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Church Order discuss Robertson's Rules Question in the The Church forums; The session of a PCA church calls a congregational meeting for the stated purpose of making an announcement and explaining a sessional decision. After this ...

  1. #1
    bravebee's Avatar
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    Robertson's Rules Question

    The session of a PCA church calls a congregational meeting for the stated purpose of making an announcement and explaining a sessional decision. After this announcement there is a motion from the floor to open the floor for discussion on the issue. There is a second. The clerk states that there can be no such discussion, citing the Book of Church Order, saying that no business may take place except that which was in the stated purpose of the meeting. The members claim that with a proper motion and second, discussion must be allowed.

    Who's right?
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    Scott1's Avatar
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    Perhaps this ought be posted in the Presbyterian Polity forum.

    A Pastor once wisely said the Book of Church Order is something one learns by using it.

    I could be wrong, but see only a requirement for General Assembly, and perhaps Committees and Commissions to operate by Robert's Rules. It's not clear if it is required for Sessions, but certainly impliedly can be adopted by them.

    Presbyterian Church in America
    Book of Church Order

    RULES OF ASSEMBLY OPERATIONS

    ARTICLE XIX. PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURE
    19-1. Except as otherwise specifically provided in these Rules, Robertís
    Rules of Order, Newly Revised, shall be the standard in parliamentary
    procedure.


    CHAPTER 25
    Congregational Meetings

    25-1. The congregation consists of all the communing members of a
    particular church, and they only are entitled to vote.
    25-2. Whenever it may seem for the best interests of the church that a
    congregational meeting should be held, the Session shall call such meeting
    and give public notice of at least one week. No business shall be transacted
    at such meeting except what is stated in the notice. The Session shall always
    call a congregational meeting when requested in writing to do so:
    a. by one-fourth (1/4) of the communing members of a church of
    not more than one hundred (100) such members,
    b. by one-fifth (1/5) of the communing members of a church of
    more than one hundred (100) and not more than three hundred
    (300) such members,
    c. by one-sixth (1/6) of the communing members of a church of
    more than three hundred (300) and not more than five hundred
    (500) such members,
    d. by one-seventh (1/7) of the communing members of a church of
    more than five hundred (500) members but not more than seven
    hundred (700) such members,
    e. by one hundred (100) of the communing members of a church of
    more than seven hundred (700) such members.
    Upon such a proper request, if the Session cannot act, fails to act or
    refuses to act, to call such a congregational meeting within thirty (30) days
    from the receipt of such a request, then any member or members in good
    standing may file a complaint in accordance with the provisions of BCO 43.
    25-3. The quorum of the congregational meeting shall consist of onefourth
    (1/4) of the resident communing members, if the church has not more
    than one hundred (100) such members, and of one-sixth (1/6) of the resident
    communing members if a church has more than one hundred (100) such
    members.

    25-4. The pastor shall be the moderator of congregational meetings by
    virtue of his office. If it should be impracticable or inexpedient for him to
    preside, or if there is no pastor, the Session shall appoint one of their number
    to call the meeting to order and to preside until the congregation shall elect
    their presiding officer, who may be a minister of the Presbyterian Church in
    America, or any male member of that particular church.
    25-5. A clerk shall be elected by the congregation to serve at that meeting
    or for a definite period, whose duty shall be to keep correct minutes of the
    proceedings and of all business transacted and to preserve these minutes in a
    permanent form, after they have been attested by the moderator and the clerk
    of the meeting. He shall also send a copy of these minutes to the Session of
    the church.
    25-6. A particular church which is not incorporated, desiring to elect
    trustees, may select from among its membership trustees or officers of like
    nature who shall have the power and authority:
    a. to buy, sell, or mortgage property for the church,
    b. to accept and execute deeds as such trustees,
    c. to hold and defend titles to the same, and
    d. to manage any permanent special funds entrusted to them for the
    furtherance of the purposes of the church.
    In the fulfillment of their duties, such trustees shall be subject always
    to the authority, and shall act solely under the instructions of the
    congregation which they serve as trustees. The powers or duties of such
    trustees must not infringe upon the powers or duties of the Session or of the
    Board of Deacons. Such trustees shall be elected in regularly constituted
    congregational meetings.

