Local Ecumenical Partnerships - why constitutions?

It is important churches register as charities when the legislation requires them to do so. Firstly, it is a legal obligation for a charity to register, once it has a significant turnover, so that it is publically accountable. There are of course many tax benefits for registered charities, eg gift aid.


The new model constitution for Single Congregation Partnerships has been drafted in such a way as to provide maximum flexibility to the LEP in terms of its powers. We do not expect any LEPs to use most of the powers in the constitution, but they are available to the Trustees should they be needed.


The new factor is the Trustees. They are responsible for the finance and the assets of the charity. They are similar to the Methodist Church Council, who are currently the Managing Trustees of the local church under excepted status. This approach is problematic for churches with a Congregationalist approach but it applies to them whether or not they are a part of the LEP. 

Initially, under the Charities Act 2006, from October 2009, an application for registration is obligatory if the association has charitable objects and a turnover of more than £100 000. This figure will continue to apply for at least five years although the government's intention is to bring the figure down to possibly as low as £5 000 some time in the future.

The SCP model constitution, suitable for charitable status, is available and the churches have asked all churches to use them even if turnover is below the threshold. This will minimise changes when the LEP needs to register in the future. LEPs with turnovers above the threshold will be contacted by the Resourcing Mission Office when it is time to register.


Under the legislation prior to the Charities Act 2006, most churches had excepted status. This meant local churches had the charitable status of their parent denomination and so did not need to register as individual churches with the Charity Commission. This will continue to apply for churches in England and Wales, where turnover is below the threshold. Different regulations apply to Scotland.
 

Registration as a Charity

Any church which finds its turnover to be above £90 000, even if it is for one year must register. The registration process is in two parts:

  1. Adoption of a new constitution, using the new model constitution. Any LEP can do this at any stage. We recommend LEPs approaching the threshold, work on a new constitution. The model constitution has already been approved by the Charity Commission. The first step is to contact your County Ecumenical Officer, who will make sure you have the correct documentation and guide you through the procedure.
  2. The constitution is required for registration with the Charity Commission.

If a LEP is likely to go over the threshold, it is essential you contact Jean Haynes at the Support Services in Manchester. She will keep a record of LEPs intending to register and can inform the Charity Commission should there be any delays. Under no circumstances should you contact the Charity Commission direct as LEPs are complex and depending upon who you talk to, you may be misinformed. Jean can answer or find answers to all your queries.

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