Church Rules

1. NAME AND AFFILIATION

1.1  The church shall be known as the Leytonstone United Free Church.

1.2  The church shall be affiliated to the Baptist Union of Great Britain and shall be a member church of the United Reformed Church in the United Kingdom.

1.3  The sponsoring body for the church shall be the Churches together in Cann Hall, Harrow Green and Leytonstone.

2. MEMBERSHIP

2.1  Membership shall be open to all who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and desire to be identified with the life and witness of this  church, provided that the church is satisfied of the genuineness of that confession and desire through the procedures outlined in the following rules.

2.2 Any person who was a member of Fillebrook Baptist Church or of the Leytonstone United Reformed Church (the "participating churches") on 7th October 1979 may become a member of this church on request.

2.3 A member in good standing of any other Christian church may be admitted to membership through a letter of transfer or its equivalent subject to the approval of a church meeting.

2.4 An applicant who is not already a member of a church or for whom no letter of transfer or equivalent is available may be considered for membership by a church meeting on the recommendation of the church council and on the applicant's personal declaration of faith in Jesus Christ as his or her Lord (see also rule 3.3).

2.5 If it is brought to the attention of the minister and/or the church council that the conduct of any member is thought inconsistent with membership of the church, the matter shall be dealt with as privately as possible and in a spirit of Christian charity but the church meeting may, if it deems it right to do so, terminate a person's membership on the ground of such conduct.

2.6 The church meeting may terminate the membership of any person who in its opinion has for at least a year shown insufficient evidence of a continued desire to be identified with the life and work of the church, but this may only be done after the member has been given reasonable notice that the matter is under consideration and has been if at all possible personally interviewed by the minister or some other member appointed by the church council. It shall be the responsibility of the church council to keep the roll of members under review with a view to possible deletions for this reason.

2.7 Termination of membership in accordance with 2.5 and 2.6  may take place only by the approval of at least two thirds of the members present at a church meeting.

2.8 If a person whose membership has been terminated subsequently wishes to become a member again, his or her application shall be dealt with in accordance with 2.4.

2.9 Any person becoming a member shall normally have been baptised, and shall if possible be received into membership at a communion service.

2.10  A single membership roll shall be maintained, and in addition a list of members of Fillebrook Baptist Church and a list of members of the Leytonstone United Reformed Church, to be known as the "B" List and the "R" List respectively. Each new member shall be enrolled on one or other of these lists according to his or her wish.

2.11 A member wishing to transfer membership to another church may, with the approval of the church meeting, be commended to that church by letter of transfer or equivalent procedure.

2.12 The church may at its own discretion maintain a roll of associate members (i.e. persons temporarily accepted for the responsibilities and privileges of membership while remaining in membership of another church), and a roll of friends (i.e. former members and others who wish to maintain a link with the church).

2.13 It shall be the responsibility of the church council to make suitable arrangements for the pastoral care of all church members.

3. SACRAMENTS

3.1 The conduct of public worship shall be the responsibility of the minister in consultation with the church council.

3.2 The church acknowledges the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper and honours the conviction of both the Baptist and United Reformed traditions regarding baptism, which may be administered as infant baptism or believers' baptism.

3.3 In ordinary circumstances Baptism of either kind shall be administered only by the approval of the church council, but in exceptional circumstances the minister shall use his or her discretion. Infant baptism shall normally be administered only if at least one of the parents shows sufficient evidence of a desire to be actively associated with the life of the church. Believers' baptism shall normally be administered only to those being accepted for membership of the church.

3.4 A service of infant presentation and blessing may be arranged at the request of a parent or guardian.

3.5. The Lord's Supper shall be administered regularly, at least once a month, and shall be open to all who love and seek to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

4. THE CHURCH MEETING

4.1 The church meeting shall be responsible under the guidance of God for all aspects of the life of the church, subject only to legal obligations and to the rules of the two denominations to which the church belongs. It shall consider itself responsible for the general business and life of the church, the maintenance of the church property and finances, the harmony and spiritual health of the fellowship, the proclaiming of the gospel of Christ and the serving of human needs in His name, both in the local situation and in cooperation with others throughout the world. It shall, insofar as conscience allows, endeavour to participate fully in the life of its two denominations, and to be in fellowship and cooperation with all Christian churches and other agencies whose work is in accordance with the purposes of God.

