An Exchange about Membership Transfers

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Here's a brief email exchange between "Terry" (not real name) about some technical issues on membership transfers between congregations and different denominations. I thought this might be helpful for elders, deacons, pastors, members because I think we deal with this at least ten times a year for people either transferring in or out. I think the two notes below are self-explanatory:

"Terry's" note:

Hello, Pastor Jim.

I was talking with my husband’s pastor last Sunday and he was confused as about my membership situation. He recently received a transfer for a member of a Christian Reformed Church. We both wondered if her congregation could send a full membership transfer to my husband’s Mennonite church, why can’t Covenant do the same? Have I misunderstood something? Hope you can shed more light on this for me. Thanks. Terry

My  response:

Good afternoon, Terry.

I'm not sure I can straighten this membership issue out, because it's perhaps use of terms that is confusing. Also, maybe that other CRC didn't do the "right" thing. I'll try to explain.

All CRCs send a "Statement of Membership" to any Christian congregation or denomination. This statement verifies the person's standing in our congregation and denomination. If that's what the other CRC did, it's fine.

We send a "Transfer of Membership" only to other CRCs or to "churches in ecclesiastical fellowship." Denominations in "ecclesiastical fellowship" accept officially each other's credentials of ordination for pastors after reaching legal agreements among each other and share “table fellowship”—or communion privileges. They agree to the same doctrines and use some (though not necessarily all) of the same creeds and confessions. Examples are the Reformed Church in America congregations, several Reformed denominations in South Africa and Europe.

So, IF that other CRC sent a "Transfer of Membership" for their member to a Mennonite congregation, that's technically a mistaken process. Is this serious? I don't know. I don't really think Jesus cares too much. But we are following human regulations developed to respect each other’s respective administrative processes.

In any case, Terry, you may at any time request a "Statement of Membership" which we will send to your husband’s Mennonite congregation. But we may not transfer your membership because, technically again, the requirements and conditions for membership differ in our two distinct denominations and organizations. With your "Statement of Membership" from Covenant, the Mennonite congregation could establish your new official membership in their fellowship. We have done this from our side when people have come from Lutheran and Catholic churches.

I hope this is helpful, Terry. But the most important thing is that you continue to worship God with husband and other believers.

Blessings and greetings,

jcd

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