The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Erie is governed by Bylaws, last revised February 2022.
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Erie Bylaws
(Revised February 2022)
Section I. The name of this organization shall be The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Erie. *NOTE: Originally the name of this organization was The First Unitarian Society of Erie, Pennsylvania, as incorporated under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, May 24, 1898.
Section II. We unite ourselves together for the study and practice of morality and religion, as interpreted by the growing thought and noblest lives of humanity, believing that we may thereby prove helpful, one to another, and promote the cause of truth, righteousness, and love, in the world. (Bond of Union, adopted on March 22, 1898).
Section III. We shall maintain membership in the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations and by extension, the Central East Regional Group (CERG) or its successor(s). We will support its programs and services, and those of its designees, to the best of our ability and collective conscience.
Section IV. We work to be a safe congregation. We affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of all persons. We strive to provide a safe environment in which all can participate in the life of the Congregation. The Board of Trustees shall draft and periodically update the Safe Congregations policy, with the purpose of creating and maintaining a safe environment according to best practices of our denomination and in compliance with federal, state, and local regulations. The Safe Congregations policy shall be publicly available.
Section V. We strive to be a welcoming congregation. We work to affirm and promote the inclusion and participation of people of all identities* throughout all aspects of congregational life. This includes all programming, administration, and operations; of particular salience are decision-making processes involved in the appointment of volunteer leadership positions, the hiring of staff, and the calling of religious professionals. Being a welcoming congregation may include, but shall not be limited to, pursuing credentials such as the Welcoming Congregations certification (and regular renewal of that certification) through the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.
*with respect to race/ethnicity, socio-economic background, gender identity, sexual orientation, health status, age, and physical/cognitive/developmental ability, among others
Section I. Any person, 16 years of age or older, who is in sympathy with the spirit and purpose of this congregation as expressed in the Bond of Union, may become a member. The person becomes an official member by signing the membership book in the presence of the minister, any member of the Board of Trustees, or any member of the Membership Committee.
Section II. A voting member is one who has complied with the requirements of Section I, at least thirty (30) days prior to voting, continues to evidence an interest in the congregation’s affairs, and who makes a regular stated financial contribution to the support of the congregation. A new member shall make an initial payment on their signed financial pledge prior to voting. The Board of Trustees may waive the stated financial contribution requirement for voting membership
, on an individual member basis.
Section III. Membership shall be reviewed at least annually. Members who have requested resignation or have died shall be removed immediately. Members who have moved from the area and do not make a financial pledge, shall be removed after a period of one year. Members may be removed for cause by a vote of the Board per the Right Relations Policy.
Section I. Any person who has been a voting member of this congregation for six (6) months or more shall be qualified to hold office.
Section II. The officers of this congregation shall consist of a Board of seven (7) Trustees and a Treasurer who shall be elected at the Annual Meeting by the voting members of the congregation. Members of the Board of Trustees are elected to a term of three (3) years and the Treasurer to a term of one (1) year. The minister will serve as an ex officio member, without vote, of the Board, except when the majority of the Board votes to enter Executive Session.
Section III. Current members of the Board of Trustees shall not be eligible for election as Treasurer.
Section IV. The Trustees shall have the power to fill vacancies in their number and in the office of Treasurer until the next Annual Meeting following such vacancies. At the Annual Meeting, the congregation shall elect the required number of Trustees or Treasurer for the remainder of the unexpired term(s). Trustees and/or Treasurer who have been appointed or elected for the remainder of the unexpired terms shall be eligible for election.
Section V. From its own members, the Board of Trustees shall elect a President, Vice-President, and Secretary, who will constitute the Executive Committee. These officers shall serve in the same capacity for the Congregation.
Duties of Officers
Section I. The Board of Trustees shall hold regular monthly meetings. Special meetings shall be held at the call of the President, or upon written request of three members of the Board.
Section II. The President or, in the absence of the President, the Vice-President shall preside at Board and Congregational Meetings.
Section III. The Treasurer shall administer the system of collection, care and disbursement of all funds belonging to the Congregation, subject to the approval of the Board of Trustees. At Board Meetings the Treasurer shall present the Treasurer’s report and participate in discussions of financial issues.
