Church Status Levels
In the North New Zealand Conference (NNZC) there are three recognised distinct “levels” of churches in the SDA structure, two official and one unofficial. The two official “levels” are that of company and church as per the church manual. The unofficial “level” is that of a group. The group is not covered or mentioned in the current church manual, nor in any policy that the conference operates under. This however is not unique to the NNZC, it has been common practice for many years in all conferences that make up the South Pacific Division (SPD). The NNZC has requested that the group level be clarified and we understand that it is on the agenda for the next President’s Council meetings.
Where a number of isolated believers reside in proximity to one another, a company of believers may be organized for fellowship and worship with the objective of growing into an organized church.
Such a “group” of believers may be organized as a company following approval of the conference committee and may subsequently be dissolved by action of the conference executive committee.
Since all baptized members of an organized company are members of the conference church, the company does not possess the right to administer church discipline. All such matters must be referred to the conference executive committee, which constitutes the board of the conference church, the president being the elder of that church.
Such a company of believers should grow and eventually develop to the point that would call for a regular church organization. The company leadership should therefore promote and foster all the church campaigns and activities that are usually carried forward by regular churches, thus preparing the members for the wider responsibilities that are associated with full church organisation.
Companies are accepted into fellowship within the conference with church status by vote of the delegates at a regular session of the conference.
Organised Companies are represented at conference sessions, however their delegates are appointed by the Executive Committee as delegates from the conference church.
The NNZC Executive Committee has developed and adopted guidelines for the establishment of church companies.
Under the constitution of the NNZC the conference is composed of such churches, including the conference church, as are, or shall be, organised within its territory, and formally approved for membership by vote of the delegates at any conference session. The conference is therefore made up of churches, and does not include companies except as the members of companies are members of the conference church.
Under the church manual, churches are authorised to appoint their own leaders, and the ultimate authority is the church business meeting.
Churches are represented at conference sessions and are authorised to appoint their own delegates as per the constitution of the conference.
The conference executive committee is currently drafting guidelines for companies that desire to be accepted into full conference membership as an established church.
Groups are an unofficial gathering of church members and/or non members who meet together for worship, fellowship and service with a view to becoming recognised as a company with membership in the conference church. It has been the practice for churches to establish groups as part of the church planting program, however groups have no status in their own right. They are part of a local church, and membership is held at a local church.
It has also been the practice of allowing groups to retain offerings given at the main worship service for a maximum period of 12 months in order to assist a group to establish a financial base. This practice has been discontinued as it does not comply with the charities legislation. As a result the conference executive committee has taken action to provide newly organised companies with a special allocation to provide some financial assistance.
Groups are not represented at conference sessions, except as delegates appointed by a local church may also be a member of a group established by that church.