Albuquerque
Sovereign Grace Baptist Church

 

Constitution of
Albuquerque Sovereign Grace
Baptist Church

Albuquerque, New Mexico U.S.A.

 

Founded June 13, 1949

1998 Revision

Adopted by Albuquerque Baptist Church June 3, 1998

 

Preamble

  We, the members of the Albuquerque Baptist Church of Albuquerque, New Mexico, do ordain and establish the following Articles, to which we voluntarily and solemnly submit ourselves.

  As an Independent Baptist church we choose to affiliate with the Southern Baptist Convention with a Reformed Baptist perspective.

 

ARTICLE 1: PURPOSE

  The sole purpose of Albuquerque Baptist Church is to glorify the true and living triune God by promoting His worship, evangelizing sinners, and building up His saints.

  We believe that Christ is both the subject and purpose of the Gospel. The entire Bible is about Him. Every child of God's sure and only hope is in Him. Every aspect of salvation from beginning (election) to end (glorification) is all of God's grace. Men cannot and should not ascribe salvation to any part of their will, work or worth. "By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast." Eph. 2:8-9

  We endeavor to be a glorious, worshipping church of Christ, people whose lives honor the Lord who bought us by His precious blood.

  Only a life of humble obedience to God is sound evidence of true conversion to the faith of Jesus. While no one is saved by the works of the flesh, true faith works what is good.

  The Doctrines of Grace are believed and cherished among us. We boldly proclaim the absolute sovereignty of God in the salvation of His beloved people, preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified to all, withholding Him from none.

  We hold to the humbling truths of God's sovereign grace in the salvation of lost sinners. Salvation is through Christ alone and by faith alone.

 

ARTICLE 2: ARTICLES OF FAITH

  Our congregation identifies with the Biblical beliefs of early Southern Baptists. We believe these doctrines are most clearly set forth in the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. The 1689 London Baptist Confession is an excellent, though not inspired, expression of the teaching of those Holy Scriptures by which all confessions are to be measured.

  We regard the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 (excepting the assertions regarding the identity of the antichrist [26:4]) and The Baptist Faith and Message (a statement adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention) though not inspired, expressions of the teaching of the Word of God. Because we acknowledge the Word of God written to be the supreme authority in all matters of faith, morals, and order, we adopt these two documents as our doctrinal standards. We find them to be an assistance in controversy, a confirmation in faith, and a means of edification in righteousness.

 

ARTICLE 3: MEMBERSHIP

A. Warrant for Membership

The New Testament demands of all Christians, formal, open, solemn, voluntary and enduring commitment to Jesus Christ, to His truth and to His people. A true Christian's commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ must include, and is inseparable from his commitment to Christ's truth and to Christ's people. Such a commitment to Christ, His truth and His people ordinarily requires a formal, open, solemn, voluntary and enduring commitment of church membership in a local church for the following biblical reasons:

The New Testament presents the local church as a distinct group of individuals which could:

    a. be counted (Acts 2:41-42; 4:4)
    b. be added to (Acts 2:47; 5:14)
    c. be called upon to select leaders and representatives from among itself (Acts 6:1-6; 2 Cor. 8:19, 23; Acts 15:22)
    d. be officially gathered together (Acts 14:27; 15:22)
    e. carry out church discipline by vote (Matt. 18:17; 1 Cor. 5:4, 13; 2 Cor. 2:6)
    f. observe the Lord's table as a wholly present corporate assembly (1 Cor. 11:17-20, 33-34)

There is therefore clear biblical warrant for the existence and careful maintenance of local church membership involving formal, open, solemn, voluntary and enduring commitment. This biblical warrant compels us to use great care in maintaining a biblically- ordered church membership.

B. Requisites for Membership

1. To be eligible for membership, a man or woman (Acts 5:14; 8:3,12) must demonstrate repentance toward God and the fruits thereof (Acts 26:20), as well as that faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21) which produces godly works (Eph. 2:8-10; James 2:18, 22). He must be baptized as a believer and profess substantial agreement with the purpose (as stated in Article 1), Confession (as stated in Article 2), and government of this church. Furthermore, he must not be under the biblically warranted (Matt. 18:17,18; 1 Cor. 5:11-13; 2 Thess. 3:6,14,15; 3 John 9,10; 2 Cor. 2:6-8) corrective discipline of a genuine church.

2. Church members must be in submission to the ordained rule of the church to which they belong (Heb. 13:17). He who cannot intelligently and freely submit to a church's government should not belong to that church.

3. Anyone who is in substantial disagreement with the constitution or confessions of the church could not be consistently submissive to the church's teaching ministry. Therefore, to admit such a person to membership in this church would be unwise (Eph. 4:3) and unscriptural.

