The Constitution of the Sovereign Grace Fellowship
I. IDENTITY: The Sovereign Grace Fellowship (SGF) shall consist of Baptist Churches committed to the Baptist Confessions of either 1644 or 1689. While we are committed to these confessions, we affirm the unique and final authority of the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, in all matters of faith and practice. A summary of some of the things we believe the Scriptures to teach is as follows:
- We believe that the Bible is the inspired, infallible, completed Word of God.
- There is only one, living and true God, composed of three Persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, each eternally co-existent and fully God.
- God is sovereign over all creation, and He directs all things in accordance with His, eternal, immutable purpose.
- The first man was created perfect, but wilfully disobeyed God and severed his communion with God, thus leaving his descendants – all mankind – at enmity with God and spiritually dead in their sin.
- For no reason, other than to glorify His own Self, God in His eternal purpose chose to reconcile a multitude of people to Himself through the Person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. For this multitude Jesus Christ took on the form of a man and became their perfect Substitute on the cross, satisfying divine justice on their behalf. His sacrifice purchased all things necessary to ensure their eternal salvation.
- Although God commands men everywhere to repent, such is the power of sin that men will not of themselves obey this command. Therefore God, determined to save those for whom Christ died, calls them through the Gospel and draws them by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit; who renews their minds, hearts and wills so that they freely trust in Christ. Those brought to faith in Christ are forgiven all their sins, declared perfectly righteous in Christ (justified) and adopted as God’s children.
- Saving faith is of necessity accompanied by repentance, which involves the recognition of, sorrow over, and the turning away from all known sin, with a new desire to live in obedience to Jesus Christ.
- Jesus Christ alone is the Head of the one true Christian Church, which is made up of those people who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit. All these are presently indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and by their words and deeds show their allegiance to Christ.
- There are two ordinances that have been instituted by the Lord Jesus: believer’s baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Neither of these has, in themselves, the power to save men from their sins, but are outward symbols of inward, spiritual realities.
- God, in His eternal purpose, has also appointed a day of judgment: a day in which He will judge all mankind in righteousness by Jesus Christ. Every human who has ever lived will appear before Christ to give an account of his or her life and to receive either everlasting life in the presence of God, or everlasting torment in hell.
II. PURPOSE: The SGF shall exist to promote the glory of God and to advance the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ by engaging in activities that are exclusively in pursuit of this charitable purpose by:
- promoting joint activities and cooperation between member churches.
- assisting churches in maintaining and propagating sound biblical doctrine.
- working together in world missions, church planting and evangelization.
- assisting in the education, recognition and support of biblically qualified ministers.
III. GOVERNING PRINCIPLE: Striking a balance between independence and interdependence. While seeking to promote the interdependence of SGF churches, the SGF recognizes and respects the independence of each member church. We are aware of the danger of fellowships or associations taking on a life of their own apart from the local church, and therefore, we want to affirm our commitment to the importance of the local church as the primary organizational structure given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ in the Scriptures.
With this in mind, the SGF will seek to respond to requests from its churches to come alongside with support for projects initiated and/or overseen by individual churches. However, recognizing that some projects may be too large or complicated for one local church to efficiently manage, the SGF will initiate and/or oversee such endeavours itself as directed by the member churches. We believe there are great benefits in co-operating and working together and in all our activities and initiatives as a fellowship we will strive to strike a biblical balance between the role of the larger group and the involvement of the individual local church.
A. Admission: Any church who subscribes to the doctrinal position and the constitution of the SGF, meets the minimal criteria identified in “Criteria for Church Membership in the SGF of Canada“ *, and who signifies in writing its desire to be affiliated with the SGF, will be received into membership of the SGF upon a successful majority vote of its own membership, as determined by the applying church, and upon a three-quarters majority vote of the appointed delegates of the SGF at the annual General Assembly.
(* The meeting of these criteria (listed after the final section of the Constitution) is to be determined either by a sponsoring church or a committee involving the Coordinator and at least one member of the Board.)
B. Responsibilities: Those churches that are part of the SGF are expected to uphold the Baptistic distinctives of the SGF, and, as they are able, to contribute to the fellowship financially. The suggested level of financial contribution will be 2% of church revenues. That contribution shall be re-evaluated as needed at the General Assembly (N.B. there must be a projected SGF budget before a contribution is requested).
C. Mediation: This is necessary for orderly conduct in the propagation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If one of the member churches is in spiritual difficulty, unsolvable by its internal resources, the SGF may, on the request of that local church lend aid, insight and support through a body of Elders appointed by the Board of Directors. This aid will be advisory and will seek to encourage the church in trouble to act in accordance with the principles laid down in the Scriptures. Nevertheless, if in the judgment of the SGF a church is in trouble but does not request aid, the Fellowship may apply to arbitrate in such a situation.
D. Discipline/Secession: Any church known to hold doctrines or polity which are contrary to the statement of faith of the SGF or has practices detrimental to affiliated churches will be so informed by the fellowship. The church in question will have a chance to address the concerns at the time they are presented. Failure to correct or remedy such errors will be considered grounds for removal from the fellowship upon a three-quarters majority vote of the delegates.
A church may withdraw from the SGF at any time and for any reason sufficient to itself. Any church that does not wish a continuing affiliation with the SGF will be asked to submit, in writing, its intention to secede and the reasons thereof. Such a withdrawal does not legally prejudice the property rights of the church.
