I think I might be out of touch with what church membership means. A membership document from a modern day church was drawn to my attention, and I’m genuinely shocked by this covenant that members are expected to sign. Each frightening bullet point comes with a host of accompanying Bible verses. In this specially selected summary of what the members promise, I’ve given each of the original bullet points an appropriate heading that reflects the nature of the organisation.
POSSESSIVE AND JEALOUS
- I will not function in leadership or as a member in another church family at the same time I am a member of [named] Church
(Heb. 13:17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.)
Em, the Bible quote doesn’t actually say you can’t be a member of more than one church, but it does say you have to obey their authority, so if they say you can’t do it, you can’t do. Is this verse the catch-all, I wonder?
DICTATORIAL AND CONTROLLING
- I have read and understand the [named] Church doctrinal statement and will not be divisive to its teaching. I also understand the importance of submission to church leadership and will be diligent to preserve unity and peace.
(Eph. 4:1-3 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.)
Em, do people really ‘submit’ to other people in this day and age? Or do adults in normal organisations have conversations with other equal adults about areas of disagreement?
JUDGEMENTAL AND DISCIPLINING
- I covenant to submit to discipline by God through his Holy Spirit, to follow biblical procedures for church discipline in my relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ, to submit to righteous discipline when approached biblically by brothers and sisters in Christ, and to submit to discipline by church leadership if the need should ever arise.
(Ps. 141:5 Let a righteous man strike me – that is a kindness; let him rebuke me – that is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it, for my prayer will still be against the deeds of evildoers.)
Em, what exactly is righteous discipline? Are we understand from this one of the many supporting verses that a physical strike may be in order? Do adults not deal with their own behaviour? Are these people children?
DISCRIMINATING, PATRONISING AND INSULTING
- I will practice complete chastity before marriage and complete fidelity in heterosexual marriage between one man and one woman by abstaining from practices such as cohabitation, pornography, homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, incest, fornication, adultery, bestiality and attempts to alter one’s gender by appearance or surgery.
(Gen. 2:24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.)