CHURCH ORGANIZATION AND GOVERNMENT
Polity: a particular form of government; the method or practice of a church or a denomination.
Congregationalism: a democratic form of church polity in which the final authority for making decisions lies with the church members, debating and voting in open business meetings; usually bound by a covenant and/or constitution when legally incorporated or constituted.
Autonomy: the right of self-government and independence of a local church.
Covenant: an agreement to do or not to do something specified in a formal document.
DOCTRINE AND METHOD:
Doctrine is Faith; Method is Order.
Doctrine is Belief; Method is Practice.
Doctrine is Creed; Method is Covenant and Constitution.
Doctrine is Absolute; Method is Relative, Adapted to the Times.
BASIC BAPTIST PRINCIPLES:
1. The Free Church Tradition
No State Controls (Separation of Church and State)
No Episcopal Rule
No Canon Laws
No Assignment of Pastorates
No Representative Delegates to Higher Assemblies (only “Messengers”)
No Decrees from Higher Assemblies (Local Church Autonomy)
No Set Forms
No Strict Liturgy
No Prayer Books and limited use of Written Prayers
No Coercive Membership
No Enforcement of Creeds or Laws
Voluntary Allegiance to the Local Church Covenant
No Monetary Assessments
No Despotic Ministers or Lay Leaders
No Double Standard Between Clergy and Laity
2. Biblical Officers
Dual: Pastor and Deacons.
Not Triple: Bishop-Priest-Deacons or Pastor-Elders-Deacons.
3. Congregational (Democratic) Polity
Constitutional Order, based on sound political and business practice.
Parliamentary Procedure (“Robert’s Rules of Order”)
Question: Who runs a Baptist church? A clergyman? A council? A committee?
Answer: Church members in general business meeting have the final say.
4. Successful Business Models employed by Baptists in the South
Convention: as with a business or a political convention (the original Baptist organization in America was “the Triennial Convention.”)
Board: as with the “Board of Directors” of a business. (Executive Board, Sunday School Board, etc. Note: Former “Deacon Board” is now “Deacon Council,” because emphasis is on ministry, not business.) Boards replaced Societies in the South, because societies must compete with each other for financial support.
5. Connectionalism: voluntary and autonomous Association with other Baptist groups or other religious denominations or charitable organizations - where basic Baptist principles are not compromised.
HIERARCHY OF CHURCH DOCUMENTS
Articles of Incorporation (or Charter) State Government
• a legal document of incorporation.
• refers to Articles of Faith.
• refers to membership requirements.
• refers to Constitution and Bylaws.
• refers to incorporation.
• includes or refers to Articles of Faith.
• includes Church Covenant.
• specifies church ordinances.
• subsidiary laws to a constitution.
• Appendix to the Bylaws.
• Churchwide rules not connected to any committee:
such as Deacon Covenant, Church Staff Policies
Committee Policies: such as Baptism, Bereavement, Committee on Committees, Constitution, Counting, Finance, Flower, Food Services, History, Homebound, Media, Medical Alert, Missions, Music, Nominating, Personnel, Properties, Public Relations, Recreation, Scholarship, Social, Sound, Stewardship, Technology, Ushers.
Ordination (Deacon Subcommittee)
Conditions of Employment Church
Content: Personnel Committee.
Format: Constitution Committee.
Manuals, Handbooks, Guidelines Church or Committee
Robert’s Rules of Order
Church Manual: Liturgy for Weddings, Funerals, etc.
Kitchen Manual: Policies, Schedules, Inventories.
Sound Booth Manual: Schedules, Security, Inventories.
Christian Life Center: Policies, Guidelines.
Forms, Certificates Committee or Staff Member
Ordination Committee Report
CONSTITUTIONAL CHECKS AND BALANCES
IN THE CHURCH ORGANIZATION
Powers Limited to:
PASTOR Supervision of Church Staff.
Moderation of Staff Meetings.
Employment of Support Staff (with Personnel Committee).
Recommendation of Called Staff to Church
(with Personnel Committee).
DEACONS Right of Review before Recommendation to the Church:
Property acquisitions and disposals.
Major capital expenditures.
Church Budget and changes during the year.
Changes in Called Staff.
TRUSTEES Validation of formal business transactions after Church approval.
MODERATOR Moderation of General Church Meetings.
CHURCH Coordination of schedules of organizational activities.
COUNCIL Setting up the Church Calendar.
Recommending Activities, Objectives, Goals to the Church.
Evaluation of achievements.
COMMITTEES Regulation of affairs under their purview in accordance with the Church Budget.
All other final decisions, authorities, and powers are retained by the church Congregation.