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 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.




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.




                    DOCUMENT                                      APPROVAL


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.

Constitution                                                                    Church

          • refers to incorporation.

          • includes or refers to Articles of Faith.

          • includes Church Covenant.

          • specifies church ordinances.

Bylaws                                                                           Church

          • subsidiary laws to a constitution.

Policies                                                                           Church

          • 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.

          Subcommittee Policies:

                    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

          Wedding Application

          Scholarship Application

          Ordination Committee Report





                                       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.