(A Historical Statement from The Preamble of the Constitution and Bylaws of the Evangelical Covenant Church as revised in 1957)
The Evangelical Covenant Church has its roots in historical Christianity as it emerged in the Protestant Reformation, in the biblical instruction of the Lutheran State Church of Sweden, and in the great spiritual awakenings of the nineteenth century. These thee influences have in large measure shaped its development and are to be born in mind in seeking to understand its distinctive spirit.
"The Covenant Church adheres to the affirmations of the Protestant Reformation regarding the Holy Scriptures, the Old and the New Testament, as the Word of God and the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine, and conduct. It has traditionally valued the historic confessions of the Christian church, particularly the Apostles’ Creed, while at the same time it has emphasized the sovereignty of the Word over all creedal interpretations. It has especially cherished the pietistic restatement of the doctrine of justification by faith as basic to its dual task of evangelism and Christian nurture, the New Testament emphasis upon personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, the reality of a fellowship of believers which recognizes but transcends theological differences, and the belief in baptism and The Lord’s Supper as divinely ordained sacraments of the church. While the denomination has traditionally practiced the baptism of infants, in conformity with its principles of freedom it has given room to divergent views. The principle of personal freedom, so highly esteemed by the Covenant is to be distinguished from the individualism that disregards the centrality of the Word of God and mutual responsibilities and disciplines of the spiritual community"
This document, which is in harmony with the above preamble is the constitution and bylaws of the First Covenant Church of Peoria, Illinois.
Article I - Name
The name of this church shall be the First Covenant Church of Peoria, Illinois (“Church”).
Article II - Affiliation
The Church shall be a member of the Evangelical Covenant Church (“Covenant”) and its Central Conference and shall pledge to work in harmony with the Covenant and its decisions and to support its programs, policies, and institutions as long as they are in harmony with the Holy Scriptures and with the Statement of Faith of the Church. The Church may terminate its affiliation with the Covenant upon a vote of two-thirds (2/3) of the members of the Church present and voting in an annual or special meeting of the Church, provided the proposal to terminate affiliation was presented in written form at least ninety (90) days prior to the annual or special meeting where the vote is to occur.
Article III - Confession of Faith
The Church shall confess that the Holy Scriptures, the Old and the New Testament, are the Word of God and the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine, and conduct.
Article IV - Purpose
Section 1. The purpose of the Church shall be to unite Christians in fellowship for spiritual development, for the leading of persons to Christ, and for the propagation of the gospel of Jesus Christ through worship, Christian education, home and world missions, and the institutions conducted by the Covenant.
Section 2. In order to achieve this purpose, the Church, in the unity of the Spirit, shall use the gifts that God has given it and the spiritual tools which God has placed at its disposal: the Word of God, Baptism, and Holy Communion.
Article V - Membership
Membership in the Church is granted upon application to those who through faith in God’s Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, have been born again, have been baptized according to the Holy Scriptures, desire to live a Christian life, and promise to support the total ministry of the Church and to share its fellowship and obligations.
Article VI - Officers
The officers of the Church shall be a chair person, a vice-chair person, a secretary, a financial secretary, and a treasurer.
Article VII - Church Government
Section 1. The general administration of the Church shall be vested in a body known as the Council of Elders (“Council”). In circumstances or where law requires action or actions by “Trustees”, the Council of Elders shall be known as the “the Board of Trustees” and the members of it as the “Trustees.” The Council of Elders shall function to supervise the spiritual life of the Church.
Section 2. The Council of Elders shall consist of at least three persons who meet the qualifications outlined in the scriptures (such as I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9). The senior pastor, the chair person and vice-chair person shall be members of the Council.
Section 3. The Council of Elders shall have the power to organize itself in a manner specified in the bylaws and consistent with effectively operating the Church. They shall be empowered to carry out and delegate other responsibilities as appropriate.
