In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We, members of the Church of Christ, desiring to manifest that inner unity which we have with one another in the common confession, defense and maintenance of our faith and in joint efforts for the extension of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, unite in the adoption of the following Constitution.
Article I: Name and Incorporation
1. The name and title of this congregation shall be the German United Evangelical Protestant St. John’s Church of New Sewickley Township, Beaver County, Pennsylvania.
2. This congregation is a chartered Corporation under the laws of Pennsylvania.
3. Said Corporation shall be managed by a board of six Trustees.
Article II: Doctrinal Basis
1. We believe in one God who eternally exists in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
2. We receive and hold the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God, and as the only infallible rule and standard of faith and practice, according to which all doctrines and teachers are to be judged.
3. We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, His virgin birth, sinless life, substitutionary death and atonement, bodily resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father.
4. We believe that man, created in the image of God, was tempted by Satan and fell, and because of his consequent depravity, requires regeneration by the Holy Spirit for Salvation.
5. We believe that marriage was instituted by God to be between one man (by birth) and one woman (by birth) as the foundation for the family.
6. We believe that salvation consists in the remission of sins, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and the gift of eternal life, received by faith alone, apart from works.
7. We believe in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer empowering him to live a godly life and grow in sanctification.
8. We believe in the imminent, visible, personal return of Jesus Christ in power and glory.
9. We believe in the resurrection of the body, the eternal life of the saved and the eternal punishment of the lost.
10. We believe in the doctrine taught in the Heidelberg Catechism and require our youth to be instructed in that document.
11. Our Highest aim is the worship of God in spirit and in truth, the advancement of the Christian Life through the preaching of the Gospel, the administration of the Holy Sacraments, and Christian instruction in Church and School.
Article III: Church Government
This body of believers is congregationally governed, not affiliated with any denomination, and shall not be, unless so determined by eighty percent of the active members of the congregation present and so signifying at a meeting of the congregation duly called for that purpose.
Article IV: Church Membership
1. Every member of this congregation shall honor God, and seek His gifts of grace by regular attendance at worship services, by partaking of the Lord’s Supper as provided for by the congregation, and by contributing toward the financial support of the congregation according to his means, and through the contributing to the benevolent program of the church at large.
2. Members shall be classified as follows:
a. All baptized persons, children and adults, connected with the congregation shall be regarded as Baptized Members.
b. All persons properly received into full membership in the congregation by Confirmation, Adult Baptism, Church Letter, Profession or Renewal of Faith, shall be regarded as Confirmed Members. Any person once received as a “Confirmed Member” is to be retained as such until officially removed by death, transfer to another congregation, voluntary withdrawal, or dismissal by Council.
c. Active members shall be those who have, unless hindered by sickness or other circumstances beyond their control,
(1) communed at least once during the year,
(2) attended public worship services conscientiously,
(3) contributed financially to the local support and/or general benevolent program of the congregation as God has prospered them,
(4) and sincerely endeavored to live the Christian life.
d. Inactive members shall be all confirmed members, resident or nonresident, who shall, in the judgment of the Church Council, not have merited classification as “active” members. Inactive members are subject to dismissal on notice by Council.
e. Council shall review the membership roll from time to time, but at least annually prior to the regular annual meeting of the congregation to determine active and inactive member. A list of active and inactive members shall be posted at least two weeks prior to the regular annual meeting of the congregation.
Article V: Meetings
1. The Annual Meeting of the congregation shall be held regularly as the congregation determines by by-laws.
2. Special meetings of the congregation may take place whenever the Council finds it necessary, or when twenty-five members of the congregation present a written request to the Church Council, stating the reason or reasons for calling the same. Such meetings must be announced in Church at least two Sundays before they are to be held, and only such business may be transacted as that stated to be the purpose of the meeting called.
3. Ten percent of the Active Members of the congregation at any congregational meeting shall be considered a quorum and shall be entitled to transact business.
