February 18, 2022
Dear FCC Congregation,
The Bylaws Committee has been reviewing and discussing all the feedback we have received from you. We have been working hard to present a proposal to the Church Board and for the congregation. This week’s updates will be the last before our February 27 presentation. The Bylaws Committee has made great progress. Here are some of the updates we would like to share with you. We ask for your continued prayers for our church and this process. Thank you.
Question: There seems to be a lack of accountability throughout this structure. Removal of the Lead Pastor by the congregation would need a 50% quorum. Is that unrealistic?
Bylaws Committee Response: This is not something that we would expect to happen. In the event this process is used, we would expect significant congregational involvement. The committee has reviewed this question and the text in the updated proposal reflects 25%. 50% came from the ECC leadership team model template but after our discussions, we believe it is too high for FCC which resulted in the change.
Comment: I only have one comment on the proposed ByLaws. It is similar, if not identical, to a concern I have heard raised by others and has to do with quorum/decisions at Church Board meetings. As per the proposed ByLaws: "Section 9. Quorum. A majority of Church Board members shall constitute a quorum. Section 10. Decisions. The Church Board shall strive for unanimity. Matters shall be determined by a majority vote of a Church Board quorum, unless on a matter in which the Constitution and Bylaws require a different percentage." Hence, at a poorly attended Board meeting, 5 would be quorum, and 3 votes of this quorum could comprise a decision. Although this seems an unlikely scenario, it makes some nervous and diminishes their enthusiasm for the new Bylaws. I recommend a simple change: "Six Church Board members shall constitute a quorum". Section 10 would remain the same, but if 6 is the quorum, it would take 4 votes to make a decision.
Bylaws Committee Response: The committee has reviewed the Church Board quorum requirement and have changed the requirement to 2/3.
Suggestion: Article III, Section 3d – Modify to read “submission of regular financial reports to the Church Board and congregation.” Since it is the congregation who approves the budget, the congregation should also be kept informed of ongoing budget progress. Bylaws Committee Response: The Bylaws Committee has reviewed this suggestion and has added “and the congregation”. Formatting Suggestion: Article V, Section 3a – Add a space after the “a.” so the top line lines up with “b.” and “c.”
Bylaws Committee Response: The Bylaws Committee has made this change.
Clarification Suggestion: Article VII, Section 8, last sentence – Modify to read “An item brought to the agenda in this way shall be decided by a majority vote of the membership present at that meeting, unless …” I think that is what you really mean, rather than a majority of the full membership.
Bylaws Committee Response: The Bylaws Committee has reviewed and removed “of the membership”.
Comment: Article II, Section 5a-Remove “and the member is in good standing”. This is problematic because it is subjective.
Bylaws Committee Response: The Bylaws Committee is sensitive to this comment and appreciate it. However, the language is in our current bylaws and in our ECC template.
Comment: Article II, Section 5b-Remove the first sentence “Any member deemed to be in poor standing or in neglect of their responsibilities and who remains in such a state after graceful admonishment from the pastoral staff or Church Board, may have his or her membership removed by the Church Board”.
Bylaws Committee Response: The Bylaws Committee has reviewed this comment and believe there should be some possible means of admonishment and then removal. The Committee has made a change, however, to state “Any member deemed to be in poor standing and willful neglect of their responsibilities…”.
Suggestion: Article III, Section c.- Add “The Secretary will make Church Board meeting minutes available to any church member upon request”.
Bylaws Committee Response: The Bylaws Committee has reviewed the suggestion and has incorporated the update “The Secretary shall make non-confidential Church Board and congregational meeting minutes available to any church member upon request”.
Suggestion: Section 10.- “The Church Board shall strive for unanimity but shall respect dissent”.
Bylaws Committee Response: The committee will include in the proposal “The Church Board shall strive for unanimity while respecting dissent”.
Suggestion: Article IV, Section 11-Remove “or unpaid”.
Bylaws Committee Response: The Bylaws Committee has reviewed the suggestion and made this change.
Suggestion: Section 13-Remove “or unpaid”.
Bylaws Committee Response: The Bylaws Committee has reviewed the suggestion and made this change.
