calendar October 12, 2016 in Congregations, ELCA

Time To Update Your Constitution


Your congregation’s Constitution is a vital statement about who you are as a community of faith, and your interdependence within the ELCA.

The 2016 Churchwide Assembly made important changes to required provisions to the Model Constitution that should be included in your church’s documents, according to the Rev. Karl M. Richard, Synod secretary. (Read his full message below)

He advises congregations to update their Constitution with these and any other changes made since its last update. The Synod Council Constitution Committee, chaired by Pastor Jane Marston, will be happy to assist in the update and review process.



Have you read your Constitution lately?

I am not referring to the U.S. Constitution, but your congregation’s.

Constitutions are not something that most people read or think of often, but they are vital statements about who we are as congregations. How we structure ourselves and how we are organized are important parts of our life together as the Church, and clarity in these matters goes a long way in addressing issues if conflicts arise.  In a real way, this is a practice in stewardship of our human resources and relationships as a community of faith.

We are an interdependent Church, with Congregations, Synods and the Churchwide Organization of the ELCA each playing a role in different aspects of our life and witness to the Gospel of Jesus.  The way we live out this partnership is contained in our governing documents, that is, our constitutions.  Periodically there are changes made to reflect more accurate legal, theological, or structural language of our communal identity.  Now is one of those times.

The 2016 Churchwide Assembly made several important changes to the Model Constitution for Congregations, including changing the language of the lay roster from Associates in Ministry, Deaconesses, and Diaconal Ministers to a unified roster of Ministers of Word and Service, revising the provisions for parishes, and updating the membership rules. In addition, many congregations have not updated their constitutions since the 2013 Churchwide Assembly, which made important changes to the procedures for disciplining members of congregations. Some have not updated their constitutions for a considerably longer time than that!

The next Churchwide Assembly will be in 2019, so there will be no changes to the Model Constitution for Congregations in the next three years, making it an excellent time to update yours now.

Updating a congregation’s constitution to reflect changes in the Model Constitution for Congregations is relatively easy and straightforward.  The updated Model, as well as the changes made in 2016, can be found here:  Amendments from prior Churchwide Assemblies can be found here:

Our Synod’s Constitution Committee, chaired by Pastor Jane Marston, will be happy to help you walk through the steps for updating your congregation’s constitution, and with the process of having it reviewed and endorsed by the Synod Council. 

So I ask again, have you read your constitution lately?

The Rev. Karl M. Richard, Secretary
Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod