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Methodists/Funeral for a non-member attendee


We have a long-time regular church attendee who likes to attend Sunday services with relatives and participate in many church functions, but does not wish to become a church member.  This person has serious health issues. They have been told by the pastor that if they are not a church member when they die, they will not be able to be buried out of our church.  This doesn't seem right, and certainly not Christian.  I could understand an additional fee for non-members, but that is not what they are being told.  Are there any rules in the BoD or other Methodist documents addressing these issues?  Can you direct me to any authority?

I have NEVER heard of such a thing!  While a church graveyard might be limited to members due to space concerns -- and that would be a decision that could be made by the Trustees -- I cannot imagine that a Pastor would tell a non-member attendee that s/he cannot be served with memorial or funeral services upon their death.  Someone who is in regular attendance is considered a "Constituent" of the church and is very much in need of pastoral care, both in life and in passing.  

There is NOTHING in the Discipline of the United Methodist Church which would support the idea that one has to be a member of the church in order to have funeral services in the facilities.  I spent a little while skimming through the BOD to see if I could find some reference, but I could find NOTHING.

So ... I would challenge the pastor to substantiate their statement.  If it's simply an attempt to force someone to join the church, it's a petty motivation.  If it's just the Pastor's unwillingness to perform the funeral -- for whatever reason -- then while that is the Pastor's right (s/he doesn't HAVE to perform such a ceremony), it's not pastoral, gracious, or reflective of the Love of God.  At least, that's my opinion.


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Rev. Gregory S. Neal


I can answer questions dealing with all issues of United Methodist Doctrine and Wesleyan-Arminian Theology. In particular I can answer questions dealing with the Sacraments and other liturgical and worship-oriented questions. I can also answer questions dealing with the form, structure, and organization of the United Methodist Church and our relationship with other denominations.


I am an ordained United Methodist Elder with more than 20 years of ministerial service experience in the local Church.

I am a Clergy Member in Full Connection and have been a member of the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church since 1991. I am a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academy of Religion. I am also a member of the Emmaus Community, and am currently serving as Senior Spiritual Director for the Dallas Emmaus Community. I am a member of the Order of Saint Luke in the United Methodist Church.

I have my own website:   I have written two books, "Grace Upon Grace" and "Seeking the Shepherd's Arms," both available at and in bookstores.

I have a BA in Religious Studies, History and Russian. I have an M.Div in Systematic Theology and Biblical Studies and a Ph.D in Sacramental Theology and New Testament.

Awards and Honors
Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church
Fellow of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist

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