Universalist General Convention By-Laws

From the Manual of the Universalist General Convention: Charter, Constitution, and By-Laws, Laws of Fellowship, Government and Discipline, and Forms Recommended for Adoption by Subordinate Organizations. (New York: Universalist General Convention, 1891.)




1. Of the President. – He shall preside at all meetings of the Convention, and appoint all Committees unless the Convention shall order otherwise.

2. Of the Vice-President. – He shall perform the duties of the President, whenever the latter may be absent.

3. Of the Secretary. - He shall keep full minutes of the proceedings of the Convention, and of the Board of Trustees, and a Register of the Clergy and Parishes of the Church.

He shall have the custody of the Books, Minutes, Papers, Reports, and all other documents belonging to the Convention, the custody of which is not otherwise provided for, holding them under such regulations as the Board of Trustees shall prescribe.

He shall give due notice of all meetings of the Convention and of the Board of Trustees.

Whenever any amendment of the Constitution has been approved, or any other subject requires consideration and action of the State Conventions, he shall give notice thereof to the Secretaries of the several State Conventions.

He shall duly enroll the names of the delegates to the General Convention.

Immediately after every Session of the Convention, he shall give written notice of their appointment to members of the Committees, and to all others elected or appointed to any duty, stating the duty to be performed, and requesting an immediate answer, accepting or declining the appointment; and he shall promptly
report to the Board of Trustees the result of such correspondence.

He shall prepare the Report of the proceedings of the Convention for publication, under the direction of the Board of Trustees.

He shall conduct the correspondence of the Convention, and attest its public acts, and all orders drawn upon the Treasurer.

On or before the fifteenth of December preceding each regular session of the Convention, he shall send to the Secretary of each State Convention whatever statistical blanks or questions the Convention or the Board of Trustees may have prescribed.

He shall perform such other duties as the Convention or Board of Trustees may prescribe; and for the performance of his duties he shall receive such compensation as the Board of Trustees may determine.

3. Of the Treasurer. - He shall receive all moneys [sic] belonging to the Convention, and shall pay all orders which may be drawn on him, signed by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and attested by the Secretary.

He shall hold the title-papers or evidence of stock and other property belonging to the Convention.

He shall keep faithful accounts of his transactions in the books of the Convention, which shall be annually examined and certified by the Auditing Committee; and an abstract of said accounts shall be laid before the Convention at each regular session, certified by the Auditing Committee.

The Board of Trustees shall require him to give security for the faithful performance of his duties, in such sum
as may be deemed proper.

4. Of the Board of Trustees. - They shall have the general management of the affairs of the Convention during the recess; and shall, on its behalf, under Art. III., Sect. 6. of the Constitution, act in all matters of Fellowship, Ordination, and Discipline; and shall have power to adopt all needful measures for fostering its interest and promoting the growth and welfare of the Universalist Church.

They shall have in special charge the care and investment of the funds given to the Convention, shall execute all measures for raising moneys, and shall authorize disbursements for the purposes of the Convention.

They shall make due preparatory arrangements for the order of proceedings, and for the religious meetings, at the Sessions of the Convention, subject to its approval.

They shall appoint such officers and agents of the Convention’s work may require.

They shall annually appoint an Auditing Committee, who shall examine the accounts of the Secretary and Treasurer, and certify their correctness, or otherwise.

In the case of complaints, or appeals, they shall immediately appoint a Board of Appeal, to consist of three persons (one at least of whom shall be a Clergyman, and none of whom shall be residents of the State or States interested), all of whom shall hear the case as soon as practicable, and at farthest within ninety days of the date of the appeal, and whose unanimous decision, after due notice to the parties concerned (viz., the original parties to the case), and such a hearing in the case as in their judgment equity demands, shall be final. A decision having been reached, it shall be immediately reported to the Board of Trustees,* and the Secretary shall see that the parties interested, together with the Committee of Fellowship which had original jurisdiction of the case, are at once notified, and that such promulgation be made as the case may demand. Should no decision be reached, the Board of Appeal shall report the case to
the next session of the Convention for final action thereon.

Petitions, Memorials and Complaints, relating to matters of Discipline, which shall be referred by the Convention to the Board of Trustees, or be brought directly to them, shall be considered by them, and if, in their judgment, equity and the good of the Church demand, they shall appoint a Board of three persons to adjudicate thereon; and in such cases, as well as in cases over which the General Convention has original jurisdiction, the foregoing rules, so far as the same are applicable, shall be observed.

The Board of Trustees shall provide for a Universalist Church Conference or Conferences, to be held at some central location or locations, in the years intervening between the regular sessions of the Convention, not for ecclesiastical, legislative, or financial work, but for the purpose of considering important questions of religion,
morals, and education.

The Board of Trustees shall submit a report of their proceedings at each regular Session of the Convention; and they shall also present a general statement as to the condition and wants of the Church with respect to Education, Sunday-schools, and whatever else concerns its interests, with such suggestions as they may deem proper.

In the years intervening between the sessions of the Convention, the The Board of Trustees shall, during the month
of October, prepare and publish a financial statement for the year ending on the first of that month; and the same shall be presented and published as part of the Biennial Report.

A majority of the Board shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business, and the travelling expenses of the members to and from business meetings shall be paid.



1. Special Sessions of this Convention shall be ordered by the Board of Trustees, at such time and place as they may appoint, whenever a written request, setting forth the reasons, and signed by the Presidents of at least five State Conventions, shall be presented to the Secretary.

Public notice of any Special Session, stating its purpose, shall be given by the Secretary, at least one month before the time fixed therefor.

