Church Constitution

CONTENTS

Preamble
Article I: Members and Electors
Article II: Selection of Elders and Deacons
Article III: Duties of Church Officers
Article IV: Removal of Elders and Deacons
Article V: Discipline
Article VI: Subordinate Ministries
Article VII: Incorporation
Article VIII: Amendments
Appendix A

PREAMBLE

In the church of God all things are to be done decently and in order. This pertains to the government of the church as much as to the corporate worship of the church. Convinced that Jesus Christ, the Head of the church, will protect and guide us, we seek to obey Scripture through the following standards for the orderly and scriptural government of our church, Providence Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. These standards do not supplant Scripture, but rather are an expression of our understanding of biblical church government under God. While seeking to be biblical in structure, we make no claim that every detail found here is expressly taught by Scripture. These standards are primarily procedural; the doctrinal position of the church may be found in the Confession of Faith.

The purpose of this church is to glorify God through submission to His Word in true worship, proclaiming grace in Christ to sinners, and building up the saints through doctrinal and applicatory preaching of the whole counsel of God, and faithful observance of Christ’s sacraments.

 Article I: Members and Electors

A. Members

The procedures of membership outlined below are designed solely for the purpose of maintaining scriptural and accountable local church government (Heb. 13:17), such that our affairs are conducted in decency and in order (1 Cor. 14:40). In no way is our practice of membership to be construed in such a way as to disrupt our Christian unity and fellowship with true saints who attend church elsewhere (Gal. 3:28; 1 Cor. 3:1-4).

B. Household Membership

1. Membership in the community of our church will be normally reckoned by household. A household will be eligible when the head of that household meets the following criteria.

a. He professes faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:9-10);

b. He does not contradict his profession through his manner of life (Matt. 7:22-23);

c. He has been lawfully baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19);

d. He considers his permanent residence to be in our geographical region (Eph. 1:1);

e. He submits himself to the government of this church (Philemon 2; Heb. 13:7,17).

2. The elders in session may admit eligible households and/or individuals into membership in Providence Church based upon the positive testimony of two or more elders who have personally spoken with the head of the household or the individual(s) seeking membership in Providence Church, and who have heard their profession of faith and ascertained that they have been lawfully baptized by a Christian church. Those seeking membership who make a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but who have not been baptized in a Christian church may be considered for membership after being baptized. Letters of transfer from another Christian church will be accepted, but will not mitigate the requirement to meet with a minimum of two elders.

3. The elders will maintain a membership list, with the members of each household listed in a clear manner, including names, dates of birth, with yes/no entries for baptism, profession of faith, and communicant status. This membership list will be maintained by the elders, and is not to be confused with the church directory of addresses and phone numbers.

4. If an individual satisfies the criteria listed above, but has no family, or members of his family choose to join another church or refuse to believe, then he will be included as an individual member of our church.

5. Because water baptism is required of those seeking membership, the following guidelines will apply. When an unbeliever is brought to a profession of faith in Christ, he should be immediately instructed on the subject of baptism, and baptized at the first opportunity. When an unbaptized professor of faith moves to our church, he will be instructed on his responsibility to obey Christ by receiving baptism at the first opportunity. He will not be admitted into membership in the church until he is baptized. When baptisms are administered by the elders of our church, the mode used (whether by pouring, immersion, or sprinkling) will be determined through arrangement with the person being baptized, or with his parents.

When a baptized believer moves to our church, the elders acknowledge his baptism as Christian baptism in receiving him into the membership of the church. This will not be affected by whether the baptism was administered in infancy.

If the baptism was administered by an apostate church, or a non-Christian sect or cult, as formally decided by the elders of the church in session, the individual will be instructed on his responsibility to be baptized at the first opportunity. As an act of an ecclesiastical government, a valid baptism does not depend upon the personal integrity of the minister conducting the baptism, or the doctrinal and moral integrity of the administering church. Nevertheless, if the doctrinal and moral corruptions are so far advanced as to require our elders to consider that church to be no Christian church at all, then the baptisms administered by such a church will not be received. Given the complexity of all such issues, the elders will deal with each situation on a case-by-case basis.