4. All questions shall be decided by a majority vote of the qualified voters present, unless otherwise required by this Constitution or Bylaws or by the law of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. No person shall be permitted to vote by proxy. Voters at regular and special meeting of the members present, except no one under the age of eighteen (18) years is permitted to vote on corporate matters.
Article VI: The Pastor
1. The Pastor of this congregation shall be one whose soundness in the faith and whose aptness to teach the doctrines of this church as set forth in Article II have been examined and approved by the Church Council, and who has been properly ordained.
2. When the pastorate of the congregation becomes vacant, it shall be the duty of the Church Council to appoint a Pulpit Committee, the same to be ratified by the congregation. The Pulpit Committee shall hear possible candidates in their respective churches and, after prayerful consideration, nominate for pastor one who possesses the requirements set forth in Section I of this Article. The Council shall then call a congregational meeting, which shall be announced at least two Sundays in advance, at which the “Active Members” shall vote by ballot for or against the person nominated for pastor. No other person eligible to become pastor shall be considered or voted upon at this meeting. The election and its returns shall be under the care of judges appointed by the Church Council. A two-thirds majority of all votes cast shall be required for an election.
3. After the pastor has been duly elected, a written call shall be offered him by the officers of the Church Council, in which shall be specified the respective duties of pastor and congregation together with the support which the congregation will guarantee him.
4. The duties of the pastor shall be as follows:
a. To conduct public worship, preach the Word of God clearly and intelligibly in accordance with the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, administer the Holy Sacraments in conformity with the Scriptures, instruct the young and all prospective members thoroughly in the fundamental truths of Christianity, and visit the sick and dying.
b. To be a model to believers in the Word, an example in love, faith and chastity. To take good heed to himself and his teachings, and, in these respects, persist to the end that he may build up the Church of Christ.
c. To keep a record of all persons baptized, confirmed, married, and interred by him, and also those who partake of the Lord’s Supper.
d. At the termination of his pastorate, to give three months notice of the same.
5. Should any charges of neglect of duty or false doctrine or immoral conduct be brought against the pastor, such charges shall be presented in writing over the signatures of five (5) active members of the congregation. For the more general charge that this Pastor is no longer God’s chosen shepherd of the church, the signatures of twenty five (25) active members shall be required. When this has been done, it shall be the duty of the Church Council to inquire into the truth of the same. The pastor shall have the right to be present and to be heard before the Council when such charges are being considered. If the charges be substantiated, the Church Council shall call a congregational meeting to discuss this issue and vote on the Pastor’s status. This meeting shall be restricted to active members. It shall be chaired by a Pastor from a local church who will remain impartial in the discussion.
a. The moderating Pastor shall open the meeting with prayer. He shall then remind the members that they are deciding whether this individual person is or is not God’s chosen leader for this congregation.
b. At this meeting, any active member can speak for or against the Pastor remaining in his office.
c. The Pastor shall have the right to be present and to be heard.
d. A two thirds majority is required to dismiss a Pastor from his office.
6. Should the congregation remove a Pastor from office, this individual shall cease all Pastoral functions immediately and be given at least one month’s salary and benefits.
Article VII: The Church Council
1. The Church Council, charged with the administration of the temporal and spiritual affairs of the congregation, shall consist of two Elders, six Trustees, and three Deacons. The Pastor shall be advisory member of the Council.
2. The Council shall choose annually a President, vice-president, Secretary, Financial Secretary, Current Treasurer, Benevolent Treasurer, building Fund Treasurer, and Cemetery and Perpetual Care Treasurer.
3. The duties of the Church Council shall be as follows:
a. To watch over the teaching and life of the Church.
b. To receive members, to dismiss or suspend them if they depart from the faith, or if their conduct give offense.
c. To promote vigilantly and faithfully the peace and welfare of the Church.
d. To assist and uphold the pastor in his rights and duties.
e. To elect and dismiss all salaried officials of the congregation.
f. To prepare a current fund budget and a benevolent fund budget annually to be presented to the congregation for approval.
