"The MIGHTY Lord is with us; the God of Jacob is our FORTRESS." Psalm 46:7
 
 

PREAMBLE

WHEREAS, the Apostle Paul sets forth in 1 Corinthians 14:40 that all things in the church shall be done "in a fitting and orderly way," and

WHEREAS, the history of the Christian church of all times shows that certain agreements and regulations are helpful to fulfill the purpose and attain the objectives of congregations; therefore be it

RESOLVED, that we, a congregation of Lutheran Christians at Seward, Nebraska do herewith, in the name of the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and by subscribing our names hereto, adopt the following CONSTITUTION AND BYLAWS.

CONSTITUTION

ARTICLE I
NAME OF CONGREGATION

The name of this congregation shall be Mighty Fortress Evangelical Lutheran Church of Seward, Seward County, in the state of Nebraska.

ARTICLE II
ARTICLES OF FAITH

1.         This congregation accepts and confesses all the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments as the verbally inspired and inerrant Word of God and submits to this Word as the only infallible authority of all matters of faith and life (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

2.         This congregation accepts and confesses all the symbolical books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church contained in the Book of Concord of 1580 as true statements of scriptural doctrine. They are:

                         A. The three ecumenical Creeds  
                      
                        1)  The Apostles'

                        2)  The Nicene

                        3)  The Athanasian

                        B.  The Lutheran Confessions

                        1)   Dr. Martin Luther's Small Catechism

                        2)   Dr. Martin Luther's Large Catechism

3)     The Unaltered Augsburg Confession

4)     The Apology of the Augsburg Confession

5)     The Smalcald Articles (including the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope)

6)     The Formula of Concord

7)     The Solid (or Thorough) declaration of the Formula of Concord

3.         This congregation accepts and confesses these symbolical books without reservation, not insofar as, but because they are the presentation and explanation of the pure doctrine of the Word of God and a summary of the faith held by the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

4.         No doctrine shall be taught or tolerated in this congregation, which is in any way at variance with the Holy Scriptures and these symbolical books.

5.         This congregation also accepts the formal statement of faith, adopted on September 21, 2004 as part of these articles of faith, and is included as part of this constitution by reference.

6.         This congregation shall not affiliate itself with any denomination, synod, or church body, which does not uphold Article II of this Constitution in both doctrine and practice.

ARTICLE III
Membership and Voting

1.            Members of this congregation shall be those who have been legally received into the congregation and those whose membership has not later been withdrawn or transferred, or who have not been expelled.

2.         All children of parents who belong to the congregation become members through Baptism.  Children of non-members become members of this congregation by the act of confirmation.

3.         Adults who are to be received into the congregation must:

            a.         Be baptized with Christian Baptism;

            b.         Be confirmed or have a knowledge of Christian doctrine equivalent to that required for confirmation;

            c.         By confession and life show that they seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness;

            d.         Subscribe to this constitution and partake according to ability in the work and the expenses of the
                        congregation.

4.            Admission may be granted forthwith when an applicant presents a letter of transfer duly issued from some other Lutheran congregation.

5.                   All members who are of legal age (18 years) and not under church censure have the right to vote.

ARTICLE IV
Meetings of the Congregation

1.         The power and authority of this congregation are exercised at the congregational meetings, which shall consist of voting members, whose decisions shall be valid when the meeting has been called in a legal manner.

2.         The duties of the congregational meetings are:

            a.         To elect all officers and standing committees of the congregation;

            b.         To adopt such rules and make such decisions which are considered to be of benefit and edification,
                        and which do not conflict with this Constitution;

            c.         To decide regarding hymnbooks and books of instruction;

            d.         To determine the budget of the congregation and decide how it shall be raised;

            e.         To ratify the admission of members to the congregation upon recommendation of the Church Council.

3.         The annual business meeting of this congregation shall be held some time in the month of  January at a date to be chosen each year by the Church Council.  An alternate month may be chosen by the consensus of the Church Council if an appropriate date in January is not available.

4.         The Chairman of the congregation (or an apointee of the Chairman) shall preside at the business meetings and will be elected each year at the annual meeting.

5.         In addition to the annual meeting, the congregation may hold three (3) quarterly business meetings.  Special meetings may be called by the Pastor or Church Council; or, during a vacancy, by the Chairman elected by the congregation.  Special meetings may likewise be called when five (5) voting members request the same in writing.