Suggestion: ARTICLE 2 Section 4. Suppression of dissentThis section states it is a responsibility of the congregation “to abide by the guidelines, policies and decisions of the church”. Again, if the Church Board is trustworthy and can tolerate dissent, there is no problem with this phrase.However, there is an inherent contradiction here with Article 7 section 8. In that section, a congregation member would be allowed to call a meeting to change a Church Board decision. But an unscrupulous Board could claim no member has the right to question a Church Board decision under the provisions of Article 2 section 4. One of the sections has to change.
Bylaws Committee Response: Congregational members are obligated to follow decisions and policies of the church, but it does not take away their right to attempt to have the decisions and policies changed through the congregational process. We have also added the language “the Church Board will strive for unanimity while respecting dissent” in our bylaws.
February 11, 2022
Comment: I only have one comment on the proposed Bylaws. It is similar, if not identical, to a concern I have heard raised by others and has to do with quorum/decisions at Church Board meetings. As per the proposed Bylaws: "Section 9. Quorum. A majority of Church Board members shall constitute a quorum. Section 10. Decisions. The Church Board shall strive for unanimity. Matters shall be determined by a majority vote of a Church Board quorum, unless on a matter in which the Constitution and Bylaws require a different percentage." Hence, at a poorly attended Board meeting, 5 would be quorum, and 3 votes of this quorum could comprise a decision. Although this seems an unlikely scenario, it makes some nervous and diminishes their enthusiasm for the new Bylaws. I recommend a simple change: "Six Church Board members shall constitute a quorum". Section 10 would remain the same, but if 6 is the quorum, it would take 4 votes to make a decision.
Bylaws Committee Response: The Quorum and >50% voting requirements are consistent with Robert’s Rules and the practice of other organizations. However, the Bylaws Committee believes this question merits consideration and will consider increasing either the Quorum requirement or the voting requirement. The question here comes to practice of the Board and how decisions are made. A leadership striving for unity and unanimity would find it difficult or unbearable to call for a vote/decision when 5 members are present.
Question: Article III, Section 10 of the proposed Bylaws states “The Church Board shall strive for unanimity.” What does this imply in the context of differing perspectives/opinions within the Board? Will a minority feel obligated to give way and support a vote to make it unanimous?
Bylaws Committee Response: We believe the nominating process and Board should encourage a variety of perspectives while still seeking for teamwork and a common mission. When the board is strongly split on an issue, this admonition to strive for unanimity would give the majority pause to perhaps reconsider or seek further guidance. We hope there are differing perspectives in leadership. The responsibility and role of Board is to be united in carrying out the mission and wellbeing of the church. The Bylaws Committee is reviewing this and considering additional language to provide clarity.
Question: Why was the “Accusations” section found in the current Bylaws eliminated from proposed Bylaws?
Bylaws Committee Response: The current Bylaws require two or more witnesses to raise a concern of false doctrine or unworthy conduct. This change allows for a single person to raise issues without needing to have witnesses.
Question: Why not make a minimum number of changes to the current system rather than change to an entirely new system with unknown results? It should be possible to fix overlapping responsibilities without full structural change. Major changes can result in major problems.
Bylaws Committee Response: The Church Board and Bylaws Committee believe a single-board structure will eliminate overlapping and clarify responsibilities. Although moving to a single-board structure will require a significant transition, we believe it can be done smoothly and effectively. In creating the proposal, it was important to reach out to other churches under the ECC and PSWC to understand how the transition to a single-board structure impacted their church. The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive. Major changes in an organization can result in major problems when not executed well with a clear change management plan, and without examples of best practices. We are fortunate to have churches within our denomination who have successfully implemented this change and will serve as a road map to ensure our transition is smooth if this proposal is passed. We understand that all churches are unique and so we will ensure that our transition plan takes into account the uniqueness of FCC should the proposal pass.
Question: Is church Membership required to serve on a Committee? If so, should this be stated in the Bylaws?
Bylaws Committee Response: Yes, Church Membership will be required to serve on a Committee. The Bylaws Committee will consider whether this should be specified in the Bylaws.
Question: Is church Membership required to serve on a Ministry Team?
Bylaws Committee Response: Each Ministry Team will be run with policies appropriate to its needs and purposes under the oversight of the Board and supervising pastoral staff. Some Ministry Teams will allow non-members to serve. As is the practice now, non-members will be able to serve along side members in community-service and other non-decision-making areas. All Team Leaders will be required to be church members.