Section IV. The Secretary shall record, post, and archive the minutes for the Board of Trustees and all Congregational Meetings, and shall prepare a list of current voting members for each meeting of the Congregation.
Section V. The Board of Trustees may appoint an auditor to review all financial records of the Congregation periodically and present an accounting of the records at the time of a Congregational Meeting.
Section VI. The Board of Trustees may appoint a Historian who shall organize and manage the historical and contemporary history of the Congregation.
Section VII. It shall be the duty of the Board of Trustees to arrange the terms of settlement of the Minister elected by the Congregation. It shall be the duty of the Board of Trustees to supply the pulpit when no regular Minister is settled, in collaboration with the Sunday Services Committee.
Section VIII. The Board of Trustees shall study the needs of the Congregation, and in consultation with the Minister, determine the policies of the Congregation.
- The Board of Trustees shall direct the Treasurer in the administration of the funds of the Congregation and shall arrange for the care of its property. The budget shall be approved by the congregation at the Annual Meeting. All cases of expenditures exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000), on matters not included in the annual budget, shall require Congregational approval by a majority of the voting members physically or virtually present, at a regular or special congregational meeting.
- The manner and time of raising funds are at the discretion of the Board of Trustees, in collaboration with the Finance Committee.
- The fiscal year of this Congregation shall be from July first (1st) through June thirtieth (30th).
Election and Resignation of Minister
Section I. The Board of Trustees may call a Minister to be duly elected to settlement. This election is held at a special meeting called for this purpose. To be elected, the Minister shall receive a three-fourths (75%) affirmative ballot vote cast by those voting members physically or virtually present, at the time of the vote. The Board of Trustees may seek guidance from the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations and by extension, the Central East Regional Group (CERG), or its successor(s) as they deem necessary.
Section II. A Minister, duly elected and installed by the Congregation, shall continue in office until
- The Minister, of free will, presents a resignation to the Board of Trustees, or
- The Minister is requested to resign by a minimum of forty percent (40%) of all voting members of the congregation. A vote for the resignation of the minister shall take place at a meeting called by the Board, or upon written petition of a minimum of twenty (20) voting members. This vote is taken at a special Congregational meeting called for this purpose, and a secret ballot shall be used. Voting members may be present physically or virtually.
Section III. Unless otherwise agreed by the Board of Trustees and the Minister, three months’ notice is required before any resignation of the Minister shall become effective.
Section IV. The Board of Trustees, with guidance from the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations and by extension, the Central East Regional Group (CERG), or its successor(s), shall consider hiring an interim or contract minister while conducting a search for a settled minister.
Section V. Upon request of the Board of Trustees, a Commissioned Lay Leader, trained and certified by the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations and/or, the Central East Regional Group (CERG), or its successor(s) and commissioned by the Congregation may be called upon to officiate on such occasions as weddings, dedications and funerals, and to provide counsel and leadership in denominational affairs.
Section I. The Annual Meeting of the Congregation shall be held in June at such time and place as the Trustees may decide. Prior to the annual meeting, the slate of officers shall be published.
Section II. Regular Congregational Meetings shall be held in the months of October and February, at such time and place as the Board of Trustees may designate.
Section III. Special meetings for stated purposes may be called by the President, or upon written request of ten (10) voting members of the Congregation to the Board of Trustees. (See also Article IX for special meetings regarding social action).
Section IV. A published notice shall be provided to each voting member of the Congregation, at least fifteen (15) days prior to any special meeting. No business pertaining to the disposal or purchase of property, settling or unsettling of a Minister, amending the Charter or Bylaws, or dissolution of the Congregation, shall be transacted without a Congregational meeting.
Section V. Twenty percent (20%) of the voting members shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business at any Annual, Regular, or Special Congregational meeting (except as noted in Article V. Section II B).
Section VI. Meetings shall be conducted according to Robert’s Rules of Order.
Legacies and Gifts
Section I. All legacies to the Congregation, not restricted by the donor, shall be placed in the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Erie General Endowment Fund Account (hereafter referred to as the Endowment Fund) within the Unitarian Universalist Common Association Endowment Fund. The distribution of the net value of the fund at a rate of four and one-half percent (4 ½%) per annum can be taken and used as the Board of Trustees sees fit. The principal of
such the Endowment Fund shall not be used for any purpose whatever,unless three-quarters (75%) of the voting members present, physically or virtually, at each of two successive Congregational Meetings, vote in the affirmative. A minimum of seven (7) days is required between meetings.
