Constitution

Constitution of the Grace Fellowship Church of West Toronto

 

PREAMBLE

We, the members of the Grace Fellowship Church, do ordain and establish the following Articles, to which we voluntarily and solemnly submit ourselves. We also humbly thank our sister churches of the Sovereign Grace Fellowship and the Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids for their help and assistance in the production of this document.

ARTICLE I: NAME

The name of this church shall be the Grace Fellowship Church of West Toronto (herein referred to as "Grace Fellowship," "the church," or "this church.")

ARTICLE II: PURPOSE

The purpose of this church is to glorify the God of the Scriptures by maintaining and promoting His worship both individually and corporately, by evangelizing sinners, and by edifying His saints. Therefore, we are committed to:

the proclamation of God's perfect Word and His glorious Gospel of grace through all the world

the defense of that "faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3)

the pure and faithful celebration of the ordinances of the New Covenant.

ARTICLE III: ARTICLES OF FAITH

This church accepts the Holy Scriptures as its supreme and complete authority in all matters of doctrine and practice. We believe The Second London Confession of Faith of 1689 [1] to be an excellent summary of the teachings of Scripture. We do not accept the confession as the authoritative rule of faith, but as a help in controversy, a confirmation of our faith, and as a means of growing in righteousness. In the confession, the members have a concise theological handbook and using the Scripture references therein should be able to give a reason for the hope that is in them (Acts 4:20; 24:14-16; Galatians 6:14-16; 1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 3:15). [2]

ARTICLE IV: MEMBERSHIP

A. Basic Requirements to be a Member.

Any person who:

professes allegiance to and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ

who has been baptized by immersion in water upon profession of his or her faith,

who is not under the biblically warranted (Matt. 18:17,18; 1 Cor. 5:11-13; 2 Thess. 3:6,14,15; 3 John 9,10; 2 Cor. 2:6-8) corrective discipline of a genuine church, and

who expresses substantial agreement with the teachings, aims and organization of this church shall be eligible for membership. [3]

B. Method of Becoming a Member

1. Notice is given to an elder by the individual that they would like to become a member of Grace Fellowship.

a. By verbal request.

Any person who meets the above mentioned requirements may make their desire for membership known to one of the elders.

b. By letter of transfer

Any person from another evangelical church desiring to unite with this church may present a letter of recommendation from the other church to the elders.

2. The applicant is interviewed by the elders and congregation.

a. A minimum of two elders will meet with the applicant, who will be questioned as to his or her basic Christian experience, doctrinal beliefs and seriousness of intention to wholeheartedly support the total ministry of this church. At this meeting, the elders will invite the applicant to provide a written testimony for distribution to the members explaining his understanding and experience of the Gospel of Christ. (This written testimony is intended to promote a proper evaluation of the potential member and to encourage knowledgeable fellowship with him. The elders may request further clarification and/or expansion of this written testimony before proceeding with the application process. ) The purpose of this process will be to determine whether or not that person meets the qualifications as stated in Article IV, Section A, of this Constitution.

b. If the applicant has been a member of another church, the elders will investigate his standing in that church before he is accepted as a member in this church. Where it is possible and appropriate, a letter of transfer will be requested. Reception by transfer does not negate any of the requirements for becoming a member in this assembly.

c. Upon the reception of an acceptable written testimony, the elders may at their discretion ask for another meeting with the applicant; otherwise, the name of the applicant shall be announced for at least two consecutive Lord's Days at stated meetings of the church. This time period is for the purpose of enabling the members to read his testimony and to raise any questions or objections concerning the applicant's qualifications. (Members are expected to consider this a personal duty of the most serious character. They are expected to voice privately to the elders all questions or objections that have not yet been resolved, after personal contact has been made with the applicant (Matt. 18:15ff; Lev. 19:16, 17).)

