Granted, announcements were made several weeks in advance in the church bulletin that bylaw changes were being proposed, and members were told they could view them in the library and email questions. However, since bylaw changes have to be voted on by the membership, one would think it a prudent step for someone - either the pastor or perhaps president of the trustees - to characterize the nature and purpose of the changes before asking the congregation to vote on them. We hope that the deacons who apparently did vote unanimously to approve the changes the night before the church vote - were given full explanations on the changes, and that questions were asked at that time.
So why write about the bylaws here? Some of the changes in the bylaws are fine and probably very prudent - and some most members wouldn't care to know about. But here is the Watchdog's point, and the reason for these articles on the bylaws:
Included in the November 27, 2007 bylaw modifications were changes to the conditions of church membership, creation of a discipline committee and discipline process by which church discipline could be carried out against members, revokation of certain members' rights, and revokation of the congregation's right to call for a special business meeting of the church. If those portions of the changes to the bylaws don't require a loving, humble, pastor to stand in front of his people to explain the nature and purpose of such changes, then there is nothing that Mac ever needs to explain to us. Just give he and Deb the rest of Team Brunson total control of the church to do as they wish.
If you want to listen to the 11/28/07 business meeting where the vote was called for, click here.
Finance Committee Dissolved
The December 2007 bylaw changes dissolved the finance committee and moved those responsbilities to the "Trustees" of the church (see below). Most SBC churches have a "finance committee" that is responsible to attend to the financial matters of the church. In our church it was a standing deacon committee. They were responsible for the disbursing of all funds, and were responsible to furnish Deacons and the members a detailed financial report each month and at the close of the year. So we don't have a personnel committee from the deacons overseeing the personnel matters, and we no longer have a finance committee of deacons overseeing the financial matters of the church. Very interesting.
Board of Trustees Expanded from 11 to 17
The Board of Trustees was expanded from 11 to 17 members, and this is what necessitated a change to the Articles of Incorporation that were voted on the same night as the bylaws.
The selection of Trustees was defined in the new bylaws as "...nominated by the Pastor, with the advice of the Chairman of Deacons and Vice-Chair of Deacons. The trustees shall be elected annually by the Church..." So they are nominated by the Pastor only. The previous bylaws were silent on how trustees were nominated. The are hand-picked by the pastor, and the congregation votes up or down on the entire board at once.
Role of Board of Trustees Expanded
There now is a statement in the new bylaws that says: "It shall be the responsibility of the Trustees to manage the legal and financial affairs of the church" ...and then goes on to describe what those responsibilities are, which include the responsiblities given to the Finance Committee before the bylaws were changed.
So they are no longer just a body from whom the officers of the church are chosen to sign legal documents when necessary...they are to manage the legal and financial affairs of the church. A role that was partially vested in the Deacon body through the finance committee.
Trustees are now responsible for annually hiring an independent auditor of the church financial records, not the Finance Committee.
Approving Non-Budgedted Expenditures
The previous bylaws stated: "Any disbursements that exceed $25,000 and is not a regularly budgeted item shall be presented to the church for approval."
Under the new bylaws, the Trustees can vote and approve non-budgeted expenditures up to $50,000 - a quorum of trustees is 50%, so anywhere from 5 people to 10 people (including the pastor) can vote to spend up to $50,000 of money on non-budgeted expenditures. Any expenditures over $50,000 still have to come to the church.
The bylaws now require the appropriate "Executive Pastor" to approve all "checks and contracts obligating the Church" for their respective ministries. That seems to be a very reasonable change. Makes perfect sense.
To be generous, perhaps these changes were made not so much as to change how the church is run, but to make the bylaws an accurate representation of how the church was already being run, even perhaps prior to Brunson arriving. But if that is the case, why not explain it to the people who are present on Wednesday night to vote? Why can't the Pastor demonstrate leadership in this area by giving some explanations?
From what we have seen of Mac in his first 3 years, perhaps the bylaw changes was a power grab on his part. As I will discuss later, part of the changes were to avoid conflicts as were observed at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Also these changes effectively secure Mac's position as pastor and make it impossible for a congregation to fire the pastor - as we shall see it is now only possible if the Trustees decided to remove him - and as we know the Pastor picks the Trustees! He has concentrated power to run the church within the body of Trustees that he selects. His board can decide to spend up to $50,000 of church funds not budgeted...which makes me wonder how we approved to spend money on the INSP network program as a church since that expenditure was certainly NOT in the approved budget, and by Mac's own admission was more than $100,000.
Bottom line: Mac has done enough, and treated us in such a manner since coming here that I don't trust him to change the bylaws as he did, and I don't think he has earned enough trust that would cause us to make any bylaw changes that concentrates power into those that are his close buddies on the Board of Trustees.
In the next few articles, the Watchdog will present issues in the bylaw changes that involve how business meetings are called, how church discipline is carried out, and what "right" members have forfeited to become members of the church under the new bylaws. The Watchdog has more to say as well regarding the function of deacons in the church in light of Mac's intimidating statements to deacons about being "worriers" and that they are not to be "businessmen". These I think will be of more concern to many members that the issues above, and certainly issues that the Pastor should have explained to his people before asking for a vote.