Tuesday, April 05, 2005

From Rule to articles of incorporation and back again.

The community of the Holy Trinity, has been functioning under a Rule for some time. Now we are looking to articulate what we have formed in terms of Articles and by laws for a not for profit corporation. I am finding this a difficult thing to get my mind around. The Rule is designed as a spiritual document about coming together as a particular community along side the life of the Church and a local congregation Church of Jesus Christ Reconciler. The community needs to summarize its purpose as articulated in the rule in paragraph form, and also indicate any provisions that are not explicit or implicit in Illinois nor for Profit Corporation Act.
I think it feels odd because the format is so different from the Rule. But then the Rule is for the community and the Church. It is therfore a document for insiders. What registering as a not for profit means is communicating this purpose and the intent of the Rule to outsiders, the State, which has its own needs. I don't resent this, it simply means translating our Rule into a different format, a format that does not go out of its way to recognize the spiritual realities of the community. Articles of incorporation, in comparison to the rule, seem sterile, the terms board of directors doesn't give the full meaning of what we hope our board will provide, pastoral oversight as well as legal and financial oversight. Certainly religious purposes are recongnized as one reason for incorporating a not for profit but it's kind of a one size fits all, that leaves me struggling to figure out how to fit our vission into language that the State and Law will recognize and to ensure that we function within the bounds of the law as a community and not for profit.
There is though this nagging feeling that Rule does not and cannot translate into Articles of incorporation and by laws. Its not unlike the feeling I get when I read a constitution of a local church: all the spiritual vitality of what church is seems to be abasent, even when though the articles and by laws speak of spiritual purposes. The very form of constitution seems so entirely secular and state like, so not church. It makes me wonder if churches should have something like Rules that function along side their constituitions. Perhaps that is what all these vission statements etc. that have become part and parcel of a church's image in the last 20 years or so is meant to provide. Some how the legal requirements aren't quite enough to guide the spiritual life of the church. In some sense we need both communicating our institutional reality to the world and communicating it to oursleves. articles and by laws don't provide that very well. I guess it would be like assuming that Christian marriage was all about signing the marriage cirtificate and that the whole ritual of marriage was simply signing the cirtificate in front of the priest/pastor and proclaiming the couple married in the name of the state.
I don't know, but at least in the case of the Community of the Holy Trinity, translation at least feels very difficult at the moment. Our rule and articles of incorporation seems in many ways aeons apart from each other. (I chose that word, "aeons" deliberately).

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