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Letters Of Withdrawal From Church Membership


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#1 electech98

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 02:13 PM

Hey everyone,

I have the intention of writing and submitting a letter to the church I was a part of that would basically entail withdrawing my membership and setting forth a notice of non-consent to any church discipline they may want to throw my way. This would be mainly to have a paper trail of membership withdrawal, non-consent to church discipline, and any subsequent responses so that I may have legal protection (if needed) against defamation / reputation smearing.

I still go to the church for now (mainly for the wife's sake), but will be stopping shortly. They have a pretty tightly-controlled membership program, and are strict about church discipline for the wayward member.

So, does anyone have any good examples of letters? Ones that you yourselves have submitted? Maybe this would be a good place to put them for all to glean off of, in case others like me have yet to go forward with withdrawing their membership.

Thanks!

Jeremy
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#2 oddbird1963

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 02:27 PM

This site might give you some good ideas. http://church-discipline.blogspot.com/2007/08/how-to-leave-church.html
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#3 Wings

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 03:50 PM

Hey, Jeremy, as you know, I go to a church where the options were a)withdraw b)be excommunicated (which involves too many meetings with church elders, having them publish your contact details in church bulletins and announcing your name for multiple weeks in a row during prayers and "admonitions"). There was no easy way out, but I figured it'd be less painful for all involved for me to withdraw (plus, it made it my choice). The letter went through a couple versions (I cut out most of my disagreements because I knew it would be a waste of time- they wouldn't listen). I let my family read it first and told them I'd change anything they wanted except the part about refusing to accept being bullied. Of course, that's what they wanted to change- but I stuck to it.
I also made up a new email address and gave them a deadline to contact me.
 


Edited by Wings, 15 August 2013 - 09:16 PM.

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#4 Wings

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 04:11 PM

oh, by the way, it only took me threatening once about pursuing legal action and or connecting with the Human Rights Commission about the e-harassment and then that stopped! Now it's subtler, but I'm not afraid to check my email any more :)
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#5 mcdaddy

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 04:16 PM

a notice of non-consent to any church discipline they may want to throw my way.


Man, i guess im sheltered, but this whole concept just blows my mind.

Church discipline? I. dont. even. get. that.

Around here people switch churches every few years it seems like. just come and go.
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#6 Kaiser01

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 04:18 PM


a notice of non-consent to any church discipline they may want to throw my way.


Man, i guess im sheltered, but this whole concept just blows my mind.

Church discipline? I. dont. even. get. that.

Around here people switch churches every few years it seems like. just come and go.


yea, it seems here that if people tried this then the churches would all just die.
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#7 Wings

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 04:22 PM



a notice of non-consent to any church discipline they may want to throw my way.


Man, i guess im sheltered, but this whole concept just blows my mind.

Church discipline? I. dont. even. get. that.

Around here people switch churches every few years it seems like. just come and go.


yea, it seems here that if people tried this then the churches would all just die.


I went to a similar church as Jeremy and the "church hopping" phenomenon blows MY mind! At our denomination, two church elders (men), LITERALLY guarded the communion table. Only confirmed members are able to partipate in any fashion in most of the traditions.
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#8 florduh

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 04:28 PM

I don't get it either. If they try any shit, sue the fuck out of them. You can't sign away your rights regardless of any membership contracts or mumbo jumbo you may have signed. The mere idea that there could be any "repercussions" from leaving a church leaves me bewildered and pissed off.



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#9 electech98

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 05:10 PM

Wings and I go to very similar churches, as she mentioned. They are very strict fundamentalist, Reformed (Calvinistic), Bible-literalist churches that takes membership VERY seriously. Cult-like seriously, in my view. Her denomination and my denomination are "fraternally" connected, meaning they are so similar in beliefs and structure that their ministers are allowed to preach at our pulpits and vice versa due to denominational agreements.

Church-hopping is very looked down upon in our type of church. Our churches have a superiority complex about not encouraging church-hopping, being committed to church membership, and disciplining members who stop coming or are convinced of another faith/practice and attempt leaving.

