GRACE COMMUNITY CHURCH OF WEST ALLIS, INC.
Article I. NAME
The name of this church shall be Grace Community Church of West Allis, Inc. as incorporated May 6, 1988 with the Office of the Secretary of State in the State of Wisconsin.
Article II. PURPOSE
Grace Community Church, a nondenominational church, recognizes itself to be one local congregation in the larger Church on earth (i.e. the universal Church, “the Body of Christ”) and consequently, accepts its part in those tasks to which Jesus Christ has called His church.
- To worship God corporately and to practice the ordinances which Christ has ordained for His church.
2. To proclaim the gospel of Christ through the preaching of the Bible and through programs of evangelism in the community.
3. To instruct and counsel young and old alike in the teaching of Scripture and its bearing on their faith and conduct (Ephesians 4:11-13; Titus 2:l-8).
4. To foster Christian fellowship among believers and to encourage individuals and families in their personal lives.
5. To encourage service and to provide opportunities for service to the needs of the community.
6. To support the wider mission of the Church in the world (i.e. as represented in Christ’s “Great Commission” of Matthew 28:19-20) through evangelical missionary service, organizations, or directly as a local assembly.
7. To bear witness to the world (i.e. as the “salt” and the “light” of the earth, Matthew 5:13,14) that mankind is ultimately responsible to God, whether or not men may choose to acknowledge Him and submit to His law (Psalm 2). This accountability of men to God is by right of creation (Romans 2:14-15). This responsibility of the Church is merely to affirm the principles upon which this world was built which principles men ignore at their own peril. For example, this may include the necessity to speak out on such issues in society as abortion, euthanasia, infanticide, parental rights, homosexuality and issues where a theistic world view comes into conflict with a secular humanistic world view.
Article III. COVENANT OF FAITH
As a body of believers, the faith of this membership is based upon the revelation of God found in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. The Scripture stands alone as the sole authority in all matters of faith, doctrine and conduct. Therefore, the following statement does not in anyway replace the Scriptures or claim to be an exhaustive statement of Biblical truth. It is intended to relate us to that continuing body of historic Christianity which finds its basis in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
- THE BIBLE
We believe the Scriptures, both Old and New Testament, to be the inspired word of God, inerrant in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for the salvation of men, and the supreme and final authority in all matters regarding the Christian faith and life.
We believe in one God, Creator of all things, perfect in all His attributes, and eternally existing in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.2
God the Father
Although it is impossible to clearly define and separate all the works of the Godhead, there are certain basic works which are especially associated with one or the other of the persons of the Trinity. It is God the Father who elects persons to salvation according to His own sovereign will. The elective love of God the Father precedes the sending of the Son. This elective love originates in the good pleasure of God and is not determined by anything in man.a
God the Son
We believe Jesus Christ is true God and true man, that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He led a sinless human life and performed mighty miracles. He died on the cross a vicarious and atoning death for our sins according to the Scriptures. We also believe in His bodily resurrection from the dead and His Ascension to the right hand of the Father where He now acts as our High Priest and Advocate. Christ also indwells every true believer through the agency of the Holy Spirit. Finally, we believe He will one day return to complete the redemption and reconcile a lost creation to Himself.b
God the Holy Spirit
We believe the work of the Holy Spirit today is to apply the atoning work of Christ to the heart of every true believer. His work is to glorify Christ and to draw, convict, regenerate, seal, indwell, sanctify, empower, guide, instruct for life and service, and equip with spiritual gifts those who are the elect of God, in order that they might be conformed to the image of Christ.c
We believe that man was created in the image of God but fell into sin against God and thereby incurred spiritual death. In consequence of the fact of the first man’s (i.e. Adam’s) disobedience, the entire human race became involved in guilt and in corruption, so that in every heart there is by nature, that evil disposition which leads to responsible acts of sin and to just condemnation. Furthermore, the entire creation is adversely affected by this entrance of sin into the world. Man can only experience the salvation of God by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit which begins a reversal of sin’s destructive work in man’s heart.
We believe every human being possesses great intrinsic worth because all are the offspring of Adam who was “created in the image of God” (Genesis 1:26). Our Lord indicated, in Mark 8:36, that this intrinsic worth remains despite the entrance of sin and the fall. Such worth must also be attributed to unborn babies in the womb of their mother according to Psalm 139:13-16.3
We believe the shed blood of Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the dead provide the only ground for justification and salvation for all who repent and believe. Salvation is the gift of God brought to man by the grace of God and received through personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. “Salvation” consists of deliverance from the power, penalty, and ultimately the presence of sin.4
We believe water Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances to be observed by the Church during this age. They are, however, not to be regarded as means of salvation.5
Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the covenant of church membership.