6. When the criteria listed above have been fulfilled, a household or individual will be formally received into the membership of Providence Church before the congregation on the Lord’s Day in the following manner.

a. The individual or head of household will be asked the following questions:

1) “Do you acknowledge yourself to be a sinner in need of salvation by Christ, and do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, receiving and resting upon Him alone as He is offered in the gospel?”

2) “Have you been baptized in accordance with His Word?”

3) “Do you swear in the name of God, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, to live in a way that becomes followers of Christ?”

4) “Do you swear in the name of God to support the ministry of this church in its worship and work, submitting to its government and discipline, while pursuing its purity and peace?” When the questions are addressed to the head of a household, he will also be asked if he is speaking on behalf of the household.

b. When an affirmative answer has been given, the members of the congregation will be asked to welcome the individual or household into this covenant relation of membership together with them. They will signify agreement with a corporate “Amen.”

c. One of the elders will offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God.

C. Release or Transfer of Membership

1. If a member household or individual member of Providence Church in good standing requests to be released to the care of another Christian church, the elders will grant the request, and release them with a blessing.

2. If a member household or individual member of Providence Church requests to be released because of disciplinary proceedings against the individual or anyone in the household, the elders will deny the request until the disciplinary matter is resolved.

3. If a member household or individual member is moving from our geographical area, before they leave the elders will exhort them on their duty to find a new church home. If they have not joined themselves to a new church within six months of moving, the elders will release them from membership in Providence Church with a letter of admonition. This will be done even if in the interim a situation arises which would normally call for the disciplinary intervention of the church.

D. Communicant Members and Noncommunicant Members of Member Households

The elders of the church recognize, through admitting the head of the household into such membership, that he is responsible before God for the spiritual condition of that household. The head of the household therefore makes recommendations to the elders concerning members of his household on such matters as baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Under the headship of Christ, the administration of church sacraments (or ordinances) remains with the elders. However, in such administration, the elders are to respect the spiritual responsibility of the head of the household.

1. Those members of households who have not professed faith in the Lord through water baptism, and have not come to the Lord’s Table, are recognized by the elders of the church to be non-communicant members of member households.

2. Members of households who have been baptized in water, and have come to the Lord’s Table are considered by the elders of the church to be communicant members of the church, and recognized as communicant members of member households.

3. When a child in a baptistic home comes to a personal profession of faith in the Lord, the parents should notify the elders, and confirm to them their child’s profession of faith. The elders will arrange for the baptism of the child, and he will then come to the Lord’s Table.

4. After parents get approval from the elders, a baptized child who understands the meaning of the Supper may partake of the Lord’s Table, provided the parents carefully instruct the child in the gospel at each observation of the Supper. When the child comes to a credible profession of faith, the head of the household will notify the elders.

E. Electors

Those members of Providence Church who vote in church elections will be called electors.

1. Qualifications for electors: Electors of Providence Church are those who are heads of member households. Unmarried members who are independent of their parents may be considered as a household for purposes of voting.

2. Authority of electors: Electors may vote in the elections of elders and deacons, and provide input to the elders and deacons at a monthly meeting.

3. Qualified electors: The elders will qualify electors. Three weeks prior to any election to church office, the election will be announced and the ballot will be provided to the electors. Those who desire to vote but who do not receive a ballot may contact the elders. If qualified, they will be provided a ballot in time for the election.

4. Elections: Elections will be conducted at appropriate times set by the elders.

5. Heads of Households meetings: The congregation will hold a monthly meeting of heads of member households, which will be the normal channel through which the elders and deacons receive advice from the representatives of the church’s households.

Article II: Selection of Elders and Deacons

A. Elders

Elections will be held from time to time as circumstances warrant. A man may be considered as a potential elder in several ways. He may aspire to the office himself (1 Tim. 3:1), the elders may approach him, or the people of the church may suggest his name to the elders. Once he becomes a candidate, the elders will examine the candidate with regard to his doctrine and manner of life. If the candidate has any disagreement or mental reservation about any portion of the church’s Confession of Faith or Constitution, then he must inform the elders of it. All candidates must meet the qualifications for the office set down in Scripture (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9; 1 Pet. 5:2-4).