4. The Elders shall assist the Pastor in advice and deeds, watch over the congregation in cooperation with him, promote the Christian spirit in the congregation by word and example, and see to it that the Pastor, as well as all officers and Church members, fulfill their duties faithfully and in a way consistent with the doctrinal statement of the church.
5. The Trustees shall preserve carefully the bills of sale, their legal documents, etc., and exercise diligent care that the possessions and property of the congregation be secure from loss and damage, and that the buildings, as well as all church property, be kept in good condition. They shall not, however, incur any expense in excess of 15% of the current fund budget for the year without the consent of the congregation.
6. The Deacons shall give firm support to the other officers in the performance of their duties, promote the general welfare of the congregation, assist the Pastor in the care of the sick and needy, and help execute all other duties incumbent upon the Council.
7. The President shall open and close every meeting of the Church Council or congregation with prayer, lead the discussion and maintain order.
8. The Secretary shall keep a careful record of the discussions of the Church Council and of the congregation and guard the books and papers with care.
9. The Financial Secretary shall keep a careful record of all contributing members, also an accurate account of their contributions; he shall promptly transfer to the treasurers all money received.
10. The Current Treasurer shall receive all monies intended for the current or special expenses of the congregation, keep it securely and expend it only upon the order of the Council. Furthermore, he shall render a report at each regular meeting of the Council, and, at the annual meeting of the congregation, shall render as accurate account, duly audited, of all monies received and payments made.
11. The Treasurer of Benevolence shall receive all monies intended for the benevolent work of the congregation, and the Church at large. He shall disburse the benevolent funds according to the direction of the congregation or the Council, and keep proper accounts of all receipts and disbursements. He shall report at each regular meeting of the Council, and, at the annual meeting of the congregation, shall render an accurate account, duly audited, of all monies received and payments made.
Article VIII: Interpretation of Scripture
The Church’s Statement of Faith and the Heidelberg Catechism, though extensive in their scope, do not cover every doctrine of scriptural faith. While it is encouraged that believers within our church context maintain a healthy dialogue where views differ, it is also recognized that there are times when the government of the congregation needs to step in and authoritatively establish the rule of faith for the congregational practice. In such a case, the Pastor and Church Council are the final interpretive authority on the Bible’s interpretation and application for practice in the life of the church.
Article IX: Marriage and Relationships
It is the position of the German United Evangelical Protestant St. John’s Church that marriage is ordained by God to be between one man (by birth) and one woman (by birth), both Christian, and both united together as “one flesh” in a covenantal relationship that bonds the two people as one flesh before the Lord.
Homosexual relationships, as well as heterosexual relationships that take place outside of marriage, are sin as taught in scripture, and are thus not condoned by the church. Furthermore, given that marriage is the foundational building block of both the Christian Church and of Society as a whole, it is believed that any cultural definition that is outside of the Scriptural definition of marriage, is improper, faulty, and undermines the strength of both church and the society in which it exists.
Article X: Bylaws and Amendments
1. By-Laws not in conflict with the letter and spirit of this Constitution may be made by the congregation.
2. Alterations, additions, or amendments to this constitution may be made by a two-thirds vote of the “Active Members” present at a regular annual meeting of the congregation, or one called for that purpose, provided that the proposed alteration, addition or amendment be recommended by the Church Council and presented to the congregation on two consecutive Sundays prior to said annual or special meeting at which action is to be taken.
3. Everything in any by-law, resolution, or enactment of the congregation differing from or in conflict with this Constitution is hereby superseded and repealed.
4. A complete annulment of this Constitution and the consequent dissolution of this congregation cannot take place so long as 24 “Active Members” are willing to continue the organization.