6.         All congregational meetings are legally called when they have been announced at the public services of the congregation on two (2) weekends previously.

7.         Twenty five percent (25%) of the voting membership shall constitute a quorum.                                                


ARTICLE V
Congregational Officers and Committees


1.         The officers and standing committees of this congregation are:                                                                           

            a.         Pastor

            b.         Chairman

            c.         Secretary

            d.         A Board of Deacons

            e.         A Board of Trustees

            f.          Financial Secretary       

            g.         Treasurer

            h.         Sunday School Superintendent

            i.          A Nominating Committee (minimum 2 members)

            j.          An Auditing Committee (minimum 2 members)

2.         Pastor's Call and responsibilities

            a.         The Pastor is the spiritual leader of the congregation and an ex officio member and advisor to all boards, committees, and officers of the congregation as well as of all subsidiary societies in the congregation. 

            b.         The election or discharge of a Pastor must take place at a legally called business meeting of the congregation and requires a two-thirds majority of votes cast.

            c.         The Pastor shall be duly trained, examined and ordained for the ministry of the Word of God in Lutheran congregations, and conduct his ministry in accordance with Article II of this constitution.  Lay ministers may be considered with special exceptions.        

            d.         If the Pastor wishes to resign, or in the event of his discharge, said resignation or discharge shall not be effective until  a date (not more than 90 days after the date of resignation) mutually agreed upon by the Pastor and congregation.

3.         The Chairman of the congregation shall preside at the business meetings, and will be elected each year by the annual meeting for a term of one year.

4.         The Secretary shall carefully record the minutes of all the business meetings of the congregation and council, and as co-archivist preserve the records, and perform all other duties usually incumbent upon the office.  The Secretary shall be elected by the annual meeting for a term of one year.

5.         The Treasurer shall keep all financial accounts of the congregation, receive all contributions for current expenses or benevolences, and disburse the same according to the decision of the congregation or the Church Council.  The Treasurer shall be elected by the annual meeting for a term of one (1) year.  All financial accounts shall be audited by the Auditing Committee prior to the annual meeting, which shall report to the congregation.

6.           The Financial Secretary shall keep records of the giving of each of itís members.  At the beginning of each year, the Financial Secretary shall distribute to each member a record of their previous yearís giving.  The Financial Secretary shall be elected by the annual meeting for a term of one (1) year.

7.         The Sunday School Superintendent shall have charge of the Sunday School and, with the necessary assistance, shall conduct it according to the rules of the congregation.  The Sunday School Superintendent shall be elected by the annual meeting for a term of one (1) year.

8.         The Deacons shall be persons known for their Christian life and character, being patterns of the flock and setting a good example in their manner of life.  They shall assist the Pastor in the spiritual care of the congregation.  One or more Deacons shall be elected each year at the annual meeting for a term of three (3) years each.

9.         The Board of Trustees shall have charge of the financial and material affairs of the congregation.  They are elected, one or more each year, for a term of three (3) years each.

10.         The Chairman, Pastor, Secretary, Board of Deacons, Board of Trustees, Financial Secretary, Treasurer and Sunday School Superintendent shall constitute the Church Council.

11.        All the officers of the congregation are accountable to the congregation for their official acts.                           

ARTICLE VI
Property of the Congregation

The property of the congregation cannot be disposed of or encumbered, except by decision made by a two-thirds majority of members present at a legal meeting of the congregation.  In case of a division of the congregation, the property shall remain the possession of that part of the congregation which remains faithful to this constitution.

ARTICLE VII
Change of Constitution and Amendments

1.         Articles II, VI, and VII of this Constitution shall be unalterable and unrepealable.

2.         This Constitution, except Articles II, VI, and VII, may be amended through the following procedure: A motion for amendment of this constitution must be made in writing at the annual meeting of the congregation, and cannot be enacted until the said amendment has been considered again at the next annual meeting, at which time a two-thirds majority vote of those present shall be required.

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ADOPTED BY THE CONGREGATION ON THE TWENTY-THIRD OF APRIL, IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD, TWO-THOUSAND AND SIX.

BY-LAWS

SECTION I
Denominational Affiliation

 This congregation affiliates itself with the American Association of Lutheran Churches, endorses its Guiding Principles and Rules for Work, joins in fellowship with all its congregations and sister church bodies, and supports its benevolences, that is, missions at home and abroad, Christian education and charities.