A man may not be placed on the ballot without the unanimous consent of the current elders. Once on the ballot, the electors of the church have the option of voting either “yes” or “no.”

If the candidate receives the unanimous support of the church as represented (Phil. 2:1-4), the elders will ordain the new elder to the ministry of eldership through the laying on of hands and prayer.

The requirement for unanimity may be set aside only through the unanimous consent of the elders, and that only after the elders have carefully considered any objections in the light of Scripture. The elders will set aside such objections if it is clear the objections are unscriptural or unwarranted. However, refusal to overturn these objections does not constitute agreement with the objections on the part of the elders.

If the objections are overturned, then one of the elders will meet with those who objected to discuss the elders’ decision.

If a candidate for office is not elected, then one of the elders will meet with him within one week to discuss the election and answer any questions the candidate might have.

Once installed, the elder will serve for life, unless he resigns or is removed.

B. Deacons

Elections will be held from time to time as circumstances warrant. A man may be considered as a potential deacon in several ways. He may aspire to the office himself, the elders or deacons may approach him, or individuals in the church may suggest his name to the elders or deacons. Once he becomes a candidate, the elders will examine him concerning his doctrine and manner of life. The deacons will then include the candidate in their work in order to prove his fitness for the office (1 Tim. 3:10). When the candidate has shown, in the unanimous judgment of the deacons, his fitness for office, the deacons will make a recommendation to the elders to place his name on the ballot. The elders will examine the candidate again with regard to his suitability for the diaconate. If the candidate has any disagreement or mental reservation about any portion of the church’s Confession of Faith or Constitution, then he must inform the elders of it. All candidates must meet the qualifications for the office set down in Scripture (1 Tim. 3:8-13).

A man may not be placed on the ballot without the unanimous consent of the current elders. Once on the ballot, the electors have the option of voting either “yes” or “no.”

If, in the unanimous judgment of the elders, the candidate receives the clear and obvious support of the church as represented, the elders will ordain the new deacon to the ministry through the laying on of hands and prayer (Acts 6:6).

If a candidate for office is not elected, then an elder will meet with him within one week to discuss the election and answer any questions the candidate might have.

Once installed, the deacon will serve for life, unless he resigns or is removed.

Article III. Duties of Church Officers

A. Elders

1. The elders are collectively responsible to oversee the following:

a. Ruling/shepherding (1 Pet. 5:1-2).

b. Equipping (Eph. 4:11-12).

c. Prayer/fasting (Acts 6:4; 13:1-3).

d. Teaching/preaching (1 Tim. 5:17).

e. Administering baptism and the Lord’s Table (Matt. 28:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26).

f. Administering church discipline and restoration (1 Cor. 5:1-5).

g. Prayer for the healing of the sick (Jas. 5:14-15).

h. Delegating responsibilities to the deacons, hiring and firing church staff, defining the responsibilities of church staff, and delegating responsibilities to the staff of subordinate ministries. The elders will approve the annual budget.

i. Commissioning or licensing ministerial students, and overseeing the course of their training for the eldership. Under the guidance and oversight of the board of elders, such commissioned individuals will have the opportunity to perform all the various ministerial functions of elders, participation in the rule of the church being the only exception.

2. Conduct of elders’ meetings:

All usual business of the elders will be conducted at their regular meetings or at special meetings called for a particular purpose. The elders will appoint one of their number to moderate the meetings of the elders, and one to record the minutes of the meetings. The moderator will not be an elder who also serves as a pastor or minister of the church.

3. Responsibilities of individual elders:

Elders are responsible for those duties delegated to them by the body of elders, and recorded in the minutes, with due regard to their gifts and desires. Elders with such a charge will serve willingly, and without domineering in the discharge of their assigned duties, whether pastoral or administrative (1 Peter 5:1-3). There is no distinction of rank within the body of elders.

Under Christ, the highest authority in the local church is the board of elders or presbyters in session. While all the elders are equally involved in ruling the church, some presbyters are to be recognized by the church as also given to the labor of word and doctrine. As elders, all share the same rank and authority without distinction. Nevertheless, the church acknowledges the variety of gifts and callings God gives to men, and recognizes that some of the elders, though equal in rank and authority, are especially gifted and called to preach the Word, and to teach right doctrine (1 Tim. 5:17-18).

