BCBC Bylaws


THE BYLAWS OF BENT CREEK BAPTIST CHURCH, ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA

Revised and Presented to the Church Family on March 13, 2016

Voted on and Adopted during Sunday Morning Service MM/DD/2016

PREAMBLE

The Bylaws, together with the core documents of the Constitution and Articles of Faith, form Bent Creek Baptist Church’s organizational foundation for operation and ministry.

These Bylaws define the basic procedures and provide instructions that are subordinate to our Constitution. This stable foundation for our shared ministry as a Church family is intended to be sufficient in scope for our church to function effectively, but are not exhaustively detailed – they do not provide procedural guidance for every situation. However, the guidance provided in these Bylaws is intended to be binding as to matters they directly address.

As for our church’s chief elected scriptural officers, our elders are responsible for developing any additional guidelines necessary to bridge the gap between our core documents and our current shared ministry direction and activities. This elder-level guidance, called our Shared Ministry Guidelines, will have only subordinate authority to the Bylaws and act as an integrated supplement. Any proposed changes to the Shared Ministry Guidelines must be approved by the Elder Board. Using the Bylaws and the guidelines together provides our church and its leadership with both the stability and flexibility needed to keep pace with the changing ministry demands of our world.

With this as our intent, we, as the Church family and congregation of Bent Creek Baptist Church, do adopt and establish these Bylaws for God’s glory and our benefit.

ARTICLE I: TEAM ORGANIZATION

The Organizational Chart. The Organizational Chart (see Figure 1 on the next page) summarizes the different Bylaws-mandated positions of authority that make up our church structure. Bent Creek Baptist’s Organizational Chart reflects:

  • God the Father’s complete sovereignty and providential care over each of us and the entire world
  • God the Son, Jesus Christ’s Headship over this local Church Body
  • God the Holy Spirit’s divine guidance and leadership in every believer’s life
  • God’s Word, the Bible as our ultimate and absolute authority in all areas
  • Our Church Family’s role as a participating church authority, as well as a recipient and provider of ministry care
  • Our Constitution and Bylaws defining role over our church government and operations
  • The Elder Board’s leadership role as our church’s chief scriptural and corporate officers, accountable to God, His Word, the Constitution, and our congregation
  • The Lead Pastor’s ministry as a Teaching Elder and Shepherd
  • Our Deacon Board’s role as leaders of our temporal care and service ministry
  • Our collective willingness as a Church family to be used by God in His ministry to the saved and lost people of the world

The specific positions identified in this chart are explained in Articles II through IV and in Figure 2.

Shared Ministry. Each ministry at Bent Creek Baptist Church is a shared ministry. Instead of looking to any one person to shoulder this responsibility, we take a “ministry team” approach involving the entire Church family. The core ministry team includes our church’s Scriptural officers (Elders [including Pastors] and Deacons), our title-holding agents (the Trustees), the church staff, and a host of lay volunteers. God, by His grace, has spiritually gifted each member of His Body differently. Together we will bring Him glory as laboring disciples by participating in His ministry (1 Corinthians 12:1-31; 1 Peter 4:10-11).

Lead Pastor Administrative Pastor Elder Board
·       Pulpit- Primary Teaching Elder

·       Sunday Service

·       Cast Vision thru Pulpit ministry

·       Direct report of and oversees:

o    Worship Director

o    Youth Director

o    Children’s Director

o    Senior’s Director

·       Primary Spiritual Shepherd

o    Pastoral Care

o    Hospital visitation

o    Counseling

o    Funerals and Weddings

o    Follow-up with visitors

o    1-on-1 disciplining of men

·       Intercessory Prayer

·       New Members

·       Serve as a Permanent Voting Elder

·       Work with elders to develop God’s Great Commission vision for BCBC

·       Shepherd his own family

·       Be a godly example to the flock

·       Participate in staff meetings

·       Responsibilities with staff:

o    Invest in their lives

o    Coordinate shepherding activities

o    Participate in discussions of programs/ministries

o    Work regularly with Worship Director to define service

o    Meet with Administrative Pastor weekly

o    Work with elders on staffing issues

o    Work with Admin. Pastor on ministry oversight; oversees specific ministry projects as agreed with Admin. Pastor

·       Direct report to Elder

o    Ultimate responsibility for spiritual aspects of ministry programs (authority for development, implementation, and oversight can be delegated to Admin. Pastor)

·       Oversees development/implementation of ministry programs:

o    Sunday School

o    Children’s Ministry

o    Youth

o    Men’s Ministry

o    Women’s Ministry

o    Singles

o    Sr. Adults

o    Preschool

o    Life-on-Life

o    Service Committees

·       Direct report of and oversees:

o    Preschool Director

o    Administrative Staff

·       Beth Shiloh Congregation

·       Business administration, including budgeting and tracking

·       Building and Grounds

·       Signage and Website

·       Assists the Lead Pastor with:

o    Vision Casting

o    Teaching and Preaching

o    Spiritual Shepherding

·       Spend much time with God

·       Work with elders to develop God’s Great commission vision for BCBC

·       Shepherd his own family

·       Serve as permanent voting elder

·       Be a godly example to the flock

·       Develop and cast God’s Great Commission vision for BCBC:

o    Outreach

o    Evangelism

o    Discipleship

o    Missions

·       Pastoral accountability

o    Lead Pastor

o    Admin. Pastor

·       Resource Stewardship

·       Oversees the following individuals and teams:

o    Deacons

o    Candidacy Committee

o    Personnel Committee

o    Missions Committee

o    Trustees

o    Treasurer

Deacons
·       Ministry to widows

·       Parking Lot ministry

·       Ushers

·       Security

 
Important Notes:
“Direct Report” is defined as follows”

·       Conducts annual review of the individual

·       Responsible for the successful service of the individual

·       Responsible to make a spiritual investment in the individual

“Oversee” is defined as follows”

·       Responsible for the work delegated to others

·       Receiving reports from those with delegated responsibility

·       Providing input and direction as needed

Figure 2: Scriptural Officer Responsibilities for Bent Creek Baptist Church

Our shared ministry of church positions, committees, and ministries include various ministry areas of responsibility. As you examine our Organizational Chart (Figure 1), keep in mind the following key points:

  • Our church organization contains more than just Bylaws-required committees. While our Organization Chart specifically identifies three church committees required by our Bylaws (the Personnel, Finance, and Candidacy Committees), the ministry at Bent Creek also includes many other vital church committees. All committees not discussed in this document are covered by the elders in the shared ministry Guidelines (see Addendum #2).
  • Our church decision-making system includes both congregational-level and elder-level decisions. Congregational-level decisions are determined with a multi-level voting system. This system allows our membership, assisted by their elders, to express its collective will concerning fundamental, church-wide issues, and make the final decision in these matters.

Congregational Voting System: These three congregational votes cover voting situations where the Church Family is the final decision-making authority. The issues involved determine the degree of membership agreement needed, from a simple majority ½+ vote (50% + 1 additional vote) up to a 3/4ths-majority. Most church decisions require only a 2 week advance notice before a vote can be taken, but our most critical Church Family decisions will require a 4 week announcement period. This extra time allows sufficient time for notifying our membership, corporate deliberations, and prayerful thought. In all other cases, the Elder Board serves, as needed, as our congregation’s final decision-maker.

 

 

VOTE 1

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
Yes 2 Weeks 50%+1 50 None

DEFINITION: Elder Board approval followed by an affirmative simple-majority (1/2+1) vote by a minimum 50 member quorum of the Church Family at a called meeting announced 2 weeks in advance.

APPLICATION: Used by the Church Family to exercise its collective will concerning significant decisions affecting our entire church body. This vote is required to:

  • Pass the annual church budget
  • Make “Category B” Monetary Decisions (See our Financial Policy Statement
  • Hire the Treasurer, Church Steward, and Paid Spiritual-Care Supervisors (other than Pastors)
  • Remove or restore a church member through church discipline (See Article VI)

 

 

VOTE 2

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
Yes 2 Weeks 2/3rds 50 None

DEFINITION: Elder Board approval followed by an affirmative 2/3rds-majority vote by a minimum 50 member quorum of the Church Family at a called meeting announced 2 weeks in advance.

APPLICATION: Used by the Church Family to exercise its collective will concerning church decisions that are of major and fundamental importance affecting our entire church body. This vote is required to:

  • Make “Category C” Monetary Decisions (See our Financial Policy Statement)
  • Call Scriptural Officers- Elders (Including Pastors) and Deacons
  • Dismiss Scriptural Officers- Elders (Including Pastors) and Deacons—using normal (non-Congregational Initiative) procedures
  • Adopting or altering the Constitution, Bylaws, Articles of Faith, or Financial Policy Statement, as long as the proposed change(s) is formally presented to the membership at least 4 weeks prior to the congregational vote, and remains unchanged for at least 2 weeks prior to that vote.

 

 

VOTE 3

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
Yes 4 Weeks 3/4ths 50 None

DEFINITION: Elder Board approval followed by an affirmative 3/4ths-majority vote by a minimum 50 member quorum of the Church Family at a called meeting announced 4 weeks in advance.

