Table of Contents:
We declare and establish these bylaws to preserve and perpetuate the principles of our common Christian faith and to govern this body in an orderly and Biblical manner. These bylaws will seek to preserve the individual church member and the freedom of action of this body to accomplish its God-given purpose. [Back]
Article I: Name
This body will be known as Christ Community Church of Wilmington, North Carolina and is incorporated under the laws of the State of North Carolina as a non-profit religious organization. The word “church” as used in this Constitution shall refer to Constitution shall refer to Christ Community Church, whereas the word ‘Church’ shall refer to the Body and Bride of Christ. [Back]
Article II: Purpose
To glorify God. This church will seek to attain this end through the public worship of God, the preaching of the Scriptures, consistent Christian living by its members, personal evangelism, missionary endeavor, and Christian education.
To worship God regularly. Out of the experience of worship, the Church renews her faith and clarifies her understanding of obedient service to God.
To evangelize by extending the Gospel both at home and abroad, leading others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and to provide for the nurture of that faith that all might grow in grace and in sanctification. It is to be remembered that good deeds in ministry and service to others, offering relief to those in need, is the fruit of the Gospel. Without the clear evidence of such fruit, all else is brought into question. However, the Church must never confuse its primary task of evangelism (the Gospel) with the fruit of faith (good works).
To promote true religion in the home. True discipleship involves learning the Word of God under the guidance of the Holy Spirit both at home and in the church. Without learning there is no growth, and without growth there is no discipline, and without discipline there is sin and iniquity. (I Timothy 4:7).
To make special provision for instructing the congregation in the Bible and in the church Catechisms by establishing and conducting Sunday schools and Bible classes, and adopting such other methods as may be found helpful. The parents of this church will be encouraged to guide their children in the catechizing and disciplining of them in the Christian religion.
To maintain constant and sympathetic relations with the children, encouraging them, on coming to years of discretion, to make confession of the Lord Jesus Christ and to enter upon all privileges of full church membership. If they are wayward they should be cherished by the church and every means used to reclaim them.
To provide for the nurture of the members, to promote the welfare of the whole church, to provide the sacraments, to teach the faith, to observe special days, including times of prayer and fasting, and to otherwise further its common life together. [Back]
Article III: Doctrinal Statement
This church believes that the Bible is the only source of authority for all matters of faith and practice. We also adopt the Westminister Confession of Faith, along with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, as the doctrinal standards of this church, subordinate to the Word of God. [Back]
Article IV: Government
The government of Christ Community Church shall be through a Session. The Session shall be composed of the Pastor(s) called by the congregation, and active Ruling Elders of the church. [Back]
Article V: Power of the Church
The power given to the church by Christ is moral and spiritual, thus distinguishing the government of the Church from civil government. The powers of the church reside in the Session and not in individuals. The use of these powers is for the purpose of proclamation, administration, and enforcement of the laws of Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture. Exercise of these powers must always be in conformity with the Scripture.
There are two kinds of powers of the church: the Power of Order and the Power of Jurisdiction.
A. The Power of Order: This power is exercised by individuals who have been ordained. It is the power to serve, to proclaim, and to minister in the name of Christ as under-shepherd. While such duty is incumbent upon every Christian, it is especially incumbent upon those who are ordained to office. It includes especially the sharing of the Gospel, reproving the erring, visiting the sick, and otherwise exhibiting to the world the fruit of the Spirit.
B. The Power of Jurisdiction: This is the power to rule and the exercise of such power shall always reflect the essential unity of the church.
Powers given to the church by Jesus Christ are not an end in themselves, but are given to edify God’s people, to promote the faith of the church, and to evangelize the whole world to the end that all might know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. [Back]
Article VI: Membership
The classes of membership shall be as follows:
A. Confirmed Members: Those who have been baptized and who have made a public profession of their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and who have been admitted to active membership by the Session are entitled to participate in the governing of the church by voting in meetings of the congregation.
B. Baptized Members: All those whose parent(s) are members in good standing in the congregation are to be considered members of the covenant by right of birth and adoption. As such, they are entitled to pastoral oversight, to instruction, to nurture, and to encouragement to embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior. Such persons are entitled to receive the sacrament of Baptism. Upon reception of that sacrament, they shall be enrolled as Baptized Members.
C. Affiliate Members: Persons separated geographically from their home church because of educational, military, or other reasons, may ask to be received as affiliate members. This affiliation shall be good for one year and may be renewed. Such affiliates shall be given the rights and privileges of confirmed members, including the oversight and concern of the Session, except they may not vote or hold elected office within the congregation. [Back]
Article VII: Meetings
Section 1. Sunday Services – The Church shall meet regularly each Sunday for worship and additionally may meet on any other day(s) the Session chooses.
Section 2. Congregational Meetings – Congregational meetings shall be conducted in accordance with the parliamentary usage as set out in Robert’s Rules of Order insofar as they are in accord with the provisions of these By-laws.
A. Calling a Meeting: The Session may call a congregational meeting when deemed necessary. Also, when at least one fifth of the active membership shall request a meeting, in writing, the Session shall do so without delay.
B. Notice of Meeting: At least two Sundays notice shall be given. The purpose of the meeting must be stated in the call.
C. Agenda of Meeting: Only those matters stated in the call may be presented and handled.
D. Moderator of Meeting: Ordinarily, the Pastor will be the Moderator unless for some reason it is deemed not practical or wise by the Session with the concurrence of the Pastor. In that event, the Session shall appoint one of its members to call the meeting to order and to preside. In case of sickness or temporary absence of the Pastor or when there is no Pastor, the same expedient may be adopted.
E. Quorum for the Meeting: If the congregation numbers less than 100, a quorum shall be one-fifth of the active membership. When membership exceeds 100, a quorum shall be one-tenth of the membership, but not less than 20.
F. Clerk for the Meeting: The Clerk of the Session shall ordinarily serve as Clerk for the congregational meetings. In the absence of the Clerk, the Moderator shall appoint a temporary Clerk. It shall be the duty of the Clerk to keep a record of the proceedings and business transacted. Such records shall be kept in a permanent form. After approval by the moderator of the meeting, the record shall be transmitted to the Session for insertion in the minutes of that body.
G. Eligibility to Vote: Those who are eligible to vote consist of those persons who are active members of the congregation as determined by the Session, and who are present at the meeting. The moderator of the congregational meeting may not vote.
H. Tie Votes: When a matter has been put to the congregation and the vote results in a tie, the moderator shall put the question a second time. If there is still a tie, the matter shall be declared defeated. [Back]
Article VIII: Authority of the Session over Church Membership
The Session shall be responsible for receiving, dismissing, retiring to the inactive roll otherwise determining membership in this church. This authority shall be governed by and limited to the following stipulations:
Section 1. Rolls to be Kept: The Session shall maintain the rolls listed below.
A. Active Roll: This roll shall include confirmed members who have been received in active membership.
B. Baptized Roll: This roll shall include the names of those baptized in the church, and the names of those baptized children of confirmed members received from other churches.
C. Affiliate Roll: This roll shall include the names of those received into affiliate membership.
D. Inactive Roll: This roll shall include confirmed members who have been removed by the Session to this roll.
Section 2. Reception of Persons into Active Membership: Members may be received into active membership in the following manner:
A. By Transfer of Membership: Persons may be received by a transfer of membership from another church recognized as a part of the true Church. The following procedures shall apply:
1. The person(s) shall meet with the Session and request reception. The Session shall be responsible for writing for the letter(s) of membership.
2. The Session may require the person(s) applying for membership to participate in a course of instruction at its discretion.
3. The Session shall satisfy itself with respect to the faith, commitment and intention of continued obedience to God in Jesus Christ of the applicant. Thus, it is appropriate for the Session to ask for testimonials of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a sharing of one’s growth in faith.
4. Persons coming from other churches shall be asked he following questions:
a.) Do you promise to serve Christ in His Church by supporting and participating in this congregation in its service of God and its ministry to others to the best of your ability?
b.) Do you submit yourself to the government and discipline of Christ Community Church, and to the spiritual oversight of the Session, and promise to further the unity, purity and peace of the church?
c.) Do you understand and agree with the Core Values and Distinctives of Christ Community Church and are you committed, as unto God, to honor the Covenant of Membership?
5. The Session may not deny membership for any reason not related to profession of faith and obedience.
6. The Session shall announce to the congregation the names of those received into active membership and they shall be commended to the congregation for their Christian confidence and affection.
B. By Profession of Faith: Persons may be admitted to active membership by the Session upon the profession of their faith.
1. The person(s) shall meet with the Session and indicate readiness to make profession of faith.
2. The Session may provide a suitable course of instruction in faith, worship and mission of this church, as well as instruction for participating in the governing and decision-making life of the congregation.
3. The Session shall satisfy itself that each applicant demonstrate evidence of true commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and determination to live as becomes a follower of Christ.
4. Ordinarily, the person(s) being received on profession of faith shall make that profession in a public service of worship in the presence of the congregation.
5. If not previously baptized, each applicant shall be baptized.
6. The Session shall commend them to the congregation for their Christian confidence and affection.
C. By Reaffirmation of Faith: Persons who have previously made a profession of faith who apply for active membership may be unable to secure a certificate of membership or may wish to reaffirm their faith. In that event, the following procedures shall apply:
1. The person(s) shall meet with the Session and request admission to active membership.
2. The Session may provide a suitable course of instruction and preparation for full participation in the faith, worship and mission of the church as well as instruction for participating in the governing and decision-making life of the congregation.
3. The Session shall satisfy itself with respect to the applicant’s faith, commitment, and intention of obedience to God in Jesus Christ.
4. Ordinarily, the person(s) being received by reaffirmation of faith shall make that reaffirmation in a public service of worship in the presence of the congregation.
5. The Session shall commend such persons to the congregation for their Christian confidence and affection.
6. The Session shall seek to notify in writing the particular churches to which individuals formerly belonged of the reception in active membership.
D. Examination: Persons professing or reaffirming faith shall be asked the following questions. The time having come, such persons who have been approved by the Session shall take their places in the congregation. The minister or moderator of the Session shall state: (“All of you) being present to make a public profession (reaffirmation) of your faith, are to assent to the following declarations and promises, by which you enter into a solemn covenant with Christ and the Church.” Then the officiating person shall address the following or like questions:
1. Do you acknowledge yourselves to be sinners in the sight of God and without hope for your salvation except in His sovereign mercy?
2. Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Savior of sinners, and do you receive and depend upon Him alone for your salvation as He is offered in the Gospel?
3. Do you now promise and resolve, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ?
4. Do you promise to serve Christ in His Church by supporting and participating with this congregation in its service of God and its ministry to others to the best of your ability?
5. Do you submit yourself to the government and discipline of Christ Community Church and to the spiritual oversight of the Session, and do you promise to promote the unity, purity and peace of the church?
6. Do you understand and agree with the Core Values and Distinctives of Christ Community Church and are committed, as unto God, to honor the Covenant of Membership?
When these questions have been answered in the affirmative, and after baptism has been administered, if necessary, the officiating person shall say, “Inasmuch as you have made a profession (reaffirmation) of our faith, and having (been baptized) (received baptism), and having been approved by the Session for active membership, I declare you entitled to all the privileges of this congregation and of the full fellowship of the church, as well as having all the duties and responsibilities incumbent upon those who profess Christ and seek to worship God by service to Him and ministry to others.” After commending the new members to the congregation for their Christian confidence and affection, a brief charge as to the importance of the solemn obligations assumed may be given to the new members and to the congregation and the whole concluded with a benediction.
Section 3. Care of Persons on baptized rolls: All non-confirmed members who receive with meekness and appreciation the oversight and instruction of the church are entitled to special attention. Their rights and privileges under the covenant should be frequently and fully explained, and they should be warned of the sin and danger of neglecting their covenant obligations.
Section 4. The Reception of Affiliate Members: Affiliate members are those believers temporarily residing in locations other than their permanent homes. Such believers may become affiliate members of Christ Community Church without ceasing to be members of their home churches. An affiliate member shall have all the rights and privileges of the church, with the exception of voting in a congregational or corporate meeting, and holding an elected office in the church. The procedure for receiving affiliate members shall be the same as that for receiving members by transfer of membership. An affiliate membership is effective for one year and is renewable.
Section 5. Placing Persons on the Inactive Roll: When placing persons on the inactive roll, the Session should be especially conscious of its role in shepherding those under its charge. Thus, to place a person on the inactive roll not only reflects on the commitments made to Christ by that individual, but it may also reflect on the failure of the Session to be diligent in its pastoral duties. For that reason, certain requirements are placed on the Session before it may place a person on inactive status.
A. If a member fails to participate in the life of the church for a period of one year, that individual may be placed on the inactive roll by act of the Session. However, prior to such action, the Session must earnestly seek to discover the causes of the failure to participate, and seek to encourage the person to resume active involvement in the life of the congregation.
B. When a member changes residence so that it is no longer possible or practical to participate actively in the life of the church, the Session shall encourage that person to establish a relationship to a church where participation is possible. After six months, the Session may then remove that person’s name to the inactive roll. In any event, the Session should notify a church in the area of the member’s residence and suggest that pastoral oversight be given.
C. A person placed on the inactive roll may be restored to the active roll upon request to the Session and when the individual has resumed active participation in the life of the church. The Session shall satisfy itself of the intention of renewed commitment.
