

 

Section 1 – Church Council

 

(a) Duties and Responsibilities

 

(1)To oversee and assist the Ministers, Staff, Officers, Boards and Committees of the Church in the performance and implementation of their respective responsibilities and maintain and encourage productive communications between and among such persons.

 

(2)In the event of conflict between any Officers, Boards, Committees, or other Church sponsored organizations, resolve all questions that may arise.

 

(3)To be responsible for routine matters pertaining to the operations and personnel of the Church that are not assigned specifically to the Ministers, Officers, Boards and Committees of the Church under this Constitution.

 

 

(4)To serve as a forum, when deemed necessary, for the discussion of Church problems and activities; to act as a coordinating agency among the Boards and Committees of the Church; to make appointments and fill vacancies not otherwise provided for; to serve as a long range planning and strategic planning committee, seeking to anticipate the needs and responsibilities of the Church not otherwise provided for in this Constitution.

 

(5)To oversee and implement the filing of any and all documents and papers required by any federal, state or local governmental authority and delegate, as necessary, the signing authority over such documents and papers.

 

(6)To advise and assist with Ministerial concerns and serve as liaison between the Ministers, Ministerial Support Committee and the Congregation relating to the concerns of the Ministers regarding the Church and his/her role.

 

(7)To conduct an annual performance evaluation of the Senior Minister and other ministerial personnel. The Senior Minister shall not be in attendance at any Church Council meeting held for the annual evaluation of his/her performance.

 

(8)To serve as a personnel committee regarding the hiring and termination of Church employees not otherwise provided for in this Constitution. These personnel may be referred to as the paid staff of the Church, excluding the ministers and Church Officers. Compensation issues shall be referred to the Board of Trustees after communication with the applicable Board or Committee of the Church with which any such employee will be directly involved.

 

   (b) Membership

(1)The Church Council shall consist of the Senior Minister, Moderator, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Chair of the Endowment Fund Trustees, Chair of the Board of Deacons, Treasurer, and three at-large members selected from the actively engaged members of the congregation with past experience in church leadership.  The at-large members shall serve terms of three (3) years each.  At-large members will be nominated by the Church Cabinet (Article VIII, Section 2, (a) (3)) for election at the Annual Meeting of the Congregation.  The chairperson of the Church Council shall be the Moderator.

 

(2)The Church Council shall meet regularly, no less often than monthly, for the transaction of regular business; special meetings may be called by the Moderator or at the request of any two members. In the absence of the Moderator, the Council shall appoint a temporary Chair.

 

(3)Each member shall have one (1) vote.  A quorum shall consist of five (5) members.

 

(4)In consultation with the Senior Minister, the Moderator shall appoint persons to fill vacancies on the Church Council until the next Annual Meeting at which time the vacancy shall be filled by vote of the Membership.

 

 

 

Section 2 – Church Cabinet

 

   (a) Duties and Responsibilities

 

(1)By virtue of its memberships, the Church Cabinet is representative of all Boards and Committees of the Church, Ministers and designated Officers of the Church. The Cabinet shall act as a coordinating agency and forum for the discussion among the participants of the ongoing activities, coordination of efforts, and avoidance of conflicting efforts.

 

(2)Except as otherwise provided in this Constitution, the Church Cabinet shall act as the Nominating Committee to propose the names of suitable persons to fill all Boards and Committees provided for in this Constitution.  A ballot shall be prepared for the Annual Meeting nominating persons for each of the positions to be filled.  Prior to voting at the Annual Meeting, additional nominations may be presented from the floor.  The Moderator may call such meetings as may be necessary to accomplish the nominating process.

 

    (b) Membership

 

(1)The Church Cabinet shall consist of the Moderator, Moderator-Elect, Clerk, Senior Minister and other Officers and the Chairperson (or a designee of the Chairperson in his/her absence) of each of the Boards and Committees, now or hereafter existing, set forth in Article VII, Section 3, of this Constitution. Each member shall have one (1) vote. A quorum shall consist of 50% of the voting members.

 

(2)The Moderator shall serve as Chair of the Church Cabinet. In his/her absence, the Moderator Elect, if any, shall act as Chair; and, if none, the Cabinet shall appoint a temporary Chair from the Cabinet membership to serve in the absence of the Moderator.

 

(3)Non-voting participants shall consist of any persons holding Church staff positions including those of Associate, Assistant or Interim Minister of the Church.

 

(4)The Church Cabinet shall meet regularly, with a minimum of four (4) times per year required, for the transaction of regular business; special meetings may be called by the Moderator or at the request of any two (2) members.

 

 

 

 

 

Article IX

Auxiliary Organizations

 

Section 1 - Purposes and Organization

(a)Auxiliary organizations and committees may be formed and organized for the purposes of promoting fellowship, service and enterprise among the members of the Church and community and to engage in activities in harmony with the purpose, policies and Constitution of the Church.

 

(b)All activities shall be conducted in such a manner that will be consistent with the charitable and religious purposes [Section 501 (c) (3)] of the Internal Revenue Code.

 

(c)A report regarding any and all financial transactions of any such organization or committee shall be provided to the Treasurer no less often than annually.

 

(d)For special purposes, the Congregation may elect, the Church Council or Church Cabinet may appoint, or a Board or Committee may appoint additional committees.  Each additional committee will operate within one of the Boards or Committees (listed in Article VII), the Council or Cabinet and be responsible to the group making the appointment..

 

Article X

Leadership Year and Fiscal Year

           

Section 1 - Leadership Year

(a)The leadership year of the Church shall begin at the close of the annual meeting. All references in this Constitution to annual elections, terms of office or other matters shall conform in timing to this leadership year.

 

Section 2 - Fiscal Year

 

(a)The fiscal year of the Church shall be the same as the calendar year. All financial matters, including budgets, pledges and financial reports shall conform in timing to this fiscal year.

 

Article XI

Constitution Amendments

 

Section 1

This Constitution may be amended by a two-thirds vote of the Members present and voting at any annual meeting or at a special meeting called for that purpose, assuming a quorum is present, pursuant to Article IV, Section 7 (b) (4). The notice of any such meeting shall include a summary of the complete text of the proposed amendment.  In the alternative, copies of any proposed amendments to the Constitution shall be made available to the members at the Church office two weeks prior to any action being taken.

 

Section 2

Appendix A and B may be amended by a two-thirds vote of the entire voting membership of the Church Council at any regular meeting called for this purpose.  The notice of this meeting shall include the complete text of the proposed amendment.

 

Section 3  

Amendments to Article II and Article III of the Constitution may be made only at an annual meeting and only if the proposed changes are distributed in writing to all Governing Members of the Church, not less than one month prior to the meeting and are read from the Pulpit on the Sunday preceding the annual meeting.