Methodists/Membership Removal

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Question
I seek your opinion regarding removing an individual from membership of the church.  Earlier this year, our Lay Leader resigned his position due to difficulties with the pastor; he and his wife subsequently started worshipping in another church.  As the year progressed, our pastor informed the Church Administrative Board / Council that she was going to try to contact inactive members in an effort to start purging the roll via Charge Conference.  Members of the Council generated a letter and had the understanding that it would be sent to those who have been inactive for years (for some reason,the pastor alone determined who would receive the letters and disregarded information that was given her by some members of the Council regarding the status of many individuals), but the pastor sent the letter to many who had been in attendance within the past few months, and in a couple of cases weeks, instead, including the former Lay Leader and his wife.  They had stat
ed to some members that they had not planned to move their membership, but after having received the letter from the pastor, the WIFE sent the letter back with the request to remove BOTH of them from the role and to cease any future correspondence.  It has now come to light that the HUSBAND says he is still a member and that he never agreed to or requested his name removed from the role.  Upon reviewing the letter, it is signed by the WIFE only.  The question is:  can a wife or husband speak for both in removing their names from the role, or does each individual have to speak for themselves in this type of situation?  In our research, the Discipline seems to be silent in this particular situation.  Our pastor contends that if he wants to remain a member he needs to send a letter to have his name re-instated, but the members of the Council believe that he should not be required to take any action to remain a member since he didn't request his name removed. All of this came to  light as we are preparing for Charge Conference and the Council reviewed the Report of the Pastor to be presented.  Our pastor is adamant this his name is and will stay removed from the church role.  Please advise us on how best to handle this situation.  I appreciate your time and look forward to hearing your opinion.

Answer
John-

Church politics at its worst.  Before I answer, please remember that I am a volunteer, and also that I've held positions on just about every committee and studied the Discipline.  My opinion is not in any way "official".

Although I didn't look it up, it's merely common sense that the wife cannot speak for her husband in real life, so church life should be no different.  The only exception to this would be if the wife has a general power of attorney for her husband, in which case it should have been noted (or a copy included) with the return of the letter.  Obviously, there is some controversy and lack of communication within that family, but that's another matter altogether.

In a perfect world, what should happen is that the church membership secretary reinstate the husband to membership, since HE never requested removal.  This probably isn't going to happen due to the disagreement between the pastor and the man.  Paragraph 227 in the Discipline is clear that members are to be considered individually, not as a family.  The only way for either of them to be removed in this situation is to ask for it, or for the church to consider them in Charge Conference for 2 years, and remove them the third.  And during that time, it's the pastor's responsibility to encourage them to return.

I think there are 2 options to resolve this - Option 1, have the husband just suck it up and send the letter.  It may not be what he wants, but it will force the pastor's hand as he said that's what he wants.  If the man is unwilling to send the letter, then either he really doesn't want to be a member, or he's just being stubborn, which I understand.  If he really wants to make his point, then HE should pursue Option 2 which is to go complain to the pastor directly, and if that doesn't resolve the situation, then go back to the pastor with the church leaders, and if that doesn't work, go to the District Superintendant, and if that doesn't work, go to the Bishop.  (Matthew 18:15-17 has an excellent process for resolving disputes.)  But again, I think just the letter would be quickest, easiest, and resolve what the husband really wants to happen, even if his removal never should have happened in the first place.

Hope this helps.  Plese take the time to give me some feedback, thanks.

Carl

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Carl Fuglein

Expertise

General questions about the United Methodist Church - its history, Book of Discipline, its stance on current issues, church politics and administration, etc.

Experience

I've attended United Methodist Churches for 40 years and been an "official" member for 33 years. I've held many lay positions within the church and am considered a church "leader".

Education/Credentials
I've attended the UMC lay speaking academy and am a recognized conference preacher.

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