Church meetings and Covid-19
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17 March 2020 - updated 20 March (10:45)
A number of churches were intending to have church meetings or an AGM in the next few weeks and we would suggest that where possible, these meetings should be postponed. The general view is that given the unprecedented nature of this pandemic, the Charity Commission are likely to take a pragmatic view where meetings cannot be held because there is no quorum or there is a risk to the health of church members in meeting. The Commission have said that their 'approach to regulation during this period will be as flexible and supportive as possible.' (This also means that registered charities that are due to submit an Annual Return to the Commission in the near future, but do not think they will be able to do so, can ask the Commission for a filing extension.)
Whilst it may be possible for church leadership teams to meet using remote means or in person as a small group, we would suggest that unless all church members can actively participate and contribute to discussion and prayer in a meeting using video-conferencing, that a church members' meeting should be postponed.
A postponement or cancellation may give rise to a technical breach of a church's governing document so we have approached the Charity Commission to seek their guidance. A delay could be managed by writing to each member to consult with them and to say that the AGM will be held as soon as practicable in the future. You may choose to give members the opportunity to raise concerns by electronic means. The Commission has recently withdrawn its guidance telling charities that they may need to report a serious incident if they are seriously impacted by Covid-19 and we will advise further when the position is more clear.
Your church leadership team or charity trustees will need to satisfy themselves as to whether certain decisions may be made without the approval of a church members' meeting. As always, they should determine what is in the best interests of the church charity. Our Approved Governing Documents do not provide for proxy voting, so if a decision of the members is required for a specific reason that is deemed to carry more risk, for example, the appointment or removal of a minister, then specific advice should be sought from the Legal & Operations Team or Anthony Collins Solicitors.