Governance Principles and Procedures Oct’2016



Edith Rankin Memorial United Church






It is recommended that the following revised governance model be approved by the congregation and implemented for a two year trial period effective March 1, 2017 (following the AGM). While the governance model remains essentially “The Church Council Model” and is expected to comply with such articles as are set forth in The Manual (2016, Section B – “Local Ministry Unit”, especially §B.4.1 and all matters referenced in B.7), these revisions attempt to simplify our structure in response to changing realities of participation in congregational life and work. In particular, following recent recommendations from the UCC and research into current congregational life generally, the proposed model seeks to distinguish clearly between “governance” per se and “programme” (mission and ministry). There will undoubtedly be experimentation, learnings and adjustments over the two-year trial period and this way of “being about God’s business” as God’s people in this place will only be as effective as our collective willingness to give it a try.


Rational: Biblical and Practical

The Church is called and equipped to be a Christ centered community of mutual care and service. It is a charismatic community composed of people with “charisms” (gifts), interests, even passions inspired and nurtured by the Spirit of God at work in them. These gifts differ (I Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4) but “to each person is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (I Corinthians 12.7, italics mine).  A healthy and vibrant church values and celebrates all the gifts of the Spirit at work in and among its members.


Edith Rankin Memorial United Church is indeed blessed by its many gifted members and adherents. But, as most congregations are discovering, there is the challenge of human resources, calling and equipping both clergy and lay for the work of ministry that is our life together. Ministry is, indeed, the work of all God’s people but congregants travel more than they used to (trips, excursions, Florida winters, summer cottages). Many older members feel they’ve “been there, done that” and, understandably, would like to leave the heavy lifting to others for a change. Younger households are willing and eager to be faithful but their busy lives leave little room for Council and committee meetings. And, quite frankly – let’s be honest now! – a lot of meetings can seem like exercises in futility! It’s harder and harder for Nominating Committees to recruit willing participants to serve the structures that make our life and work possible.


So, what’s the solution? The United Church of Canada is encouraging some experimentation and both UCC congregations and various those of other denominations are doing just that. The ERMUC Council of Elders is prepared to experiment, too. After a fair bit research and reflection, Council has concluded that it is important for us to distinguish clearly between good governance and effective ministry and is recommending that, for two consecutive years beginning March 1, 2017 we test a smaller, leaner elected Council that will focus its attention and energy on congregational oversight, visioning, strategic planning and such matters as are properly the work of governing bodies. The delivery of our ministry (i.e. our services, our activities, our daily life and work, our “product”, as it were,) will be left to the rest of us because such ministry is, indeed, the work of all God’s people and that is precisely who and what we are.


The Council of Guiding Elders will continue to be elected by the congregation for fixed terms as will such organizational units as are mandated by The Manual of the United Church of Canada (e.g., Ministry and Personnel Committee, Trustees). Most current Standing Committees, however, will be replaced by Ministry Teams. Whereas Stranding Committees have hitherto been filled by members and adherents recruited by a Nominating Committee and elected by the congregation at each Annual General Meeting, Ministry Teams will carry out the specific tasks identified by our church family as essential to who we are and be made up of members and adherents whose gifts, interests and passions relate to one or more of these tasks. It is hoped, even expected, that every active member and adherent will choose an area of our life and work in which to participate in some way way. Ways and means of participation will not all be the same. Some tasks will be short-term, some may stretch over time. Some may involve a few meetings, many meetings or no meetings whatsoever! You may identify an area of interest for which, because of your particular circumstances, you are only able to agree to pray for those more actively engaged in the task. Or, perhaps, make a few phone calls, or draw a poster, or lick a stamp. We’ll learn as we go. No one will twist your arm to persuade you to serve in an area that does not fit your gifts and interests, but if no one signs up to carry our a given task, no matter how essential that task has seemed in the past or seems for the future, the task won’t get done! The particular ministry will cease whether it’s meeting and greeting at the door or teaching Sunday School or helping with Sunday morning Coffee Hour or reaching out beyond ourselves to make a difference in the world. Our life and work will truly become our life and work. Everybody’s business or nobody’s business. Make no mistake, the future of God isn’t looking for a few volunteers with some time on their hands. It is calling disciples.



