Remember the letter I sent to my former home church asking them to remove my name from church membership? Well, after a couple weeks I received a reply. Here is the pertinent portion:
Just as joining the church by baptism is a public matter, so is removing one’s name from church membership. It is not something a pastor can do, or a conference president, or even a General Conference president, for that matter. In the same way a congregation votes individuals into membership, it takes the congregation to remove someone from membership. As you can imagine, this is to protect people from caprice or potential high-handedness. In the case of a vote to remove a persons name, it does not happen at a worship service, but rather at a “church business meeting.” … It is basically a church board meeting to which all church members are invited…like a typical board meeting with perhaps a handful of additional attendees.
I can assure you that your request will be handled with respect. Those present at the meeting will express regret, but they will honor your request. After the [next] meeting, I will send you a formal letter documenting the removal of your name.
The rest of my pastor’s letter was equally kind and respectful.
Given what I learned about withdrawing my membership online, my pastor’s response is not unsurprising. I wish I could say I feel some hesitation or a sense of loss, maybe because I know what I’m leaving: a loving church community full of kind, intelligent, thoughtful people. It has its flaws. My home church was always just a little too big to be as homey as I would’ve liked. It was never really a “church family.” I also struggled to meaningfully involve myself in church activities for a variety of reasons. But honestly, when the date of the next church business meeting passes I think I’ll be relieved. ♦