D. If a person remains on the inactive roll for a period of at least one year and has not resumed active participation in the life of the church despite the diligent efforts of the Session in its pastoral duties, that individual may be removed from membership of the church upon written notification from the Session.
E. If a Ruling Elder or Deacon who is presently serving shall be placed on the inactive roll, that active officer relationship is automatically dissolved. This fact shall be reported to the congregation by the Session.
Section 6. Limitations of the Church Session: The following limitations are placed on the Session with regard to its authority over members:
A. The request of any member in good standing to be dismissed to any church considered to be part of the Church of Jesus Christ must be honored.
B. Letters of dismissal are always to the governing body of another church.
C. Restoration to active membership may be granted when requested by an inactive member who resumes active participation in the life of the church. The Session shall satisfy itself of the intention of renewed commitment.
D. The request of an inactive member to be dismissed to any church considered to be a part of the true Church must be honored; but the dismissal shall note the inactive status.
E. The request of any member, active or inactive, for a certificate of membership with the view to establishing an affiliate membership shall be honored provided the body with whom application is made is considered to be a part of the true Church. Such affiliate membership is effective for one year and is renewable. The person requesting such an affiliate membership shall be maintained on the roll where currently inscribed.
Section 7. Each year the Session shall review its four rolls, ordinarily at a meeting in February. It shall review its ministry to those on each roll, giving special care to examine its ministry to those on the baptized members roll, and its continuing efforts to restore to active participation those on the inactive roll. [Back]
Article IX: Officers
The Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ, has given three offices to the Church. These are: Ministers of the Word (Teaching Elders, Pastors), Ruling Elders, and Deacons. This church should prayerfully search the Scriptures and choose for officers those ho are best qualified. Teaching and Ruling Elders are known as Presbyters and share in the governing of the church. These offices are not indications of special pre-eminence by those who hold them, but rather indicate a call to service, to ministry to special discipleship and the evidencing of the fruit of the Spirit in every part of life.
Section 1. The Office of Minister: Those who fill this office should, according to the Scripture, have certain qualifications. They should be sound in the faith and have an aptitude for teaching. Their lives should reflect holiness and discipline which brings honor to Christ and which causes them to be well thought of by those outside the church. They should have wisdom and discretion and should have adequate training to equip them for their task.
Section 2. The Office of Ruling Elder: In the Old Testament, the office of Elder was established for the oversight of the church. In the New Testament, this office is continued. Those who fill this office today for governing the church are called Ruling Elders. Chosen by the voting members, these Ruling Elders are to watch over the spiritual welfare of the congregation. The Ruling Elder shares authority with the Teaching Elder in both rights and duties. As a representative of the people, it is the first duty of the Ruling Elder to represent the mind of Christ, as that person understands it.
A. The Life of the Ruling Elder: According to Scripture, those who bear this office should exhibit certain characteristics of life. This includes being blameless in life, sound in the faith, wise in the things of God, and discreet in all things. Persons who fill this office should exhibit a lifestyle that is an example to all, both in and outside the church. The congregation preparing to elect persons to this holy office should carefully study appropriate passages of Scripture relating to the Ruling Elder and be very prayerful in selecting them to this office.
B. The Ruling Elder and the Power of Order: While the power to rule is a joint power, each Ruling Elder also exercises the power of order. This is the power that belongs to the elder by right of ordination. Thus, a Ruling Elder should study and learn the Word and become equipped to teach that Word, even to supplying regular ministry of the Word where none is available. The Ruling Elder should become adept at leading worship and at leading in prayer. As an Under-Shepherd, that person should visit the sick, the bereaved, the lonely , the aged, the shut-in, and all those who have a pastoral need. In cases where there is a special need, the Ruling Elder shall be careful to inform the Pastor. It is especially incumbent upon the Ruling Elder to see to the development of the children of the congregation, to inquire after the inactive members, to encourage new members in spiritual development, and to otherwise show care for those whom they serve. They should be diligent to watch for moral failures and seek to warn, to admonish, and otherwise to reclaim those who stray. In special cases, where it is deemed necessary, such failures should be brought to the attention of the Session for appropriate action of discipline. As the law of love places certain duties upon each Christian, the Ruling Elder is especially bound to fulfill those duties and to be an example to all.
Section 3. The Office of Deacon: The office of Deacon as set forth in Scripture is one of compassion, concern for needs, and of serving others. Therefore, the first duty of the Deacon is sympathy and service. Historically, to this office has been given the duty of being the Church’s instrument for the ministry of compassion. Such duties may include the care, maintenance, and preparation of the church and its facilities. Since the Board of Deacons is under the authority of the Session, to the Deacons both individually and collectively the Session may assign from time to time special duties felt to be appropriate to that office.
A. The Life of the Deacon: According to Scripture, those who bear this office should exhibit especially those spiritual qualities of the Christian, and should be earnest and wholehearted followers of Christ. They should be persons who are steady and reliable, well thought of by all. They should not be new in the faith and should be tested for faithfulness before election. [Back]
Article X: Calling to Office
It is God through the Holy Spirit who call persons to office in the church. This call is confirmed in three ways: first, the inward call to the individual where that person bears testimony that God has called him; second, a confirming call of the congregation to that person to fill that office; third, the approval of that call by the Session.
Section 1. The Call of a Minister: When the church desires to call a minister as Pastor, the procedure shall be as follows:
A. The Session shall call a congregational meeting following the procedures for the purpose of electing a Search Committee. The Session may nominate a Search Committee to the congregation, although the floor must also be open for other nominations. The congregation shall proceed to determine how many persons are to serve and to select them.
B. The Search Committee shall carry on its work in regular consultation with the Session.
C. Upon agreeing on a Minister they feel led of God to nominate, the Search Committee shall secure the consent of the Session.
D. The Session shall call a congregational meeting.
E. When the congregational meeting has been convened, the Search Committee shall make its report and recommendations to call a Pastor. This recommendation shall include the details for remuneration, including all benefits. The congregation shall conduct a counted vote in a fashion it deems appropriate. A majority favoring the recommendation is required to elect a Pastor. The exact vote must be recorded in the minutes and the person being elected notified of the count.
F. The call of the congregation shall be stated in the following or like terms:
Christ Community Church of Wilmington, North Carolina, feeling led by the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit, have covenanted together to call you, ________________, as Pastor (or other office). In issuing this call to you to be our Pastor and spiritual leader, we commit ourselves to support you in every way. We commit ourselves to support you in prayer, in participation in the work of ministry, and in your material needs.
In meeting your material needs, we initially commit ourselves as follows:
1. Annual Salary ________________ (and frequency of payment)
2. Housing or housing allowance ____________
3. Utilities and maintenance ________________
4. Car and expense allowance ______________
5. Retirement program ____________________
6. Medical insurance for you and your family __________________.
7. Annual vacation leave of _________________
8. Others shall be stipulated, such as: study leave (required), book allowance, etc.
We commit ourselves to continue this remuneration as long as you continue as our Pastor (or other). We commit ourselves to review this pledge annually and to adjust it appropriately. In addition, we commit ourselves to paying the expense related to your move.
In testimony whereof we have subscribed our names on behalf of the congregation this ___day of ______ A.D. ____________.
Clerk of Meeting
Moderator of Meeting
Chairman of Search Committee
Section 2. The Call of a Minister as Associate Pastor: The congregation may call a Minister to serve as Associate Pastor and shall proceed in the same fashion as indicated above, with the exception that the call of the congregation shall stipulate the primary responsibilities to be exercised by the Associate. Ordinarily, an Associate Pastor is not eligible to succeed the Pastor. However, should a Search Committee desire to consider an Associate Pastor as Pastor, approval by three-fourths vote of Session shall be required for the Search Committee to proceed.
Section 3. The Call of a Minister as Assistant Pastor: A Minister may be called as Assistant Pastor, however, the call is issued by the Session. The call shall follow the form indicated above (Section 1,F) and shall be for a definite period of time and is renewable. The call shall stipulate the primary responsibilities to be exercised by the Assistant.
Section 4. Temporary Pastoral Relationships: The Session may invite a Minister to preach the Word, administer the Sacraments, and perform needed pastoral duties. The various relations are as follows:
A. Stated Supply: Invited to serve for a definite period of time of no less than one month and no more than twelve.
B. Interim Supply: Invited to serve during the period the congregation is seeking a Pastor.
C. Occasional Supply: Invited to serve on specified days.
Section 5. Dissolution of a Call of a Minister: A Minister (unless a definite period of time is stated in his call) shall serve until removed by the Lord; by two-thirds of all votes cast at a church meeting called for the exclusive purpose of removing the Minister; or by resignation. In the event a church meeting is called for the exclusive purpose of removing the Minister, the Session shall notify all members of the church by mail at least two weeks in advance of the meeting. All members desiring to make a comment or suggestion as concerns the removal of the Minister will do so in writing to Clerk of the Session at least three days in advance of the meeting. When a Minister resigns to accept another call, or for reasons of his own choosing, he shall give the church three months notice in writing of his intention to do so.
The Session may dissolve a call which it has issued to a Minister as Assistant Pastor.
Section 6. The Calling of Ruling Elders and Deacons: When the church desires to call Ruling Elders and Deacons, the following or like procedures shall be followed:
A. The congregation may nominate and elect its Ruling Elder and Deacons by any procedure it desires to establish. Should it be decided that a Nominating Committee be used, the congregation will include among those elected to the committee at least two active Elders, one of whom shall be appointed by the Session as chairman. The Session shall call congregational meetings as needed for this purpose.
B. The congregation shall have the right to determine how many officers it will have, whether or not a system of rotation will be used, and the length of terms if rotation is chosen.
Section 7. Preparation for Ruling Elder and Deacon: Those who serve well must be prepared for such service, and it is the duty of the Session to offer adequate opportunity to those elected to office to prepare them for their ministry.
A. The Session shall confer with each person elected to office to determine if that person feels called to office and is willing to serve faithfully.
B. The Session shall make provision for courses of instruction in the following matters: church government, the Sacraments, the Faith of the church, the Worship of the church, the Discipline of the church, the History of the church, and an understanding of the office to which one is elected. [Back]
Article XI: Examination for Ordination and/or Installation
Prior to approving a Candidate for ordination to the Ministry or as a Ruling Elder or Deacon, it is important for the Session to assure itself of the competency of the individual being ordained to serve. Therefore, certain examinations should be made.
Section 1. The Examination of a Candidate for the Ministry: The Candidate shall be examined on competency in the original languages of Scripture. The Candidate shall be examined in Christian experience of the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ and progress in spiritual growth. Candidate shall be examined in writing and orally in the following areas: Theology and Sacraments, English Bible, the Westminster Standards, the Reformed tradition, and the nature of the office of Minister of the Word. The Session may be assisted in this examination by others whom they regard for their expertise.
Section 2. The Examination of a Candidate for Ruling Elder or Deacon: The Candidate shall be examined on personal experience of the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ and progress in spiritual growth. Each Candidate for ordination shall be examined on the following matters: the Faith of the church, the Sacraments, the Government of the church, the Discipline of the church, the Worship of the church, the History of the church, and an understanding of the office to which one is elected. [Back]
Article XII: Ordination and Installation of Officers
A commission shall be appointed. At a date and time approved by the church Session, a worship service shall be conducted. A sermon suitable to the occasion shall be preached. The person presiding shall recount the conditions necessary for ordination and/or installation, the solemnity of the event, and its importance in the life of the church.
Section 1. The Ordination and Installation of a Minister – The person presiding shall propose the following questions for one being ordained:
A. Do you reaffirm you faith in Jesus Christ as your own personal Lord and Savior?
B. Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, totally trustworthy, fully inspired by the Holy Spirit, the supreme, final, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice?
C. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?
D. Do you promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the essentials of the faith you will on your own initiative make known to the Session the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow?
E. Do you subscribe to the government and discipline of Christ Community Church?
F. Do you promise subjection to your fellow Presbyters in the Lord?
G. Have you been induced, as far as you know your own heart, to seek the office of the holy Ministry from love of God and a sincere desire to promote His glory in the Gospel of His Son?
H. Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in promoting the truths of the Gospel and the purity and peace of the church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account?
I. Will you seek to be faithful and diligent in the exercise of all your duties as a Christian and a Minister of the Gospel, whether personal or relative, private or public; and to endeavor by the grace of God to adorn the profession of the Gospel in your manner of life, and to walk with exemplary piety before the flock of which God shall make you overseer?
J. Are you now willing to take the charge of this church, agreeable to your declaration when accepting their call? And do you, relying upon God for strength, promise to discharge to it the duties of a Pastor?
When the Candidate has responded affirmatively to these questions, the person presiding shall address the following questions to the congregation:
K. Are you, the members of Christ Community Church ready to receive ______________ as your Pastor?
L. Do you promise to submit to ________________ in matters of spiritual discipline, and to receive with humility and love the word of truth?
M. Do you promise to support your Pastor with your prayers, to give encouragement in his work, and to assist him in every way he seeks to instruct you in the things of the Lord and to lead you in the building of the Kingdom of God in this place?
N. Do you recommit yourselves to fulfill the terms of the call you have extended and to make provision for your Pastor’s needs that the name of Christ might be glorified?
