Bylaws of Prescott Presbyterian Church
A. In order to propagate and maintain the Christian faith and worship as set forth in the Holy Scriptures and defined in the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Prescott Presbyterian Church determines to be governed by The Book of Church Order of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church1, by the Bylaws of the Presbytery in whose bounds this congregation is located, and by these Bylaws.
B. The Prescott Presbyterian Church is established, in fellowship with and obedience to Christ, for divine worship, mutual edification, and gospel witness. The means appointed by Christ through which the church does this work include the confession of the name of Christ before men; the exercise of fellowship in encouraging one another; the reading, teaching, and preaching of the Word of God; praying; singing; fasting; administering baptism and the Lord’s Supper; collecting and distributing offerings; showing mercy; exercising discipline; and blessing the people. While its Confession of Faith and Catechisms establish Prescott Presbyterian Church’s beliefs, this statement of faith does not exhaust the extent of our beliefs. The Bible itself, as the inspired and infallible Word of God that speaks with final authority concerning truth, morality, and the proper conduct of mankind, is the sole and final source of all that we believe. For purposes of Prescott Presbyterian Church’s faith, doctrine, practice, policy, and discipline, our church Session is Prescott Presbyterian Church’s final interpretive authority on the Bible’s meaning and application.
C. Prescott Presbyterian Church is also established as State-of-Arizona, non-profit corporation for matters pertaining to the corporation, its property, and the State. By unanimous action of its Board of Directors, the corporation determines to be governed by these Bylaws.
II. Congregational Meetings
1. Congregation. Prescott Presbyterian Church (PPC) consists of a definite membership organized as a distinct congregation under a Session. Members are communicant and non-communicant members all of whom have the privilege of pastoral oversight, instruction, and government by the church2. Members also include any mission works under the ecclesiastical oversight of the PPC.
2. The Church Session3 consists of the elders of the church. The session also constitutes the corporate board of directors. Mission works may be organized as separate corporate entities with an independent board of directors for matters pertaining to the mission work’s its property, and the State
3. The Church Session shall keep a membership roll of PPC, a particular congregation established by the Presbytery of Southern California (PSC). If there are mission works assigned to PPC by the PSC, the Church Session shall keep a separate membership roll for each mission work.
4. A “congregational meeting of the particular congregation” shall be a meeting of those communicant members listed on the roll of the Prescott congregation. The meeting shall be held in the Prescott area.
A congregational meeting of a mission work shall be a meeting of those communicant members listed on the roll of the mission work. The meeting shall be held in the area of the mission work.
B. Voting Privileges at Congregational Meetings.
1. At congregational meetings of the particular congregation, only those, and all those persons who are communicant members4 on the roll of the particular congregation in good and regular standing, shall be entitled to vote.
2. At congregational meetings of a mission work, only those and all those persons who are communicant members on the roll of that mission work in good and regular standing shall be entitled to vote.
3. Ruling elder and deacon certified nominees on the roll of a mission work shall be elected at a joint, or separate, congregational meeting of the particular congregation and the mission work.
C. The particular congregation, and each of its mission works, shall hold separate annual meetings. The annual meetings of the particular congregation and of each of its mission works will normally be held between January 1 and March 31. Annual meetings of mission works shall be held on a date that allows attendance of at least one member of the session at the congregational meeting of the mission work.
D. All congregational meetings will be conducted in accordance with Roberts Rules of Order5.
E. One-fourth of the communicant members of the particular congregation will constitute a quorum at a congregational meeting of the particular congregation. One-fourth of the communicant members of a mission work will constitute a quorum at a congregational meeting of the mission work.
III. Election of Officers of the Congregation
A. Nominations for candidates for the offices of ruling elder and deacon must be submitted to the Prescott Presbyterian Church Session. These nominations may be received from any pastor or member of the Prescott Presbyterian Church at any time.
B. A three-fourths majority of the members present at a congregational meeting of the established congregation shall constitute approval of an elder-candidate to the office of elder, or a deacon-candidate to the office of deacon.
C. This congregation has determined to choose ruling elders or deacons for limited terms of service. A full term shall be three years. When there are three or more ruling elders, or three or more deacons, the session or board of deacons, shall consist of three classes, one of which shall be elected each year; the numbers in classes shall be as even as possible. A person may be elected for a full term or partial term. Ruling elders and deacons, once ordained, when they are not reelected to a term of service, shall not thereby be divested of the office.
D. Emeritus elders are not installed. Emeritus elders attend executive sessions by invitation of the session only.
IV. The Corporation
A. Directors of the PPC Corporation are the installed elders of the PPC. If the corporate members of a mission work are under separate corporate bylaws, they elect the directors of a mission work.