Section I: Congregational Meetings
1. The regular congregational meeting shall be held annually on the third Saturday of January.
2. Special meetings may be called as designated by the Constitution (Article V, paragraph two).
3. The President shall preside at all meetings of the congregation, but may request another to do so in his place.
4. The Church year shall correspond with the calendar year.
Section II: Church Discipline
1. The Church discipline is of a spiritual nature and has for its purpose the improvement of the erring and the chastity of the Christian life in the congregation. It may, there fore, be exercised only by the Church Council, and even then with the utmost care. Accordingly a complaint shall never be permitted which is founded neither on the Holy Scriptures, nor on this constitution. The order of Church discipline shall be private admonition, in the presence of two or three witnesses, citation before the Church Council, suspension, excommunication (Matt. 18:15-17).
2. If an active member lives in open sin or habitually neglects the means of grace, or persistently disregards his Christian duties, or rejects the Christian faith, it shall be the duty of the Church Council to exercise church discipline in his case. To this end the Council shall have the power to cite any member of the congregation to answer charges brought, or to give testimony as the case may require. All charges must be made in writing and signed by the person or persons making the complaint. It shall be the duty of the Church Council to investigate and decide such charges. A copy of such charges must be submitted to the accused at least twenty days before the investigation, at which he has been summoned to appear, and at which time he shall be entitled to speak and to produce testimony in his own defense. Appeals from the decision of the Council may be made to the congregation.
Section III: Dismissal of Members
1. Members who remove from the community or desire, for a valid reason, to sever their connection with this congregation shall request a letter of transfer to join some other specified congregation.
2. All applications for dismissal from the congregation shall be acted on by the Council. Honorable dismissal shall be given only to members in good standing.
3. Inactive members shall receive a letter from Council as to their continuing membership. If they show no interest, they are subject to dismissal on notice from Council.
Section IV: Church Council
1. The Council shall meet monthly, the date being set at the discretion of the newly elected Council at the organizational meeting. The Council shall organize on or before the first regular meeting after installation. Special meetings may be called by the President on his own initiative or upon request of three members of the Council.
2. The Council shall be entitled to transact business when a majority of all members are present at the meeting.
3. The following shall constitute the Order of Business:
a. Scripture and Prayer.
b. Roll Call.
c. Reading of Minutes.
d. Reports of Officers.
e. Reports of Committees.
f. Unfinished Business.
g. New Business.
i. Closing Prayer.
Section V: Nominations and Elections
1. All active confirmed members of this congregation shall be eligible to vote, and those men twenty-one years of age and over shall be eligible to hold office.
2. The election of the Church Council shall be held at the annual meeting of the congregation and shall be by ballot. Each year three Trustees shall be elected for a term of two years, and an Elder and one or two Deacons shall be elected for terms of two years. A member is not to be elected as Elder unless he has served at least one term on Church Council.
3. No member shall serve on Council more than two terms in succession. After the lapse of one term, he may be eligible for re-election.
4. The council-elect shall be duly installed before the next regular meeting of the Council. The existing officers shall remain in office until their successors have been elected.
5. If in the meantime an office becomes vacant by death or by resignation, the vacancy shall be filled by a majority vote of the Council.
Section VI: Standing Committees
1. At its first meeting in each congregational year the Church Council shall appoint from its own members or from the voting membership of the congregation as many standing committees as the local and general interests of the Church may require.
2. The duties of all standing committees not otherwise defined shall be fixed by the Church Council, to whom they shall be responsible. At the end of one year the first name on each committee shall be dropped and a new name added, in order that the membership on these committees may rotate. The pastor shall have a voice and vote in all standing committees.
3. a. The Nominating Committee, for the purpose of naming candidates for Council and the Audit Committee shall
consist of seven (7) active embers of this church. Three members of this Committee shall be designated by and from the Council, one of whom shall be named by the Council as Chairman, and the remaining four members shall be elected by the Congregation. Current members of Council may not be chosen as congregational members. The Pastor shall be a member of this committee ex-officio but without vote.
b. A Nominating Committee shall be elected at each Annual Meeting of the Congregation and shall serve a term of one year, until the close of the following Annual Meeting. The Nominating Committee elected the previous year shall nominate members to be elected by the Congregation.
c. This committee shall bring to the Annual Meeting, or any special meeting called for the purpose, the nomination of only one or more eligible persons for each position to be filled. Additional nominations of qualified persons may be made from the floor by any eligible voter. No person shall be eligible for election to any office who has not agreed to serve if elected.