4. Mastery of church confessions is not required of any new disciple before he is admitted to church membership. Such a requirement would violate the order of Matt. 28:19-20, which instructs us to disciple, to baptize, and then to teach the baptized disciple to observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded. It is necessary, however, that any disciple applying for membership manifest a willingness to be taught and substantial agreement with what he already knows concerning the church's doctrine and government.

5. If one who is already a member of the church at any time concludes that he no longer satisfies the requirements for membership, he is under obligation to inform the elders/pastors of that fact.

C. Types of Membership

1. Regular Members 2. Associate Members

D. Reception into Membership

    1. Any person desiring to become a member of the church must submit a written testimony to the elders/pastors explaining his understanding and experience of the Gospel of Christ. Exceptions to this requirement will be determined by the elders/pastors. The written testimony is intended to promote a proper evaluation of the potential member and to encourage knowledgeable fellowship with him. The elders may request further clarification and/or expansion of this written testimony before proceeding with the application process.
    2.Those desiring to become a member will be given a copy of this constitution and the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. Those desiring membership must read and agree with the constitution.
    3. If the applicant has been a member of another church, the elders will investigate his standing in that church before he is accepted as a member in this church. Where it is possible and appropriate, a letter of transfer will be requested. Reception by transfer does not negate any of the requirements for becoming a member in this assembly.
    4. Upon the reception of an acceptable written testimony, the elders/pastors may at their discretion ask for a preliminary meeting with the applicant; otherwise, the name of the applicant will be announced ( Exceptions to this requirement will be determined by the elders/pastors) for at least three consecutive Lord's Days at stated meetings of the church.

This time period is for the purpose of enabling the members to read his testimony and to raise any questions or objections concerning the applicant's qualifications. Members are expected to consider this a personal duty of the most serious character. They are expected to voice privately to the elders/pastors all questions or objections that have not yet been resolved, after personal contact has been made with the applicant (Matt. 18:15ff; Lev. 19:16, 17). During the application process, the applicant will be interviewed. During the interview the elder(s) will seek to clarify any questions the applicant may have concerning the church or church membership. They shall also determine whether or not that person meets the qualifications as stated in Article 3, Section B, of the Constitution and, if necessary, resolve any questions or objections raised by the church. The elders may postpone the reception of the person into membership until any objections can be resolved. If the elders/pastors are satisfied that the applicant meets the qualifications, the person will be received at a stated meeting of the church (Matt. 3:6-12; Acts 9:26, 27; 1 John 4:1; Rev. 2:2).

E. Termination of Membership

1. Types of Termination
    a. By Physical Death b. By Transfer
      (1) Because the New Testament norm for Christians is that they be members of true local churches of Christ, and because the spiritual health of believers is endangered when they are not thus committed to a church, any Christian who leaves the membership of this church should seek to do so by means of transfer to another true church of Christ. Therefore, if a church member in good standing whose conduct does not warrant corrective discipline desires to leave the membership of this church, he is strongly urged to leave in an orderly way by privately indicating that desire to the elders/pastors along with his reasons for leaving, and by submitting a request to the elders for a transfer of membership to another true church of Christ.
