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AN HISTORIC REVIEW OF LOCAL PASTOR AUTHORITY REGARDING MEMBERSHIP

By Dr. Riley B. Case

1784 Discipline (uses “superintendent” instead of “bishop”), makes no distinction between membership in society and membership in “church.” P. 35 Question 16: How shall we prevent improper persons from insinuating into the society? (long involved answer with tickets, time on trial, and recommendations, and general rules).

1829 Discipline
Duties of those who have the charge of circuits:
(5) To receive, try, and expel members according to the form of discipline.

Nothing in any of the Disciplines up to this time about pastors being accountable to bishop, superintendent, and the clergy on matters of membership.

1848 Discipline M. E. Church
Of Receiving Members into the Church.
Question 1. How shall we prevent improper persons from insinuating themselves into the Church?
(Long answer): Need to be recommended, 6 months on trial, have been baptized, and examined by the minister in charge, before the Church, “give satisfactory assurances both of the correctness of their faith, and their willingness to observe and keep the rules of the Church.”
Question 2. How shall we be more exact in receiving and excluding members?
Official minister shall read at every quarterly conference the names of those that are received into the Church, and also those that are excluded there from.

Discipline M.E. South 1858
Duties of the preacher who has charge of Circuits, Stations, or Missions.
1. To receive, try, and expel members according to the provision of the Discipline.

Constitution and Discipline of the Methodist Protestant Church 1888

Article II. (1) For probationary membership, “a desire to flee from the wrath to come, and be saved by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, with an avowed determination to walk in all the commandments of God blameless.
(2) Members from other churches can be received, (by churches) provided they are satisfied with the Christian experience of the candidate.

Article IV 4) Each church shall also have power to admit persons into full membership; and to try, censure, or expel unworthy members, in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution , and the Rules of Discipline.

Nothing in any of the Methodist Protestant Disciplines about the pastor being accountable to conference, clergy, or anyone beyond the local church in regard to membership.

United Brethren Discipline 1889
No probationary membership but “seekers” can have their names in the church-book but shall not be reported as members until they shall have conformed to the rules in the section relating to the reception of members. (p. 23)
(Next paragraph) If seekers do not manifest a desire to seek the Lord their names may be dropped by the preacher in charge, by the consent of the local Church or official board.
(Next paragraph) Preacher’s Responsibility. Any preacher refusing or neglecting to ask the foregoing questions, or who shall receive members into the Church in violation of this order, shall be answerable for the same in the conference of which he is a member.

(first reference in any of the Disciplines about preachers being accountable (answerable) to the conference, but, it shall be noted, it is not because of who is not received, but because of who is received.)

1936 Discipline M.E. Church

Para. 111.1 In order that the doors of the Church may be open to any person seeking to be saved from his sins, and yet the Church be properly safeguarded against the hasty admission of any unworthy person; and in order that all those who have not had previous instruction in the doctrines of the Church may have the advantages of its means of grace, the Ritual shall provide two forms for the reception of members.
(2) Preparatory membership. (For persons needing instruction and preparation)
(3) Full membership. (b) Baptized persons who give satisfactory evidence of their Christian character and of their knowledge of the rules and regulations of the Methodist Episcopal Church, upon recommendation of the Official Board or the a Board of Stewards, with the approval of the Pastor, shall be received into full membership on Confession of Faith according to the forms in the Ritual.

Nothing in any of the Methodist Disciplines, North or South, about the pastor being accountable to bishop, district superintendent, or clergy in matters of membership.


Methodist Discipline 1964

Para 107
All persons seeking to be saved from their sins and sincerely desiring to be Christian in faith and practice are proper candidates for membership in the Methodist Church. When such persons offer themselves for membership, it shall be the duty of the pastor, or of proper persons appointed by him, to instruct them in the meaning of the Christian faith and the history, organization, and teaching of the Methodist Church; to explain to them the baptismal and membership vows and to lead them to commit themselves to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. When they shall have given proof of the genuineness of their faith in Christ and of their desire to assume the obligations and become faithful members of the Methodist Church, after the completion of a reasonable period of training, and after the rite of Baptism has been admininisted…he shall bring them before the congregation, administer the vows and receive them into the fellowship of the Church, and duly enroll them as members.

Nothing in any of the Disciplines of the Methodist Church in the period between 1940 and 1968 about pastors being accountable to bishops, superintendent and the clergy in matters of membership.

E.U.B. Discipline 1955
Para 2076. The Minister shall instruct all candidates for church membership in the principles of the Christian life, in the faith and practice of the Evangelical United Brethren Church and in the significance of the vows to be taken in becoming a member of the Church. Only when persuaded as to the genuineness of their faith and their understanding of and their willingness to observe the rules and regulations of the Evangelical United Brethren Church, shall the Minister receive persons into the fellowship of the church.

Nothing in any of the Disciplines of the E.U.B. Church about pastors being accountable to bishop, superintendent, and the clergy in matters of membership.

1980 United Methodist Discipline.
216.1 Admission into the Church (almost identical to the statement in the 1964 Discipline).

Nothing in any of the Disciplines of the United Methodist Church since the 1968 merger about pastors being accountable to bishop, superintendent, and the clergy in matters of membership.

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