Article VIII - Annual Business Meeting
Section 1. An annual business meeting shall be held: to inform the congregation of the new budget for the coming year, to vote on the budget, to vote on the officers and to appoint an audit committee. At that meeting, the Council of Elders shall give the necessary reports on the health and activities of the Church in the previous year as well as the outlook for the coming year.
Section 2. Notice of the annual meeting shall be made not less than three (3) weeks prior to the meeting and shall include the date, time, location of the meeting, proposals and an agenda.
Section 3. Special meetings of the members may be called by the Council of Elders for the purpose or purposes stated in the call of the meeting.
Section 4. Each member shall be entitled to one vote in each matter submitted to a vote of the members. No member may vote by proxy.
Section 5. Any meeting notice provided hereunder shall be given at the regular church services on Sunday morning.
Section 6. The members may call a special meeting of the membership at any time by a quorum of members signing a petition and presenting it to the Council of Elders.
Article IX - Property
In the event of schism (i.e. separation or division) within the Church, from which we earnestly pray God to spare us, where a majority of the members vote to remain with the Covenant, the title of all Church property, real or personal, shall remain with the majority which abides by this constitution, as determined by the Executive Board of the Central Conference.
In the event a majority of all the members of the Church vote to separate or disaffiliate from the Covenant, the title of all Church property, real or personal, shall remain with the Church.
Upon dissolution of the Church, any assets of the Church must be distributed to one or more organizations to be named by the Council of Elders. These organizations must be recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as being organized exclusively for religious purposes.
Article X - Amendments
Amendments in harmony with this constitution and not in conflict with Covenant principles and policies must be presented in written form at an annual meeting. Said amendments may then be adopted by a two-thirds ballot vote of those members present and voting at the next annual meeting of the Church. When the Church receives appropriation aid from the Central Conference or the Covenant through subsidy or loan, Article IX and X may be amended only with the approval of the Executive Board of the Central Conference.
Article I - Membership
Section 1 - Adult Membership
Applicants shall make a written application for membership, which shall be placed with the pastor or any member of the Council of Elders ("Council"). The applicants should complete the inquirer’s class, after which they shall appear before the Council of Elders to give a confession of their Christian faith, according to Article V of the constitution. When the Council of Elders has reviewed their applications and received their testimonies favorably, they shall be introduced to the congregation as prospective members. If no substantiated objections are received within a two week period, the persons shall be received as new members.
Section 2 - Transfer of Membership
A) Applicants from other Christian churches shall submit letters of transfer when available, to the pastor or any member of the Council of Elders, who shall act upon the application according to the requirements of Section 1 above.
B) Members who move to another community should soon thereafter identify themselves with a church affiliated with the Covenant Church. If there is no church affiliated with the Covenant Church, they should identify themselves with some other evangelical Christian church. Applications for transfer of membership shall be made in writing to the Council of Elders, who shall issue the transfer to the church with which members are uniting.
Section 3 - Children
Children of members of the Church and its constituency shall be nurtured under its spiritual care. When they have reached confirmation age, the Council of Elders will make available a confirmation course with instruction in the Word of God, Christian doctrine, and the history of the church. Following confirmation they may apply for church membership as outlined under Section 1 of this article.
Section 4 - Responsibility of Membership
All members shall assume the responsibility placed upon them by the Word of God and the Church. They shall through their witness by life and word, consecrated service, prayer, and financial support, further the cause of Christ in the Church and the Covenant.
Section 5 - Erring Members
A member suspected of an error in doctrine or conduct shall be counseled according to the procedure outlined in Matthew 18:15-18, Galatians 6:1 and other relevant scriptures. Another member having knowledge of such error shall in the spirit of Christian love seek to restore the brother or sister. If the erring member fails to heed the counsel, then the matter shall be taken to the Council of Elders who shall also seek to restore the erring member. If this is not successful, the erring member shall be brought before the entire membership. Correction shall then be administered in the spirit of Christ with due regard for the welfare of the individual as well as the Church.
