Almighty God has called certain of his servants to unite here to worship the Triune God and to spread the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus, we hereby organize ourselves and adopt this Constitution as our articles of governance. We declare and establish this constitution to preserve and secure the principles of our faith and to govern the body in an orderly manner. This constitution will preserve the liberties of each individual church member and the freedom of action of this body in relation to other churches.
This document shall in all ways and at all times be interpreted for the glory of Jesus Christ and according to his character as revealed in the Holy Bible, and according to the historic, orthodox Christianity articulated in the Statement of Faith and the Church Covenant.
Article I: Name
This body shall be known as University Park Baptist Church of Houston, TX, located at 7887 Beechnut Street, Houston, TX 77074.
Article II: Purpose
This church exists by the grace of God, for the glory of God, which shall be the ultimate purpose in all its activities. This church glorifies God by loving him and obeying his commands through:
- Worshipping him;
- Equipping the saints through Bible instruction and study;
- Proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ through preaching and personal evangelism, and any other means consistent with the teachings of Holy Scripture;
- Exercising, supporting, and participating in mission work: local, domestic, and international;
- Administering the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper;
- Encouraging biblical fellowship among believers;
- Serving other individuals, families, and churches by providing for physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, in the name of Jesus Christ; and
- Calling fellow churches to biblical faithfulness and purity through instruction and encouragement about the nature of the local church.
Article III: Organization and Relationships
Under the headship of Jesus Christ this church is self-governed by the membership. All internal groups created and empowered by the church shall report and be accountable to the church, unless otherwise specified by church action.
This church is subject to the control of no other ecclesiastical body, however, it recognizes and sustains the obligations of mutual counsel and co-operation that are common among Southern Baptist churches.
This church is voluntarily affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and will endeavor to support such Southern Baptist and other entities, as it deems appropriate.
Article IV: Statement of Faith
The University Park Baptist Church Statement of Faith, a modified version of the 1853 New Hampshire Confession of Faith, is found in Appendix A.
Article V: Church Covenant
The University Park Baptist Church Covenant is found in Appendix B.
Article VI: Membership
This is an autonomous Baptist church under the lordship of Jesus Christ. The membership retains unto itself the exclusive right of self-government in all phases of the spiritual and temporal life of this church.
To qualify for membership in this church, a person:
- must be a believer in the risen Jesus Christ who gives evidence of regeneration.
- must be baptized in obedience to Christ following his or her regeneration, and
- must wholeheartedly believe in the Christian faith as revealed in the Bible.
Each member must sustain the doctrines expressed in the church’s statement of faith and not hold any settled convictions contrary to them. Each member pledges to keep the commitments expressed in the Church Covenant.
Those seeking membership must complete a new members orientation, make a request for membership to an elder, and have their qualifications for membership confirmed in an interview with at least one elder and one other member of the church.
Admission of Members
After the membership interview, the elders shall recommend qualified applicants to the church for admission. The church may ratify the recommendation at any regular or special members meeting. At that point, a new member shall relinquish his or her membership in other churches.
Rights, Duties, and Privileges of Membership
In accord with the duties enumerated in the Church Covenant, each member shall be expected to participate in and contribute to the ministry and life of the church, consistent with God’s leading and with the gifts, time, and material resources each has received from God. Only those who are members of the church shall be entitled to lead in the ministries of the church.
It is the privilege and responsibility of members to attend all members meetings and vote on the election of officers, on decisions regarding membership status, and on such other matters submitted to a vote.
Students and others temporarily residing in the Houston area who are members of an evangelical church may apply for watchcare membership. Qualifications are identical to those for full membership as set out above, except that home church membership must be retained. A letter of commendation will be sought from the applicant’s home church.
Duties and privileges of watchcare members are the same as for other members except that:
- when absent from the Houston area for extended periods of time they are released from the responsibility to attend our church services;
- while they will be encouraged to participate in members meetings, they will not be eligible to stand for any office or to vote.
Watchcare membership will normally terminate immediately upon the ending of the period of temporary residence in the Houston area. Termination of watchcare membership as a disciplinary measure will be as it is for other members, except that the elders shall notify the pastor or elders of the home church of that termination.
Formative discipline is inherent in the preaching, teaching, and exercising of other ministries in the church. When formative discipline fails due to sin, corrective discipline is then necessary. Corrective discipline is for the good of the church and the member who has sinned. It is never to be entered into lightly or quickly. The goal is always the restoration, holiness, and good of the one being disciplined.
