Proposed Bylaw Amendments From Cabinet 2016
This year’s proposed bylaw amendments from the Bylaw Committee are, in large measure, a continuation of the amendments begun last year to facilitate Reimagine Foursquare changes. The most significant change is in the redefinition of a “Covenant church” as a local Foursquare church with its own legal existence. This and other Reimagine Foursquare changes require significant bylaw revisions. This includes such things as articulating appropriate structures that will allow separate corporations among churches that are united by shared values and covenant agreements. Some bylaw amendments either refine defined roles of individuals or groups, or facilitate what has already been implemented in certain operational or governance functions. The cabinet reviewed the proposed amendments and voted to forward them to the board of directors.
“Foursquare Church” and “Covenant Foursquare Church”: The definition a Foursquare church will include three church models: Charter, District (formerly “Pioneer”) and Covenant.
For most of our history, local Foursquare churches have had no legal existence apart from the California corporation, International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (ICFG). While there has been great strength and benefit from this denominational structure, it has necessitated that many decisions relating to a local church’s real property be made in Los Angeles by the ICFG board. The fiduciary due diligence required for board decisions requires careful information gathering and thoughtful deliberation. This takes time.
Under the new definition of “Covenant church,” a Covenant church will be a church that has its own legal existence (i.e., corporation) separate from ICFG. This allows the decisions relevant to a local Covenant church’s real property to be made locally rather than by the ICFG board. A Covenant church’s relationship to ICFG is predicated upon a written agreement (the “Covenant Agreement”) voluntarily made by ICFG and the local church. A Covenant church may be a church that desires to join the Foursquare family and opts to retain its own legal existence; or it may be a local Foursquare Charter or District church that has opted, with board approval, to be a Covenant church. By the Covenant Agreement the church pledges to conduct itself as a local Foursquare church governed by Foursquare bylaws. In other words, Foursquare bylaws will supersede local bylaws1 so long as the covenant relationship established by the Covenant Agreement remains intact. Of course, the option remains for an independent church to join as a Charter church rather than a Covenant church.
Many bylaw revisions are needed to accommodate this new structural relationship. These proposed bylaw changes are significant:
- The Covenant church has and maintains its own legal existence.
- For a Covenant church, the term “church council” is the functional equivalent of the board of directors, board of trustees, board of elders, etc., of the Covenant church’s legal entity.
- The church council is responsible for the fiscal integrity of the church, including any authorized legal entities operated by and for the benefit of the church. This pertains not only to Covenant churches but also to Charter churches that have established ICFG board-authorized subsidiary legal entities.
- The church council is responsible to see that the church and all board-authorized subsidiary entities established by and/or for the benefit of that church shall at all times fully comply with the law. Again, this pertains to all Foursquare churches that have any legal existence or entities other than ICFG.
- The senior pastor serves as the executive director of any other subsidiary legal entity that the board authorizes the local church to establish.
- Willful or negligent failure to maintain the legal existence and good standing of any local church legal entity is grounds for revocation of a Foursquare minister’s license.
- Where cause exists, the ICFG board may end its Covenant Agreement relationship with the local church. This would mean that the local church would no longer be a Foursquare church, but the ICFG board cannot close or discontinue a Covenant church.
- Members of a Covenant church cease to be members at-large of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel when the Covenant Agreement between the Covenant church and ICFG is ended.
- Real property-related transactions (e.g., purchases, sales, loans, leases) of a Covenant church do not require ICFG board approval, though certain other requirements must be met.
- Should a Covenant church cease to exist, any remaining assets do not automatically revert to ICFG, though that is the desired and recommended outcome.
“Foursquare Association”: The definition, scope and function of the Foursquare Association is better defined. It is an informal umbrella group established to foster relationships between The Foursquare Church and Foursquare ministers and non-Foursquare churches and ministers.
The Foursquare Association has two parts: an association of churches and an association of individual ministers. At a church level, all local Foursquare churches (Charter, District and Covenant) are members of the Foursquare Association. In addition, a church that has no legal relationship with ICFG (and may never desire any formal relationship with ICFG) may, as before, apply to belong to the Foursquare Association as a “Community” member church. At an individual minister level, as before, licensed Foursquare ministers are members of the Foursquare Association. Christian ministers who are not licensed by The Foursquare Church may also apply for membership in the Foursquare Association as “Community member” ministers. Regardless of what category a church or minister is in, membership in the Foursquare Association will require agreement with and a commitment to propagate and disseminate the religious principles embraced in the Foursquare Gospel as proclaimed by Aimee Semple McPherson, along with adherence to the “Foursquare Global Distinctives and Values.”
Extension Tithe Fund: This fund is renamed the “Ministry Extension Tithe Fund” (“METF”). The board may permit local churches to retain a portion of the METF for discretionary spending locally for leadership development as well as church transformation and multiplication. METF funds not authorized for retention and use at a local church level are to be transmitted monthly, as before.
“Catch-Up” and Other Miscellaneous Proposals
In addition, like every year, some bylaw proposals are needed to keep the bylaws in step with current administration practices.
LPC Board Representation: Current bylaws provide for a member of ICFG subsidiary organizations to have a nonvoting representative to the ICFG board. These subsidiary entities are named but, curiously, Foursquare’s oldest subsidiary, Life Pacific College, was omitted. That omission is being rectified by this proposal.
Supervisor Job Description Reworded: The supervisor’s job description relating to encouraging churches to partner with FMI is revised slightly to emphasize that the partnership between FMI and a local Foursquare church is more than financial
Other Legal Entities: While some local Foursquare churches have in the past formed other legal entities, there has been no provision for that in the bylaws. This year’s proposal provides the opportunity for Charter and Covenant churches to establish local legal entities, with ICFG board approval, and sets forth the necessary requirements to do so. With establishing other legal entities come additional responsibilities. See “significant changes” numbers 3, 4, 5 and 6 above.
Designated Missions Funds: Two previous standing funds, “World Missions Projects” and “Earmarked Missions Funds,” are being combined into a single fund, “Designated Missions Funds.” This is a provision for efficiency of accounting administration.
McPherson Memorial Fund: References to the McPherson Memorial Fund are deleted. As part of the Reimagine Foursquare financial restructuring to get more of the extension tithe back to local churches, the McPherson Memorial Fund has been exhausted and is not being replenished.
These proposed bylaw changes, and the proposed Covenant Agreement, can be downloaded now. The Bylaw Committee and the board desire and need your careful reading and comments. Please forward your comments by email no later than April 15.
Compiled by El Clark, Chairman of the Bylaw Committee
1 Except where prohibited by law.