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Faith and Practice

Pacific Yearly Meeting

of the

Religious Society of Friends

a guide to quaker discipline in the experience of pacific yearly meeting of the religious society of friends.
published 2001

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pym in context
quaker faith & spiritual practice
testimony & experience of friends
organization of the society
activities & organization of the YM
sources of quotations
index of sources
subject index

We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Friends who have permitted us to use material for this Faith and Practice.


ending membership

 Termination of membership may be initiated by the member or by the Monthly Meeting. Membership of a Friend ceases when this action is formally minuted in the record of that Meeting for Business. Monthly Meetings need to keep in mind that some Friends may go through periods, sometimes prolonged, when their association with the life of the Meeting is tenuous, and it is important that the Meeting communicate with them. However, a membership based only on nostalgia, status, or inertia should not be continued. on the initiative of a member: A member who no longer feels in accord with the beliefs and practices of Friends should be encouraged to consult the Oversight Committee to explore that feeling before considering resignation.

 When a member writes a letter of resignation, it is given to the Oversight Committee before being brought to the Monthly Meeting. When the person and the circumstances regarding termination are already well known to the Oversight Committee and they are satisfied that the member’s decision is clear, the Committee may make its recommendation to the Monthly Meeting without appointing an additional committee. If the reasons are not clear, Overseers should appoint a clearness committee of two or three persons, including one of its members, to visit the Friend and explore the reasons for the resignation. They may encourage the Friend to reconsider and continue in the fellowship of the Meeting. If the member’s intention remains unchanged, this is reported to the Oversight Committee, which in turn recommends to the Monthly Meeting that the request be granted.

 The Meeting minutes the release of the Friend, stating that it is at the member’s request. The Clerk of the Meeting sends a letter to the resigning member by registered mail with return receipt requested. The letter should include a copy of the Meeting Minute that terminated the Membership and express the affectionate regard of the Meeting. The Meeting may consider renewed application from this person, according to the usual procedure for new members. If the resignation is due to a desire to join another religious body the Clerk may, at the request of the member, write a letter to the other denomination indicating that the individual has been released from the Religious Society of Friends.

 on the initiative of a monthly meeting: When a member seems to have abandoned Meeting for Worship, or to have replaced it with some incompatible practice, Ministry and Oversight should seek clearness with that Friend as to whether resignation or termination of membership would be appropriate. If it becomes clear that the termination should go forward, Meeting for Business should minute the release of that person from membership in the Monthly Meeting and the Clerk should inform the individual of that action by registered mail with return receipt requested. One copy of the Minute should be placed in the Membership Record and another kept in the file of former members.

 If a Friend shows no interest in the Religious Society of Friends over a prolonged period, or exhibits repeated disregard of Friends principles, a Monthly Meeting may initiate the release from membership. Such a member should be approached by a member of the Oversight Committee or by a small committee of its members, either in person or by correspondence, to clarify the relationship between the member and the Religious Society of Friends. If the committee and member reach clearness to terminate Membership, the recommendation should be brought to the Meeting for Business. Approval should be minuted and a copy of the minute, accompanied by a friendly note, should be sent to the former member.

 If the Meeting repeatedly attempts to contact a member over an extended period of time and there is no response, the Oversight Committee may recommend to the Monthly Meeting that the individual’s membership be dropped. If the Meeting concurs, it should minute the circumstances and terminate the membership. The Clerk of the Meeting should send a note with a copy of the minute to the discontinued member promptly by registered mail with return receipt requested. If the address of a member is unknown, and the above procedure has been followed, a returned letter should be attached, unopened, to the Meeting copy along with the membership record in the file with the record of former members.

 If a Friend by behavior or expression appears to harm the Meeting or to misrepresent Friends, the Oversight Committee should appoint a small committee to meet with the Friend. In a spirit of loving concern, this committee should counsel with the member, seeking to understand his or her views and actions. When termination of Membership must be considered, it should occur over a minimum of three Meetings for Business. If there appears to be no hope of restoring unity with the Meeting, the Oversight Committee should report to the Monthly Meeting, and recommend that the membership be terminated. The Meeting may then wish to appoint a special committee to confer further with the Friend before taking action. If that committee reports that there is still no hope of reconciliation, the Meeting should notify the member in writing of its intention to consider termination of the membership at a Meeting for Business. If the Meeting agrees that the membership should be terminated, a proposed minute should be written, noting that final approval will be sought at the Meeting for Business on the date scheduled. That minute should be sent to the individual by registered mail with return receipt requested. At the appointed Meeting for Business, the minute should be re-read to the Meeting for its approval.

 A Monthly Meeting or member may approach the Quarterly Meeting’s Oversight Committee to help find clearness if problems arise regarding ending a membership. Procedures designed to promote clarity amid difficult circumstances are not intended to displace kindness and loving care for individuals’ spiritual life.Using registered mail and following procedures precisely may avoid misunderstandings and be helpful to the Meeting in case of legal action.