When the congregation has responded in the affirmative to these questions, the Candidate shall kneel and the Ruling Elders shall lay hands on the ordinand. A solemn prayer shall be offered suitable to the event and the Candidate shall thereby be set apart to the office of the Gospel Ministry. The Candidate shall be given the right hand of fellowship by Elders present, both Ruling and Teaching, to take part in the office with them. Then the presiding person shall state:
By the authority of Christ Community Church, I declare that ___________________ has been ordained to the Gospel Ministry of this church, and that he has been duly and properly installed as Pastor of this congregation, agreeable to the Word of God and the laws of this church. As such he is entitled to be given support, encouragement, honor, and obedience in the Lord. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
A Minister previously ordained in a church recognized as part of the true Church of the Lord Jesus Christ shall be installed as a Pastor in the same manner except the laying on of hands shall be omitted.
It is appropriate that a charge be given to the Pastor and to the congregation suitable for the occasion. Following the installation it is appropriate that the officers and members of the congregation demonstrate their reception of the Pastor and their commitment to love the Pastor by coming forward and giving the right hand of fellowship.
Section 2. The Ordination and Installation of Ruling Elders and Deacons: The person presiding shall propose the following questions for one being ordained and installed and one who has been ordained previously in some other church and is being installed:
A. Do you reaffirm you faith in Jesus Christ as your own personal Lord and Savior?
B. Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, totally trustworthy, fully inspired by the Holy Spirit, the supreme, final, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice?
C. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?
D. Do you promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the essentials of the faith you will on your own initiative make known to the Session the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow?
E. Do you subscribe to the government and discipline of Christ Community Church?
F. Do you promise subjection to your fellow Presbyters in the Lord?
G. Have you been induced, as far as you know your own heart, to accept the office of _____________ (Ruling Elder, Deacon) from love of God and a sincere desire to promote His glory in the Gospel of His Son?
H. Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in promoting the truths of the Gospel and the purity and peace of the church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account?
I. Will you seek to be faithful and diligent in the exercise of all your duties as _____________ (Ruling Elder, Deacon), whether personal or relative, private or public; and to endeavor by the grace of God to adorn the profession of the Gospel in your manner of life, and to walk with exemplary piety before this congregation of which God shall make you an officer?
J. Are you now willing to take responsibility in the life of this congregation as a _____________ (Ruling Elder, Deacon), and will you seek to discharge your duties, relying upon the Grace of God, in such a way that the entire Church of Jesus Christ will be blessed?
When the Candidate(s) has responded affirmatively to these questions, the person officiating shall address the following question to the congregation:
Do you, the members of Christ Community Church, continue to receive this (these) person(s) as Ruling Elder(s) Deacon(s), and do you continue your promise to yield him/them and all your officers all that honor, encouragement, and obedience in the Lord to which the ordination as an officer entitles him/them, according to the Word of God and the Constitution of Christ Community Church?
When the congregation has responded in the affirmative, the candidate(s) shall kneel (except that a person previously ordained in some other ordination shall not) and the Ruling Elders shall lay hands on the ordinand. A solemn prayer shall be offered suitable to the event and the candidate(s) shall thereby be set apart to the office to which elected. The candidate(s) shall be given the right hand of fellowship to take part in the office with them by the Elders present. Then the presiding person shall state:
By the authority of Christ Community Church, I declare that _____________ has/have been ordained to the office of _____________ (Ruling Elder, Deacon) and has/have been properly installed in that office, agreeable to the Word of God and the laws of this church. As such he is (they are) entitled to be given support, encouragement, honor, and obedience in the Lord. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
It is appropriate that a charge be given to the new officers and to the congregation suitable for the occasion. The Session shall make careful account of the event and inscribe the occasion in its permanent records.
Section 3. The Installation of Ruling Elders and Deacons: The procedure for installing a Ruling Elder or Deacon who has been previously ordained will be the same as that for ordination except that the following question shall be substituted for questions A through G (Section 2): “Do you now reaffirm the vows you took upon your ordination and do you recommit yourself to them in the discharge of your obligations?” Then shall follow questions H through J, (Section 2). [Back]
Article XIII: Organizational Structure
Church government is established for the purpose of exercising spiritual discipline and giving proper order to the church. In the exercise of its jurisdiction, the church has one unchanging limitation. For the Christian, the Scriptures are the ultimate rule of faith and practice. Thus, the church may create no laws that will bind the conscience.
Section 1. The Organizational Units of this Church: Christ Community Church shall have two basic organizational units: The Board of Deacons and the Session.
Section 2. The Session: The entire life of the congregation is under the oversight and supervision of the Session. The Session is composed of the Pastor(s) called by the church and all the Ruling Elders on active Service.
A. Officers: The Pastor shall be the Moderator. An Associate Pastor, at the request of the Pastor and with the consent of the Session, may serve as Moderator for the Pastor. If there is no Pastor, the Session may elect one of its members to serve in that capacity. The Pastor is a full member of the Session and has the privilege of voting. If the Pastor wishes to make motions or otherwise participate in debate, some other member of the Session should serve as Temporary Moderator. The Moderator has the necessary authority to keep order, to expedite business, to convene, recess and adjourn meetings. In an emergency, with due notification to members of Session, the Moderator, in consultation with the Clerk of Session, may change the date, time and place of meeting. The Moderator is responsible for assuring that each meeting is opened and closed with prayer. In addition to the Moderator, the Session shall elect a Clerk.
B. Powers: The Session has authority to establish rules for its own governance as long as they are in conformity with Scripture and the Constitution and By-Laws of this church. Session may apply discipline to its members or those under its charge. It may issue calls to persons to serve in various capacities. Such calls shall always be for a specific period of time not to exceed three years. Such calls shall ordinarily be renewable. Session has authority to organize itself as it deems appropriate for the fulfillment of its duties.
C. Duties: In maintaining the spiritual supervision of the church, the Session has the following duties and powers:
1. To bear witness against error or doctrine that is contrary to Christian faith, both in and out of the church.
2. To monitor the spiritual conduct of the members, and to take action when appropriate.
3. To initiate the ministry of evangelism as the first business of the church, and to seek to lead persons to an acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
4. To remind parents of the responsibility of presenting their children for Baptism, and to provide instruction.
5. To receive members in accordance with Article VII, Section 2.
6. To keep rolls in accordance with Article VII, Section 1.
7. To dismiss, restore, grant affiliation, or remove members in accordance with Article VII, Sections 4,5,6 and 7.
8. To determine the budget of the church and the benevolence objectives of the congregation.
9. To oversee the educational program of the congregation, and to determine its literature.
10. To oversee the work of the Board of Deacons and to review its minutes at least semi-annually unless otherwise provided for by the Session. It is also desirable for the Session to call a joint meeting at least semi-annually to discuss matters of common interest, although each body must act separately on matters under its charge.
11. To fulfill the obligations to those elected to the office of Ruling Elder or Deacon as set forth in Article IX, Section 6 and Article X, Section 2.
12. To oversee the worship of the congregation, including the time and place of worship, special services, the music program, and celebration of the sacraments. This shall not infringe on the responsibility of the Pastor in the selection of hymns, Scriptures, sermon, administration of the sacraments, or other duties that are incumbent on the office of Pastor.
13. To determine policies regarding the use of the property and facilities of the congregation. When there is no pastor, to convene the people for worship on the Lord’s Day, offering prayers, praise, reading the Scriptures and teaching thereof. It is also appropriate for one member to give an exhortation or to read a sermon by some Minister of the Word of the Church.
14. To organize itself for the advancement of the ministry of the church and mission of the congregation.
15. To order special offerings, special days of prayer and fasting, special days of worship and other matters that benefit the spiritual life of the people.
16. To do whatever else may be necessary for the spread of the Gospel, the edification of the members, the well-being of the church, the advancement of the Kingdom, and the growth in grace of all.
D. Session shall meet at least quarterly. It shall meet at the call of the Moderator. When one-fourth of the members make a request in writing for a meeting, the Moderator shall immediately call a meeting. The purpose of the meeting shall be clearly stated. No business other than that stated in the call may be transacted. In the absence of the Pastor, the Session may not meet except in the case of an emergency. In that event, two Ruling Elders must convene the Session and no business may be transacted other than that which precipitated the emergency.
E. Quorum: If there are five or more Ruling Elders, the Pastor and two Ruling Elders shall constitute a quorum. If there is no Pastor, three Ruling Elders shall constitute a quorum. If there are less than five Ruling Elders, the Pastor and one Ruling Elder, or two Ruling Elders if there is no Pastor, shall constitute a quorum. However, the Session may set its own quorum, provided it is not less than the minimum stated above.
F. Minutes: A careful record of the proceedings of the court shall be kept by the Clerk. When the Session has approved the minutes, they shall be signed by the Clerk and the Moderator. The Clerk shall be careful to record deaths, births, adoptions, baptisms, marriages, reception of members, transfers to the inactive roll, dismissals, and other records required regarding members.
Section 3. The Board of Deacons: When membership in Christ Community Church exceeds one hundred (100) confirmed members, the Session may consider recommending to the congregation that a Board of Deacons be established. The Session shall call a congregational meeting following the procedures for the purpose of acting on Session’s recommendation. Until a Board of Deacons is established, the duties that fall to the Board shall be considered as additional duties of the Session.
A. Ordinary Duties: The ordinary duties of the Board of Deacons shall be as follows:
1. To oversee the ministry of compassion of the congregation to the sick, friendless, bereaved, and those in any way distressed.
2. To serve as ushers, to receive the offerings of the people, and to assist in preparing the facilities for the use by the people.
3. The Session may also assign to the Board such duties as stewardship development, property maintenance, disbursement of funds according to an approved budget, and other related matters.
B. Other Duties: The Session may relegate the above duties to itself. It may assign other duties instead of or in addition to the ordinary duties.
C. Officers of the Board: The Board may elect a Moderator for a term of one year, or the Session may appoint a Pastor of the congregation to serve as Moderator. In addition, a Recording Clerk shall be elected for the same period of time. The Board shall elect such other officers as it may determine are needful.
D. Treasurer: Where the responsibility for the finances of the church fall to the Board of Deacons, it shall appoint a Treasurer to handle the financial matters of the congregation. This person may or may not be a Deacon. Where the Session assumes responsibility for financial matters, it shall follow this stipulation, the Treasurer shall report to the appointing body at each stated meeting, keeping a careful record of financial matters. The appointing body shall be responsible for an annual audit of the finances of the church.
E. Meetings: The Board shall meet at least quarterly unless otherwise provided for by the Session. It shall meet at the call of the Moderator, or when ordered to convene by the Session. When requested in writing by one-fourth of the Board, the Chairman shall call a meeting. The purpose shall be clearly stated. No business other than that stated in the call may be transacted.
F. Minutes: A careful record of the meetings shall be kept by the Recording Clerk. The Board must approve its minutes and they shall be signed upon approval by the Moderator and the Recording Clerk. At least once each six months, unless otherwise determined by the Session, the minutes shall be submitted to the Session which has the right to rescind any action of the Board or return it for further Consideration.
G. The Board and the Pastor(s): Though not a voting member of the Board, the Pastor is officially designated an Advisory member. As such, the Pastor(s) is (are) entitled to participate in deliberations, giving advice and wisdom.
H. Quorum: The Board shall determine its own quorum, provided the number is not less than one-third its membership.
I. Assistants to the Board: The Session, upon request of the Board, or at its own discretion, may appoint godly persons from the congregation to assist the Board in its various duties, especially in its ministry of compassion. In addition, the Board or Session may appoint persons from the congregation to assist in the ushering and other duties related to the worship of the church.
Section 4. Trustees: Three trustees, one of whom shall be elected annually to serve for a three year term, or until their successors shall be elected, will hold in trust the property of the church. They shall have no power to buy, sell, mortgage, lease, or transfer any property without a specific vote of the church authorizing each action. It shall be the function of the trustees to affix their signatures to legal documents involving the sale, mortgaging, purchase, or rental of property or to other legal documents where the signatures of trustees are required.
They shall organize the Board of Trustees by electing a president, vice- president, and a secretary.
These officers shall also serve as officers of the corporation. They shall meet at least once a year. Minutes shall be kept and copies given to the Clerk of Session. [Back]
Article XIV: Public Worship of God
The acceptable way of worshiping God is established by God Himself. Proper worship is defined and outlined in God’s revealed will and is to be followed in giving glory to Him. True and proper worship therefore finds its prescription in Holy Scripture. Only God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are to receive such worship. Such worship shall include the reverent and attentive reading of the Scriptures, the sound preaching and conscientious hearing of the Word, and singing of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, the proper administration and right receiving of the sacraments, and prayer with thanksgiving.
Section 1. The Lord’s Day: God has commanded in His Word that all men in every age keep one day in seven holy to Him as a Sabbath. From the beginning of the world up to the period of the Early Church, this Sabbath was the last day of the week. Then as a celebration of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, Christians began to observe the first day of the week. Christ Community Church observes the first day of the week to remember and celebrate the resurrection of Christ as a continuing witness to God’s power over sin and death.
Section 2. Preparing and Gathering for Worship: No Christian should come to the Lord’s Day unprepared. Hearts should be prepared that worshipers might be ready to hear and receive the Word of the Lord. Daily affairs should be taken care of beforehand and the day should be spent in rest, free from the cares and concerns of the ordinary works and words. Thoughts should not be concerned with worldly activities, but should focus on the things of the Lord. Plans should be made to participate in public and private worship. Works should be limited to the duties of necessity and mercy.
