Updating ECLC’s Governance Documents

Dear Members of Edina Community Lutheran Church,

In order to be a thriving, nimble congregation that is able to respond to opportunities for mission and ministry, we also need to be a stable, well-governed congregation. For that reason, some of us have been quietly working over several years to strengthen our governing documents. These documents, the Constitution and Bylaws, lay out the principles and practices by which we operate as a formal organization. But they are outdated and out of compliance with the Synod’s guidelines.

At our annual congregational meeting on February 10, 2019 we will vote on new versions of both documents. Please read on for some more details about key changes proposed and how to provide input.

To start, it might help to understand some of the key differences between the Bylaws and the Constitution.

Document Purpose Change Procedure
Constitution States our purpose as an organization;
specifies our relationship to the synod
and members; addresses ownership.
Two consecutive "yes" votes at annual
meetings of the congregation, by 2/3
majority vote. (Meaning changes we vote
for now could be effective after the
2020 annual meeting.)
Bylaws Describe how we conduct our business,
how decisions are made, who is
responsible for what.
Simple majority vote at a congregational
meeting.

Building on the work of previous committees and with guidance from the Synod office, Carol Bros, Pastor Jeff Sartain, and I have been working on the current drafts over the past six months or so. We had three main goals for these revisions.

Goal One: Make our documents consistent with our current practices

For example, the bylaws specify that we must keep paper records, whereas in practice we keep electronic records.

Goal Two: Bring our Constitution into compliance with ELCA requirements

For example, the current constitution is missing required detail about the process for calling pastors, terminating pastors, and discipling members. The ELCA requires that, if a congregation updates their constitution, it needs to follow the Synod Model Constitution. This is longer and more detailed than ECLC’s current constitution but is generally not different in substance from ECLC’s current one. It includes procedures for many possible but unexpected situations, such as if ECLC decides to leave the ELCA. We can include changes to the model, but they must be approved by the Synod. The draft we are preparing includes some changes to incorporate language that is central to ECLC’s mission.

Goal Three: Update the Bylaws with policies and procedures to fit the current size of our congregation

For example, the bylaws give the council responsibility for making many routine decisions that it’s more practical for staff to make. This is a legacy from when we did not have a professional staff. A few other changes include updating wording such as changing “Pastor” to “Pastors”, updating the section on standing committees to match current practice, adding a section on call committees, and additional issues listed below that require further input and discussion.

Issues Requiring Further Discussion

There are several items on which we would like to seek further input from the congregation before making a firm recommendation and submitting drafts of the Constitution and Bylaws.

  • Proxy Voting – Currently members not present at a meeting can give their vote to another member as a proxy. This process is confusing, vulnerable to misuse, cumbersome administratively, and discouraged the ELCA. However it does provide a way for snow birds, for example, to be represented in annual meetings…sort of. The proxy voter is not bound to vote according to the absent member’s intent.

  • Quorum – Currently a congregational meeting requires a minimum of 30 people present. Is this the right number?

  • Investment Policies – We are proposing to develop a new set of investment policies and move them out of the Bylaws into a separate document.

  • Length of Council of Ministers Terms – Based on conversations with many past Council members, we are suggseting that Council terms could be changed from the current two years to three years. Will this provide more stability? Will it be a barrier to participation?

Draft Reviews and Hearings

Following is a planned schedule for public review of the documents and receiving input from the congregation. Given the difficulty of editing on the fly during the annual meeting, we are hoping to allow plenty of opportunity to gather thoughts and questions well in advance and present a final set of documents on January 30 with no further amendments after that time.

January 2 - Post drafts for public comment, online and in print at ECLC
January 8, 6:30-7:30pm - Hearing to get feedback and answer questions, at ECLC
January 9, 10:30-11:30am - Hearing to get feedback and answer questions, at ECLC
January 27 - Adult Forum Governance Jeopardy! and more Q&A with congregation
January 28 - Revisions to incorporate feedback, submit to Synod
January 30 - Final proposed documents posted
February 10 - Vote at annual Congregational Meeting

If you have any questions or concerns about the process, or if you are unable to participate in the public feedback process, please don’t hesitate to contact me by email or by phone at 612-314-9304. And thanks for your attention to this wonky but important endeavor!

Karen Graham
ECLC Council President

Read the proposed Constitution and Bylaws

PDF files of ECLC’s Constitution and Bylaws are available to download and review:

Final drafts-upon which the Congregation will vote-are scheduled to be posted on January 30, 2019.

Feedback Wanted

Please share your thoughts about the proposed changes with us using the form below:

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