IN MID-FEBRUARY 1995, the Family adopted a governing charter, which is due to go into effect on April 1. The 200-page document was prepared by a drafting committee and refined at consultation workshops held at various locations throughout the world, which were attended by over 200 delegates from Family communities. The delegates represented a broad sampling of members from a range of nationalities, ages and ministries. A substantial number of the delegates were from the Family's second generation of teens and young adults.

         The Charter is basically comprised of two main components, the "Charter of Responsibilities and Rights," and the "Fundamental Family Rules," along with explanations and appendices. It outlines the most important and basic principles, goals, and beliefs of our movement and codifies its methods of government. A personal copy of the Charter has been sent to every full-time adult member age 16 and over worldwide.

         Shortly before his death in late 1994, the Family's founder, David Brandt Berg, studied and approved a draft of the document. Each aspect of the Charter is based on his writings and teachings, and quotations from his nearly 3,000 published Letters, written over the past three decades, accompany most sections of the document. Although the Charter itself is new, the doctrines and principles upon which it is based are not. Existing beliefs and practices which are regarded as essential have been drawn from amongst the tens of thousands of pages of Family literature and formalized into one document. This provides easy reference to the most important principles and rules of the Family that are presently scattered throughout the movement's literature.

         The primary purpose of the Charter is to provide a well-defined and easy-to-understand broad governing structure. Within these guidelines, ample opportunity is provided for Family members to follow what they believe is God's will for them personally, and to freely operate according to their own initiative. It has long been the desire of David Berg, and his wife and successor Maria, that Family members be able to follow the Lord in accordance to God's Word with a minimum of oversight or direction from leadership, while at the same time maintaining certain common standards necessary for operating as a unified group. The Charter establishes a clear framework whereby this wish can be fulfilled.

         The Family has been moving towards having smaller, more easily manageable numbers of personnel in each of its community Homes. This trend, combined with the mechanisms of the Charter, will ensure that all members are able to actively participate in the governing of their communities without the need for much assistance from Area leadership. Those in Area leadership will thus be freer to channel their time and energies into prayer and studying God's Word, as well as offering advice and counsel, teaching and training others, rather than being so directly involved in the day-to-day affairs of the Homes.
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         Following is a concise overview of how the Charter came about, followed by a brief description of each major section. A copy of this overview has been mailed to all the associate members of the Family (known as TRF Supporters).

         "The Charter of Responsibilities and Rights" is the culmination of nearly a year's work by David Berg before his death, Maria, Peter, and their immediate staff, World Services and Family field leadership. Scores of reports were written by "grass roots" Family members, sharing their views about the need to re-evaluate, improve or streamline some of the ways the Family was functioning. These reports were studied in an ongoing consultative process throughout much of 1994, and an initial draft of the Charter was formulated to address the Family's concerns. This draft was studied at workshop meetings held around the world, to which delegates representing every aspect of Family life and level of leadership were invited. Their input and opinions regarding this and other improvements needed in the Family and their advice on how to best implement them were gathered. In all, over 200 members studied a working draft and submitted over 700 pages of suggestions, comments and revisions. Each suggestion was prayerfully considered by World Services as to its possible incorporation into the Charter. During the following three months, there were several further drafts, and a six-week international leadership meeting to finalize the document. What was finally arrived at was a concise description of the specific rights that each Family community, member, parent and child could be assured of, and the rules and responsibilities each individual is expected to adhere to and uphold if they wish to remain members of the Family.

         The basic
responsibilities of full-time Family members (referred to as DO [Disciples Only] members) in the Family are in brief: They must believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior. They must believe that David Berg, and Maria, his wife and successor, are God's endtime prophets. They must reside in a DO Family Home, regularly read the Bible and Family publications, believe and teach the Family's fundamental beliefs as outlined in the Charter and other Family publications, and regularly engage in evangelism. They must endeavor to unselfishly love and care for each other, assist each other to the best of their abilities, and interact harmoniously. They must act in accordance with the "Charter of Responsibilities and Rights" and the "Fundamental Family Rules," documents which each member is expected to have a working knowledge of. Members combine and share the material possessions of the Home according to the plan of the early church, described in the biblical passage Acts 2:44-45, and are expected to participate in the various responsibilities of the Home in which they reside. Each voting member (16 years and older) actively participates in the governing of the Home, establishing Home policies and regulations, as well as determining the financial management of the Home, by a voting process. Consequently, they are expected to adhere to the decisions and rules voted upon. Members are expected to commit their time, resources and energies to the agreed-upon goals of their Home, perform their duties to the best of their ability, and endeavor to conduct themselves as sincere Christians.

         The basic
rights of individual members include those of individual choice and self-determination; that is, the ability to operate according to their own decisions within the constraints of the Charter and the consensus of the other members of their Home. If they are unable to obtain the agreement of their fellow members, they are able to easily move to another Home with objectives similar to their own, or form their own community Home. Each Home member determines, through prayer, counsel, and voting, the nature and goals of their particular Home. Each adult member has the final decision on medical matters involving themselves and their underaged children. Each can communicate directly and unhindered with Maria, World Services, and all other Family Officers if they wish. They have the right to remain in the DO Family providing they conduct themselves as outlined in the "Responsibilities of Individual Members." They may also become a TRF Supporter if they so choose, or depart from the Family at any time. Family membership is purely voluntary and always has been.