      (2) When such a departing member has not yet chosen a suitable church to which he may transfer, the elders/pastors may provide, if he wishes, for a transitional period which will allow the departing member to decide where he wishes to be transferred. Such a transitional status will be allowed to continue as long as the departing member maintains regular contact with the elders, does not unnecessarily prolong the transitional process, and does not engage in conduct requiring the exercise of church discipline.
      (3) When it is so requested, the elders/pastors may transfer a departing member of good standing to the fellowship of another church. A letter of transfer will be sent to the appropriate officer(s) of the church to which the member wishes to transfer. No such letter may be given to a member who is at the time under the corrective discipline of this church. The elders/pastors may refuse to grant a letter of transfer to any church which is in their judgment disloyal to "the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3) or which does not exercise godly care over its members.
    c. By Dismission
      (1) Occasionally, a person's membership may need to be terminated under circumstances which make both transfer and corrective discipline inappropriate. In such circumstances a member may be dismissed.
      (2) While there is no explicit precedent for dismission in the New Testament, it is required by biblical principles, including the voluntariness of local church membership (Acts 5:13; 9:26; 1 John 2:19) and the demands of biblically defined love and justice (Lam.3:31-33; 1 Cor. 13:4a, 5a, 7a; Prov. 17:15; 18:5); and by the exigencies of a church not yet wholly redeemed and facing the results of nearly 2000 years of church history.
      (3) Dismission may be initiated either by the written request of a member to the elders/pastors, or by the elders/pastors themselves when a member ceases to maintain vital contact with this church. In either case, the final decision regarding the action of Dismission will lie with the elders/pastors. Church membership is a very serious matter. Members, therefore, shall be dismissed only after due inquiry and admonition by the elders/pastors, whenever such contact is possible. Before any individual is dismissed, the church shall be informed of the intention of the elders/pastors to dismiss the individual. This information must include the grounds for the proposed dismission. A suitable period of time following the announcement shall be given for the church to privately raise concerns with the elders/pastors. After due consideration of such concerns, the elders/pastors may proceed with dismission. When possible, they shall send a letter to the dismissed individual informing him of his dismission. The elders/pastors shall subsequently communicate to the church that the person has been dismissed. If one who has been dismissed applies again for membership, the normal procedures shall be followed as set forth in Section D of this Article.
      (4) Dismission may be warranted for any of the following reasons:
    d. By Excommunication
2. Implications of Termination
    a. Albuquerque Baptist Church does not exist in isolation from, but is part of the universal church of Christ, composed of all true churches. Accordingly, open and forthright communication among the churches is vital for the purity, peace, edification and unity of the church universal. Therefore the elders/pastors may, at their discretion, disclose to the members of this church and to other churches the circumstances under which a person's membership was terminated (Acts 15:24; 1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 2:17; 4:10; 1 John 2:18, 19).
    b. In addition, Albuquerque Baptist Church does not exist in isolation from society at large. Accordingly, this church has a moral obligation to society both to act with integrity and to maintain its testimony (2 Cor. 8:20,21). Therefore, the elders/pastors may, at their discretion, disclose to other persons outside the ecclesiastical circles mentioned above the circumstances under which a person's membership was terminated (Lev. 5:1; Prov. 29:24; 1 Pet. 4:15).
    c. Termination of membership does not give license to former members to sow discord, spread false teachings or reports, or engage in any other behavior which threatens the peace and unity of this church or the church universal. Accordingly, when it is established that a former member is behaving divisively, the elders/pastors may issue whatever warnings they deem appropriate to maintain and preserve the peace and harmony of this church and the church universal (Acts 15:24; Rom. 16:17- 20; 1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 2:17; 4:10; 1 John 2:18, 19).