Unfortunately, back in 2001 I was very convinced of the Reformed view of Christianity, and the church I am currently a member of was the only Reformed church I knew about in my town. So, I felt compelled to be convinced of their membership policies and even changed my stance on adult vs. infant baptism to become a member.

Edited by electech98, 23 July 2012 - 05:12 PM.

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#10 electech98

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 05:14 PM


Removed upon request.

Thanks for posting your letter to them! Do you mind if I use some of it as a basis for my own letter? smile.png

Edited by electech98, 16 August 2013 - 04:44 PM.

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#11 Wings

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 05:25 PM

Go for it!
It was originally much longer but basically I realized that they wouldn't "hear" any of my arguments or ever understand where I was coming from, so my goal was just to draw boundaries.
I have another friend on her way out and she asked if she could use it, too. Cross your fingers for her. She still lives in our hometown so it'll be much more difficult. for her to leave.

ps. good luck! here for you when you're ready to have the $hit hit the fan

Edited by Wings, 23 July 2012 - 05:28 PM.

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#12 midniterider

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 05:38 PM


a notice of non-consent to any church discipline they may want to throw my way.


Man, i guess im sheltered, but this whole concept just blows my mind.

Church discipline? I. dont. even. get. that.

Around here people switch churches every few years it seems like. just come and go.


Yeah, I was a in a pentecostal church. I just never showed up again. And I believe I was an 'official' member. "Church discipline" makes me laugh.
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#13 mcdaddy

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 05:38 PM

2 hours to digest it and I still can't wrap my brain around it. If a church tried to "discipline" you here they'd probably get punched in the teef.
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#14 midniterider

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 05:48 PM

Hey everyone,

I have the intention of writing and submitting a letter to the church I was a part of that would basically entail withdrawing my membership and setting forth a notice of non-consent to any church discipline they may want to throw my way. This would be mainly to have a paper trail of membership withdrawal, non-consent to church discipline, and any subsequent responses so that I may have legal protection (if needed) against defamation / reputation smearing.

I still go to the church for now (mainly for the wife's sake), but will be stopping shortly. They have a pretty tightly-controlled membership program, and are strict about church discipline for the wayward member.

So, does anyone have any good examples of letters? Ones that you yourselves have submitted? Maybe this would be a good place to put them for all to glean off of, in case others like me have yet to go forward with withdrawing their membership.

Thanks!

Jeremy


Whatever you put in your letter , also attach a copy of libel, defamation and other related laws you have in your area as well as harassment / disturbing the peace/ trespassing laws so they know you won't put up with irritating phone calls, letters, visits, etc.

I don't know what it's like in Bakersfield, but in Reno nobody would give a rats ass if someone quit the church. And we do have a lot of them. Ten years ago I just up and quit my church. No paperwork or anything. Though this area is full of conservatives it isn't necessarily swarming with fundies like the South. I agree with McDaddy about church discipline. That's absurd. I'd tell em to eff off if they were going to 'discipline' me. :-)

Edited by midniterider, 23 July 2012 - 05:50 PM.

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#15 midniterider

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 05:51 PM

2 hours to digest it and I still can't wrap my brain around it. If a church tried to "discipline" you here they'd probably get punched in the teef.


I would like to know more about examples of church discipline.
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#16 Wings

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 06:12 PM


2 hours to digest it and I still can't wrap my brain around it. If a church tried to "discipline" you here they'd probably get punched in the teef.


I would like to know more about examples of church discipline.


In my church it meant the church elders/council would visit and call you A LOT! Including the pastor. Because it's such a cultish community, people talk and you feel the peer pressure from everyone-- people would literally bully you or exclude you or try to somehow enforce preferred behaviours. I hate to make a comparison to Amish people, but it's a real "in-group"/"out-group" thing, and you find yourself without support and friends on many levels if you choose to be "out-group". Social shunning and shaming can sure be effective.