The delegates to the preceding regular Session shall be delegates to any Special Session, if no others have been chosen. If others have been chosen they shall represent their State, or States, in the Special Session: It being provided, that the names shall be certified to the Secretary on or before the day fixed for the Session.

2. During the Sessions of the Convention, all meetings for public religious services shall be under its control, and the aim shall be to foster an interest in its proceedings and in Church work, and to permit nothing that will divert attention from them: It being provided, that nothing shall be allowed to exclude or remove the Convention from the most commodious and desirable portion of the edifice wherein the Session has been called.



1. All officers of the Convention, not delegates, shall be entitled to its privileges, without the right to vote;
and also members of the Committees, making reports, whenever their reports are under consideration.

2. Representatives of Universalists not within the jurisdiction of this body, and those of other religious denominations duly accredited to this Convention, shall be reported by the Committee on Elections, received by the President, and assigned to seats with the members of the Convention. Such representatives may address the Convention upon invitation of the President.



The office of the Convention shall be in the State of New York, though neither the Secretary nor the Treasurer shall
be required to be a resident thereof.



1. Each State Convention shall certify to the Secretary, previous to each regular Session, the names of its President, Secretary, and Delegates; and whenever such a certificate shall fail to reach the Secretary before the hour for calling the Convention to order, no member or delegate from that Convention shall be admitted to a seat until the Convention has been fully organized.

2. At the hour appointed for the meeting of the Convention, in the absence of the President and Vice-President, the Secretary, (or in his absence, the senior delegate) shall call the Convention to order, and cause the Session to be opened with prayer.

The Roll of Members and Delegates, as prepared by the Secretary, shall then be called; and those who answer to their names shall take their seats as members of the Convention. And as for determining all questions requiring more than a majority vote, this Convention shall be defined to consist of all delegates who have at any meeting of the Convention held during the Session, answered to their names, and been duly admitted.

One or more Assistant Secretaries shall then be appointed by the President, on the nomination of the Secretary.

3. The President shall forthwith appoint the Committees on Elections and on Religious Services.

4. The Lord’s Supper shall then be administered, and shall be followed by the Occasional Sermon. At this service a collection shall be taken, the proceeds of which shall be added to the J. G. Gunn Ministerial Relief Fund.



1. A quorum being present, the Convention shall be called to order, and the Session opened with prayer.

2. Calling the Roll of Members.

3. Reading the Minutes of the preceding day.

4. Claims to seats, and their reference.

5. Appointment of the other Committees for the Session.

6. Reports of Committees for the Session:

i. On Elections.

ii. On Religious Services.

7. Report of the Board of Trustees.

8. Report of the Treasurer.

9. Unfinished Business.

10. Reports of other Committees.

11. New Business.

12. Just before the final adjournment, such portion of the Minutes as have not been read and approved, shall be read
for correction and adoption.



The following Committees for the Session shall be appointed, each, except for the fourth and fifth, to consist of three members, viz: -

i. – On Elections, to whom shall be referred the credentials not previously reported to the Secretary; also questions of contested seats, and all other matters pertaining to the organization of the Convention.

ii. – On Religious Services, who shall superintend the arrangements made by the Board of Trustees, and make such others as may be necessary, subject to the approval of the Convention.

iii. – On Nominations, who shall report, on the morning of the third day of the regular Session, the names of
persons for President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Trustees, and for Preacher of the next Occasional Sermon; also, the place for the next regular Session of the Convention.

iv. – On Official Reports, consisting of nine members, to whom shall be referred the Reports of the Board of Trustees and of the Treasurer, and who shall report upon the same.

v. – On Resolutions, consisting of five members, to whom shall be referred all Resolutions presented to the Convention, without debate, and who shall report upon the same.



1. Every Parish in the fellowship of this Convention shall make at least one contribution to its funds every year.

2. All contributions or gifts bestowed for specific uses within the purposes of the Convention, shall be expended as thus directed. The income of the Murray Centenary Fund shall be applied to the aid of theological students, the distribution of Universalist literature, Church Extension, and the missionary cause; that of the Theological Scholarship Fund to the aid of students for the ministry; [that of the Church Extension Fund, one-quarter to the increase of the Fund, and three-fourths in aid of the erection of church edifices for new parishes; that of the Wm. H. Ryder Fund to the aid of students for the ministry, or otherwise as specified in the bequest;] and that of the John G. Gunn Ministerial Relief Fund to the aid of aged and infirm Clergymen, or the widows and children of deceased Clergymen, according to the terms and limitations of the gift.

3. All other gifts or moneys may be devoted to the general work of the Convention, at the discretion of the Board of Trustees, in accordance with the appropriations of the Convention.



1. Immediately after the first of January in each Convention year, the Pastor or Secretary of every Parish, and every Clergyman not wholly engaged in pastoral duties, shall make returns for the calendar year ending the 31st of December preceding, to their respective Secretaries, giving answers to such questions as this Convention, or its Board of Trustees, may prescribe: It being provided,-

i. That the questions thus prescribed shall be as simple as possible, due regard being had to the purposes in view.

ii. That where no State Convention exists, the Secretary of this Convention shall issue the questions directly to those from whom returns must come, and put them into suitable form.

2. From the returns thus obtained, the Secretary of each State Convention shall prepare a consolidated report for his State, and transmit it, on or before April 1st to the Secretary of this Convention, and adding any other information which might seem to him to bear upon the condition and prospects of the Church in his State.

3. From the reports forwarded to him, the Secretary of this Convention shall prepare a summary, which, under the direction of the Board of Trustees, shall be made a part of their Report.



These By-Laws, and the Laws of Fellowship, Government, and Discipline, may be amended at any regular Session, by a vote of two-thirds of the members present at each Session.*

*See By-Laws, Article
v. ยง 2.