4.2 An ordinary church meeting shall be held at least once every three months. The quorum for such a meeting shall be a quarter of the membership. Decisions shall be made by a simple majority, except where specified otherwise in these rules or decided beforehand by that or a previous meeting.

4.3 One of the ordinary church meetings in each year shall be the annual general meeting, at which the secretary's report shall be given and annual appointments made.

4.4 A special church meeting may be called by the minister, or by the church council, or at the written request of at least one tenth of the members, or twelve members, whichever number is the greater. The quorum for such a meeting shall be one third of the membership, and its decisions shall require the consent of at least three quarters of those present and eligible to vote.

4.5 All reasonable steps shall be taken to ensure that members have notice of any church meeting at least ten days in advance, and are aware at least by the previous Sunday of the main items on the agenda. At an ordinary church meeting, business of which notice has not been given may be discussed only at the discretion of the chair if he or she thinks that the interests of the members not present are not being prejudiced thereby. At a special church meeting no business not already on the agenda may be discussed unless the chair considers it to be of extreme urgency, and any decision made on such business must be brought to a subsequent meeting for ratification.

4.6 Every member present at a church meeting shall be entitled to vote, including the chair. The chair shall not be entitled to an additional casting vote in the event of votes being equally for and against the proposition: in such a case the proposition shall be deemed not carried. Voting at an ordinary meeting shall normally be by show of hands, but may be by ballot at the request of at least three members. Voting at a special meeting shall normally be by ballot. The church council may, on an issue which it deems sufficiently important, allow voting facilities to all members whether present at the church meeting or not. Voting for church councillors at an annual church meeting shall be as provided for in Rule 6.6.

4.7  Decisions on:

(a) the calling of a minister or the termination of his or her appointment
(b) the borrowing of money by the church and the terms on which it is borrowed

(c) the buying, selling, or major alteration of any church property

(d) any matters relating to the trusts governing the participating churches or the sharing agreement between them dated 16th December 1994, and

(e) any change in these rules (see 10.4 below) may only be made at a meeting to which the rules of a special church meeting shall apply.

4.8  Minutes shall be kept of all church meetings.

4.9 The resolution of a church meeting may be rescinded only if notice of a proposal to rescind it has been given at the preceding church meeting.

4.10 A decision to dissolve the union of the two participating churches may only be made at a special meeting called for the purpose, after consultation with the sponsoring body and the trustees of the participating churches. The quorum for such a meeting shall be two thirds of the membership and the decision shall require the support of at least four fifths of those present and eligible to vote.

5. MINISTERS

5.1  The pattern of ministerial oversight shall be determined by the church meeting in consultation with the sponsoring body and the appropriate denominational representatives.

5.2 The church shall seek ministers who are in sympathy with its nature and objectives as a united church, will agree to present the beliefs and practices of both Baptist and United Reformed traditions openly and impartially to all enquirers, and feel able to take a full part in the rites and life of both denominations. However, if exceptionally the church feels it right to appoint a minister who cannot in good conscience fulfil all these conditions, it may do so subject to the agreement of the sponsoring body and the appropriate denominational representatives, and provided that suitable arrangements are made to ensure that the convictions and traditions of both denominations continue to be upheld in the life of the church.

5.3 Any person invited to become a minister of the church may be informed of the strength of the vote by which the decision was made.

6. THE CHURCH COUNCIL

6.1  The church council shall be responsible for the spiritual leadership, oversight and day-to-day administration of the church, subject always to the approval of the church meeting.

6.2 The church council shall consist of the minister, the church officers and, normally, ten other elected councillors. Church councillors shall be members of at least one year's standing and at least eighteen years of age at the time of their election. The husband or wife of a church councillor shall not be eligible for election to the council.  The council shall at all times have at least two members from each of the membership lists described in 2.10 above.

6.3 The quorum for a meeting of the council shall be six members. Minutes shall be kept of all council meetings.

6.4   (a) A church councillor shall be elected for a period of four years, at the end of which he or she shall be eligible for re-election, subject to (b) below. A councillor elected to replace one who has left the council before the end of his or her four- year period shall be deemed elected for the remainder of that period.

(b) A church council member other than a church officer who has served two full terms of office consecutively after the adoption of this rule may not be re-elected for at least one year.

(c) As far as possible, the election of church councillors shall be arranged in such a way that a quarter of their number reach the end of their serving period each year.

