Rules of Association
United Church of God, an International Association
Rules of Association
© United Church of God, an International Association
P.O. Box 541027, Cincinnati, Ohio 45254-1027
Phone (513) 576-9796
Preamble to the Rules of Association for the UCGIA
These are the Rules of Association for the United Church of God, an International Association ("UCGIA"), adopted by the Council of Elders ("Council") and ratified by the General Conference of Elders ("GCE"). (For a better understanding of terms and abbreviations used throughout these Rules, refer to: Chapter 1-Definitions and Spiritual Integrity.) The National Councils, local congregations, the General Conference of Elders and Council of Elders [See Articles 220.127.116.11; 18.104.22.168; 22.214.171.124; and 126.96.36.199 from the Constitution of the UCGIA] agree to abide by these rules for the purpose of Christian unity. All are willing to submit to the greater call of God and to each other for the purpose of pleasing God.
The mission of the Church of God is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God in all the world, make disciples in all nations and care for those disciples [See Article 1.0 from the Constitution of the UCGIA]. As individual nations (or groups of nations) with National Councils and local congregations, we are willing to work together for the good of the whole. We accept the instructions given by the apostle Peter as our guideline for this association: "Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.' Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time" (1 Peter:5:5-6, NKJV). We also incorporate the instructions of the apostle Paul detailing the nature of our calling and of our unity in the Body of Christ (Ephesians:4:1-8, 11-16).
General Organizational Structure of the Church
The United Church of God ("UCG") is a spiritual entity composed of local congregations made up of individual Church members and affiliates.
Every ordained elder in good standing of UCG throughout the world is eligible to be a member of the GCE and, if choosing to be a member of the GCE, is also a member of UCGIA, a Nonprofit Religious Corporation, incorporated in the State of California and registered or permitted to operate in the other states of the U.S. [See Article 188.8.131.52 from the Constitution of the UCGIA and Article 6.1 of the Bylaws]
The Council of Elders (selected by the GCE) acts as a board of directors for the establishment of policies, provides direction and oversight and enables and ensures the proper management of the day-to-day affairs of the United Church of God. The Articles of Incorporation, the Constitution and Bylaws ("governing documents") of the UCGIA, these Rules of Association and the policies of the GCE establish and define (1) local congregations and their members wherever located, and (2) National Councils and their lines of responsibility and operation.
Purpose and Function of the Rules of Association
The Rules of Association are designed to further good relationships within the United Church of God and to effectively facilitate the work of the Church. These rules are subordinate to the governing documents of the UCGIA as well as the legal documents of the National Councils in their respective nations. Their integrity derives from the spiritual ethic of love and mutual submission (Philippians 2:3; Ephesians:5:21; and other scriptures).
Geographic Scope of Rules
These rules are designed to guide the activities of the United Church of God throughout the world. If any rule promulgated herein is in conflict with the law of any sovereign state, then, except as enjoined in Scripture, a member of the association is expected to give preference to the law of the sovereign state.
Amending the Rules of Association Article 7.5.3 (4) of the Bylaws provides for the amending of the Rules of Association. The process for amending these rules shall be the same as the process for amending the Bylaws or the Constitution of the UCGIA as outlined in Article 12.2 of said Bylaws.
Chapter 1: Definitions and Spiritual Integrity
Rule 1-100 General Definitions
To aid in a clear understanding of the Rules of Association, the following definitions are offered. Some of these terms have definitions that are unique to the United Church of God, an International Association. Therefore it is important that these definitions be understood in this context.
Advisory Councils/Committees: Groups of Church members that may be formed in local congregations to assist in the organization and administration of local programs. These groups are defined as "advisory" in the Constitution of the UCGIA [ Article 184.108.40.206 of the Constitution of the UCGIA]. The formation of such groups should be a cooperative effort between the pastor and membership. See Rule 1-120.
Affiliates: Affiliates are those who participate in and worship within the United Church of God (UCG), but are not Church members (as defined below).
Church: The Church in its broadest sense is the Body of Christ and is composed of individuals in whom God’s Holy Spirit dwells and are striving to obey His laws. However, the term Church as used in these rules applies to those who are members of the United Church of God.
Church Member: An individual who has been duly baptized and in whom God’s Holy Spirit dwells is a member of the Church of God, regardless of organizational affiliation. However, the term “Church member” as used in these rules applies only to an individual who has been duly baptized and is considered to be a member in good standing of the United Church of God and may be listed on the membership rolls of the Church (where available). For further information see Rule 1-110.