If you were officially "under discipline" they wouldn't allow you to participate in communion and probably other stuff (like baptizing your kids or voting/participating in church office (if you're a man)).
Eventually, if you don't repent, they will announce to the church- almost like reading the marriage banns- that they are starting the process of excommunication:
Week 1: "a member of this congregation, unnamed, will not repent, bla bla, keep them in your prayers."
Week 2: "named person of this congreation is sinning, bla bla, they've been talked to but won't repent etc. pray for them." They'll also publish your name and contact details for the congregation
Week 3: "named person has refused to repent... they are being excommunicated from this congregation.. pray for them."

Because our communities are SO tight-knit and cult-like, people put a lot of pressure on family, too. So for me, I didn't care that people were being rude to me as much as it bothered me that they'd copy my mom on the emails and make her cry etc.
The social stigma and pressure is much worse than the "discipline" part... but being under church discipline means you may as well shave your head and wear a Scarlett A, you're not ever seen as "normal" or "welcome" quite the same way again.

**I don't know if Elechtech has the same experience, but in my tradition, the belonging is the important part. Everyone knows all the secrets (from child abuse to adultery to lying, cheating, law-breaking, etc.), people know the dirty stuff but it's rarely aired and people don't get shit for it as long as they keep pretending and keep "belonging".... it's really f'd up actually.
I told my family that truth was more important to me than belonging and therefore I was quitting. They can't accept that. I know that my cousin molested his younger sister. The church elders pushed that one under the rug and they're the respectable ones and I'm the black sheep. C'est la vie. It's really really sad... I wish more of my family would leave but I'm sure I'm on my own.

Edited by Wings, 23 July 2012 - 06:19 PM.

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#17 sarahlee

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 06:41 PM

Bakersfield. My home and native land.

Are you disciplined for not believing, or for leaving the church? By what Wings said, I take it that it's more about leaving the community they've established.
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#18 openpalm45

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 06:46 PM

Wow! Thats crazy. I mean, I guess it makes sense, but it is very different than the churches here.
Actually, when I quit going to church, I never heard from them again. I was in a car accident, which made it easier for me to stop going. But I didnt hear from anyone. Not the pastor/ministers. Not the people I was in a Bible study with. I was even on the leadership team in the college group. I didnt hear from any of them. Granted, my attendance had gotten a bit sporadic by the time I had my car accident and then stopped going altogether, but you would think I would have heard something from SOMEONE. Even to check on me after my accident. Nope.
But it sounds like that is much better than the alternative! I dont want all that drama electech and wings are talking about!
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#19 GardenerGal

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 06:55 PM

Much different than the church I attended, too. During the time I went, the preacher made a big point about not "going after the ones who leave". Looking back, maybe this is in protest to the way other churches handle this type of thing?
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#20 electech98

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 07:00 PM

Bakersfield. My home and native land.

Are you disciplined for not believing, or for leaving the church? By what Wings said, I take it that it's more about leaving the community they've established.

If you make some unbelief or different belief known, the pastor and/or elders will most likely make attempts at meeting with you on an informal basis to talk through those beliefs. If it becomes clear you are sticking to your unbelief or different beliefs, then more structured discipline actions are started, such as admonishments, warnings, etc. After a time, I don't know what would happen next really...banning from communion? Then excommunication? But all this would take place over a number of years, I think.

If you intend to leave for a likeminded Reformed church, usually a transfer takes place. If you intend to leave for a non-Reformed church, most of the time they will let you go and erase your membership with a warning of straying from orthodoxy. If you intend to leave because you no longer believe, or you try to join a church that is clearly out of the bounds of orthodoxy (Mormon church, Roman Catholic church, etc.), then the process would most likely end up in excommunication.

Excommunication has been explained in the past as a process of barring from communion, public admonition, and encouragement for the members of the church to limit communication with the apostate.

By the way, are you still in Bakersfield? If so, Hi!

Edited by electech98, 23 July 2012 - 07:01 PM.

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