How much importance does your liberal Quaker meeting place on formal membership?

It appears that more and more liberal Quaker meetings are viewing formal membership as optional in order for a Friend to fully participate in the life of the meeting. This appears to be especially true of meetings formed during the last 30 years. Many who consider themselves committed Quakers now take issue with formal membership in a spiritual society that stresses the inner Light and living in the Spirit, as well as a rejection of outward symbols.

What is your meeting's view of membership? Has it formalized its view of membership via a minute or procedures? Are non-members restricted in their level of participation in the meeting life (such as being barred from certain committees or positions)? Is this topic currently under discussion or review in your meeting community? Is formal membership something that will eventually be eliminated in liberal Quaker meetings, like what has happened to the plain speech, plain garb, elders, recorded ministers, and facing benches? (many of these things can longer be found at liberal Quaker meetings).

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Small Meeting -- no way we could fill any of the committees if we restricted the choice to 'members.'  This is likely a common situation.

We had a clerk who wasn't a formalized member, though she had been attending for decades. We all considered her a member and she, for whatever reasons, never sought formal membership. For "legal reasons" I served as a co-clerk (though only to sign documents that needed to be signed by "a member". She was a wonderful clerk.  It never bothered anyone that she had never sough formal membership

True for my meeting as well. In its 25 year history, we've had a couple of meeting clerks who were not members. Due to the small size of the meeting, we never required membership for anything. Once the meeting got larger and the number of formal members increased, someone proposed, "Shouldn't we require membership for certain committees and positions?". This question resulted in a nearly three year process of discernment for the whole meeting regarding the place of membership within our spiritual community. From that process, it was minuted that our meeting would make no distinction between members and attenders, and that while we would keep a list of members (mainly for the purposes of the Yearly Meeting), we would not publish the list or annotate our directory to indicate who is a member and who is not.

During the above described process it was noticed that some of our more dedicated and visible Friends had chosen to not become members because they felt it would be contrary to their "living in the Spirit". It was also noticed that some members were not involved in the life of the meeting at all. We saw no distinction in Friends commitment to the meeting based on whether they were a member or not.

I can't help but wonder what spiritual gifts we may have missed from Friends had we had a requirement of membership before Friends could share those gifts and talents with others. And I've wondered if formal membership is one of the last vestiges of outward symbols that liberal Quakers have.

By the way, I have been a member for nearly 30 years.

My meeting requires membership for certain committee positions, but with a perpetual shortage of members, some of the ones that don't require as much stringency will have exceptions granted if no member can be found to take the spot. But for example, personal aid committee deals with a lot of very personal matters and are expected to maintain people's privacy, so no exceptions would be granted there.

This is the meeting's handout about membership http://quakersdc.org/membership  ... I personally find the "you're going to give us money if we make you member, right?" thing in having "Contribute generously to the financial support of the Meeting and its commitments" as an expectation of members a bit icky. It certainly put me off the idea of membership when I was a student on a small budget.

Thanks for sharing your meeting's Membership document, Mackenzie. Midlothian Meeting (my meeting) has one also. It is rather lengthy because it covers all aspects of membership as our meeting views it. We developed it over three years because our practice somewhat differs from the Baltimore Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice. I've uploaded it here:

Attachments:

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