    25-7. If a particular church is incorporated, the provisions of its charter and
    bylaws must always be in accord with the Constitution of the Presbyterian
    Church in America. All the communing members on the roll of that church
    shall be members of the corporation. The officers of the corporation,
    whether they be given the title trustee or some other title, shall be elected
    from among the members of the corporation in a regularly constituted
    congregational meeting. The powers and duties of such officers must not
    infringe upon the powers and duties of the Session or the Board of Deacons.
    All funds collected for the support and expense of the church and for
    the benevolent purposes of the church shall be controlled and disbursed by
    the Session and the Board of Deacons as their relative authorities may from
    time to time be established and defined.
    To the officers of the corporation may be given by the charter and
    bylaws of the corporation any or all of the following responsibilities:
    a. the buying, selling and mortgaging of property for the church,
    b. the acquiring and conveying title to such property, the holding
    and defending title to the same,
    c. the managing of any permanent special funds entrusted to them
    for the furtherance of the purposes of the church, provided that
    such duties do not infringe upon the powers and duties of the
    Session or of the Board of Deacons.
    In buying, selling, and mortgaging real property such officers shall
    act solely under the authority of the corporation, granted in a duly constituted
    meeting of the corporation.
    25-8. The corporation of a particular church, through its duly elected
    trustees or corporation officers, (or, if unincorporated, through those who are
    entitled to represent the particular church in matters related to real property)
    shall have sole title to its property, real, personal, or mixed, tangible or
    intangible, and shall be sole owner of any equity in any real estate, or any
    fund or property of any kind held by or belonging to any particular church, or
    any board, society, committee, Sunday school class or branch thereof. The
    superior courts of the Church may receive monies or properties from a local
    church only by free and voluntary action of the latter.

    25-9. All particular churches shall be entitled to hold, own and enjoy their
    own local properties, without any right of reversion whatsoever to any
    Presbytery, General Assembly or any other courts hereafter created, trustees
    or other officers of such courts.
    25-10. The provisions of this BCO 25 are to be construed as a solemn
    covenant whereby the Church as a whole promises never to attempt to secure
    possession of the property of any congregation against its will, whether or
    not such congregation remains within or chooses to withdraw from this body.
    All officers and courts of the Church are hereby prohibited from making any
    such attempt.
    25-11. While a congregation consists of all the communing members of a
    particular church, and in matters ecclesiastical the actions of such local
    congregation or church shall be in conformity with the provisions of this
    Book of Church Order, nevertheless, in matters pertaining to the subject
    matters referred to in this BCO 25, including specifically the right to affiliate
    with or become a member of this body or a Presbytery hereof and the right to
    withdraw from or to sever any affiliation of connection with this body or any
    Presbytery hereof, action may be taken by such local congregation or local
    church in accordance with the civil laws applicable to such local
    congregation or local church; and as long as such action is taken in
    compliance with such applicable civil laws, then such shall be the action of
    the local congregation or local church.
    It is expressly recognized that each local congregation or local
    church shall be competent to function and to take actions covering the
    matters set forth herein as long as such action is in compliance with the civil
    laws with which said local congregation or local church must comply, and
    this right shall never be taken from said local congregation or local church
    without the express consent of and affirmative action of such local church or
    congregation.
    Particular churches need remain in association with any court of this
    body only so long as they themselves so desire. The relationship is
    voluntary, based upon mutual love and confidence, and is in no sense to be
    maintained by the exercise of any force or coercion whatsoever. A particular
    church may withdraw from any court of this body at any time for reasons
    which seem to it sufficient.

    25-12. If a church is dissolved by the Presbytery at the request of the
    congregation and no disposition has been made of its property by those who
    hold the title to the property within six months after such dissolution, then
    those who held the title to the property at the time of such dissolution shall
    deliver, convey and transfer to the Presbytery of which the church was a
    member, or to the authorized agents of the Presbytery, all property of the
    church; and the receipt and acquittance of the Presbytery, or its proper
    representatives, shall be a full and complete discharge of all liabilities of such
    persons holding the property of the church. The Presbytery receiving such
    property shall apply the same or the proceeds thereof at its discretion.
    Chapter 25 is the constitutional charter for congregational meetings.