Section 6 - Dismissal of Members
Dismissal of a member under Section 5 of this article must be acted on by the Council of Elders which alone has authority to act.
Section 7 - Forfeiture of Rights
A member who has been properly dismissed from the Church, or has withdrawn membership, has forfeited all rights and privileges of membership of the Church.
Section 8 - Removal of Membership
Request for withdrawal from membership in the Church shall be made in writing to the Council of Elders who alone has authority to act.
Section 9 - Nonmember Friends
Nonmember friends shall be enrolled by the Church as a part of its total constituency. The Church and the Council of Elders shall serve them in all their spiritual needs, and they shall be encouraged to consider it as their church home. They shall be kept informed of the general activities of the Church.
Section 10 – Inactive Members
A) The Council of Elders shall have the authority to review the membership periodically and to place members on the inactive roll when the member fails to attend Church services for an extended period of time, save for illness or temporary absence from the community. The Council of Elders may elect to pursue Church discipline or to recommend that the Church terminate the person's membership. If possible, the member shall be notified of this action in writing by the chair person of the Council of Elders.
B) Inactive members are ineligible to vote at any Church business meeting.
C) Inactive members can be reinstated to the active roll by request to and approval of the Council of Elders.
D) The membership of inactive members may be terminated by the Council of Elders.
Article II - Pastors
Section 1 - Qualifications
The pastors of the Church shall meet the New Testament requirements of their office (I Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9 and Acts 20:28) and shall be or become members of the Covenant Ministerium and follow the rules of the Board of the Ministry in harmony with the Holy Scriptures. They shall by virtue of the call be members of the Church.
Section 2 - Duties
The pastors shall devote themselves to the service of the Church, preaching and teaching the Word of God, administering the Sacraments, and faithfully giving themselves to pastoral work. The pastoral staff shall participate in wedding services only for monogamous, heterosexual unions and monogamous, heterosexual blessings of permanent, life-long vows, so that we as a congregation remain faithful to the standard of “faithfulness in heterosexual marriage, celibacy in singleness.” The pastoral staff shall provide the Council of Elders with an accurate record of their pastoral acts. They shall practice good administrative procedures and cooperate with the other elders of the Church.
Section 3 - Cooperation
The pastors shall, in word and precept, work in harmony with the Covenant, the Central Conference, and other Covenant pastors.
Section 4 - Call
A pastor shall be called at a regular or special meeting of the members, the purpose of which shall be announced to the members three (3) weeks in advance. A pastor shall be nominated by a pastoral search committee. The committee shall be nominated and elected by the membership at a regular or special business meeting. The committee shall consist of at least four (4) members, one of whom shall be a member of the Council of Elders. A pastor shall be called by ballot with a two-thirds (2/3) vote of those members present and voting. The call shall be for an indefinite period of time, with a minimum of six (6) weeks notice required by the Church or the pastor for termination of pastoral duties. When the Church receives aid from the Conference and/or the Covenant through subsidy or loans, a call to a pastor shall be extended jointly by the Church and the Central Conference subject to approval by the Executive Secretary of the Covenant for Church Growth and Evangelism.
Section 5 - Charges against a pastor
Charges against a pastor shall be submitted in writing to the Council of Elders, charging the pastor with indiscretion, immorality, doctrinal error, unethical behavior, or disloyalty to the Covenant. If in the judgment of the Council of Elders there is substance to the charge, the case shall be referred to the Central Conference superintendent. The superintendent shall confer with the Covenant Executive Secretary of the Ministry. These two (2) officers shall confer and determine the order of responsibility in pursuing the matter according to the rules of the Board of the Ministry of the Covenant regarding discipline, prior to further action by the Church.
Article III - Officers
Section 1 - Qualifications
Officers of the Church shall be members in good standing and active in the support of the total ministry of the Church.