February 4, 2022
Question: Is the lead pastor the head of operations? Should that be? Our history is one of "shared governance".
Bylaws Committee Response: In the current bylaws, the Church Board, which is elected by the congregation, is the operational governing body and the Lead Pastor is the head of church staff. In the proposed bylaws amendments, the Church Board is still the operational governing body, and the Lead Pastor shall “direct, equip and assist the church staff in the accomplishment of ministry objectives of the church”. The proposed bylaws amendments also state that “the Lead Pastor is responsible for directing and overseeing all ministries and operational affairs of the church not specifically assigned to the Church Board or congregation.” The history of shared governance remains intact with the proposed bylaws amendments.
Question: Should there be some sort of reporting requirement for ministry teams, so the congregation knows what is going on? Bylaws Committee Response: The proposed bylaws amendments states under Ministry Teams, Section 3. Duties(c) that ministry teams will “regularly submit proposed budgets, objectives and reports to the Church Board. The Church Board will provide these updates in the annual report.
Question: Is the lead pastor part of his own compensation panel?
Bylaws Committee Response: The lead pastor has not served any decision-making role in his/her own compensation in the past, and our Conflict of Interest Policy prohibits such involvement. The current Bylaws do not speak to this issue. The Bylaws Committee will consider whether a Conflict of Interest provision should be included in the Bylaws themselves.
Question: No provisions around Sabbaticals. Does the Lead Pastor have the authority to grant sabbaticals to other pastors? Who takes over when Lead Pastor is away?
Bylaws Committee Response: The Church Board has the responsibility to determine and approve sabbaticals, and appoint an Interim Lead Pastor when the need arises. These authorities are not specified by the current Bylaws, and have been controlled by Board Policies. The Bylaws Committee will consider whether these details should be included in the Bylaws.
Comment: Board has ultimate power over the leader of a Ministry Team. Very different congregational representation than having all Deacons and Deaconesses elected by the congregation.
Bylaws Committee Response: In the past few years, there has been concern expressed by several members that they don’t know the candidates they are voting for in leadership positions, including the Deacons and Deaconesses. In the proposed bylaws amendments, the Church Board, in consultation with the pastoral staff, will approve the leader of a Ministry Team. The Ministry Team Leader determines the composition of the Ministry Team in consultation with the pastoral staff. The Church Board can also consult with the Nominating Committee as well. The Church Board is elected by the congregation. The Nominating Committee, also selected by the congregation, does a thorough search, which includes interviews and prayer, to bring candidates that represent the congregation.
Question: Article lll, section 11(g) states that neither the Treasurer nor the Financial Secretary shall serve more than four (4) consecutive years. Why 4 and not 6?
Bylaws Committee Response: The Bylaws Committee decided to mirror the ECC Leadership Team model. The thought in making these terms shorter than the maximum term of Church Board members was that the Treasurer and Financial Secretary would not have to commit for a longer period. Thus, having members who are experienced to fill these important roles be more inclined to serve.
Comment: I urge that there be a careful look at balance in any further presentation and in the website material. Does the congregation deserve some measure of objectivity in the testimonials and materials offered as background? Twenty or so individuals are cited as supportive of consideration of the one board model. Several more (including one who risked his own life and the lives of others in recording his video testimonial while driving on I-5) spoke. No more than two of them have had any meaningful exposure over time to First Covenant, its history and its ethos, much less the full story of whatever issues they've been told justify a change in governance structure. Mr. Davidson's participation is in the same category. I know of no time in its history when the leadership of First Covenant Church has had to go to a group of 25 or more outsiders to shore up the argument for a change in the organization and structure of its lay leadership. Is there no responsible and reasonable voice that could be called upon to offer objectivity and balance in characterizing the present structure and the need for change? I have thus far not found it in the ":recommended reading" cited on the website.
Bylaws Committee Response: First Covenant Church is a part of the Pacific Southwest Conference (PSWC) and the Evangelical Covenant Church(ECC). In working on the proposed bylaws amendments, we believe it was prudent to learn how other churches within our conference and the ECC has updated their bylaws. We received feedback from members that they appreciate our due diligence in researching as well as sharing with the congregation the perspective of churches within our denomination who have moved to a ministry team model and how it has blessed them.