A. As the people gather, they should do so in a quiet and reverent manner, remembering beforehand to pray for the minister, for those who gather to worship, for those who are providentially hindered, and for themselves.
B. All should be present at the appointed hour, unite in all the parts of the worship, and depart only when the benediction has been pronounced. The conduct of all should be reverent, and no unbecoming conduct should be practiced.
Section 3. The Order of Common Worship: The people of God have been set free from all forms of bondage, including bondage to rigid rules and regulations for worship. However, the people are to remember to do all things decently and in order that all may participate and God may be glorified. This means that Christ Community Church is not required to follow any predetermined or rigid form of worship. However, it also means that worship should be conducted in such a way that persons are not hindered in their worship and that it not be an offense to God.
A. The Pastor, while advised to consult with the Session, has the duty and responsibility to determine the order, sequence, elements, and proportion of the service that each shall have in public worship. In making those decisions about worship, the Pastor shall be reminded of guidance for worship given in Scripture, the Reformed heritage in which we stand, of the customs, circumstances, and particular needs of the congregation as well as the admonitions and limitations set by this document.
B. All who come to worship should actively participate. The worship should be so designed that there is common participation when all share in the various elements of praise to God. Participation by various members of the congregation is encouraged to demonstrate that worship is a privilege of all and not relegated to a select few.
C. Each time of worship should give expression to the whole Gospel. However, it is also appropriate to give special emphasis to certain times of the church year, wherein the whole life of Christ, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and whole counsel of God is celebrated. Such times, common to the Church Universal, include Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, and Trinity.
Advent, wherein the Church celebrates the promise of the Messiah who was to come and is coming again;
Christmas, wherein the Church celebrates the incarnation of God in Christ;
Epiphany, wherein the Church celebrates the manifestation of Christ to the world;
Lent, ending in Holy Week, wherein the Church observes a time of repentance and humility, of sacrifice and self-denial, as it celebrates the death of Christ upon the cross for the sins of the world;
Easter, wherein the Church celebrates God’ mighty power and promise by the resurrection of His Son from the dead;
Ascension, wherein the Church celebrates the Lordship of Christ from the right hand of God where He also makes intercession for His own;
Pentecost, wherein the Church celebrates the bestowing of the Holy Spirit upon believers, and the gift of spiritual power to equip Christians to live for Jesus under the Lordship of Jesus;
Trinity, wherein the Church celebrates the oneness and fullness of the Godhead, revealed in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
D. It is always appropriate for the Session to set special days for prayer and fasting, for thanksgiving and praise, for remembering our heritage, and for recognizing the civic duties and responsibilities of the people of God.
Section 4. The Word of God in Worship: The ordinary worship of God always includes the reverent and attentive reading of the Scriptures. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence so manifest God in all His power and glory as to leave mankind without excuse, to know God and His will in a way sufficient for salvation necessitates God’s self-revelation made in Holy Scripture. The Scriptures are for the sure establishment of the Church, as well as its comfort, and protects it from the corruption of the flesh, the malice of Satan and the world.
A. Scripture is given by the inspiration of God and is to be the rule of faith and life for all Christians. The authority of the Scriptures, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, does not depend upon any other than God Himself. The full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority of the Scriptures is the inner working of the Holy Spirit in the heart. All that is necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation is clearly evident in Scripture.
B. The supreme Word of God is Jesus Christ, who for the salvation of mankind came and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. He is preeminently revealed in the Scriptures and in order truly know Him the Scriptures must be heard. Thus, the reading of the Scriptures becomes an essential part of worship.
C. Reading of the Word should be done with a sense of awe and reverence. A prayer for illumination prior to reading is appropriate in which prayer is made for a sensitive and open heart to the leading and speaking of the Holy Spirit. Ordinarily the Scriptures in worship should be read by the Pastor, or some other appropriate person who has been invited to do so.
D. The choice of passages and their length to be read from Scripture belongs to the Pastor. Since the whole counsel of God should be heard by the people, care should be exercised to read from both the Old and New Testaments and from all parts of the Word.
Section 5. Sound Preaching of the Word: The ordinary worship of God always includes the sound preaching and conscientious hearing of the Word in obedience to God. Such preaching should always open the Word of God in such a way that the hearer can respond with clear understanding and simple faith. In dealing with matters in which there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture, the Preacher is to remember that the only infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is Scripture itself.
A. Because preaching is closely related to the reading of Scripture, it is appropriate for the sermon to follow closely the reading of the Word and to be based upon it.
B. The supreme work of the Christian minister is the work of preaching. The purpose of preaching is to inform, persuade, and call forth an appropriate response to the God whose message and instruction are being delivered. The words of Scripture are the source and content of preaching. In preaching, exposition is the detailed interpretation, logical amplification and practical application of a passage of Scripture. At its best, expository preaching is the presentation of biblical truth, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, Spirit-guided study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit applies first to the life of the preacher and then through him to the congregation. Ministers are herein to imitate God, and, to their best endeavor, to instruct people in the mysteries of godliness, and to teach them what to believe and practice, and then to stir them up in act and deed, to do what they are instructed to do.
C. Since the reading of Scriptures requires attentiveness and the sermon conscientious hearing, the worshipers have a duty also. As God speaks through the Word as it is read and preached, cutting hearts, giving guidance in the Christian life, building up in the faith, the worshiper has a solemn duty to be open and receptive to God’s revelation. Even as the Preacher is to make proper preparation, so the worshiper is to be prepared in every way to hear and respond.
D. While all of the elements of public worship are important and should not be neglected, no worship is complete without the reading and preaching of the Word. For this reason, the Pastor and Session should be careful to protect the pulpit that the Word be truly preached. No person should be permitted to preach without the invitation of the Pastor and the Session, or the Session if there is no Pastor.
Section 6. Music in Worship: Singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with grace in the heart is a necessary and indispensable part of the common worship of the people of God. The whole congregation is the true choir singing praises and giving glory to God. For this reason, corporate singing is not to be neglected. Emphasis should be given to the content of the hymns that all might sing with understanding.
A. Music is not an end in itself, but should serve the whole purpose of giving glory and praise to God. Where there is a choir auxiliary to the congregation, it should be remembered that it is representing the whole congregation before God and is not performing for the people. For this reason, it is appropriate for the choir to be composed of members of Christ Community Church. Those who participate in a choir inevitably represent a special calling in the life of a congregation and should exhibit a gracious Christian life that brings honor to God. Participants in the choir should have such a character and conduct themselves in such a way that their lives will not be a barrier or hindrance to those who worship.
B. The Minister is responsible for the order for worship, for leading the service, and for determining the parts of worship along with the emphasis given to each. The Minister has final authority over all, including the music. Where there is a music director or other such person working in music, that person shall always consult with the Minister concerning music and worship.
C. Care should be exercised in selecting hymns that both new and old are selected in order that all may rejoice in the Lord, singing and making melody in their hearts. The words of hymns should be appropriate and reflect Reformed theology. It is appropriate to include contemporary hymns that are in keeping with the life of church.
D. The use of various musical instruments in worship is appropriate unless disapproved by the Session. However, it is to be remembered that all music, including instruments, should be aids and not hindrances to or substitutes for congregational participation.
E. As a community of praise, a congregation should ordinarily conclude its worship with a hymn suitable for the occasion prior the benediction.
Section 7. Prayer in Worship: The Minister ordinarily has the duty to lead the people in prayer during times of worship, although from time to time others may be invited to do so. As the Minister prays the people are being represented before God. All the prayers should be offered silently from the hearts of those who listen. In order for prayer to be accepted it must be made in the name of Jesus, by the help of the Holy Spirit, and be made in accordance with the will of God. It is to be made for things that are lawful for God’s people and should be made with understanding, reverence, humility, fervor, faith, love, and perseverance. It should be made in a language that is common to all.
A. In preparing to lead in prayer, the Minister should give as careful attention to preparation for prayer as for preaching. The duty of voicing the prayers of the people is a solemn one and should be performed with the dignity befitting the occasion. The Minister’s own prayer life, the study of the great prayers of the Church, a close acquaintance with Scripture, the reading of devotional classics, all combine to enhance effectiveness as the Minister represents the people before God in prayer.
B. No less than the Minister, the people are to prepare themselves for worship and prayer. During those times when the Minister is leading in prayer, their hearts should give assent to the thoughts that are voiced and their demeanor should be reverent.
C. Those who lead in prayer need not be limited to fixed forms of prayer in worship and the Minister shall determine the emphasis given to the various parts of prayer. However , in the public worship if God the prayers should include adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication, intercession and the communion of saints.
Section 8. The Offerings of the People of God: The acknowledgment that God is the Author of every good gift and that His people are but stewards of His grace should find expression in the offerings of the congregation. In returning to God a proper stewardship of His gifts, the congregation is to be reminded that they are also held accountable not only for a proper stewardship, but for the use of all they have and are. The giving of the people of God in response to His goodness and love should find expression in three principal areas.
A. The Offering of Self: The first duty of the Christian is to offer self to God, heart, mind, body, and soul. Each service may properly include a time for rededication or for commitment. It is always appropriate to present individuals with an opportunity for public response to the proclamation of the Gospel by public profession of faith or reaffirmation.
B. The Offering of Tithes and Gifts: Each worship service should include a time when the community of believers may present their tithes and gifts to God. It is a visible expression of the commitment of believers to the extension of the Gospel, the work of ministry, and the support of the Church of Jesus Christ.
C. The offering of Service to Others: Each service of worship should remind the worshipers of God’s call to service in ministry to others and provide opportunity from time to time for commitment to special service. This may include the announcement of opportunities within the common life of the congregation to serve. Thus, announcements may play an important role and should not be excessive or irrelevant. From time to time it is important to offer opportunity for individuals to make a life commitment to serving others through some form of full-time service. [Back]
Article XV: The Sacraments
In the Gospel only two sacraments are ordained by Christ. They are Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Ordinarily, only a lawfully ordained Minister may administer the sacraments, but such do not act in their own right, rather on behalf of Christ and His Church. In the absence of a lawfully ordained Minister, authority to administer the sacraments may be exercised by Ruling Elders with consent of the Session. This privilege should be exercised only in extraordinary circumstances in which a lawfully ordained Minister is not reasonably available.
Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the Covenant of Grace, representing Christ and all His benefits. They confirm our relationship to Him and represent a visible difference between those who belong to the Church and the rest of the world. There is a spiritual or sacramental relationship in the sacraments between the sign (water and bread and wine) and what is signified. The power revealed in the sacraments does not reside in them or in the one administering them, but is in the work of the Holy Spirit and the promise of God who gives benefits to those who worthily receive them. Thus, the sacraments are powerful and effective in the life of the recipient because of God’s Word which instituted them. For this reason the sacraments should not be neglected or omitted.
Section 1. The Sacrament of Baptism: Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ. By the act of baptism, a person becomes a part of the visible Church, for it is a sign and a seal of the Covenant of Grace for believers and their children. As a sign it proclaims God’s forgiveness and our redemption in Jesus Christ. As a seal, God marks us as adopted children of our heavenly Father. It indicates our in grafting into Christ, our rebirth, the remission of sins, and our ability by the power of the Spirit to walk in newness of life. This sacrament is to be continued by God’s people until the end of the world.
A. Candidates for Baptism: Those eligible to receive this sacrament are those who have professed their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and have promised to be obedient to Him, along with the infants of one or both believing parents. Also, those who have legal responsibility for an infant have the right to present the child for baptism.
B. Method of Baptism: In the sacrament of baptism water is to be used. The method of baptism is not essential and baptism may be administered by either pouring, sprinkling, or immersion.
C. Effectiveness of Baptism: God’s grace and salvation are not inseparably connected to this sacrament. Some who are baptized will be lost and some not baptized will be saved. Nevertheless, it is a great sin to make light of or to neglect this sacrament. A great benefit is lost when baptism is neglected, for God promises to bless His people through this sacrament. The effectiveness of baptism is not tied to the moment it is administered, yet God who keeps His promises confers His grace according to His own will and in His appointed time.
D. Administration of Baptism: The grace received through baptism does not come from the tradition or form of administration, and since it is not dependent upon the devoutness or the intention of the person administering it, baptism should be administered only once.
E. Time and Place of Administration: Since baptism is the act by which a person is solemnly admitted into the visible Church, the regular administration of the sacrament should ordinarily be in the presence of the family of believers. At that time, the benefits and promises should be set forth. The people should be reminded of baptism as a sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace, of our ingrafting into Christ, and of the need to yield to God through Jesus Christ to walk in newness of life. However, if circumstances justify administering the sacrament at a time and place other than public worship, the Minister may judge. In any event, at least one Ruling Elder should be present to represent the congregation and to assume on behalf of the congregation in the baptismal bows. No such private administration should convey the impression of baptismal regeneration or its necessity for salvation, and those present are to be reminded that baptism is not inseparably connected with God’s grace and salvation.
F. Baptism for Adults: When a person who was not baptized as an infant desires to profess faith in Christ and be engrafted in to His Body, being admitted into the visible Church, the sacrament of baptism shall be received.
1. Proper Instruction: Those persons desiring to be baptized shall receive necessary instruction concerning the meaning of the sacrament, the obligations of church membership, the need to live by faith, to walk in holiness and righteousness, and to act in brotherly love toward those who have been baptized by the same Spirit into the same Body. The Session shall authorize the baptism of the petitioner only when it is fully satisfied as to that person’s full intention to be obedient to Christ and a profession of faith has been made.