Governing Documents: The Articles of Incorporation, the Constitution and the Bylaws of the UCGIA are considered the governing documents of the UCGIA.
Home Office and Management Team: "The Home Office and Management Team are established by the Council of Elders (Council) to serve the Church by administering the policies adopted and approved by the General Conference of Elders and the Council. The Management Team and Home Office staff are selected, approved and directed by the Council" [Article 220.127.116.11 of the Constitution of the UCGIA]. The Management Team as used in the Bylaws "means the corporate officers and operation managers of the corporation as selected and approved by the Council of Elders" [Article 5.1.4 of the Bylaws of the UCGIA].
Local Congregation: An assembly of Church members and affiliates, wherever located, pastored by a minister recognized by the UCGIA and governed by the published Rules of Association and the Constitution of the UCGIA, shall constitute a local congregation of the UCGIA [Article 18.104.22.168 of the Constitution of the UCGIA]. For further information see Rule 1-120.
Members of the Association: Local congregations pastored by an elder who is recognized by the UCGIA are members of the association. National Councils and the local congregations they serve are also members of the association.
Minister/Elder: The terms minister (or ministry) and elder are used interchangeably throughout our documents. No distinction is intended. A minister is a servant of God's people who has been ordained to the office of the ministry. He is by definition an elder. An elder in good standing is further defined by Church policy.
National Council: A council or board that is established to meet the requirements for legal recognition of the UCGIA, or serve the administrative needs of the Church in nations other than the United States of America, is a National Council. The National Councils shall conduct themselves in accordance with the Scripture, the Constitution, their legal documents, these Rules of Association and applicable law [Article 22.214.171.124 of the Constitution of the UCGIA]. For further information see Rule 1-130 below.
United Church of God, an International Association/UCGIA: The name of and abbreviation for the United Church of God, an International Association, a Nonprofit Religious Corporation, incorporated in the State of California and registered or permitted to operate in the other states of the United States.
United Church of God/UCG: Name of and abbreviation for the United Church of God, its congregations and members. This is a spiritual entity and, as such, is not intended to be registered or incorporated.
Rule 1-110 Church Membership
An individual active member of UCG is one who has come into membership by repentance, acceptance of Jesus Christ as his/her Savior, baptism and the laying on of hands by an ordained minister or authorized representative of the United Church of God, or through recognition of a previous baptism. The names of active members may be placed on the membership rolls of the Church (if available), locally, nationally and at the Home Office.
Affiliates are those who participate in and worship within the United Church of God, but are not Church members of UCG. They may be prospective members, children of members or adults who attend but have chosen not to become Church members.
Rule 1-120 Local Church Congregations
A local congregation is an assembly of Church members, wherever located, pastored by a minister recognized by the UCGIA, and governed by the published Rules of Association and the Constitution of the UCGIA. The organizational structure of a local congregation may consist of elders, deacons, deaconesses and Church members. In addition to this structure, advisory councils or committees may be formed.
Within the United States: In the United States, according to the governing documents of the UCGIA, the Home Office and Management Team serve the local congregations by administering the policies adopted and approved by the GCE and the Council [Article 4.2 of the Constitution of the UCGIA].
Outside of the United States: In areas outside the United States where a National Council exists, local congregations are administered by the National Council and pastored by an elder recognized by the UCGIA. In areas outside the United States where there is no National Council and no desire to form one, local congregations are administered by a neighboring National Council or by the Home Office and Management Team (see Rule 1-130).
Rule 1-130 National Councils
National Councils (or their equivalents) administer areas outside the United States as established by the Constitution of the UCGIA [ Article 126.96.36.199 of the Constitution of the UCGIA.]. In areas where there is no National Council (and no desire to have one), the brethren, in consultation with the Home Office, the Management Team and the Council of Elders, will determine the status of administration they will seek within the United Church of God. The choices are either a local congregation (or congregations) functioning under the administration of the Home Office and Management Team, or a local congregation (or congregations) functioning under the administration of a neighboring National Council.