The change in bylaws does not change our history, our mission, or who we are as a church body. What the proposed bylaws amendments does do is provide our church with more opportunities for members, non-members, and youth to serve on one or more ministry teams. It enables us to continue to move forward in serving our church family and our community. It also allows us to discover new ways to witness and bring others to Christ.
Additional Comments & Suggestions:
- Article III, Section 3d – Modify to read “submission of regular financial reports to the Church Board and congregation.” Since it is the congregation who approves the budget, the congregation should also be kept informed of ongoing budget progress. Of course “how” the congregation is to be kept informed can be determined by the Financial Officer and other board members – it might be a link on the church website, a note in the weekly email, or separate emails to church members, or any method of disclosure deemed appropriate. I think the key is to have financial transparency with the congregation, which has been sorely lacking for many years (including during my term as treasurer). I hit many roadblocks trying to bring about greater congregational transparency and was never successful. I believe that if it were a bylaw “requirement” the congregational reporting may be more consistent – possibly monthly.
Question/Clarification Suggestion: - Article III, Section 10, sentence 2 – Clarification may be needed. I am reading this sentence to mean that if there are 9 members of the Church Board, a quorum will be 5 members (a majority as defined in section 9 previously). That would mean that a “majority vote of a … quorum” would be 3 people. I don’t believe that it is the intention of the bylaws committee to suggest that decisions to be made by as few as 3 individuals. Perhaps the word “quorum” should just be removed – or “Matters shall be determined by a majority vote of the Church Board, unless …” If there are not 5 people who can agree to particular position, maybe that matter should be revisited at a future meeting or via online discussion or …
Formatting Suggestion:- Article V, Section 3a – Add a space after the “a.” so the top line lines up with “b.” and “c.”
Clarification Suggestion:- Article VII, Section 8, last sentence – Modify to read “An item brought to the agenda in this way shall be decided by a majority vote of the membership present at that meeting, unless …” I think that is what you really mean, rather than a majority of the full membership.
Comment: I only have one comment on the proposed ByLaws. It is similar, if not identical, to a concern I have heard raised by others and has to do with quorum/decisions at Church Board meetings. As per the proposed ByLaws:
"Section 9. Quorum. A majority of Church Board members shall constitute a quorum.
Section 10. Decisions. The Church Board shall strive for unanimity. Matters shall be determined by a majority vote of a Church Board quorum, unless on a matter in which the Constitution and Bylaws require a different percentage."
Hence, at a poorly attended Board meeting, 5 would be quorum, and 3 votes of this quorum could comprise a decision. Although this seems an unlikely scenario, it makes some nervous and diminishes their enthusiasm for the new ByLaws. I recommend a simple change: "Six Church Board members shall constitute a quorum". Section 10 would remain the same, but if 6 is the quorum, it would take 4 votes to make a decision.
Comment/Question: In the draft by-laws:
Section 11m states that one of the responsibilities of the Board is "determining committees and ministry teams as needed...." I understand that the goal is a more fluid structure, but this seems to place a lot of demand on the Board to know what's needed. (Indeed, they pick up much of what is now undertaken by the Nominating Committee.) To make this work, some new and robust communication channels are needed, I think. For example, an announcement board, an invitation for people interested in a given ministry to explore the idea with others, an ongoing "suggestion box," and/or the job fairs that we used to have (when we could meet in person), etc. .... I am not sure where this could be specified, but at least a modifier like: "Drawing on input from the congregation, establishing committees and ministry teams ...."
The Mutual Ministry Committee seems like a key component. In the presentations/Q&A, can you say more about this committee.
The list of responsibilities emphasizes caring for the welfare of the pastors. But the scope is broader: "support mutually beneficial communications and relationships between congregation, pastors, and church staff..." Can you make this a sentence in its own right, with an ending like "to encourage and enable more robust pursuit of the church's mission." I agree with other people's comments about reporting. Requiring in the by-laws regular reporting to the congregation would be good. Putting regular reporting into practice, e.g. quarterly reports, would be appreciated. I think it would build trust, and enthusiasm.