APPLICATION: Reserved for making our most critical Church Family decisions- those needing both Church Family authorization, as well as an extra-long announcement period. This vote is required to:

  • Withdraw our affiliation and cooperation with the Buncombe Baptist Association, the Baptist State Convention, and/or the Southern Baptist Convention
  • Dissolve our Church Family
  • Our Church members play an ongoing role in providing their leadership with collective feedback and accountability. Our system of church government is based on servant leaders who remain qualified before God, and considerate of the people they are leading. Through the formal system of Congregational Initiatives outline in these Bylaws, our Church Family helps keeps this system functioning properly.

Congregational Initiatives: These Congregational Initiatives are reserved for 4 special situations where our Church Family can initiate specific actions that hold our leaders accountable.

 

 

CI 1

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
No None 50%+1 50 Seconded Motion

DEFINTION: An affirmative simple-majority vote concerning a seconded motion by a minimum 50 member quorum of the Church family at a called meeting.

APPLICATION: Reserved for a Church family-initiated request to hold a non-binding Feedback Poll on a particular topic(s) within 2 weeks by a secret ballot (see Article II)

 

 

CI 2

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
No None 50%+1 50 Seconded Motion

DEFINTION: An affirmative simple-majority vote concerning a seconded motion by a minimum 50 member quorum of the Church family at a called meeting.

APPLICATION: Reserved for a Church-family-initiated request to conduct an immediate Church audit (see Article III, “Treasurer”)

 

 

CI 3

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
No None 2/3rds 50 Written Secret Ballot

DEFINITION: An affirmative 2/3rds-majority secret written ballot vote concerning a seconded Dismissal request motion by a minimum 50 member quorum of the Church family at a called meeting.

APPLICATION: Reserved for a Church family-initiated request to start dismissal proceedings against a Scriptural Officer- an Elder (including Pastors) or Deacon

 

 

CI 4

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
No 2 Weeks 2/3rds 50 Written Secret Ballot

DEFINITION: An affirmative 2/3rds-majority secret written ballot vote concerning a dismissal decision by a minimum 50 member quorum of the Church family at a called Special Dismissal Meeting announced 2 weeks in advance.

APPLICATION: Reserved for a Church family-initiated request to conclude dismissal proceedings against Scriptural officers- an Elder (including Pastors) or Deacon.

 

Collectively, Bent Creek Baptist Church’s shared ministry enables all of the various elements to work together effectively, so that we can achieve the ministry vision and goals God has for us.

ARTICLE II: SHARED MINISTRY- THE CHURCH FAMILY

Church family membership in Bent Creek Baptist Church is open to all regenerated, baptized believers in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and binds us together by our common commitment to our Lord and one another. We are a Church family, and every commitment to join with us brings both the privilege and congregational responsibility of active participation in its life and ministry. We heartily and lovingly encourage all who regularly fellowship with us to become members of this Church family.

Membership Categories

Our Church family recognizes 2 membership categories: active and inactive.

Active Members. The active membership of this Church family includes both adult and youth members.

  • Active Adult Members. Active adult membership is available to anyone 16 years of age or older who attends regularly, meets the initial qualifications listed below, and abides by the membership responsibilities identified in our Bylaws. Active adult members have the right to vote. Homebound/hospitalized members, college students, and military personnel that otherwise meet active membership requirements will be considered ‘active’ members.
  • Active Youth Members. Active youth membership is a special nonvoting membership available to anyone from the age of 12 through 16 who meets the initial qualifications listed below, and abides by the membership responsibilities identified in our Bylaws.

Inactive Members. An inactive member is an adult or youth who has become delinquent in maintaining their membership responsibilities. Inactive members do not have the right to vote.

Initial Qualifications

Adult Membership Qualifications. The active adult membership of this Church family is composed of individuals 16 years and older who:

  1. Have received Jesus Christ by faith as their Lord and Savior
  2. Have been baptized by water immersion
  3. Endeavor to continue living obediently under Christ’s Lordship and in conformity to God’s inerrant Word- the Holy Bible
  4. Have completed the Adult New Member’s Class
  5. Have expressed the desire to cooperate with our church’s ministries and programs
  6. Willingly subscribe to our Church’s Constitution, Bylaws, and Articles of Faith
  7. Have been received into membership by a simple-majority (1/2+) voice vote of our Church family at any congregational meeting

All those who are currently members in good standing will remain members. All those desiring to join Bent Creek Baptist Church can begin their membership process by contacting and Elder, Pastor, or Deacon. A personal testimony or letter of transfer from their former Church will satisfy qualifications 1-3. In situations where health limitations or other extreme circumstances prevent attendance in a New Member’s class or baptism by immersion, the Elder Board will authorize an alternate method for satisfying either of these requirements.

Youth Membership Qualifications. The initial qualifications for active youth membership are the same as for adults, except for the following:

  • Youth membership is only available to individuals aged 12 through 16, and will end when they become an adult member
  • A shorter, age-appropriate Youth New Member’s Class will be substituted for the full Adult New Member’s class required in qualification #4
  • Since this is a nonvoting membership, youth do not need formal education on our Constitution and Bylaws. However, youth members must still submit to the leadership and authority of our Church family and Elder Board as stated in qualification #6

Anyone desiring youth membership should contact the Youth Minister or ministry director. After age 16, active youth members wishing to become adult members must complete an Adult New Member’s Class, fulfill qualification 6 above, and be voted in as an active adult member by the Church family.

Ongoing Responsibilities

Individual Responsibilities. Every Christian- without exception- has inherent value and worth as a child of God, a holy saint, and a Spirit-gifted member of the Body of Jesus Christ. Each of us also has a responsibility to live out our Salvation and our divine calling for the praise of Christ’s glory. Our Church family is committed to helping our members accomplish God’s purposes for their life, and fulfill the following ongoing individual responsibilities. Personally, each Church family member will endeavor to:

  • Love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and submit themselves to the Lordship of His Son, Jesus Christ (Mark 12:30; Colossians 2:6)
  • Live out their personal commitment to God and Christ by:
  • Continuing to grow spiritually and be pleasing to God (Colossians 2:6-7; 2 Peter 1:3-15; Psalm 92:12-15; 1 Thessalonians 4:1)
  • Keeping the commandments of God and Christ (1 John 5:3; John 14:21)
  • Aspiring towards holiness in their daily life and doctrine (2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Peter 1:14-16; Romans 12:1-2)
  • Loving their neighbor as themselves (Mark 12:31; Galatians 5:16)
  • Striving to fulfill Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20)
  • Subscribe to our Church’s core beliefs as expressed in our Articles of Faith and Constitution (1 Corinthians 1:10; Amos 3:3; Ephesians 4:13)
  • Submit to the spiritual authority and leadership of our Elder Board, as explained in the Bible and outlined in our Constitution and Bylaws (Hebrews 13:7,17,24)[1]
  • Submit to church discipline as explained in the Bible and outlined in our Bylaws (see Article VI)
  • Support and participate in the ministry and programs of this Church family
  • Support our Vision and Values, as defined in our Constitution
  • Serve in obedience to Christ, according to their spiritual gifts, and as God provides opportunities to edify the Body of Christ, reach the lost, and do His will (1 Peter 4:10-11; Ephesians 4:11-13; Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31, 14:1-40)
  • Faithfully and lovingly care for one another (1 John 3:16-18; Hebrews 6:10; 1 Peter 3:8)

 

Collective Responsibilities. As a Church family of royal priests, Bent Creek’s members will also join together to accomplish certain ongoing responsibilities requiring the whole congregation’s active involvement. Collectively, we as a body of believers fulfill:

  • Our spiritual leadership role by:
  • Making final decisions on major and fundamental issues of church-wide importance. This includes using a graduated system of Congregational Votes to make decisions on:
  • Core Church documents- our Constitution, Articles of Faith, Bylaws, and Financial Policy Statement (for how changes are approved to these documents, see the Constitution, Article XII; and the Bylaws, Article I (See Congregational Voting System Below and Article X)
  • Our annual budget (see “Finance Committee” in Article IV)
  • Major Monetary decisions (see “Monetary Decisions” below in this Article
  • Removing or restoring a church member through church discipline (see Article VI)
  • Hiring the Treasurer, Church Steward, and paid Spiritual Care Supervisors (other than Pastors)(See Article VII)
  • Possible affiliation changes or dissolution decisions (see Articles VIII and IX)

(For a complete list of the Congregational Voting System, see “Congregational Voting System” under Article I.)

  • Nominating and electing spiritually-qualified members of the congregation to serve as our Spiritual Officers (Elders [including Pastors] and Deacons). For more on this process, see the “Candidacy Committee” discussion in Article IV.
  • Holding accountable our spiritual leaders through normal dismissal procedures and various Congregational Initiatives. The normal process for dismissing Scriptural Officers (Elders [including Pastors] and Deacons) is discussed in Article VII. For a complete list of Congregational Initiatives, see “Congregational Initiatives” under Article I.

Other than the situations and decisions listed above, the Church family authorizes the Elder Board, as its Spiritual leaders, to serve as the final decision-making authority whenever necessary.

