Letter From Northwest Ministry Network (NWMN)
letter posted on may 1, 2020
Letter Posted Friday 1st May 2020
NWD Pastors and Churches:
The corona virus pandemic and accompanying governmental restrictions have brought about unprecedented challenges to standard church operating procedures, including the ability to follow the church governance documents (Bylaws or Constitution & Bylaws). For example, we have received questions from pastors about:
- Interruption of regularly scheduled services when our bylaws prescribe that we are to meet every Sunday, etc.
- Bylaws that require an annual business meeting at a certain time and place.
- Bylaws that require that elections be done during said annual business meeting.
- Bylaws that mention “loyalty to our government” along with questions about when or how we meet for worship.
Essentially, we are facing issues we have never faced before causing dilemmas we have never considered. Richard Hammar, the top church/law expert in the USA and attorney for the General Council of the Assemblies of God, assures us that the current pandemic and governmental restrictions on meetings are not a violation of First Amendment freedom of religious rights, nor do they restrict our freedom of religion. They are a temporary inconvenience to protect the greater good of the citizens from a potential health crisis.
In addition, we have consulted with our local attorney, Caleb Stewart, and he affirms that such measures do not conflict with local or state laws or constitution. Both Hammar and Stewart urge our churches to comply with all emergency measures regarding meetings, and failure to comply places them at great risk.
In addition, for churches in both Washington and Idaho, there are emergency provisions in nonprofit corporate law that give church boards the right to enact “emergency powers” or “emergency bylaws” during a time of national or state emergency. The President of the United States and the Governors of both Washington and Idaho have declared states of emergency at the federal and state level. These declarations and other accompanying mandates about meetings and social distancing give church boards the right to enact “emergency bylaws” that would temporarily bypass any church bylaw that your church is unable to comply with, given the present state of emergency. such a resolution passed by the church board in a duly called official board meeting, the board could navigate issues such as postponing an annual business meeting or elections until such time as it is safe or practical to do so, or implement other processes to mitigate bylaw requirements at their discretion.
Associated Network Leader – Secretary/Treasurer