2. Minister’s Duty: The Minister shall remind those present of the meaning of the sacrament as a sign and seal of engrafting, remission of sin, regeneration by the Spirit, adoption, and resurrection to everlasting life. All should be reminded to be thankful for their own baptism with its benefits and privileges, to be humble because of sin and walking contrary to the grace given us, ant to draw strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we were baptized.
3. Recipient’s Duty: Prior to baptism, the recipient shall make affirmative response in professing faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, affirming intention to walk in newness of life as one of those who have given their names to Christ. The recipient shall further affirm faithfulness and support of the Church and of Christ Community Church.
4. Congregation’s Role: In receiving a person into its fellowship and in acknowledging that person to be a part of the covenant community, the congregation assumes responsibilities toward that person. As Christ commanded His Church to baptize and teach, the congregation shall affirm its duty and commitment to the recipient by public vow. The following or like vow shall be proposed to the congregation by the Minister:
Do you, the members of Christ Community Church, and in the name of the visible Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, take responsibility for the continued Christian nurture of ________________, promising to set a godly example by your own life, and to pray for ________________ in this new life of faith?
5. The Administration of the Sacrament: After asking God’s blessings to attend the sacrament, the Minister shall administer baptism. This shall be done with water, either by pouring, sprinkling or immersion and without other ceremony, during which the Minister shall say, “___________________ , I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” After a brief prayer for the effectual working of the spirit in the life of the recipient, the Minister shall declare that person to be received into the fellowship of Christ’s Church and into membership in Christ Community Church, along with the right to partake of the Lord’s Supper and the privilege of sharing in the mission and governance of the church. It is appropriate that a charge be given and that the event be concluded with a promise of the blessing of God.
G. Infant Baptism: Believing parents are encouraged to present their children for the sacrament of baptism, which should not be unnecessarily delayed. Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the Covenant of Grace and in part confirm our position with and in Christ and demonstrate to the world the visible difference between it and those who belong to the Church. The baptism of an infant requires a two-fold affirmation, one by the parents and one by the covenant community. The parents are to take vows indicating their commitment to bring the child up in the faith and in the loving discipline of the Lord. The congregation also takes a vow indicating its commitment and duty to provide nurture, support, and a godly example in assuming with the parents the spiritual oversight of the child. Parents and congregation together are to encourage growth in grace until the child, having become of age, claims Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior.
1. Who May Present Children: The infants of one or both believing parents, or of a believer who exercises the authority of a parent, are eligible to receive the sacrament of baptism. Ordinarily this privilege is limited to those active members of Christ Community Church. At its discretion, the Session may authorize those on the inactive roll to present infants for baptism. It may also require evidence of the intent of the petitioner(s) to follow the vows to be taken by meeting the requirements for restoration to the active roll. Further, the Session may grant permission to believers who are not members to present infants for baptism, provided such persons are members in good standing in some true branch of the visible Church. In such cases, the Session shall be careful to notify the governing body of the particular church in which those believers hold membership, of the baptism of the infant. Ordinarily the Session shall authorize and approve the baptism of infants, except in such cases as the Minister may deem inexpedient. In that case the Minister shall report the baptism to the Session. All baptism shall be recorded in the permanent record of the Session.
2. Instruction of Parents: It is the duty of the Session and Minister to offer instruction to parents concerning the nature and meaning of the sacrament, the obligations assumed, and the role the congregation plays with the parents in the spiritual nurture and growth of the child.
3. Use of Godparents: Christ Community Church does not recognize godparents since the members of the congregation assume with the parents responsibility for the spiritual life of the child. However, it is permitted to have persons who might become the responsible parental authority for the child to assume the vows of obligation with the parents. In such a case, the persons participating with the parents should have the same qualifications for membership in the visible Church.
4. The Obligation of the Minister: The Minister shall be careful to remind the congregation of the meaning and nature of baptism. They should be reminded to remember the significance of their own baptism, the benefits and privileges of it, being humbled for failures contrary to the grace of baptism, and to remind all believers of the need for recommitment to their endeavor to live by faith. It is appropriate to restate that faith by confessing some appropriate symbol of the faith such as the Nicene Creed or the Apostle’s Creed.
5. The Obligation of the Parents: The parents or other responsible person shall assume vows of duty and obligation. This shall be done by responding affirmatively to the following or like questions:
Do you acknowledge _________________’ s need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, and the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit?
Do you claim God’s covenant promises and benefits for ______________ and by faith do you look to the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of your child as you do your own?
Do you now unreservedly dedicate your child to God, and do you promise by relying on God’s power and grace through the Holy spirit to live an exemplary life before your child?
Do you commit yourself to pray with and for your child, to teach your child the Scriptures and the great articles of our faith in Jesus Christ?
Do you promise to use every means provided by God, including faithful participation in the life of the church, to bring your child up in the loving discipline of the Lord?
6. The Obligation of the Congregation: The congregation is to assume with the parents, responsibility for the spiritual nurture and development of the child. The Minister shall propose the following or like questions:
Do you, the members of Christ Community Church, acting for yourselves and in behalf of the whole Body of Christ, assume responsibility with these parents for the spiritual nurture of this child?
Do you commit yourself to set a godly example before this child, to provide as far as you are able, all that is necessary to the end that this child may one day confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord?
7. Administration of the Sacrament: The Minister shall set apart the water from all common uses to this holy use and mystery and pray for a blessing upon the ordinance. Then the Minister shall use the following or like formula without adding any other ceremony and shall baptize the child with, saying: “________________________ , child of the covenant, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” The ordinance is to be concluded by a prayer in which God’s blessings are asked upon the child, upon all the children of the congregation, and for faithfulness to the vows the people have taken.
8. The Continuing Obligation of the Session: It is the duty of the Session to record each baptism in its permanent records and to inscribe the name of the child on the baptized roll. It is the continuing obligation of the Session to watch over the children of the congregation, to provide for that spiritual nurture necessary to grow in grace, and to provide opportunities, such as a communicants’ class, where the children of the congregation may come to profess their faith and be prepared to assume the obligations and privileges of full participation in the life of the congregation.
Section 2. The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper: The Lord’s Supper was instituted by Jesus on the night of His betrayal. It is to be celebrated until the end of the world as a perpetual remembrance of what He did for mankind on the cross. The Lord’s Supper is a seal of all those benefits of Calvary for believers, and signifies their spiritual growth and nourishment. It is a bond and pledge of the communion of believers with Jesus Christ and with each other as parts of the Church.
A. A Commemoration: This sacrament is in no way a re-offering of Christ nor a sacrifice. It commemorates Christ’s once for all offering of Himself, and in celebrating the sacrament the people offer praise to God for what has already been done.
B. Nature of the Elements: While sometimes called by the name of what they represent, the body and blood of Christ, yet they retain the essential nature of bread and wine. While the elements are to be set apart for the use ordained of Christ, this sacramental use gives no special quality to the physical elements. Christ is spiritually present in the elements and is discerned by the faith of the believer.
C. Different Names for the Sacrament: Historically Christians have used different names to describe the Lord’s Supper. However, these names all signify the same sacrament. In addition to being called the Lord’s Supper, it is called the Breaking of the Bread, Holy Communion, and the Eucharist (thanksgiving).
D. The Significance of the Sacrament: Worthy receivers by faith spiritually receive Christ crucified into their hearts and receive the benefits of His death on their behalf. In that sense, the sacrament conveys what it signifies when it is received by faith. Those who unworthily receive the sacrament, do not receive what is signified. Rather, they are guilty of the body and blood of Jesus and condemn themselves. For this reason, the Session should be careful to refuse the Lord’s Supper to those who are ignorant of its meaning or who are ungodly.
E. The Frequency of Commemoration: The Session is responsible for determining the frequency of celebration. It is proper to observe it as often as each Lord’s Day, but it should be observed at least quarterly. The Session should exercise care that the sacrament be not neglected.
F. The Place of Commemoration: The Lord’s Supper is a part of the worship of God’s people. For that reason it should be celebrated ordinarily as a part of a regular service of worship. The observance of the sacrament should always be in conjunction with the reading and preaching of the Word, with prayers of the people accompanied with hymns of praise.
G. Special Times of Commemoration: When requested, the Session may authorize the Lord’s Supper to be celebrated with those who are ill. At least one member of the Session should be present on such occasions. The Minister shall be careful to give some brief explanation of the meaning of the sacrament. Also, the Session may authorize the celebration of the sacrament at a time and place other than the ordinary place of worship on the Lord’s Day, provided that the Session is represented.
H. Preparation for Commemoration: The Session should give at least one week’s notice prior to the celebration of the sacrament. It is always appropriate for the Session to provide instruction in the nature and meaning of the sacrament and to solemnly warn those who are not spiritually prepared. The people are to prepare themselves by the examination of their inner spiritual life, of their present relationship to Christ, to confess and repent of known sins, to forgive those who have offended them, to pray earnestly for the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit, and to draw near with a true heart in the full assurance of faith.
I. Invitation to Partake: the Minister shall invite to partake all true believers in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, including those from other congregations that are a part of the true Church. All should be reminded of the need to trust in Jesus Christ as Lord, to repent of sin, and to covenant once more to live as followers of Jesus. Those who are ignorant in their knowledge of Christ or who are living ungodly and unrepentant lives should be warned of the serious consequences for those who unworthily partake. Baptized children may be admitted to the Lord’s Table provided they have appeared before the Session and professed their faith in a manner acceptable to the Session. At its discretion, the Session may admit such persons to full membership.
J. The Bread and the Wine: Adequate preparation should be made of the elements to be served. It is appropriate for a large piece of bread to be made ready for breaking by the Minister and a cup with pouring vessel for the pouring of the wine during the commemoration. The bread and wine may be placed on a table and covered with a fine white cloth, or they may be brought forward and placed on the table when the time of celebration comes.
K. The Commemoration: The time of celebration having come, the Minister shall proceed in the following or like manner:
1. The words of institution shall be read, either from the Gospels or from I Corinthians 11.
2. The bread and wine shall be blessed and be set apart from ordinary use to holy use and mystery.
3. The bread is to be broken before the people as a visible demonstration of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross. The Minister may say: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread, and when he had blessed and broken it, He gave it to His disciples, as I give this bread to you in His name, saying, ‘Take, eat; this my body, which is given for you; this do in remembrance of me.’” (Distribution of the element) Then the Minister may pour the wine into the cup, or if not possible, to hold up a cup, and say: “After the same manner our Savior took the cup, and having given thanks as has been done in His name, He gave it to His disciples saying, ‘This cup is the New Covenant in my blood, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins: all of you drink of it.’ ” (Distribution of the element.)
L. Distributing the Elements: It is proper for the people to gather at the table, but ordinarily the Ruling Elders (or others appointed by the Session) shall distribute the elements to the worshipers. The Session may appoint godly people to distribute the elements when there are no Ruling Elders available.
M. The Conclusion of the Commemoration: Following a time for private prayer and self-examination the service may conclude with a hymn of praise and thanksgiving and the people dismissed with a benediction. Following the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, as an act of gratitude to God and renewed love for others, it is always appropriate to receive a special offering for the poor or for some other worthy cause. Such offerings should be ordered only by the Session. [Back]
Article XVI: Worship of God at Other Times
The principal time of worship for the people of God is the Sabbath, or the Lord’s Day, when the resurrection of Christ is celebrated and commemorated. However, the Session has the right and duty to assemble the people for worship on other days and at other times. The Session may order such assemblies at regular times or for the celebration of special events. At such special times of worship, the ordinary parts of worship will normally be observed, although the Session may call for special emphasis on matters of particular concern.
Section 1. Days of Prayer and Fasting: The Lord Jesus Christ set the example for God’s people in a time of fasting. Throughout the New Testament there is frequent indication that Christians in the early Church practiced fasting. Therefore, the church will do well in its spiritual life if it follows this example. The Session should be diligent and sensitive to those times when such a special day is called for and should be eager to order such an event. Christians individually and in particular families should observe special days when fasting is practiced.
A. When called by the Session: When the Session calls a day of prayer and fasting, the purpose of the occasion should be announced and adequate time given in order that members may prepare themselves. It is appropriate on such occasions for services of public worship to be conducted during the day set aside. All the members under the authority of the Session should make diligent effort to conscientiously participate in the day set aside.
B. Private or Family Observance of a Day of Prayer and Fasting: It is entirely proper for individuals or for particular families to enter into a day of prayer and fasting. Christians should exercise such an option with some regularity as an offering to God and as a reminder of total dependency upon God for all one has and is.
Section 2. Days of Thanksgiving: A joyful and grateful heart is pleasing to the Lord and brings glory to Him. Because of God’s infinite love, His providential care, and His continued working in the affairs of His people, it is appropriate to observe special times of praise and thanksgiving. During such times there shall be special services of worship, times of prayer, and the lifting of the hearts to God by all His people. Such occasions shall be ordered by the Session.
Section 3. Individual Worship: It is incumbent upon each Christian to develop the practice of daily worship of God. Such a time should include prayer, reading of the Scriptures, examination of one’s inner spiritual life, and serious meditation. The individual Christian should strive to improve knowledge of faith and of the Church by reading and studying the documents of faith of the Church, by learning its Government and worship, as well as its history.