  • Our Spiritual Participation role by:
  • Bearing one another’s burdens by providing supportive fellowship and nurturing care to our spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ
  • Serving actively in the body of Christ as members of our shared ministry team
  • Striving together to advance the cause of Christ through the ministry of the Gospel and the Great Commission
  • Our Spiritual Support role by:
  • Praying collectively as a congregation for the needs of people, the ministry of Bent Creek, and the work of Christ’s gospel in the world
  • Encouraging leaders to lead us along the path of God’s will
  • Providing input in the form of constructive information and feedback- both positive and negative- to our leaders concerning their leadership and spiritual health of the Church family. One way the membership can make formal input to the Elder Board and other Church leaders is by initiating a Feedback Poll

A Feedback Poll is an official, nonbinding poll of the Church membership indicating their collective opinion concerning a particular congregational issue, Church leadership decision, or Elder Board position. A Feedback Poll can be started during any called meeting as a seconded motion and requires a Congregational Initiative-1 for approval. If the motion passes, the Elders will conduct a church-wide poll within 2 weeks by a written ballot, and the congregation will be notified in writing of the results.

 

CI 1

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
No None 50%+1 50 Seconded Motion

 

Monetary Decision Categories. Besides being the final decision-making authority concerning our annual budget, our membership also plays an active role in other major monetary decisions. These decisions are organized into 3 progressive categories (A, B, and C) of non-budgeted expenses, contracts and building programs, and should involve counsel from our church’s financial team leaders- the Administrative Pastor, Treasurer, and Finance Committee. The specific amounts associated with each monetary category are defined in the Financial Policy Statement (see Addendum 4), and will be reviewed annually by the Finance Committee to determine their continued fit with our economic circumstances. Each decision category must meet certain conditions to be valid:

  • Category A Monetary Decisions involve non-budgeted spending amounts requiring only the Elder Board’s approval in consultation with our financial team leaders.
  • Category B Monetary Decisions involve more substantial amounts and will require Church family approval based on a Congregational Vote-1.
  • Category C Monetary Decisions involve the largest amounts and will require Church family approval based on a Congregational Vote-2.

The only exception to these rules occurs during emergency situations (e.g. emergency repairs, disaster relief purchases or sales, etc.), when urgency does not permit a properly announced congregational meeting for Category B or C monetary decisions. In emergencies, the Elder Board, with the approval of the Administrative Pastor, Treasurer, and Finance Committee, can authorize Category B or C decisions. However, even in these situations, support confirmation should be sought from the Church family, with full details presented concerning all emergency authorizations.

 

Vote 1

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
Yes 2 Weeks 50%+1 50 None
 

Vote 2

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
Yes 2 Weeks 2/3rds 50 None

 

Membership Role Procedures

Transfer Requests. Whenever a Church member in good standing wishes to change their membership and unite with another Church, they should submit a written request for a letter of transfer to the church they plan to join. After the Elder Board’s review, each approved transfer request will be sent to the person’s new Church.

Removal Requests. If a member requests in writing to have his or her membership removed from this Church family, the Elder Board or their representative will patiently and lovingly encourage the person’s continued fellowship here. If this proves unsuccessful and the person’s reasons for termination are satisfactory, the Elder Board will grant their request and terminate their membership.

Termination. Church membership will also be terminated in the event of a member’s death, or upon proof that they have become members in another church or denomination. Youth members choosing not to pursue adult membership by age 17 will have their youth membership stopped. Membership also may be terminated as a result of certain church disciplinary actions (see Article VI: Shared Ministry- Church Discipline). The Elder Board or their representative will determine if any of these situations exist.

Church Record. The Administrative Pastor will record, or delegate the responsibility of recording, all transfers, removals, and terminations in the Church Record.

Cemetery Requests. Active Church members, as verified in our Church Record by the Administrative Pastor, will be eligible for burial in Bent Creek’s Church Cemetery.

ARTICLE III: SHARED MINISTRY- POSITIONS

Elders. Elders are a spiritually qualified group of men whom the Bible charges with spiritual leadership, oversight responsibility, and shepherding care of an entire church congregation (Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Timothy 5:17; 1 Peter 5:1-4). At Bent Creek, our elders are organized into an Elder Board, which is our Church’s highest elected leadership council. Elders on this Board shepherd through “accountable elder leadership.” In other words, they fulfill their ministry roles in full submission to God’s will, the Headship of Christ, and the leading of the Holy Spirit, while being responsible to our Church family.

Types of Elders. These Bylaws recognize three elder positions: Shepherding, Teaching, and Emeritus.

  • A Shepherding Elder is a lay member of the Elder Board who normally serves on the Elder Board for 3-5 years.
  • A Teaching Elder is a special elder position reserved for Pastoral Staff. Because a Teaching Elder has the combined influence of being an elder, Pastor, and paid staff member, a majority quorum must be held on the Board by Shepherding Elders (see Elder Board: Procedures below).
  • An Elder Emeritus is any elder who is no longer an active Shepherding or Teaching Elder, but is still spiritually qualified for the position. There is no time limitation on Elder Emeritus service, and their role, if any, will be determined by the Elder Board.

Elder Qualifications. Any prospective Elder must meet the basic spiritual qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9, and have been an active member of our Church family for at least 2 years. Once a Shepherding or Teaching Elder is appointed, he must continue meeting these basic qualifications, as well as other on-going spiritual and ministry qualifications while he serves (see for example, 1 Peter 5:1-4; Acts 20:28). Furthermore, since an Elder is a lifelong spiritual appointment, after rotating off the Board, every Elder Emeritus must continue meeting the spiritual requirements that initially qualified him as an Elder or rise becoming spiritually disqualified.

Length of Service. All Elders that are voted in by the congregation will serve a 3-5 year term. At the end of the term, they will rotate off the Board. Should the Elder need an extension to this original call, the extension must be approved by a Congregational Vote-2. Since extensions are temporary in nature, they should not extend for more than 1 year. If a called-back Elder is still needed after the 1 year limit, he should follow the normal procedures for returning to the Board as a full-term member. If the Elder’s callback task is completed in less than a year, he will rotate off the board.

Procedures. The Elder Board is made up of no less than 6 and no more than 12 total board members, with the ideal size being 9-10 members, and a majority must always be held by Shepherding Elders. In the rare occurrence that the Elder Board finds itself without a majority of Shepherding Elders, one of the following actions will take place:

  1. An Elder Emeritus will be presented by the Elders to be voted on by the church as an active Shepherding Elder to restore the majority.
  2. The Teaching Elder with least seniority will rotate off the board until a new Shepherding Elder is voted in by the church to restore the majority.

An Elder Board Chairman, Assistant Chairman, and secretary will be elected during the first quarter of each year from among the current Elders by a simple-majority vote of the Board. However, the position of Chairman and Assistant Chairman may not be held by either the Lead Pastor or the Administrative Pastor, due to their permanent position on the Board. The Board’s Secretary will take the minutes of meetings and maintain a file of Board procedures and policies. Serious effort should be made to rotate Elder Board membership and leadership. Occasionally, Shepherding Elders officially may appoint individuals to assist them, but only after the Elder Board has determined that the need exists.

The Elder Board will meet at least monthly, and more often as necessary, in order to identify and/or respond to ministry concerns within the Church family. The Board is responsible to pray through, discuss, and make leadership decisions, and verify that their decisions are being carried out properly.

During Elder Board meetings, unless otherwise dictated by the Bylaws, votes will be made using the “Manage by Agreement” process. The “Manage by Agreement” system is the preferred method as it allows all members a chance to share their respected views, but completes the process with unity of the decision. This is done through three different hand gestures:

  • Thumbs Up. This position indicates that the individual is in complete agreement with the decision.
  • Thumbs to the Side. This position indicates that the individual will support the decision since there is no Biblical evidence to not support the vote, but if had the chance would do it differently. If several Elders are “Thumbs to the Side” on a vote, further discussion needs to be held before a decision is made.
  • Thumbs Down. This position indicates the individual disagrees with the decision and has a Biblical standpoint for the disagreement. Only Biblical standpoints are viable for the “Thumbs Down” vote.

All voters must be at either a “Thumbs Up” or “Thumbs to the Side” for a decision to be made. If any member is “Thumbs Down” further discussion must take place. If several members are “Thumbs to the Side” further discussion is also encouraged.

During any meeting, if an Elder finds himself conflicted with the subject being discussed or voted upon, that particular Elder will recuse himself from the discussion, as well as the vote.

Deacons (General). In the Bible, deacons are spiritual leaders primarily responsible for the church family by providing a ministry of service to the church body. At Bent Creek, our deacons are organized into a collective Church Board that serves this same function.

Types of Deacons. These Bylaws recognize two deacon positions: Serving and Emeritus.

  • A Serving Deacon is a ministering deacon who is an active, serving, and voting member of the Deacon Board for a 3-5 year term.
  • A Deacon Emeritus is any deacon who is no longer an active member of our Deacon Board, but is still spiritually qualified for the position. There is no time limitation for serving as a Deacon Emeritus, and their role, if any, will be determined by the Deacon Board in coordination with the Elder Board.

Deacon Qualifications. Any prospective Deacon must meet the spiritual qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3:8-10, 12-13 and have been an active member of our Church family for at least 2 years. Furthermore, since a Deacon is a lifelong spiritual appointment, after rotating off the Deacon Board, every Deacon Emeritus must continue meeting the spiritual requirements that initially qualified him as a Deacon or risk becoming disqualified for this position.