Section II. All gifts to the Congregation, not restricted by the donor, shall be placed in the Congregation’s Gift Fund. Monies in this fund will be used at the discretion of the Board of Trustees, in accordance with Article IV, Section IXA.
Section III. Restricted legacies and gifts accepted by the Board of Trustees shall be used in accordance with the intentions and wishes of the donor, for as long as is reasonably possible. At the discretion of the Board of Trustees, the restricted legacies and gifts may be placed into the Endowment Fund or Gift Fund.
Section I. The Bylaws may be amended upon the affirmative vote of three-quarters (75%) of the votes cast by the voting members present, physically or virtually, at the time of the vote, at any Congregational Meeting. The proposed Bylaw changes shall be provided to the voting members at least one (1) week prior to the vote.
Social Responsibility Statements
Section I. Before any statement of policy regarding social action is made in the name of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Erie the proposed policy shall be announced and a published notice provided to each voting member at least five (5) days prior to the vote. Decision on the policy shall be made at a subsequent meeting called for that purpose. An affirmative vote of eighty percent (80%) of the voting members present, physically or virtually, at the time of the vote, shall be required for passage.
Section II. The statement of policy may be rescinded by the congregation following the procedure outlined in Section I above.
Chamberlain Memorial Garden Commission
Section I. The Chamberlain Memorial Garden Commission shall consist of five persons. Two members are to be elected each year for a term of two years at the Annual Congregational Meeting. The fifth member is to be a member of the Board of Trustees who serves as the Commission’s liaison to the Board and has voting privileges on the Commission.
Section II. The purpose of this commission shall be to oversee the overall design of the memorial garden, its permanent plantings, its care and its administration.
Section III. The Bylaws of this commission are drafted by the commission and approved by the Board of Trustees. This commission is to be a self-sustaining financial entity.
Section I. Standing committees shall choose their own chairs. The chair shall be a voting member of the congregation, though non-voting members or friends of the congregation may be members of the committee. The Board shall appoint ad hoc committees.
Section II. No committee may obligate the Congregation financially without the consent of the
Executive Committee of the Board, except on items already in the approved budget of the Congregation.
Section III. The following standing committees are established to support the spiritual, social and organizational requirements of the Congregation:
Building and Grounds
Committee on Shared Ministry
Branches of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Erie
Section I. A branch is any group, living more than thirty (30) miles away from the location of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Erie, who wish to join together to worship under the Bylaws and policies of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Erie.
Section II. To become a branch of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Erie, the group’s spokesperson shall present a written request to the Board of Trustees. With approval from the Board of Trustees, such request will be submitted to the Congregation for final approval. A vote will be taken at a regular or special meeting of the Congregation. Approval to become a branch of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Erie will require three-fourths (75%) affirmative vote, of the voting members present, physically or virtually, at the time of the vote.
Section III. Participants in the branch may become members of the Congregation, with all the rights and responsibilities of membership. (See Article II)
Section IV. Members of the Branch will make their annual financial pledge to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Erie. Monies from pledges, plate cash, and fundraisers will become part of the general fund.
Section V. No branch may obligate the Congregation financially without the consent of the Executive Committee of the Board, except on items already in the approved budget of the Congregation.
Section VI. In the absence of meetings or other activity for a period of one (1) year, the branch shall be dissolved.
Dissolution of the Congregation
Section I. Any action to dissolve the Congregation must be approved by a two-thirds (66%) vote of all eligible voting members of the Congregation present at a meeting called to specifically consider such action, for which meeting written notice has been issued to all members eligible to vote in accordance with the provisions of these bylaws.
Section II. Should this Congregation cease to function and the membership vote to
disband dissolve, any assets of the Congregation shall be assigned to the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations and by extension, the Central East Regional Group (CERG), or its successor(s), to be used for the extension of liberal religion in the vicinity. The Board of Trustees of the congregation shall perform all actions necessary to effect such conveyance.