The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby followers of Christ through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming.
- THE CHURCH
We believe in one true Church, universally existing and consisting of all those persons who are regenerated by the Holy Spirit through saving faith in Jesus Christ. All such persons are members of the true Church which is called “the Body of Christ” in Scripture. Christ as Lord and Head of this church has commissioned the members of His Church to go forth into the world to proclaim the gospel to every person. Only those who are members of the true Church are eligible for membership in the local church.6
- THE LAST THINGS
We believe in the personal, bodily return of our Lord Jesus Christ to judge the living and the dead and to establish His eternal kingdom. We believe in the bodily resurrection of the dead; of the believer to everlasting blessedness and joy with the Lord, and of the unbeliever to judgment and eternal separation from God.7
- MARRIAGE AND HUMAN SEXUALITY
We believe that from the beginning God made humanity male and female. Accordingly, gender identity is determined by one’s biological sex as given by God at the point of conception. We believe God designed marriage to reveal the union between Christ and the Church. Marriage is the life-long, covenantal union between and only between one man and one woman. It is the exclusive setting for the exercise of God’s good gift of sexual intimacy. All other forms of sexual activity violate God’s law and pervert his gift.8
Article IV. COVENANT OF CONDUCT
Grace Community Church adheres to Biblical principles and standards of Christian conduct. Christians are called to holy living. The scriptures are the final guide in all matters of faith and practice; members of this Church, therefore, agree to apply to their own attitudes and conduct the explicit teaching of the Old and New Testaments (II Timothy 3:16-17). Moreover, Scripture teaches that some practices which are not wrong in themselves may have harmful consequences for ourselves or others. Christians are, therefore, urged to be prudent in such matters (I Corinthians 8:4-13). The Church holds as sinful all conduct which is spiritually or physically damaging to oneself, another person, the Christian family, the testimony of the Church, or our Lord Jesus Christ.
Members of this Church, furthermore, enter into covenant together to:
1. Seek to maintain the unity of the Spirit in our local congregation of believers;
2. Walk together in Christian love;
3. Pray for each other;
4. Help each other in sickness and distress;
5. Strive together for the advancement of this church and its goals – to give financially as
God prospers to support the Church and its ministries;
6. Seek to strengthen the family through encouraging personal and family prayer, Bible reading, religious education of our children, participation in youth ministries (when appropriate) etc.;
7. Walk circumspectly in the world, being just in our dealings, faithful and prompt in our engagements, and exemplary in our behavior.
8. Cooperatively participate in the fulfillment of Christ’s Great Commission in the work of evangelism and discipleship.
Article V. MEMBERSHIP
A person who meets the following requirements is eligible for membership.
1. Professes faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; and has obeyed Christ's command to be baptized.*
2. Life gives evidence of a genuine saving relationship with Christ.
3. Agrees to submit to the teaching of Scripture as expressed in the Covenant of Faith and promises to keep the commitments expressed in the church covenant.
4. Commits oneself to participate regularly.
5. Places themselves in subjection to biblical disciplinary actions of the church.
6. Completion of new members course of instruction and approval by elders following interview including review of personal testimony of salvation.
7. Makes a commitment to serve in a particular ministry of the church (at least one). The idea here is to endeavor to use the spiritual gifts God has given. All are called to be servants and participants in the body-life of the local church unless exceptional circumstances are preventative.
8. Eighteen (18) years of age or older.
The elders shall be responsible for determining each person's qualifications for membership. No member of this church shall retain full membership in any other church.
*This requirement will be considered according to the following guidelines.
•Adult or infant baptism administered by any group which attributes regeneration or salvific value to baptism shall not be recognized as meeting this requirement since it represents a departure from the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone.
•Persons who have been baptized prior to believing may be admitted to membership so long as they believe on biblical grounds, as they see them (James 4:17), that they are baptized and their understanding of baptism does not imply that Christ’s command may be neglected or that infant sprinkling is regenerating or has salvific value. A person received according to this exception will not be permitted to serve as an elder; they will, however, be eligible to serve as a deacon and teach so long as they agree not to contradict the church’s Covenant of Faith.
WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF MEMBERSHIP?
1. Places self under the authority and protection of the local assembly, making self
accountable to them in all matters of church discipline, etc.
2. Eligible for all advisory votes.
3. Creates covenant relationship with other believers in which the principles of Body Life are
4. Eligible to recommend for or against candidates for church offices
5. Eligible to serve in church offices and public ministry (assuming other designated
requirements are met and appointment is made.)
