Covenant and Bylaws

2022 AMC Covenant

Annually the Austin Mennonite Church invites the commitment of those participating in the life of the congregation.  Through the practice of covenanting with each other we commit ourselves to this community of faith with the following understandings:

1. Austin Mennonite Church identifies with the Christian faith in the Anabaptist/Mennonite perspective.  This means that we are Christ-centered, following the way of Jesus. We value peace, service, justice, community, scripture, priesthood of all believers, believer’s baptism, and simple living. We also value learning from other interpretations of the Christian faith.

2. We value dialogue with other faith perspectives.

3. We meet together regularly for worship, study, prayer, service and fellowship.

4. We support each other spiritually, emotionally, materially, and by giving and receiving counsel.  We especially regard the nurture and faith formation of children as important. We acknowledge that supporting each other involves the nurture of all persons in the congregation – children, youth, families, single adults, and couples in committed and married relationships.

5. We share and use the spiritual and material gifts God has given us.  This includes sharing in the leadership of the congregation by serving on committees and in other positions and supporting the congregation financially.

6. We use our gifts and talents to serve the needs of others in our neighborhoods, communities, and the wider world.

7. By God’s grace, we live as those whom Christ called to be peacemakers: renouncing violence in the resolution of conflict, bringing justice and reconciliation in our world, and demonstrating the love of God among us and in the broken world around us.

8. We live responsibly as caretakers of the environment, with the awareness of the needs of others around the world and responding to the environmental challenges of the present.

9. We share the life and vision of the Austin Mennonite Church with our neighbors and friends in a positive and inviting way and as witnesses to God’s love.

10. As a Christian community, called to peacemaking and reconciliation, we welcome each other and affirm that people of any racial or ethnic identity, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, age, and economic status are welcome to full participation in our congregation.

We confess that in attempting to meet these goals we sometimes miss the mark.  However, we accept God’s grace and guidance and the nurture of this congregation as we live into this covenant with God and each other.

We reevaluate and renew this covenant and our commitment to God and to each other on an annual basis. May the Holy Spirit encourage and help us in witnessing to God’s love and faithfulness.

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BYLAWS

May 23, 2021

Bylaws of Austin Mennonite Church

“Serving Christ Simply, Peacefully, Together.”

Introduction

The bylaws of Austin Mennonite Church are an internal description of the membership, organization and decision-making practices of the congregation. 

Austin Mennonite Church identifies with the Christian faith in the Anabaptist/Mennonite perspective.  This means that we are Christ-centered, following the way of Jesus.  We value peace, service, justice, community, scripture, priesthood of all believers, believer’s baptism, and simple living.  We also value learning from other interpretations of the Christian faith. We are a member congregation of Western District Conference which is a constituent area conference of Mennonite Church USA.

Article I. Membership and Participation

Section 1.  Participation options

Austin Mennonite Church has several options for participation in the life of the church:

  1. Full membership (member)
  2. Associate membership (member)
  3. Covenant membership (member)
  4. Regular attendee (non-member)

Section 2. Full Membership 

Full membership in the Austin Mennonite Church is open to persons who desire to make a commitment to follow the way of Jesus within the Anabaptist/Mennonite tradition.

A person becomes a full member of Austin Mennonite Church by either:

  1. Sharing a statement of faith, or
  2. Being or having been baptized, or
  3. Transferring an existing church membership in good standing from another congregation. 

Inquiries and requests for full membership will be processed by the Pastor and Deacons who will determine readiness for membership and bring a recommendation to the congregation. New full members will be asked to participate in an appropriate ceremony during a Sunday morning  worship service to be welcomed and affirmed as a member of the congregation. An appropriate ceremony will be determined by the Pastor and Deacons and the membership candidate and may consist of sharing a faith journey, baptism, and responding to questions.

Transfer of full church membership to Austin Mennonite Church will be requested by the person desiring such transfer and will be accomplished by receiving communication from the previous church that the person is a member in good standing in that congregation. A person who has been baptized as an infant and confirmed in the Christian faith does not need to be re-baptized.  Membership transfers will be publicly acknowledged during a worship gathering of the Austin Mennonite Church. 

Section 3. Associate Membership

A person participating in the life of Austin Mennonite Church while holding full membership in another Christian congregation may request associate membership at Austin Mennonite Church. Inquiries and requests for associate membership will be processed by the pastor and deacons who will bring a recommendation to the congregation.

Section 4.  Covenant Membership

The Austin Mennonite Church Annual Covenant describes the congregation’s values, practices, and expectations for those who choose to participate in the Austin Mennonite Church community. Covenant membership is intended for persons who value being part of the Austin Mennonite Church community but for various reasons choose not to commit to full or associate membership. A person becomes a covenant member of Austin Mennonite Church by signing the current covenant indicating that they are in significant agreement with the covenant. The congregation evaluates and renews the covenant annually. 

