Local Church

Chapter 1

¶201. The local Southern Methodist Church is a body of Christian believers who hold the faith set forth in the Articles of Religion of The Southern Methodist Church and have been formally organized according to its Discipline, who acknowledge the ecclesiastical authority of The Southern Methodist Church, who support its institutions, agencies, and ministries, and who meet together regularly for the purposes of evangelism, nurture, fellowship, and worship.

¶202. There are three types of church organization: mission, station, and circuit.

¶203. The mission is a local congregation of less than 25 members, which does not have the right to be represented by a voting lay delegate in the Annual Conference or General Conference unless it is capable of supporting its minister and paying all conference askings and all other expenses appertaining to the operation of the local church without requiring financial assistance from the Annual or General Conference. In which case, it shall be considered a station without regard to numerical size and shall be afforded the same privileges accorded any other station. Special guidelines for the organization and development of a mission into a fully established church shall be provided by the General Conference Board of Administration.

¶204. The station is a local congregation of 25 members or more or one which has met the requirements of ¶203 to be a station without regard to its number of members and which has been received into full connection by an annual conference, investing it with all rights, powers, and duties of a local church as set forth in the Discipline. The station may adopt its own Constitution and By-Laws so long as nothing therein shall be contrary to the Discipline. If a station should decrease in membership to fewer than 25, it may request to be reclassified as a mission.

¶205. The circuit is a pastoral charge in which two or more local churches are grouped under one pastor, in a continuing relationship involving some combined boards or committees and conference sessions. Special guidelines for the circuit shall be provided by the General Conference Board of Administration.

Chapter II

¶211. When persons offer themselves for church membership let the preacher in charge inquire into their spiritual condition and receive them when they have given satisfactory assurance of their desire to flee from the wrath to come and to be saved from their sins, and of the genuineness of their faith, and of their willingness to keep the rules of the church. Only after they have been instructed in these rules and in baptismal vows and church vows and have agreed to accept and observe them, may they be received into the church.

¶212. When satisfied on these points, and the requirements of ¶176 have been met, let the minister bring the candidates before the congregation, whenever practicable, and receive them according to the prescribed form (¶¶911-913).

¶213. If a member in good standing in another church desires to unite with us, such applicant, by giving satisfactory answers to the usual inquiries, may be received without these formalities.

¶216. When young people who are church members are absent from home attending school, they may, with their consent, be enrolled as affiliated members of our church where the school is located, and by such membership they shall be entitled to the regular privileges of that church and its pastoral oversight, to engage in its active services, and to hold office therein, but they shall be counted and reported only in the membership of their home churches. They shall exercise voting rights only in their home churches.

¶219. An inactive member is defined as one who has not shown an interest in the local church for a period of two consecutive quarters of one year except for illnesses, military service, employment, college attendance or other extenuating circumstances. Interest may be shown by attendance or financial support. It is the responsibility of the Board of Stewards or a local membership committee to review and finalize the membership roll annually during the month of March to determine active or inactive status of all members. These members placed on an inactive status must be notified in writing. A copy of ¶¶219221 shall be made available to each active and inactive member during the first quarter of each conference year.

¶220. Reinstatement as an active member takes place when the above requirements are met for a period of three consecutive months as determined by the Board of Stewards or a local membership committee. Any member placed on an inactive status may appeal such action to the local church conference whose decision would be final.

¶221. Inactive members have no voting privileges in the local church, annual or general conference.

Chapter III

¶230. Let the Church Conference be opened, conducted, and closed in a devout and prayerful manner.

¶231. The active members of a local church, duly called and assembled to do business, constitute the Local Church Conference. It is the highest governing body of a local Southern Methodist Church. Active members eighteen years of age and older shall be entitled to vote. No absentee or proxy ballots are allowed.

¶232. The Local Church Conference shall meet at least quarterly. Special sessions may be called by the chairman, pastor, the majority of the Board of Stewards, or by the General Conference President. Upon the written request of twenty percent of the active members, the chairman shall call a special session. The chairman, President or his representative, or pastor in charge, may preside over the Conference as long as the matter under consideration does not deal with this person. If a session is held on the Lord’s Day, it shall not interfere with the morning public worship.

¶233. The Local Church Conference shall elect its chairman annually at the last regular session preceding the session of the Annual Conference.

¶234. A secretary shall be elected annually at the last regular session preceding the Annual Conference. He shall keep a record of the proceedings in a book. He shall send the proper reports to the General Conference office quarterly and to the Annual Conference annually and all the statistics which the Discipline requires to be reported to the Annual Conference. He shall enter in chronological order in a permanent register the full names of all who join the church, with the time and manner of reception, and disposal of each. He shall make a permanent record of all baptisms and marriages within the congregation. He shall furnish the pastor with an alphabetical roll of the church. He shall make a written report quarterly to the General Conference.

¶235. The following shall be the general order of business:

1. Receiving Reports:

a. From all ministers in the Church of their labors since the last meeting.

b. From the Church Board of Christian Education.

c. From the Board of Stewards.

d. From the Woman’s Missionary Society.

e. From the Cartwright Men’s Fellowship.

f. From the Missionary Committee.

g. From the Epworth League.

h. From the Church Treasurer.

2. The Local Church Conference shall also:

a. Receive and try appeals and hear complaints.

b. Recommend to the Annual Conference Board of Ministerial Relations persons for lay ministers license who show gifts, graces, spiritual and personal qualifications for such ministry (¶¶615-620).

c. Recommend the renewal of lay ministers licenses annually.

d. Recommend to the General Conference Board of Ministerial Examiners persons for license to preach when in its judgment their

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