Persons who are less than 18 years of age but meet the first six requirements for full membership are eligible for Associate Membership. At age 18 associate members will have two years in which to complete membership classes (for the second time) and be installed as full members. An associate member who does not become a full member by age 20 will be removed from membership.
THE CHURCH COVENANT
Whenever members are admitted, the following covenant shall be read and entered into publicly.
In as much as (individual’s name – or “these persons”) has/have completed our new member’s class and has/have declared himself/herself/themselves to be in agreement with our doctrinal statement, and in as much as he/she/they wish/es to enter into covenant with the other members of Grace Community Church and become (a) member/s of this local assembly, he/she/they will join us as we recite with them our Church covenant, and we will then welcome him/her/them into our membership.
All members present will recite the following “Church Covenant” with the candidates for membership.
We confess Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. We solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another to serve Christ faithfully in the fellowship of this local assembly of His Church.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, we will constantly seek to maintain the unity He has created in the Church; we will endeavor to order our lives according to the Holy Scriptures, and we will seek to set a Christian example and to witness to others that they may believe.
We promise to be continually diligent in the use of those means which God has provided to secure His enabling grace. We will seek to be regular in attendance and to persevere in the study of God’s Word. We covenant to do all we can to maintain a Christian testimony in our family and to walk circumspectly in the world; to be just in our dealings, faithful and prompt in our engagements, and exemplary in our behavior.
We promise to promote the Lord’s work at this church by our gifts, our prayers, and our service, and to encourage one another to love and good works. In all things we will seek to give our Lord Jesus Christ the pre-eminence.
TERMINATION, CHURCH DISCIPLINE, REMOVAL, AND RESTORATION
Church membership will be terminated upon death, resignation, or union with another church. A member may resign at any time by written notice to the Council of Elders. However, the elders shall have the authority to refuse a member’s voluntary resignation or transfer of membership to another church, either for the purpose of proceeding with a process of church discipline, or for any other biblical reason.
The council of Elders is responsible for carrying out church discipline consistent with the teaching of Scripture (Matthew 18:15-19; Galatians 6:1; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13).
It is a breach of church covenant when members are capable of participation in the life of the church but persist in willful non-participation. When a member continues in non-participation for no less than 2 months, efforts to reach, admonish, and warn him or her will be undertaken with an attempt to resolve any problems. If all such efforts fail to restore a member to regular participation, and the member has been inactive for at least 6 months, the individual’s membership will be terminated, and if possible they will be notified in writing of the action.
Any member consistently conducting himself or herself in a manner which brings the name of Christ and His church into dishonor and exhibits fruit of an unbeliever as well as any member who espouses a doctrinal position opposed to the church’s confession of faith as to endanger the welfare of the church shall be subject to the administration of discipline by the elders. The elders shall make every reasonable effort at loving correction and reconciliation. Public disciple should ordinarily be contemplated after individual private admonition has failed.
Church discipline can include admonition of the elders, suspension from communion for a definite period, deposition from office, and excommunication (removal from membership).
The goal of discipline is repentance and restoration. The elders shall be responsible to lead the church in restoring a disciplined member who subsequently demonstrates genuine repentance.9
Article VI. CHURCH GOVERNMENT
OFFICES, RESPONSIBILITIES, POWERS, AND LIMITATIONS
Grace Community Church shall be governed by the biblical principle of Elder-Rule. We believe the only pattern for church leadership given in the New Testament is that of a plurality of God-ordained Elders. Nowhere in Scripture do we find a local assembly ruled by majority opinion, or by one Pastor. Furthermore, important decisions regarding the direction of any local assembly of believers should be in the hands of those who are best equipped to make spiritually mature decisions which are biblically sound and which have been discerned through prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The principle of majority rule ignores this fact and places the final authority for all important decisions back into the hands of the majority, many of whom may not be qualified to discern truth accurately. While we wholeheartedly endorse the democratic process for government in the secular realm, we do not believe it is the norm which God desires in His Church.
This commitment to Elder-rule is to be tempered with the biblical truth of servant-leadership as taught by our Lord in John 13:4-16. Elders are not to “Lord it over” those in their charge, but to lead by example (I Peter 5:3).
THE COUNCIL OF ELDERS
Members of the Council of Elders shall be “appointed” by the Pastor (himself being an Elder) and the other Elders (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). Such members must meet the requirements for Elders set forth in I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. These shall be men who seem clearly ordained of God to this position.
