Rules of Discipline
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Description and Qualification
An active member of Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends Church is a person—adult, young adult, or adolescent— who has made a credible profession of faith, and who, either on that profession or by certificate from another Friends church, has been admitted to full membership by the church. Active members may be resident or nonresident. An active resident member is one to whom the place of worship is reasonably accessible by ordinary means of travel and who gives priority to the church in attendance and support. These members make the church what it is by their ready participation in its activities and services, their genuine interest in its objectives, and their faithful financial and material support.
A non-resident member is one who, on account of distance or some other equally valid reason, attends and supports a church other than the one in which membership is held. In urban areas distance is relative and sometimes less determinative than other factors.
Preparation for Membership
Preparation in a membership class or other forms of instruction should precede application for membership. The pastor or local elders may provide such instruction. At the conclusion of the preparatory period, appropriate membership, whether active or affiliate, will be considered.
Application for Membership
A person desiring to unite with a church as an active member makes application in writing or in person to the local or ministry point through the pastor or local elders.
Action on the Request
Upon receiving the request, the elders ascertain whether the applicant:
- Makes a credible profession of faith in Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord,
- Lives consistently with that profession,
- Accepts the beliefs of Christianity as held by Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends (see “Friends Faith”) and will conform to its spiritual disciplines.
The elders refer the application, with their judgment, to the local or ministry point, which acts to accept or reject the applicant or to recommend affiliate membership. The clerk notifies the applicant as to the action of the church.
Reception into Membership
New members are accorded public recognition at a previously announced meeting for worship so that all members may extend them welcome.
Definition and Qualification
Children of members are, with the consent of the parents or guardians, enrolled by the statistician as associate members. Children of persons applying for membership may be so enrolled on application by the parents or guardians or by the request of one parent and the consent of the other. Children of non-members may be so enrolled on their request and with the consent of the parents. Children are thus recognized as participants in the church, not because of a birthright or family connection, but because of the hope that through Christian nurture they will come to God early in life and will then take a living interest in the church. It is hoped that they will thus confirm experientially what they have learned and observed in church and home.
From Associate to Active Membership
Associate members may be enrolled as active members when they have made a credible profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, have participated in a membership class or received other formal instruction, and have accepted the Christian beliefs as held by Friends (see “What Friends Believe”). Associate members should be encouraged to seek active membership by the age of twenty-one. If they do not, the local elders may recommend to the church that their names be removed from the membership list.
Fellowship of Non-Resident Members
The Fellowship of Non-Resident Members is an informal program by which persons removed from active association with Friends are encouraged to maintain their Quaker affinity. The local elders and the Yearly Meeting Council of Elders have responsibility for this program. Non-residents are urged to correspond with the local churches in which membership is held and with the Yearly Meeting through this Fellowship.
Definitions and Qualifications
Persons who desire to participate in a local church but who are not ready for active membership because of temporary residence, tentativeness about Friends faith, or other substantial reason may apply for affiliate membership. They may be granted affiliate membership if they are in harmony with one of the following, the local elders determining their readiness:
- “What Friends Believe”.
- The following essential Christian doctrines: the sovereignty of God; the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ; the atonement through Jesus Christ by which persons may be reconciled to God; the resurrection of Jesus, which assures the resurrection of all true worshipers; the gift of the Holy Spirit to believers; and the authority of the Scriptures.
- The Statement of Faith of the National Association of Evangelicals, in which Northwest Yearly Meeting has membership.
Responsibilities and Privileges
Affiliate members recognize and fulfill the obligation of regular attendance in meetings of the church, giving moral and financial support to its programs. Their children may become affiliate members also or, at the request or by consent of their parents, associate members. Affiliate members are given certificates indicating their relationship to the church. They are numbered separately on membership rolls. Only active members, however, may serve on the Nominating Committee of the church or as officers, elders, ministers, trustees, or clerks of standing committees. Only active members may act as representatives to Yearly Meeting or serve on its councils, boards, or commissions. Affiliate members are encouraged, therefore, to prepare themselves for active membership through a membership class or pastoral instruction.