Our church therefore recognizes three distinct callings or offices related to the session of elders for this local church. The first is called to a pastoral ministry of the Word, and called by us a teaching elder, minister, or pastor (Eph. 4:11-12; 1 Pet. 5:2-4). A second is called to a didactic ministry of the Word, called by us a teacher or doctor (1 Cor. 12:28; James 3:1). A third is called to government and rule according to the Word, called by us a ruler or ruling elder (1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Thess. 5:12-13; Heb. 13:7,17; Rom. 12:8; 1 Cor. 12:28). The names used for these callings are descriptive only, not titular or honorific (Matt. 23:8-10).

The ruling elders principally function in the government of the church. The teachers share this rule, and are also responsible for teaching and instruction from the Word. The ministers also share in the rule of the church, and in addition are principally responsible for the proclamation of the Word on the Lord’s Day, as well as the general oversight of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Each elder will have his calling and office acknowledged by the elders in session.

In all meetings of the session of presbyters, each elder has one vote. The meetings of the session will be moderated by an elder selected by the other elders. In their capacity as a session, the elders oversee all the affairs of the church, including the particular labors of teachers and ministers.

4. Compensation:

Those elders whose assigned duties preclude them from providing for their families in the ordinary way must be compensated by the church (1 Tim. 5:17-18).

B. Deacons

1. Responsibilities of deacons:

Under the general oversight of the elders, the deacons will manage the financial, physical, social, and benevolent functions of the church (Acts 6:2-4). Such responsibilities include preparing and administering the annual budget, building maintenance, fellowship meals, administration of subordinate ministries, office support, and administering the deacons’ fund.

2. Conduct of deacons’ meetings:

All usual business of the deacons will be conducted at their regular meeting, or at a special meeting called for a particular purpose. The deacons will appoint one of their number to moderate the meetings of the deacons. The deacons will be prepared to give a general report of their work at each monthly household meeting, they will provide a quarterly financial report to the church, and they will give an annual report to the elders with proposals for the upcoming year.

3. Responsibilities of individual deacons:

Individual deacons are responsible for those duties assigned to them by the deacons, as recorded in the minutes, with due regard to their gifts and desires. There is no distinction of rank among the deacons.

4. Administering the Deacons’ Fund:

a. In the benevolent functions of the church, the deacons are responsible to maintain the biblical standard of money, charity, work, and related issues (Gal. 6:10; 2 Thess. 3:4-16; Eph. 4:28; 1 Tim. 5:3-4, 8; Is. 10:1-4).

b. The Deacons’ Fund is available to members of Providence Church to meet pressing needs. When a need is made known through the elders, deacons, or members of the church, the deacons will examine the scope and urgency of the need and present it to the elders. Upon approval by the elders, the family or individual will be placed on the Deacons’ Fund until the need is met or they are removed for other reasons.

c. Upon being placed on the list for the Deacons’ Fund, the head of the household will be asked to submit an acceptable household budget to the deacons within thirty days. A deacon or elder will be assigned to review the family budget and give counsel and financial advice as necessary.

d. If able, the head of the household is required to work at a full-time job.

e. The household will be discouraged from receiving public assistance in the form of food stamps or direct welfare payments, not including medical reimbursements or assistance.

f. In case of one-time needs exceeding $1000, the deacons will seek elder approval for the expenditure at the next regular elder meeting. If the need cannot be met from the Deacons’ Fund, the deacons may seek elder approval to move funds from general savings to meet the need. A household budget will not be required for one-time needs paid in full from the Deacons’ Fund. However, a budget will be requested by the deacons if the family stays on the list for the Deacons’ Fund after that particular need is met.

g. Families supported by the Deacons’ Fund will be visited by a deacon at least once a month to ensure their financial needs are being met. Budget counseling will be provided by the deacons when necessary. If there are spiritual matters which need attention, the deacons will notify the elders. The deacons will report regularly to the elders on the status of families remaining on the list for the Deacons’ Fund more than three months.

h. Indigent giving will be decided by the deacons on a case-by-case basis. As a general rule the deacons will not disburse money to indigents, but will purchase items necessary to meet basic needs in such areas as food, clothing, shelter, and travel.