Elders must subscribe to the Constitution, the Doctrinal Statement, and to the Vision Statement of Grace Community Church. Elders must adhere to the ministry objectives as outlined in these documents and in the Philosophy of Ministry as referenced in part in Article XI. Elders must subscribe to the general doctrines of the historical, Reformed faith (See Article XI of this Constitution). The Senior Pastor, with the assistance of Teaching Elders, governs the pulpit and determines who fills the pulpit when the Senior Pastor is absent.
Ruling Elders are appointed for an indefinite period. At any time an elder may choose or may be counseled to take a sabbatical for a period agreed upon by the elders. Reappointment of Ruling Elders is required after each sabbatical. However, there will be no reinstallation services in such instances. Ruling Elders do not require undergraduate or graduate degrees in ministry related fields. Generally, such training is desirable for Teaching Elders, but is not an absolute requirement. Ruling Elders generally will oversee a particular ministry or ministries.
Teaching and Ruling Elders stand in precisely the same relation to the people so far as the ruling function is concerned. For purposes including differing responsibilities, identifying expectations, and reasonable divisibility of specific ministries’ oversight, the terms Teaching and Ruling are used.
On even numbered years, all Elders will submit to examination by the Elder Council for assurance of individual Elder qualifications. Such examination will involve a review of the Biblical and church qualifications for Eldership in relation to individual Elders. Such examination will include relational and individual assessment among the Elders themselves, to assure that there remains unity of purpose and no personal hindrance or significant issue among the Elders.
Members of the congregation may recommend men for this position. Members of the congregation will also be given the opportunity to communicate to the Council of Elders any doubts or reservations they may have about each candidate. Members of the congregation will be given the opportunity to communicate to the Council of Elders any reason they may know why a candidate should not be appointed as an Elder.
- REMOVAL OF ELDERS
When an Elder substantially deviates from the Constitution, the Doctrinal Statement, the Vision Statement, the Philosophy of Ministry, and/or qualification(s) for Elder (i.e. biblical requirements), the Council of Elders will proceed with the process of Christian conciliation with the Elder to resolve the matter. If the matter remains, the Council of Elders will act to remove the Elder by majority consensus. Mediation may be sought to achieve reconciliation, but under no circumstances will decisions for elder removal be delegated to non-member authorities of any kind.
- THE ROLE OF THE SENIOR PASTOR
The Grace Community Church Senior Pastor automatically serves as an Elder and, because of his public presence and responsibility before the congregation, may be considered first among equals as a member of the Council of Elders. This is a matter of influence rather than authority. The Senior Pastor should be gifted primarily as a preacher/teacher and as a spiritual leader.
A majority of the Elders currently serving with the Council of Elders shall constitute a quorum when five (5) or more Elders are currently serving on the Council.
- SPECIFIC FUNCTIONS OF THE COUNCIL OF ELDERS
The Council of Elders shall be responsible as follows:
1. Oversight in all matters pertaining to the spiritual welfare of the church and its members.
2. Interviewing all applicants -for church membership, appointing persons to membership, and acting on all cases of transfer and dismissal.
3. Judiciously and prudently administering church discipline in order to maintain its purity, peace and unity.
4. Filling or providing for the pulpit supply and leaders of various Bible studies and prayer
ministries of the church.
5. Approving or disapproving recommendations for all educational ministries.
6. Reviewing recommendations of the Missionary Committee and all other individuals or groups.
7. Reviewing recommendations of the Music Director concerning direction and
8. Providing for and supervising a visitation program.
9. Arranging for special services.
10. Issuing the call to the congregational meetings and making arrangements for the
conducting of the annual congregational meeting.
11. Reviewing the Church programs at least once a year in May or June and evaluating future
12. Arranging for observance of church ordinances.
13. Appointing qualified individuals as Deacons, Deaconesses, and Advisors on the Board of
14. Appointing acting officers for the Board of Governors (Unless Elders choose to function
as officers themselves.)
15. Selecting such other offices and committees as may be necessary to carry on the work of
- RULE OF UNITY AND UNANIMITY
The Council of Elders shall seek to always operate with unity and unanimity. It is our belief that if all the Elders are guided by the same Spirit and all have the mind of Christ, there should be unity and unanimity in the decisions they make (1 Cor. 1:10; Eph. 4:3; Phil. 1:27-2:2). If there is division, all of the Elders should study, pray and seek the will of God together until a consensus is achieved.
Making a unified decision is the goal of unanimity. This experiential unity can be achieved with all the Elders retaining a Christ-centered focus and commitment to His Word. Unanimity simply means the condition of being unanimous. Scripturally, it means all are in one accord about a particular matter and applied, it means all the Elders have agreed a particular decision should be made. How unanimity is achieved can be variable.