Section 4. Family Worship: Each individual family should worship together. Such times, done regularly and faithfully, should include the reading together of God’s Word, at times of prayer, times of sharing with one another God’s working in individual hearts, and times of doing together the things of the Lord. It is always appropriate for a family to sing together in praise of God’s goodness and mercy. Families ordinarily should worship together in the public worship of God in the congregation. [Back]
Article XVII: Christian Marriage
While marriage is not a sacrament to the Church, it is ordained of God and intended to last as long as the couple shall live. God has designed marriage for the mutual help of husband and wife and for the development of their moral and spiritual character, and for the propagation of children who are to be reared in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Section 1. Who should Marry: A man and a woman who are able to give their consent may marry unless their blood relationship is forbidden by Scripture. The partners should share a common Christian faith and a common intention to build a Christian home. Christians would be wise to seek as partners those who share a common faith and heritage.
Section 2. The Church’s Role in Marriage: Marriage ordinarily should be performed in the place of common worship by an ordained Minister of the Church, and with the family of faith present. In approving the marriage, the Church affirms the divine institution of marriage and invokes God’s blessings upon those who enter the relationship according to God’s Word. As the Church hears the vows a couple make to one another, it should assure the couple of God’s grace within their new relationship.
Section 3. The Remarriage of Divorced Persons: It is the divine intention that persons entering the marriage covenant become inseparably united, thus allowing for no dissolution save that caused by death of either husband or wife. However, the weaknesses of one or both partners may lead to gross and persistent denial of the marriage vows, yet only in cases of extreme, unrepentant, and irremediable unfaithfulness (physical or spiritual) should separation or divorce be considered. The remarriage of divorced persons may be sanctioned by the church, in keeping with the redemptive Gospel of Jesus Christ, when sufficient penitence for sin and failure is evident, and a firm posture of an endeavor after Christian marriage is manifested. Divorced persons should give prayerful thought to discover if God’s vocation for them is to remain unmarried, since one failure in this realm raises serious questions as to the rightness and wisdom of undertaking another union. If the Minister has any questions about the readiness of divorced persons to remarry according to these principles, the Session should be consulted and its concurrence sought.
Section 4. The Minister’s Role in Marriage: It is the duty of the Minister to consult with the couple contemplating marriage. They should be given godly advice concerning the establishment of a Christian Home, as well as instruction in the meaning of marriage in God’s sight, and the Biblical teachings of the roles, duties, and relationships within the home. The Minister should give such other counsel which seems needful, wise, and helpful that the couple may be well-prepared for their new estate in marriage. Should the Minister be convinced that genuine faith is absent, that full responsibility for one another is missing, and that the blessings of God are not likely to rest upon such a relationship, the marriage ceremony should not be performed. It is the duty of the Minister to meet all civil requirements in performing and properly registering the marriage. In addition, the Minister shall report the marriage to the Session which shall record it in its permanent records. It is wise for a Minister to keep a personal record of marriages which includes the names, the dates, the place, and the civil body issuing the authority to marry.
Section 5. The Service of Christian Marriage: The marriage ceremony is an act of worship. For that reason, it is under the direction of the Minister only and shall always be characterized by reverence throughout. Music should be appropriate to the occasion and the Session or the Minister may determine what music is acceptable. Appropriate hymns sung by all are always proper. The decorations and all appointments should not be ostentatious or so call attention to themselves as to distract the worshipers from their duty to God on such a solemn occasion. The service itself should be conducted with dignity and reverence, beginning with prayers for the new home being established and for the members of the new family. Vows shall be exchanged, appropriate Scriptures read, and a charge may be given which sets forth both the duties and privileges of marriage. The Minister shall conclude the ceremony by publicly declaring that the couple is now husband and wife and benediction shall be pronounced.
Section 6. The Blessing of a Civil Marriage: Persons who have been married by a civil authority may desire to have that marriage blessed by a service in the church, performed by a Minister of the Gospel. It is proper to perform such services, provided all the conditions for a couple preparing for marriage are observed. A marriage should never be sanctioned that does not meet the criteria laid down herein. [Back]
Article XVIII: Christian Burial of the Dead
Above all, a Christian burial should be a witness to the faith of the believers, to their confidence in the resurrection of the body and everlasting life. It is a time of worship in which glory is given to God for His care of the bereaved, for His trustworthy providence, and for the hope God’s people have in Jesus Christ. The focus of the burial service is God who has raised Jesus Christ from the dead and given believers an earnest appreciation of their own resurrection. It is a time for the reaffirmation of the Church’s faith and a time for expressing joy in the assurance of eternal life.
Section 1. The Place of Worship: Ordinarily a service of burial should be conducted in the place of common worship. As this is the place for baptism and marriage, it is also the place where witness to faith in the resurrection is made.
Section 2. The Parts of Worship: A burial service , which shall be entirely under the control of the Minister, should include the reading of appropriate passages of Scripture, from both the Old and New Testament; it should include an exposition of some passage by the Minister, prayers of thanksgiving for the life of the deceased and prayers of intercession for the bereaved, the singing of appropriate hymns, and a reminder to all of death for every person and judgment to come, along with a solemn reminder that each must repent and turn to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to gain eternal life. It is not appropriate to include a civic or fraternal rite in this service.
Section 3. The Casket of the Deceased: It is not necessary for the casket to be present for the worship service. It should not be open if present. Decorations and ostentatious display of flowers should be avoided. It is permissible for Christians to dispose of bodies by burial, cremation, or donation for scientific purposes.
Section 4. The Committal: Ordinarily the committal should be reserved for the immediate family and close friends. It may be performed either before or after the worship service. It should consist of a few selected passages of Scripture, a brief prayer of thanksgiving for the life of the deceased, a committing of the body to its place of rest, and a committing of the soul to God, concluding all with a benediction. [Back]
Article XIX: Service to God
In giving glory to God through worship, both the individual and the community of faith as a whole also give glory to God by serving Him in ministry to others. The first duty of Christians is to give glory to God and to share with others the mighty deeds of God for our salvation. However, the necessary and inevitable consequence of faith and love is to care for others. Such ministries of compassion and concern for the well-being of others are not the Gospel, although they may embody the Gospel and convey the Gospel in a real way. Service to others is the fruit of the Gospel, the result in the lives of believers of the Gospel, who, in doing even unto the least, do it as unto Christ. It is to be remembered that good deeds done for others that do not include the sharing of what God has done in Jesus Christ are inadequate and incomplete. Until the Christian and the church have shared the Good News of salvation, they have not shared their best gift. However, to share the Good News and fail to show concern and compassion for others’ needs is to present an incomplete Gospel and may cause people to call in question the Good News itself. Faith and works are inseparably linked and are incomplete without one another.
Section 1. The service of Evangelism: The first task of the Church is to share the Gospel of Salvation with all the nations of the world. This is the task of every Christian, every particular church, and the whole Church. The church should encourage, train and lead those under its jurisdiction in the service of evangelism.
Section 2. The Service of Teaching: Jesus commanded that Christians not only go into the world to make converts, but that those converts should be taught. Therefore, it is the duty of Christians and the church to disciple those who believe. This duty falls to the Session. The basic study material is always the Bible, along with the confessional documents of the church.
A. Duty in the Home: It is the obligation of Christian parents to bring their children up in the nurture and instruction in the Lord. When parents present children for baptism, they take a vow to that end. Diligence should be exercised in fulfilling this obligation.
B. Duty in the Church: It is the obligation of the Session to offer a program of education and nurture to the believers. This includes adequate educational facilities, properly trained teachers, and materials that reflect the history, heritage, faith and practice of the church. Such teachers should be active members of the congregation and approved by the Session. The Session may secure full-time personnel to oversee the educational program under the supervision of the Pastor. The Session should seek to extend its teaching ministry by searching for opportunity to establish mission church schools in places that are destitute of the Gospel and training in the faith.
Section 3. The Service of Giving: The giving of God’s people is an acknowledgement that He is the Author of every good and perfect gift and that they are but stewards of His grace. God’s people are reminded that they are held accountable not only for a proper stewardship of God’s gifts in terms of tithes and offerings, but for the proper use of all they have and are. This giving of the people finds expression in three principal areas of the offering of self, the offering of tithes and gifts, and the offering of service to others.
A. The Giving of Self: The Christian is one who offers his heart and life totally to God. This self-giving is never complete, for each person must continue to offer self to recurrence and recommitment.
B. The Giving of Tithes and Gifts: Nowhere does the Bible mention less than a tithe as a proper stewardship for the Christian. Christ Community Church believes in the tithe and teaches it as the minimum requirement for the believer. Gifts to the Lord are those contributions made over and above the tithe. Such giving should be done regularly and systematically.
C. The Giving of Service to Others: The teaching of Christ is that in service and ministry to others God’s people are honoring and serving Him. Therefore, it is incumbent upon believers to serve others and to minister to their needs.
1. The Individual Believer: Each Christian is to seek opportunity to serve. This may be special service in the church, where each person should exercise the gifts God has given for the common good. Such service may include involvement in the agencies of the community which minister to the needs of people. It especially includes Christians in their daily work. The Scriptures teach that God calls every person to some vocation and whatever that task, the individual is to serve as unto the Lord. For that reason, each Christian in daily tasks is to seek to serve God as a good steward. In leisure time, with friends and neighbors, the Christian is to seek to show love and compassion and to exhibit before the world what it means to belong to Jesus Christ.
2. The Church: The congregation is to serve others as a witness to the world of God’s love for all people. The Session must judge how best to exemplify this love to the community and each situation, but the congregation as a whole must be given ways to collectively show their care and concern.
D. The Service of Compassion: The New Testament describes the concern and compassion of Christ for the conditions of people. The Church shall emulate its Head by showing special concern for the sick, the sorrowing, to hungry and the poor. The Session shall be responsible not only for establishing ministries to such within the congregation, but into the community as well. The service of compassion to those in adversity shall include such places as hospitals, retirement homes, convalescent homes, children’s homes, orphanages, prisons, and other public institutions. [Back]
Article XX: Discipline
Discipline is the exercise of authority given the church by the Lord Jesus Christ to instruct and guide its members and their children and to promote its purity and welfare. The term has two senses: the one referring to the whole government, inspection, training, guardianship and control which the church maintains with respect to its members, its officers, and its courts; the other a restricted and technical sense signifying ecclesiastical judicial procedures.
The word “discipline,” when used in the rest of this Article, shall be deemed to refer to ecclesiastical judicial procedures unless the context demands otherwise.
Section 1. Ecclesiastical Judicial Procedures: Not everything displeasing to God is a ground for ecclesiastical judicial procedures. Offenses which require discipline are three kinds: Heresy, which consists of holding beliefs, doctrines, or practices contrary to the Scriptures and condemned in the subordinate standards; Immorality; and Contempt for the established order of the church.
In the case of misunderstandings and disputes which are not offenses requiring discipline, the church or its members or officers may attempt to assist in achieving reconciliation or other resolution, but shall have no obligation to do so.
No Minister should be shielded from discipline or lightly sanctioned on account of his office. Neither should actions for serious charges be received against him on slight grounds.
A. Persons Subject to Discipline: All active and inactive members of the church, confirmed, baptized, and affiliate, are entitled and subject to the benefits of discipline.
B. Purpose of Discipline: The exercise of discipline is highly important and necessary. The purpose of discipline is to maintain the honor of God, to restore the sinner, and to remove offense from the church. Ministers must instruct the officers and congregation in discipline and jointly practice it in the context of the congregation.
C. Basis of Discipline: Scriptural law is the basis of all ecclesiastical discipline because it is the revelation of God’s holy will. Proper disciplinary principles are set forth in the Scriptures and must be followed. According to Matthew 18:15 and Galatians 6:1, these principles include instruction in the Word and the individuals responsibility to admonish one another.
1. If the initial admonition is rejected, then one or more witnesses must be called (Matthew 18:16). If rejection persists, then the church must act in proper order for the exercise of discipline.
2. No charge involving a personal offense will be received unless the offended person alleges and proves to the Session evidence demonstrating that he has followed the procedures required under Matthew 18:15 and Galatians 6:1.
3. If anyone knows a Minister to be guilty of a private offense, he should warn him in private. But if the offense be persisted in, or become public, he should bring the case to the attention of a Ruling Elder.
D. Definition of “Heresy”: Heresy is the express or implied denial of one or more of the essential doctrines of Christianity, openly taught and obstinately maintained.
E. Definition of “Immorality”: Immorality is conduct inconsistent with the Biblical standards for conduct, including but not limited to bickering, brawling, debauchery, drunkenness, gossiping, hatred, idolatry, impurity, slander, and sexual immorality such as adultery, fornication, homosexual practice, and bestiality. The terms “bickering” and “gossiping” as used herein are intended to deal with those acts that are disruptive to the peace and unity of the church.
F. Definition of “Contempt”: Contempt is willful conduct done in deliberate disrespect of the Session, the constitutional documents of the church, or the officers of the church acting in their official capacities.
G. Definition of “Jurisdiction”: Jurisdiction is the authority of the Session to render a decision. The Session must have jurisdiction over both the individual accused and the subject matter of the charge before it can issue an indictment or render a decision.