F. Privileges of Membership

In God's order, commitment normally constitutes the pathway to the possession of privileges. Therefore, membership in this church includes the following privileges:

    1. Participation in the Lord's Supper (Acts 2:41-42; 1 Cor. 11:18-26, 33);
    2. Attendance at, appropriate participation in, and voting during church business meetings (Acts 6:1-6 (cp. Acts 2:41; 4:4; 5:13-14); 1 Cor. 5:4-7; 13 (cp. 1 Cor. 1:2));
    3. Laboring to extend God's Kingdom in ministries of the church (as one's gifts, graces and calling make appropriate) (1 Cor. 12:4-27 (cp. 1 Cor. 1:2); Eph. 4:7; 11-12; 16; 1 Pet. 4:10-11);
    4. Reception of the committed oversight and care of the elders/pastors of the church (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2-3);
    5. Reception of the committed care and discipline (as needed) of the membership of the church (Acts 6:1-2 (cp. Acts 2:41; 5:13-14; 9:26); 1 Cor. 5:4-5 (cp. 1 Cor. 1:2); Gal. 6:10).

G. Requirements of Membership

1. All the members of this church are expected to attend all the stated meetings of the church unless providentially hindered by illness, unusual working conditions and other such circumstances (Heb. 10:24, 25). The stated meetings of the church are as follows:
    a. All services on the Lord's Day (morning and evening worship, the Lord's Supper, and baptisms);
    b. Midweek Bible study;
    c. Church business meetings; and
    d. Any special meetings that the elders shall occasionally deem necessary.
2. All the members of the church are expected to make use of the various other means of grace that are available to them, such as daily private prayer and systematic reading of the Bible, daily family worship, and a proper reverence for and observance of the Lord's Day.
3. Because it is clearly taught in the Scriptures that Christians should financially support the work of the Lord by systematic and proportionate giving made through the local church (Mal. 3:8-10; 1 Cor. 16:1, 2; 2 Cor. 8, 9), all the members of this church are expected to conform to this rule of Scripture. The tithe (ten percent of one's gross personal income) is not imposed on the people of God as a tax but is strongly urged upon each member as an expression of worship and the biblical norm for basic giving. Added to this should be gifts and offerings according to one's ability and the willingness of his heart (2 Cor. 8:1-5; Ex. 36:2-7).
4. All the members of this church are expected to obey the teachings of Scripture in respect to the life and government of the family. The husband is the God-appointed head of the family and must rule his household with gentleness, love, wisdom, and firmness (Eph. 5:25ff; 1 Tim. 3:4, 5; 1 Pet. 3:7). The wife must be in Scriptural subjection to her husband in all things (Eph. 5:22-24; 1 Pet. 3:1-6). The husband and wife must bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:1-4). This includes setting a godly example before them, consistently instructing them from the Scriptures (Deut. 6:4-9), and administering corporal chastening to them when needed (Prov. 13:24; 22:15; 29:15 ; Heb. 2:7).
5. It is the duty of every Christian, as an individual and as a member of a local church, to labor by prayer, word, and deed for the extension of the kingdom of God in ever widening circles, beginning at home and stretching forth to the ends of the earth (Isa. 54:1-3; Acts 1:8). Therefore, every member of this church is expected prayerfully to recognize and to seize every opportunity to bear witness to his faith in Christ, both by consistent Christian conduct and by the testimony of his lips.
6. Each member of the church is required to render loyal obedience to all the moral precepts of God's Word in his daily life (Rom. 8:3, 4; 1 Cor. 9:20, 21; James 2:12). If God has not condemned or forbidden a practice in His Word, a Christian is at liberty to participate in it. The exercise of Christian liberty, however, must at all times be governed by an earnest desire to walk in the fear of God and to glorify Him in all things (1 Pet. 1:17; 1 Cor. 10:31), a loving regard for the consciences of weaker brethren (1 Cor. 8:9; Rom. 15:1-3), a compassion for the lost (1 Cor. 9:19-22), and a zealous regard for the health of one's own soul (Rom. 13:14; 1 Cor. 6:12; 9:24- 27; Gal. 5:22, 23; 1 Pet. 2:16).
7. All who come into the membership of this church are expected to recognize and to submit to the authority of the overseers of the church (1 Cor. 16:15,16; 1 Thess. 5:12, 13; Heb. 13:17). This responsibility will include willingly scheduling an oversight meeting with the elders/pastors when requested.
8. We who have been joined to Christ by faith and are members of this church are also members one of another (Rom. 12:5). With this privileged relationship come particular responsibilities. We must maintain mutual transparency and honesty (Eph. 4:25). We must rejoice in each other's honor and bear one another's sorrows (1 Cor. 12:26). We must discreetly confess our faults one to another (James 5:16). We must mutually oversee each other, faithfully admonish and encourage one another, avoid all backbiting and gossip, and keep in strict confidence all matters which the elders/pastors determine are of private concern to the church (Prov. 11:13; Matt. 18:15ff; 1 Thess. 5:14, 15; Heb. 3:12, 13; 10:24, 25). Also, we must, when necessary, help meet the material needs of our brethren (Gal. 6:10; James 2:14-16; 1 John 3:16-18).

H. Records of Membership

The elders shall keep a file of all past and present members. This file shall have three divisions: regular members, associate members, and former members. The file of former members shall include the date and reason church membership was terminated, as well as any other necessary information (see Article 3, Section D).

 

ARTICLE 4: CHURCH DISCIPLINE

A. Formative Discipline

Every disciple (follower) of Christ must be under His discipline (His instruction and correction), which is administered to each one through the church (1 Cor. 12:12-27; 1 Thess. 5:12-15; Heb. 3:12,13; 10:24, 25). Mutual submission to one another (Eph. 5:21) and to the overseers whom the Lord has set over His church (1 Pet. 5:5) will result in the sanctification of each member individually and of the whole body of the church collectively. There are occasions, however, when one's failure to respond to this formative discipline makes the application of corrective discipline necessary.