Is Communications an area where the many ties to ECC/PSWC can be helpful? How do other churches do it?? ........In the Transition Plan, task some folks with seeking input about Communications, from external sources and from members, and sharing a draft communication plan with members for review.
Comment: The future impact of these bylaw changes will concentrate future authority into a much smaller number of people (lay and pastoral). The bureaucratic impact of the bylaw changes is important (efficiencies), but I am much more concerned with how the changes will alter the checks and balances with respect to the theological direction of the church. On the FCC website, the current pastor has made a number of referrals to a theologian by the name of Greg Boyd. Mr. Boyd is a leading voice in what is known as “Open Theism.” A number of theologians, such as John Piper and Bruce Ware, have written and been critical of Open Theism; expressing that Open Theism holds a different view of God than what has been commonly understood by the Christian community for the last two thousand years. So, I am urging caution; hoping that you will move forward with your eyes wide open. I am a lay person with no formal theological background, so I offer these comments in humility as one ignorant and untrained.
The Old and New Testaments, as well as church history, have shown example after example of dysfunctional leadership, leading to a distortion of true faith, apostasy and heresy. Therefore, I urge you to put into place stronger safeguards against excess pastoral authority (1 Peter 5:1-4; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Ezekiel 34:1-10), as well as measures to preserve the teaching of sound doctrine (Titus 1:9; Titus 2:1; 2 Timothy 4:2-4), the inerrancy of scripture (2 Timothy 3:14-17; Hebrews 4:12) and faithfulness to the true gospel message (1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Romans 1:1-6; Galatians 1:6-10).
January 28, 2022
Since the January 16th proposed bylaws amendment presentation to the congregation, the bylaws committee held the first of three Q&A and feedback sessions on Sunday, January 23rd. The bylaws committee continues to ensure that this is a transparent and collaborative process. As such, there is now a “Bylaws Update” section on the Bylaws Proposal webpage. Here you will find comments, questions, and feedback from members of the church. These comments were collected from the initial presentation on January 16, emails to the committee, the Q&A session on January 23, and the firstname.lastname@example.org email address. We have left out names to respect anonymity, We believe that the source of the comment/feedback/question should not be of relevance. All questions, concerns, and comments should bare equal weight and importance.
We continue to do our best to address every concern, question, and feedback and will provide responses in the Bylaws Update page as soon as possible. If you have comments, questions, or feedback, please attend one of the remaining two sessions or email us at email@example.com.
We want all comments and feedback to be heard. This does not mean, however, that every request will be added to the proposed bylaws. We are approaching each comment, recommendation, and concern prayerfully and are also seeking guidance from the Church Board, the ECC, and the PSWC.
As a church body and family, we are working through this process together. Let us unite in prayer asking for wisdom, clarity, humility, and that God’s will be done.
Questions, Comments, and Feedback:
Question: What does Article ll, section 4(g) mean?
Bylaws Committee Response: Items 4(a) through 4(f) specify the types of decisions always reserved to the Congregation as the highest authority for governance of FCC. Item 4(g) provides that the Church Board may also choose to elevate other types of questions or proposals to the Congregation for a decision.
Question: What does Article lll, section 2 mean?
Bylaws Committee Response: The Congregation makes decisions related to all matters listed in Article II, Section 4. The Congregation may also determine to take other matters into its control. (see also Article I, Section 1). Anything else is deemed as having been delegated to the FCC Board for making decisions on behalf of the Congregation.
Question: I noticed under Article lll, section 3 that the number of board at-large members is not specified. Will a specific number be added to the final draft?
Bylaws Committee Response: All 9 Board members are essentially selected “at large” by the congregation. The Lead Pastor is called by the Congregation, and the 4 listed Officers (Chair, Vice-Chair, Financial Officer, and Secretary) along with the 4 Board members without named positions are all elected by direct vote of the Congregation. The Bylaws Committee will consider whether it would be helpful to include language clarifying this last group consists of 4 members.
Question: Please explain the last sentence of Article lV, section 3.
Bylaws Committee Response: With respect to directing and overseeing ministries and operational affairs of the church, certain responsibilities are assigned to the Congregation and other responsibilities are taken by the Church Board. (see Article I, Sections 1 and 2; Article III, Section 2) This sentence at the end of Article IV, Section 3 clarifies that any areas where neither Congregation nor Church Board has retained authority are deemed as delegated to the Lead Pastor for oversight.