B. Officers of the PPC are: President – Moderator of the Session; Secretary – Clerk of the Session; Statutory Agent – Clerk of the Session; Treasurer – Treasurer of the particular congregation.
C. The treasurer of the particular congregation is appointed by the session.
D. The annual meeting of the corporation will normally be held immediately after the adjournment of the ecclesiastical congregational meeting to conduct business required by the State of Arizona for a non-profit corporation.
E. One-fourth of the communicant members of the particular congregation, eighteen years of age and older, will constitute a quorum at a corporation meeting.
F. All corporate meetings will be conducted in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order.
V. The Budget
A. A calendar-year budget of the particular congregation will be proposed under the oversight of the Treasurer and the deacons. This budget will be presented to the session for review at the first session meeting in December.
B. The budget for each of the mission works shall be separately assembled by the session.
C. Approval for budgets lies with the Session except for line items associated with compensation paid to Ministers. The Session shall recommend compensation to be paid to the Ministers. The members of the particular congregation shall approve the compensation of the minsters serving the particular congregation. The members of a mission work shall approve the compensation of the minsters serving a mission work. Compensation voted at the beginning of the year shall apply to the full calendar year. Congregational-compensation approval does not apply to ministers who serve as pulpit supply.
VI. Real Property and Transfer of Funds
A. Purchase of, sale of, or borrowing against, real property held in the name of the particular congregation shall be approved by the particular congregation at a congregational meeting of the particular congregation.
B. Purchase of, sale of, or borrowing against real property held in the name of a mission work shall be approved by that mission work at a congregational meeting of that mission work.
C. Funds given by members or worshipers at the particular congregation shall not be transferred to any of the mission works overseen by Prescott Presbyterian Church without approval of the particular congregation. This approval shall be given at a duly called congregational meeting of the particular congregation.
D. Funds given by members or worshipers at any of the mission works overseen by Prescott Presbyterian Church shall not be transferred to the particular congregation or to any other mission work overseen by the Prescott congregation without the approval of that mission work where the funds were raised. This approval shall be given at a duly called congregational meeting of the mission work, which raised the funds.
VII. Relational Commitments, Conflict Resolution and Church Discipline. All members, by taking their memberships vows, are subject to these provisions:
A. Relational Commitments: Relationships in the church will be guided and governed by the biblical principles set forth in a document entitled “Relational Commitments,” which is incorporated into these Bylaws by reference6. This document establishes our commitments related to peacemaking and reconciliation, preserving marriages, protecting children, biblical counseling, confidentiality, accountability, and church discipline.
B. Church Discipline (See appendix B)
A. Practices of PPC are governed by the authorities paragraph IB.
B. Because God has ordained marriage and defined it as the covenant relationship between a man, a woman, and Himself; Prescott Presbyterian Church will only recognize marriages between a biological man and a biological woman. Further, the Pastor and Elders of Prescott Presbyterian Church shall only participate in weddings and solemnize marriages between one man and one woman. Finally, the facilities and property of Prescott Presbyterian Church shall only host weddings between one man and one woman.
IX. Church Planting
A. Funds given by members or worshipers at the Prescott shall not be transferred to any of the church plants overseen by Prescott Presbyterian Church without approval of the congregational membership who ordinarily worship in Prescott. This approval shall be given at a duly called congregational meeting called at a location in Prescott, Arizona.
B. Funds given by members or worshipers at any of the church plants overseen by Prescott Presbyterian Church shall not be transferred to the Prescott congregation or another church plant overseen by the Prescott congregation without the approval of the congregational membership who ordinarily worship at the church plant where the undesignated funds were raised. This approval shall be given at a duly called congregational meeting at a location in the city where the donating church plant regularly conducts worship services or Bible studies.
C. The Clerk of the Session shall keep a separate membership roll listing each of the members who ordinarily worship in Prescott and separate membership rolls listing each of the members who ordinarily worship at each of the church plants overseen by the Prescott Presbyterian Church.
X. Amendment of the Bylaws
A. The Session shall have the power to adopt and amend in whole, or in part, these Bylaws except in matters designated for congregational approval.
B. Amendments to the Bylaws shall be made at a Session meeting called for that purpose.
C. Amendments requiring congregational approval will be approved at a congregational meeting called for that purpose.
D. Notice of the proposed amendment(s) must be given in writing to the Clerk of Session at least four weeks prior to the meeting. Notice of the proposed amendment(s) must be given in writing to each of the Elders of the Session at least two weeks prior to the meeting.