Rule 1-140 Doctrine
All local congregations and National Councils of UCG accept and uphold the basic doctrines as listed in the Constitution of the UCGIA [Article 2 of the Constitution of the UCGIA]. Each realizes that this is not a complete listing of the doctrines of the Church. Each accepts the apostle Peter's instruction in 2 Peter:3:18 " . . . grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (NAS). Therefore, each must be willing to abide by the process for doctrinal development as outlined by the Council of Elders and adopted by the General Conference of Elders.
Rule 1-150 Qualifications for Membership
In order to be, and remain, a part of the UCGIA, all local congregations, National Councils and the local congregations served by said National Councils agree to adhere to the following standards. Each agrees to:
- Accept and uphold the fundamental beliefs of the UCGIA as stated in the Constitution.
- Abide by the decisions of the General Conference of Elders and the Council of Elders with respect to the goals and purposes of the UCGIA.
- Abide by the decisions of the General Conference of Elders and the Council of Elders with respect to matters of governance, provided these do not conflict with local or national law.
- Work within the constitutional structure of the UCGIA if desiring to bring about changes or improvements in doctrine, goals and purposes, or matters of governance.
Rule 1-160 Authority for Compliance
The Council of Elders and the General Conference of Elders, respectively, are authorized to adopt and ratify these rules [Article 8.6.2 (11) of the Bylaws of the UCGIA]. The local congregations and National Councils of UCG agree to conform to the conditions set forth in these rules by these bodies, provided such conditions do not conflict with national or local law.
Rule 1-170 Affirmative Duty of Devotion
Each member of this association agrees to support all others who are members of this association in complying with these rules. Therefore, no one who is a member of this association shall assist in, solicit or induce any violation of these rules. Amendments to these rules may be made in accordance with the process as referred to in the Preamble.
Rule 1-180 Use of the Name "United Church of God, an International Association"
The name "United Church of God, an International Association," is the name of the incorporated entity that has been established by the General Conference of Elders. The name "United Church of God, an International Association," is reserved for use by the corporation, unless the Council of Elders gives permission for other usage. If there is no desire to use the name "United Church of God, an International Association," it is recommended that members of the association use the name "United Church of God-(Location)," for example "United Church of God-France."
Because of legal and financial reasons, local congregations in the United States may not use the name "United Church of God, an International Association" without permission from the Council of Elders. Unless this permission is given to a local congregation in the United States, it is recommended that the name "United Church of God-(Location)," for example, "United Church of God-St. Louis," be used.
In nations where it is not possible to follow this pattern, representatives from the nation so affected shall choose a name, which incorporates "Church of God" in the title, and seek the recommendation of the Council as to further descriptive language. Such use is permitted by virtue of association with the United Church of God, an International Association.
Chapter 2: Local Congregations
Rule 2-100 Administration
A local congregation of UCG, wherever located, is pastored by an elder who has credentials from and is recognized by the UCGIA. The pastor shepherds the local congregation and may be assisted by elders, deacons, deaconesses and Church members. In addition to this structure, advisory councils (which term can include advisory committees and/or local advisory boards of directors) may be formed within each congregation for the administration of local church programs through a cooperative effort between the pastor and the congregation.
Where there is no National Council, local congregations are administered either by the Home Office and Management Team or a neighboring National Council as indicated in Chapter 1.
Rule 2-110 Collection of Funds/Assets
Within the United States: Tithes and offerings may be collected by local congregations and/or by the Home Office. Congregations that collect tithes and offerings locally are asked to pay their local operating expenses and then send the excess to the Home Office to assist in funding the mission of the Church, including salaries for those employed in the ministry as well as the other administrative and service obligations of the Church worldwide. An appropriate balance agreed upon by the Home Office, the Management Team, the Council of Elders and the local congregation, above and beyond operating costs, may be kept in local accounts. Any local building funds should be in compliance with the Local Church Building Policy adopted by the Council of Elders (copy of which is available upon request). Money raised in local church fund-raisers and special donations given as restricted funds are not considered when establishing appropriate fund balances for local accounts.
Outside the United States: National Councils (or equivalents) will establish their own procedures for the collection of tithes and offerings for their respective areas. Whether funds are collected locally or sent to a central source is determined by each National Council.
General Principles: To assist the UCGIA in its ability to present a complete financial picture of the organization, all U.S. congregations, through the local pastor or those he may designate, shall report the annual total of locally collected tithes and offerings to the Home Office in a timely manner as established by the Treasurer. Local congregations outside the United States shall follow guidelines established by the appropriate National Council. All congregations shall prepare annual budgets and follow budget guidelines given by the Treasurer or by National Councils in their respective areas. The Home Office, or National Council, whichever is the applicable administrative body, will work with the local congregations in order to achieve a mutually agreed upon budget.