Any member consistently neglectful of his or her duties, or guilty of conduct by which the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be dishonored, and so opposing the welfare of the church, shall be subject to the admonition of the elders and the discipline of the church, according to the instructions of our Lord in Matthew 18:15-17 and the example of scripture. Church discipline should only be contemplated after individual private admonition has failed.
- For the repentance, reconciliation, and spiritual growth of the individual disciplined (Hebrews 12:1-11; Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5:5; Galatians 6:1);
- For the instruction in righteousness and good of other Christians, as an example to them (1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Timothy 5:20; Hebrews 10:24-25);
- For the purity of the church as a whole (1 Corinthians 5:6-7; Ephesians 5:27; Revelation 21:2);
- For the good of our corporate witness to non-Christians (Matthew 5:13-16; John 13:35; Acts 5:10-14); and
- Supremely for the glory of God by reflecting his holy character (Deut. 5:11; John 15:8; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 2:12).
In the case of public sin, a confession shall be made before the church in a special called meeting, so that the church can freely extend forgiveness. Such public confession is especially necessary in the case of elders and deacons/deaconesses (1 Timothy 5:19-20; Galatians 2:11-14).
Termination of Membership
Termination of membership shall be recognized by the church following the death, transfer of membership, or voluntary resignation of any church member. The church shall have authority to refuse a member’s voluntary resignation or transfer of membership to another church, either for the purpose of proceeding with the process of church discipline, or any other biblical reason.
Membership may be terminated as an act of church discipline at the recommendation of the elders and with the agreement of 2/3 of the members present at any regular or special members meeting.
If a member has been consistently absent for a period of 6 months, their membership may be terminated on the basis of non-attendance. The elders and church body will take into consideration extenuating circumstances such as illness, relocation, and other issues, on a case by case basis. The removal of membership requires the agreement of 2/3 of the members present at any regular or special members meeting.
Article VII: Church Leaders
Jesus Christ is the Lord and head of this church and he rules primarily through the Scriptures. The biblical offices in the church, as set forth in Scripture, are elders and deacons/deaconesses. All officers must be members in good standing of this church prior to assuming their responsibilities.
Subject to the will of the congregation, the elders shall provide broad oversight to the ministry, financial management, and resources of the church. In keeping with the principles set forth in Acts 6:1-6, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 1 Timothy 5:17, Titus 1:5-9, James 5:14, and 1 Peter 5:1-4, the elders shall seek the mind of Christ through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God as they undertake the work of shepherding God’s flock. The elders shall teach and exhort, refute those who contradict the truth, pray for the sick, care for the church’s members, and devote themselves to prayer, to the government of the church, and to ministry. The elders shall provide oversight of the congregation and lead the church to fulfill its ministries.
The church shall have no fewer than three elders who satisfy the qualifications for the office of elder set forth in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. Only men may serve as elders in accord with 1 Timothy 2:12 and 3:2. No elder shall hold the office of deacon during his tenure. Those elders not receiving regular compensation from the church will be called “lay elders” for the purpose of this constitution. Biblically and functionally there is no difference among the elders.
These men shall be received as gifts of Christ to his church and set apart as elders. This recognition shall be reaffirmed by the church triennially. After a lay elder has served two consecutive three-year terms, he shall not be eligible for re-election to the eldership until the completion of at least one year of sabbatical.
An elder’s term of office may end by resignation or by dismissal. Any two members with reason to believe that an elder should be dismissed shall express such concern to the elders. After consultation with the elders, any two members may bring such concerns to the congregation. Any such action shall be done in accordance with the instructions of our Lord in Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Timothy 5:17-21. Any elder may be dismissed by a 2/3 vote of the members present at any formally called members meeting of the church.
The elders shall oversee worship and the ordinances of the church, equip the membership for ministry, encourage and teach sound doctrine, correct error, oversee the process of church discipline, coordinate and promote the ministries of the church, mobilize the church for world missions, examine and instruct prospective members, examine and recommend all prospective candidates for offices and positions, and oversee the work of the deacons/deaconesses and appointed church agents and committees. The elders also ensure that all who preach the Word of God to the congregation, including outside speakers, share the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
The elders, in consultation with the Personnel Committee, may establish and oversee paid and unpaid staff positions to assist them in fulfilling their responsibilities.
- In proposing paid, non-ministerial positions, the Personnel Committee shall present a job description for each paid staff position to the elders for review and approval.