    ---------- Post added at 09:05 AM ---------- Previous post was at 08:50 AM ----------

    No business shall be transacted
    at such meeting except what is stated in the notice.
    It would seem that if notice was for an informational meeting, it would be limited to that, and would include at least incidental comments or questions from the congregation.

    The purpose not being to discuss the merits, but informational.

    There are mechanisms by which a minority can call for a special meeting for the specific purpose of discussing, evaluating the decision though. That would, of course, require advance notice, and a specifically stated purpose with the requisite numbers mentioned in Chapter 25.
    Scott
    PCA
    North Carolina


    Post Tenebras Lux; "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." - Revelation 21:4

  3. #3
    Wannabee's Avatar
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    RRO is a great guide and very helpful unless/until it becomes the master.
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    I think an argument could be made that this was the same business, and not some other topic.

    On the other hand, the Moderator makes a decision, and then people can challenge his decision, and see who wins.

    If folks don't like how a meeting went, there are provisions in that BCO for congregants calling a meeting, stating the business, and carrying on.

    The congregational meeting isn't the place where Presbyterian church government takes place. Other than discussions, its ordinarily convened to elect, to ratify, or to reject.
    Rev. Bruce G. Buchanan
    ChainOLakes Presbyterian Church, CentralLake, MI

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    sastark's Avatar
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    First, it seems that discussion of items at an informational meeting is in line with the idea of an "informational meeting". If the congregation would have attempted to make a motion to do some sort of business, then, perhaps, they could be ruled out of order. But, from the limited description you gave, it seems that the Chair was wrong.

    Also, Bruce already mentioned this, but, the Chair can be challenged on any decision. See my post here: The Ruling Elder: Robert's Rules of Order: Challenging the Chair

    Just because a chair makes a rule does not mean that is the end of the issue. I wish more people knew this.
    Seth Stark
    Member, Grace Presbyterian Church (OPC), Springfield, IL (though I live in Decatur, IL)

    (Formerly Ruling Elder, Communion Presbyterian Church (ARP), Irvine, CA)
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    Quote Originally Posted by bravebee View Post
    The session of a PCA church calls a congregational meeting for the stated purpose of making an announcement and explaining a sessional decision. After this announcement there is a motion from the floor to open the floor for discussion on the issue. There is a second. The clerk states that there can be no such discussion, citing the Book of Church Order, saying that no business may take place except that which was in the stated purpose of the meeting. The members claim that with a proper motion and second, discussion must be allowed.

    Who's right?
    What was the wording in the call for the meeting?

    Officers and members should know:

    - Decisions of the moderator can always be overridden by the body.

    - Congregational meetings in Presbyterian circles are usually very limited in scope to things like election of officers.

    - Itís not necessary for the session to call a formal congregational meeting to make an announcement.

    - Sessions should tread carefully. Calling a congregational meeting gives the appearance to the members that a decision is on the agenda and motions, etc will be in order, which they always are in a formal meeting.
    Tom Albrecht
    Attending Grace & Peace PCA, Pottstown, PA.

    "When I find the time, I'm going to sit down and write the social history of bourbon."

  7. #7
    C. M. Sheffield's Avatar
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    It's Robert's not Robertson's

    First, we must determine the nature of the meeting. If this meeting is not deliberative in nature, then all motions are "out of order."

    Secondly, if this assembly was deliberative in nature, then the actions all deliberative assemblies are subject to the governing documents of the organization - in this case, the BCO. If what the congregation is attempting to do is contrary to the BCO, then it's out of order - end of story - doesn't matter what the moderator says.

    Thirdly, I'm no expert on Presbyterian polity, but any attempt to re-open a matter already decided by the session sounds wrong to me. Unless the session was doing something it didn't have the authority to do - but a case for that would have to be made from the church's governing documents.

    I don't know all the details, but if I had to guess, I'd say your Clerk is right.

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