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I have been puzzling about this for years and recently began communicating with the leadership of our congregation. Please have someone help me understand how a congregation should deal with the membership rolls when members clearly have communicated their desire to disaffiliate.

In my experience, the only official communication about loss of membership is if someone transfers to another CRC congregation. Other denominations do not handle church membership in the same way. 

This has been troubling me recently because there has been membership loss for our community that has not been acknowledged or communicated. Perhaps there is a good reason for this but currently it feels like a reluctance to acknowledge a sad reality.   

Can anyone explain?

Barbara Steen, Holland Michigan 


I've been wondering for a while if anyone else would address this question. I think you may be right in suggesting that there is a reluctance to acknowledge a sad reality, but our church order also doesn't have an easy process for responding to those who wish to withdraw their membership.

Other than transferring membership, there are two main ways someone is removed from membership when they are still alive. First is by being declared a lapsed member, but this requires that the person "claims to still be committed to the Christian faith." " to be worshipping elsewhere." and "The consistory is not aware of any public sin requiring discipline." If someone wishes to withdraw membership for reasons of doctrinal difference, they don't really fit in this way.

Instead they fit the second way which is church discipline, although not in the way we would expect. A person asking to withdraw their membership is essentially saying they do not wish to participate in the discipline process. In response to this, the congregation would need to inform Classis that this person is withdrawing their membership and should be considered excluded from membership, and Classis would need to approve this. Depending on the other congregations in your Classis, I can imagine that this could be very difficult or awkward and might be part of the reason why there are no moves to announce a formal removal of membership.

Our structure as a denomination is set up to encourage mutual accountability and have the church be a force which encourages us in our faith. When someone chooses to leave that, Church Order is not set up to make withdrawing membership simple, and I think you're seeing the effects of that in action.

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