Section 5. Regular Attendees

Persons who attend Austin Mennonite Church worship services and other activities on a regular basis are welcome to participate in the life of the church.

Section 6. Children and Youth

We celebrate and cherish the participation of children and youth in the life of the congregation. It is our prayer and intent that when a young person reaches the age of accountability (generally in their teens), they will choose to become full members of the church. 

Section 7. Participation in AMC 

As an inclusive Christian community, called to peacemaking and reconciliation, we affirm that people of any racial or ethnic identity, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, age, and economic status are welcome to full participation in our congregation. 

Section 8.  Restrictions based on membership

All full, associate, covenant members and persons who regularly attend AMC may participate fully in the life of the church according to their gifts with the following exceptions:

  1. Only full members are able to serve in certain positions in the church (Deacon, Moderator, Pastor, Treasurer).
  2. Only members (full, associate and covenant members) may block consensus in Congregational Business Meetings

Section 9.  Termination of membership

Termination of membership may be by death, transfer of membership, request for withdrawal, or by action of the congregation based on inactivity, non-participation or other compelling circumstances.

Section 10.  Membership Records

Membership records are kept by the church and maintained and updated by the Pastor and Deacons. An annual report of membership shall be made available to the congregation.

Article II.  Organization

Section 1.  Structures and Roles 

The structure of Austin Mennonite Church includes the positions of Moderator, Pastor, Deacons, Treasurer, various committees, Coordinating Council and various appointed positions.  We function by congregational polity with the decisions of the Congregational Meeting having final authority.

Section 2.  Gift Discernment

Annually, a Gift Discernment Committee (Deacons, Pastor, Moderator) determines open positions in the congregation and surveys the congregation in order to gather feedback about persons recommended by others and the interest of persons in serving on various committees and in various positions in the church. The Gift Discernment Committee then invites persons to the available openings and the congregation is asked to affirm the selections. If there is an opening on a committee or an open position during the middle of a term, the Gift Discernment Committee appoints a replacement to serve out the term.

Section 3.  Coordinating Council (Council)

The Coordinating Council shall consist of the Moderator, Pastor, Deacons, and the chair (or designated representative) of each standing committee. The Council has responsibility for the management of the congregation and its assets and facilitates communication and coordination among the various committees and positions of the congregation. The Council can direct committees to carry out specific tasks. The Council is able to make decisions on behalf of the congregation for regular business matters, but must refer larger decisions to the congregation (see Article IV, Section 2). The Council is responsible for the affairs of the congregation and follows through on matters charged to them by the congregation.

The Council will arrange for regular reviews of the financial records of the congregation. The Council will meet at least quarterly,keep minutes of its meetings, and make the minutes available to the congregation.  Agenda and scheduled meeting times for the Coordinating Council shall be announced at least one week in advance. Council meetings are open for anyone to attend. The Moderator may call for a closed meeting if necessary. 

Section 4. Characteristics of Committees

Various committees established by the Congregation and Coordinating Council oversee the ministries of the congregation. Committees generally consist of three to five persons from the congregation. Terms of service for committee members are for two years with the opportunity to renew. The terms of committee members shall be staggered to avoid complete committee turnovers. Committees will meet at least quarterly or more often as necessary. Committees decide annually who will chair the committee (except for the Finance Committee which is chaired by the Treasurer) and who will serve on the Coordinating Council (generally the chairperson of the committee). Committee chairpersons are responsible for convening committee meetings.

Section 5.  Committees and the Congregation

Committees are accountable to the Congregation and report to the Coordinating Council. Committees are responsible to maintain a description of their committee, set goals for the committee, keep a record of the committee’s activities, and monitor the finances of the committee with assistance from the Treasurer.    

Committees may include: Education, Facilities, Fellowship, Finance, Service and Outreach, Worship, and Youth.

Article III.  Roles within the Church

Section 1.  Congregational Moderator

The Moderator tends to the overall well-being and orderly functioning of the Congregation. The Moderator chairs the Coordinating Council and Congregational Meetings and works with the Pastor, Deacons, and church leaders to prepare agenda for those meetings. The Moderator follows up with responsible committees and individuals to ensure that decisions made are executed properly. The Moderator, in consultation with the Pastor, Deacons, and Treasurer tend to the annual updating of the Pastor/Congregation covenant of understanding.

