Church Transfer Letters: Harmless or Bane of my Existence?

I am having a small dilemma. When we receive transfers from other denominations, do we really have to track down their Church letter from Applesnort, Kentucky? Maybe I’m a product of my generation, but I need to know if there is any real reason we need to get transfer letters for folks who join our congregation from other denominations.

I mean, does this help in the annual trans-denominational member count or what? If we don’t do it, are we in grave danger of counting the same member twice in scientific accounting of membership rolls?

Don’t worry, I do my job sending and receiving these letters, but sometimes I’m just not sure it’s worth the effort. Sure, I sometimes get the occasional letter that says,

“Dear friend in Christ, we didn’t know Ralph was still a Christian. Come to think of it, we didn’t know he was still alive! I hope you have better luck with him than we did. Grace & Peace….”

I know someone out there knows the answer, and I know you’re going to tell me. I look forward to being enlightened.

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4 thoughts on “Church Transfer Letters: Harmless or Bane of my Existence?

  1. You didn’t get this lesson in seminary? That’s the title to their soul.

    Technically it is a shepherding issue. My guess it goes back to a time when church membership was a more tangible thing. It would seem to be proof of baptism and confirmation of acceptance into another church. That way, no baptized person went without pastoral care.

    But that is just a guess.

  2. Matt,

    Yes, the hope is that indeed you will make contact with the congregation from which the person coming to you claims to be a member. The current provisions for this are outlined in the Book of Discipline, Paragraph 225.

    What is often missed, but that the 2008 proposed revisions to this paragraph will clarify, is that a transfer of letter in itself does not provide the certification necessary to receive someone as a PROFESSING member. All persons who become professing members in our churches– whether they grew up among us or come from elsewhere– are to be received by taking the vows of professing membership for themselves. This can be done using Baptismal Covenant 1 or 4, but not 3 (the vows there are superseded as of the 2004 General Conference).

    Why do this? Because membership in our church is either baptized or professing. If baptized, we need some certification that someone has received Christian baptism. If professing, we need some assurance that this person has become part of our church under the form of the baptismal covenant used by our church.

    I hope that helps!

    Peace in Christ,

    The Rev. Taylor W. Burton-Edwards
    Director of Worship Resources
    GBOD | The United Methodist Church

    Equipping World-Changing Disciples

  3. Thanks for the comments Todd and Taylor.

    These comments were off the cuff and are in no way meant to diminish or demean our pastoral role as shepherds of Christ’s flock.

    Just so there is no confusion, I use Baptismal Covenant I for all who come as Professing Members.

    I am, however, surprised at the idea that we should get certification of baptism. With our stance on “re-baptism”, do we not accept people’s memory of their baptism as valid?

  4. Pingback: Polity is Popular? « mattjudkins

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