3. The applicant is publicly received into the church membership.

If the elders are satisfied that the applicant meets the qualifications for membership, and any objections raised by the membership are effectually resolved, the person will be received at a stated meeting of the church (Matt. 3:6-12; Acts 9:26, 27; 1 John 4:1; Rev. 2:2).

C. Reaffirmation of Membership

It will be the custom of this church that all members present will renew their membership promise at the induction of any new members, using this time to evaluate how well they have lived out their commitment and to thoughtfully consider how to fulfill their promise even more.

D. Termination of Membership

1. By transfer.

Upon recommendation by the elders, letters of transfer will be granted by the church to members who apply for them, providing they are in good standing at the time of the application. Letters of

transfer shall only be given to other evangelical churches.

2. By request.

A member may request to remove his or her membership from the church. This may be done at any time. All those who so remove their memberships must go through the original application process if they want to rejoin the church again.

3. By exclusion.

Any member who is habitually absent from the stated meetings of the church for a period of six months or more, or is unwilling to settle matters of private offense with others in a biblical manner, or requests severance of membership may be excluded from the membership at the discretion of the elders, subject to the approval of the members.

4. By excommunication.

It is right and in harmony with the Scriptures for the elders, upon approval of the congregation, to exclude from this fellowship any person who persists in holding false doctrine, or who obviously and persistently lives inconsistently with his or her Christian profession, or who persists in disturbing the peace and unity of the Church (see Matthew 18:15ff; 1 Corinthians 5:1ff; 2 Thessalonians

3:6-15; Romans 16:17) [4] .

E. Blessings of Membership

Membership in this church includes the following privileges:

Participation in the Lord's Supper (Acts 2:41-42; 1 Cor. 11:18-26, 33);

Attendance at, appropriate participation in, and voting during church business meetings (Acts 6:1-6 (cf:. Acts 2:41; 4:4; 5:13-14); 1 Cor. 5:4-7; 13 (cf:. 1 Cor. 1:2));

Laboring to extend God's Kingdom in ministries of the church (as one's gifts, graces and calling make appropriate) (1 Cor. 12:4-27 (cf:. 1 Cor. 1:2); Eph. 4:7; 11-12; 16; 1 Pet. 4:10-11);

Reception of the committed oversight and care of the pastors of the church (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2-3);

Reception of the committed care and discipline (as needed) of the membership of the church (Acts 6:1-2 (cf:. Acts 2:41; 5:13-14; 9:26); 1 Cor. 5:4-5 (cf:. 1 Cor. 1:2); Gal. 6:10).

F. Expectations of Members

There are also biblical expectations upon every member:

All members are expected and encouraged to attend the corporate meetings of the church whenever possible [5]

Each member is expected to regularly read the Bible and pray, and to tell others what God has done for them in Jesus Christ.

All members are expected to support the church financially by systematically giving a generous proportion of their incomes as the Lord directs them according to the principle laid down in 1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Cor. 8, 9. The tithe (ten percent of one's gross personal income) is not imposed on the people of God as a tax but is strongly urged as an excellent starting place in our worship through basic giving. Added to this should be gifts and offerings according to one's ability and the willingness of his heart (2 Cor. 8:1-5; Exod. 36:2-7).

All the members of this church are required to obey the teachings of Scripture in respect to the life and government of the family. The husband is the God-appointed head of the family and must rule his household with gentleness, love, wisdom, and firmness (Eph. 5:25ff; 1 Tim. 3:4, 5; 1 Pet. 3:7). The wife must be in Scriptural subjection to her husband in all things (Eph. 5:22-24; 1 Pet. 3:1-6). The husband and wife must bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:1-4). This includes setting a godly example before them, consistently instructing them from the Scriptures (Deut. 6:4-9), and administering corporal chastening to them when needed (Prov. 13:24; 22:15; 29:15; Heb. 12:7).

It is the duty of every Christian, as an individual and as a member of a local church, to labor by prayer, word, and deed for the extension of the kingdom of God in ever widening circles, beginning at home and stretching forth to the ends of the earth (Isa. 54:1-3; Acts 1:8). Therefore, every member of this church is expected prayerfully to recognize and to seize every opportunity to bear witness to his faith in Christ, both by consistent Christian conduct and by the testimony of his lips.

