2015 Bylaws Update
Bylaw Amendments Approved at Connection 2015 Business Session
By: El Clark, Bylaw Committee Chairperson
As always, bylaw proposals come from the board, the officers and departments, and you, the ministers in the field. This year’s proposed bylaw amendments fell into two broad categories.
First, and foremost, there were some “first step” bylaw changes to facilitate Reimagine Foursquare’s Five Stakes changes. The second broad category consisted of bylaw changes to “catch up” with operational changes that have already been implemented in the way The Foursquare Church functions. Most of these proposals were passed. Some, however, were amended, and others were withdrawn by the board, in response to your discussions in the business session.
First, a look at the Reimagine-inspired proposals that were approved:
I. Local Church As a Tenant: Month-to-month rental agreements in which a local Foursquare church is a tenant will require church council approval, but will no longer require local church membership approval. The church council will have authority to enter into month-to-month landlord/tenant agreements where the church is a tenant. Additionally, many lease renewals, including renewals of leases that are longer than month-to-month, can be approved solely by the church council. Some, however, will still need a broader approval. See 2015 Bylaws, Article XVII, § 17.2 B for details.
II. Local Church As a Landlord: As a landlord renting church real property to others, leases of five years or less, and renewal of such leases, may be entered into without having to seek approval from the members of the congregation. See 2015 Bylaws, Article XVII, § 17.2 C for details.
Next, we review the “catch up” and other miscellaneous bylaw proposal that were approved.
III. “Pioneer Church” Changed to “District Church”: For some time now, the National Church Office and the district offices have referred to a new church plant as a “district church” rather than a “pioneer church” during the early growth stage and before the new church is mature enough to be identified with its own Tax Identification Number. This amendment changed the nomenclature in the bylaws as well wherever the term appears.
IV. “Foursquare Gospel”: Most often when referring to a local Foursquare church as well as the Foursquare denomination in writing or speech, the word “Gospel” is no longer used. Rather, the phrase we most often hear and see is “The Foursquare Church.” So, to catch up to this reality, the word “Gospel” is deleted in the bylaws when referring to a local Foursquare church and to the denomination. This is not a change in our legal name, which remains the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. Nor does this approved bylaw amendment in any way signify a devaluation of our core mission and commitment to preach the Foursquare Gospel.
V. District Supervisor Job Description: Current and prior bylaws have long stated that a district supervisor shall act in the role of the church council whenever a church plant or other local church does not have a church council. But this responsibility has never been stated as part of the district supervisor’s job description. To make the bylaws internally consistent, this role was added to the job description of a district supervisor. See 2015 Bylaws, Article VIII, § 8.2.2.H
VI. Foursquare Credentials Name Change: Identifying a Foursquare minister’s license as an international license was a bit of a misnomer that occasionally caused confusion. A ministerial license issued by The Foursquare Church pertains only to ministers assigned to an appointment in the United States, authorized missionaries and recognized retired ministers. It is not an international license per se. So, the bylaw amendment that was passed changed the name. A ministerial license issued by The Foursquare Church will be known as a national license. Further, all bylaw references to district license were deleted. There is no longer a district license. The National Church Office and the Corporate Secretary’s Office have already adopted these changes.
VII. FMI Fund Name Change: Past bylaws have referred to unrestricted gifts to Foursquare Missions International (FMI) as gifts to the “International Foursquare Missions Fund.” But recently FMI has dropped this name and replaced it with the term Global Mission Fund. An amendment was passed making this fund name change in the bylaws. See, for example, 2015 Bylaws Article IX, § 9.2.2 A
VIII. Church Planting in Other Nations: While we celebrate and encourage church planting in other nations, it has sometimes occurred that a church planter from the U.S. began a church in another country, but neither FMI nor the Foursquare organization in the country even knew about it. This has often caused confusion. To rectify confusion among sending churches, missionary church planters and foreign national leaders created, in part, by absence of clarity in our bylaws, an amendment was approved that a missionary from the U.S. planting a church in another country must have the prior knowledge and consent of FMI and the Foursquare organization, if any, of that country in order for the church plant to be recognized as a local Foursquare church. Where there is no existing Foursquare organization in the receiving country, the Foursquare Regional Council must be informed and approve of the church plant. See 2015 Bylaws, Article XIII, § 13.2.D
IX. Local Church Council Changes: There are several proposals regarding the local church council:
- The selection process of council members was clarified. See 2015 Bylaws, Article XVI, § 16.1.B
- The council’s duty to keep spending within the church’s budget was expanded to include all personnel related expenses. See 2015 Bylaws, Article XVI, § 16.1.F(9)
- The church council must obtain prior district supervisor consent before initiating a lawsuit. See 2015 Bylaws, Article XVI, § 16.1.F(18)
X. Employee Status of Non-Foursquare Appointment: Occasionally, bylaw amendments are prompted by legal concerns. This one is “human resource” or “employment law” directed. Prior bylaws have provided that Foursquare licensed ministers may, with prior board approval, minister in non-Foursquare related appointments. The approved bylaw amendment clarifies that when serving in an appointment not legally related to Foursquare, a Foursquare minister is not an employee of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel or any local Foursquare church. See 2015 Bylaws, Article XII, § 184.108.40.206 B
Miscellaneous Proposals: These approved amendments, though important, do not fit neatly into a particular category:
- Cabinet clarification: The cabinet is a “recommending” body rather than an “approving” body with respect to reports to be presented at Connection. See 2015 Bylaws, Article V, § 5.3.B
- The procedure for chartering a local Foursquare church is clarified. See 2015 Bylaws, Article XV, § 15.2A permanent baptistry is no longer a required element of new church sanctuary construction. Deletion made at 2015 Bylaws, Article XVII, Preamble paragraph.
There were two proposals that were withdrawn from consideration:
- The proposal to narrow the definition of “Foursquare Association” to only individual minister members, eliminating the Foursquare Association as to churches, was withdrawn. The floor discussion indicated that a study of the purpose and future of the Foursquare Association was needed before any bylaw changes are made.
- Regarding an independent church joining The Foursquare Church, it was proposed that the bylaws allow churches wishing to join The Foursquare Church to do so without changing or eliminating their preexisting legal structures. Rather, the affiliation would be done on the basis of a written covenant agreement in which the joining church agreed to be governed as a Foursquare church. The convention body thought this should be delayed until such time as the proposed covenant agreement has been completed.
Finally, I would like to thank the members of the Bylaw Committee who this year, and every year, work very hard to make our bylaws as clear and current as possible.