Question: Why are members at-large on the Nominating Committee designated to serve only one (1) term and not two (2)?
Bylaws Committee Response: This is to promote the inclusion of more voices into the process of leadership development and nominations.
Question: Like the Church Board, will there also be a staggering of terms on the standing committees?
Bylaws Committee Response: The Bylaws Committee will consider whether to include a staggering of terms for either the 2 elected standing committees (Nominating Committee and Mutual Ministry Committee) and/or the 2 appointed standing committees (Missions Committee and Finance Committee).
Comment: What I find on the website, among other items, is the proposed new set of bylaws (as well as the existing bylaws) --- without any indication of what portions of the old bylaws would survive, if any; what is new; and what would be deleted. Any organization -- church or otherwise -- engaged in changing its operating documents has an obligation to its constituents to provide a single document that shows existing text, language or sections to be deleted indicated by strike-out, and language to be added indicated by underlining This is generally referred to as legislative bill format and is the only fair way for persons interested in the subject to get a reasonably quick and accurate understanding of the scope and specifics of the proposed change. It is unfair to ask people to compare two entirely different documents without making clear in the most direct way possible how the original is proposed to be changed. It is not enough to show charts and boxes without explanatory specifics.
Bylaws Committee Response: The proposed set Bylaws will fully replace the existing Bylaws. Although there are provisions identical in the two, the number of differences and organization of the two documents make it so using strikethrough and underline to indicate changes would result in a very difficult to read document. Instead, we will provide a columnar, side-by-side format showing the current Bylaws text, the proposed Bylaws text, and the text of the ECC Leadership Team model Bylaws provided by the denomination. Click HERE to view the three-column comparison.
Comment: Unless the role of chief explainer and advocate has fallen to the pastor by default, I suggest careful consideration should be given to the appropriateness of the pastor being the spokesperson justifying the changes proposed and being the source of answers other members of the committee should have addressed. My view is that those are responsibilities of the lay members of the committee. It seems unseemly for a pastor effectively to be asked to take sides when it comes to pressing for adoption of any governance change, particularly with the potential radical effect now proposed.
Bylaws Committee Response: The pastor is neither the spokesperson nor has he been asked to take sides. The Bylaws Committee has and continues to serve as the advocates and representatives for the proposed bylaws amendments.
Comment: Careful consideration be given to the descriptive terms used in whatever additional presentations are forthcoming. For more than four years, I have heard continuing reference (primarily in Church Board meetings and retreats until I left the Board in April 2020) to "roadblocks," "dysfunction," "bureaucracy," "overlap," "hurt feelings," "burnout," "exhaustion," and more. I asked repeatedly for illustrations that would allow me and others to understand the problems; with one exception, I received nothing. The only time I had a response was from Paul Figueroa when he suggested that some people prefer hands-on involvement in ministry, rather than going to meetings. Yesterday I again heard "bureaucracy" and "burnout" as well as some new terms that were used disparagingly -- at least to my ear -- e.g., "process," "bylaws," "nominations" -- the suggestion being that all of these keep people from hands-on ministry activity. I suggest that meetings are vital to ministry and should not be denigrated unless people of the church are to abdicate their proper role in developing and organizing and implementing programs and making critical choices. In the final analysis, it's a matter for each individual to find the right balance in life and its seasons.
Bylaws Committee Response: Bylaws committee agreed that meetings are an essential function for church leaders and ministry team members. The committee advises that church leaders understand early on the commitment involved but that there are also decisions within the boards to determine what requires a meeting and what can be discussed online. We also believe that some ministry roles not related to governance or administration require few meetings and that minimizing the need for meetings in those roles will encourage servant-minded brothers and sisters to participate. The committee’s presentation and Q&A was positive and outlined the benefits of the proposed bylaws changes. We believe First Covenant has done great things for the Lord’s kingdom over the many years of its history while functioning with various organizational structures. We believe that the proposed structure eliminates some overlapping and confusion in roles and clarifies responsibilities and accountability. This proposed structure opens the door for all members of our church to serve in the areas where they feel called. It also provides more flexibility to serve in multiple areas which benefits our congregation and community.