(d) Normal appointments shall take effect from the annual general meeting. Interim appointments shall take effect from the date of the meeting at which they are made, and shall be brought to the next annual general meeting for reconsideration.

6.5  Notice of an election of candidates for the church council shall be given on at least three Sundays before the meeting at which the election is to take place. Nominations shall be made to the church secretary or other person appointed to be responsible not later than the second Sunday before the meeting. Each nomination must be submitted in writing, with the written consent of the person nominated, and in the name of at least six church members. No one member may subscribe to the nomination of more candidates than there are places vacant.

6.6  Voting for church councillors shall be by ballot at the annual general meeting (or other meeting in the case of an interim appointment). At least two scrutineers shall be appointed at the meeting to supervise and report on the voting. Candidates receiving the highest number of votes shall be deemed elected provided that they receive the votes of at least two thirds of those present and eligible to vote. In the event of an election resulting in there being less than two church councillors from either of the membership lists described in 2.10, an interim election shall be held as quickly as possible to make up the deficiency. In such a case there may for a time be more than ten elected church councillors

6.7 Church councillors whose names are enrolled on the "B" list shall be deacons according to the Baptist tradition, and those whose names are on the "R" list shall be ordained as elders in the United Reformed Church.

6.8 The church council shall appoint from its members:

(a) a pastoral committee to be responsible for matters concerning worship, pastoral care, education, mission and service, social concerns, church activities and publicity, and the general spiritual life of the church

(b) a finance and management committee to be responsible for matters concerning finance, the management, upkeep and use of all church property, and the church's practical arrangements with its minister and employees

(c) any other committee it may deem appropriate and useful from time to time.

The pastoral and the finance and management committees shall each include members from both the membership lists described in 2.9.

Any of these committees may invite other persons to attend any of its meetings as it thinks appropriate. The quorum for a committee meeting shall be three of its appointed members.

7. CHURCH OFFICERS

7.1  The church officers shall be the secretary and the treasurer. They shall be elected by the same procedures and on the same terms as church councillors.

7.2  Church officers shall be members of the church council by virtue of their office.

7.3  It is the responsibility of the church council to ensure that there is adequate support for the two church officers.

8. FINANCE

8.1   The church council shall be responsible for the orderly administration of the church's finances, the custody of its documents of title and the like, and the regular payment of the minister and any employees of the church.

8.2  (a) A statement of the church accounts in the form required by the Charities Act 1993 shall be presented for approval at the annual general meeting of each year.

(b) These accounts shall be examined by one or, if possible, two people with appropriate business experience (preferably qualified accountants) who shall be appointed at the annual general meeting.   Church councillors shall not be eligible for appointment as such examiners.

(c) The church council may appoint replacement examiners, should this become necessary during the year, to hold office until the next annual general meeting.

8.3  Each church organisation shall present annually to the church treasurer its financial records for incorporation in the accounts required by the Charities Act.

8.4  Bank accounts of the church and of every church organisation shall be operated only by at least two authorised signatories.

9. ORGANISATIONS AND ACTIVITIES

9.1   The church encourages the use of its premises by groups whether within or outside the membership of the church for purposes consistent with the aims of the church, provided that the following rules are observed.

9.2  No activity may be held on the premises without the prior consent of the church secretary or other person appointed to be responsible.

9.3  A church organisation (i.e. any group operating in the name of the church) may be instituted only with the prior consent of the church council, and shall at all times accept the guidance and control of the church. It shall keep the members of the church informed of the nature of its activities and the names of its officers.

10. GENERAL

10.1 The church meeting may at any time appoint councils or committees to carry out specific duties or attend to specific areas of concern under the general direction of the church council, and may make what rules it deems appropriate for the appointment and functioning of such bodies.

10.2 Wherever the word "normally" is used in these rules, the procedure described as normal may be set aside only by a decision of the church meeting.

10.3 Each church member shall be provided with a copy of these rules.

10.4 These rules may be altered (provided such alteration does not conflict with the trust deeds and constitutions of the participating churches or the sharing agreement between them) only at a special church meeting. Notice of the proposed alteration shall be given in writing at the preceding church meeting, and the opinion of the church council made known to the church before any decision is made. In the event of the church meeting approving any amendment to the proposal, the amended proposal shall be presented to a further church meeting before a decision is taken.

10.5 These rules are supplementary to the provisions of the trust deeds or constitutions of the participating churches as amended by the sharing agreement made on 16th December 1994

First adopted: November 1996