B. Corrective Discipline

1. General Statement

    a. Corrective discipline becomes necessary when heretical doctrine or disorderly, immoral, or scandalous conduct appears among the members of the church. As a general rule and whenever feasible, an effort must be made to resolve difficulty, correct error, and remove offense through counsel and admonition before more drastic steps are taken (Gal. 6:1; James 5:19, 20). The principles given to us in Matt. 18:15-16, Rom. 16:17-20, 1 Cor. 5:1-13, 2 Thess. 3:6-15, 1 Tim. 5:19-20, and Titus 3:10 must be carefully followed and applied to each and every case of corrective discipline as appropriate. In some cases public admonition and/or public repentance may be warranted (Matt. 18:17; 1 Tim. 5:20). In the most extreme cases excommunication from the membership of the church may be necessary (Matt. 18:17; Rom. 16:17-20; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 1 Tim. 1:20; Titus 3:10). All the members of the church are obliged to submit to and enforce as appropriate the decision of the church in acts of corrective discipline.
    b. Since the church is a spiritual and religious institution, the punishments inflicted by the church in corrective discipline (2 Cor. 6:7) are also spiritual. They include public verbal reproof (Matt. 18:17; 1 Tim. 5:20), social avoidance (Rom. 16:17; 1 Cor. 5:9-11; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14), suspension from the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 5:11), and removal from the membership of the church (Matt. 18:17; 1 Cor. 5:13). They are intended to effect repentance through a sense of sorrow and shame (2 Cor. 2:7; 2 Thess. 3:14). The church has no right, however, to confiscate goods, revoke conjugal rights, or inflict corporal punishment of any kind. Nevertheless, a member guilty of criminal actions may be delivered to the civil authorities according to the rule of Scripture (1 Pet. 4:15).
    c. The goals of corrective discipline are always the glory of God, the welfare and purity of the church (1 Cor. 5:6) and the restoration and spiritual growth of the offender (1 Cor. 5:5; 2 Cor. 2:5-8; 1 Tim. 5:20).
2. Public Reproof or Censure
    Public reproof consists of a pastoral effort, before the gathered church, to call an impenitent church member to repentance for sin too blatant to be dealt with in an exclusively private manner; or to deal with serious sin even where there may have been repentance. The elders/pastors may administer public censure whenever in their judgment either public misconduct (Gal. 2:11-14; 1 Tim. 5:20), patterns of sin (Titus 1:12, 13), or serious doctrinal error (Titus 1:10-13) pose a significant threat to the godliness, unity or testimony of the congregation. Those who humbly receive the word of public reproof, own and confess their sin, and manifest a transformed life (Prov. 28:13) shall afterward be publicly commended for their godly repentance (2 Cor. 7:7-11). If the reproof is not heeded, further discipline may be imposed.
3. Suspension Some misconduct on the part of a member is so detrimental to the unity, holiness and testimony of the church that the Lord requires the suspension of some of the privileges of membership (Rom. 16:17-20; 2 Thess. 3:6-15). In all cases of suspension the offending person is still to be regarded as a brother in Christ and as a member of the church. Therefore, in accordance with the procedures outlined below for each of the five major categories of offenses, the elders/pastors shall at a business meeting of the church recommend that the offending member be suspended, specifying its grounds. To be valid, an act of suspension must have the approval of at least two-thirds of the members present and voting. In the interest of maintaining a climate of holiness and peace, the elders/pastors shall have the right, at their sole discretion, to impose a temporary suspension upon a member which will bar him from not more than one Lord's Table while they deliberate the most prudent course of action. The major categories of sin which require suspension are as follows:
    a. A Stubborn Private Offender (Matt. 18:15-17) b. Divisive Teachings or Behavior (Rom. 16:17-20; Titus 3:10) c. Disorderly Behavior (2 Thess. 3:6-15) d. A Scandalous Sin e. Contempt of Church Discipline

4. Excommunication.

    a. In addition to the excommunication of those who have been previously suspended, some expressions of sin (ethical or doctrinal) are so gross and heinous in nature that preliminary actions like public reproof and suspension are inappropriate. In such cases, the guilty member may be immediately excommunicated by the church (1 Cor 5:1-4). This severe measure is to be employed when both aggravated lawlessness is discovered, and there are no hopeful signs of repentance. This severe measure is designed to purge the lawbreaker of his lethal attachment to his sin, unto a sincere and enduring repentance (1 Cor 5:5; 6:9-11). The elders/pastors, therefore, having made earnest but unsuccessful efforts to bring the offender to true repentance and reformation, shall report the same to the church and recommend that the offender be excommunicated.
    b. All acts of excommunication must be executed by the gathered church (Matt. 18:17; 1 Cor. 5:4). To be valid, an act of excommunication must have the approval of at least two thirds of the members present and voting.

5. Restoration

Since one purpose of church discipline is to restore a fallen brother or sister, it is the duty of the church to forgive and to restore to full membership a suspended or excommunicated member who gives satisfactory evidence of his repentance (2 Cor 2:6-8). This shall be done in a duly convened business meeting of the church by no less than two thirds of the members present and voting.

ARTICLE 5: ORDINANCES

A. General Statement

There are two ordinances of special significance that our Lord has commanded us to observe, namely, Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Neither of them has saving merit, nor is any grace imparted to the recipient through the water of Baptism or through the bread and the cup of the Supper. These ordinances are not means of "special grace," but they are special "means of grace" and powerful aids to the faith of the believers who participate in them.

B. Baptism

1. Only confessed disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ are proper candidates for Baptism, and all such persons should be baptized and joined to a local church (Acts 2:38, 41, 47; 5:13, 14). Believing that Baptism in water is the God-ordained sign of one's personal union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, and the door of entrance into the visible community of the people of God, we shall receive into the membership of the church only those who have been baptized as believers "into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19). Immersion in water is the biblical mode of baptism, is necessary for its due administration, and is the only mode to be administered by this church.

