Key point 6-02.2. Churches are subject to the provisions of their governing documents, which generally include a charter and a constitution or bylaws (in some cases both). A charter is the state-approved articles of incorporation of an incorporated church. Most rules of internal church administration are contained in a constitution or bylaws. Specific and temporary matters often are addressed in resolutions. If a conflict develops among these documents, the order of priority generally is as follows—charter, constitution, bylaws, and resolutions.
Key point 6-06.4. Church officers and directors can be removed from office in the manner authorized by the church's governing documents. It is common for church bylaws to give the membership the authority to remove officers and directors who engage in specified misconduct or change their doctrinal position.
Key point 6-12.1. Church membership meetings must be conducted in accordance with the procedural requirements ordinarily specified in the church's governing documents. The most common requirements pertain to notice, quorum, and voting.
The Idaho Supreme Court ruled that a church's failure to follow its bylaws in the selection of a pastor, the resignation of two board members, and the conduct of a specially called business meeting, rendered these actions null and void. A dispute arose in a church over the appointment of a pastor and the resignation of two board members.
Selection of a pastor
The church's bylaws addressed the selection of a pastor as follows:
Section 4. Vacancy: In the event of a vacancy in the senior pastorate, a pastor shall be selected in the following manner:
- The board of directors shall immediately convene and assign one of the associate pastors as a temporary replacement for the senior pastor.
- A roster of candidates shall be presented to the board of directors for review of their scriptural qualifications. Upon acceptance of qualification, each candidate will present themselves to the voting membership.
- After the voting membership has had an opportunity to review all candidates set forth by the board of directors, a special meeting will be called and a vote will be taken, with a majority vote required for the final appointment of the new senior pastor.
The court noted that there was no evidence that the pastor was ever voted on by the membership. Rather, the only evidence was that he had been asked when meeting with the church board if he would be interested in serving as pastor, and he replied that he was. The court concluded that "this was not sufficient evidence for a finding that he was properly appointed as the senior pastor." Because there was no evidence that the bylaws were complied with, the pastor's appointment was not valid.