         Within a Home, the members have the right to freely and regularly elect the Officers who are responsible to manage its day-to-day operation, know the complete state of the financial affairs of the Home, and determine by vote the Home's expenditures and other financial matters (for members aged 18 and older). Any voting member can call for a matter to be considered by the Home members, and it must be discussed and voted on in the appropriate Home Council Meeting within 15 days. Members may also choose to start their own Home or move to another Home of their choice. Guidelines and mechanisms for doing so are clearly outlined so that these procedures can be implemented in an orderly and prompt fashion. Members who feel any of their rights are being infringed upon have the Right of Redress. The Charter demands prompt investigation of any such complaints by Family Officers.

         Parents in the Family have the responsibility to raise their children in a godly manner; to lovingly care for and protect them and supply their various needs; and to see to it that they are properly and adequately educated. This includes the option of hiring non-Family tutors or sending their children to outside schools if they so desire, rather than home schooling their children. Parents have the right to regularly spend time with their children, live with them, and be kept informed of their educational progress and well-being. Each has the right to receive sufficient assistance with his or her parental responsibilities from other members of their Home.

         The children's rights include having their spiritual, physical and emotional needs met, and to be free from any kind of abuse. They should also receive sufficient time, opportunity and materials to obtain an adequate education, including regular physical education. They may also seek official certification for their schooling, including high-school or other diplomas. Children have the right to reside with their parents and have regular time with their parents, including weekly Family Days with their nuclear family. If a parent has chosen to live apart from his or her children for work-related reasons or other causes, the children retain the right to communicate freely with that parent.

         A DO Home is defined as one with at least four DO voting members (possibly only two under certain circumstances), but no more than 35 total members, except for a few Homes offering specialized services. DO Homes must endeavor to obey the "Fundamental Family Rules," report monthly, and tithe a minimum of 10% of their income to World Services. They must regularly engage in evangelism and endeavor to achieve the universal goals of the Family, as well as those democratically agreed upon by all the Homes in their local area. Each Home must allocate sufficient and regular time for all required Home meetings, as well as for the quarterly election and/or confirmation of Home Officers. Homes are expected to work in harmony with other DO Homes in the vicinity. Each Home is self-governing, both financially and otherwise; each is expected to formulate and operate within a stable budget. If necessary, and with the other Home members' consent, members may take outside employment to help achieve this end. Decisions on most Home matters are decided by a simple majority of voting members (those 16 and older), with some matters, such as financial decisions, requiring a two-thirds majority vote.

         Members of a Home will determine, by a two-thirds majority, the goals and nature and personnel make-up of the Home, including whether to accept new personnel or revoke the Home membership of current members. They may choose to move to a new location, or disband the Home.

         All Family Officers must endeavor to carry out their duties in a loving and prayerful manner, and can only operate within the authority granted them by the Charter. They are to ensure to the best of their ability that the rights of the members and the Homes are upheld and not infringed upon. When visiting the Homes, Family Area and Continental Officers may make suggestions and offer advice based on the Bible and World Services publications, but it is up to the Home and its members to jointly decide if and how to implement any outside advice. Area and Continental Officers do not have authority to interfere with the day-to-day matters of a Home, nor its decisions, providing the Home is not violating the responsibilities of the DO Home as outlined in the Charter.

         Procedures are clearly defined in the Charter for matters such as: accepting new disciples into a DO Home, moving TRF Supporter members to DO status and vice-versa; opening a new Home; placing a Home on Probationary Notice for contravening the "Responsibilities of the DO Home"; placing a member on Probationary Status for failing to fulfill individual Charter-mandated responsibilities; or full or partial excommunication of members who violate any of the "Offenses Warranting Excommunication."

         "The Fundamental Family Rules" are subdivided into 19 categories which are either behavioral or procedural in nature. The vast majority of these rules have been in place in Family Homes for many years now. Over the past 26 years, the Family has established and published, at one time or another, many "rules" or guidelines in numerous, separate articles. These rules have all been reviewed and are now boiled down to those considered most essential, including: excommunicable offenses; behavioral rules covering topics such as outreach (evangelism), education, child discipline, food, drink, exercise, Home life, health, sex and relationships; and procedural rules covering: elections, finances, Home size, meetings, reporting, marriage and separations. These are the procedures and rules that members of the Family worldwide have unitedly and uniformly adopted to live by and be governed by, and which reflect the basic tenets of our long-held Scripture-based beliefs. Individual Homes may install further regulations by a vote of their members, which would only be binding within that particular community.

         The following words are taken from an introduction to the Charter, written by Maria:
David's heart and life are in this Charter's pages, the whole essence of what he and the Lord mean the Family to be. See it as a guide to direct us back to the basics--the basics of love--to love the Lord with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind; to love each other and bear each others' burdens; to love our children and train them in the way they should go; and to love the lost by sharing the love of Jesus with them (ML #2963:6, 1/95).

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Copyright (c) 1997 by The Family