Deacon Board. Like the men chosen in Acts 6:1-6, the primary focus of the Serving Deacons on the Deacon Board is temporal care- to care for and serve the human needs of our Church family. These spiritual leaders are a valuable, important, and respected element of our shared ministry as they carry on the example set by our Lord and Savior, who came as one who serves (John 13:12-16).

The Deacon Board functions through and is responsible to the Elder Board. Serving Deacons may be assigned the care of specific church families, supervise a benevolence ministry, chair a church committee, and/or other responsibilities as determined by the Deacon Board, and approved by the Elder Board. The Deacon Board will also oversee the manning of all church committees. Occasionally, Serving Deacons officially may appoint individuals to assist them in their duties after the Board decides that this need exists.

 Procedures. The Deacon Board will meet at least monthly, and more often as necessary, to identify and/or respond to the temporal care needs within the Church family. These men will pray through, discuss, and make leadership decisions about these concerns, and verify that their decisions are carried out properly. While the Elder Board determines the size of the Deacon Board based upon the size and needs of the Church, it should consist of no less than 5 spiritually qualified Serving Deacons.

During the first quarter of each year, a Deacon Board Chairman, Assistant Chairman, and Secretary will be elected from among the current Serving Deacons by a simple majority vote of the Board. The Deacon Board’s Secretary will take the minutes of their meetings and maintain a file of Board Procedures and policies. Serious effort shall be made to rotate Deacon Board membership and leadership.

Board Procedures

Board Decisions. When any Church Board (e.g., the Elder Board, Deacon Board, and Board of Trustees) makes a binding decision, a quorum of at least 3/4ths of its eligible voting members must vote on the particular decision- either in person, by phone, by proxy, or another pre-determined acceptable method. Unless stated otherwise in this document or the Shared Ministry Guidelines (see Addendum 2), Church Boards will reach all approvals by at least a 3/4ths majority vote. In general, a verbal vote by the Board will be sufficient. However, the desired goal for any decision is to reach a consensus, if possible, among the Board members concerning God’s will on the issue. In special situations involving critical and sensitive issues, if a simple majority of the Board deems it appropriate, the Board’s vote will be conducted using a secret ballot.

Elders Emeritus and Deacons Emeritus. Former members of the Elder Board and Deacon Board are a valued resource in our Church family. As such, we seek to utilize their wisdom and continued involvement in Bent Creek’s spiritual life. Emeritus status provides them with an opportunity to remain involved in their respective Board by:

  • Maintaining relationships with active Church leaders
  • Utilizing “open door” access as nonvoting observers
  • Performing special leadership responsibilities or duties as directed by their board

An Elder Emeritus or Deacon Emeritus may return to their Board as a full-fledged Shepherding Elder or Serving Deacon, with all the rights and responsibilities of a voting Board member in one of two ways:

  1. After rotating off their Board for a 1 year minimum term, a qualified Elder or Deacon Emeritus is eligible to return to the Board for a 3-5 year term by following the same selection and approval process of all Elder and Deacon Board candidates.
  2. In unusual situations, the Deacon or Elder Board may need to temporarily call back a qualified Elder or Deacon Emeritus to the Board for an extension. The Elder Board must first approve the reason for this temporary callback and the specific individual(s) involved. The need and the individual(s) must then be confirmed by a Congregational Vote-2.
 

Vote 2

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
Yes 2 Weeks 2/3rds 50 None

 

Should the Elder or Deacon need an extension to this original call, the extension again must be approved by a Congregational Vote-2. Since callbacks are temporary in nature, they should not extend for more than 1 year. If a called-back Elder or Deacon is still needed after the 1 year limit, he should follow the normal procedures for returning to his Board as a full-term member. If the elder or Deacon’s callback task is completed in less than a year, he will rotate off the Board.

Pastoral Staff: Lead Pastor

Responsibilities. The Lead Pastor is the primary Teaching Elder and spiritual shepherd for our entire Church family and staff. His duties include preaching and teaching the Word of God, praying for the spiritual health and advancement of our Church family, supervising the administration of the ordinances, and exercising pastoral care of the Body. As the primary supervisor of the Pastoral Staff, he has direct spiritual leadership and decision-making authority over the spiritual care ministries (see Organizational Chart p.3). He can act as an ex-officio, nonvoting member of any organization or church committee, necessary to fulfill his ministry responsibilities and will serve as a permanent voting elder on the Elder Board. His specific job description will be determined by the Elder Board in accordance with the Personnel Policy Statement (see Addendum 3).

Pastor Qualifications. Since the Lead Pastor is a Teaching Elder, he must meet the above stated Biblical qualifications for being an elder. He must also identify with conservative Southern Baptists, adhere to and promote Biblically conservative beliefs and doctrine, and be an active member of this Church family.

Pastoral Staff: Administrative Pastor

Responsibilities. The Administrative Pastor is the primary supervisor over the day-to-day functions of the Church and the corresponding staff. He will oversee the Church’s business affairs, financial and clerking activities, and physical property and resources, reporting as needed to the Elder Board. He will supervise any paid employee or lay volunteer that is not officially part of the Ministerial Staff (Preschool Director, Treasurer, etc.). He will serve as Church steward or designate a representative, to keep and maintain the church record (see Article II above), the official Church history, minutes from various Church meetings (see Article V), and official copies of all core documents and policy statements. The Administrative Pastor serves the ministry needs and the interests of our Church family, helps manage the resources, facilities, and funds God has entrusted us with, and supervises the non-pastoral directors (Preschool, Janitorial, etc.). He will coordinate, direct, and supervise all office support activities and personnel. In matters concerning business administration, the Administrative Pastor is authorized to enter into contracts in the ordinary course of approved church business on the church’s behalf. The Administrative Pastor will also serve as a permanent voting member of the Elder Board.

Qualifications. Since this is a Pastor level position, the Administrative Pastor is a Teaching Elder and should meet the same spiritual qualifications as the Lead Pastor.

Ministerial Staff: The Lead Pastor is the primary supervisor for the entire Ministerial Staff. The purpose of the ministerial staff is to assist the Lead and Administrative Pastors and the Elder Board in accomplishing Bent Creek’s overall ministry vision and goals. Depending upon our Church family’s size and the scope of our ministry goals and activities, the Ministerial Staff size can vary, and may include Ministry Directors or additional spiritual care. Therefore, these positions will be filled as needed and in accordance with these Bylaws (see Article VII) and our Personnel Policy Statement (see Addendum 3).

 Ministry Directors report directly to the Lead Pastor and serve as managing supervisors over a focused area of spiritual care ministry. Generally, these individuals will concentrate on either a specific ministry element of our Church family (such as youth or children), or a specific ministry function (such as Sunday school or Worship Ministry). This is a non-scriptural office position and can be held by either men or women, within the Bible’s established guidelines (e.g. 1 Timothy 2:12).

While the Ministerial Staff is not limited to paid personnel, if individuals are authorized to be employed on a full- or part-time basis, they will be hired in accordance with Article VII of the Bylaws and our Personnel Policy Statement (see Addenda 3).

Stewardship Staff: The Administrative Pastor, as our Church family’s chief steward, can be assisted by additional staff members and personnel as needed. The Stewardship Staff can vary in size and may include managing supervisors (such as campus manager), or additional supporting staff and personnel who take care of facilities, financial, clerking, or other responsibilities. While the Stewardship Staff is not limited to paid personnel, if individuals are authorized to be employed on a full- or part-time basis, they will be hired in accordance with these Bylaws (see Article VII) and our Personnel Policy Statement (see Addenda 3).

Treasurer: The treasurer is the Chief Monetary Agent and primary supervisor over our monetary ministry area. For accountability, the treasurer will receive operating instructions from and report to the Administrative Pastor and the Elder Board.

The treasurer can be a paid employee or a lay-member volunteer. If he or she has other staff responsibilities, the Elder Board will ensure there is no conflict of interest and that their independence is not compromised. Whenever the treasurer holds any other staff position, his or her responsibilities as Treasurer will take precedence. Should the Treasurer feel compromised in this position or its responsibilities, he or she should immediately contact the Administrative Pastor or the Elder Board, calling them into emergency session, if necessary.

Responsibilities: The Treasurer will:

  • On budgeted items, approve all church expenditures unless directed not to by the Elder Board in accordance with our Financial Policy Statement (see Addendum 4)
  • On non-budgeted items, act I response to decisions made in accordance with our “Monetary Decision Categories” (see Article II above), our Financial Policy Statement (see Addendum 4), and Elder Board guidelines.
  • Ensure that all receipts, deposits, and disbursements are rightly handled
  • Keep an itemized account of all receipts and disbursements, and render a monthly accounting to the Elder Board and a quarterly accounting to the Church family
  • Serve on the Finance Committee and participate in its preparation of the annual budget. If the Treasurer is a paid staff member, he will serve in an ex-officio non-voting capacity on this committee.

All Treasurer’s books, records, audit results, and accounts will be the property of the Church.