Each member of the church is required to render loyal obedience to all the moral precepts of God's Word in his daily life (Rom. 8:3, 4; 1 Cor. 9:20, 21; James 2:12). If God has not condemned or forbidden a practice in His Word, a Christian is at liberty to participate in it. The exercise of Christian liberty, however, must at all times be governed by an earnest desire to walk in the fear of God and to glorify Him in all things (1 Pet. 1:17; 1 Cor. 10:31), a loving regard for the consciences of weaker brethren (1 Cor. 8:9; Rom. 15:1-3), a compassion for the lost (1 Cor. 9:19-22), and a zealous regard for the health of one's own soul (Rom. 13:14; 1 Cor. 6:12; 9:24- 27; Gal. 5:22, 23; 1 Pet. 2:16).

All who come into the membership of this church are expected to recognize and to submit to the authority of the overseers of the church (1 Cor. 16:15,16; 1 Thess. 5:12, 13; Heb. 13:17). This responsibility will include willingly scheduling an oversight meeting with an elder(s) when requested.

We who have been joined to Christ by faith and are members of this church are also members one of another (Rom. 12:5). With this privileged relationship come particular responsibilities. We must maintain mutual transparency and honesty (Eph. 4:25). We must rejoice in each other's honor and bear one another's sorrows (1 Cor. 12:26). We must discreetly confess our faults one to another (James 5:16). We must mutually oversee each other, faithfully admonish and encourage one another, avoid all backbiting and gossip, and keep in strict confidence all matters which the elders determine are of private concern to the church (Prov. 11:13; Matt. 18:15ff; 1 Thess. 5:14, 15; Heb. 3:12, 13; 10:24, 25). Also, we must, when necessary, help meet the material needs of our brethren (Gal. 6:10; James 2:14-16; 1 John 3:16-18).

G. Records of Membership

The elders shall keep a file of all past and present members.

ARTICLE V: THE ORDINANCES.

A. Introduction

We believe that there are two ordinances that Jesus Christ has commanded us to observe, namely baptism and the Lord's Supper. Baptism is a public testimony in which the believer identifies himself or herself with the Saviour, who died, was buried and rose again. The Lord's Supper is a visible, symbolic reminder that Jesus Christ gave His body and shed His blood on Calvary for our redemption.

1. Regarding the Lord's Supper (Communion)

All who profess faith in Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour are welcome to join this church in taking of the Lord's Table. However, known unbelievers or children without proper understanding must not partake otherwise they eat and drink judgment upon themselves.

2. Believer's Baptism

Following the direction of the Scriptures we practice baptism of believers by immersion and only admit into membership those who have testified to their faith in the waters of baptism. Any person who professes allegiance to and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and whose life gives tangible evidence that this is the case may make known their desire to be baptized to one of the elders. A minimum of two elders will then meet with the applicant who will be examined concerning his or her Christian experience, and understanding of the meaning of baptism.

ARTICLE VI: OFFICERS

A. General Statement

Jesus Christ alone is the Head of His Church (Col.1:18). He has ordained that individual churches should be governed by Himself through officers whom He appoints, who are endowed by His Spirit with the gifts and graces needed to accomplish their work. Christ has ordained that local churches are to be administered by elders and deacons. Beside these two offices the Scriptures acknowledge no office which continues in the church today (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1-13).

B. General Prerequisites

1. All officers of this church must be members of it except as provided in Section G of this Article.

2. Any individual set apart to one of these offices must be able to conscientiously affirm his agreement with the church's Confessions of Faith and Constitution. If he should at any time move from this position, he would be under spiritual and moral obligation to immediately make that fact known to the elders in an orderly manner.