SECTION II
Duties of Members

1.         It is the duty of every member of voting age to attend all legally called business meetings of the congregation, unless good and valid reasons should hinder.

2.         The congregation desires that all its members should faithfully attend the worship services of the church, and that everyone should work according to his measure of faith and the grace given him toward his own salvation and the edification of the brethren.  All should support the congregation in its struggle against the world and the devil, as well as in its efforts to spread and establish the Kingdom of God among all people on earth (Ephesians 4; Matthew 28:18-20).

3.            Recognizing that all good gifts come from above, all members shall, according as God has prospered them, contribute toward the current expenses of the congregation, as well as to other Christian schools, missions and charitable institutions.

4.         All members, and especially parents, should exercise due concern for the instruction of the young in the Christian faith in Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and the Confirmation Class.

                                                                                SECTION III
                                                         Procedure at Congregational Meetings

1.         All meetings of the congregation shall open with Scripture reading and prayer, and shall close with prayer.      


2.         The order of business for the annual meeting is:

            a.         The reading of the minutes of the previous meeting of the congregation;

            b.         The report of the Pastor concerning the spiritual conditions of the congregation, ministerial acts
                        performed, and recommendations by the Board of Deacons;

            c.         The report of the Board of Deacons concerning their activity;

            d.         The report of the Board of Trustees concerning the business affairs of the congregation by the
                        Chairman of the Board and the congregational Treasurer;

            e.         The report of the Superintendent of the Sunday School;    

            f.          Report from Church Organizations;

            g.         Unfinished Business, including acceptance of new members into the congregation;

            h.         The election of officers and standing committees;

            i.          New Business;

            j.          Miscellaneous items.

3.         The officers of the congregation to be elected at the annual business meeting are:

            a.         Chairman

            b.         Secretary

            c.         Treasurer

            d.         Financial Secretary

            e.         Sunday School Superintendent

            f.          One or more Deacons

            g.         One or more Trustees

            h.         One or more members to the Christian Education Committee

            i.          An Auditing Committee for one (1) year

            j.          A Nominating Committee for one (1) year

4.         Special business meetings shall be conducted in the same order as the annual meeting, except in the election of officers.

5.            Parliamentary procedure and protocol for all congregational and council meetings shall be conducted according to Robertís Rules of Order, the latest edition.

SECTION IV
Methods of Electing Officers

1.         When calling a Pastor, the congregation shall proceed as follows:

            a.         At a legally called business meeting a Nominating Committee of three (3) members shall be elected by ballot to select candidates and report at the next meeting of the congregation.  For this purpose it is desirable that the President of the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations be consulted.  Nominations may also be made from the floor.

            b.         Election of a Pastor shall be by ballot, and a two-thirds majority of all votes cast shall be required.

            c.         In a case where more than two (2) candidates are submitted, the one receiving the lowest number of votes in each balloting shall be eliminated from the next ballot until a decision shall has been reached.

            d.         A Letter of Call shall be executed by the Board of Deacons and the Secretary of the congregation according to the form appended to these By-Laws, signed as indicated, and sent to the candidate, together with a copy of this Constitution and By-Laws.

e.             If the call is accepted, the Pastor shall be duly installed by a church official of the       American Association of Lutheran Churches who shall have been agreed upon       by the Pastor and the Board of Deacons.

2.         All officers of the congregation shall be elected by ballot. 

3.             Nominations for all offices to be filled at the annual meeting shall be submitted by the nominating committee.  The nominating committee shall submit their nominations to the congregation at least one (1) weekend before the annual meeting.  Nominations shall not be closed for any office except by decision of the meeting.

4.         It is recommended that no person shall serve for more than two (2) consecutive terms as Deacon or Trustee.

5.         The same person shall not hold office both as Deacon and Trustee in the congregation at the same time.

6.         No person shall be elected Deacon or Trustee who has not been a member of the congregation for at least one (1) year.

7.            Vacancies shall be filled by elections at congregational meetings, those so elected holding office for the remainder of the unexpired term.

8.         The congregation is encouraged to be represented at, and otherwise support all regional and national conferences and conventions of the American Association of Lutheran Churches.

SECTION V
Duties of the Deacons

1.         The Board of Deacons shall elect from its midst a Secretary who shall carefully record all decisions.

2.         They shall, during the absence of the Pastor, or during a vacancy, either personally or through some other qualified person, lead the congregation in divine worship.