Audits. To confirm our Church continually maintains high standards of financial stewardship, the church’s books will be periodically audited according to the Elder Board’s guidelines. An immediate audit will be conducted whenever requested by the Church family and approved as a Congregational Initiative-2.

 

CI 2

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
No None 50%+1 50 Seconded Motion

 

Board of Trustees: The Board of Trustees are the title-holding agents of the Church. They execute and manage documents for key church resources, as well as hold legal title to all church property under the supervision of the Elder Board and for the Church family’s benefit. As servant stewards over the property of others, they will adhere to the established usage, customs, practices, and doctrines of our Church family and submit to our Church authorities as prescribed in our Constitution and Bylaws.

Responsibilities. In accordance with our Monetary Decision categories (i.e., A, B, and C—see Article II) and Financial Policy Statement (see Addendum 4), our church membership and/or the Elder Board has the authority to direct the Trustees to mortgage or sell the Church’s real and personal property by resolution. When so authorized and directed, the Trustees will have the full power and authority to:

  • purchase, lease and acquire by gift, devise or bequest and to hold, mortgage, convey and dispose of all kinds of property, both real and personal, provided that the title to all property is vested in the Trustee Board
  • execute all contracts, deeds, mortgages, or other instruments
  • negotiate settlements and legal disputes as warranted

The Chairperson of the Trustees serves as a coordinator for the Board and its activities. During the second quarter of each year, a Trustee Chairperson, Assistant Chairperson, and Secretary will be elected from among the current Trustees by a simple-majority (1/2+) vote of the Trustees. There is no requirement to rotate these positions, and continuity—if warranted—is encouraged. They must meet collectively at least annually, and more often if needed. The Trustee’s Chairperson will maintain an accurate written account of our church’s legal documents, to be verified at least annually by a designated representative of the Elder Board. The Trustees’ Secretary will take minutes of their meetings and maintain a file of procedures and policies. In general, a verbal vote by the Board will be sufficient.

Trustee Qualifications. The Board of Trustees consists of 3 to 6 individuals appointed by the Elder Board. The Elder Board must select 3 Trustees from among the Shepherding Elders, Serving Deacons, and Emeritus Elders or Deacons of the church, based on their proven spiritual leadership. The Elder Board then may select up to 3 other individuals who either require regular access to church legal papers due to specific ministry responsibilities (such as land or building titles, deeds, insurance, etc.) or members of the congregation who have demonstrated business expertise. This second category may include any spiritually qualified member of the congregation. Even though a person may require frequent access, this need should not become the sole criteria for making him or her a Trustee. A person must be proven a trustworthy steward before being given the responsibility of acting on behalf of the congregation as a Trustee.

A Trustee’s tenure is a minimum of 3 years. Open-ended tenure is necessary to maintain the continuity needed for this Title-holding Officer function. After serving 3 years in this position, a person’s continued service is at the discretion of the Elder Board. To maintain stability, no more than 1 Elder/Deacon Trustee can rotate off each year, to be replaced by another Elder/Deacon Trustee.

Preschool Principal: Bent Creek’s Preschool ministry is a valuable, but distinct part of the church’s overall ministry to our Church family and the surrounding community. The Preschool is a self-supporting organization, operating separately from the church proper, but in accordance with these Bylaws and under the Elder Board’s authority. The Preschool Principal is the primary functional supervisor over this ministry area and any additional Preschool staff. All Preschool personnel are considered part of our extended church staff.

Interim Personnel: Interim staff personnel play a vital, but temporary role in the life and ministry of our Church family. Interims fill positions following the departure of a permanent staff person and prior to the hiring of a permanent replacement. They may be assigned either part or all of the job responsibilities of the person(s) they are replacing. A congregational vote is not required to hire an interim for any position, and all interim hires will be in accordance with our church’s Personnel Policy Statement (see Addendum 3).

While interim staff are helpful as a short-term fix, they must also support the long-term vision for the position they are filling. He or she should not be a crisis-driven hire, but rather a preparation for a permanent placement solution. Interim staff are not automatically precluded from being hired for a permanent staff position, but should be hired with no expectation or promise that they will become permanent staff.

Eligibility Issues: All ministerial staff members meeting the requirements of the Bylaws and keeping a majority quorum of lay members, are eligible to serve as an active voting elder or deacon, or a voting committee member/chairperson. Pastors and Paid staff members are also eligible to serve as voting members on the Board of Trustees.

Family members of paid Ministerial staff members (e.g., spouses, siblings, children, and parents) are ineligible to serve as Shepherding Elders.

ARTICLE IV: SHARED MINISTRY – COMMITTEES

Committees play a vital role in our shared ministry approach because they actively involve Church family volunteers in planning, preparing, and carrying out essential ministry activities for God’s glory. Also, through committees, members frequently exercise their God-given spiritual gifts. According to these Bylaws, only 3 permanent, ongoing committees are required to be functioning at all times: the Personnel, Finance, and Candidacy Committees. All other church committees are discussed in our Shared Ministry Guidelines (see Addendum 2).

Personnel Committee: The Personnel Committee oversees all Human Resource (HR) activities, reports directly to the Elder Board and is their staffing agency for matters related to paid, staff personnel. They are responsible for drafting our church’s Personnel Policy Statement (see Addendum 3). This committee will consist of members drawn from throughout the Church family, and its size is an Elder Board decision. While it is desirable for at least 1 committee member to have deacon or elder experience, this is not required. This committee’s nature prescribes a low member turnover.

Finance Committee: The Finance Committee will be responsible for drafting our Church’s Financial Policy Statement (see Addendum 4), and developing, recommending, and tracking an annual Church budget. Administratively, this committee will report to the Administrative Pastor. Whenever the Church Treasurer is employed as a paid staff member, he or she will be an ex-officio, nonvoting member of this committee.

The Finance Committee will consist of at least 4 members: a Chairperson, the Church Treasurer, and at least 2 other voting members. Because of the importance of close coordination, it is preferable to include a Shepherding Elder.

Our fiscal year will run from January through December, and a Congregational Vote-1 will be required to pass our annual budget. In rare situations, unforeseen circumstances, Church emergencies, or congregational difficulties, the Church’s fiscal year may start without a new budget being in effect. In this case, the Elder Board may approve temporary, stopgap measures to keep the church operating financially until a new annual budget is approved and authorized.

 

Vote 1

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
Yes 2 Weeks 50%+1 50 None

 

Candidacy Committee: The Candidacy Committee identifies qualified individuals willing to serve on the Elder and Deacon Boards as our Church’s Scriptural officers (i.e., Shepherding Elders or Serving Deacons), and presents them to the Church family for their election by a Congregational Vote-2. This committee will include 5 members: an Elder, a Deacon, and 3 other voting members proposed by the Church family and approved by the Elder Board. Administratively, this committee will report to a designated Deacon Board member.

 

Vote 2

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
Yes 2 Weeks 2/3rds 50 None

 

The Candidacy Committee is charged with suggesting individuals, investigating their spiritual qualifications, and nominating suitable candidates for available Elder or Deacon Positions. To avoid needless overlaps and/or conflicts, this committee and the Deacon Board should coordinate their nominees for Scriptural officers and committee members. After the Candidacy Committee has developed their proposed candidates list, they will present it first to the Deacon Board, and then to the Elder Board for their approval. Following this review process, the Candidacy Committee will present a final list of candidates to our Church family for their selection.

Candidacy elections will be held annually by written secret ballot. On other occasions, the need will be determined by the Elders. If the Candidacy Committee determines that there are insufficient qualified individuals to fill all open Scriptural Officer positions, they should propose that some positions remain unfilled. If they submit more nominees than are needed to fill positions, only the nominees with the highest approval vote above the minimum 2/3rds majority will be selected. However, if the Church family fails to approve enough nominees to fill all positions, then those empty positions will remain unfilled at that time. If an opening or vacancy occurs at other times during the year, the Candidacy Committee will suggest qualified individuals to the Elder Board and the Church family to fill these positions as well. All other procedures for electing Scriptural officers will be determined by the Elder Board.

Committee Procedures: A Committee Chairperson acts only as a coordinator among equals, and is not a supervisor over committee members. This is an elected position open to both men and women, and decided upon by a secret vote of the committee itself. Every Chairperson must be a full-fledged voting member of their committee and the church.

Unless stated otherwise in this document or the Shared Ministry Guidelines (see Addendum 2), committees will reach all their decisions by at least a 2/3rds-majority vote involving a quorum of at least 2/3rds of its eligible voting members. However, the desired goal for all decisions is to reach a committee consensus, if possible, concerning God’s will on the particular issue. In general, a verbal vote will be sufficient. Ensuring that church committees are properly manned is a Deacon Board responsibility.

ARTICLE V: SHARED MINISTRY – MEETINGS

Types

Regular Meetings. Bent Creek will hold regular meetings for worship, teaching, training, and fellowship. The Elder Board must approve all changes affecting the permanent schedule.

Quarterly Meetings. The Church family will meet together at least once each calendar quarter to:

  • Share Information — to hear reports and stay informed about key issues
  • Foster Communication — discuss matters concerning the spiritual welfare and prosperity of our Church family
  • Conduct Church Business — complete any necessary church business requiring the membership’s decisions or voting

These activities may occur at a single quarterly meeting called for this purpose, or be spread out over several different meetings. The congregation must have an opportunity to engage in each activity at least once during every calendar quarter.

