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Dismissal and Termination of Call: Writing Congregational Bylaws

Ministerial transition is a reality of both congregational and ministerial life. Most often, ministers and congregations come to a mutually satisfying end of the ministry, but other times the parting is difficult. Congregations are advised to have general bylaws provisions that determine both the process for a minister opting to leave and the method by which the congregation may dismiss the minister. At a congregational meeting a simple majority should be enough to dismiss a minister. More specific details can be covered in the minister's letter of agreement.

Sample Provisions

Example 1: The Minister shall give at least ninety (90) days notice in writing to the Board of his/her resignation or retirement. Dismissal of a Minister shall be at a Special Congregational Meeting called for that purpose. This meeting shall be called by the Board only upon the written request signed by at least twenty percent (20%) of the voting members. Notice of the meeting shall be only by letter sent to the Congregation. No notice shall be placed in the official Church newsletter or read from the pulpit. The Minister shall be invited to speak at this meeting. Dismissal shall be by a majority vote of voting members present and voting. The Minister's compensation shall continue for a minimum of ninety (90) days after the date of dismissal in exchange for such service to the Church, consistent with the duties of the minister set out herein, as may be directed by the Board.

Example 2: The contractual relationship between the Minister and the Church may be dissolved by either party for any reason upon three (3) months written notice. Such provision shall be incorporated in any contractual agreement.

Example 3: The minister may be dismissed by a majority vote of the qualified members of the church present at any meeting legally called for that purpose, quorum for such a meeting to be constituted by forty percent (40%) of the voting members rather than twenty percent (20%) of the voting members as called for other congregational meetings. In the event of the minister's dismissal, his or her salary and allowance shall be continued for three (3) months after the date of dismissal. Should the minister offer his or her resignation, three (3) month's notice must be given at the time the resignation is made, except as the governing board may allow an interval of less time.

Example 4: Removal. In order for the congregation to remove a Minister, a majority vote is required at a special meeting called for this purpose. Such a vote may not be taken again for six (6) months.

Example 5: By a simple majority vote at a special meeting for that purpose, the voting members of the church may dismiss the minister. Written notices of such a meeting must be mailed to members three (3) months prior to the meeting. In the case of dismissal or resignation, ninety (90) days written notice will be given.

Example 6: The contract may be terminated by the Minister upon at least ninety (90) days written notice by the Minister to the Board; such period of notice may be altered by mutual consent.

Example 7: The Minister's services may be terminated by a majority vote by secret ballot of those present and voting at a Special Meeting of the congregation. Such a meeting may be called by the Board or upon written petition of twenty (20) members. Quorum and notice for such a meeting shall be the same as for that in calling a minister. If the congregation votes to terminate the services of the Minister, three (3) months notice shall be given. Should the Minister resign, three (3) months notice must be given, except as the Board may allow less time.

Example 8: The relations between Minister(s) and the Church may cease by mutual agreement, or by the giving in writing of three (3) months notice by either party. The Board of Trustees shall not give such notice without prior approval by a majority of the members of the Church present and voting at a specially called Church meeting.

Example 9: A minister is called to this Church on a continuing basis, subject to the right of the minister to give the membership sixty (60) days notice of intent to resign, and the membership's right to give the minister sixty (60) days notice of the termination of his/her services. In either event, the minister shall receive salary during the sixty (60) days, whether he or she serves or not. This severance pay may be extended to ninety (90) days at the discretion of the Board as agreed upon in the minister's contract.

For more information contact growthresources@uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Thursday, February 7, 2013.

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