5. Christian Education Fund

a. The Christian Education Fund is a special category of the Deacons’ Fund. Monies from the fund will be available to help qualified families with expenses associated with providing a biblical education for their dependent children, whether for homeschooling, tutorial services, or a private Christian school. The fund will be supplied as an item in the annual budget and through designated gifts.

b. In ordinary situations, the family concerned will be asked to show its commitment to Christian education through providing as much for their children’s’ education as their budget will allow. In extraordinary situations, the entire cost may be borne by the fund.

c. Whenever possible, payments will be made directly to the school, tutorial service , textbook supplier, etc.

d. Recipients of the Christian Education Fund must qualify fully for the Deacons’ Fund.

e. In addition to Deacons’ Fund criteria, the following standards also apply. The elders must have reason to believe that, due to personal or financial constraints, the children are likely to receive non-Christian or sub-standard Christian education. The family will receive consistent pastoral counseling for the duration of support from the fund, consistent with the circumstances. The deacons will verify that the fund is not being used to pay tuition in such a way as to receive a tax write-off.

f. Recipients must be reapproved in July for the following school year. After a family has received support for one school year, the deacons will assign a member to review the family’s household budget and help them set up a plan to assume the entire cost of their children’s’ education.

C. Resignation of Elders or Deacons

If an elder or deacon desires to resign his office or take a leave of absence, he will present a letter expressing this desire and explaining his reasons to the board of elders. The elders will notify the men of the church at the next monthly household meeting of their receipt of the letter. If the desire of the elder or deacon concerned is unchanged by the following monthly household meeting, then the elders will read a statement to the assembled men accepting the resignation, or approving the leave of absence.

If the resignation is sought for reasons of moral or doctrinal turpitude, then the elders must exercise biblical discipline prior to, or in conjunction with, any consideration of the letter of resignation.

Article IV: Removal of Elders and Deacons

A. Elders

If one of the saints believes an elder may be morally or doctrinally unfit for his office, the scriptural requirement for him is clear: he is to approach that elder individually first (Matt. 18:15), and then with one or two others (Matt. 18:16). If the problem remains, then the individual, with the two or three witnesses, should come to the other elders and present the charges (1 Tim. 5:19).

If the charges are doctrinal or moral in nature, and if the other elders unanimously decide that the question merits an investigation and/or trial, then they will (a) inform the men of the church of the nature of the charges, (b) announce the date(s) of the scheduled investigation and/or trial, and encourage the men to attend.

If the charges are unanimously sustained by the other elders, then that elder, depending on the gravity of the charges and the response to the correction, will be rebuked in the presence of the congregation (1 Tim. 5:20), or will be removed from the office of elder (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9), or both.

B. Deacons

If one of the saints believes a deacon may be morally or doctrinally unfit for his office, the scriptural requirement for him is clear: he is to approach that deacon individually first (Matt. 18:15), and then with one or two others (Matt. 18:16). If the problem remains, then the individual, with the two or three witnesses, should come to the elders and present the charges.

If the charges are doctrinal or moral in nature, and if the elders unanimously decide that the question merits an investigation and/or trial, then they will (a) inform the men of the church of the nature of the charges, (b) announce the date(s) of the scheduled investigation and/or trial, and (c) encourage the men to attend.

If the charges are unanimously sustained by the elders, then that deacon, depending on the gravity of the charges and his response to the correction, may be corrected, or removed from the office of deacon (1 Tim. 3:8-13).

Article V: Discipline

 A. Types of Discipline

1. Informal Church Discipline: Informal discipline is applied by an individual or multiple members of the church without the formal action of the elders or the church as a body. The elders will, through teaching and example, encourage the members of the congregation to discipline themselves and one another through the following practices:

a. Self-discipline: Exercising self-control or applying self-correction;

b. Overlooking the minor failings of others in love (1 Pet. 4:8);

c. Informal admonishment: Encouraging one another to faithfulness and warning others in love to guard their hearts and minds against specific temptations and sins (Matt. 18:15).