- The elders shall nominate to the membership a candidate to fill each paid ministerial staff position. The congregation shall approve all paid ministerial staff candidates to fill such positions by a vote of 2/3 or greater of all cast ballots.
The elders, in consultation with the Personnel committee, shall have sole responsibility to present a request to dismiss paid ministerial staff to the congregation. The elders, in consultation with the Personnel committee, may hire and terminate paid non-ministerial staff, or delegate that responsibility on a case-by-case basis to the Personnel Committee.
The elders shall elect a chairman who shall serve as chairman of elders meetings and as moderator of members meetings. The chairman may be a lay elder. In his absence, the elders shall appoint another elder to fulfill these duties.
Certain elders shall be set aside and paid by the church to fulfill the duties as set forth below:
- The preaching pastor shall be an elder. He shall perform the duties of an elder described herein and shall be recognized by the church as particularly gifted and called to the full-time ministry of preaching and teaching.
- His call shall not be subject to the triennial reaffirmation or to the term limitation set forth herein for elders.
- He shall preach on the Lord's Day, administer the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and perform such other duties as usually pertain to that office, or as set forth in the constitution.
- He or his delegate, in consultation with the Personnel Committee, shall have responsibility for the supervision and evaluation of ministerial and non-ministerial staff positions.
- In the absence or incapacity of the preaching pastor, the elders shall assume responsibility for his duties, any of which may be delegated.
The church may call additional pastors whose relationship to the preaching pastor is that of associate.
- A staff pastor shall be an elder. He shall perform the duties of an elder described herein and shall be recognized by the church as particularly gifted and called to the full-time ministry of preaching and teaching.
- His call shall not be subject to the triennial reaffirmation or to the term limitation set forth herein for elders.
- He shall assist the preaching pastor in the performance of his regular duties and shall perform any other duties as usually pertain to the office of pastor, or as set forth in the constitution, or which may be specifically assigned to him by the elders or the congregation.
- In the absence or incapacity of the preaching pastor for defined periods of time (such as sabbatical or illness), the staff pastor(s) shall assume the responsibility for his duties under the oversight of the elders.
Deacons or Deaconesses(hereafter referred to collectively as Deacons)
The office of deacon is described in I Timothy 3:8–13 and Acts 6:1–7. The church shall recognize, in accordance with the constitutional provisions on elections, men and women who are giving of themselves in service to the church, and who possess particular gifts of service. These members shall be received as gifts of Christ to his church and set apart as deacons and deaconesses. They shall be elected to one term lasting for a maximum of three years and may only be elected to additional terms upon congregational affirmation.
- Deacons shall care for the temporal needs of members, attend to the accommodations for public worship, and encourage and support those able to help others and those with gifts of administration.
- Deacons shall manage a fund for benevolence, reporting on its use to the elders at their request, and reporting to the church its total receipts and total disbursements only.
- Deacons, with the agreement and oversight of the elders, may establish unpaid administrative positions or committees of members to assist them in fulfilling their responsibilities in the church.
- Deacons may, from time to time, meet to coordinate the various diaconate ministries. The deacons may elect a chairman who shall serve as chairman of deacons meetings. In his/her absence, the deacons shall appoint another deacon to fulfill these duties. The deacons may elect a secretary who shall record the minutes of all deacons meetings. In his/her absence, the deacons shall appoint another deacon to fulfill these duties.
The church will elect a clerk annually. It shall be the duty of the clerk to record the minutes of all regular and special members meetings of the church, to preserve an accurate roll of the church membership, and to record all baptisms. The clerk shall be responsible for keeping a suitable written record of all actions of the church, except as otherwise herein provided. The clerk shall render reports as requested by the elders or deacons. The clerk shall ensure that dated copies of the most recent version of this constitution are available to all church members.
In the absence or incapacity of the clerk, the elders shall appoint a member to temporarily perform the duties of the clerk. The church may delegate some of the clerical responsibilities to a church secretary who will assist the elected clerk. All church records are church property and shall be kept in the church office.
The church will elect a treasurer annually. The treasurer must not be an active elder or a paid church staff member. The treasurer shall ensure that all funds and securities of the church are properly secured in such banks, financial institutions, or depositories as designated by the church. The treasurer shall receive, preserve, and pay out, upon receipt of vouchers approved and signed by authorized personnel, all money or things of value paid or given to the church, keeping at all times an itemized account of all receipts and disbursements.