  • There is a difference between the functions of governance (Council) and the work of ministry (Ministry Teams) and, as such, this Church Council model recognizes that gifts and call differ for the exercise of each function.
  • Spiritual oversight and visionary leadership are the primary tasks of the Council of Guiding Elders.
  • Meaningful worship, spiritual growth, being adequately informed of the issues facing the church (locally, denominationally and globally) and Elder/Council leadership development are legitimate and essential components of the Council’s agenda.
  • Sharing power is more important than having power.
  • Empowering individuals and groups to exercise their various ministries is of greater value than granting or withholding permission.
  • It is not the business of the Council of Guiding Elders to “micromanage” the work of Ministry Teams and other groups but to encourage them to carry out the shared vision of the community.
  • Appropriate authority and responsibility is assigned to Ministry Teams who are accountable to one another and to the Council of Guiding Elders through the Ministry Team Coordinating Committee.
  • Ministry Teams, groups, etc. have the responsibility and the authority to carry out the work assigned to them within the boundaries of the shared vision expressed in the congregation’s mission statement and with the guidance of the Council and ministry personnel as creative and responsible stewards of that vision and the resources allocated to their portion of it.
  • All groups and activities initiated by the congregation or its members and adherents in the congregation’s name or on its behalf are expressions of the congregation’s vision, part of the congregation’s life and witness, included in its structures of governance and accountable to the Council of Guiding Elders.
  • Elected members of the Church Council shall normally be full members of the congregation (i.e., on the roll by virtue of baptism, profession of faith, certificate of transfer or “clear assurance”). Any member or adherent may participate in a Ministry Team according to personal gifts, interests or sense of calling.
  • The Council and Ministry Teams shall seek to achieve gender balance in their recruitment of pariticipants.


Other Considerations

  • Congregational Visitors. “Each member of the Session should have an assigned district and should keep a list of the communicants and adherents residing within the assigned district and cultivate special acquaintance with them, visiting, counselling, and encouraging as may be required. The member should give special attention to any who become irregular in attendance at Sundays services or otherwise manifest declining concern for the duties of church membership, and so encourage their return to active participation in the life and work of the congregation.” (The Manual, 2007, 155, emphasis added). While this ministry of visitation is no longer mandated by the current issue of The Manual , it is considered an integral part of this governance recommendation. Approximately 40 congregational visitors will be needed to assume responsibility for current congregational clusters which may be slightly revised as one aspect of our mutual pastoral care.
  • Quarterly Congregational Meetings. Given the reduced size of the Council, it is recommended that that there be quarterly congregational meetings to provide optimal transparency and accountability to the work of the governing body.
  • Transition. There will need to be co-operation and flexibility during the transition from Standing Committees to Ministry Teams. It will take some time for members and adherents to identify their ministry preferences.




1.1       Composition

The Council of Guiding Elders shall be composed of the following who shall normally be full members of the congregation:

  • Elected Officers (Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, 1 Presbytery Representative)
  • Past Chair
  • Three elected members at large
  • All settled ministry personnel
  • Total number of elected members – 9


1.2       Terms

  • Guiding elders are elected to a two-year term and are eligible for re-election for up to three consecutive terms for a maximum of 6 years.
  • Elected members must “retire” from Council for one year after serving on Council for six consecutive years.
  • Initially, at least 3 members of the Council shall be deemed to have served 1 year of their first two-year term in order to provide both continuity and change on the Council.
  • Exception: The Church Treasurer, as Chief Financial Officer for the congregation, is eligible to serve an additional two-year term for a maximum of 8 consecutive years.
  • A member of the Council of Guiding Elders is not excluded from also serving on a Ministry Team or as a Visiting Elder during his/her term of office as a Guiding Elder.


1.3       Responsibilities

The Church Council is an elected body that functions as the “Court” at the Pastoral Charge level. In keeping with the congregation’s vision expressed in its mission statement, the Council of Guiding Elders is the primary keeper of that vision, encouraging an ongoing visionary process of congregational life and governance. As such, the Church Council shall:

  • have general oversight of the Congregation (see esp. The Manual, 2016, B.7.4.12)
  • exercise spiritual leadership in the life of the congregation;
  • articulate and promote the “vision” and mission of the congregation;
  • establish and oversee the guiding policies and best practices for the congregation’s various ministries;
  • together with the called and settled ministers, be responsible for the Pastoral Relationship, through mutual support, guidance and accountability;
  • give attention to strategic planning for the future life and work of the congregation;
  • exercise fiduciary responsibility as wise and accountable stewards of the congregation’s resources (see The Manual, 2016, G.4.1 and G.4.2)


1.4       Meetings

  • The Council of Guiding Elders shall meet at least 5 times annually (September, November, January, March, May/June).
  • Recommended quorum – 5 out of 9 elected members plus at least one settled minister.