3. While we acknowledge the valuable gifts which God has given women and the valuable assistance they may render to the officers of the church (Rom. 16:1-6; Phil. 4:3; 1 Tim. 3:11), the Bible prohibits women from holding the office of elder in the church (1 Cor. 14:33b-35; 1 Tim. 2:8-15; 3:1-7). Also, since it is a violation of the Scriptures for a woman to exercise authority over a man in spiritual things, no woman shall be appointed to a teaching or authoritative function in a ministry of the church where adult men would be regularly under her ministry. Nevertheless, we acknowledge and encourage the valuable gifts and assistance of women in the formal instruction of children and other women (Titus 2:3-5), in the informal instruction even of men (1 Cor. 11:5; Acts 18:26), and in the deaconal and especially the benevolent ministries of the church (1 Tim. 3:11; 5:9, 10).

C. Elders

1. Those who have been called of God to rule and teach in the church are called elders, pastors, or bishops. These are three interchangeable names designating one and the same office in a New Testament church (Acts 20:17, 28; Eph. 4:11, 12; Titus 1:5, 7).

2. Anyone desiring the office of an elder must evidence to God's people the personal, domestic, and ministerial qualifications that are set forth in the Scriptures (1 Tim. 3:1- 7; Titus 1:5-9). [6]

3. Because the authority of the elders of the church is human authority exercised in the house of God, it has both high prerogatives and important limitations. [7]

4. One crucial aspect of the elders' duties is personally overseeing the flock of God. Fulfillment of this duty shall include regularly and systematically meeting with each member of the church on at least an annual basis, except when physically impossible due to distance.

5. Elders will be maintained in material necessities and disentangled from the cares of another vocation according to their gifts, the needs and capability of the church, and the direction of Christ her Head (1 Tim.5:17ff).

6. Though a plurality of elders is the New Testament norm for every church, the New Testament does not specify the number of elders each church should have, nor does it dictate the length of an elder's term of office. One truly called to this office is usually called to it for life. He is a gift of Christ to the church. Only when an elder fails to meet the necessary scriptural qualifications for his office does he disqualify himself from being an elder.

D. Deacons

1. Deacons are responsible primarily to administer the benevolent concerns of the church as well as its business affairs (Acts 6:1-4). They must fulfill the duties of their office in cooperation with, and in subjection to, the elders.

2. The number of deacons shall not be fixed. The church shall set apart according to its need those who evidence the scriptural qualifications for that office (Acts 6:1-7; 1 Tim. 3:8-13).

E. Appointment of Officers

1. General Statement

The appointment of elders and deacons is the prerogative of the Lord Jesus Christ alone. However, He has ordained that each local church exercise the responsibility of recognizing those whom He is appointing to be elders and deacons in that particular church. Elders and deacons are ordained to office by the laying on of hands by the eldership (1 Tim. 4:14). This is an expression of approval for which the elders are responsible (1 Tim. 5:22). Therefore, each officer must have the approval, not only of the church as a whole, but of the eldership in particular. The Lord's appointment of an individual to either of these offices is recognized by means of that individual's possession of those graces and gifts required by Scripture for the particular office and his own conviction that the Lord is calling him to minister in that office. The recognition of officers is a matter of such importance that it should never be dealt with without much prayerful waiting upon God, an honest perusal of the relevant passages of Scripture, and a frank evaluation of those who are being considered. Each member of the church has a spiritual responsibility to be intelligently informed regarding these matters.

2. Procedure of Appointment

The recognition of those whom the Lord has appointed to bear office in this church is executed in three steps: nomination, election, and ordination.

a. Nomination

Nominations to either office are made by the eldership. At least once every year at the annual business meeting an advisory ballot shall be taken. On this ballot each voting member may write the name of any member and the office for which he believes that member to be qualified.