3.         They shall be mindful of the spiritual condition of the congregation, of the attendance at services, of the sick and needy, and shall consider plans which will further the spiritual growth of the congregation.

4.         When the congregation has a Vacation Bible School, the Board of Deacons shall supervise the same, as well as remind parents concerning their duties to their children where neglect occurs.

5.         The Board of Deacons shall submit nominations for the office of Superintendent of the Sunday School to the annual meeting (or other regularly called meeting) for election by the congregation.  The Board of Deacons shall submit their nominations to the congregation at least one (1) weekend before the annual meeting (or other regularly called meeting).

6.         They shall also function as a "Board of Stewardship" to disseminate information about the principles, practices and blessings of Christian Stewardship; promote interest in the causes of our Common Endeavors of the American Association of Lutheran Churches; supervise the regular and systematic in-gathering of offerings for the same, and provide for the regular and prompt payment of such funds to the Church Treasurer, and through him to the proper treasurers for our Common Endeavors.

SECTION VI
Duties of the Trustees

1.         The Trustees shall hold the property of the congregation in trust for the use and benefit of the congregation, and shall preserve the deeds and other valuable papers and documents.

2.         The Trustees shall not buy, sell, rent or mortgage the property of the congregation without the consent of the congregation.  (See Article VI of Constitution)

3.         The Trustees have under no circumstances the right to hinder the Pastor of the congregation from using the church as directed by the congregation.

4.         The trustees shall maintain the church and property in good and proper condition for the use of the congregation, and furnish common utilities for the church as needed.

5.         The Board of Trustees, together with the Treasurer, shall be individually and collectively responsible for the funds of the church.  The Board may require a report or a personal meeting of the Treasurer at any time.

6.         The congregation may elect separate treasurers for special collections of funds, but their accounts, when finished, shall be turned over to the Board of Trustees, which reports concerning the same to the annual meeting.

7.         The Board of Trustees shall elect from its midst a Chairman, and a Secretary who shall carefully record all proceedings of the Board, and be responsible for all records of said Board.

8.         The Chairman of the Board of Trustees shall report to the annual meeting concerning the business affairs of the congregation.

9.         The Board of Trustees shall supervise the collection of funds for the expenses of the congregation.  It shall also submit to the annual meeting a budget for current and other necessary expenses for the ensuing year.

SECTION VII
Admission of New Members

1.         When anyone who is eligible desires to become a member of the congregation, he shall apply to the Pastor who shall, partly by conversation and partly by conferring with the Board of Deacons, make themselves acquainted with the faith and life of the person in question.  If the Pastor and Board of Deacons approve of his admission, his application for membership shall be recommended to the next church council meeting.

2.         Individuals transferring in from other Lutheran congregations shall request a letter of transfer or some form of release from their former congregation.  Such persons must satisfy the requirements for membership mentioned in Article III of this constitution.    

3.         When non-Lutheran persons desire to become members of this congregation, aside from being able to satisfy the requirements for membership mentioned in Article III of this constitution, they should be willing to receive instruction in Luther's Small Catechism, with special attention to the "Articles of the Creed" and the Lutheran Biblical teaching of the two Holy Sacraments.  Christian truth as set forth in the Catechism must be accepted unreservedly by such applicants, either by the rite of confirmation or in some other manner satisfactory to the Board of Deacons, prior to their acceptance into membership.

4.         The church council shall, by a rising vote, act upon each application for membership at a regular or specially called meeting of the church council. and  A simple majority of votes shall be necessary to accept the application.

5.         When new members have been accepted by the church council, they shall be formally received and welcomed at a public service. 

6.         The Pastor and his family shall automatically become members of the congregation where they shall reside by his acceptance of the Letter of Call.

7.         In order to recognize special circumstances where people wish to become affiliated with our congregation while at the same time retaining membership in a different congregation (including, but not limited to:  university students, seasonal residents, or others with special situations), they may be granted, at the discretion of the church council, an associate membership.  Those wishing associate membership must be a current member in good standing of a Lutheran congregation within our fellowship, and will continue to retain their regular membership in their home congregation concurrently with the associate membership at Mighty Fortress.  The qualifications for associate membership, along with the responsibilities, rights, and privileges, shall be the same as for a full member of the congregation, and will be regarded no differently than a full member, with the following exceptions:           

            a.  An associate member shall not be an officer of the congregation.
            b.  An associate member shall not vote in any congregational voters' meeting.