Section 2. Retention of Authority over Church Property and Ministries: While possessing no civil authority over any person, this church does retain authority over its property and ministries. In providing a secure and nurturing atmosphere for worship and spiritual growth, the church retains the right to exclude anyone from its property, services or ministries on such terms and conditions as it may desire. Thus, for example, the church may require certain standards before permitting adults to teach Sunday School, lead ministries, or otherwise participate in the life and ministry of the church.
Section 3. Jurisdiction: In cases of jurisdiction, the following rules apply:
A. The Session: The Session has jurisdiction in every disciplinary case involving members of the church.
B. Transfer of Membership: A member of this church whose membership is being transferred shall remain under the jurisdiction until received by the new church.
C. Termination of Jurisdiction: Jurisdiction in judicial cases ends upon receipt of written notice of renunciation by the Clerk of Session. In the event an individual orally renounces jurisdiction, this fact shall be confirmed by letter from the Session acknowledging that renunciation. The letter shall be delivered in person or by form of mail requiring a written receipt. If the Session receives no written response within ten days, the acknowledgment of renunciation of jurisdiction shall be deemed final.
1. In such instances, a case already begun may be concluded only with the permission of the accused.
2. A “Renunciation of Jurisdiction” shall have the effect of terminating membership in the church and shall immediately dissolve the relationship of Ruling Elder, Deacon, or Minister.
Section 4. Offenses: Nothing ought to be considered by the Session as an offense, or admitted as a matter of accusation, which cannot be proved to be such from Scripture. The Westminster Confession of Faith, with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms and this Constitution and Bylaws are the standards adopted by this church as expositions of the teachings of Scripture in relation to faith and practice.
A. Personal and General Offenses: A personal offense is an offense as defined above in a way of wrong done to some particular person or persons, including one’s self. A general offense is a offense as defined above, but not directed against any particular person.
B. Private and Public Offenses: Private offenses are those known only to an individual or at most only to a few persons. Public offenses are those which are known to more than a few persons.
C. Preliminary Sanctions: When it is impracticable to commence an action against an accused church member, the Session may, if it thinks the edification of the church requires it, exclude the accused from the sacraments until the charges against him or her can be examined.
Section 5. Actions for Discipline: An action for discipline shall commence when a person files a written charge with the Clerk of Session or when the Session determines that a charge is in order and there is a strong presumption of the guilt of the accused.
A. Limitation on Actions: An action for discipline must be commenced within three years after the acts constituting the offense were committed, unless the acts were unknown and were not reasonably knowable by the offended person or the Session. In the event that the offended person is under the age of 18, the action for discipline must be commenced before that person’s twenty-first birthday.
B. Preliminary Investigation: After an action is commenced by a person, the Session shall commence a preliminary investigation. After the preliminary investigation is concluded, the Session shall make a determination whether or not there is a strong presumption of the guilt of the accused.
C. Strong Presumption of Guilt: In the event of a determination of a strong presumption of the guilt of the accused, the court shall appoint a prosecutor, who shall prepare an indictment and proceed to trial in accordance with Sections 6 through 9.
D. Trial: The Session shall conduct a trial in accordance with Sections 8 and 9.
E. Decision: The Session shall render its decision in accordance with Section 10.
Section 6. Procedures in Actions for Discipline: It is the duty of the Session to exercise care over those subject to their authority. They shall, with care and discretion, investigate reports concerning alleged offenses which require discipline. This duty is imperative when a person claiming to be aggrieved by an offense shall request an investigation in writing. No investigation shall be commenced unless there is a written request. The Session, however, may investigate personal offenses requiring discipline when they become known to members of the Session.
A. Appointment of a Prosecutor: If an investigation should result in raising a strong presumption of guilt of the party accused, the Session shall institute an ecclesiastical judicial procedure, and shall appoint a prosecutor to prepare an indictment and to prosecute the case. The prosecutor shall be a member of Christ Community Church.
B. Parties in a Case: The original and only parties in a case of ecclesiastical judicial procedure are the accuser and the accused. The accuser is always Christ Community Church, whose honor and purity are to be maintained. The prosecutor is always the representative of the church.
C. Private Reconciliation: When the prosecution is instituted by the Session, the steps required by Article XIX, Section 1C in the case of personal offenses are not necessary. There are many cases, however, in which it will be advisable to send a committee to converse in a private manner with the accused and endeavor to bring him to a sense of repentance, before instituting actual ecclesiastical judicial procedures. The Committee may then make recommendations to the court concerning further prosecution of the case.
D. Biased Accusations and Testimony: Great caution should be exercised by the Session in receiving accusations and testimony from any person:
1. Who is known to hold a malignant spirit against the accused,
2. Who is not of good character,
3. Who is under sanction or who is the subject of an action for ecclesiastical judicial procedures,
4. Who is deeply interested in any respect in the conviction of the accused, or
5. Who is known to be litigious, contentious, rash or highly imprudent.
E. Suspension of Official Functions: When an action for discipline has been commenced against a member of the Session, any or all of his official functions may be suspended at the Session’s discretion, but this shall never be done in the way of sanction.
Section 7. General Provisions: Every member of the Session engaged in an ecclesiastical judicial procedure shall bear in mind the command of Scripture: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” Galations 6:1 (NIV)
A. Commencement: When ecclesiastical judicial procedures are commenced, nothing shall be done at first meeting of Session thereafter, unless by consent of the parties, except:
1. To appoint a prosecutor.
2. To order the indictment drawn and a copy, including names of witnesses then known to support it, served on the accused, in person or by means requiring a written receipt.
3. To set a date for trial.
B. Indictment: Every indictment shall begin: “In the name of Christ Community Church,” and shall conclude, “against the peace, unity, and purity of the church, and the honor and majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the King and Head thereof.” The indictment shall clearly state the times, places and circumstances as to the actions alleged to require disciplinary sanctions, so that the accused may have adequate notice of the charges and the opportunity to make his defense.
C. Formal Summons: The Moderator or Clerk shall issue formal summons in the name of the court to the accused and to such witnesses as either party shall nominate to appear on his behalf.
1. Contents: The formal summons shall identify the parties to the trial, shall state the time and place of the trial, and shall warn the parties and witnesses of the sanctions for refusal to obey a formal summons.
2. Service of Summons and Indictment: The Clerk of Session shall deliver a copy of the summons and the indictment to the defendant in person or by form of delivery requiring a signed receipt. The Clerk shall further deliver a summons to necessary witnesses in person or by form of delivery requiring a signed receipt.
3. Witness and Exhibits List: Each of the parties shall provide the other with a list of expected witnesses and copies of all exhibits not later than 5 days before trial (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays) by personal delivery or by means requiring a written receipt.
D. Refusal to Obey a Formal Summons: When an accused person shall refuse to obey a formal summons, he shall be served with a second formal summons.
1. Second Summons: A second summons shall be accompanied with a notice that if he does not appear at the time appointed (unless providentially hindered, which fact he must make known to the Session), or that if he appear and refuse to plead, he shall be dealt with for his rebellion.
2. Sanctions for Failure to Appear: When an accused person, having been twice formally summoned, shall fail to appear, the Session shall enter this fact upon its records, together with a copy of the indictment, and shall suspend the accused person from the sacraments for his rebellion in failing to appear.
In the event the accused person shall be an officer, the Session shall remove him from office and suspend or excommunicate him from the church.
In the event the accused person shall be a member but not an officer and the charge be one of a serious nature, the court may proceed to removal of the accused person from the membership and fellowship of the church.
3. Failure of a Witness to Appear: In the event a duly summoned officer or member of the church willfully fails to appear or refuses to testify, the court may treat the refusal of the witness to appear as rebellion, and may proceed to admonish, suspend, remove from office, and/or expel him from the membership and fellowship of the church without need for further action.
E. Time Periods: The time which must elapses between the serving of the first formal summons on the accused person, and the meeting of the court at which he is to appear shall be at least ten days. The time allotted for his appearance on the subsequent summons shall be left to the discretion of the Session, provided that it be quite sufficient for a reasonable and convenient compliance with the summons.
Section 8. Evidence: Evidence must be factual in nature. It may be direct or circumstantial. Caution should be exercised in giving weight to evidence which is purely circumstantial.
A. Competency of Witnesses: Competency means ability to testify. All persons, including the parties, who have sufficient intelligence to understand the obligation of an oath or affirmation are competent witnesses.
B. Testimony of the Accused: The accused party may be allowed but not compelled to testify. No inference of guilt may be drawn from his failure to testify. The person or persons who filed the charges shall be required to testify on the demand of the accused.
C. Families: Husbands and wives, parents and children, shall not be required to testify against each other.
D. Exclusion of Witnesses: Any witness to be examined, other than the accused or a member of the Session, may be excluded from the examination of any other witness in the same case if any party objects.
E. Disqualification of Witnesses: A member of the Session who has given testimony in a case becomes disqualified for sitting as a judge if either party objects.
F. Oath or Affirmation: The oath or affirmation to a witness shall be administered by the Moderator in the following or like terms: “Do you solemnly promise, in the presence of God, that you will declare the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, according to the best of your knowledge in the matter in which you are called to witness, as you shall answer it to the great Judge of the living and the dead?” If, however, at any time a witness should present himself before the Session who for conscientious reasons prefers to swear or affirm in any other manner, he should be allowed to do so.
G. Examination and Cross-Examination: Witnesses shall be examined first by the party introducing them; then cross-examined by the opposite party, after which any party or member of the Session may ask additional questions. No question shall be asked or answered except by permission of the Moderator subject to an appeal to the Session. The Session shall not permit cumulative or repetitive questions or questions which are frivolous or irrelevant to the charge at issue.
H. Witness Inconvenience: When the alleged offense took place at a distance, and it is inconvenient for the witnesses to appear before the Session, the Session may appoint a judicial committee to take the testimony for it.
Due notice of the time and place of the taking of testimony by the judicial committee shall be given to the opposite party. Testimony may be taken by questions asked to the witness with answers recorded in writing or recorded by electronic or other means. All parties shall have the right to examine the witness.
I. Credibility: Credibility means the degree of credit which may be given to the testimony of a witness. In assessing the credibility of a witness, the Session may consider any matter that bears on the credibility of the witness, including, but not limited to, the witness’s relationship the parties or other witnesses, his interest in the result, his weakness of understanding, his demeanor while testifying, his character for honesty or truthfulness, and his belief in the existence of God and a future state of rewards and punishments.
J. Authentication of the Record: Authentication shall be in writing in the following or similar form:
I, __________,Clerk [or Moderator] of the Session of Christ Community Church do hereby certify that the foregoing are true, correct, and complete copies of the Record in the Case of ________________ .
Signed: _______________________ Date:______________
K. Burden of Proof: The testimony of more than one witness shall be necessary in order to prove an allegation of the indictment. However, if in addition to the testimony of one witness, other supporting evidence is proved, the allegation may be considered to be proved.
Section 9. Trial Proceedings: When a court proceeds to trial of a case, the following order shall be observed:
A. The Charge to the Session: The Moderator shall exhort the members to remember and consider their high character as judges of a court of Jesus Christ and the solemn duty in which they are about to participate.
B. Indictment: The Moderator shall read the indictment, and the accused shall be called upon to declare whether he is guilty or not. If the accused pleads guilty, the Session may deal with him according to its discretion. If he pleads not guilty the trial shall proceed. Accused parties may plead in writing when they cannot be personally present. Accused parties necessarily absent shall have counsel assigned to them.
C. The Service of the Summons: Before proceeding to trial, the Session shall ascertain that its summons have been duly served.
D. Opening Statements: Each party shall be permitted to make a brief opening statement not longer than 15 minutes unless a longer time shall be granted by the Session. The prosecutor shall proceed, followed by the accused party or parties.
E. Testimony: The witnesses for the prosecution and then those for the accused shall be examined in accordance with Section 8.
F. Exclusion of Prosecutor and the Accused Persons: On all questions arising in the progress of a trial, the discussion shall first be between the prosecutor and the accused persons. When they have been heard, they may be required to withdraw from the room until the members deliberate upon and decide the question. The Moderator shall announce the Session’s decision upon return of prosecutor and accused parties to the room.
G. Closing Argument: Each party shall be permitted to make a brief closing argument not longer than 15 minutes unless a longer time shall be granted by the Session. The prosecutor shall proceed, followed by the accused party or parties. The prosecutor shall be permitted to close, but total amount of time allocated to each party shall be equal.
H. Deliberations: The roll shall be called, and the members may express their opinions in the case. The prosecutor and the accused persons may be required to with draw from the room until the members deliberate upon and decide the question.
I. The Vote: The vote shall be by secret ballot, and all members of the Session shall vote “Guilty” or “Not Guilty” on each charge of the indictment. A verdict of guilty shall be rendered only upon two-thirds or more majority of the votes cast. The Moderator shall announce the Session’s decision upon return of prosecutor and accused parties to the room.
J. Impositions of Sanctions: Before Sanctions are determined, the prosecutor and accused person found guilty shall be given the opportunity to present evidence or argument bearing on the administration of sanctions only.
Thereupon, the Session shall proceed to a determination of sanctions pursuant to Section 10. The prosecutor and the accused persons may be required to withdraw from the room until the members deliberate upon and determine sanctions. Sanctions may be rendered upon a simple majority of the votes cast. The Moderator shall announce the Session’s determination of sanctions, which shall be entered upon the records, upon return of prosecutor and accused parties to the room.
K. Motion for New Trial: If after trial before the Session, new testimony is discovered which the accused believes is important, he shall have the right to ask for a new trial. The Session shall have the power to grant his request.
