Q&A: Combining a Church's Constitution & Bylaws

Our church has both a constitution and bylaws. We have appointed a committee to review our documents, and propose changes that will be presented at a specially called business meeting for our members to consider. Some members of the committee have recommended that we combine our constitution and bylaws into a single document. Would this be a good idea?

In the past, it was common for churches to have both a constitution and bylaws. Routine rules of administration were placed in the bylaws, which could be amended without notice at any duly called membership meeting by a simple majority vote. But more fundamental matters, such as church doctrine and the disposition of property, were placed in a constitution that was more difficult to amend. To illustrate, a church's constitution might be amendable only with advance, written notice and by a supermajority vote (i.e., twothirds).

Having both a constitution and bylaws often leads to inconsistencies between the two documents over time. Here's why. Churches with both a constitution and bylaws typically address many of the same issues in both documents. And, since amendments in one document may not be made to similar provisions in the other, inconsistencies and ambiguities emerge that are either go undetected, or create confusion and possibly dissension among members.

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Posted: September 1, 2010
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