BUC Constitution - Process
BUC Standing Constitution Committee

At the BUC 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 BUC session. The current constitution defines the size of this committee in Article 9(a)(iii)[ii]:

"A Constitution Committee which shall consist of nine to fifteen (9-15) members;"

According to Article 21 of the current BUC Constitution, the constitution can only be amended by the following process:

(a) The Constitution of this Union Conference may be amended at any duly called session by two-thirds vote of the delegates present and voting. All proposed amendments shall be considered by the standing Constitution Committee before being approved by the Session and not less than twenty-eight (28) days' notice thereof shall be given.

(b) If it is proposed to amend the Constitution at any extraordinary session, notice of such proposed amendments shall be given specifically in conjunction with the notice calling such extraordinary session.

(c) 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 Union Conference ceased to be a charity according to English law.

(d) The Executive Committee shall promptly provide the Charity Commissioners with a copy of any amendment made under this clause.

(e) The members of the Executive Committee must obtain the prior written approval of the Commissioners to any amendment which would confer any benefit on any of the members of the Executive Committee.

Constitution Committee Members

The BUC Constitution Committee is made up of the following people, who were voted at the 2016 Session:

  • BUC Executive Secretary (Chair)
  • NEC Executive Secretary
  • SEC Executive Secretary
  • TED Executive Secretary
  • Miss Annette Hutchinson,SEC
  • Pastor Michael Taylor, SEC
  • Dr Robert Mokaya, NEC
  • Miss Karen Weekes, NEC

Note that one other person was voted, but they are no longer able to serve.

According to the General Conference model constitution, an officer of the Trans-European Division should be a member of this committee and the secretary should be the BUC Executive Secretary or their designee.

Guiding Principles

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 BUC Constitution Committee

Recognising all of the above, the BUC Constitution Committee sees its purpose as being:

  • To bring the BUC Constitution in to line with the GC Model Union Constitution.
  • To include any additional elements necessary for the smooth and stable operation of the BUC.
  • To create a final draft constitution document which is easy to understand, explain, and reconcile with the GC Model Union Constitution.
  • To combine the 'articles' and 'bylaws' from the model constitution into a simple list of 'articles', as UK charities do 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 BUC Executive Committee.
  • To inform the wider constituency of the proposed changes, well in advance of the BUC Session. This is really the responsibility of the BUC 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.

The BUC Constitution Committee met by Zoom on Monday 27 July 2020 to agree these principles and began the process which will lead to a finished document.