To NWMN Pastors and Churches:

The corona virus pandemic and accompanying governmental restrictions have brought about unprecedented challenges to standard church operating procedures, including the ability to follow the church governance documents (Bylaws or Constitution & Bylaws). For example, we have received questions from pastors about:
  • Interruption of regularly scheduled services when our bylaws prescribe that we are to meet every Sunday, etc.
  • Bylaws that require an annual business meeting at a certain time and place.
  • Bylaws that require that elections be done during said annual business meeting.
  • Bylaws that mention “loyalty to our government” along with questions about when or how we meet for worship.
Essentially, we are facing issues we have never faced before causing dilemmas we have never considered. Richard Hammar, the top church/law expert in the USA and attorney for the General Council of the Assemblies of God, assures us that the current pandemic and governmental restrictions on meetings are not a violation of First Amendment freedom of religious rights, nor do they restrict our freedom of religion. They are a temporary inconvenience to protect the greater good of the citizens from a potential health crisis.
In addition, we have consulted with our local attorney, Caleb Stewart, and he affirms that such measures do not conflict with local or state laws or constitution. Both Hammar and Stewart urge our churches to comply with all emergency measures regarding meetings, and failure to comply places them at great risk.

In addition, for churches in both Washington and Idaho, there are emergency provisions in nonprofit corporate law that give church boards the right to enact “emergency powers” or “emergency bylaws” during a time of national or state emergency. The President of the United States and the Governors of both Washington and Idaho have declared states of emergency at the federal and state level. These declarations and other accompanying mandates about meetings and social distancing give church boards the right to enact “emergency bylaws” that would temporarily bypass any church bylaw that your church is unable to comply with, given the present state of emergency.
For example, a church board could pass a resolution as follows, or something similar, depending upon whether your church is in Washington or Idaho:
Whereas , the President of the United States and the Governors of the State of Washington  or  Idaho have both declared a state of emergency due to the Covid-19 Virus Pandemic, a virus that has created the need to take unprecedented measures in order to stop the spread of the virus, and
Whereas,  those declarations and accompanying state and federal mandates have restricted gatherings and meetings, making it impossible for the annual business meeting of XYZ Church to take place according to the XYZ Bylaws, and
Whereas , pursuant to RCW 24.03.070 and 23B.02.070  or  Idaho State Nonprofit Corporation Act 30-30-207 or 30-30-303 regarding Emergency Bylaws, absent any direction to the contrary in XYZ Church Bylaws, current state law provides for situations such as this, giving the board of directors of XYZ Church authority to enact special emergency bylaws to accommodate such emergency,
Therefore be it resolved,  that the XYZ Church Board of Directors be granted emergency power by act of this resolution to enact an emergency bylaw provision in the following manner: pursuant to the aforementioned state laws, this board resolves to bypass any and all of the current XYZ Bylaws as needed in order to comply with all federal and state requirements and/or regulations pertaining to meetings or other accompanying standard operating procedure business of the church such as elections, and
Therefore be it further resolved , that the XYZ Church Board of Directors be granted the power to act in any legal, reasonable and prudent manner they deem necessary to conduct such business that may conflict with current XYZ Church Bylaw provisions or requirements, including the suspension of an annual business meeting and other regular business until such a time as the current pandemic is resolved and emergency measures are lifted.

By this action the board of XYZ Church exercises fiduciary responsibility for protecting the best interests of the church membership, and the spread of the Gospel in this community, and further agrees that this shall be in effect until such time as the Federal or State government determines the current Corona Virus Pandemic state of emergency to be over. At such time, standard operating procedures for church business and compliance with regular XYZ Church Bylaws will resume.
With such a resolution passed by the church board in a duly called official board meeting, the board could navigate issues such as postponing an annual business meeting or elections until such time as it is safe or practical to do so, or implement other processes to mitigate bylaw requirements at their discretion.


Don Detrick
Associated Network Leader – Secretary/Treasurer