2. Occasionally, a genuine believer in the Lord Jesus Christ whose baptism is marked by irregularities of mode may apply for membership in this church. It is according to the mind of Christ that a believer who was baptized by a mode other than immersion should be immersed as a believer. Occasionally, such a believer may be prevented by his conscience from doing this. Therefore, should this be the case, the elders/pastors may at their discretion admit such a person if they believe that it is in the best interests of the person and this church. Before such a person is admitted, he must be submissive to instruction on the subject and prove to have a teachable and peaceable spirit with regard to the standards of this church respecting baptism. Should such a member come to agreement with the convictions of this church, he must, then, be immersed.

C. The Lord's Supper

Whereas Baptism is the initiatory ordinance by which one enters the visible church, and should be observed only once by each believer, the Lord's Supper should be celebrated frequently by the assembled church (1 Cor. 11:26). While this is a most holy ordinance and should be observed with solemnity and dignity, the bread and the cup of the Supper are and remain only symbols of the broken body and the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. In order to maintain the purity of this ordinance, the elders/pastors, will faithfully seek to insure that only true believers who are members in good standing of true churches are admitted to the Table. True believers whose church membership involves unusual circumstances may be admitted at the discretion of the elders/pastors.

 

ARTICLE 6: OFFICERS

A. General Statement

Jesus Christ alone is the Head of His Church (Col.1:18). He has ordained that individual churches should be governed by Himself through officers whom He appoints, who are endowed by His Spirit with the gifts and graces needed to accomplish their work. Christ has ordained that local churches are to be administered by elders/pastors and deacons. Beside these two offices the Scriptures acknowledge no office which continues in the church today (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1-13).

B. General Prerequisites

1. All officers of this church must be members of the church.

2. Any individual set apart to one of these offices must be able to conscientiously affirm his agreement with the church's Confessions of Faith and Constitution. If he should at any time move from this position, he would be under spiritual and moral obligation to immediately make that fact known to the elders/pastors in an orderly manner.

3. While we acknowledge the valuable gifts which God has given women and the valuable assistance they may render to the officers of the church (Rom. 16:1-6; Phil. 4:3; 1 Tim. 3:11), the Bible prohibits women from holding either the office of deacon or elder/pastor in the church (1 Cor. 14:33b-35; 1 Tim. 2:8-15; 3:1-7). Women, therefore, shall not be nominated, elected, or ordained to either of these offices in the church. (1 Cor. 14:33b-35; 1 Tim. 2:8-15). Since it is also a violation of the Scriptures for a woman to exercise authority over a man in spiritual things outside a meeting of the whole church, no woman shall be appointed to a teaching or authoritative function in a ministry of the church where adult men would be regularly under her ministry. Nevertheless, we acknowledge and encourage the valuable gifts and assistance of women in the formal instruction of children and other women (Titus 2:3-5), in the informal instruction even of men (1 Cor. 11:5; Acts 18:26), and in the diaconal and especially the benevolent ministries of the church (1 Tim. 3:11; 5:9, 10).

C. Elders/Pastors

1. Those who have been called of God to rule and teach in the church are called elders, pastors, or bishops. These are three interchangeable names designating one and the same office in a New Testament church (Acts 20:17, 28; Eph. 4:11, 12; Titus 1:5, 7).

2. Anyone desiring the office of an elder/pastor must evidence to God's people the personal, domestic, and ministerial qualifications that are set forth in the Scriptures (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).

3. Because the authority of the elders/pastors of the church is human authority exercised in the house of God, it has both high prerogatives and important limitations:

    a. It is divinely-delegated authority. Thus, elders/pastors/pastors are answerable to God for the exercise of this authority (Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:17). Therefore, elders/pastors are obligated to discharge all of the duties specified by God in the Scriptures (particularly in such passages as Acts 20:17, 28ff; 1 Pet. 5:1-4; and Heb. 13:17).
    b. When they exercise this authority by requiring obedience to themselves, they must seek to gain the consciences of God's people through the ministry of the Word (Eph. 4:11c; 1 Tim. 3:2c; 2 Tim. 4:1-2; Heb. 13:17).
    c. The authority of the elders/pastors does not include the right to make certain decisions unilaterally. In major decisions of church life (such as those having to do with corrective discipline, recognition of officers, and the sale of a church building), the local church as a whole has a voice (Acts 6:2-6; 9:26; 1 Cor. 5:4-5; 13; 2 Cor. 2:6). Yet the elders/pastors' must provide definitive leadership to the church in the making of such decisions.
    d. The authority of the elders/pastors is limited to the sphere of the local church. Thus, they will not require punishments for sin beyond those of biblical church discipline, will not invade the biblically-defined spheres of other divinely-ordained human authorities (husbands, fathers, civil rulers, and employers), and will not command God's people regarding matters not specified in Scripture except to order the house of God by the application of His Word (Matt. 22:21; Luke 12:13-14; Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:3a; Rom. 13:1-7; Eph. 5:22-6:9; 1 Cor. 7:25-28; 35-40).
    e. The authority of elders/pastors is conditioned by the fact that they are themselves members of the local church. While elders/pastors are shepherds over the flock, they are also members of the flock. Therefore, each individual elder/pastor is entitled to the same privileges, is obligated by the same responsibilities, and is subject to the same discipline as are all the other members of the church. Thus, each individual elder/pastor is both under the oversight of his fellow elders/pastors and accountable to the church as a whole (Matt. 18:17; 23:9; 26:31; 2 Cor. 11:19-20; Gal. 2:11; 3 John 1, 9, 10).
    f. The authority of every elder (or pastor) is the same. Thus, every elder/pastor has equal rule in the church. Though gifts possessed and functions performed will vary from elder to elder, this diversity must not undermine real parity among the elders/pastors (Acts 20:28 (cp. 17); Gal 2:11; 1 Pet. 5:1-2; 1 Tim. 5:17).
    g. Finally, the authority of the elders/pastors is a very real authority. God's people are, therefore, required to submit when it is biblically exercised (Heb. 13:17; note also the Scriptural titles and functions of the office).

