Monday, January 26, 2004

church, belonging, membership .. more

A couple more comments on church, belonging and membership.

1. I don’t think it’s fair to juxtapose community formation and membership. Don’t they go hand in glove ie membership is a way of expressing community formation?

2. The easy answer is to say, have no “membership”. But that frankly, is bollocks. For 2 reasons. Firstly pragmatic, when you want to make decisions, who decides. You have to have some criteria and “membership” should be as closely aligned as possible with that criteria. Secondly, even opensource (thanks Nate for the url), have “membership”, its called entering your log-in. The question is how we can make accurate and real our levels of participation.

3. I would not want to read membership as inwardly focused. At Graceway, one of the survey form options including mission, both stuff we did as a community and people’s involvement in their workplaces. In other words, your sole “membership” commitment at Graceway could be service in God’s world.

4. I have a nagging question. If we tie membership to involvement, are we reducing spirituality to doing – ie you are noted because you do something in this place. And sometimes I wonder if this is the opposite of grace?

Posted by steve at 09:43 AM


  1. Some interesting points and comments in this thread. I’m wondering though about different perspectives on “membership” depending on the origins of your faith community. If you come out of some non-conformist tradition then you are probably focused on the local church but if you are also part of a wider tradition (that you want to maintain continuity with) then issues of “membership” (whatever that is) spill over into a larger context.

    For example, I was a stand in “returning officer” at a previous church during a national church referendum. Many people fully committed to the local body (for zillions of years) came to vote only to find that because they had never formalised their “membership” they were unable to have a voice in the referendum.

    It’s an ecclesiological can of worms. I will watch with interest any other comments and insight.

    Comment by Stephen — January 26, 2004 @ 11:13 am

  2. I come from an Anglican background. In Anglican churches if you say you go there, you are a member. Most churches have some rules about voting etc… at my last church it was 6 months attending. I don’t really think anyone would question you, however… We thought that was the norm. We recently moved towns, and when we started going to the local Baptist church, we discovered that you can only be a member if you were adult baptised. My husband and I were both infant baptisted, and confirmed as teenagers, and so we found this really difficult. So much so, that we made a decision not to go to that church. We felt like we didn’t want to go to a church where we couldn’t be ‘proper’ members.

    Comment by rochelle — January 26, 2004 @ 9:24 pm

  3. steve, have you read Peter Selby, BeLonging? (SPCK, around 1989 or 90)
    The first couple of chapters are excellent on what he calls ‘tribalism’ – a kind of social functioning whereby you identitfy who belongs in terms of who DOESN’t. He calls very eloquently for a new way of thinking about ‘membership’. The whole book is god, and not long – he takes the issue out to consider racism, sexism and homophobia among other things.

    Comment by maggi — January 27, 2004 @ 7:00 am

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