Transferring From Catholic Church to the CRC?

  294 views

I have a small question. We have a Polish Catholic couple who is interested in transferring membership to the CRC. 

Last I heard, the Catholic church recognized baptisms done in the CRC, but CRC folks are still not allowed to partake in Catholic mass. I'm unsure if there are other ramifications that would result from crossing over from Catholic to CRC. The couple have been practicing Polish Catholics (they are from Poland) which makes an official transfer maybe a little more of a sacrifice than they know. I don't want to say, "Yes, we'll transfer your membership" and then have unforeseen repercussions that effect their family life later (like not participating in Eucharist when they go back to visit family in Poland, etc.). At the very least, they (I) should know what the trade-offs are.

The couple also wants to baptize the youngest. That would definitely require membership on our end, so we can't offer just being involved here and keeping the membership at their old church. And they can't be dual citizens, right?  Or is that a possibility since their church is in another country?

Anyway, if you have any advice on the matter, it would certainly be welcome. 

Posted in:
  • Church Order
  • Pastors
  • Discussion Topic

Let's Discuss…

We love your comments! Thanks for your help upholding the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.
Participant

Adam,

A great question.  I think you identify some of the key issues toward the end of the second paragraph. Also, you are correct about the "dual-citizenship." I'm not sure that any church who recognizes membership within their polity would allow their members to also be members of another church or denomination.

Basically, I think you're on the right track. It's a great teaching opportunity for you and for the couple.  You would also want to have the council involved, endorsing and affirming the faith of the couple.

May I suggest one more thing? There are people much wiser than me and probably some who have had experience ministering in this situation that could find your question here, but are more likely to find you the Facebook group: Pastors of the Christian Reformed Church. It is a a "closed" group, meaning you would have to request to join and the moderators would include you.  It is an active group with close to 700 members of both active and (actively) retired pastors.

Blessings to you as you walk with this couple in their faith!  What a privilege!

Participant

This is an interesting situation. Thank you for presenting it here.

First of all, "transfer of membership" is the term used for transferring memberships from one CRC to another. What would be needed for this is a "statement of membership" from their Roman Catholic church parish to the CRC (Brighton, MN, I presume) where they are attending. Yet it seems from your posting that the church/parish from which they're moving is not in the US. It might not be easy to get a "statement of membership," but should be possible. See Ch. Order Article 66 for these general rules. 

Second, I don't know what dual citizenship would have to do with anything you are describing and asking about--unless you are using the term "dual citizenship" as a synonym for "dual church membership.) My wife and I are dual citizens--US & Canada--but citizenship has nothing to do w/ church membership. (WAIT--we are also citizens of the Kingdom of God, which trumps all!)

Third, your question about participating in the sacraments is well put, but I will make a rather libertarian comment on that, based on experience in several denominations in six nations over 40-plus years. You are correct about baptism; officially the RCC does accept CRC baptism and vice versa. This was agreed upon after years of conversations in which CR and RC theologians and professors studied baptism exhaustively. (I believe Lyle Bierma was on that team and I know he reported on this issue and its conclusion to at least one synod I attended.) The experiential issue of Eucharist/Lord's Supper is significantly more ragged, though Church Order is pretty clear about the right to take part in Communion (C.O. 59). The fact is that more and more congregations in the CRC are opening up Communion more in keeping with the invitation in the Form for Lord's Supper in the grey Psalter Hymnal, which some have said veers away from strict interpretation of the Church Order. As well, I have been in Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and even (Eastern) Orthodox congregations in which the pastor/priest has made it very clear that Christians other than those of their own communion were welcome to participate.

I say that because in the case of the people you describe who evidently would return to Poland to visit family, it would be not merely awkward, but very sad if they could no longer participate in Communion in their homeland. Perhaps they could communicate with their home parish about this. On the other hand--and here is the libertarian comment--not a few have declared that sacraments do not belong to any church, but to God who welcomes believers, forgiven sinners, regardless of denomination. You know the implication of that reading.

Fourth, you ask about the child's baptism. I take it that the child has not been baptized in a Roman Catholic church. In that case, you are right that the should be members of your congregation, according to C.O. Article 56.

I don't know if this is helpful, but it has been enjoyable thinking about it with you. Blessings on your and your congregation's ministry with this family.

 

Adam, this is a great question. I suggest you copy it to the Facebook CRC Pastors group as well, of which you are a member.

I'd accept them as members on an appropriate reaffirmation of faith, and baptize their child. I would not make a point of communicating to their Catholic parish that we have done this. Assuming they are faithfully present in your church the communion issue is no big deal, and if they go back to Poland every few years and partake in the mass, that's no big deal either.

Participant

Hi Adam,

As others have said--thanks for posting the question. 

Jim Dekker mentioned the ongoing Reformed-Catholic dialogue which has resulted in a joint agreement on baptism, as well as much discussion already around the Lord's Supper as practiced and understood by our respective churches.  This is likely the best comparative work that we have on the topic to date if you'd like to dig into it further. 

You can find the written work on this in the Agenda for Synod 2011 (https://www.crcna.org/sites/default/files/2011_agenda.pdf) starting on page 357ff on Baptism and Sacramentality ("These Living Waters"), continuing on page 440ff with a report on Eucharist/Lord's Supper ("This Bread of Life"), and ending with a comparison of Catholic and Reformed Lord's Supper Liturgies on page 492ff. 

If you'd like a quicker reference with a whole lot less reading--I'd direct you to contact Ronald Feenstra at Calvin Seminary, our current member at the Reformed-Catholic Dialogue table (Lyle Bierma has stepped away from this committment).

Blessings as you work through the conversation!

 

 

I am a former Roman Catholic. When I joined the CRC several years ago there was no hesitation. I knew the Church of Rome taught a different gospel and I had to get out of it.  I simply stopped attending there. There was no transfer process.  There is no official membership to cancel.  The CRC welcomed me in the fold as already baptized.  I did not have to be baptized in the CRC. As far as my Roman Catholic friends and relatives they consider me fallen away from the one true Church. I'm sure some pray that I return to Catholicism - as a prodigal son. 

© 2014 Christian Reformed Church in North America. All rights reserved.
For website questions or corrections, use the feedback tab at right or contact us.