Special Meetings. Besides regular and quarterly meetings, the Chairman of the Elder Board or the Lead Pastor may call a Special Meeting of the Church family at any time. If select leadership individuals or collective committees (i.e., an elder, a deacon, the Treasurer, the Finance Committee or the Personnel Committee) feel that the church is being placed into jeopardy by an action or decision of the Elder Board, Deacon Board, or church staff, they can call the congregation into an Emergency Special Meeting. However, before calling the emergency session, they must first try to resolve the problem through the Elder Board. A called Emergency Special Meeting’s sole purpose is to safeguard the interests of Christ and the congregation’s wellbeing, and should not be abused, used as a power play, or employed as an “end run” to override valid decisions that an individual or committee dislikes. For decisions to be binding at any Special Meeting, the business must meet the appropriate quorum and voting guidelines in the Bylaws.

Other Meetings. Other Church meetings may be set. The Elder Board approves whole congregational meetings. Ministry leaders and committee chairpersons may set meetings related to their responsibility areas.

Procedures

Meetings Involving Church Business: Whenever a congregational meeting takes place in which Church business is conducted, the business portion of the meeting must:

  • be called clearly into order before any business, legitimate decisions, or voting takes place
  • be conducted following the parliamentary procedures found in a current edition of Roberts’ RULES OF ORDER as determined by the Elder Board
  • provide opportunities for the Church family to begin Congregational Initiatives by making a motion from the floor
  • be ended before other non-business activities take place

All meetings in which church business is conducted must be announced at least 1 week in advance, or longer depending on the business involved. If these procedures are not followed, then either all or part of the business meeting will be considered invalid, rendering all business conducted during the invalid portion null and void.

Moderator. The Chairman of the Elder Board or his designate (in good standing) will preside as the moderator of any Business, Family, or Special Meeting. The Moderator is responsible for ensuring that congregational votes are valid and involve only authorized individuals (i.e., the active adult members of our Church family).

Quorum. In any congregational meeting conducting Church business or making binding Church family decisions, a quorum of at least 50 active church members will be required.

Minutes. Minutes will be taken at all Quarterly, Special Meetings, and congregational meetings involving Church business. If possible, these meetings will be recorded electronically, with the recording kept for future use and transcribed as part of the church record. The Administrative Pastor, or his designate, will be responsible to ensure that these minutes are taken/recorded and maintained as part of the church record.

ARTICLE VI: SHARED MINISTRY – CHURCH DISCIPLINE

Purpose

Our Church family, using the authority given it by the Lord Jesus Christ, lovingly exercises church discipline. Its purpose is to promote the spiritual welfare of a church member caught in sin and maintain the spiritual health and purity of our congregation. As God’s revelation of His holy will, the Bible will serve as the basis for all church discipline. The ultimate goal of any corrective disciplinary action is always to help the individual and not punishment. Its purpose is to win back an unrepentant offender, restore him or her to Christian fellowship, and help them avoid further spiritual injury as they live out their Christian faith. Church discipline is a ministry of reconciliation based on:

  • Church and Elder Authority (Matthew 18:17-18; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5,12-13; 2 Corinthians 2:6; Acts 20:28; Hebrews 13:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15)
  • Genuine Restoration (Matthew 18:15-16; Galatians 6:1)
  • Personal and Collective Forgiveness (Luke 17:3-4; 2 Corinthians 2:7-11)

Biblical Principles

Preventative Church Discipline. Church discipline is a multi-stage scriptural process that begins prior to any sinful offense. During this preventative stage, it seeks to help individual Christians relate rightly with God and other people. Progressively living more Christ-like lives is one of God’s central purposes for the church (Ephesians 4:13b). The importance of this step cannot be over emphasized. When preventative discipline is functioning well, the need for corrective discipline is greatly diminished.

Informal Corrective Church Discipline. While Christians should live holy and loving lives that are pleasing to God (1 Peter 1:15-16, 22; 4:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2), the Bible is clear that “on this side of heaven” Christians still sin (Romans 7:14-25; 1 John 1:8-2:1). When a sinful offense occurs between individual Christians, they should quickly and informally resolve it using the principles outlined in Matthew 18:15-17a and Gal 6:1.

  1. Private Reproof. The first stage says that the Christian who has been sinned against should go privately to the other Christian who has been caught in sin and gently reprove him or her. This reproof may occur at a single meeting, or over several meetings between these two people. If this private, first stage is successful in resolving the matter and producing repentance and reconciliation, then the process is over.
  2. Semi-Private Reproof. If the person refuses to listen to the private reproof, then the process should continue on to the second stage – a semi-private reproof made in the presence of 1 or more witnesses. These individuals serve as both witnesses to the reproof, as well as mediators who help resolve the sin problem that divides these Christians. If reproof and mediation succeeds at this stage, and repentance and reconciliation takes place, then the process stops here and goes no further. Should this stage also fail, the corrective process must become more formal and public, with the situation going before the church. Informal corrective steps should be followed as needed for any church member, regardless of their position in the church.

Formal Corrective Church Discipline. Any sin that is still unresolved after the informal corrective process requires formal corrective action by the church (Matthew 18:17b-18). This orderly procedure involves Stages 3-5 below: telling it first to the church’s spiritual leaders—the Elder Board; then, if the person refuses to listen to them, telling it to the entire Church family so they can become actively involved in the corrective process; and finally, if this is also unsuccessful, removing the stubborn offender from the Church family. Throughout the formal disciplinary process (stages 3, 4, and 5), careful records should be kept concerning any related discussions, meetings, and decisions.

  1. Telling it to the Church Elders. The elders are held accountable by God to watch over the congregation and serve as its spiritual leaders and shepherds (Hebrews 13:17; Acts 20:28). Whenever a person comes before the Elder Board for having an unresolved sin issue, the elders, as the gatekeepers of the formal disciplinary process, will first try to help the offender. This will occur before turning the matter over to the entire congregation, and if need be, recommending removal. This is Paul’s pattern in 2 Thessalonians 3:13-14, and implied in his advice to Titus in Titus 3:10. The leaders’ first attempt to resolve the problem at their level: verifying the situation, getting the sinning brother or sister to listen to them, and helping that person to repent. This help may involve various actions depending on the situation and individual, and can include formally warning, admonishing, rebuking, exhorting, etc. (2 Thessalonians 3:15; Titus 1:13; 2:15; 3:10). If the person listens to the elders and repents, then the person has been won back and the process is finished. However, should the person’s sin be shown to them and they still refuse to repent, the Elder Board can take the next formal, public step by telling it to the entire Church family.
  2. Telling it to the Church Family. By the time corrective discipline has escalated to this level, the problem is not only the original sin issue, which must be dealt with, but the person’s lack of “teachability” and their continuing “refusal to listen—[evidence of] a contumacious attitude[2]—that moves a case forward.”[3] When the elders are satisfied that this has occurred, they should lead the congregation through the following steps:
  • Inform the offender, in writing if possible, that they are officially under the Church family’s corrective discipline and will no longer enjoy fellowship with this Body. Their church membership will officially change to the inactive category, and they will be removed from all ministry responsibilities and denied access to the Lord’s Table
  • Identify the particular sinning brother or sister to the Church family
  • Explain that this person is under corrective discipline for a specified sin problem and refuses to repent and seek reconciliation
  • Educate the Church family how to relate with this person. They are to withdraw normal spiritual fellowship with the individual—“keep away from” and “not to associate with” them (2 Thessalonians 3:6,14; 1 Corinthians 5:9,11)—while still regarding the person as a Christian brother or sister (1 Corinthians 5:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:15), praying fervently for them (1 John 5:16a), and lovingly exhorting them to repentance and restoration (Galatians 6:1).

The Elder Board will decide on a case-by-case basis when and how to initiate this stage of the process, when to stop it, or transition to the removal stage.

  1. Removing the Offender from Church Family. This is the most extreme and severe stage of corrective church discipline. It only applies to stubbornly unrepentant individuals who have refused to respond properly throughout the corrective discipline process. According to Matthew 18:17b: “if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” The Church family is to treat this person as a non-Christian, rather than as a believing brother or sister, and remove the person from the care and membership role of the church. Similar to how a sinful offender was removed from the church in Corinth (see 1 Corinthians 5:4-5; 2 Corinthians 2:6), this step will require a Congregational Vote-1. The Elder Board will decide when this vote should occur, and be responsible for leading the membership in taking this action.

Restoration. The goal of all corrective church discipline is spiritual restoration—returning a Christian caught in sin to a right relationship with God and other people. The ongoing expectation throughout Matthew 18:15-18, is that, ‘if my brother or sister listens to me, I have won them over.’ Therefore, it is a duty of Christians and the Church family to forgive a repentant brother or sister who gives satisfactory evidence of their repentance, regardless of when they responded to the reproof (Matthew 18:21-22; Luke 17:3-4; 2 Corinthians 2:6-8). If the person repents as a result of withdrawing fellowship (Stage 4) or removal actions (Stage 5), then the Elder Board should evaluate the evidence of their repentance, their rededication to Christ, and their desire to resume church membership responsibilities. Returning an individual to active membership following a Stage 4 or 5 disciplinary action will require an affirmative recommendation by the Elder Board, and a Congregational Vote-1 by the Church family. Restoration does not imply a full return to full ministry responsibilities, since these are separate issues. Additionally, Church discipline is a separate issue from personnel procedures.