1) Uncontested Unanimous Decision: All Elders agree on the decision based on biblical support, and/or the recommendations of various committees or persons, and unanimously approve of a measure. The majority of decisions will probably be made in this way. If unanimous decision is not afforded a particular issue, then deference and acquiescence may provide the means for unanimity.
2) Contested with Discussion but Showing Deference to One Another: Deference means submission or courteous yielding to the opinion, or judgment of another. This yielding recognizes that another Elder may have more experience of expertise in a given area or matter deserving of deference. An example of deference is when there is a clearly developing consensus of Elder support resulting in a prevailing view. Deference is akin to acquiescence which means passive assent or agreement without protest. Deferring and acquiescing to a recommendation is a way of serving and supporting one another and achieving unanimity despite disagreement with some or all aspect(s) of the decision. If the Elders are unable to achieve unanimity in this manner, the Elders proceed to majority consensus.
3) Majority Consensus: To have a consensus means to reach an opinion or position by a group as a whole. There are those times when an Elder believes he cannot defer or acquiesce to the majority nor give whole-hearted support to a decision. To assume the dissenter is always of the Holy Spirit and the others are not is to assume too much. Therefore, after much study, prayer and discussion, with unanimity still unreachable, the Elders will resort to the majority consensus rule and make the decision. One reason for this is that a dissenting opinion can be held to the point whereby the dissenting Elder actually controls the church via a dissenting opinion, thus paralyzing ministry. This in fact gives the dissenter the absolute power Elder governed churches seek to avoid. It must be reiterated that every reasonable avenue and approach be exhausted before a majority consensus is invoked. Elders should always be in unity, but unanimity may not always be possible.
If these guidelines are held to in the same spirit it is unlikely that #3 will ever become a necessity. We must remember that the unity we have is from outside of ourselves. It is given by God who calls and elects, the Holy Spirit who regenerates and gives faith, and Jesus who saves to the uttermost. That unity is permanent. Unity experienced is threatened when individual and deviant passions become more important than knowing Christ and making him known. It is understood that in unique and rare circumstances, the Elders may not have unanimity in regard to a particular matter. Unity, though, must always be present, as all the Elders seek to keep their focus upon Christ. The Elders may have disagreements resulting in majority consensus above, but their unity should always remain, founded upon Christ and His love. (Eph. 4:1-3; Phil. 2:1-5).
The Rule of Unity and Unanimity also recognizes the need to delegate authority and responsibility of day to day decision making to the Senior Pastor and appropriate Teaching Elders who have been approved by the Council of Elders.
THE BOARD OF GOVERNORS
The Board of Governors shall carry out the function of general management of church affairs (although decisions are subject to the final approval of the Council of Elders.) The Board of Governors shall consist of a minimum of nine members. The Elders shall exercise all the powers and authority usually ascribed to a Board of Directors or Board of Trustees in a corporation and will have authority to use these titles when necessary in handling corporate or civil matters. (If there are less than four Elders, other members of the Board of Governors may be appointed to fill these offices as “acting” secretary, etc.) The church is incorporated under the laws of the state of Wisconsin as a non-profit religious organization, and the officers of the corporation are stated as follows:
President …………….. The Senior Pastor – also Chairman of the Council of Elders
Vice President …….. Vice Chairman of the Council of Elders
Secretary …………….. Secretary of the Board of Governors (may or may not be an Elder)
Treasurer ……………. Treasurer of the Board of Governors (may or may not be an Elder)
(For the purposes of running the regular monthly business meetings, other members of the Governing Council may be appointed by the Elders to serve as acting Chairman, acting secretary, or acting treasurer.)
The other members of the Board of Governors shall be members of the congregation (with possible exception of some temporarily appointed advisors). These shall include church deacons appointed by the board of Elders to this board (note: all deacons do not automatically serve on this board), and other competent and qualified individuals from the congregation who may be appointed by the Council of Elders. The deacons and other appointed members shall serve as advisors to the Council of Elders. Advisors who are not deacons will have no vote on the Board of Governors. The Board of Governors shall meet and carry on the business affairs of the church once a month (unless additional meetings are deemed necessary).
TERMS OF OFFICE
Board members are appointed by the elders to serve for an indefinite period of time. At any time a board member may choose or may be counseled to take a sabbatical for a period agreed upon by the elders. Other advisors from the congregation may be appointed to temporary service for a specific time as appointed by the Elders.
