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February 04, 2005



I think i have mixed feelings on this at the moment...

Interestingly, I am not sure that it is an entirely/uniquely Baptist idea. I had an interesting discussion with (largely) Robert B recently about Confirmation. To begin with I couldn't see the point, at least in my case having recieved "believer's baptism." The underlying view there would appear to be one that Confirmation (or ideally Baptism, as I am not one who endorses Infant Baptism) Is some sort of committment to the Church. More than simply the congregation, however, but to the entire denomination... and I think in an ideal world, to the "One holy catholic and apostolic church." It is acknowledging those promises made on your behalf as an infant (in blessing or in baptism) and taking them upon yourself, and taking responsibility for one's own faith. (It is worth mentioning that this is not Robert's view!).

Another Anglican example of this can be seen in the idea of the "electoral role." This is considerably more open than church membership, to the point of folly I would think. The idea is that anyone who worships at the church regularly, or who lives in the parish, can join the role (if they are over 16),(the potential, if unrealised, ramifications of anyone who lives in an area being able to affect the politics of a church, regardless of faith/creed, seem to me to be dangerous. but that's an aside).

One has to be on the electoral role to be able to vote for the PCC and Deanery Synod representatives, and the Church Wardens (and also to stand for election into any of these offices). Which is, I would think, A similar idea for a different style of Church government.

While I think the "rite of passage" and the accountability and committment to the Church are immensely favourable outcomes, I do think there are negative ones too...

such things can lead to elitism; marginalisation of the views of those who are not members/electorate; and seeming exclusivism of the congregation (whether this be the case or not). Also, I think the advantages of Confirmation/Baptism over Chruch Membership seem to me to be great; as these are rites that are (in the case of Baptism, and for Confirmation in Baptism's stead) Biblical, but which are also far more universal... that is... it is a committment to the catholic church, and not simply to "the local."

Which is to say, it is a coin of two sides.


Indeed that isn't my view of Confirmation!

As regards electoral rolls, my pedant soul can't let pass the opportunity of pointing out that they are not so open as you suggest. To be enrolled one must be baptized, aged over 16, and either (a) a member of the CofE, or a church in communion therewith, and resident in the parish, (b) a member of the CofE, or a church in communion therewith, and have habitually attended public worship in the parish for the previous six months, (c) a member in good standing of a trinitarian church not in communion with the CofE, declare yourself to be also a member of the CofE, and have habitually attended public worship in the parish for the previous six months.

The great Bishop Gore may have resigned his see in protest at the omission of Confirmation as a criteria, but I doubt you would have much to object to in these criteria?

I suspect your confusion arises from the wider criteria for those entitled to elect the Churchwardens. Only those on the electoral roll are eligible to (attend and) vote at the Annual Parochial Church Meeting, vote for the PCC, stand for the PCC, etc. But both those on the electoral roll and anyone else resident in the parish is entitled to nominate, attend and vote for the Churchwardens, which election normally takes place immediately prior to the APCM. (The Churchwardens themselves, however, must be on the roll and indeed fulfil several other criteria, such as being actual communicants.)

(Though in fact since neither PCCs nor churchwardens have any jurisdiction over faith and doctrine, it's not clear what harm could really be done so long as the canons are fully observed. Where a problem may arise of people being able to, as you put it, affect the politics of the church, regardless of faith/creed is not at the local or synodical level, but with Parliament. And this latter is not a purely theoretical problem either, as has been demonstrated in the past when noncomformist and presbyterian votes have helped veto church legislation; perhaps most infamously with the 1928 Prayer Book. It is, of course, a regrettable legacy of the - otherwise meritorious - repeal of the Test Acts.)

Anything that reminds parish churches that they are not owned by the gathered community of the elect minority who actually worship there regularly at this particular time has to be a good thing. The fabric of the church is there on trust (functionally - the legal framework is messier) for the people of the parish from generation to generation. Those on building committees ;-) might like to bear this in mind when they consider whose priorities they seek to serve by a reorganisation... (There's a reason why you don't have to be on the electoral roll to object to a faculty petition!) Though I admit this is likely to be rather less of an issue with a modern church like yours.

I think the electoral roll isn't really membership in the sense Andy is extolling; it only adequately fulfils one function - demarcating the electoral suffrage - of membership in the congregationalist sense. (Thus, for example, had women been denied admission to the roll in the past - though interestingly so far as I know this wasn't actually the case - this wouldn't have been the same as excluding them from membership of the church.)

I'm sure it is no surprise that I very much like what Andy says about membership. Though like you, it seems, I wonder if the need for it as a means of `committed belonging' mightn't result at least in part from the way we have allowed the significance of baptism to be devalued. But certainly those of us in the modern world without such a clear system of membership can suffer from its lack. I would like to think that when it actually functions - which seems to be very seldom in an urban environment - the parish system (which in England may be associated chiefly with Anglicans and RCs, but is availed of by Presbyterians and Lutherans elsewhere) goes one step further by committing us to koinonia with a community we have not chosen for ourselves, bound together only by the happenstance of this time and this place.

The problem is what to do when this has broken down, and choice rules even those of us who do happen to attend their parish church. Would introducing membership do more to recover, or to further undermine, the experience of church as `non-voluntary' (in Hauerwas' term)? I admit I don't yet know any other way out the other side.

(As an aside, the friend of mine who is ultimately responsible for introducing me to Hauerwas had a despairing rant about whether it is possible to be a Christian in this world of unavoidable choice in her [url=http://www.livejournal.com/~cathedral_life/9939.html]blog[/url] recently. I think Andy might find her, as a rabid, and to me inspiring, disciple of Hauerwas, a kindred spirit in several ways.)


Robert: I always thought criterion a) was an "or" not an "and." And, to that end, anyone theoretically could become a PCC/ Deanery Synod rep (and, thus, presumably a General Synod rep?). if this is not the case it is certainly slightly better than I was aware of.

I, unlike you, do very much object to the community being able to "veto" a faculty application (except within the contexts of civil planning permission... if we were to suddenly erect a 100metre bell tower and fill it with very loud bells i would certainly see the sense in this being objectionable!). How, though, does a parish citizen have need to dictate to the worshippers what they may and may not do within the church before God? this to me appears to be folly; especially in the urban setting where the PCC have little to know actual authority outside of the Church?

Taken to its extreme, any group resident in the parish who, for whatever reason, wished to cause upset to the Church could, theoretically, do so by opposing a faculty which the Church has chosen to apply for before God? it seems to me to lack all common sense. That is not to say that all faculties are applied for before God or even with God at the centre thereof, but one would hope that the diocesan authorities were able to make those discernments not the general public.

perhaps you could expand on your point further?

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