Comment: There was considerable attention yesterday (January 16 presentation) to what was suggested to be the burden of filling all of the existing elected positions (I don't recall that it was observed, but should have been, that only approximately one-third of those need to be filled each year), identifying nominees, and in some cases an inability to find candidates. Leaving aside for now the question of why the members of the congregation should be deprived of voice in selection of much of leadership, my question is whether it is realistic to expect that staffing ministry teams will require any less effort in recruitment and encouraging individuals to serve?
Bylaws Committee Response: While First Covenant has a wonderful tradition of lay contributions in both governance/administration and other types of service, we feel that in some cases those types of service can be more effectively done when separated. Those of us with a calling to provide vision, administration and leadership will fill corresponding roles, and those who feel called to provide ministry service without necessarily having a voice in governance decisions can fill different roles. The Ministry Teams provides an opportunity for all in the FCC church body to serve where they feel called. For example, this opens the opportunity for our youth to serve. This is important as it not only prepares them for future leadership in our church, it also bridges the gap and builds relationships between our youth and long time members.
Comment: I will restate my concern that the last two Zoom calls have had the chat feature disabled and further that the recording of yesterday's session was cut off when the presentation concluded. Why is use of the chat feature any more of a distraction in a congregational meeting than it is in a worship service where it receives liberal use from staff and anyone in attendance? What underlies the apparent concern about having an accessible record of questions and comments from the membership?
Bylaws Committee Response: The Board has established the practice of not recording congregational meetings. (We have not done this in the past, and some attendees may be more or less comfortable with being recorded.) The Bylaws Committee in its Q&A sessions will continue with that precedent. The Board or the Congregation (at a Congregational Meeting) may choose to change that practice if desired.
Question: How will ministry teams be governed and how will leaders of ministry teams be selected?
Bylaws Committee Response: Ministry Team leaders will be approved by the Church Board in consultation with Pastoral staff. A pastoral staff member will provide oversight and direction to that leader. The Team Leader will have general autonomy under that pastoral supervision to select team members and organize activities as he/she determines are necessary to fulfill the team’s objectives. The Church Board has the final authority to remove a team leader or member, but that is not expected to occur under normal circumstances. (see Article V, Section 4)
Comment: Board has full authority over Membership without any checks or balance.
Bylaws Committee Response: Currently, the Church Board has final authority over membership. Our current workflow is that the Deacon Board reviews applications for new members and presents suggested names for approval by the Church Board, since proposed bylaws do not have a Deacon Board, there can be a ministry team to serve the same purpose to meet with applicants and the Church Board will have final authority for approving new members as it does now. The final authority is already with the Church Board, with the Church Board being held accountable by the congregation so there is no change here.
Question: Who was the original author of this Bylaw content?
Bylaws Committee Response: Multiple documents and books were reviewed before the Bylaws Committee began work in earnest in early January 2021. The main documents presented to the Bylaws Committee as a starting point were our current bylaws, several templates from the ECC, and a rough draft of notes from Pastor Marco which were a variety of content from multiple sources. This document was presented as a starting point for brainstorming ideas to discuss concepts to stimulate thought and challenge ideas. Considering that the Bylaws Committee used multiple sources for discussion and comparison, the Bylaws Committee could have used any of the documents as a starting point to create a new proposal. The Bylaws Committee implemented a thoughtful and prayerful process to go over the working draft word by word, and line by line. As expected, many of the concepts for discussion were revised and deleted. With periodic guidance from the Church Board, the Bylaws Committee continued to revise the working draft. The draft was approved by the Church Board for presentation to the Council at many long meetings in May and June of 2021. The Bylaws Committee reviewed verbal and written feedback from Council Members to update the working draft which was presented to the congregation on January 16, 2022.
Question: Is some language needed to disallow the possibility of an individual serving more than one appointed year past the 2 3-year elected terms?
Bylaws Committee Response: To make sure there is wide participation from the congregation in these positions, we see the wisdom of limiting terms for these elected positions.