The final authority for all decisions shall rest with the Council of Elders. The Board of Governors shall provide the context of counsel and advice from which such decisions are made. However, both the Council of Elders and the Board of Governors shall carefully seek to keep the congregation informed of major decisions which must be made, and occasionally, it may be deemed wise to conduct an advisory congregational vote on some issue to help discern the thought of the congregation and to be sensitive to their opinion. Only full members may participate in such a vote unless a general referendum vote of all attenders is called for by the Elders.
SPECIFIC FUNCTIONS OF THE BOARD OF GOVERNORS
1. Care of the property and management of business affairs.
2. Providing for and executing the payment of temporal expenses.
3. Supervising the stewardship of funds from the tithes and free will offerings of the people.
4. Making provisions for adequate financial records and annual auditing of these records.
5. Employing janitorial and other services when necessary.
6. Establishing such offices and committees as may be necessary to carry on its work.
ADVISORS TO THE BOARD OF GOVERNORS
1. Individuals appointed by the Council of Elders to sit on the Board of Governors for the
purpose of giving counsel or advice in the particular areas of their expertise.
2. Such individuals do not have voting privileges on the Board of Governors and do not
share in the above listed responsibilities of the Elders and Deacons except where they
may coincide with their area of expertise.
OTHER CHURCH OFFICES
- The Deacons shall consist of members possessing the qualifications described in 1 Tim. 3:8-13. The Board of Elders will submit candidates to the congregation for affirmation.
• Have general oversight of the physical comfort and well-being of the congregation during all worship services and other church functions.
• Provide the bread and fruit of the vine for the Lord’s Supper.
• Serve the Lord’s Supper to the congregation.
• Receive the offerings at any church function where such offerings are taken.
• Assist the Pastor at Baptismal services.
• Visit the sick, relieve the distressed (i.e. wise use of the needs fund or request of special offerings), help minister to those who are troubled or hurting in any way. (Deacons shall be especially responsible for the ministry or ministries assigned to them.)
• They shall call special situations to the attention of the Elders.
- Sabbatical and Termination of Office.
Deacons are appointed for an indefinite period. At any time a deacon may choose or may be counseled to take a sabbatical for a period agreed upon by the elders. Reappointment of deacons is required after each sabbatical. However, there will be no reinstallation services in such instances.
1. Deaconesses shall consist of members possessing the qualifications described in 1 Tim. 3:8-13. The Board of Elders will submit candidates to the congregation for affirmation.
• Have primary concern for the place and work of the women in the church.
• Have regard to the stranger, sick, poor, neglected and troubled. They shall assist the Elders and
Deacons in visitation and encouragement of those in need.
• Oversee the provision of flowers.
• Care for the receptions and hospitality arrangements as needed.
• Assist in the care of communion articles, drama costumes, choir robes, etc.
- Sabbatical and Termination of Office.
Deaconesses are appointed for an indefinite period. At any time a deaconess may choose or may be counseled to take a sabbatical for a period agreed upon by the elders. Reappointment of deaconesses is required after each sabbatical. However, there will be no reinstallation services in such instances.
ARTICLE VII. ANNUAL CONGREGATIONAL MEETINGS
1. The annual congregational meeting of the church will be held in the month of January (or thereabouts). The basic function of this meeting is to provide a basic overview of the progress and direction of this ministry to the congregation.
- Special meetings may be called for stated purposes by the Council of Elders.
Article VIII. FISCAL YEAR
The fiscal year for Grace Community Church shall begin on January 1 of each year.
Article IX. DISSOLUTION
In the event of dissolution of this organization, proceeds shall be used for one or more non-profit organizations of like faith and practice chosen by the Council of Elders.
Article X. AMENDMENT
The Constitution and Articles of Incorporation may be amended, altered, changed, added to or repealed by the consent of the Council of Elders. Such changes must first be discussed with the Board of Governors. Any such changes which the Board of Governors considers important enough must also be made known to the congregation before the Elders complete the final decision to make such changes.
Article XI. NON-DENOMINATIONAL, CHRISTIAN, REFORMED
Our church began in May of 1988. It is a non-denominational church. We are not opposed to denominations, but we feel more comfortable with a format which can accommodate more individuals who, although Christians, do not necessarily agree on all the finer points of doctrine.*
Denominations exist because of distinctives (or differences) in doctrine. We believe doctrine is of tremendous importance. We also believe every Christian should be committed to membership in a local church. However, we have tried to structure our church in such a way that membership and fellowship are based on the most basic essentials of the historic Christian Faith.* This is not to say that other areas of doctrine are unimportant, but that disagreement in such areas need not exclude anyone from our church fellowship.
At Grace Community, we have adopted as our philosophy the general sentiment expressed by Chrysostom in the following statement:
In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, charity. In all things, Jesus Christ.
