Q&A: Is It Ever Okay to Break Our Church’s Bylaw Notification Requirement?

What if a proposed bylaw change is adopted and impacts another provision in the bylaws?

Our church’s bylaws require a two-month notification to our members of a proposed bylaw change. We have complied with this requirement for a proposed bylaw change that will be considered at our upcoming church business meeting. However, if the proposed bylaw change is adopted and impacts another provision in the bylaws, are we free to amend the other provision without the two-month notification?
Technically, no. The problem here is what Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (“RONR”) calls “scope of notice.” RONR states:

When previous notice is a requirement for the adoption of a motion to … amend … no subsidiary motion to amend is in order that proposes a change greater than that for which notice was given. This is always the case, for example, when the bylaws of an organization require previous notice for their amendment … . No subsidiary motion to amend is in order that proposes a change going beyond the scope of the notice which was given, for the reason that adoption of such a motion will destroy the effect of the notice.

The way to avoid this is for a resolutions committee to flag these issues in advance, and modify the motion to amend to include collateral amendments if the primary amendment is adopted.
Note that this problem cannot be solved by “suspending the rules,” since bylaws may never be suspended. So, if the notice provision is in the bylaws, it cannot be suspended unless the bylaws themselves so provide (a rarity).
Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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