4. One crucial aspect of the elders/pastors' duties is personally overseeing the flock of God. Fulfillment of this duty shall include regularly and systematically meeting with each member of the church on at least an annual basis, except when physically impossible due to distance.

5. Elders/pastors will be maintained in material necessities and disentangled from the cares of another vocation according to their gifts, the needs and capability of the church, and the direction of Christ her Head (1 Tim.5:17ff).

6. Though a plurality of elders/pastors is the New Testament norm for every church, the New Testament does not specify the number of elders/pastors each church should have, nor does it dictate the length of an elder's term of office. One truly called to this office is usually called to it for life. He is a gift of Christ to the church, and the gifts of God are without repentance. Only when an elder fails to meet the necessary scriptural qualifications for his office does he disqualify himself from being an elder.

D. Deacons/Trustees

1. Deacons/Trustees are responsible primarily to administer the benevolent concerns of the church as well as its business affairs (Acts 6:1-4). They must fulfill the duties of their office in cooperation with, and in subjection to, the elders/pastors.

2. The number of deacons shall not be fixed. The church shall set apart according to its need men who evidence the scriptural qualifications for that office (Acts 6:1-7; 1 Tim. 3:8-13).

E. Appointment of Officers

1. General Statement
    The appointment of elders/pastors and deacons/trustees is the prerogative of the Lord Jesus Christ alone. However, He has ordained that each local church exercise the responsibility of recognizing those whom He is appointing to be elders/pastors and deacons in that particular church. Elders/pastors are ordained to office by the laying on of hands by the elders/pastorship (1 Tim. 4:14). This is an expression of approval for which the elders/pastors are responsible (1 Tim. 5:22). Therefore, each officer must have the approval, not only of the church as a whole, but of the elders/pastorship in particular. The Lord's appointment of an individual to either of these offices is recognized by means of that individual's possession of those graces and gifts required by Scripture for the particular office and his own conviction that the Lord is calling him to minister in that office. The recognition of officers is a matter of such importance that it should never be dealt with without much prayerful waiting upon God, an honest perusal of the relevant passages of Scripture, and a frank evaluation of those who are being considered. Each member of the church has a spiritual responsibility to be intelligently informed regarding these matters.
2. Procedure of Appointment
    The recognition of those whom the Lord has appointed to bear office in this church is executed in three steps: nomination, election, and ordination.
    a. Nomination b. Election c. Ordination d. Review of Officers
      1. Officers shall hold office only as long as they meet the biblical qualifications for their office in the esteem of the church.
      2. There may arise reasons that would require an officer to be reviewed before the regularly scheduled time. Such a review meeting may be called by a majority of the elders/pastors (or a majority of the other elders/pastors in the case of an elder). The members may also request such a meeting. This request must be set forth in writing with the signatures of one-fourth of the total voting membership of the church. It must be presented to the elders/pastors, who shall in a timely and constitutional way (see Paragraph 3 below) call such a meeting.
      3. Any meeting for the review of an officer shall be announced on four consecutive Lord's Days previous to its being held. During the discussion, the officer under consideration and members of his immediate family shall leave the presence of the church until the written ballot is taken. The scriptural qualifications shall be read and expounded, and the officer's qualifications openly discussed in the fear of God and with due respect for the reputation of the officer. Any member who publicly suggests in such a meeting that the officer being reviewed is unqualified for his office must have previously spoken with the officer himself and informed the elders/pastors of the church of his concerns (1 Tim. 5:19). He must also present biblical and factual warrant for his concerns at the review meeting. Just as it is wrong for a church to retain an officer who is not biblically qualified, so also it is rebellion against the head of the church to reject an officer for any but biblical grounds. Additionally, any officer about whom such concerns are raised must be permitted, if he wishes, to return to the meeting and defend himself. The church should seek unity of mind concerning the matter, but should such unity not be fully realized, no fewer than three-fourths of those ballots cast shall be required for the confirmation of an officer in his office. Any officer failing of confirmation no longer holds office in the church. This vote shall take place by written ballot; and the vote shall stand as it is first given in the written ballot.
      4. An officer may resign his office without prejudice if he does so in an orderly fashion and for good and valid reasons. This resignation together with its reasons and the date upon which he wishes his resignation to be effective shall be submitted in writing to the elders/pastors of the Church.
