Process for Membership

This text is Appendix 4 of Faith & Practice, the book that provides guidance for Friends in New England Yearly Meeting.

4A. Process for Joining a Friends Meeting

  1. A person desiring membership in a Friends meeting initiates the process by writing a letter to the meeting, addressed to the clerk of the meeting.
  2. Adult members may request that their children be accepted as associate members.
  3. The clerk reports receipt of the letter at the next business meeting, and refers the letter to the appropriate committee of the meeting, usually Ministry and Counsel. The clerk may withhold the name of the applicant if the applicant wishes or if it is the practice of the monthly meeting.
  4. The committee which receives the membership request appoints a clearness committee to meet with the applicant.
  5. After having met with the applicant as many times as necessary, the clearness committee reports back to this committee. In the case of potentially competing affiliations such as dual membership these matters should be resolved before reporting back.
  6. If the recommendation is that the applicant be accepted into membership, this recommendation is reported to monthly meeting for business.
  7. If the clearness committee finds that the applicant is not yet ready for membership, the clearness committee reports this to the committee that appointed it. That committee may choose to extend the process.
  8. Occasionally the group may reach clarity that membership in the Society of Friends is not the Spirit’s leading for an applicant. If both the committee and the applicant remember that the goal is clearness that allows faithful action, then this outcome can be seen as a positive one. The clearness committee reports this to the committee which appointed it. That committee reviews the decision and brings its recommendation to the business meeting.
  9. If the monthly meeting for business accepts the applicant into membership, the action is minuted and the applicant’s name is submitted to the meeting recorder who will add it to the meeting’s records.
  10. The clerk of monthly meeting writes a letter to the new member, acknowledging the action of the monthly meeting for business and welcoming them into membership
  11. The new member is welcomed into the meeting.

4B. Writing a Request for Membership

The letter requesting membership might include statements of:

  1. Your desire to become a member. 
  2. How you came to the decision to accept membership.
  3. Your understanding of the spiritual grounding and aspirations of the Religious Society of Friends now and in the past. (This can be brief.)
  4. Your willingness to meet with a clearness committee for membership.

4C. Suggested Topics for the Meeting of the Applicant and the Membership Clearness Committee

Below are suggested topics to be addressed. Many of them will occur naturally in the course of conversation and are not meant as an examination, nor is it expected that there are “right” or “wrong” answers. The value of these topics lies in what they may reveal of experiences of the Spirit of both the applicant and the members of the clearness committee. Sufficient time should be allowed to ensure mutual understanding and trust. The discussion should take place unhurriedly in the spirit of a common search and seeking for clearness on the part of both the applicant and the clearness committee.

Sometimes the membership clearness committee may feel an individual is not ready for membership. It is important to recognize when this is the case and equally important to continue to provide pastoral care to nurture the individual’s progress on their spiritual journey. This may include suggestions for religious education opportunities, spiritual companionship, counseling, or other necessary assistance.

  1. Process of clearness. What is your understanding of the process of coming to clearness?
  2. Spiritual journey. Describe your spiritual journey. What is your experience and understanding of the Spirit? What role does it play in your life? How do you anticipate that membership in the meeting and in the Religious Society of Friends will affect this journey?
  3. Quaker history and experience. What is your understanding of Quaker history and experience? What is your own experience of following the Inward Light as guide rather than relying on worldly authority? Have you found the collective experience and insights of Friends helpful in developing your own understandings?
  4. Quaker diversity. Are you aware of the diversity of language and theology used by Quakers to describe basic Friends’ principles? Can you be comfortable with both Christian and universalist language when it is used to describe a spiritual experience? Can you be open to the experience that lies beneath the words?
  5. Testimony and witness. Do you find yourself in harmony with the way the Spirit has consistently born testimony in the lives of Friends throughout our history? To what can you testify from your own experience? How has this affected your witness? How have you been affected by the meeting’s expressions of testimony? 
  6. Quaker faith and practice. How familiar are you with Friends’ faith and practice? Are there some aspects which are particularly meaningful to you? Are there some that you find confusing or with which you do not connect?
  7. Contributions to the meeting community. How are you involved in the life of the meeting? How do you hope to grow within and contribute to the community? What is your commitment to the meeting community and to the Society of Friends as a whole?
  8. Living in spiritual community. Along with the joys and benefits of living in a spiritual community come potential hardships, disagreements and incompatibilities. Are you ready to address such difficulties with love and with an open heart? Are you aware of the contemporary struggles within the meeting and among Friends?
  9. Quaker decision-making. Have you participated in the monthly meeting for business or served on a meeting committee? Do you understand how Friends make decisions?  
  10. Organizational structure of the Society of Friends. Do you understand the interdependence among monthly, quarterly, and yearly meetings? Are you open to participating in these bodies?
  11. Other affiliations. Are you affiliated with other religious organizations? How do those affiliations affect your involvement in and commitment to the meeting?

4D. Suggested Procedure for Transfer of Membership within the Society of Friends

For the Friend who wishes to transfer membership:

  1. When a relationship with a new meeting has been established, the Friend desiring to transfer membership applies to the clerk of the meeting of which they are a member for a Certificate of Transfer to the new meeting.
  2. At the same time, the Friend writes to the clerk of the new meeting indicating that request for transfer has been made.

