chalice with rainbow flame
First Unitarian Universalist Church of Essex County

Proposed Bylaws Revisions to Articles IV and VI

As approved by Board of Trustees October 12,2010,
with further change to Art.IV sec.2 approved by Board December 14, 2010

[new or revised language is shown in bold]:

ARTICLE IV, MEMBERSHIP, is revised to read as follows

Section 1. Requirements and Limits. (a) Any person who is in sympathy with the purpose of the Church may become a Member of the Church by signing the Membership Register in the presence of the Minister or an Officer or Trustee and providing his or her name, current postal address, and current electronic mail address, if any, to the Secretary.

(b) Every Member who has made a financial contribution of record within the previous twelve months shall be deemed a Voting Member of the Church, except that:

(i) Waiting Period. There shall be a waiting period of thirty days between becoming a Member and having voting privileges and no one with membership of less than six months' duration shall be entitled to vote on disposition or acquisition of real property or on hiring or dismissal of the Minister.

(ii) Age Requirement. Only Members who are sixteen years of age or over shall be entitled to vote in any meeting of the Church.

(c) Every Member shall promptly inform the Secretary of any change in his or her electronic mail address or postal address.

(d) All Members are expected, to the extent they are able, to take an active interest in the Church by attendance at its services and participation in its activities.

Section 2. Cessation. Any Member who has not made a financial contribution of record within the previous twelve months (except a Member who has been designated a Life Member by resolution of the Board) shall cease to be a Voting Member upon prior approval by the Board and written notification by the Secretary.

Section 3. Reinstatement. Any Member whose voting membership has ceased may become a Voting Member again by both making a financial contribution of record and communicating to the Secretary in writing the intent to resume voting membership in the Church.

Section 4. Withdrawal. Any Member may withdraw voluntarily from membership by so notifying the Secretary in writing.

Section 5. Expulsion. The Congregation may expel a Member for conduct which endangers the health or safety of other Members or which contravenes the purpose of the Church, by a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting at a Special Meeting, provided that notice of the consideration of such expulsion has been included in the notice of the Meeting and that the affected Member is allowed to address the Meeting before a vote is taken.

Section 6. Entitlements. All Members are entitled to receive a copy of the current Constitution and Bylaws, a copy of the current contract between the Church and the Minister, a copy of the annual financial statement, and the Church newsletter. All Members shall be entitled to inspect the minutes of the Board of Trustees, the Membership Register and the financial reports of the Church.

Article VI, Section 3, is amended to read:

Section 3. Removal. An Officer or Trustee can be removed by a two-thirds majority of the Members present and voting at a Meeting of the Church, provided that notice of the consideration of such removal has been included in the notice of the Meeting and the Officer or Trustee in question is allowed to address the Congregation before a vote is taken.

Article VI, Section 4, first sentence is amended to read:

Section 4. Vacancies. If the position of any Trustee or Officer shall become vacant, the Nominating Committee shall, as soon as possible, recommend a successor to the Board of Trustees, and a majority of the remaining Officers and Trustees shall appoint a successor to serve until the next Annual Meeting.


COMMENTS on the revisions to Article IV :

Section 1(d) is hortatory i.e., it has no legal effect. It is included to reaffirm the importance of attendance and active participation (which are treated in the present version of Section 1 as alternatives to financial contribution for maintenance of voting membership).

Section 5 is new. The idea for it comes from the UUA web site, which says: " . . . congregations need to determine whether they wish to incorporate a provision in the bylaws for removal of membership status from individuals against their will. This subject is particularly touchy, as UU congregations have long prided themselves on openness and inclusion of diverse populations. However, from time to time it might be necessary to remove individuals from congregational life and membership, especially if they prove to be a risk to the health and well-being of others in the congregation or of the congregation as a whole. The congregation must take care in drafting such a provision to ensure that a good process is in place for removing someone's membership for cause. The site gives the following examples of such provisions:

"A member's name shall be removed from the Membership Roll in case of . . . . (4) removal by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the Board for actions that threaten the well-being of the Congregation."

"Any person having become a Member shall continue to be a Member until: . . . . (c) he or she has Membership terminated by the Board for cause, as determined by a vote of two-thirds of the Board, provided that the member has the right to appear before the Board and the right of appeal to a meeting of the Congregation."

Another section of the site says: . . . To prevent membership by persons who prove to be a risk to the health and well-being of others in the congregation or of the congregation as a whole, the bylaws can state that the board will vote to approve new members at its monthly meetings. In practice, the board basically ratifies most memberships, but board vetting helps ensure a safer congregation. Not admitting such individuals in the first place saves the congregation from having to revoke their membership . . .

The present draft vests the expulsion power solely in the Congregation as a whole, in keeping with a perceived recent preference of the Congregation not to enlarge Board powers. The Board would still have the inherent power to make a recommendation to the Congregation to consider an expulsion.