2. Formal Church Discipline:

If informal discipline does not result in satisfactory correction, then those who are aware of the need for discipline are expected to call the matter to the attention of the elders. In the case of open and scandalous sin, there is no requirement to attempt private resolution of the matter, and it should be brought to the elders without delay. Formal discipline will be pursued only after scriptural prerequisites have been satisfied and the elders have made sufficient inquiry. In extraordinary situations, the elders have the authority to take immediate disciplinary action if the honor of Christ or the purity of the church is directly threatened by a failure to act. Formal church discipline is applied through the formal action and unanimous judgment of the elders. Formal discipline generally entails the following actions under the authority and oversight of the elders:

a. Formal Private Admonishment:

When a brother or sister is in sin and remains unrepentant, rejecting informal admonition, one or two members of the church, appointed by the elders, will formally admonish them in private, pleading earnestly for their repentance and solemnly warning them of the dire spiritual consequences and judgment that may follow if they fail to repent (Matt. 18:16).

b. Formal Public Admonishment:

In some cases, considering the gravity and scandalous nature of the sin, the elders may decide to admonish and warn the brother or sister publicly so that they may be ashamed and repent (2 Thess. 3:14-15).

c. Suspension:

In some cases, considering the gravity or scandalous character of the sin, the elders may decide to suspend the brother or sister from the Table, from positions of responsibility or leadership, or from normal fellowship so that they may be ashamed and repent (2 Thess. 3:14-15).

d. Formal Trial:

When all other informal and formal measures and admonishments have failed to bring about the desired repentance, or in extraordinary situations where the honor of Christ or the purity of the church demand immediate action, the elders must proceed to formally charge the brother or sister of specific, willful, and unrepentant violations of God’s Law and try them accordingly in a fair, just, solemn and timely manner. The most severe judgment which may be brought against a brother or sister convicted at trial is excommunicative censure, which is exclusion from the Supper and being regarded as an unbeliever.

B. Subjects and Nature of Discipline

1. Communicant Members: Those who meet the criteria of communicant membership according to Article I, Section B of the Providence Church Constitution may be disciplined in the manner described in this Constitution. Communicant members who are children are also subject to the discipline of the church, although the elders will seek to work with the parents as possible, taking into account the age and circumstances of the child.

2. Members of member households: In the case of children who have not come to the Lord’s Supper over a period of years, the elders will begin offering pastoral help to the head of that household. If the child leaves the household without ever having made such a profession of faith, or if the child falls into obvious and scandalous sin, then the elders will solemnly warn the child of the spiritual hazards in rejecting a biblical upbringing, and urge him to repent and believe. If the warning is not heeded, then the elders will remove the child’s name from the list of member households.

3. Non-members: Professing Christians who attend the church regularly, but who are not members, may be rebuked, but not excommunicated.

4. Professing Christians under discipline by other churches: If another church has disciplined one of its members, and that person subsequently comes to our church, then the elders will decide whether to honor the discipline of the other church after due consultation with the person concerned and after all appropriate information is obtained from the disciplining church.

C. Formal Disciplinary Procedures

1. Formal Pre-trial Procedures

a. When the elders determine that formal discipline is necessary, they will initiate the biblical means to admonish or suspend the brother or sister in a fair, just, solemn and timely manner.

b. The elders shall establish the specific procedures for each admonishment and/or suspension, singly or in combination, on a case-by-case basis, as appropriate to the circumstances and individuals involved. However, at minimum these procedures should include:

1) Formal Private Admonishment:

When a brother or sister is in sin and they remain unrepentant, and the elders have admonished them as described above in Article V.A.2.a, the elders will inform them that this admonishment is the first step in formal church discipline. Failure to heed this private admonishment and to repent will lead to further discipline that may conclude in trial and excommunication from Christ’s church.

2) Formal Public Admonishment:

When the elders decide to admonish a brother or sister publicly as described above in Article V.A.2.b, the elders will inform them that this admonishment is the first (or second) step in formal church discipline. Failure to heed this public admonishment and to repent will lead to further discipline that may conclude in trial and excommunication from Christ’s church.