Transfer by Certificate
When a member in good standing, or an associate member, has removed to the limits of another church, a certificate of membership is issued upon request of the member, or at the initiative of the local church but with the consent of the member. Transfer of membership becomes complete when acknowledgment has been received from the accepting church.
With Other Denominations
When an applicant for membership produces a letter of transfer from another Christian denomination, the church will require a membership class or other appropriate preparation. The church may receive the applicant into membership on the basis of transfer recommendation or upon profession of faith. The church may also delay or reject the application, or recommend affiliate membership as outlined above. In such cases the elders should interpret carefully to the applicant the judgment of the church. If a member in good standing wishes to unite with another Christian body, the church may grant a certificate of recommendation to the church of that member’s choice. After acknowledgment that this certificate has been received, this person’s membership with Friends is terminated.
Transfer of Ministers
To be determined.
Record of Transfers
The acceptance and issuance of all certificates are to be recorded in the minutes of the local church, the lists of members corrected accordingly by the statistician. The statistician must maintain a current list of members.
Resignation and Forfeiture
Resignation of membership is submitted to the church in writing. The church may then exercise its discretion about accepting it.
Uniting with another Denomination
When a member has united with another religious body that functions as a denomination, information verifying the fact authorizes the church to remove the name from its membership list. The clerk informs the person of the action.
Members who remove to places remote from any Friends church should correspond with their churches, and the churches, through their elders, with them. When no communication has been received from a non-resident member for three years and when after this period the Committee of Elders has made a reasonable effort to communicate, the church at its discretion may instruct the statistician to remove the name from its list of members.
Certificates of Membership
Pastors and Other Christian Workers
Duties and Priveleges of Pastors
Initiation of Pastoral Service
The elders of a local church initiate arrangements for pastoral services, consulting with the general superintendent of the Yearly Meeting and after prayerful deliberation making recommendation to the church. When the church unites with the judgment of the elders, it extends the call to a minister for pastoral leadership. When a new pastor comes from another Friends yearly meeting and when this person’s membership and ministerial standing have been accepted, the church requests the clerk of the Yearly Meeting to issue a minister’s certificate. The pastor chosen should accept the Christian beliefs as held by Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends Church.
The pastor and elders share responsibility for the spiritual care of the church. The pastor should in no sense dominate the church but should serve it, helping members through individual encounter and organized endeavor to become more effective in Christian proclamation, fellowship, and service. The pastor should take care that in meetings for worship the members of the congregation are afforded opportunity for their exercise of ministry, as the Lord may lead. The pastor is particularly responsible, in agreement with the elders, to:
- Affirm through public ministry the Faith and Practice of the Yearly Meeting.
- Facilitate systematic religious visitation among members and other attenders.
- Provide individual counseling to persons seeking spiritual and moral guidance, and to those preparing for marriage.
- Call on the sick, the bereaved, and the needy, and facilitate the compassionate interest of others on their behalf.
- Preach for the edification of the church, as led of the Lord, working with the elders in arrangements for worship and other preaching ministries.
- Lead the church in programs of evangelistic outreach.
- Serve as an advisory member of the church committees and departments, giving counsel to organizations such as the Sunday school and Friends Youth, reinforcing their concerns through public ministry.
- Provide systematic preparation for membership.
In cases where it seems advisable for a church to call as pastor a person who is not yet a recorded Friends minister or for the Yearly Meeting Board of Evangelism to appoint an unrecorded minister to an ministry point, the Presiding Clerk of the Yearly Meeting, upon recommendation by the clerk of the Council of Elders and the general superintendent, issues this pastor an annual certificate of license. This certificate, which must be requested by the Council of Elders or the Board of Evangelism, authorizes temporary pastoral ministry, including the performance of wedding ceremonies when legal requirements have been met.
Annual Report by Pastors
Every pastor serving a local church within the Yearly Meeting sends an annual report to the general superintendent, using a form provided.