E. A unanimous vote of Elders present and voting is required to amend the Bylaws.
F. A three-fourths vote of the congregation is required to amend the Bylaws in matters designated for congregational approval.
1. The following practices were developed by our church leaders are established to provide a clear biblical framework for carrying out church discipline and conflict resolution so that everyone in our church is all members are treated fairly and, consistently and Biblically if they come under discipline.
2. These practices are incorporated in these bylaws, which are intended to be consistent with, and subordinate to, the Book of Discipline of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
3. These practices apply to church leaders just as they do to other members of the church. If a leader any member falls into sin, it is the responsibility and right of other members to lovingly confront him and, if he refuses to repent, to initiate whatever disciplinary action is needed to move him toward repentance and protect others in the church from his wrongful actions. No one member is above these disciplinary guidelines, and everyone can benefit from them.
4. Mutual accountability and discipline within the church is commanded by God in Scripture and is one of the most important responsibilities of a true church of Jesus Christ (see Matt. 18:12-20; Rom. 16:17; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 2 Cor. 2:5-11; Gal. 2:11-14; Eph. 5:11; 1 Thess. 5:14; 2 Thess. 3:6-15; 1 Tim. 1:20; 5:19-20; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; Titus 3:10; Heb. 10:24-30; 12:5-17; 2 John 7-11; Rev. 3:19).
5. Church (ecclesiastical) discipline is the exercise of that authority that the Lord Jesus Christ has committed to the visible church for the preservation of its purity, peace, and good order. All members of the church, both communicant and non-communicant, are under the care of and subject to the discipline of the church. The ultimate goal of all discipline is to train Christians to be self-disciplined so that they may share in the holiness of God (see Heb. 12:7-13).
6. Discipline may be either administrative or judicial. Administrative discipline is concerned with the maintenance of good order in the government of the church in other than judicial cases. Its purpose is to see that all rights are preserved and all obligations are fully discharged. Judicial discipline is concerned with the prevention and correction of offenses, an offense being defined as anything in the doctrine or practice of a member of the church that is contrary to the authorities in paragraph I.A. of these bylaws. The purpose of judicial discipline is: (1) to guard and preserve the honor of God (see Rom. 2:24; 1 Cor. 10:31); (2) to protect the purity of the church and to guard other Christians from being tempted, misled, divided, or otherwise harmed (see 1 Cor. 5:6); and (3) to restore fallen Christians to usefulness to God and fellowship with His church (see Matt. 18:12-14; 2 Cor. 2:5-11; 7:8-10; Gal. 6:1-2).
7. Discipline involves three components or phases: (1) God commands all Christians to make every effort, with his help, to discipline themselves and lead godly lives (see Eph. 4:25 – 5:6; 2 Tim. 1:7; 2 Pet. 1:5-11); (2) if a Christian fails to discipline himself and is trapped in a sin, God commands other brothers and sisters in Christ to lovingly confront, counsel, and encourage him toward repentance (Matt. 18:15-16; Gal. 6:1-2; Col. 3:16; Heb. 10:24-25); (3) if these personal and informal efforts do not correct an offense, God commands the church leaders to intervene and exercise their ecclesiastical authority to resolve the matter, protect the church, and, if possible, restore the offender (see Matt. 18:17-20; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 2 Tim. 4:2; Heb. 13:17). This third phase, which may be referred to as judicial or formal discipline, involves a judicial hearing before the Session. Such a hearing shall be carried out according to the following procedures, which are designed to provide due process for the offender and promote a just resolution.
8. When an offense is personal and known only to a few individuals, discipline may not be instituted until there has been a good faith effort to resolve the matter privately and informally (Matt. 18:15; Gal. 6:1). No charge may be accepted if it is filed more than two years after the commission of the alleged offense, unless it appears that unavoidable impediments have prevented an earlier filing of the charge. Every charge must be submitted to the Session in writing. A person may be censured for filing a charge that the Session determines to be without merit (see Deut. 19:16-21).
9. An offense that is serious enough to warrant judicial discipline and a hearing is: (1) an offense in the area of conduct and practice that seriously disturbs the peace, purity, and/or unity of the church; (2) an offense in the area of doctrine for an non-ordained member that would constitute a denial of a credible profession of faith as reflected in his membership vows; or (3) an offense in the area of doctrine for an ordained officer that would constitute a violation of the system of doctrine contained in the Holy Scriptures as that system is set forth in our Confession of Faith and Catechisms. When the Session convenes to determine whether an offense has occurred and to administer censure, it shall be referred to as a “judicatory.”
10. Discipline shall be carried out church in a redemptive, biblically faithful manner. This requires adherence to the following principles:
- Act in a loving, patient, and redemptive manner, rather than being harsh, abrupt, or vindictive.