1.5       Officers

1.5.1     Chair (see The Manual, 2016, B.7.6.1)

  • Elected according to the terms that apply to any elected member of the Council. If the Chair relinquishes his/her role as chair at any time before serving three consecutive terms (6 years), he/she remains on the Council as Past Chair.
  • Normally presides at all meetings of the Council. Throughout his/her tenure, the Chair is the recognized lay leader of the congregation and, apart from the settled minister(s), is the official spokesperson for the Pastoral Charge.
  • Following term as Chair, sits on Council as Past Chair and Chair/Convenor of Recruitment Ministry Team.
  • Following term as Past-Chair, a person is expected to take a year’s leave before being eligible to being nominated and elected to Council again.

1.5.2     Vice-chair

  • Ideally elected as a member of Council in order to serve as Vice Chair. If a Vice-Chair cannot be found, any elected member of Council may be asked to serve in this capacity in the absence of the Chair.
  • Normally assumes the position of Chair in the event the Chair is unable to continue in the fulfilment of his/her role and responsibilities.

1.5.3     Secretary (see The Manual, 2016, B.7.6.2)

  • Elected by the congregation for a two-year-term and may be eligible for re-election for up to three (3) consecutive terms.
  • Responsible for such matters as the Council may determine and is generally presumed to fulfil the responsibilities set forth in The Manual.

1.5.4     Treasurer (see The Manual, 2016, B.7.6.3, G.4.2.1 and G.4.3)

  • Elected by the congregation for a two-year term and may be eligible for re-election for up to four (4) consecutive terms for a total of 8 years.
  • Responsible for such matters as the Council may determine and is generally presumed to fulfil the responsibilities set forth in The Manual

1.5.5     Presbytery Representative

  • All Presbytery reps are elected according to the same terms that apply to elected members of the Council of Elders.
  • Presbytery representatives shall choose among themselves which of their number will serve on the Council of Guiding Elders for any given current term. In the absence of the regular Presbytery representative to Council, an alternate representative may attend and participate but is not eligible to vote on any matter that may come before the Council.




2.1       Composition

  • Ideally, at least 3 members / adherents one of whom may serve as team coordinator (unless this role is shared by all) and one of whom may serve as record keeper (unless this role is shared by all).
  • Members and adherents specifically recruited by a particular the Team, the Recruitment Team, the Ministry Team Coordinating Committee or who may otherwise self-identify at least annually based on gifts and/or interests.
  • Expectation – every member and adherent “signs up” for at least one ministry interest annually.

2.2       Terms

  • These terms are based on the Spirit’s gifts and call. They are not elected terms and are without limit.
  • It is assumed that changing interests, sense of call and natural congregational mobility will provide both continuity and change.

2.2       Responsibility

  • Such matters as are stated or implied relative to each portfolio.
  • The naming and defining of additional sub-groups (Faith in Action Teams) as are required to carry out the ministries for which each Ministry Team is responsible.

2.3       Accountability

  • Teams are accountable to the Council of Guiding Elders through the Ministry Team Coordinating Committee but each team will function with a considerable degree of autonomy as long their work accords with the congregation’s mission, vision and values statements and adheres to the annual Financial Plan proposed by the Council and approved by the congregation.




3.1       Membership Steward

  • Elected for a two year term and eligible for re-election indefinitely.
  • Responsible, in consultation with the Congregational Life Committee, for maintaining the official roll of the congregation (members and adherents), assuring an up-to-date mailing directory and such matters as the Council may determine.
  • Serves as the Privacy Officer for the congregation.
  • Relates to Membership and Mutual Care Team and is accountable to the Council of Guiding Elders

3.2                   Envelope Steward

  • Elected for a two-year term and eligible for re-election indefinitely.
  • Relates to Administrative Coordinating Team and is accountable to the Council of Guiding Elders.

3.3                   Ministry and Personnel Committee

  • 5 to 7 members elected for a two-year term and eligible for re-election for up to 3 consecutive terms for a total of 6 years.
  • responsibilities as per The Manual.

3.4                   Ministry Team Coordinating Committee

  • At least 5 members who work with ministry personnel in identifying, guiding and assisting in the work of the Ministry Teams.
  • Initially appointed by Council and subsequently elected for a two year-term and eligible for re-election for up to 3 consecutive terms for a total of 6 years.
  • This committee may choose a chair and recording secretary from among its members or rotate these assignments.

3.5                   Trustees

  • 7-9 members elected by the congregation for a two-year-term and may be eligible for re-election for up to three (3) consecutive terms.
  • Responsibilities as per The Manual

3.6                   Ad Hoc Teams, Committees or Commissions

  • The Council of Guiding Elders may appoint such temporary or standing teams, committees or commissions as it deems necessary to fulfil the tasks required by the congregation’s stated mission, vision and values.