Our greatest concern is to be Christian. We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who was sent to this world to save men from their sin; from its power, its penalty, and ultimately from its presence. That is why He is called the Savior. To be a Christian means to be forgiven by Him as we repent and trust in the saving merit of His death on the cross. We also believe that to be a Christian means to acknowledge Christ as Lord and follow Him through obedience to His Word, the Bible. This sort of life is only possible when we depend upon God to provide grace and power. This is part of the rich salvation He offers to all who will come to Him.
Grace Community Church stands firmly in the mainstream of the historic Christian faith. Our doctrinal statement reflects all the essentials of that faith. We recognize The Apostle’s Creed, The Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed as the three chief symbols of the Christian faith as it was preserved for us in the early church. We believe the root forms of these creeds are to be found in the New Testament itself.
In our doctrinal teaching, we stand firmly in the tradition of the Protestant Reformation. We believe that, in a sense, the Protestant Reformation was a revival of Augustinian theology by Luther and the other great Reformers. The general body of our doctrinal teaching is from the “Reformed” perspective. As John H. Leith has noted in his Creeds of the Churches, The designation “Reformed” refers to those Reformation churches that have their source in the work of Zwingli and Calvin (p. 127).
To be specific, identifying ourselves as “Reformed,” Grace Community Church expresses affirmation of the central points of biblical understanding which re-emerged in the context of the Great Reformation. They are the five solas and the doctrines of grace.
The five “solas” are:
- SOLA SCRIPTURA (Scripture alone): The Scriptures are the Divine and final authority for all Christian faith and life (2Tim 3:14-17). The Reformers believed the basic teachings of the Scriptures could be understood by the common person. They did not need an ecclesiastic authority to interpret the Bible for them (Deut 30:11-14; Rom 10:6-8; 1John 2:27).
- SOLA GRATIA (Grace alone): Rescue from God’s wrath is by God’s grace alone. The supernatural work of the Holy Spirit brings human beings to Christ by releasing them from bondage to sin and raising them from spiritual death to spiritual life. Human methods, techniques, or strategies by themselves cannot accomplish this transformation. Faith is not produced by our unregenerated human nature.
- SOLUS CHRISTUS (Christ alone): God’s saving work is accomplished by the mediatorial work of the historical Christ alone. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification and reconciliation to the Father.
- SOLA FIDE (faith alone): Salvation is received through faith alone, apart from any human works (Rom 3:20-22; Gal 2:16).
- SOLI DEO GLORIA (to God alone be the glory): Because salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God, it is for God’s glory. We must live our entire lives before the face of God, under the authority of God and for his glory alone.
The doctrines of grace are:
- TOTAL DEPRAVITY.
By nature human beings are in rebellion against God. Although we are capable of greater evil than we do, we are incapable of doing anything other than sin. We are incapable of desiring God or submitting to God. We are incapable of repentance and faith. We are worthy of nothing less than eternal punishment from God. (Rom 3:9-19; John 3:20-21; 6:44; Rom 5:12-21; 1 Cor 2:14; Eph 2:1-7)
- UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION
From eternity past God chose specific human beings to be his own; this choice fully considered their sin and need for rescue from his own wrath. God’s choice of whom to save is completely His own; it is completely apart from and without any condition in man. (Eph 1:3-14; 1 Thess 1:4-5; John 6:37; 17:2, 6; Rom 8:29-30; 9:10-24; 11:7; 2 Thess 2:13; 2 Tim 1:9; 2 Tim 2:10)
- PARTICULAR REDEMPTION
Jesus Christ in perfect holiness was offered up on Calvary’s cross as a substitutionary sacrifice whereby he was punished in the place of sinners. Through the shedding of his blood he atoned for the sins of the elect in particular so that God remains just and the justifier of the one whose faith is in Jesus. (Isa 53:6; John 10:11-15; 17:9, 20; Acts 20:28; Rom 3:23-26; 5:8, 10; 8:32, 33-34; 2 Cor 5:12; Gal 1:4; 3:13; Eph 1:7; 5:25)
- IRRESISTIBLE GRACE
The Holy Spirit regenerates (brings to life) the elect sinners. His work of new birth gives the sinner a heart to love, seek, and desire to be reconciled with God. While some influences of the Holy Spirit can be and are resisted, by God’s grace the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration is efficacious, working in the hearts of the elect as to make them pleased to come to Christ. (Ezek 36:26-27; John 1:13; 3:5-8; 6:Eph 2:5; Col 2:13; James 1:17-18; 1 Pet 1:3, 23-25)
- PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS
The elect are kept by the power of God, and they will persist in faith and in the pursuit of holiness until their lives come to an end. The elect may fall into even egregious sin, but having new hearts cannot remain there without repentance. Those who believe for a while but forsake the faith demonstrate that their faith was never true. (John 3:36; 5:24; 6:38-40; 8:31-32; 10:27-29; Rom 8:1, 30; Eph 1:13-14; 1 Peter 1:5; 1 John 5:13)
Therefore, if one were to inquire as to the roots of our theology in the Protestant Reformation in particular, we would reply that, in general, we feel more related to the expression of faith set forth in the Belgic Confession (1561); the Heidelberg Catechism (1563); and especially the Westminister Confession of Faith (1647) and London Baptist Confession (1689). However, we would not endorse every aspect of these creeds (ie. infant baptism and certain applications of the regulative principle).