 

Vote 1

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
Yes 2 Weeks 50%+1 50 None

 

Disciplining an Elder. When an Elder is caught in or voluntarily reveals a sin, his disciplinary process must incorporate the additional instructions found in 1 Timothy 5:19-20. The informal actions involving private and semi-private reproof (Stages 1 and 2) should still take place. However, an added condition must be met before the correction process escalates to Stage 3 (the Elder Board formally entertains an accusation against an Elder of unresolved sin): an Elder’s accusation must be substantiated by at least 2 people “who have witnessed the sin, or …who have verified another’s accusation” of sin[4] (1 Timothy 5:19). If sufficient witnesses are not available to establish the sinful act or a pattern of sinful behavior, then the Elder is cleared and the process stops prior to formally beginning Stage 3. Also, if the Elder admits his sin and repents, the process is also finished and spiritual restoration can begin. However, if his sin is substantiated and he still refuses to repent as part of Stage 3, then as part of Stage 4 (“Tell it to the Church family”), he must also be publicly rebuked as a warning to the Church family (1 Timothy 5:20).

ARTICLE VII: PERSONNEL PROCEDURES

Bent Creek’s personnel procedures establish a clear and accountable process for selecting/hiring individuals to our shared ministry team, and a fair and efficient process to dismiss/fire team members if the need ever arises. These procedures are supplemented by our Personnel Policy Statement (see Addendum 3).

The Selection and Hiring Process

Establishing or Reestablishing a Position. Selecting or hiring a person to a new or a previously unused, vacant position involves completing the following before a formal search process for the right person can begin:

  • Coordinating the need for the position and its role with the Personnel Committee
  • Coordinating the proposed expenditures for the position with the Finance Committee
  • Receiving approval from the Elder Board to create or reestablish the position, and integrate it into our Church’s organizational structure
  • Having any unbudgeted proposed salary range agreed to by a Congregational Vote-1
 

Vote 1

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
Yes 2 Weeks 50%+1 50 None

Upon completion of these steps, the remainder of the selecting and hiring process will be the same as for existing positions. The immediate supervisor or designated committee will then seek a suitable candidate.

Selecting Scriptural Officers (Elders [including Pastors] and Deacons). When selecting an Elder, Lead or Administrative Pastor, or Deacon, the Elder Board will assist the Church family in making the final decision. Selecting a person to a Scriptural officer position normally begins with a recommendation by a committee or the Senior Pastor.

  • Elders and Deacons. See “Candidacy Committee” in Article IV above, concerning Committees
  • Lead Pastor. Upon the resignation or dismissal of a Lead Pastor, the Elder Board will appoint a special Pastor Search Committee charged with seeking out a suitable replacement candidate. Their recommendation is presented first to the Elder Board and then to the membership for their approval. All Lead Pastor nominations must come through this committee.
  • Administrative Pastor. The Elder Board has the authority to seek out a suitable Administrative Pastor candidate, and submit him to the Church family for approval.

Once the Elder Board has approved a specific Scriptural officer candidate or a slate of candidates, each individual will then be presented to the Church family. Each individual’s call must come in the form of a motion by a Shepherding Elder, with each individual voted on by a written secret ballot. Selecting an Elder, Lead or Administrative Pastor, or Deacon will require a Congregational Vote-2. The remainder of the hiring process for Pastors will be in accordance with our church’s Personnel Policy Statement (see Addendum 3).

 

Vote 2

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
Yes 2 Weeks 2/3rds 50 None

Hiring the Treasurer, Church Steward, and Paid Spiritual-Care Supervisors. Hires for these supervisor positions will be made in accordance with our church’s Personnel Policy Statement (see Addendum 3), and require a Congregational Vote-1 on the nominee before the person can be hired.

 

Vote 1

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
Yes 2 Weeks 50%+1 50 None

Additional Hires. All other hires, including hiring additional Staff Supervisors, Staff Members, and Other Personnel, will be made in accordance with our church’s Personnel Policy Statement (see Addendum 3).

The Dismissal and Firing Process

Ministry Disqualifications. Regrettably, shared ministry team members may become disqualified for ministry and should not continue their ministries. Ministry disqualifications can involve three primary concerns:

  • Spiritual Reasons. The most obvious reason for disqualification involves spiritual issues such as a sin problem or failing to live above reproach. As a result, a person becomes scripturally unfit to continue their ministry responsibilities. While these situations may involve Church discipline, this is a separate process from disqualification. Even when a person with ministry responsibility repents from and is forgiven concerning a particular sin problem, he or she may still be spiritually disqualified to continue with certain ministry responsibilities. Each individual and situation must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
  • Practical Reasons. There are many practical reasons that are not related to spiritual disqualification, but still affect a person’s spiritual leadership. These may include personal issues (such as a health issue, family problem, or life crisis), and others that interfere with a person’s ability to continue fulfilling their responsibilities. As a result, an otherwise qualified individual becomes temporarily or permanently unable to continue performing their ministry duties.
  • Job Performance Reasons. Sometimes individuals are given responsibilities and duties that they either cannot do (an issue of skills or ability), will not do (an issue of character), or will not refrain from doing (an issue of abuse of power) in an acceptable manner. Efforts should be made to help the person learn (through feedback, training, and counseling) to perform their duties properly and become successful. Should the problem persist, a person’s inadequate job performance can disqualify them from continuing their ministry position.

Regardless of the reason for ministry disqualification, it must be dealt with fairly and orderly. In any potential disqualification, both the case for it and any rebuttals will be examined. The Elder Board will ensure a response that:

  • Preserves, as much as is Biblically possible and prudent, the individual’s continued fellowship at Bent Creek and involvement in ministry
  • Considers both the response needed and the individual’s willingness to submit to it
  • Permits the individual to initiate his/her own temporary or permanent remedies appropriate to resolve the situation. These remedies, especially in practical situations, may allow an individual to remain in their ministry position, but with a temporary change of responsibilities
  • Empowers the Elder Board, staff supervisors, and Church family to initiate compulsory solutions that temporarily or permanently remove disqualified individuals from their ministry responsibilities

The Elder Board will be the final approval authority in all disqualification situations, except in the dismissal of an Elder, Pastor, or Deacon, where the Church family has final authority. For any paid-employee disqualification, the Personnel Committee’s Personnel Policy Statement (see Addendum 3) will outline a multi-level set of responses and resolutions available to Church employees and supervisors, and the Elder Board.

Dismissing Scriptural Officers (Elders [including Pastors] and Deacons). Shepherding and Emeritus Elders, the Lead and Administrative Pastor(s), and Serving and Emeritus Deacons are all Scriptural officers of the Church. The dismissal of a spiritual officer requires a joint decision by the Elder Board and the Church family. Any ministry disqualification situation short of dismissal will require only Elder Board approval.

  • Normal Process. Normally, the dismissal process begins only after steps have failed to help a Scriptural officer remain qualified for their ministry position. In cases involving a paid staff member, this may include input or mediation from the Personnel Committee. Then the entire Elder Board must also hear a compelling case supporting dismissal and provide an opportunity for rebuttals before any decision is reached. In cases involving an Elder or Pastor, the proceedings must conform to 1 Tim 5:19-20’s instructions. The quorum for the Board’s dismissal vote will include all Voting Elders. The Elder in question may not be allowed to attend the official vote. Following a Congregational Vote-2, the dismissal will be authorized. The congregation’s called meeting will be announced from the pulpit at least 2 weeks in advance, and their vote will be by secret written ballot. In the meantime, the individual in question will be relieved of his official ministry duties until the Church family’s final resolution.
 

Vote 2

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
Yes 2 Weeks 2/3rds 50 None
  • Congregation-Initiated Process. If warranted, our Church family has the ability to begin their own call to dismiss a disqualified Elder, Pastor, or Deacon using Congregational Initiatives. This “bottom-up” dismissal process serves as an accountability check against a disqualified Church leader going unchallenged and remaining in a position of responsibility. When the congregation’s dismissal process involves an Elder or Pastor, the proceedings must conform to 1 Timothy 5:19-20’s instructions.

A congregation-initiated dismissal against a Scriptural Officer is a two-step process, involving an approved request followed by a judgement from the Church family.

  1. The first step requires the membership to approve a Dismissal Request during a called meeting conducting business. This request begins with a motion made and seconded from the floor to start dismissal proceedings concerning a specific Scriptural Officer(s). This motion must be approved by secret written ballot as a Congregational Initiative-3 to pass. If the Dismissal Request motion passes, an inquiry will begin into the matter, and the Elder Board will call a Special Dismissal Meeting for the Church family within 4 weeks. An announcement will be given from the pulpit at least 2 weeks prior to this meeting. In the meantime, any individual named in a Dismissal Request motion will remain in his/her position. The Elder Board may start their own normal dismissal procedures against an individual identified in a Dismissal Request motion, if they deem it appropriate. If the Dismissal Request motion passes, no additional congregation-initiated dismissal motions can be accepted until this one has been resolved for 3 months.
 