L. Challenges to the Court: Any party may, for cause hereinafter described, challenge the right of any member to sit in the trial of the case. The question shall be decided by the other members of the Session. A challenge for cause against a member of Session shall be granted when:
1. Disclosure of Opinion: The member expresses his opinion of the guilt of any party to any person not a member of the Session before the conclusion of the trial.
2. Absence: The member shall absent himself from any sitting of the trial without the permission of the Session, or satisfactory reasons rendered.
3. Conflict of Interest: The member appears to the Session to be related to the parties or other witnesses, to have an interest in the result, or to have similar impediment or conflict of interest.
M. Professional or Learned Counsel: No persons serving as counsel shall be permitted to receive compensation for services rendered to any party. However, parties may reimburse counsel for their reasonable expenses. In the event any party shall be represented by a person who is a graduate of an accredited school of law, the other parties shall be likewise permitted to be represented by learned or professional counsel. However, learned or professional counsel must be a member of the church. A member of the Session serving as counsel in the case shall not be allowed to sit in judgment on the case.
N. The Record: The Clerk of other person designated by the Session shall, with in thirty days after the trial, make and maintain as part of the permanent records of the court, a complete record of the proceedings, including the charges, the indictment, the answer (if any), all the testimony, and all such acts, orders, and decisions of the Session relating to the case including the written ballots evidencing the decision and the determination of sanctions. These documents shall constitute the Record of the Case and should ordinarily be maintained separately from the Minutes of the Session.
O. Expenses of the Record: The Session shall make and maintain a transcript or record of the proceedings by written or electronic means. The parties shall be permitted to make copies (by transcript or electronic recording) of the whole proceedings at their own expense.
Section 10. Disciplinary Sanctions: When any person shall be found guilty of an offense, the Session shall proceed with all tenderness and shall deal with its offending brother or sister in the spirit of meekness. The members are exhorted to watch themselves, so that they may avoid temptation.
Disciplinary sanctions which may be administered by the Session are admonition, suspension, removal from church office, and excommunication. When milder sanction fails to reclaim the offender, it may become the duty of the Session to proceed to the administration of a more severe sanction.
If the Session finds on trial that the matter complained of amounts to no more than such acts of infirmity as may be amended, so that little or nothing remains to hinder the person’s ministry, it shall take all prudent measures to see that the infirmity is amended.
A. Definition of admonition: Admonition is the formal reproof of an offender by the Session, warning of his guilt and danger, and encouraging him to be more careful and watchful in the future.
B. Definition of Suspension: Suspension is the temporary exclusion of church members from the sacraments and/or from other church ministries or activities.
1. With respect to church officers, suspension may include the exclusion of the officer from office and the sacraments. It may be either definite or indefinite as to its duration.
2. Suspension should generally be indefinite in its duration, continuing until the person suspended gives such evidence of repentance as may warrant its repeal. The good of the offender and/or the church may require that the offender be suspended for a definite length of time, even though he confesses his sin and gives evidence of repentance.
C. Definition of Removal from Office: Removal from office is the sanction by which the offender’s ordination and election are set aside, and the offender is removed from all church offices without excommunication. Removal from office may or may not be accompanied by the administration of other sanctions.
D. Definition of Excommunication: Excommunication is the removal of an offender from the membership and fellowship of the church. Excommunication shall be administered only in cases of offenses aggravated by a continuing refusal to repent. The purpose of this sanction is to reclaim the offender, to deliver the church from the disgrace and injury of his offense, and to motivate the church with fear by the example of his discipline.
E. Principles for the Administration of Sanctions: The administration of church sanctions shall be suited to the nature of the offense. For private offenses, sanctions should be administered in the presence of the Session alone, or in private by one or more members of the Session. In the case of public offenses, the degree of sanction and mode of administering it shall be within the discretion of the Session.
1. If the charge is one of serious immorality or heresy, and the accused person persists in his rebellion, the court may proceed to inflict the highest sanction.
2. When a Minister is removed from office, his pastoral relationship shall be dissolved.
3. No sanction shall be administered in the case of a person who has renounced jurisdiction in writing to the Clerk of the Session. In such instances, a case already begun may be concluded only with the permission of the accused.
F. The Sanction of Admonition: The sanction of admonition may be administered in private by one or more members of the court if the offense is known only to a few and is not aggravated in character. If the offense is public, the admonition shall be administered by the Moderator in presence of the Session and may also be announced in public should the Session deem it appropriate.
G. Confession: When any person shall come forward and make his offense known to the Session, a full statement of the facts shall be recorded and judgment rendered without judicial procedures.
When an officer, before judgment is entered, shall make a confession of a matter that is marked by outrageous or scandalous crime or vice, such as substance abuse, marital infidelity, embezzlement or the like, however penitent he may appear to the satisfaction of all, the court shall without delay suspend or remove him from his office.
H. Restoration: An officer suspended or removed from for scandalous conduct shall not be restored, even on the deepest sorrow for his sin, until he has demonstrated an exemplary, humble, and edifying lifestyle for a considerable amount of time, which, in the case of removal from office, shall be for not less than one year. Any officer must present evidence that it is virtually certain that the conduct causing his suspension or removal from office will not occur again. A Minister removed from office shall not be restored until it appears that the general sentiment of this church is strongly in his favor and demands his restoration. In that event restoration may be pronounced only by the Session.
I. The Sanction of Suspension: Suspension may be for a definite period of time or for an indefinite period of time.
1. The goal of suspension is to impress the offender of the evil of his sin, and, under God’s blessing to lead him to repentance.
2. Definite suspension shall be administered in the presence of the Session alone or in open session, as it may deem best, and public announcement thereof shall be at the Session’s discretion.
J. Indefinite suspension: Indefinite suspension shall be administered in the presence of the Session alone or in open session, as it may deem best, and public announcement thereof shall be at the Session’s discretion.
When the Session has resolved to pass the sentence, the Moderator shall address the offending brother to the following purpose:
” Whereas you, _____________________ (here describe the person as a Minister, Ruling Elder, Deacon, or member of this church) are convicted by sufficient proof (or are guilty by your own confession) of the sin of _______________________ (here insert the offense), we the Session of Christ Community Church in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, do now declare you suspended from the Sacraments of the Church (and from the exercise of your office), until you give satisfactory evidence of repentance.”
To this shall be added such advice or admonition as may be judged necessary, and the whole shall be concluded with prayer to almighty God that He would follow this act of discipline with His blessing.
K. Removal from Office: The sanction of removal from office shall be administered by the Moderator in the words following:
“Whereas, _______________________ , a Minister of this church (or a Ruling Elder or Deacon of this church), has been proved by sufficient evidence to be guilty of the sin of ___________________________ do adjudge him disqualified for the office of Minister (or Ruling Elder or Deacon), and therefore we do hereby, in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, remove him from the office of Minister (or Ruling Elder or Deacon) the said ______________ , and do prohibit him from exercising any of the functions thereof.”
If the sanction includes suspension, the Moderator shall proceed to say:
“We do, moreover, by the same authority, suspend the said _______________ from the Sacraments.”
The Sentence of removal from office ought to be accompanied by solemnities similar to those already prescribed in the case of excommunication.
L. Excommunication: Excommunication may be administered according to one or other of the two modes laid down for indefinite suspension, or it may be inflicted in public as the Session may decide. In administering this sanction, the Moderator of the Session shall make a statement of the several steps which have been taken with respect to the offending person, and of the decision to cut him off from the membership and fellowship of the church. He shall then sow from Matthew 18:15-18 and I Corinthians 5:1-5 the authority of the church to cast out unworthy members, and shall explain the nature, use and consequences of this sanction. He shall then administer the sanction in the words following:
“Whereas, _______________________ , a member of this church has been by sufficient proof convicted of the sin of ________________ , and after much admonition and prayer, obstinately refuses to hear the church, and has manifested no evidence of repentance: Therefore, in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, we, the Session of Christ Community Church do pronounce him to be excluded from the Sacraments, and cut off from the fellowship of this church.”
Section 11. Removal of Sanctions: After any person has been suspended from the sacraments, it is proper that the Elders of the church should frequently converse with him as well as pray with him and for him, that it would please God to give him repentance.
A. Restoration to the Sacraments: When the Session shall be satisfied as to the reality of the repentance of a suspended offender, he shall be admitted to profess his repentance either in the presence of the Session alone or publicly , and be restored to the sacraments of the church, and to his office, if such be the judgment of the Session, which restoration shall be declared to the penitent in words of the following import:
“Whereas, you, _____________________ , have been suspended from the Sacraments of this church (and from the office of Minister of the Gospel ministry, or Ruling Elder or Deacon) but have now demonstrated such repentance as satisfies the church, we, the Session of Christ Community Church, do hereby , in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, restore you from the said sentence of suspension, and restore you to the full communion of this church (and the exercise of your said office, and all the functions thereof).”
After which there shall be prayer and thanksgiving, and the members of the Session shall extend to him the right hand of fellowship.
B. Restoration of an Excommunicated Person: When an excommunicated person shall be so moved with his excommunication that he is brought to repentance and he desires to be readmitted to the membership and fellowship of this church, he may request that the Session restore him.
1. The Session shall proceed to restore him if it finds sufficient evidence of his sincere repentance. This may be done in the presence of the Session or of the congregation as seems best to the Session.
2. On the day appointed for his restoration, the Moderator of the Session shall call upon the excommunicated person and propose to him the following questions:
“Do you, from a deep sense of your great wickedness, freely confess your sins in thus rebelling against God and in refusing to hear His Church?” Answer, “I do.”
“Do you acknowledge that you have been in justice and mercy cut off from the communion of the church?” Answer, “I do.”
“Do you now voluntarily profess your sincere repentance and sorrow for your sin and rebellion; and do you humbly ask the forgiveness of God and His Church?” Answer, “I do.”
“Do you sincerely promise , through divine grace, to live in all humility of mind and carefulness to avoid sin, and to attempt to live a lifestyle that will glorify God our Savior?” Answer, “I do.”
3. Here the Minister shall give the person being restored a suitable exhortation, encouraging and comforting him. Then he shall pronounce the sentence of restoration in the following words:
“Whereas you, __________________ , have been shut out from the membership and fellowship of this church, but now have demonstrated such repentance as satisfies the church; in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ we, the Session of Christ Community Church, do declare you restored from the sentence of excommunication formerly pronounced against you, and we do restore you to the membership and fellowship of this church, that you may be a partaker of all the benefits of the Lord Jesus to your eternal salvation.”
The whole shall be concluded with prayer and thanksgiving, and the members of the Session shall extend to him the right hand of fellowship.
C. Restoration to Office: When an officer who has been removed from office makes public confession in a manner similar to that prescribed in the case of the restoration of an excommunicated person, he may be restored to office. His restoration to office shall be announced to him by the Moderator as follows:
“Whereas, you, ___________________ , formerly a Minister of this church (or a Ruling Elder or Deacon), have been removed from your office, but have now demonstrated such repentance as satisfies this church; in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by His authority, we, the Session of Christ Community Church do declare you restored from the said sentence of removal from office formerly pronounced against you; and we do furthermore restore you to your office, and to the exercise of all the functions thereof, whenever you may be duly called.” After this there shall be prayer and thanksgiving, and the members of the Session shall extend to him the right hand of fellowship.
D. Reelection Required for Exercise of Office: When a Ruling Elder or Deacon has been pardoned from the sanction of removal from office, he cannot be allowed to resume the exercise of his office in the church without reelection by the people.
Section 12. Dissent and Protest: A dissent is a statement on the record by members of a minority objecting to what they believe to be an ill-advised or erroneous judgment in a matter of discipline. A protest is a more solemn and formal statement on the record by members of a minority, strenuously objecting to what they believe to be an ill-advised or erroneous judgment. Any expression of dissent or any protest shall be accompanied by a statement of the reasons for dissent or protest.
A. Record of Protest or Dissent: If a protest or dissent contains temperate language, and is respectful to the Session, it shall be paced in the Record of the Case. The Session may, if it believes it is necessary, respond to the protest or dissent. The matter shall be ended unless the persons protesting obtain permission to withdraw or amend their protest.
B. Right to Vote Required: None can join in a dissent or protest against a decision of any court except those who had a right to vote in the case. [Back]
Article XXI: Amendments
Herein are set forth the procedures whereby the Constitution may be amended and limitations in perpetuity which are placed on this church.
Section 1. Amendments: After approval by the Session, proposed amendments will be brought to the congregation to be voted on.
A. No changes may be made to this constitution which would be contrary to the Westminister Confession of Faith, along with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.
B. Approval by three-fourths of the voting members of this church is required.
Section 2. Limitations in Perpetuity: Certain rights are held in perpetuity by Christians, both individually and gathered in congregations. These rights must always be guaranteed by this church. These rights include, but not by way of exclusion, the following:
A. This church may make no laws to bind the conscience with respect to the interpretation of Scripture. No person may be rejected for membership or ordination because of such matters of conscience unless that matter has been officially declared a heresy by the Church, or unless it obstructs the constitutional governance of this church.
B. This church may make no laws that infringe on the rights of the congregation to elect its own officers, to own benevolence and other budgetary objectives, and to determine its own internal life so long as it does not violate the constitution of the church.
C. This section may be added to by the procedures set forth in Section 1, but no deletions may be made.