- Be consistent in applying discipline to the people in our church.
- Be careful not to show favoritism as you follow your disciplinary guidelines.
- Always speak the truth.
- Communicate only to people who have a legitimate right to know.
- If discussing unproven allegations with officers, label them as such; do not allow unsubstantiated charges to be publicly proclaimed by the church.
- Base decisions on clearly delineated biblical grounds.
11. Just as a good shepherd will go after a sheep that has wandered from the flock (Matt. 18:12-14; Ezek. 34:4, 8, 16), so shall the elders and members of this church seek to restore a wandering member to the Lord through biblical discipline.
- Therefore, discipline may be instituted or continued either before or after a member seeks to withdraw from membership if the Session determines that such discipline may serve to guard and preserve the honor of God, protect the purity of the church, or restore the wandering member to the Lord. While the church cannot force a withdrawing person to remain in this congregation, the church has the right and the responsibility to encourage restoration, to bring the disciplinary process to an orderly conclusion, and to make a final determination as to the person’s membership status at the time withdrawal is sought or acknowledged. In doing so, the Session, at its discretion, may temporarily suspend further disciplinary proceedings, dismiss any or all charges pending against the accused, or proceed with discipline and pronounce an appropriate censure as provided in these Guidelines.
- If a member renounces the communion of this church by joining some other evangelical church and formally submitting to its jurisdiction, and if charges are pending against him at the time he joins the other church, those charges shall be communicated to the other church as provided in Guideline 26, and further disciplinary proceedings shall be terminated.
12. A person accused of an offense shall be given a written notification to appear before the judicatory at a specific time and place. The notification may, but need not, specify the charges and specifications that have been brought against the accused. Ordinarily all notifications shall be served in person, but in case that is not possible, notifications shall be sent by certified mail to the person notified.
13. At the first meeting of the judicatory only these actions may be taken: (1) the charges and specifications shall be read and formally presented to the accused together with the names of any witnesses and copies of any documents that may be presented against him; (2) the judicatory shall fix the time, date, and place for a second meeting of the judicatory, which shall not be less than ten days later (except as provided in Guideline 14), and shall issue notifications directing all persons to appear at that time whose presence it may deem necessary; and (3) the accused shall be granted notifications in which he may insert the names of the witnesses whom he wishes the judicatory to summon.
14. If an offense is likely to harm others or lead them into sin, or cause division or disruption, our leaders may accelerate the entire disciplinary process and move promptly to protect the church by pronouncing the censures of admonition, rebuke, suspension, or deposition (Rom. 16:17; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; Titus 3:10-11).
15. If an accused refuses or fails to appear without satisfactory reason for his absence at the time appointed for the hearing of the case, he shall again be notified, with the warning that, if he does not appear, the judicatory will proceed with the hearing in his absence. The time allowed for the appearance on notification shall be determined by the judicatory with due consideration for the circumstances. If the accused still refuses or fails to appear, the hearing may proceed in his absence. When proceeding in the absence of the accused, the judicatory shall appoint counsel for the accused, who shall present a case to the judicatory in defense of the accused. Such counsel shall be entitled to present evidence, interview witnesses, interpose objections, and otherwise act in defense of the accused.
16. If unusual circumstances require it, a judicatory may deny an accused person the right of participating in the Lord’s Supper or of performing the functions of his office until a case is concluded.
17. If the accused appears at the second meeting of the judicatory, he shall be called to admit or deny the charges. If denies the charges, the judicatory shall proceed to receive evidence. The judicatory shall ordinarily sit with open doors, and must do so when hearing a charge of heresy. No person shall be deprived of the right to set forth, plead, or offer into evidence the provisions of the Word of God or of the subordinate standards. If subsequent meetings of the judicatory are required, the accused and all witnesses shall be notified to appear as provided above.
18. The accused shall be entitled to assistance of counsel. No person shall be eligible to act as counsel who is not a member in good standing of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church/or/does not affirm the statement of faith of this church. The accused shall be allowed one copy of the minutes at the expense of the judicatory.
19. Any person may be a witness in a judicial case if the judicatory is satisfied that he has sufficient competence to make the following affirmation, which is required of all witnesses: “I solemnly swear that by the grace of God I will speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth concerning the matters on which I am called to testify.”
20. Evidence must be factual in nature. It may be direct or circumstantial. Caution should be exercised in giving weight to evidence that is purely circumstantial. The accused may object to the competency of any witness and to the authenticity, admissibility, and relevancy of any testimony or evidence produced in support of the charge and specifications. The judicatory shall decide on all such objections after allowing the accused to be heard in support thereof. If the accused so requests, no witness, unless he or she is a member of the judicatory, shall testify in the presence of another witness who is to testify concerning the same specification.