Pastoral Relationship with a Church
The church formulates a written understanding with the pastor regarding length of service, whether it is one year, a specified term of years, or an indefinite time. This arrangement may be renewed at the discretion of the church, with notice given not less than three months prior to the close of the pastoral year. When a pastor or church discerns that this particular pastoral service has been fulfilled or that the ministerial service is no longer required, the relationship can be terminated by either party. Written notice should be given at least three months in advance. When possible, termination should coincide with the close of the pastoral year. When the church initiates termination procedure, the pastor may request, and is entitled to, a hearing before the elders or before the church in business session. Any conflicts arising between a pastor and a church should be submitted to resolution by biblical methods. (See “Christian Witness to Peace”, in the section “What Friends Believe,” and Query 6)
Other Christian Workers
Local elders may from time to time recommend, and the church may appoint at their discretion, members who are not recorded ministers to perform special types of service for the church. These include assistant pastors and youth pastors; music directors and vocal or instrumental musicians; evangelists and helpers for any other service that contributes to the spiritual ministry of the church. The church should bear in mind provisions for the certification of ministers.
Liberation and Recommendation
When a Christian worker as defined above feels led, and an opportunity has been offered, to perform some special type of service temporarily in another church, the concern is presented to the local elders. If they unite with the concern, they so recommend to the church, which may grant a certificate of service, with commendation, to the fellowship of Friends where the proposed ministry is to occur.
Grounds for Investigation
When there is evidence that a minister has lost the gift in ministry and usefulness to its work, or no longer represents the Yearly Meeting in that ministry, or can no longer affirm the Faith and Practice of Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends Church, that minister’s right of recording is brought into question.
Initiation of Action
Request for a review of ministerial status may originate from Yearly Meeting superintendents, the elders of a local church, or the Council of Elders. Requests originating with the local elders or the superintendents will be forwarded to the Yearly Meeting Council of Elders.
Investigation and Final Action
Each case is investigated as thoroughly as possible by the Yearly Meeting Superintendent and the Yearly Meeting Council of Elders in conjunction with the local elders. The Yearly Meeting Council of Elders may designate representatives to work with the superintendents. If after laboring prayerfully and lovingly with the minister in question the investigating body finds the charges sustained, the minister is disciplined according to Council of Elders guidelines for disciplining and restoring erring ministers. During the restoration process the minister’s recording is not revoked, but is suspended. If the restoration process fails, the Council of Elders may recommend to the Yearly Meeting that the recording or credentials of the minister be rescinded. If the Yearly Meeting concurs in this recommendation, the certificate of recording must be surrendered. (An appeals procedure is outlined below.) If the restoration process is successfully completed, the recording status is promptly restored.
Causes for Action and Preliminary Measures
If there are erring members in the church, the elders are to initiate discipline and to do so with love and prayer. Actions that constitute sufficient cause include failure to live a consistent moral life, conduct unbecoming to a Christian, habitual and unreasonable neglect of meetings for worship, denial or repudiation of Christian beliefs as set forth in Faith and Practice.
Formal Complaints and Further Dealings
When the local elders have exercised proper pastoral care without avail, they lodge with the church a formal complaint in writing against the erring member, setting forth the charges and their efforts at restoration, if necessary calling upon the Yearly Meeting for assistance in conflict resolution. It must be evident that the elders have exercised loving care, shown the accused person the nature of the default, and sought to bring about repentance and restored communion with Christ and the church.
Final Action of Disownment
If the exercise of care and forbearance proves unavailing and the offender maintains the pattern of conduct at issue willfully or continues to neglect meetings for worship (the latter for a space of three years), the church executes a minute of disownment, the clerk furnishing the offender a copy thereof and so reporting to the next business session of the church.
