Q&A: Was the Two-thirds Voting Requirement Met at Our Church Business Meeting

The answer depends on the wording of your bylaws and the system of parliamentary procedure your church has adopted.

At a recent specially called business meeting, our church voted to purchase land for future expansion. There were 50 members present at the meeting out of a total church membership of 300, and the final vote was 31 votes in favor, 14 votes against, and 5 abstentions. The church bylaws say that a quorum is ten percent of total membership, so a quorum was present. The bylaws also require a two-thirds vote for any purchase of real estate.
The question is whether the 5 members who were present but abstained from voting are taken into account in deciding if the two-thirds voting requirement was met. If they are taken into account, then the vote in favor of purchasing the property was 31 out of 50, or 62 percent. This is less than two-thirds, and so the purchase was not approved. On the other hand, if the members who abstained are not taken into account, then the vote was 31 out of 45, or 69 percent. This is more than two-thirds, and so the purchase was approved. Which interpretation is correct?
The answer depends on two factors—the wording of your bylaws and the system of parliamentary procedure that your church has adopted.
Many churches have adopted the current edition of Robert’s Rules of Order as their system of parliamentary procedure.
Robert’s Rules of Order specifies that the term “two-thirds vote,” when unqualified, “means at least two-thirds of the votes cast by persons legally entitled to vote, excluding blanks or abstentions, at a regular or properly called meeting at which a quorum is present.”
It goes on to provide that the number of members to which the two-thirds percentage applies “is always the number of members present and voting . . . but can be specified by rule as the number of members present, the total membership, or some other grouping.” This means that the exact wording of a church’s bylaws generally will decide this issue.
If the bylaws refer only to a “two-thirds” vote, then (assuming Robert’s Rules of Order applies) this will mean at least two-thirds of the votes cast by persons legally entitled to vote, excluding blanks or abstentions. In the example cited, this would mean that the vote was 31 out of 45, or 69 percent, meaning that the purchase was approved. On the other hand, if your bylaws require a two-thirds vote of “members present,” then the abstentions would be included, and the vote would be 31 out of 50 or 62 percent (less than the two-thirds required for approving the purchase of land).
Some church bylaws specify that a purchase of property must be by two-thirds vote of the “entire membership.” In such a case, a two-thirds vote would require at least 200 of the 300 members.
Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations." Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

ajax-loader-largecaret-downcloseHamburger Menuicon_amazonApple PodcastsBio Iconicon_cards_grid_caretChild Abuse Reporting Laws by State IconChurchSalary Iconicon_facebookGoogle Podcastsicon_instagramLegal Library IconLegal Library Iconicon_linkedinLock IconMegaphone IconOnline Learning IconPodcast IconRecent Legal Developments IconRecommended Reading IconRSS IconSubmiticon_select-arrowSpotify IconAlaska State MapAlabama State MapArkansas State MapArizona State MapCalifornia State MapColorado State MapConnecticut State MapWashington DC State MapDelaware State MapFederal MapFlorida State MapGeorgia State MapHawaii State MapIowa State MapIdaho State MapIllinois State MapIndiana State MapKansas State MapKentucky State MapLouisiana State MapMassachusetts State MapMaryland State MapMaine State MapMichigan State MapMinnesota State MapMissouri State MapMississippi State MapMontana State MapMulti State MapNorth Carolina State MapNorth Dakota State MapNebraska State MapNew Hampshire State MapNew Jersey State MapNew Mexico IconNevada State MapNew York State MapOhio State MapOklahoma State MapOregon State MapPennsylvania State MapRhode Island State MapSouth Carolina State MapSouth Dakota State MapTennessee State MapTexas State MapUtah State MapVirginia State MapVermont State MapWashington State MapWisconsin State MapWest Virginia State MapWyoming State IconShopping Cart IconTax Calendar Iconicon_twitteryoutubepauseplay