Process for Developing the New NEC Constitution
NEC Standing Constitution Committee
At the NEC Session in 2016 a standing 'Constitution Committee' was voted. 'Standing' means that its work continues throughout the quadrennium. This committee is one of four committees recommended by the 'Recommendations Committee' and approved by the delegates, and its purpose is to review the constitution and to recommend any changes to the next NEC session. As it says in the current constitution under Article 7c:
Constitution Committee This committee shall consist of from nine to fifteen (9-15) members, excluding the chair. The committee shall function between the regular sessions as a standing committee, and shall submit its reports and detailed recommendations to the Executive Committee for consideration by the next session. (See Article 19)
According to Article 19 of the current NEC Constitution, the constitution can only be amended by the following process:
(a) This Constitution may be amended by a resolution passed by a two-thirds majority of the voters present and voting at any regular session, provided that:
- at least twenty-eight (28) days notice of any proposed change has been given.
- should it be necessary at any time to call an extraordinary session for the amending of this Constitution, due notice shall be given in the call for such extraordinary session of any proposal concerning any amendment or amendments.
- no amendment shall be made which would alter the Purpose as set forth in Article 3 (a) and no amendment shall be valid if its effect would be that this Conference ceased to be a charity according to English law.
(b) Notification of all amendments to this Constitution shall be given to the British Union Conference and to the Charity Commissioners. Prior written approval for any amendment which would confer any benefit on any of the members of the Executive Committee must be obtained from both Organisations.
Constitution Committee Members
The NEC Constitution Committee is made up of the following people:
- Kenneth Burt
- Maureen Clarke
- Sally-Ann Flemmings Danquah
- Paul Haworth
- Clarissa Lewis
- Thamsanqua Mabi
- Masimba Mavaza
- Resistance Muroiwa
- Estery Mwanjoka
- Jeffet Nicholson
- Derrick Thorpe
According to the General Conference model constitution, an officer of the British Union Conference should be a member of this committee and the secretary should be the NEC Executive Secretary or their designee.
One of the great strengths of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is its worldwide structure. By working together, in harmony, we can be much stronger and more effective than if we operated independently. Apart from our doctrines, the main thing that binds us together legally and structurally, is our constitution. (For more on this see A Strong Constitution in the 12 August 2016 edition of Messenger, and We are, first and foremost, a church! in the 4 June 2020 edition of Messenger.)
Around the world each administrative level of the church has its own constitution: General Conference (which is divided into world divisions), Union, and Conference. Missions are not as independent as the higher levels, but they still have 'Operating Policies', which are like mini-constitutions.
Legally, unions and conferences are pretty much independent, and their so constitutions are voted by their local constituents. However, recognising that we belong to one worldwide organisation, unions, conferences and missions generally choose to follow, as closely as possible, the 'model' constitutions provided by the General Conference. Of course the General Conference recognises that countries and cultures can be very different. So, in order to allow for differences, while at the same time maintaining unity across the world, the General Conference model constitutions have two different 'levels'. There is a 'core' level, which is written in bold type, and there is a 'guidance' level, which is written in standard type. Unions and conferences around the world are required to include the bold sections in their own constitutions, but they can modify the rest of the document to suit their own particular requirements.
There may be some cases where, for legal reasons say, a union or conference wishes to modify something which is in bold type. In these cases the proposed revisions must be submitted to the legal department at the General Conference, and their approval obtained, before the new constitution is voted by the union or conference constituency delegates at a session.
If a union or conference decides to ignore some of the bold sections of the model constitution without General Conference approval, and the session votes the changes, then the union or conference runs the risk of finding itself in a state of non-compliance with the General Conference. In these cases the General Conference will work with the union or conference to try to restore unity, but they do have the ultimate sanction of removing non-compliant fields from the official Seventh-day Adventist church (though this is rarely used).
All of the above is subject to the laws of the country in which the conference or union operates, and in our case we are also subject to the Charity Commission. Care must be taken to ensure compliance with each of these before the final document is presented for approval at the session.
The Work of the NEC Constitution Committee
Recognising all of the above, the NEC Constitution Committee sees its purpose as being:
- To bring the NEC Constitution in to line with the GC Model Conference Constitution.
- To include any additional elements necessary for the smooth and stable operation of the NEC.
- To create a final draft constitution document which is easy to understand, explain, and reconcile with the GC Model Conference Constitution.
- To combine the 'articles' and 'bylaws' from the model constitution into a simple list of 'articles', as UK law does not usually use 'bylaws' in constitutions.
- To ensure that the draft constitution document complies with the law and the requirements of the Charity Commission.
- To obtain approval for the draft constitution document from the NEC Executive Committee.
- To inform the wider constituence of the proposed changes, well in advance of the NEC Session. This is really the responsibility of the NEC Executive Committee and Administration, but the more in-depth knowledge and experience of the Constitution Committee may make this body better suited to rolling out an information strategy.