Question: Last week there were questions and concerns about the radical changes in the proposal including dismantling the Deacon and Deaconess Boards, along with the 5 other critical boards that have historically had committed core members (60 elected); unless there is complete unanimity, who on the current Bylaws committee are opposed and undecided on any and all of these radical constitutional changes and is concerned (like a growing number of members) with the direction and demands from the bylaws committee and the supporting pastors and staff (assuming the entire leadership from top down) are all pushing this wholesale change agenda…Do all of the proponents think that blowing up the long-standing By Laws (including Deacons and other ministry boards going back decades/100 years), will make FCC a better church with 9 elected leaders having heavy control and much more demands and burdens? Please be transparent about these leaders and paid staff, and tell us why you all want so much control, power and responsibility?”
Bylaws Committee Response: The Bylaws Committee has been working on the proposed bylaws amendments for over two years. The committee worked on this prayerfully and pulled multiple resources, including the Evangelical Covenant Church’s (ECC) bylaws. The Bylaws Committee presented the proposed Bylaws Amendments to the Church Board for approval to present to the congregation. The Bylaws were amended once in 2006 in order to adapt to the changes in our church and community. The proposed changes before you in 2022 reflect changes in our church, world, and community today and for the future. This proposal, like the one that was passed in 2006, does not change the fact that First Covenant Church has a rich history.
In reading the proposed changes, you will see that there is less power and control for pastoral leaders and that we intentionally didn’t follow the ECC bylaws in those areas where they have more. There will still be elected church board leaders that will be elected by the congregation, there will be ministry team leaders elected by the church board and the ministry team leaders will be able to have the entire FCC church body (members, non-members, pastoral leaders, and youth) serve where they feel called.
Comment: Members leaving and weakening faith due to the church. = This is a very real reality.
Bylaws Committee Response: This is a stark reality. One that we are seeing across the country. Our church is not immune to that. The pandemic upended our daily lives in ways that we could not have imagined. This includes coming in to church every Sunday for worship and fellowship. Like many churches, FCC had to pivot and provide church service online, weekly ministries online, and finding the safest ways to continue to serve our church body and community. This was difficult for everyone. Now almost three years later, we are still adjusting to a “new normal”. We continue to pray for us to be able to come back and worship in person safely.
As stated in the first Q&A session, the Bylaws Committee has not been tasked with addressing the issues of trust or members leaving. The Church Board is working on trust and will provide more information at the appropriate time. We want to be clear, this is important and is being taken seriously. The proposed bylaws amendments are a separate matter of governance, however, and therefore should not be seen as a reason for members leaving or weakened faith.
Question: Could we have a page or 2 from each member of the Bylaws Committee with their views on this proposal?
Bylaws Committee Response: The Bylaws Committee has been working on the proposed bylaws amendments for over 2 years. The hours poured into this is countless. The goal of the bylaws committee was to present a proposal to the congregation that we could all support. That was presented to the congregation on January 16, 2022. The continued work to prepare the proposal for final presentation is extensive. Should a member want to reach out to a committee member for thoughts, she/he is welcomed to do so. On the February 27 Congregational Meeting, any Bylaws Committee Member may say a few closing words if she/he feels led to do so.
Additional Proposal: The Bylaws Committee has received a full document mark-up with suggested changes to the proposal. We are reviewing and considering this document.
Comments, Questions, and Feedback Under Review
The following items are still being reviewed by the Bylaws Committee and responses will be provided in a future update.
Question: There seems to be a lack of accountability throughout this structure. Removal of the Lead Pastor by the congregation would need a 50% quorum. Is that unrealistic?
Question: Is there some reason the Treehouse Board needs to be called a “Board”? Should that be changed?
Question: Need a list of Pros and Cons of the proposal/ What are we losing, what are we gaining?
Question: There’s no provision for advance notice of votes to be taken?
Question: Deacons don’t need to be a member? And many ministry teams need to be? It feels as if the board/deacons are being dismantled now and takes away the power from so many elected and involved leaders.
Question: Is a transition of Lead Pastor problematic under the proposed structure. When pastor leaves, would most congregation follow?
Comment: Previous experiences with a transition such as this (no particulars provided) have resulted in very bad outcomes – the church or other organizations greatly diminished.
Comment: Concern regarding the facilities board and why not mirror the finance board of a trustee’s board model.
The Bylaws Committee is reviewing the one diaconate model that was proposed several years ago.