b. Election

Any church meeting for the election of officers shall be announced on two consecutive Lord's Days previous to its being held. The names of all nominees shall be separately discussed and voted upon. During the discussion the nominee under consideration and members of his immediate family shall leave the presence of the church until the written ballot is taken. The scriptural qualifications shall be read and expounded, and the nominee's qualifications openly discussed in the fear of God and with due respect for the reputation of the nominee. The church should seek unity of mind concerning each nominee, but should such unity not be fully realized, no fewer than three-fourths of those ballots cast shall be required for election. This vote shall take place by written ballot subsequent to a full and free discussion oriented to the relevant Scriptural passages. The vote shall stand as it is first given in the written ballot.

c. Ordination

Following the election of an officer there shall be a portion of a regular worship service set aside at which time the officer shall be ordained by the laying on of the hands of the eldership. This solemn act should always be accompanied by the special prayers of the whole church (Acts 13:1-3). The laying on of the elders' hands shall signify their approval of an officer-elect. Should the elders be unable to conscientiously ordain an officer- elect (1 Tim. 5:22), they shall inform each member of their reasons in an appropriate manner.

F. Review of Officers

1. Officers shall hold office only as long as they meet the biblical qualifications for their office in the esteem of the church. The church, therefore, shall reconfirm (or withdraw) its confidence in the biblical qualifications of each officer four years after his ordination and every fourth year thereafter.

2. There may arise reasons that would require an officer to be reviewed before the regularly scheduled time. Such a review meeting may be called by a majority of the elders (or a majority of the other elders in the case of an elder). The members may also request such a meeting. This request must be set forth in writing with the signatures of one-fourth of the total voting membership of the church. It must be presented to the elders, who shall in a timely and constitutional way (see Paragraph 3 below) call such a meeting.

3. Any meeting for the review of an officer shall be announced on two consecutive Lord's Days previous to its being held. During the discussion, the officer under consideration and members of his immediate family shall leave the presence of the church until the written ballot is taken. The scriptural qualifications shall be read and expounded, and the officer's qualifications openly discussed in the fear of God and with due respect for the reputation of the officer. Any member who publicly suggests in such a meeting that the officer being reviewed is unqualified for his office must have previously spoken with the officer himself and informed the elders of the church of his concerns (1 Tim. 5:19). He must also present biblical and factual warrant for his concerns at the review meeting. Just as it is wrong for a church to retain an officer who is not biblically qualified, so also it is rebellion against the head of the church to reject an officer for any but biblical grounds. Additionally, any officer about whom such concerns are raised must be permitted, if he wishes, to return to the meeting and defend himself. The church should seek unity of mind concerning the matter, but should such unity not be fully realized, no fewer than three-fourths of those ballots cast shall be required for the confirmation of an officer in his office. Any officer failing of confirmation no longer holds office in the church. This vote shall take place by written ballot; and the vote shall stand as it is first given in the written ballot.

4. An officer may resign his office without prejudice if he does so in an orderly fashion and for good and valid reasons. This resignation together with its reasons and the date upon which he wishes his resignation to be effective shall be submitted in writing to the elders of the Church.

G. Loss of a Plurality of Elders

1. This Constitution assumes, and the norms of biblical church order require, that a plurality of elders oversee this local church. Therefore, if at any period in the life of the church, there no longer exists a plurality of elders in office; and this lack cannot in a timely way be supplied, the remaining elder (or the church, if there are no elders) shall seek the temporary oversight of the pastors of a trusted sister church holding as its doctrinal standard the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689. The purposes of such an arrangement are to provide pastoral care and leadership in the recognition of a plurality of elders.

2. When an eldership meeting this requirement and willing to undertake these responsibilities is located, the church shall within a reasonable period of time officially place itself under this eldership. If the church has a remaining elder, this eldership shall function as his fellow elders. This action shall be taken by a written ballot at a properly called meeting of the church. A 3/4 majority of those present and voting is necessary for such an action. The recognition of the oversight of such an eldership shall be confirmed (or failing a 3/4 majority withdrawn) in the same way at the annual meeting of the church in succeeding years. When a plurality of resident elders is raised up, the oversight arrangement here described shall immediately cease.

