I don’t think there is much danger of Civil Commotion readers running afoul of church membership agreements, but, just in case: DO NOT sign church membership agreements. Ever. Period.
Did you know that most churches consult attorneys to draw up these covenants? Are you aware that they were developed, not for purposes of sweet fellowship, but to protect the church in case an angry church member sues them? Did you know that some angry church members are actually justified? For those of you who have signed such a document (Dee has and has successfully gotten out of one), were you advised that you were signing a document that had been vetted by lawyers? (Dee was not). An open and honest church should advise unsuspecting potential members of this fact and encourage them to seek similar advice.
I decided, just for fun, to take a look at the two largest Southern Baptist churches hereabouts. The first is very fundamentalist and leans toward Reconstructionism, sponsors a Good News club … ignorant yahoos1. There is a membership agreement.
After completing the membership class, you will provide some basic information, review the membership book, and prayerfully consider becoming a member at Faith. Once you have decided to join the church, we will schedule a short membership meeting for you with one of the pastors. During the meeting, he will review your testimony of belief in Jesus, sign the membership covenant, and answer any final questions you may have.
That church has suffered numerous splits; several years ago, virtually the entire staff and much of the membership decamped to this church, which mentions no membership covenant on its Web site.
Can’t say I’m surprised.
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1 In the spirit of giving credit where credit is due, it was one of Pastor Mills’ red-faced excoriations of Friedrich Nietzsche which stoked my curiosity and led me to one of my favorite philosophers.