The treasurer shall also ensure that full and accurate accounts of receipts and disbursements are kept in books belonging to the church, and that adequate controls are implemented to guarantee that all funds belonging to the church are appropriately handled by any officer, employee, or agent of the church.
The treasurer shall be responsible for presenting regular reports of the account balances, revenues, and expenses of the church at regular members meetings. The treasurer shall render to the elders annually, or whenever they may require it, an account of all transactions and of the financial condition of the church.
The Finance committee or a public accountant may audit the treasurer’s report and records annually. Upon rendering the annual account at the end of each fiscal year and its acceptance and approval by the church, the records shall be delivered by the treasurer to the church clerk, who shall keep and preserve the account as part of the permanent records of the church.
The church will elect three trustees annually. The three church trustees will jointly attest to the church authorization on all instruments requiring such authorization. The church shall also annually elect two alternate trustees that, in the absence of a trustee, can substitute for such absent trustee(s) in order that three persons are always available to fulfill this office. In the event a trustee is unavailable to serve out the remainder of his or her term, the church shall replace that person at the earliest opportunity by vote at a members meeting.
Election of Officers
The process for church elections shall be interpreted and carried out to fulfill the following principles:
- Substantial prayer, both individually and corporately, shall be an integral part of the election process.
- Nominations shall proceed only with the support of the elders.
- All candidates for church office shall be treated with the grace, kindness, and honesty appropriate in evaluating fellow members.
- The election process shall express that spirit of mutual trust, openness, and loving consideration, which is appropriate within the body of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Only members aged 16 years or older are eligible to vote.
Selection of Officers
The election of officers shall be held at a members meeting of the church. At least two months prior to the election, the elders should seek recommendations and involvement from the general membership in the nomination process.
A slate of names of nominees to serve as elders, deacons, clerk, and treasurer shall be presented by the elders and made known to the church at least one month prior to voting. Any member with reason to believe that a nominated candidate is unqualified for an office should express such concern to the elders. Members intending to speak in opposition to a candidate should express their objection to the elders as far in advance as possible before the relevant church members meeting at which the church votes on the candidates.
The chairman of the elders shall declare a person elected to a position if that person receives a 2/3 majority of all votes cast for that position. The persons elected shall assume their respective offices as of the date of the affirmative vote, unless another date has been specifically designated by the elders. Elections to fill any need that may occur during the course of the year may be held at any members meeting, upon recommendation of the elders.
If the preaching pastor office is vacated, the duties and responsibilities of the preaching pastor will be assumed by the elders. In addition, a preaching pastor search committee will be established with the stated purpose to solicit, review, and recommend candidates to the elders for the office of preaching pastor. The composition of the preaching pastor search committee shall include no less than two male and two female church members in good standing. The members of the preaching pastor search committee shall be:
- All current elders who do not receive regular compensation from the church,
- Deacon of Finance,
- Deacon of Personnel,
- Deacon of Facilities, and
- Two additional members of the church in good standing, nominated by the elders, and confirmed by the congregation.
In accord with the principles set forth herein, the preaching pastor search committee shall recommend to all the elders a final candidate for the office and the elders may nominate the final candidate to the congregation for the office. The chairman of the elders shall declare a preaching pastor candidate elected to the office if that candidate receives a 2/3 majority of all votes cast for that office.
Article VII: Church Leaders
In compliance with the Texas Business Organizations Code, the church shall have the following corporate officers:
President - The chairman of the elders shall serve as president. His duties shall be to preside over the elders meetings and preside over church members meetings.
Secretary - The office of secretary shall be a collective office held by the three church trustees that have been elected annually by the church. An alternate trustee may act on behalf of an absent trustee.
Treasurer - The church treasurer shall serve as corporate treasurer.
Article IX: Dispute Resolution
Believing that the Bible commands Christians to make every effort to live at peace and to resolve disputes with each other in private or within the Christian church (see, e.g., Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 6:1-8), the church shall urge its members to resolve conflict among themselves according to biblically based principles, without reliance on the secular courts. Consistent with its call to peacemaking, the church shall encourage the use of biblically based principles and the avoidance of suits of law to resolve disputes between itself and those outside the church, whether Christian or not and whether individuals or corporate entities. The elders shall adopt policies and procedures to affect these aspirations.
Article X: Church Meetings
In every meeting together, members shall act in that spirit of mutual trust, openness, and loving consideration which is appropriate within the body of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The church shall meet each Lord's Day and any other such day as the church needs.