            Associate members may be elected to the various boards and committees of the congregation, and may even chair such committees.  Associate members will also have the right to speak at any meeting, and have the ability to entertain and second motions. 

            The associate member may, at any time, request a transfer from their home congregation.  Upon receipt of the letter of transfer and ratification by the church council, the associate membership would cease, and the person would then automatically become a full member of the congregation without any further action.       

            Should disciplinary action become necessary with an associate member, the same procedure shall be followed as with any other member (cf. By-Laws, section X).  Disciplinary action shall occur with the full knowledge and cooperation of the associate member's home congregation, which shall deal with the disciplinary action in their midst according to their own Constitution and By-Laws, insofar as it agrees with the procedure specified in Matthew 18:15-18.   

1.         When anyone who is eligible desires to become a member of the congregation, he shall apply to the Pastor who shall, partly by conversation and partly by conferring with the Board of Deacons, make themselves acquainted with the faith and life of the person in question.  If the Pastor and Board of Deacons approve of his admission, his application for membership shall be recommended to the next church council meeting, and ratified at the next business meeting of the congregation.

2.            Individuals transferring in from other Lutheran congregations shall request a letter of transfer or some form of release from their former congregation.  Such persons must satisfy the requirements for membership mentioned in Article III of this constitution.   

3.         When non-Lutheran persons desire to become members of this congregation, aside from being able to satisfy the requirements for membership mentioned in Article III of this constitution, they should be willing to receive instruction in Luther's Small Catechism, with special attention to the "Articles of the Creed" and the Lutheran interpretation of the two Holy Sacraments.  Christian truth as set forth in the Catechism must be accepted unreservedly by such applicants, either by the rite of confirmation or in some other manner satisfactory to the Board of Deacons, prior to their acceptance into membership.

4.         The congregation shall, by a rising vote, act upon each application for membership at a business meeting of the congregation, and a simple majority of votes shall be necessary to accept the application.

5.         When new members have been accepted by the congregation at a business meeting, they shall be formally received and welcomed at a public service. 

6.         The Pastor and his family shall automatically become members of the congregation where they shall reside by his acceptance of the Letter of Call.

SECTION VIII
The Exercise of the Right to Vote

1.         A list of the voting members of the congregation shall always be available for the chairman at every meeting of the congregation, and shall be read upon demand by the congregation.

2.            Members who are under church discipline cannot exercise their right to vote from the time their case is laid before the congregation by the Board of Deacons until they are again received into full fellowship by the congregation.


                                                                                       SECTION IX
                                                                                   Church Discipline

1.         The congregation zealously watches over the purity of doctrine and life of its members, and when anyone is overtaken in any trespass it strives in the spirit of meekness and love to restore such a one in accordance with Matthew 18:15-18 and Galatians 6:1.

2.         With this purpose in mind, it is forbidden for anyone to accuse a brother before the congregation without first having sought privately to admonish him in love.

3.         If such admonition fails, the case may be brought before the Board of Deacons, which thereupon, after careful consideration, shall seek through admonition and conviction by the Word of God to bring the erring one to confession and repentance.

4.         If these methods fail, the Board of Deacons shall submit the matter to the congregation, together with its recommendation as to the proper course to be pursued.  The means the congregation may employ are:

            a.         Admonition and intercessory prayer in the assembly of the congregation;

            b.         Exclusion from participating in the Lord's Supper;

            c.         Expulsion from the congregation.

5.            Manifest indifference to the Word of God, and persistent nonattendance at divine worship shall be investigated by the Board of Deacons, which shall, by loving admonition and prayer in their behalf, seek to bring the negligent members of the congregation back to the assembly of the church.

SECTION X
Change of By-Laws

A proposal for a change in, or addition to, these By-Laws may be submitted in writing to any congregational meeting, and cannot be acted upon until the annual meeting following.  A two-thirds vote of the members present is required for adoption.

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ADOPTED BY THE CONGREGATION ON THE TWENTY-THIRD OF APRIL, IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD, TWO-THOUSAND AND SIX.

BY-LAWS AMENDED BY UNANIMOUS VOTE OF THE CONGREGATION ON THE THIRTIETH DAY OF JANUARY, IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD, TWO-THOUSAND ELEVEN.

BY-LAWS AMENDED BY UNANIMOUS VOTE OF THE CONGREATION ON THE 13TH DAY OF JANUARY, IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD, TWO-THOUSAND THIRTEEN.

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