CI-3

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
No None 2/3rds 50 Secret written ballot

 

  1. The second step occurs at the Special Dismissal Meeting. Here, the case for disqualification and removal, and any rebuttals must be thoroughly examined. In order for an individual to be removed from office, a motion for a Dismissal Decision must be made and seconded from the floor, and then approved by a secret written ballot as a Congregational Initiative-4. Following the conclusion of these proceedings, to allow the Church family to become peaceful again, a mandatory 3-month moratorium will exist against accepting any new motions for a congregation-initiated dismissal.
 

CI-4

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
No 2 Weeks 2/3rds 50 Secret written ballot

 

Firing or Removing All Church Staff (Who Are Not Scriptural Officers) and Other Personnel. The firing or removal of any individual in this category will be according to our Personnel Policy Statement (see Addendum 3), and the final decision will rest with the Elder Board. Additionally, all disqualification situations short of firing or removal will also follow the Personnel Policy Statement.

Removing Committee Members. From time-to-time, Church Committee members may become disqualified for their ministry responsibilities and need to be removed. This is a last step and will occur only after all other steps to help the individual have failed. In these situations, after the Elder Board has heard a compelling case supporting the removal of a committee member and has provided an opportunity for rebuttals, they can approve removing the individual.

The Special Case of Removing Title-holding Agents (Trustees). The Board of Trustees may include Elders, Church staff members, and lay members. Whenever an individual is “dual-hatted” (as in the case of an Elder/Trustee or a Church Staff member/Trustee), they must first be dismissed or fired from their primary ministry position. Once this dismissal or firing has been approved, they automatically will be removed from the Board of Trustees. For all other individuals serving as Trustees, they will be removed from the Board in the same way as Committee members are removed (see above).

ARTICLE VIII. COOPERATIVE MINISTRY

Cooperation. As stated in the Constitution, this Church will continue its affiliation with the Buncombe Baptist Association of North Carolina. We will also continue our friendly cooperation with the constitutional aims and purposes of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and of the Southern Baptist Convention. Furthermore, as far as we are able and good conscience will allow, without compromising our own spiritual or scriptural convictions, we intend to participate in the deliberate assemblies of these organizations, and support their missionary, benevolent, and educational programs.

Discontinuance. Following a decision by the Elder Board, this Church family may be called into a Special Meeting to discuss and vote on withdrawing our affiliation and cooperation with the Buncombe Baptist Association, the Baptist State Convention, and/or the Southern Baptist Convention. Written notice must be sent 4 weeks in advance to every active Church member stating the meeting’s purpose and time. Action to withdraw from any of these organizations must be approved by a Congregational Vote-3.

 

Vote 3

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
Yes 4 Weeks 3/4ths 50 None

 

ARTICLE IX. DISSOLUTION

Dissolution as a Church. In the event of a serious, corporate-wide rupture in our Body’s fellowship, we expect the various factions to seek a Biblical reconciliation of their differences by meeting in Christian love, praying together, and being mindful of the Beatitude which says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” However, if repeated attempts at reconciliation have proved unsuccessful, then this church, with the Elder Board’s approval, may take the extreme step of selecting a Special Meeting to vote on dissolution. Written notice must be sent 4 weeks in advance of the meeting to each active member of the Church family, stating the purpose and time. Any decision to dissolve our Church family must be approved by a Congregational Vote-3.

 

Vote 3

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
Yes 4 Weeks 3/4ths 50 None

 

Property Decisions. If dissolution is approved, any decision to transfer or dispose of Church property, or the procedures to do so, must also be approved by a Congregational Vote-2 at either the dissolution meeting or at a separate one. No congregational members, individual, small group of attendees, or their relatives can benefit from the disposition of Category C property. These votes will serve as binding instructions for the Church Trustees.

 

Vote 2

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
Yes 2 Weeks 2/3rds 50 None

 

ARTICLE X. ADOPTION AND CHANGES

Adoption and Changes. These Bylaws may be adopted, amended, altered, or repealed by an affirmative Congregational Vote-2 of at least 50 voting members of the Church family present at a meeting called for that purpose and announced from the pulpit 2 weeks in advance. In order for this vote to be valid, any proposed Bylaws’ amendment, alteration, or repeal instruction must first be given in writing to the Elder Board Chairman and approved by the board. The proposed Bylaws change(s) must be formally presented in writing to the Church family at a worship service or business meeting. This must occur at least 4 weeks prior to any congregational vote, and remain stable and unchanged for at least 2 weeks prior to that vote. This allows time for the Church family to review the proposed change(s) and make input. For a suggestion to be incorporated in the proposed change(s), it must be approved by both the committee responsible for the change(s) and the Elder Board. The congregation must be formally notified in writing or by pulpit announcement, of any alterations to the change(s) at least 2 weeks prior to a congregational vote. This allows time for the Church family to review the final document on which they will be voting

Procedures for changing the Bylaws are the same as for amending the Constitution. The addenda attached to these Bylaws may be adopted, amended, altered, or repealed separately from the Bylaws themselves, but any change must follow the procedures identified specifically for that particular addendum. In the absence of explicit procedures to the contrary, an affirmative Congregational Vote-2 will be required to make changes to an addendum.

 

Vote 2

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
Yes 2 Weeks 2/3rds 50 None

 

Grandfather Clause. Adopting these Bylaws will repeal all previously adopted Bylaws and its rules, provided, however, that no prior actions taken by the church before this adoption will be invalidated. This same rule will apply whenever the Bylaws are changed. Beyond this, no grandfather clause will be granted or is in effect.

Implementation. Following the adoption of these Bylaws or any changes to it, the Elder Board will be responsible for overseeing its implementation. Any internal contradictions or conflicts within this document will be temporarily resolved by an Elder Board decision until appropriate changes can be suggested and approved by the Church family. In areas where this document does not provide sufficient guidance or is silent, the Elder Board will have the authority to make decisions and establish procedures as needed to fix or solve any problems that arise.

CERTIFICATION

I certify that these Bylaws and attached Addenda of Bent Creek Baptist Church were adopted at a duly constituted business meeting of Bent Creek Baptist Church, on _______________________2016.

 

Attested by: _____________________________

Elder Board Chairman

 

 

ADDENDA

General Instructions

Addenda 1-4 are not attached to this document and will be kept under a separate cover. All formal notifications will be in writing or by pulpit announcement.

Addendum 1: Articles of Faith. Proposed changes to the Articles of Faith of Bent Creek Baptist Church will require a Congregational Vote-2. Proposed change(s) must be formally presented to the Church family at least 4 weeks prior to any congregational vote, and remain stable and unchanged for at least 2 weeks prior to that vote. This allows time for the Church family to review the proposed change(s) and make input. For a suggestion to be incorporated in the proposed change(s), it must be approved by both the committee responsible for the change(s) and the Elder Board. The congregation must be formally notified of any alterations to the change(s) at least 2 weeks prior to a congregational vote. This allows time for the Church family to review the final document on which they will be voting.

 

Vote 2

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
Yes 2 Weeks 2/3rds 50 None

 

Addendum 2: Shared Ministry Guidelines. Any proposed changes to the Shared Ministry Guidelines must be approved by the Elder Board.

Addendum 3: Personnel Policy Statement. Proposed changes to the Personnel Policy Statement must be approved by the Elder Board.

Addendum 4: Financial Policy Statement. Our Financial Policy Statement explains how money will be handled at Bent Creek, as well as defines Category A, B, & C Monetary Decisions (see “Monetary Decisions” in Article II). Proposed changes to this statement will require a Congregational Vote-2. Proposed change(s) must be formally presented to the Church family at least 4 weeks prior to any congregational vote, and remain stable and unchanged for at least 2 weeks prior to that vote. This allows time for the Church family to review the proposed change(s) and make input. For a suggestion to be incorporated in the proposed change(s), it must be approved by both the committee responsible for the change(s) and the Elder Board. The congregation must be formally notified of any alterations to the change(s) at least 2 weeks prior to a congregational vote. This allows time for the Church family to review the final document on which they will be voting.

 

Vote 2

Elder Approval Advance Notice Majority Needed Quorum Additional Requirements
Yes 2 Weeks 2/3rds 50 None

 

[1] This is a restatement of “Each member shall submit themselves to the authority of the Board of Elders (Hebrews 13:7, 17, 24),” which has been found in each of our Constitutions since 1986. In that Constitution, our Church family first declared: “In matters of business, the government of this church, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, is invested in the elders and ratified by the congregation.” Quite a bold statement for any Baptist Church back then, and a key part of what makes us Bent Creek today.

[2] A “contumacious attitude” is one characterized by an “obstinate or contemptuous resistance to authority; [or] stubborn rebelliousness” (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996).

[3] Jay Adams, Handbook of Church Discipline. A Right and Privilege of Every Church Member (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1974). This excellent work has shaped much of our Biblical understanding concerning Church Discipline in these Bylaws, and provides many useful insights about how this process should be conducted.

[4] Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership, revised & expanded ed. (Littleton, CO: Lewis & Roth, Publ., 1995), p. 217