Section 2.  Pastor 

The Pastor cares for the overall life, vision and operation of the congregation and represents the congregation in the community. The Pastor is an ex officio member of all committees and works closely with the Deacons and Moderator in overseeing the life of the congregation. The Pastor is accountable to the congregation. The Pastor has a written job description. The Pastor is called by consensus of the congregation to a specific term of service formalized in a covenant of understanding. With the help of the Western District Conference a pastoral/congregational review will be completed at least six months before the covenant of understanding expires. The Pastor’s term may be renewed by consensus of the congregation.  During pastoral transitions the congregation will seek the counsel of the Conference Minister of Western District Conference. 

Section 3.  Deacons 

The Deacons work with the Pastor and Moderator in giving broad oversight to the spiritual well-being and vision of the congregation and processing membership and pastoral care concerns.  The Deacons attend to the spirit and mood of the congregation and the pastor.

Section 4.  Treasurer 

The Treasurer chairs the Finance Committee and oversees the financial operations of the church, including the work of any bookkeepers or accountants. The Treasurer works with the Finance Committee to prepare an annual finance report and proposed budget for the congregation and to prepare quarterly reports to the Coordinating Council and the Congregation.

Section 5.  Delegate(s) 

Delegates will be chosen by the Gift Discernment Committee to represent the congregation at Western District Conference Annual Assembly and Mennonite Church USA Conventions. When significant topics are processed at these gatherings, delegates will seek input from the congregation prior to attending the gathering. 

Section 6.  Organizational Representatives 

The Discernment Committee appoints persons to connect with various wider organizations such as Mennonite Disaster Service and Mennonite Central Committee. Representatives may include an MDS representative and a representative to the Texas MCC fundraising relief sales and auctions.

Article IV. Congregational Business

Section 1.  Daily business

The daily business of the church is carried out by church staff, designated individuals and committees.  

Section 2.  General Business

The Coordinating Council meets quarterly to identify changes in the needs of the congregation and to identify resources among the committees to address emerging needs.  Generally, the Coordinating Council establishes direction for the committees and guides the direction of the church.  Major decisions impacting the life of the congregation should be referred to and decided upon by the consensus of the congregation.  Examples of major decisions are: embarking on a major renovation or fundraiser, changing bylaws, calling a pastor or other significant issues. 

Section 3.  Congregational Meetings

Congregational Meetings are open to all participants in the church.  The Congregation meets as a whole four times each year.  Special meetings may be called outside of this schedule by either the Coordinating Council or by the Pastor with the agreement of the Deacons.  Meetings must be announced to the congregation via listserve and bulletin (and/or any other church-wide communication tools adopted in the future) with at least two weeks notice.

Section 4.  Congregational Meeting Agenda

The agenda of Congregational Meetings includes proposals made by participants in the church.  Proposals should be submitted to the Moderator at least one week before the meeting.  

Section 5.  Congregational Meeting Decisions

Congregational meetings require a quorum of the lesser of 51% of the total members of the church or twelve members.  Proposals pass with the consent of all full, associate and covenant members present.  Decisions regarding membership termination; the Pastor as an employee; or other employees of the church do not require the consent of the member in question.

Section 6.  Amendment of the Bylaws

Amendments to the bylaws must be distributed to the congregation a minimum of one month before any Congregational Meeting at which they are to be considered for approval by consensus.

Section 7.  Dissolution of the Church

Any decision to dissolve the Congregation must be made at a Congregational Meeting to which all current members have been issued two weeks written notice.  In the event that the church ceases to exist all property and assets of the church shall be transferred to the Western District Conference of Mennonite Church USA or its successors.

Adopted:  May 1, 1994

Revised:  January 11, 2002

Revised:  February 23, 2020

Appendices

Appendix A.  Rituals and Ceremonies Practiced at Austin Mennonite Church

  • Baptism – When a person desires to publicly declare their faith in Jesus Christ and commit to following the way of Jesus in the church, baptism is seen as a sign of that person’s commitment and the church’s affirmation.
  • Communion – The observance of  communion or the Lord’s Supper is a remembrance of the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus and the presence of Christ in the church. Communion is open to anyone who desires to participate. All are welcome at Christ’s table.  
  • Parent/Child Dedication – This ceremony takes place when one or both parents wish to publicly give thanks to God for the gift of a child who has recently come into their family life. It is an occasion for seeking the blessing and support of the faith community in nurturing and guiding the life of the child within the Christian faith. 
  • Marriage – The church affirms the covenant of marriage between two people. Persons seeking to be married within the Austin Mennonite Church community should meet with the pastor for premarital guidance and assistance in coordinating the ceremony.
  • Anointing with oil (James 5:13-14) – Is a ritual where a person’s forehead is crossed with a finger dipped in oil along with prayer for healing and spiritual renewal.

Revised May 23, 2021 – Removed the words “political perspective” from the statement of inclusion.