The name of this religious community shall be West Fork Unitarian Universalists.
The purpose of this community shall be the enjoyment and practice of religion founded upon devotion to individual freedom of belief.
This congregation shall be a member of the Unitarian Universalist Association and our geographic district when eligible and will support their work with a percentage of our budget.
The congregation shall adopt a Covenant of Right Relations which shall be reaffirmed or revised annually at the Annual Meeting.
This community affirms and promotes the full participation of all people in all our activities and endeavors, including worship, membership, leadership, programming, hiring, and the calling of religious professionals, without regard to any criteria other than devotion to the Purpose and the Covenant of Right Relations, and especially without regard to race, color, sex, physical or mental challenge, affectional or sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, class, or national origin.
Any person age 12 or over who joins in the Purpose and Covenant of this community may become a member after recommendation by the Ministry and Oversight Committee, acceptance by the congregation at a monthly meeting, and signing the Membership Book. All who sign the Membership Book shall become eligible to vote thirty (30) days after they sign. To remain a member, a person participates in the affairs of the community, remains in right relationship, and contributes time, money, or both.
Honorary Membership. A member who is no longer able to participate in the activities of the church but who wishes to remain in the community may become a non-voting Honorary Member on recommendation of the Ministry and Oversight Committee and approval by the congregation.
End of Membership. A member’s name shall be removed from the membership roll in case of the member’s death; written request by the member to the Secretary; a period of inactivity over one year, pending review by the Ministry and Oversight Committee; or removal by a 70% vote of the Ministry and Oversight Committee for actions that threaten the well-being of the community, provided that the member has the right to appear before the Ministry and Oversight Committee and the right of appeal to a meeting of the congregation.
Ultimate authority is vested in the congregation as expressed in Annual, Monthly, and Special Meetings. The following powers may not be delegated, but may only be exercised by the congregation: the employment or release of the minister and the amount of the minister’s annual salary and benefits; the location of any church buildings and grounds and their purchase or sale; the requirements of membership; approval of the annual budget for the operating fund; ratification or amendment of the bylaws.
It is the intent of the congregation to maintain a community in which everyone is a leader, and to reach decisions collaboratively by agreement, through discernment by the Moderator of what is agreed to by the group, and confirmed by those present. Most decisions are not made by vote, nor do they require unanimity, but other opinions must be sought and thoroughly considered. Those who are participating in the community but not yet members, including children, may participate in discussion so long as they abide by the covenant, and members should take into consideration the needs of non-members and the wider community. It is also the intent of the congregation that most decisions will be entrusted to committees and individuals, within the spirit of the purpose and covenant, and within policy and guidelines established by the congregation. This business practice is democratic action where all participants are equal in their right and obligation to contribute in a spirit of reasonableness and forbearance.
Annual Business Meeting. The annual business meeting shall be held each year on the third Sunday of May, to hear reports of officers and staff, to appoint new officers and committees, to adopt an annual budget, and to transact any other business that may properly come before the congregation.
Monthly Business Meeting. The congregation shall meet for business after the service on the third Sunday of each month.
Special Business Meetings. Special meetings may be called by the Moderator, the Board, or a majority of the members when a situation exists that must be addressed before the next business meeting and cannot be otherwise addressed, or as otherwise provided for in these bylaws. The time limit for notification is waived.
Notice. Notice of the agenda of a business meeting shall be published in the official church newsletter at least ten (10) days before the date of the meeting, posted in the meeting place and the website, and shall be read in the service on two consecutive Sundays immediately preceding the meeting. The notice shall state the business to be transacted. Members without Internet access may request the Secretary to provide notification by phone or mail.
Quorum. If fewer than thirty percent (30%) of the members are present at a monthly business meeting, and there is not unanimity among the members present, the business will be postponed to the next Sunday.
If a quorum is not present at a meeting, action may nonetheless be taken on any question properly brought before the meeting on which a vote is required, if such action shall be supported by the same absolute number of votes as would be required for action at the meeting at which a quorum is present.
Votes Required. The encumbrance, sale or transfer of any real or financial property, except within the investment program, requires a quorum of fifty-one percent (51%) of the voting members and a seventy percent (70%) vote.
Election of a new minister shall be at a special meeting called for that purpose. Election shall be by a ninety percent (90%) vote of the members present and voting.
Dismissal of a minister shall be at a special meeting called for that purpose. Dismissal shall be by a majority vote by secret ballot of members present and voting. Such a vote may not be taken again for six (6) months.
Any action to dissolve the congregation must be approved by a seventy percent (70%) vote of the members present at a meeting called to specifically consider such action, for which meeting written notice has been issued to all members eligible to vote in accordance with the provisions of these bylaws.
Proxies. Proxy votes shall be available to members who cannot attend a given meeting for reasons of incapacitation or travel, except for the call or dismissal of a minister. All proxies shall be in writing and specifically state the issue and how the proxy is to be voted. Proxies must be conveyed in duplicate, one copy to the moderator and one to the secretary.
Board, Officers, and Committees
All officers and committee members, except the Nominating Committee, are appointed from the voting members by consensus of the congregation from the recommendations of the Nominating Committee. The congregation appoints three members at the March monthly business meeting to choose the replacement for the member of the Nominating Committee whose term of service is ending. Officer and committee terms begin with the fiscal year. All committees have staggered terms, and the senior person serves as chair. Vacancies are filled by the same processes, for the unexpired term. Officers and committee members who are unable to carry out their responsibilities are removed by consensus of the congregation on recommendation of the Ministry and Oversight Committee or the Nominating Committee. No member may serve in more than two capacities.