21. At the conclusion of the hearing, the accused may make a final argument with respect to the evidence and the law of the church. The judicatory, after deliberation, shall vote on each charge and each specification separately. If the judicatory decides that the accused is guilty, it shall proceed to determine the censure. Censure shall not be pronounced before the expiration of the time in which the accused may file notice of appeal. If an appeal is properly filed and perfected, the judicatory may not execute its censure unless and until the judgment is affirmed by the appellate judicatory.
22. Notice of an intention to appeal a decision of judicatory must be filed in writing with the clerk or moderator of the judicatory within ten days after the judgment has been announced. In order to perfect an appeal, the appellant must lodge the appeal and the specifications of error with the clerk of the appellate judicatory (presbytery) within thirty days after the filing of the notice of appeal.
23. If a person who has been adjudged guilty refuses or fails to present himself for censure at the time appointed, the judicatory shall notify him to appear at another time. If he does not appear after this notification, the censure may be pronounced in his absence.
24. The following censures may be pronounced by the judicatory:
- Admonition means to tenderly and solemnly confronting the offender with his sin, warning him of his danger, and exhorting him to repentance and to greater fidelity to the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Rebuke is a form of censure more severe than admonition. It involves setting forth the serious character of the offense, reproving the offender, and exhorting him to repentance and to more perfect fidelity to the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Suspension is a form of discipline by which one is deprived of the privileges of membership in the church, of office, or of both. It may be for a definite or indefinite time. An officer or other member of the church, while under suspension, shall be the object of deep concern and earnest dealing from the Session and the church to the end that he may be restored.
- Deposition is a form of censure more severe than suspension. It involves a solemn declaration by the judicatory that the offender is no longer an officer of the church.
- Excommunication, also referred to as dis-fellowshiping, is the most severe form of censure and is resorted to only in cases of offenses aggravated by persistent impenitence. It involves a solemn declaration by a judicatory that the offender is no longer considered a member of the body of Christ.
25. Since the church is a body made up of many parts (see 1 Cor. 12:12-30), what happens to one member of the church necessarily affects and is of legitimate concern to other members (see Rom. 12:15-16; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 12:12-30). Therefore, the indefinite suspension, deposition, or excommunication of a member shall be announced to the church so that its members will be able to pray for, encourage, and exhort the accused as opportunities arise, as well as be on guard against any gossip or divisiveness that might arise from the offense or censure (see 1 Cor. 5:9-11; 2 Thess. 3:6-14; Titus 3:10). The public announcement of censure shall always be accompanied by prayer that God will graciously use the discipline for His own glory, the restoration of the offender, and the edification of the church. This announcement may be made during a regular worship service, at a special meeting of the congregation, or by letter. 11
26. If an accused leaves the church during the disciplinary process or while a censure is still in effect, and if the Session learns that he is attending another church, the Session may inform that church that the person is currently under church discipline and may ask that church to encourage the accused to repent of his sin and to be restored to the Lord and to any people whom he has offended. Such communications enhance the possibility that a person may finally repent of his sin, and, at the same time, serve to warn the other church to be on guard against the harm that the accused might do to their members (see Matt. 18:12-14; Rom. 16:17; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 2 Thess. 3:6-14; 2 Tim. 1:15; 2:16-18; 4:9, 14-15; 3 John 9-10).
27. If a person who has been censured through suspension, deposition, or excommunication comes to repentance, the church shall warmly and lovingly restore him to fellowship within the body (see Matt. 18:13; Luke 15:11-32). Once the Session is persuaded that the person has sincerely confessed his wrongs and sought forgiveness from God and the person or persons he offended, it shall announce his restoration. That announcement shall be accompanied by a solemn admonition to the congregation that the restored person’s offenses have been forgiven and are not to be held against him or otherwise hinder his fellowship within the church (see 2 Cor. 2:5-11). When deemed appropriate by the Session, however, the restored person may be restricted from certain responsibilities within the church until he has demonstrated the requisite qualities for those responsibilities (see, e.g., 1 Tim. 3:2, 8; Titus 1:6).
1 The Book of Church Order (BCO) of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, January 1, 2015, also includes the Confession and the Catechisms.
2 BCO, op. cit., Chap XIII, para.1 & 2.
3 BCO, op. cit., XII, 1.
4 BCO, op. cit., XII, 2.
5 Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, 11th ed. (Da Capo Press, 2011).
6 See Peacemaker Ministries, http://peacemaker.net/project/relational-commitments/, Key links, Relational Commitments