For the meeting from which transfer is being made:

  1. Upon the clerk’s receipt of a request for a transfer of membership, the clerk refers the request to the appropriate committee of the meeting.
  2. If there are no obstructions or difficulties, this committee recommends to the monthly meeting that the transfer be approved. If there are problems, this committee will attempt to resolve them or report back to the clerk the circumstances blocking their way.
  3. Approval by the monthly meeting for business is required for completion of the transfer. 
  4. The clerk or recorder completes two copies of the Certificate of Transfer, sending one to the receiving meeting, along with a copy of the Acceptance of Transfer, and keeping one for their own records. (The originating meeting is obligated to inform the receiving meeting of any special condition or problems experienced with a transferring member.) 
  5. The clerk or recorder retains one copy of the Certificate of Transfer.
  6. If reply from the receiving meeting is not received in due time, another copy of the Certificate of Transfer may be made and inquiry sent to the receiving meeting.
  7. When the Acceptance of Transfer is returned by the receiving meeting, a copy of the member’s meeting membership record is sent to the receiving meeting, thus completing the interchange. The clerk or recorder appends the copy of the Acceptance to the meeting membership record for that member and files those documents in whatever manner the records of “former members” are preserved. The Friend remains a member of the originating meeting until the new meeting has minuted acceptance in their monthly meeting for business. The date of that meeting marks the official change and is so reported to the Yearly Meeting through the annual statistical report.

For the receiving meeting:

  1. The clerk receives the member’s letter of intention to transfer membership. When the Certificate of Transfer and the partially completed Acceptance of Transfer are received, the clerk acknowledges them, in writing, and reports it to the next meeting for business. The clerk then forwards the request to the appropriate committee (usually Ministry and Counsel).
  2. This committee appoints a clearness committee, at least one of whom serves on the committee with responsibility for membership. They explore with the transferring member such matters as are necessary in order that there be common understanding of the new relationship. If the committee finds clearness, it reports to the appropriate committee, which then makes its recommendations to the next monthly meeting for business.
  3. When the committee recommends acceptance of the Certificate of Transfer to the monthly meeting for business, and the meeting accepts the recommendation, the meeting minutes its decision regarding the acceptance of the Friend as a member. With acceptance, that minute records membership in the new meeting as of that date.
  4. The clerk furnishes the member with a copy of the approving minute.
  5. The clerk completes the Acceptance of Transfer and makes a copy of it.
  6. The clerk or recorder sends the copy of the Acceptance of Transfer to the clerk of the member’s originating meeting.
  7. The Certificate of Transfer and the original Acceptance of Transfer become the meeting’s membership record. The recorder preserves them in the meeting’s file of current members. The meeting may receive a copy of the meeting membership record from the old meeting. This is not an official record and may be stored in whatever manner the meeting holds background information about its members.
  8. When all business has been satisfactorily completed, the meeting should make arrangements to welcome their new member.
  9. The new member is included in the meeting’s next statistical report.

 

Note: Meetings vary in how they distribute responsibilities of the clerk and recorder. To avoid unnecessary delay or confusion, each meeting will prosper by clarification of these tasks.

4E. Forms for Transfer of Membership Within the Society of Friends 

Certificate of Transfer
[Meeting letterhead and date]
To _______ Monthly Meeting of Friends
Dear Friends:
This is to certify that _______  [a member/members] of this Meeting [has/have] requested a certificate transferring membership to your Meeting. Upon due inquiry, no obstruction appears to granting this request. We therefore commend [him/her/them] to your [Christian/spiritual] care. Please acknowledge receipt of this certificate and acceptance of the transfer by completing and returning to the clerk, the annexed statement.
Signed by direction and on behalf of _______ Monthly Meeting of Friends, held at _______ ,  State of _______ , the  ____ day of [month], 20 __.
[Signature], Clerk
[Address] 

Acceptance of Transfer
To _______ Monthly Meeting of Friends
Dear Friends,
We have received the transfer certificate issued by you on the ___ day of [month], 20___ and have accepted _______ into membership with us.
Signed by direction and on behalf of _______ Monthly Meeting of Friends, held at _______, State of _______, the ____ day of [month], 20___ .
[Signature], Clerk

4F. Sojourning membership

There may be times when a Friend will spend a period of time attending a meeting at some geographical distance from their home meeting, with the intention of ultimately returning to the meeting where they are a member. If the member wants to become involved in the meeting which they are attending, the member may request that their home meeting send a Minute of Sojourn to the meeting with which they want to be involved for the period of their stay. This Minute of Sojourn commends the member to the meeting of their sojourn, asking that they be welcomed into the new community for the duration of their stay.

If the Sojourning Member becomes involved with the new meeting, it is traditional that the Meeting of Sojourn send a letter to the home meeting when the period of sojourn is finished, returning care of the member to the meeting from which they came.

4G. Transfer of Membership to a Church Outside the Society of Friends

Request for Transfer
[Meeting letterhead and date]
To the _______ Church, [city], [state]
Dear Friends,
_______ , [a member/members] in good standing in this Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, [has/have] expressed the desire to become [a member/members] of your Church. We have considered this request and there appears to be no obstruction to granting it. We therefore recommend [him/her/them) to your care. Their membership in this meeting of the Religious Society of Friends will end when we receive acknowledgment of your acceptance of this transfer.
Signed by direction and on behalf of _______ Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, held at ________ , State of ________, the ___ day of [month], 20___.
[Signature], Clerk
[Address]

Acceptance of Transfer
To _______ Monthly Meeting of Friends
We have received the letter issued by you on the ____ day of [month], 20___, and have accepted _______ into membership with us.
Signed on behalf of  _______ Church,
[date] 
[Signature], [Title]            

4H. Discontinuance of Membership

The monthly meeting records the discontinuance of a membership in its records and sends a copy of the pertinent minute to the individual involved.