V. SGF GOVERNANCE
The governance of the SGF shall consist of a Board of either four (4) or five (5) members, plus a Co-ordinator and a Treasurer.
A. Election of the Board: At the General Assembly the delegates will vote to fill any vacant spots on the Board of Directors with men from churches in good standing. Directors shall be elected for a three-year term with the option of a fourth year, left to the discretion of the Board and the willingness of the individual Director. No two board members may come from the same church. To give continuity, terms should be staggered.
B. Duties of the Board:
- The members of the Board of Directors are responsible to implement the initiatives of the SGF churches as expressed by their delegates at the General Assembly.
- They will meet as required throughout the year and establish committees as needed to realize the objectives of the SGF.
- They will set the agenda for the General Assembly meeting in consultation with the church delegates.
- The board will nominate a Co-ordinator who will be presented to the General Assembly of the SGF for approval.
- Directors of the Board will serve as Trustees to transact any legal or public business on behalf of the SGF.
C. SGF Co-ordinator: The Co-ordinator must be a member in good standing of an SGF church. He will serve a three-year term that can be renewed indefinitely. He must be approved at the General Assembly by a three-quarters vote of the delegates. If the Co-ordinator nominated by the Board is not approved, the Board will then have to put another name forward. Every three years the Board must bring a nomination for Co-ordinator to the General Assembly.
- The Co-ordinator is a non-voting member of the board.
- He will assist the Board in preparation for the General Assembly and he is responsible for distributing the agenda for this meeting.
- He will chair the General Assembly meeting and Board meetings.
- He will facilitate communication between the churches and will visit and will be available to preach in the member churches.
- He will promote the Sovereign Grace Fellowship, encourage communion and co-operation between member churches.
- He will meet with interested parties who want more information about the SGF.
- The board will nominate a treasurer who must be a member in good standing of an SGF church. This nomination must be ratified by a three-quarters vote of the delegates at the general assembly. The treasurer will be a non-voting member of the Board who will serve a two-year term renewable indefinitely. Every two years the Board must bring a nomination for Treasurer to the General Assembly.
- Duties: to deposit monies received; pay bills; prepare quarterly statements for the SGF Board. To prepare and submit information to the government on behalf of the SGF. To prepare and submit a budget forecast for the upcoming fiscal year at the SGF Board meeting just prior to the General Assembly. To provide any other financial information as requested by the SGF Board.
VI. BY-LAWS OF SOVEREIGN GRACE FELLOWSHIP
The General Assembly: A General Assembly of the member congregations shall be held at least once a year. Each member church will be invited to send three (3) delegates to the Assembly who will be empowered to represent their congregations in any matters of business that arise. These delegates should be elders and/or deacons of the church they represent. In the event that the elders/deacons cannot attend, member churches will appoint suitable representative(s). The assembly will be open to all members of the congregations who wish to attend as observers and such attendance is strongly encouraged.
- Sixty percent of the member churches must be represented to constitute a quorum.
- Recognizing the need to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace,” every attempt will be made to reach a consensus of the member churches on all matters of business.
- A two-third’s majority vote of the delegates present at the General Assembly is necessary to pass business items unless otherwise specified. Therefore, abstaining on a given item will be counted as a ‘no’ vote.
- Two months prior to the general assembly, the names of delegates are to be sent to the Co-ordinator. These names in turn will be sent out to the member churches.
- One month later nominations for Directors are to be sent back to the Co-ordinator and then out to the churches. Churches can nominate as many Directors as open positions. Delegates are to vote the General Assembly. If the number of nominees exceeds the number of open positions the nominees receiving the most votes are elected to the respective positions.
- At the request of the Board, as it deems necessary, extra meetings can be convened with a minimum of six weeks notice.
- Sections IV – VI of this constitution may be amended by a three-quarters majority vote of the delegates at any General Assembly, provided the amendment was sent in printed form to all the churches sixty days prior to the meeting in which it is presented for a vote.
- Amendments of sections I – III may only be amended at a General Assembly, by a three-quarters majority vote, if the proposed amendments were read at the previous General Assembly and then sent in printed form sixty days prior to the meeting at which it is presented for a vote.
- A General Assembly will be held in the fall of the year and in different parts of the country represented by the SGF.
- The delegates appointed by the churches for the General Assembly will continue to serve in that capacity until the Assembly of the following year when new delegates will have been appointed. In this way any business that needs attention during the year can be transacted without having to wait for the next Assembly.
- In the case of an urgent need for a decision involving money, the Trustees (voting Board members) are legally entitled to transact business, though where possible the Board will seek the approval of the church delegates.
[This Constitution was amended and approved at the General Assembly of the SGF on Nov 20th, 2010]
Criteria for Church Membership in the SGF of Canada
- The church must subscribe to the doctrinal position of the SGF as laid out in Section I of the Constitution of the SGF.
- The church must have an official membership.
- The church must have an adopted constitution.
- The church must have a duly elected church leadership.
- The church will receive a visit from board members of a sponsoring church or members of the SGF ( Board to work through any questions related to these criteria ).
- The church will arrange for a presentation to their membership by the SGF Coordinator to explain the vision, purpose and intentions of the SGF and to clearly delineate the privileges and responsibilities of membership.