4. a. In the interest of good order, there shall be an annual audit of the church’s financial records by the Audit Committee.
All council, committee and organizational treasurers shall submit their books for audit prior to the Annual Meeting in January
b. The Audit Committee shall consist of three qualified persons not members of Council. One member shall be elected by the Congregation each year to serve a three-year term. No member of this Committee shall serve more than six consecutive years either full or partial aggregating more than six years but shall be eligible to be elected to a new term after the lapse of one year.
Section VII: Rites
1. The baptism of children shall not be postponed without need for it and shall be performed only in the usual way in the Church in the presence of the parents or sponsors. Under special circumstances exceptions may be taken.
2. The rite of Confirmation shall take place, following careful instruction in the fundamental truths of Christianity according to the Catechism. Only those persons who have acquired an essential knowledge of the most important teachings and principles of the Christian religion shall be confirmed.
3. The Lord’s Supper shall be celebrated at least four times a year. Every member partaking of the Holy Sacrament is in duty bound to be present for the preparation service held in connection with each celebration of the Sacrament.
4. The principle festivals of the Church are Christmas, Resurrection Sunday, Pentecost, and the Ascension, the celebration of which shall be heartily supported. Harvest Home and Thanksgiving are to be observed in a befitting manner. Other celebrations of the church year are encouraged where appropriate.
5. Marriage is a holy rite instituted by God in the Christian church. No marriages will be performed that are contrary to our published marriage policy.
Section VIII: Cemetery
All active members of the Church including their children under confirmation age can have, free of charge, their last resting place in the church cemetery.
Section IX: Miscellaneous
All active members of the congregation shall be entitled to use the church building for marriages, funerals or baptisms in the family. Others may use the building on such occasion at the discretion of the Pastor and the Church Council.
Section X: No Private Inurement
No part of the net earnings of the Corporation shall inure to the benefit of, or be distributable to, its Elders, Trustees, Deacons, officers, members or other private persons, except that the Corporation shall be authorized and empowered to pay reasonable compensation for services rendered and to make payments and distributions in furtherance of its purposes.
Section XI: Distribution of Assets upon Dissolution
Upon the dissolution of the Corporation, the Board of Directors shall, after paying or making provision for the payment of all the liabilities of the Corporation, dispose of all the assets of the Corporation exclusively for the purpose of the Corporation in such manner, or to such organization(s) organized and operated exclusively for charitable, educational, religions, or scientific purposes as at the time shall qualify as an exempt organization(s) under the Internal Revenue Code (or the corresponding provisions of any future United States internal revenue law). Any such assets not so disposed of shall be disposed of by the Court of Common Pleas of the County in which the principal office of the Corporation is then located, exclusively for such purposes or to such organization(s), as said Court shall determine, which are organized and operated exclusively for such purposes.
Section XII: Employee Affirmation of Doctrines
As a church is a covenantal body of believers gathered around the Scriptures and the doctrines contained therein, it is believed that all employees of the German United Evangelical Protestant St. John’s Church affirm the doctrines contained in the church constitution’s Statement of Faith and in the Heidelberg Catechism. If said employees find themselves changing their views as to these doctrines, it is their responsibility to report said changes of views to the Elders for review. It is understood that depending on the variant in views from the church Statement of Faith and Heidelberg Catechism, that may constitute grounds for dismissal.
Section XIII: Amendments
No alterations or amendments to these by-laws shall be made unless they are presented, in writing, to the Church Council and presented to the Congregation on two consecutive Sundays prior to the meeting at which they are to be acted upon and adopted by a two-thirds vote of the active members present.