Membership Privileges and Responsibilities
As we continue our introduction to Presbyterian Polity, I want to address what it means to be a member of the Presbyterian Church. Church membership has both its privileges and its responsibilities.
We believe that God calls people to faith and membership in the Church, the body of Christ. In our baptism, we affirm that call and claim on our lives, and through baptism, we are received into the membership of the church. In the PC(USA), we welcome all persons who have placed their faith and trust in God and especially his grace offered to us in Jesus Christ.
One may go about joining the church three ways. 1) By making a public profession of faith; and if not previously baptized, then the one making the professing shall be baptized: 2) By certificate of transfer from another Christian church of which the person is a member: 3) By reaffirmation of faith when a person has previously made a public profession of faith and has been baptized.
It is not only a joy and privilege to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ, but it also includes a commitment to the life and ministry of the church, more especially the particular church to which one is a member. According to the Book of Order, such involvement includes:
- Proclaiming the good news in word and deed.
- Taking part in the common life and worship of a congregation.
- Lifting one another up in prayer, mutual concern, and active support.
- Studying Scripture and the issues of Christian faith and life.
- Supporting the ministry of the church through the giving of money, time, and talents.
- Demonstrating a new quality of life within and through the church.
- Responding to God’s activity in the world through service to others.
- Living responsibly in the personal, family, vocational, political, cultural, and social relationships of life.
- Working in the world for peace, justice, freedom, and human fulfillment.
- Participating in the governing responsibilities of the church, and
- Reviewing and evaluating regularly the integrity of one’s membership, and considering ways in which one’s participation in the worship and service of the church may be increased and made more meaningful.
Membership also includes privileges according to the category of membership in which one finds oneself.
There are three categories of membership.
1) Baptized members are those who have received the Sacrament of Baptism, but who have yet to make a public profession of their faith in Jesus Christ. Baptized members are entitled to receive the pastoral care and instruction of the church and may participate in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
2) Active membership requires the public profession of faith in Jesus Christ, having undergone the Sacrament of Baptism, and voluntarily submitting to the government of the church. In addition to the privileges of a Baptized member, one may be elected to the office of Deacon or Elder and serve on the governing councils of the church.
3) Another, not well known category of membership is the Affiliate Member. These are individuals holding dual membership. When an individual is temporarily away from his home church (i.e., serving in the military, attending college, etc.) and they desire to continue to worship and work in a church in their temporary community, they can become affiliate members in a local congregation.
The temporary congregation receives an affiliate member into membership for a designated period of time (normally for 2 years). An affiliate member may participate in the life of the congregation in the same manner as an active member. However, they may not vote in a congregational meeting or hold office in the church where they hold affiliate membership.
Those persons who are not members of a particular church are welcome and may participate in the life and worship of the church, receive its pastoral care, and if baptized are invited to the Lord’s Supper.