Moderator. Appointed for a one-year renewable term. Organizes the business agenda, presides at business sessions, prepares minutes of the proceedings, coordinates worship service arrangements and the use of the building; channels community tasks and opportunities for service to appropriate individuals and committees; speaks and signs on behalf of the community, except for property, financial, and insurance matters. Serves ex officio as a member of all committees and the Board.
Secretary. Appointed for a two-year renewable term. Ex officio member of the Board.
Treasurer. Appointed for a two-year renewable term. Ex officio member of the Board.
Three Directors are appointed to the Board for three-year staggered terms, the person senior in service acting as President. The Moderator may not serve as a Director. The Board performs those duties that fulfill legal obligations and which ensure the security of the congregation’s assets, including filing all papers required by state or Federal laws; securing insurance that covers congregation property and potential liabilities; paying all taxes, fees, and assessments; maintaining legal documents securely; reviewing the congregation’s financial condition and making recommendations to the congregation.
Nominating Committee. Three members appointed for 3-year staggered terms.
Committee on Ministry and Oversight. Three members appointed for 3-year staggered terms. Works to foster and strengthen the spiritual life of the community by overseeing the worship services, religious education, nurturing the spiritual growth of individuals in the community, the care of the membership and of the community life, and preparing the budget.
It is expected that as the congregation grows, the functions of the Committee on Ministry and Oversight will be distributed among more specialized committees. The Committee is responsible for preparing written policies and procedures in each of its areas of responsibility and recommending to congregation when a separate committee should be created.
Fiscal Year. The fiscal year of the Church is from July 1 to June 30.
Audit. Beginning with the church year after the membership reaches 30, the accounts of the Church, including all endowment funds, shall receive an outside financial review or limited audit each year by a certified public accountant chosen by the Board. The annual financial review or limited audit shall be available for Church members’ inspection.
Execution of Instruments. Checks and other orders on the funds or credit of the church, and all contracts and instruments in writing by the church, shall be valid and binding upon the church only when executed by no fewer than two such officers as shall be designated and authorized by the Board.
Protection of Non-Profit Status. Neither the congregation, the Board, nor any officer or employee of the congregation shall take any action or allow any activity or use of Church property which shall endanger the non-profit status or tax-exempt status of the Church or its property. Nothing in these bylaws shall be construed to allow a violation of this section.
Public Statements in the Name of the Congregation. Public statements in the name of the congregation on social or other public issues will be made only after a decision of the membership. This does not limit the right of individuals or groups within the community to make statements in their own name.
Dissolution. If the congregation at its own option shall cease to exist, all property real or personal shall be transferred to the Ohio Meadville District of the Unitarian Universalist Association or their successors, for the furtherance of Unitarian Universalism in West Virginia. This does not apply to dissolution for the purposes of changing the form of legal organization or merging with another Unitarian Universalist congregation.
The minister shall have responsibility for the conduct of worship services and shall serve as spiritual leader and advisor to church members and shall provide pastoral care as needed. The minister shall have freedom of the pulpit. The minister shall also have the freedom to express her or his opinions outside the pulpit, but not to represent the church without authorization from the membership. The minister shall be an ex officio, non-voting member of the Board. Other specific duties shall be negotiated between the minister and the Ministry and Oversight Committee or the Ministerial Search Committee, be written into a job description, and be approved by the Board.
Minister’s Authority. The senior minister shall be under the general supervision of the Ministry and Oversight Committee. The senior minister shall supervise the ministerial staff of the Church as it may be constituted from time to time by the congregation. Religious education and music staff shall be considered ministerial staff.
Search Committee. A Ministerial Search Committee shall be appointed by the congregation on the recommendation of the Nominating Committee when necessary. Rules and procedures concerning the committee’s composition and operation shall be approved by the congregation at a meeting with appointment of the Committee in its call, with the only restriction being that employees of the congregation shall not serve on the committee.
Termination. If the congregation votes to terminate the services of the minister, sixty (60) days notice shall be given. Should the minister resign, sixty (60) days notice must be given, except as the congregation may allow less time.
Non-ministerial staff shall operate under the supervision of the President, who shall be responsible to the Board of Directors for implementing the policies determined by the Board, and shall operate under the general supervision of the Board.
These bylaws shall be liberally interpreted in order to accomplish their basic intent, which is hereby stated to be the efficient and loving operation and management of the Church in order to accomplish the purposes of the community.
These bylaws may be amended by consensus of the congregation after the amendment has been placed on the agenda for discussion at least three monthly business meetings, or fewer if there are more than sixty percent (60%) of the members present and there is unanimity.
Adopted 24 Jun 2012
Temporary Organizational Structure
Until the beginning of the church year after the membership reaches 15, the officers shall be the President, the Moderator, the Chair of Ministry and Oversight, and a Secretary/Treasurer, who will serve as the Board and Nominating Committee. The congregation as a whole will carry out the functions of the Committee on Ministry and Oversight.
Amended 19 May 2013
Amended 19 May 2019