We would be in agreement with the general thinking of the Reformers themselves regarding creeds, as Leith has described it: Reformed Protestantism has been prolific in the production of creeds. The great variety of Reformed confessions is not simply an accident of history and geography but is rooted in Reformed theology, which was vigorously opposed to all idolatry, including the idolatry of creeds. All creeds are subordinate to the Word of God, and no one creed can presume to be ‘the’ creed. Hence, the Reformed theologians found safety in numbers (p. 127).
Some of the outstanding individuals who would be especially representative of our general theological persuasion would include: (the Puritan writers of the 1600’s & 1700’s), William Guthrie, Joseph Alleine, Richard Baxter, John Owen, Stephen Charnock, Thomas Goodwin, Thomas Watson, Thomas Manton, John Bunyan (who wrote Pilgrim’s Progress), and Johnathan Edwards; (as well as others who followed in the same tradition), George Whitefield, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Bishop J. C Ryle, William Wilberforce, John Gill, Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen, Charles Hodge, John Murray, Louis Berkhof, J.I. Packer, John R.W. Stott, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, R.C. Sproul; Dr. D. James Kennedy, Dr. James Montgomery Boice, John MacArthur and many others.
We believe the most faithful presentation of the “Faith of our Fathers” has come down to us today through this general lineage. It is our desire to stand in this fine tradition.
* Those areas of doctrine which we consider “essentials” are outlined in our doctrinal statement.
**We incorporate by reference Grace Community Church’s Vision Statement and Philosophy of Ministry.
1II Timothy 3:16,17; II Peter 1:20-21; Matthew 5:18
2Deuteronomy 6:4; II Corinthians 13:14; Revelation 4:11; Hebrews 1:3
aI Corinthians 8:6; John 3:16-17; Ephesians 1:3-6
bIsaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18-25; 1 Corinthians 15; Hebrews 7; John 1:1-14; Romans 3:24-25;
1 Peter 2:21-25, Acts 1:9-10 I John 2:1-2
cJohn 16:7-13; I Corinthians 12:12-14; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9; Titus 3:5;
Ephesians 5:18; I John 2:20-27
3Genesis 1:26,27; 2:17; 3:16,17; I Corinthians 15:21-22; Romans 3:9-23; Ephesians 2:1-3;
John 3:36; Mark 8:36; Psalm 139:13-16; Romans 5:12; Jeremiah 17:9
4Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:4-10; Titus 3:4-7; John 1:2; 3:16-36; 5:24; Romans 5:9-10; 8:1;
5Matthew 28:19,20; Acts 2:38, 41,42; 8:12, 35-38; Colossians 2:12; Luke 22:19,20;
1 Corinthians 11:23-29
6Romans 12:5; Ephesians 1:22,23; 5:23-24; I Corinthians 12:12-14; Acts 14:27
· Matthew 3:13-17; 26:26-30; 28:19-20;
· Mark 1:9-11; 14:22-26;
· Luke 3:21-22; 22:19-20;
· John 3:23;
· Acts 2:41-42; 8:35-39; 16:30-33; 20:7;
· Romans 6:3-5;
· 1 Corinthians 10:16,21; 11:23-29;
· Colossians 2:12
7Mark 13:32; I Thessalonians 4:13-18; John 14:3; I Corinthians15; Revelation1:7;
Malachi 3:18; Matthew 25: 34-41; John 5:28-29; Revelation 20:4-6,11-15; I Thess. 4:16,17;
II Thessalonians 1:7-8; Revelation 21
8 Gen 1:27-28; 2:18-25; Proverbs 5:15-20; 18:22; 31:10-31; Malachi 2:14-16; Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-9; Mark 10:6-12; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 18; 7:1-16; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:21-33; 1 Timothy 5:14; Hebrews 13:4
9Matthew 5; Matthew 18:15-17; Galatians 6:1