ARTICLE VII: FINANCES

The organization of this church shall be carried on without purpose of financial gain for its members. Any profits or other financial gains to this church shall be used in promoting its objectives as outlined above.

This church depends entirely on the prayers, personal services, and gifts of God's people. Before the annual business meeting the church board will prepare a detailed budget of the proposed expenditures for the coming year. Once the budget is approved by a majority vote of the congregation it will be the basis for the utilization of church funds.

ARTICLE VIII: AMENDMENTS

This constitution may be amended, modified, or rescinded by a two-thirds majority of church members voting at any regular or special meetings for business. Such amendments must be submitted to the church membership two weeks prior to the meeting by a public and written announcement. Any considerations for by-laws will follow the same procedure.

ARTICLE IX: CHURCH MEETINGS

A. The Annual Business Meeting

An annual business meeting of the church shall be held in May or June of each year. At this annual meeting, a report shall be given by the elders which shall contain an account of the membership of the church. The status of those whose membership involves unusual circumstances will be reviewed. A financial report for the previous year and the proposed budget for the coming year shall also be presented. These reports including the proposed budget shall be approved by a vote of the church.

B. The Occasional Members Meetings

Church meetings may be called by the pastors or when one-fourth (1/4) of the voting members make a written request for such a meeting. This request must state the reason for the meeting, be signed by one-fourth (1/4) of the members in good standing, and must be presented to the pastors, who shall in turn make the proper announcement of the meeting. Every meeting at which business is to be transacted shall be announced at regular services for at least two (2) successive Sundays. Other business meetings at which there is no business transacted by vote may be called at the discretion of the pastors without previous notice.

C. Voting

All members except those suspended by a vote of the church shall constitute the voting membership of the church (Article VI, B, 3). All voting members should regard their presence at a duly called church meeting with the same seriousness with which they would regard their attendance at a stated service of worship. It shall be our goal to prayerfully discern the mind of God so that in all matters of church business it may be said of us, as it was said of that church business meeting recorded in Acts 6, that this thing "pleased the whole multitude." However, in situations in which this unanimity is not realized, no less than a two- thirds (2/3) majority of those voting will make a resolution valid. In other matters wherein the Constitution requires a different proportionate vote, this two-thirds (2/3) figure will be overridden by the express statements of the Constitution regarding those categories of business. The voting members present at any properly convened meeting of the church shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business. The elders shall cancel any previously announced business meeting of the church if through an act of God (such as inclement weather) an unusually large proportion of the members of the church cannot be present.

ARTICLE X: TRUSTEES

In order to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's," this church shall have an official Board of Trustees. The official board shall consist of the resident pastors (elders) as voting members and deacons as non-voting members. In the absence of a resident plurality of elders, both the eldership and the deaconate must approve any decision relevant to the Board of Trustees. The voting members of this board shall serve as the legal representatives of the church.


[1] excepting the assertions regarding the salvation of the mentally incompetent [10:3] and the identity of the antichrist [26:4]

[2] For a brief summary of this church's doctrinal beliefs, see appendix two. Copies of the 1689 Confession can be obtained upon request from the elders.

[3] Mastery of church confessions is not required of any new disciple before he is admitted to church membership. Such a requirement would violate the order of Matt. 28:19,20, which instructs us to disciple, to baptize, and then to teach the baptized disciple to observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded. It is necessary, however, that any disciple applying for membership manifest a willingness to be taught and possess substantial agreement with what he already knows concerning the church's doctrine and government.

[4] See also Appendix One: What to do with a Sinning Brother?

[5] The term, "corporate meetings" refers to: a. All services on the Lord's Day (Bible School, morning and evening worship, the Lord's Supper, and baptisms); b. Midweek prayer service; c. Church business meetings; and d. Any special meetings that the elders shall occasionally deem necessary. When any member is absent from the above stated meetings, he should inform an elder directly or indirectly of the reason.

[6] See Appendix Four: Qualifications for the office of elder.

[7] See Appendix Four