There shall be a regular members meeting at least every quarter, at some time apart from the Sunday morning service. The elders shall see that the stated meetings of the church are regularly held and that required reports are submitted to the church by the responsible members.
The chairman of the elders shall preside as moderator at all members meetings of the church. In the absence or incapacity of the chairman of the elders, another elder appointed by the elders shall perform these duties. The date, time, and purpose of any regular or special members meeting shall be announced at all public services of the church at least two weeks preceding the meeting.
All matters to be presented at a regular members meeting should be submitted to an elder no later than 5 business days prior to the meeting. The meeting agenda and the financial report will be made available at the morning of the meeting.
Resolutions adopted by the elders shall be reported to the church at members meetings and may be reversed by the church by a majority vote of the members present.
There shall be an annual members meeting, at which officers are normally elected, positions filled, and approved by the membership no more than three nor less than one month prior to the start of the fiscal year. The fiscal year will commence on January 1.
Special members meetings may be called as requested by the elders or when ten percent of the voting membership in good standing submits a written request to the elders. In the event of a written request from the members, the elders shall call a special meeting to be held within one month of their receipt of the request. A two week written notice must be given for the special members meeting unless extreme urgency renders such notice impractical. The notice shall include the subject, date, time, and place of the meeting.
Provided all constitutional provisions for notification have been met, a quorum shall be understood to be met by those members present. For a quorum to exist, the minimum number of members of good standing eligible to vote in attendance shall consist of no less than 20% of the current membership or 7 persons, whichever is greater.
Robert's Rules of Order, Revised is the authority for parliamentary rules of procedure for all members meetings of the church.
On any matter that is brought to vote, a 2/3 vote is needed for it to pass (unless this constitution specifies otherwise). Abstentions will not be considered as votes cast. Only votes cast by members present at the time of the meeting will be counted.
Article XI: Committees
The church will have three administrative committees: Finance, Facilities, and Personnel. Each of the administrative committees will be chaired by a deacon. No deacon shall serve as chairperson of more than one administrative committee. The chairperson, in consultation with the elders, will staff the committee with no less than five total members, but as many as deemed necessary for proper function of said ministry. The list of administrative committee members will be published to the congregation annually.
Additional committees can be formed and staffed as deemed necessary by the elders. A preaching pastor search committee shall be formed, as needed, in accordance with the Selection of Officers set forth herein. Furthermore, members of any committee can be removed from that service by a vote of the congregation as defined by a 2/3 vote of present members at a members meeting in which there is a quorum. Every member of any committee must be a member in good standing with this church.
Article XII: Designated Offerings
The church will accept offerings with requests for the funds to be used for a specific purpose. Any designated offerings should promote the work and ministries of the church.
The finance committee will make the decision as to whether an offering should be accepted with a given designation. Some designations attached to a gift may make them non-deductible under IRS regulations.
Although the church will make every effort to honor a designation, it is understood that the church body may make the decision to use designated offerings for another purpose, if in its view, that is advisable. The finance committee will review designated offerings annually or more frequently if needed. If the purpose of the designation no longer seems to exist, the finance committee will recommend to the church that the gift be released into the general fund to support the ministry of the church.
Article XIII: Termination of Existence
In order for University Park Baptist Church to cease to exist, a special members meeting must be called. A minimum of 30 days advanced notice of the special members meeting is required. The date, time, and place of the special members meeting must be announced in the Sunday morning Order of Service each week prior to the date of the called members meeting.
A 2/3 majority vote of the members in attendance of the special members meeting is required in order for the church to disband. Only members in good standing are eligible to vote. The vote must be taken by written ballot and requires the signature of the church member on the ballot. Changing the name of the church, merging, or combining with another church is not considered termination of existence.
In the event that a 2/3 majority vote is obtained for the church to disband, assets of the church will be disbursed to a Baptist institution upon church approval by a 2/3 vote.
All calls to cease to exist shall be presented and motioned at regularly scheduled quarterly members meetings where a quorum exists and then tabled to the special called members meeting where a quorum exists. Additionally, no other business will be conducted during this special called meeting. Votes to cease to exist cannot be “tabled” to another meeting beyond this special called meeting where a quorum exists.
Article XIV: Amendments
This Constitution, the church’s Statement of Faith, and the Church Covenant may be changed or amended by a 75% vote of the members present and voting at a members meeting, provided the changes or amendment shall have been offered in writing at the previous members meeting and shall have been announced from the pulpit at church services two successive Sundays prior to such vote.