Section 2 - Duties
A) Chair Person
The chair person shall preside at all business meetings of the Church and the meetings of the Council of Elders. The chair person shall take care to confer with the senior pastor in preparing the agenda for such meetings and shall utilize the counsel that the pastor may give.
B) Vice-Chair Person
The vice-chair person shall assist the chair person and during the chair person's absence assume that office and its duties.
The secretary shall keep and preserve the minutes of all church business meetings and shall conduct and preserve all official correspondence as shall be delegated to the secretary. The secretary shall also be responsible for the official seal and documents of the Church. In order to ensure accurate minutes, a vice-secretary may be elected to assume the duties of the secretary in the event of an absence.
D) Financial Secretary
The financial secretary shall receive, record, arrange for deposit and transmit a deposit record to the Church treasurer of all funds contributed to the Church. The financial secretary shall present a written report of the receipts at the annual meeting and at other appropriate times.
The treasurer shall be responsible to disburse all funds committed by the Church and shall make disbursements as authorized by the Council of Elders or the Deacon Board. The treasurer shall also present a written report of the expenditures at the annual meeting and at other appropriate times.
F) Election and Tenure
At the annual business meeting, the chair person, vice-chair person, secretary, vice-secretary, financial secretary and treasurer shall be elected for terms of two (2) years and shall serve not more than four consecutive years. Any officer who has served the term limit shall be eligible for reelection to that office after a lapse of one (1) year except the treasurer who may serve additional consecutive terms if elected by the congregation. The chair person and vice-chair person shall be selected from the Council of Elders.
Article IV - Council of Elders
Section 1 - Qualifications
Members of the Council of Elders shall be members in good standing who are active in the support of the total ministry of the Church. Each elder shall meet the qualifications of the Scriptures such as I Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9 and Acts 20:28.
Section 2 - Size and Tenure on the Council of Elders
A) With a congregation of 100, it is anticipated that, as God provides, there would be at least five elders.
B) Elders shall be appointed by the existing Council of Elders for a term of four years and may continue to serve as long as they are willing and able, or are removed by the other elders because they are not fulfilling the role of an elder. At the beginning of the appointment and at the end of every four (4) years of service, they shall be put on the ballot for a ratification vote by the membership. An elder who does not receive a two-thirds (2/3) majority shall not serve on the Council for two (2) years. An elder may not serve until ratified.
Section 3 - Duties
The Council of Elders shall fulfill the functions defined by the constitution and bylaws, including the following:
A) Supervise church membership, including actions relative to reception or removal of members.
B) Assist the pastor in nurturing the spiritual life of the Church and in the service of Holy Communion.
C) Establish administrative and program policies in conformity with the spirit and direction of the Church constitution, the Holy Scriptures and the needs of the congregation.
D) Evaluate the total Church program on a continuing basis.
E) Plan and recommend the annual budget and stewardship opportunities for the Church.
F) Review and approve the schedule of church activities and personnel.
G) Appoint administrative committee chair persons and church workers as suggested by the bylaws and as appropriate to perform the ministry of the Church.
H) Establish and supervise the Deacon Board.
I) Conduct an annual pastoral evaluation. This evaluation shall be conducted by the chair person.
J) The Council of Elders and their designates are authorized to spend up to $1000 per occurrence for non-budgeted expenses and are authorized to spend additional funds necessary to preserve the real property of the Church in an emergency. The Council may not dispose of any Church property exceeding $1000 in value unless authorized by a special meeting of the Church and approved by a majority of the members present and voting.
Section 4 - Committees
Implementation of policies and programs may be accomplished through committees set up by the Council. The Council may choose to have any of these committees be supervised by the Deacon Board. Such committees may include but not be limited to the following:
- Worship and Music Committee
- Evangelism Committee
- Fellowship and Service Committee
- Education, Discipleship and Personnel Committee
- Missions Committee
- Social Action Committee
- Stewardship and Properties Committee.
