Withdrawal of a Local Church

Churches of God, General Conference

Introduction

This document is presented for the express purpose and intention of maintaining and enhancing the harmony, unity, and peace (John 17:20-24) within the body of Christ, expressly within the Churches of God, General Conference, her conferences and congregations. To that end, the Churches of God, General Conference reaffirms that the Bible is our only authoritative rule of faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

We also reaffirm, based upon foundational biblical principles, that “the government and polity of the Churches of God is representative and presbyterial in character” (Art. 17.03, Churches of God Constitution).

Furthermore, we reaffirm that our Presbyterial Polity is adequately set in order for the promotion of doctrinal purity, the protection of local congregations, and the wholeness of the Churches of God, General Conference by addressing various issues including but not limited to:

  • sound theology;
  • three tier structure of representation;
  • issuance of ministerial credentials;
  • pastoral assignment and transfer process;
  • matters pertaining to property.

Lastly, it is our expressed desire to protect the local church from the remote possibility that this denomination would stray from its foundational biblical teachings. With this being said, we have developed this document to address the issue of property ownership and reversion. As it relates to this matter, we also take into consideration the following principles:

Our Witness in the Church and Our Communities

The Holy Scriptures command us to be good stewards of God’s resources and to be good witnesses in our community (1 Peter 4:10). We are to do all things decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40). We are to conduct our business with integrity as we establish a good reputation both in and out of the church (1 Timothy 3:7). Furthermore, God’s law is greater than humanity’s and the ministry of grace is more effectual than expressed authoritarianism (1 Corinthians 12:9).

Lawsuits among Christians

We uphold the biblical precepts that lawsuits are harmful to Christian witness, denominational endeavor and local ministry. In general, the use of legal recourse to resolve differences within the church will hinder its testimony. It is therefore our conviction that we should avoid such lawsuits by endeavoring to settle disputes within the body of Christ, as instructed by the Holy Scriptures (1 Corinthians 6:1-8).

The Relationship between the Churches of God and Her Local Churches

The relationship between the Churches of God, General Conference and her local churches is one of mutual consent and support. Our spiritual and organizational relationship endows us with strength by adopting a system for cooperative effort. Unfortunately, even in the best relationships, misunderstandings can lead to a fracture in that relationship. In such cases, our first priority is to seek healing through reconciliation (Matthew 5:21-25; 2 Corinthians 5.19). However, because of human frailty, not all attempts for reconciliation are successful. In some cases fractured relationships may ultimately lead to a local church desiring to disassociate with the Churches of God, General Conference.

The procedure set forth in this document has been developed to protect the local congregation as well as the Churches of God, General Conference. It will promote the resolution of differences without resorting to lawsuits. This process seeks reconciliation first. Denominational representatives will have an opportunity to participate with a local congregation. Together they shall investigate charges from which a church may seek disassociation from the Churches of God, General Conference. In doing so, we hope to restore relationship and convince against disassociation. This process also allows for a gracious withdrawal of the local congregation as a last resort. In such case, being gracious provides an environment for potential fellowship and future reconciliation.

This process is applicable only to those who perceive theological or doctrinal disparity with the ministries of the Churches of God, General Conference. This will provide recourse to those in seemingly irreparable disunity and also provide the discipline of denominational self-examination.

It is our desire to work together in spiritual unity with all of God’s people as was demonstrated by the apostles and the early church fathers and to remain obedient to the commands of our Lord. We pray that we may fulfill the mission of the Churches of God, General Conference by making more and better disciples, and more importantly, demonstrating lives that reflect the glory of God and the grace of His Son Jesus Christ.

Withdrawal Process

Any local congregation considering the withdrawal from the Churches of God, General Conference or her conferences shall be guided by the following process:

1. Prior to calling a congregational meeting for the purpose of taking any action leading to withdrawal from the Churches of God, General Conference, the official local church leadership shall notify its local conference in writing of its intention to call such a meeting and provide written grounds for its intention.

2. The local conference, through representative(s) appointed for such purpose, shall respond to and meet with the official local church leadership within a period not to exceed six (6) weeks after receipt of the written notification. The purpose of this meeting is to hear the issues of concern and to seek timely reconciliation. Subsequent meetings may be called by mutual consent.

3. If the official local church leadership still desires to withdraw, said leadership will issue a written call for a congregational meeting in accordance with the local church’s constitution and bylaws. The written call shall contain the local church leadership’s recommendation to withdraw and grounds supporting such recommendation. It will also contain the local conference’s response in writing. Furthermore, the local church shall notify the local conference officials of any and all congregational meetings that are called to discuss withdrawal and allow them to participate.

4. During the congregational meetings, conference officials will be given ample opportunity to address the congregation and present their response and position. They will also be permitted to speak prior to any vote for withdrawal being taken.

5. Any vote for withdrawal will require an 80% affirmation of the voting members present at a duly convened congregational meeting. Said voting will be done by confidential written ballot. Local conference officials may observe the voting process and tabulation. They will also be permitted to inspect the ballots for written comments.

6. If the vote of the congregation favors withdrawal by the required 80%, the official local church leadership shall call an additional congregational meeting to be held not less than six (6) months in the future. During this period of time, all parties shall commit to fasting and prayer regarding the potential withdrawal.

7. At the subsequent congregational meeting an affirmation ballot will be presented. If said ballot reaffirms the previous action to withdrawal by an 80% affirmation of the voting members present, the following actions will be taken in a timely manner:

a. The local church and the local conference officials will contact their respective attorneys to prepare necessary documents and to gather and disburse any settlements that may apply.

b. The local conference officials will then present the appropriate documents which will release all denominational claims on the local church property. The local church will provide the appropriate documents that indicate they have satisfied any outstanding financial obligation to the local conference, the General Conference, or their related agencies.

c. Upon completion of this process, the formal severance of this church from the Churches of God, General Conference shall be complete. All parties will be released from any and all liabilities and obligations to the other.

8. During the time of potential withdrawal, the local church shall honor its obligations to the local conference, General Conference and their related agencies (i.e. tithing, mortgage payments, etc.)

9. Individual members of the local church who wish to remain in fellowship with the Churches of God, General Conference, will be placed on a roll and the local conference will arrange for the oversight of those continuing members.

10. If either vote is not satisfied by the 80% requirement for withdrawal, the local church and the local conference will begin a process of reconciliation.

In the event the local church fails to comply with the terms and conditions of this Withdrawal Process, or fails to obtain the required 80% affirmative vote for withdrawal, then the Churches of God, General Conference (and the intermediate judicatory or conference having jurisdiction) shall retain and assert all of its rights, title and interest in and to the local church property as provided in the Constitution of the Churches of God, General Conference.