Discipline ¶228

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Care of Members
228. 1. The local church shall endeavor to enlist each member in activities for spiritual growth and in participation in the services and ministries of the Church and its organizations. It shall be the duty of the pastor and of the members of the church council by regular visitation, care, and spiritual oversight to provide necessary activities and opportunities for spiritual growth through individual and family worship and individual and group study to connect faith and daily living, and continually to aid the members to keep their vows to uphold the Church by attendance, prayers, gifts, and service. The Church has a moral and spiritual obligation to nurture its nonparticipating and indifferent members and to lead them into an active church relationship.
2. Care of Members-a) The pastor in cooperation with the church council may arrange the membership in groups-with a leader for each group-designed to involve the membership of the Church in its ministry to the community. These groups shall be of such size, usually not larger than eight or ten families, as to be convenient and effective for service. Such groups may be especially helpful in evangelistic outreach by contacting newcomers and unreached persons, by visitation, by mobilizing neighbors to meet social issues in the community, by responding to personal and family crises, by holding prayer meetings in the homes, by distributing Christian literature, and by other means. Nonresident members should constitute a special group to be served by correspondence. The groups shall be formed and the leaders appointed by the church council upon recommendation of the pastor.
    b) While primary responsibility and initiative rests with each professing member to faithfully perform the vows of the baptismal covenant that have been solemnly assumed, if the member should be neglectful of that responsibility, these procedures shall be followed:
    (1) If a professing member residing in the community is negligent of the vows or is regularly absent from the worship of the church without valid reason, the pastor and the membership secretary shall report that member’s name to the church council, which shall do all in its power to reenlist the member in the active fellowship of the church. It shall visit the member and make clear that, while the member’s name is on the roll of a particular local church, one is a member of The United Methodist Church as a whole, and that, since the member is not attending the church where enrolled, the member is requested to do one of four things: (a) reaffirm the baptismal vows and return to living in the community of the baptismal covenant in the church where the member’s name is recorded, (b) request transfer to another United Methodist church where the member will return to living in the community of the baptismal covenant (see ¶ 239), (c) arrange transfer to a particular church of another denomination (see ¶ 240), or (d) request withdrawal. If the member does not comply with any of the available alternatives over a period of two years, the member’s name may be removed. (See § [4].)
(2) If a professing member whose address is known is residing outside the community and is not participating in the worship or activity of the church, the directives to encourage a transfer of the member shall be followed each year until that member joins another church or requests in writing that the name be removed from the roll of professing members; provided, however, that if after two years the council has not been able to relate that member to the church at the new place of residence, the name may be removed from the roll of members by the procedure of § (4) below.
(3) If the address of a professing member is no longer known to the pastor, the membership secretary and the evangelism ministry group chairperson shall make every effort to locate the member. If the member can be located, the directives of either § (1) or § (2) above shall be followed, but if after two years of such efforts the address is still unknown, the member’s name may be removed from the roll of members by the procedure of § (4) below.
(4) If the directives of §§ (1), (2), or (3) above have been followed for the specified number of years without success, the member’s name may be removed as a professing member by vote of the charge conference on recommendation of the pastor and the evangelism ministry chairperson, each name being considered individually; provided that the member’s name shall have been entered in the minutes of the annual charge conference for two consecutive years. On the membership record there shall be entered after the name: “Removed by Charge Conference Action”; and if the action is on the basis of § (3), there shall be added: “Reason: Address Unknown.” The record shall be retained4  in order that upon reaffirmation of the baptismal covenant the person may be restored as a member. Should a transfer of membership be requested, the pastor may, after consultation with the person, issue the certificate of transfer.
  (5) When a professing member is charged with an offense and wishes to forego trial, the charge conference may permit the member to withdraw (¶ 2719.3). In this case, the notation “Withdrawn under charges” shall be entered alongside the member’s name on the record, along with the date.
(6) Recognizing that the Church has a continuing moral and spiritual obligation to nurture all persons, it is recommended that a list of names thus removed shall be maintained. It shall then become the responsibility of the church council to provide for the review of this list at least once a year. (See also ¶ 234.) After the review has been made, it is recommended that the pastor and/or the commission on evangelism contact those whose names appear on this list, either in person or by other means, in the most effective and practical manner. The names and addresses of those who have moved outside the local church’s area should be sent to local churches in their new communities that those churches may visit and minister to them.
    c) The pastor, in cooperation with youth and young adult leaders in the congregation, shall disseminate information about United Methodist related Campus Ministry to college/university students or potential college/university students who are baptized members, professing members, or constituents of the congregation.
4. See Judicial Council Decision 207.