Section 5 – Quorum
A majority of the Council of Elders shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business at any meeting of the Council, provided that if fewer than a majority of the elders are present at said meeting, a majority of the elders present may adjourn the meeting to another time without further notice.
Section 6 – Manner of Acting
The act of a majority of the Council of Elders present at a meeting at which a quorum is present shall be the act of the Council. No elder may act by proxy on any matter.
Article V - Deacon Board
Section 1 - Qualifications
Members of the Deacon Board shall be members in good standing of the Church who are active in the support of the total ministry of the Church. Deacons shall meet the qualifications of the Scriptures such as I Timothy 3:8-13.
Section 2 - Size and Tenure of the Deacon Board
A) The Deacon Board shall consist of at least three (3) members but can be any number greater than three (3) that the Council of Elders believes is appropriate to meet the needs of the congregation.
B) The selection of the members of the Deacon Board shall be the responsibility of the Council of Elders with input from the congregation. Where possible, discussions and appointments to the Deacon Board shall be done during the annual meeting.
C) A deacon shall be appointed for a two (2) year term and can be reappointed as long as the person is willing to serve. The deacons shall be confirmed or reconfirmed by a simple majority vote of the congregation.
Section 3 - Responsibilities
The Deacon Board shall coordinate service activities of the Church and may supervise the activities of the financial secretary and treasurer. The Deacon Board shall receive its responsibilities from the Council of Elders.
Article VI - Audit Committee
The Audit Committee shall be responsible for auditing the financial records of the Church. The committee shall consist of two (2) members and an alternate selected at the annual meeting. The committee shall serve until the next annual meeting. The committee will audit the financial records of the Church and submit a signed report at the annual meeting before their term is complete.
Article VII - Meetings
Section 1 - Public Services
Public services shall be conducted regularly on Sundays and, when deemed appropriate, on weekdays, for worship, the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, prayer and fellowship (Acts 2:42-46). Funerals and weddings performed at First Covenant are to be considered public worship services, and as such, should reflect healthy Biblical theology and proper decorum. Thus, the church shall host wedding services only for monogamous, heterosexual unions and monogamous, heterosexual blessings of permanent, life-long vows, so that we as a congregation remain faithful to the standard of “faithfulness in heterosexual marriage, celibacy in singleness.”
Section 2 - Celebrating the Sacraments
The Sacrament of Holy Communion shall be celebrated monthly or more often as determined by the Council of Elders. The Sacrament of Baptism shall be celebrated in keeping with Covenant policies and according to the needs of the Church.
Section 3 – The Council of Elders
Regular meetings of the Council of Elders shall be held not less than monthly. Members of the congregation may request time on the agenda at any Council of Elders’ meeting with appropriate notice. Special meetings of the Council may be called by any elder.
Section 4 – Informational Meetings
Informational meetings shall be planned and conducted regularly under the supervision of the Council of Elders in the absence of regular business meetings.
Article VIII - General Provisions
Section 1 - Quorum
A) Twenty five (25) percent of the membership, but not fewer than ten (10) members, present and voting at a meeting properly called shall constitute a quorum.
B) The quorum for the Council of Elders, committees, and Deacon Board shall be a simple majority of their respective membership.
Section 2 - Rules of Order
All business meetings of the Church, the Council of Elders, Deacon Board, and committees shall be conducted according to the latest edition of Robert’s Rule of Order.
Article IX - Amendments
Amendments to these bylaws not in conflict with the constitution may be proposed in writing to the Council of Elders at any regular business meeting or at a special business meeting called for that purpose. Said amendments may then be adopted at a subsequent business meeting by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the members present and voting. At least three (3) months must elapse between the written submission and the vote.
Article X - Indemnification
The Church may indemnify any person who was or is a party or is threatened to be made a party to any threatened, pending or completed action, suit or proceeding, whether civil, criminal, administrative or investigative (other than an action by or in the right of the Church) by reason of the fact that such person is or was a director, officer, employee or agent of the Church to the fullest extent permitted by law.