Friday, June 29, 2007

Sample Constitution and Bylaws for local Baptist churches

One of the very first articles I wrote for this blog was on the importance of churches being registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. You might want to review that article dated November 5, 2005. In brief, SEC registration gives the church a legal personality and thus, church properties can be titled under its own name, not under the name of the pastor or of some members. In that article, I also distinguished between corporation sole and religious society (or aggregate).

For churches wanting to register as a corporation, the SEC has ready made forms for Constitution and Bylaws, sold at four hundred pesos, the last time I checked. The problem however is that these ready made documents are not suitable for local churches. For example, in these forms, one of the corporate officers is the President. The question is, who’s the president of the church? Some churches, recognizing the deficiencies of these forms, thus attached their Articles of Faith as an annex to these documents.

Instead of relying on these ready made forms from the SEC, churches here in the Philippines can use as a pattern the Constitution and Bylaws of Baptist churches in the USA or Canada, incorporating the changes necessary or desirable under Philippine conditions, denominational affiliation, Baptist organization or fellowship. You can search Google or Yahoo using the search expression “Baptist church” + “Constitution and Bylaws”. In terms of writing and clarity of procedures, the Constitution and Bylaws of the First Baptist Church of Harvester in Missouri, USA is the best I have seen. You can also find sample Constitutions from the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists website. The Church Planting Group of the North American Mission Board, SBC also offers a readily adaptable sample Constitution for local churches.

By registering with the SEC, churches in a way are giving up some of their autonomy by agreeing to be bound by the laws of our country. In case of disputes or disagreements that eventually reach our judicial system, the courts will refer to the Constitution and By-Laws of the church for the resolution of the case. For SEC-registered churches, splits or disputes are intra-corporate disputes and are under the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Courts designated as commercial courts. The SEC no longer has jurisdiction over intra-corporate disputes in view of the Securities Regulation Code.

In cases of disputes regarding doctrine however, there is a US Supreme Court ruling which states that such are beyond the jurisdiction of secular courts. I have discussed this ruling in seminars for churches, pastors’ groups and Bible schools on the “The 1987 Constitution and Freedom of Religion.”

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