518. Authorization for Organization. The organization of a developing church as a fully established church, or of a group of believers who have applied to a district superintendent for organization as a Wesleyan church, empowering it to assemble for business as a local church conference and to elect a local board of administration, and investing it with all the rights, powers, and duties of a local church as given in the Constitution (315) and as set forth elsewhere in The Discipline, may be authorized by the district board of administration and effected by the district superintendent when it meets these requirements:
- (1) Twenty-five or more persons who are members or are approved and ready to be received as members when the organization shall be effected.
- (2) Effective evangelism and a record of new converts and/or believers’ baptisms incorporated into the church.
- (3) An intentional investment of financial and human resources into community and global needs.
- (4) A reasonable degree of financial stability, including the meeting of such obligations as it may have to the General Church and the district.
- (5) A reasonable degree of leadership and organizational maturity, with sufficient qualified persons to staff the minimum organization provided for in 810.
- (6) The holding of all property in trust for The Wesleyan Church as required in 4610 (4680) or steps taken to accomplish the same.
- (7) An established church may be reclassified by the district conference or the district board of administration as a developing church if such is recommended by the district superintendent and:
- (a) If its membership drops to twenty or fewer (cf. 1180:24; 1233:30; 5320); or
- (b) If no new converts and/or believers’ baptisms have been reported by the church within the previous two years; or
- (c) If no intentional investment of financial and human resources into the needs of those outside the church has been demonstrated within the two previous years; or
- (d) If it ceases to meet one or more of the other conditions set forth in 518:2–5 (cf. 4670).
520. Organizational Meeting. When the organization of an established church has been authorized by the district board of administration, the district superintendent shall consult with the pastor and the local advisory council, or if there are none, with those interested in forming the church, and appoint a time for an organizational meeting. The organizational meeting shall be conducted by the district superintendent or a representative appointed by the district superintendent as follows:
- (1) The reading of the Summary of the Articles of Religion (299) and the Membership Commitments by the presiding officer.
- (2) An examination of each of the candidates for membership, conducted by the presiding officer, using the questions commonly addressed to such candidates (cf. 5560–5570), and the baptism of such as have not previously been baptized. When the organization involves a church previously organized as a developing church, those who have been accepted as members of the developing church need not be reexamined.
- (3) A mutual pledge of purpose and fellowship on the part of all members, including those being received. The presiding officer shall ask each one:
- Question 1: “Are you in Christian fellowship with all those who present themselves for membership in this church organization?”
- Answer: “I am.”
- Question 2: “In that Christian fellowship will you promise to walk with each other in love, giving and receiving counsel, sympathy, and instruction in the Spirit of Christ?”
- Answer: “I will.”
- (4) A declaration made by the presiding officer: “On the basis of these mutual pledges in the presence of God, I proceed to give you each the right hand of fellowship, and declare by this act that you are a Christian church organized on the basis of The Discipline of The Wesleyan Church, and are invested with all the rights, powers, and duties assigned to an established church by The Discipline.”
- (5) The first session of the local church conference, with the election of officers who shall serve for the remainder of the year, or until specified, and the installation of the officers (5915) by the person presiding over the organizational service.
- (6) The report of the organization by the district superintendent to the next regular session of the district board of administration, and to the next regular session of the district conference (1180:24; 1310:14).
- (7) The taking of steps to provide for the pastoral oversight and care of the new church, if such has not already been done.