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Members in good standing?

Members in good standing?

The Washington Post notes that President and Mrs Obama and their daughter, Sasha, attended St. John’s Episcopal Church this morning.

Hmm – baptized, attended communion 3x in the past year, given time talent or treasure to the community? Does that make them members in good standing?


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Hi Anne. Sorry for the delay in posting–the sign-in system was done for a couple of days.

My sense is that issues with counting membership are a case of misfeasance, versus malfeasance. Specifically, this is a task that often is ignored in this day and age of limited resources, and there’s little incentive to do so.

The issue looms large in some of the dioceses that have had a rocky go of it in recent years, where some would say that small parishes have at times been the “tails that wag the dog.”

To speak to the other issue you’ve raised, which is how do we get folks to actually become members, my parish seems to do a good job of befriending new attendees and making sure that they are included in things. The rest often falls into place quite naturally. I’ve attended other parishes, though, where it very much felt like “the frozen chosen,” and meeting people felt like cold-calling in a sales or marketing situation. It does feel, though, like overall the church is getting friendlier–perhaps our recent challenges have made us more sensitive to these issues.

Eric Bonetti

Bill Dilworth

Mo. Fontaine, it occurs to me that one way to make people feel welcome might be explicit invitations to become official members of the Church , either from the pulpit or in the newsletter. I imagine a lot if people might not join because they don’t know how, and making a general invitation or explaining the process might make it clear that the parish really does want them there. I’ve never been somewhere where that’s done regularly.

Ongoing inquirers classes would be helpful, too. Newcomers might be overwhelmed by the assumed theology of the BCP if it’s not fleshed out for them. Left to their own devices, some non-Church(wo)men might feel as if everybody else were “in the know” and not be willing come forward and ask for information; they’re also handy for long time Episcopalians who just never learned. For some reason, inquirers classes of this type seemed more common back in TexS than they are up here in Yankeeland.

Bill Dilworth

If a parish counts members by ASA, might that not cause problems at their meetings – knowing if there’s really a quorum, who can vote and so on? Usually parish meetings are pretty drama free, but I recall stories involving parishes splitting up in which there was considerable trouble regarding numbers and votes. Do the Canons or Constitution specify how numbers are kept? It just seems like something you’d want everybody following the same procedure on.

Church numbers seem so iffy, anyway. Look at the Church of Nigeria – part of their huge numbers is accounted for by people claiming membership in several churches of different denominations at the same time, as I understand it.

C. Wingate

Keeping the rolls clean is a task which most parishes don’t seem to bother with until the rector leaves and the interim forces the housecleaning. You can generally look at the membership charts from R&S and make a good guess at when their was a change of management, as there is frequently an abrupt drop in membership without a corresponding change in ASA.

Ann Fontaine

Counting is no longer done on members in many places but on ASA — Average Sunday Attendance. I am surprised at the accusations of malfeasance in counting – as though small churches are somehow different from large in this practice. See later article on Trinity Wall Street!. Mostly I posted this as a bit of humor – probably should have said that – sorry. But I am curious about what makes a person feel welcome and willing to commit. I don’t think it is a numbers game.

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