Rule 2-120 Local Church Buildings
Each local congregation within the United States that desires to build or purchase a church building agrees to abide by the Local Church Building Policy of the UCGIA, approved by the Council of Elders. A copy of said policy is available on request from the Home Office or the Council of Elders.
In areas outside the United States, local congregations agree to comply with the policy developed by the appropriate National Council.
Rule 2-130 Ministerial Transfers
All elders employed by the UCGIA are subject to transfer and/or change in job description. Ministerial transfers within the United States shall conform to the transfer policy approved by the Council of Elders (such policy available on request). Because of the great sensitivity involved in any ministerial transfer, great care and effort will be exercised when arriving at each transfer decision. The effect upon the congregation, the minister and his family will be considered.
Outside the United States, the appropriate National Council (or its designee) will make these decisions. Transfers between nations where there is more than one National Council involved will require the approval of both National Councils (or equivalents) and the Council of Elders, in consultation with the Home Office and Management Team (as applicable). In the event of an unresolved dispute in the matter of transfers in areas outside the United States, the matter shall be taken to the Council of Elders (or its designee) for a decision.
Rule 2-140 Local Corporations in the United States
Local congregations in the United States may incorporate if they wish to do so. There is no legal requirement in the United States to be incorporated in order to collect funds; therefore, each congregation should analyze all the facts when deciding whether or not to incorporate. Whether to incorporate or not shall remain a local decision for each congregation. The Home Office should be notified of the formation of any new corporations. Appropriate legal counsel and support from the local congregation should be sought prior to the dissolution of any existing corporations. The fact that a local congregation in the United States is incorporated does not exempt the congregation from adherence to the Constitution and Bylaws of the UCGIA and to these Rules of Association.
Chapter 3: National Councils
Rule 3-100 Establishment of National Councils
National Councils (or their equivalents) may be established in all countries or areas of the world outside the United States, where needed and appropriate and desired by the Church members involved. Each National Council or congregation currently associated with the UCGIA is considered to be a member of the association. Future congregations or National Councils may become members of the association through their proper and legal representatives and upon approval by the Council of Elders. Since National Councils are subject to the laws of their respective countries, they are expected to be either directly responsible for the administration of the Church, or entrusted with the management of the work of and representation for the UCGIA in their respective countries.
In order for a National Council to be recognized as a member of this association, all individual members of said National Council must be, and remain, Church members in good standing of UCG (see Chapter 1 of these rules for definition).
Legal documents that have been locally adopted will determine the make-up of each National Council. In the future it is recommended that legal counsel for the UCGIA be consulted prior to the adoption of any legal documents and prior to the forming of a National Council. Said documents should describe the voting members of the corporation, unincorporated body or trust. Because of the ecclesiastical nature of some decisions, appropriate ministerial involvement and oversight should be provided for in the structure of each National Council. All officers, directors, trustees or voting members of the corporations or other governing structures of National Councils must be, and remain, members in good standing of UCG.
National Councils with structures and/or governance inconsistent with these Rules of Association at the time of their ratification should alter them to be consistent as soon as possible unless local law prohibits the changes. Otherwise, permission should be sought from the Council of Elders to allow such inconsistency. Each National Council shall ensure that the Home Office legal counsel has a current copy of their legal documents and shall furnish that office with any amendments thereto at or about the time they are adopted.
Rule 3-110 Administration
Each National Council shall maintain its own legal and administrative structure and direct its own affairs in accordance with its legal documents, these Rules of Association, the Constitution of the UCGIA and other applicable law. Each National Council will be, in its own country, the official representative of the UCGIA. In turn the UCGIA shall have, or be represented by, only one duly constituted National Council or equivalent body in each country, area of incorporation or geographical responsibility.
All congregations located in nations outside the United States, in areas where there exists a duly recognized National Council, shall be administered by that National Council, its legal documents, appropriate national law, the Constitution of the UCGIA and these Rules of Association. Therefore, such congregations are ineligible to seek direct oversight as a local congregation, or as a separate entity answering to the Home Office and Management Team or a neighboring National Council. Any conflict or dispute in this respect, which cannot be resolved, shall be referred by any one or all of the parties concerned to the Council of Elders, or those it designates, for resolution.