    e. Reserved
    f. Full Support of Elders/pastors
      1. Though all elders/pastors are equal as to the authority of their office, not all elders/pastors possess qualifications warranting full financial support in the office. The Bible teaches that special ability in ruling the church and, more especially, in public teaching and preaching are gifts worthy of full financial support (Gal. 6:6; 1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Cor. 9:1-14). Thus, before it undertakes his full support, the church must recognize that an elder or nominee to the elders/pastorship possesses special ministerial gifts and that he is excelling in the employment of those gifts for the benefit of the church, in ways appropriate to his opportunities. Special caution should be exercised in giving full support to an elder for the following reasons:
        a. full support necessitates his removal from a secular vocation, which, in the interests of Christ's Kingdom and of his family, might be a more advantageous position for him to occupy;
        b. a major portion of the church's financial stewardship is involved, for which its Head will hold it accountable; and
        c. a fully supported elder has a greater influence upon the church, for good or ill. The provisions of this Section apply to any proportion of financial support required by an increase of ministry that would hinder an elder's full-time employment in a secular vocation.
      2. The elders/pastors may recommend to the church that an existing elder or a nominee to the elders/pastorship be fully supported.
        a. In the case of a nominee, full support may be considered in conjunction with the consideration of his qualifications for the elders/pastorship. In such a case, the elders/pastors will inform the church of their recommendation when the business meeting for this purpose is announced. A distinct discussion and vote for both election to the office and full support in the office is not necessary.
        b. In the case of an existing elder who is being recommended for full support, a church meeting to consider this recommendation shall be announced on four consecutive Lord's Days prior to its being held. Such a recommendation may be considered in conjunction with the review of the elder involved. A distinct discussion and vote for both confirmation in the office and full support in the office is not necessary.
      3. During any meeting where full support is being considered, special attention shall be given to the relevant teaching of Scripture (Gal. 6:6; 1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Cor. 9:1-14). During the discussion the man under consideration and members of his immediate family shall leave the presence of the church until the written ballot is taken. Such discussion must at all times reflect the fear of God, the claims of truth, and the gravity of the matter. Any vote upon full support requires three-fourths of those ballots cast for approval.
      4. The full support of elders/pastors as well as their continuation in office will be subject to review (see Section F). Normally a review of full support will take place in conjunction with the review of an elder's qualification for office, whether at regular intervals or at special review meetings. However, circumstances may arise in which an elder's full support may need to be reviewed as an issue separate from his continuation in office. In such cases, a review shall follow the applicable procedures outlined in Paragraphs 2 and 3 above. Continuance of full support shall require three-fourths of the ballots cast.
      5. Although not officers of the church, there is a need for positions of helps in the church. Such as: treasurer and assistant treasurer; Sunday School director; teachers; youth leaders; church clerk; music director and any other helps the church feels should be included to build this church of God. They shall hold positions only as long as they meet the biblical qualifications for their office in the esteem of the church. Each person must have the approval, not only of the church as a whole, but of the elders/pastorship in particular. They shall be elected and voted into their positions on any scheduled business meeting. Those in position of helps may choose to resign at any time as deemed necessary.

 

ARTICLE 7: OFFICIAL BOARD

In order to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's," this church shall have an official Board of Trustees. The official board shall consist of the resident pastors (elders/pastors) as voting members and deacons/trustees voting members. The voting members of this board shall serve as the legal representatives of the church.

 

ARTICLE 8: CHURCH MEETINGS

Business meetings are to be held the first Wednesday of each month. No less than a two- thirds (2/3) majority of those voting will make a resolution valid. The annual business meeting will be in April of each year.
    A. Voting B. Special Meetings

 

ARTICLE 9: CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY

A. Nature B. Deficiencies C. Amendments D. BY-LAWS

 

ARTICLE 10: DISSOLUTION OF THE CHURCH AND ITS PROPERTIES

In the event of dissolution, the remaining funds and assets shall be used first to dispose of all Church-related liabilities and to the extent that assets exceed liabilities the remaining assets shall be donated to the Southern Baptist Convention of New Mexico.