3) Suspension:

When the elders decide suspension is in order as described above in Article V.A.2.c., the elders will inform the person suspended that this admonishment is the first (or second) step in formal church discipline. Failure to heed this suspension and to repent will lead to further discipline that may conclude in trial and excommunication from Christ’s church.

2. Formal Trial Procedures

a. When the elders determine that a trial is necessary, they will endeavor to use all biblical means to conduct a fair, just, solemn and timely trial.

b. The elders shall establish the specific procedures for each trial on a case-by-case basis, as appropriate to the circumstances and individuals involved. However, at minimum these procedures should include:

1) Informing the accused of the detailed charges against them in writing, including the time, place, and date of the trial, and giving them ample time for the preparation of a defense;

2) Informing the congregation’s heads of households at the next regularly scheduled household meeting;

3) At the trial, one of the elders will open with prayer and a solemn charge from the Word of God on the responsibilities of those present;

4) Granting the accused time to make a reasonable defense at the trial, to reply and answer all charges, and to cross examine all witnesses called to testify;

5) Taking a separate vote by the elders on each of the charges, if there are more than one, only after all the evidence has been presented, all relevant considerations have been fairly addressed, and the elders have had time to deliberate and prayerfully consider the matter; and

6) Declaring publicly the judgment and actions of the elders regarding the accused on an appointed Lord’s day, following an explanation and exhortation appropriate for the occasion, and providing the accused with a written copy of the judgment of the elders;

7) Making an official file containing all the records pertaining to the excommunication, including pertinent correspondence, transcripts, and minutes. If he requests it, the convicted member will be given one copy of this file at the expense of the church.

8) Any appeals to presbytery will be conducted in accordance with the Constitution of the Confederation of Reformed Evangelicals.

D. Restoration

Excommunicative censure shall be ended when, in the unanimous opinion of the elders, the one under discipline has been restored through repentance and rededication, or conversion. A confession by the individual under discipline will be read to the congregation on the Lord’s Day, and the elders shall announce the end of the disciplinary action to the church.

Article VI. Subordinate Ministries

The elders may unanimously delegate to an individual or board the executive authority of any subordinate ministry established by the elders. This executive responsibility continues at the pleasure of the elders. In order to dismiss such an individual, or remove someone from such a board, a two-thirds vote of the elders is required. If the individual concerned is also an elder, he is excluded from voting on any matters concerning his own case. If separation of a subordinate ministry from Providence Church becomes necessary, that action may be authorized by a unanimous vote of the elders.

All formal actions concerning subordinate ministries will be entered in the minutes of the elders’ meetings.

Article VII. Incorporation

A. As a church of the Lord Jesus Christ, Providence Church is not constituted or incorporated by anyone other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the only head of the church.

B. Providence Church maintains its status as an unincorporated and unregistered church as a matter of conscience.

C. As a church of the Lord Jesus Christ, Providence Church accepts various burdens and entanglements of civil regulation and taxation under protest.

D. Providence Church has constituted herself, under the authority and headship of the Lord Jesus Christ, as an association of natural persons, and recognized as such by the laws of the State of Virginia.

Article VIII. Amendments

The Confession of Faith and Constitution may be amended at any time through unanimous consent of the elders, when the following conditions have been first fulfilled.

A. There is a first reading of the proposed change at the following monthly heads of households meeting.

B. A written copy of the proposed change/s is made available to the congregation at church.

C. The elders seek due consultation with the heads of households of the church at a subsequent monthly heads of households meeting.

Appendix A

A careful reading of our Constitution will show that we have agreed not to make a certain declaration concerning those children of our church who have not yet made an individual profession of faith. The Constitution is silent concerning whether a non-professing child is an individual member of the church or not.

This simply means that the elders of our church are not making a judicial declaration concerning the status of our children as individual members of the church. The elders are not saying that our children are excluded from membership in the church, and they are not saying that our children are included in membership in the church. Nevertheless, all the children are related to the church through their membership in member households.

Because of our commitment to the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3), and because of our shared commitment to the practice of household membership as outlined in our Constitution, these differences have been procedurally resolved between us. We have agreed to work together in this way until such time as the Lord brings us to one mind on the subject of baptism.

Adapted from Christ Church Constitution, October 31, 2001