National Councils (or their equivalents) exist outside the United States, but there is no requirement to form a National Council in order for congregations or individual Church members to have membership in the United Church of God.
Rule 3-120 Establishing a Legal Structure
Each National Council is responsible for choosing the legal structure that most effectively enables the Church to accomplish its mission within its particular location and provides the maximum protection for the members of the Church and the Church's assets. These structures may consist of separate corporations, unincorporated associations or, if permitted, by registration of the UCGIA as a foreign corporation doing business in that country. Each National Council shall consult with the attorney(s) designated by the Council of Elders, in cooperation with local legal counsel, in determining which structure is best. To the extent possible (unless prevented by national or local law), the legal documents of each National Council shall establish the UCGIA as the general association of which that National Council and its congregations are members.
Local congregations in countries where there is no National Council may choose to set up a legal entity for the purpose of serving the Church and protecting the Church's assets.
Rule 3-130 Coordination of Resources
Each National Council of this association agrees to participate with the Council of Elders and the Home Office of the UCGIA (where appropriate) in the development of programs for the purpose of sharing available information and resources so that the mission of the Church may be accomplished. These programs will be developed through mutual cooperation among the Council of Elders, the Home Office and each respective National Council.
Member and subscriber records are vital assets in our worldwide work. Therefore, National Councils (or their equivalents) shall provide the Home Office or its mutually agreed upon designee with a complete database listing of all members, donors and subscribers, unless prohibited by national laws. The UCGIA agrees to preserve the integrity of all lists and further agrees to use the lists only with the written approval of the National Council involved, unless the National Council ceases to be a member of the UCGIA. National Councils shall send a current update of all such records to the Home Office, or its mutually agreed upon designee, no later than January 1 and July 1 of each calendar year.
Rule 3-140 Financial Subsidies
Each year as a part of the budget process, National Councils may submit to the Home Office of the UCGIA any request for financial subsidy. Along with the subsidy request, a financial statement showing the income and expenses for the current year and a proposed budget for the coming year should be included. The UCGIA is committed to providing financial subsidies, as funds permit, to areas that have need outside the United States. The final decision for financial subsidies will reside with the Council of Elders and the GCE as part of the budget approval process.
Chapter 4: Relationships and Duties
Rule 4-100 Dissemination of Teachings
All local congregations agree to participate in and support the development and teaching of doctrine for the edification of the Church and the proclamation of the gospel. This must be reflected by the National Councils providing their congregations access to key publications of the Home Office, including videos and periodic correspondence from the president, the Council of Elders and others. Local pastors in the United States also agree to properly transmit information and communication from the Home Office, the GCE and the Council of Elders to the congregations that they pastor. All agree to participate in a process for the further development of methods that allow for effectively spreading and teaching the truth of the Bible, allowing for consideration of the cultural context of the countries in which they are located.
Rule 4-110 Ordination of Elders
All local congregations and National Councils agree to the process for the ordination and/or credentialing of elders as adopted by the Council of Elders. Each National Council agrees to accept the scriptural standards and qualifications for elders and abide by Articles 4.3 and 4.3.1 of the Constitution. Since elders are expected to teach and are admitted to the General Conference, the Council of Elders must give final authorization for their ordination and/or credentialing.
Rule 4-120 Conflict Resolution
Conflict resolution is important for the well-being of each member of the association. The Council of Elders has developed policies for the resolving of conflicts among the Church membership and the ministry. These policies may be adjusted, but shall be applied in principle among all local congregations and National Councils in this association. The Council of Elders may adopt other policies and procedures regarding conflict resolution as needed. All such polices are available upon request from the Home Office or the Council of Elders.
Rule 4-130 Discipline
Consistent with the governing documents that provide for the day-to-day operation of the Church, the Council of Elders is authorized to interpret the meaning and provide for the enforcement of these Rules of Association.
Rule 4-140 Position of Home Office and Management Team
The Home Office serves as corporate headquarters for the United Church of God, an International Association. The Home Office staff and Management Team are charged with both serving and providing administrative oversight for all U.S. congregations. They will assist and cooperate with the National Councils (or equivalents) when requested and wherever possible. Local congregations outside the United States, without a National Council (or equivalent), are directly administered from the Home Office or their designees, or they may choose to operate under the administration of a National Council in a nearby country.