In the conduct of business, Friends seek corporately to know the will of God in our decision making, rather than advocating positions or taking votes, thereby preserving greater unity in our conclusions. (See “Friends Practice: the Form of Government)
Similarly, Biblical principles should guide us in settling disputes within the church. We are to settle differences between individuals within the church, rather than resorting to civil courts (I Corinthians 6:1-11). The settlement of a dispute in the early church is described in Acts 15. Jesus counsels us to deal with an offending brother or sister lovingly and honestly, and with respect for confidentiality (Matthew 18: 15-17). We recognize, however, that on occasion disputes and disagreements will arise that cannot be resolved within a local church. At times, too, individual members and ministers may need to be dealt with (according to procedures provided in the sections titled “Ministers,” and “Erring Members”) resulting in actions that are painful and controversial.
This section on “Appeals” is intended to provide an orderly procedure by which differences may be decided within the church, and to ensure the opportunity for review of that decision by a higher group.
Filing an Appeal
A member under dealings as an offender who is dissatisfied with the decision of the church may file with the church at its next business session, or the one succeeding it, an appeal to the Yearly Meeting Board of Elders for a review of the case. The church enters this appeal upon its minutes as a record, sends a copy to the Board, and appoints a committee of three to represent its position before the Board of Elders.
Procedure of the Board of Elders
The Board of Elders, after due deliberation upon the presentations by the church and the aggrieved member, may let stand the decision of the local church. Or it may find that the offense has not been correctly adjudged, or that the charge has not been sufficiently sustained, or that irregularities of procedure have infringed the rights of the appellant. If so, the Board sets aside the judgment of the church; the ground of the decision is entered upon the minutes; and the parties are so informed. If, and only if, the charge is dropped on the basis of irregularity of procedure, the church at its discretion may take up the case again.
Appeal of Board of Elder Decisions by Members or Local Churches
Appeal to the Administrative Council of the Yearly Meeting by Members
An appellant who is dissatisfied with the decision of the Board of Elders may file an appeal with the next session of the Board of Elders or the succeeding one (but not later). The Board of Elders enters this appeal upon its minutes as a record, sends a copy to the Presiding Clerk of the Administrative Council, and appoints a committee to represent its position.
Appeal to the Administrative Council of the Yearly Meeting by Churches
A local church that is unsatisfied by the decision of the Board of Elders concerning a decision on an appeal from a member may appeal to the Administrative Council, following the procedures described above.
A local church may also appeal decisions made by the Board of Elders pursuant to the section of the Faith and Practice under “Under the Care of Elders”. In such event, a written appeal shall be mailed or delivered to the Presiding Clerk of the Administrative Council within 30 days of the church(s) having received notice of the decision of the Board of Elders. A copy of the appeal shall also be mailed or delivered to the clerk of the Board of Elders and the general superintendent of the Yearly Meeting. The appeal shall state the reasons why the decision of the Board of Elders should not be implemented. Upon receipt of the appeal by the Presiding Clerk of the Administrative Council, any action approved by the Board of Elders will be deferred pending further determination, except action that the Board of Elders may consider necessary to protect persons or assets. While such an appeal is pending, the church(s) will not make any transfer of assets, amend its articles of incorporation, or take any other action which would interfere with the decision of the Board of Elders. The taking of any such action by the church(s) will be considered a cancellation of the appeal and permit the immediate implementation of the decision of the Board of Elders.
Administrative Council Action
Upon receipt of an appeal, the Presiding Clerk of the Administrative Council shall arrange to hear the appeal at a regular or special meeting of the Administrative Council. At the option of the Administrative Council, a committee may be appointed either from within or without its membership which may hear the appeal in its behalf and submit its recommendation to the Council. The Administrative Council or its committee shall consider fully the statements of the appellant member and church, as applicable, and the statements and minuted records of the Board of Elders. The Administrative Council or its committee may also do such investigation and hear such testimony as it considers appropriate in rendering a decision in the matter. A written copy of the decision shall be presented to the Board of Elders and entered in its minutes and copies shall be provided to the church and appealing member, as applicable. The decision shall also be reported to the next session of the Yearly Meeting.
If the Presiding Clerk shall consider that he or she has a conflict of interest in the matter under appeal, the assistant Presiding Clerk or someone else may be appointed to preside over the Administrative Council to hear the appeal.