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Congregational Meetings: Writing Congregational Bylaws
Most state governments require corporations to hold an annual meeting. Check with the statutes in your jurisdiction to see what provisions and actions your congregation must take to stay current with state and local law. Beyond legal requirements, however, UU (Unitarian Universalist) congregations generally entrust the membership with electing their governing boards, passing the budget, calling and/or dismissing ministers, purchasing and/or selling real estate, amending the bylaws, and other major decisions affecting the congregation. Unitarian Universalists follow congregational polity; therefore, a congregation's decision by vote is the highest expression of its authority. For more information on congregational polity please refer to the online document Congregational Polity (PDF, 274 pages): A Historical Survey of Unitarian and Universalist Practice, by Conrad Wright.
The congregation can deal with much of this business at the annual meeting; however, some congregations prefer to hold several different meetings, each with a single major focus. Issues such as the call or dismissal of a minister or the purchase or sale of real estate generally are covered at special congregational meetings that are called solely for that purpose and usually with a single agenda item. Approving such decisions frequently requires a larger majority. Additionally, the bylaws should include provisions for calling meetings in special circumstances and how the membership may petition for a congregational meeting.
The meetings section of the bylaws should define the frequency, kind, and type of congregational meetings and who is responsible for calling such meetings; the method of notice required; a quorum for the meeting; the majority percentage required for approval of decisions, including any issues that require a different percentage; and voting and any restrictions on voting. Also, bylaw provisions may include such items as the agenda for the meetings and the rules of procedure to be followed by the congregation.
The following sections explore topics related to congregational meetings that should be addressed when drafting bylaws: