What Do We Mean by “Membership”?
The most important point we can make is this: those who have received God’s grace in the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion are (as the old Prayer Book language has it) “very members incorporate in the mystical body” of God’s Son, “our saviour Jesus Christ.” There is nothing that All Souls’ or any other church community can do to incorporate people more fully into that Body: through the sacraments we receive that grace. What concerns us here is “membership” in a much less vital sense: membership in the particular community of All Souls’. All Christians are members of the Body of Christ; but we are not therefore members of any local church we happen to walk into, and different local churches will have different standards and qualifications for admission. In our Membership Covenant we lay out the standards for All Souls’. But any baptized Christian who does not affirm this covenant is no less a member of the Body of Christ, and is no less welcome to participate in our fellowship!
Why A Membership Covenant?
From the early days of Christ’s church, priests and other ministers took care to instruct the people in the Faith. The Apostolic Tradition, written by a Roman priest named Hippolytus around 215 A.D., indicates that adult converts – called catechumens – underwent three full years of study before being accepted as candidates for the sacrament of Baptism and, then, Holy Communion. Those who had been baptized as infants needed instruction too, and from that need emerged the practice of Confirmation. Once the great Creeds emerged from the church’s councils, they were used as documents of instruction as well as profession of faith; eventually catechisms were developed, including the brief but excellent one contained in the English Book of Common Prayer of 1662.
Sadly, in many parts of the Anglican world the need for catechetical instruction has been neglected or even repudiated. In many parishes even an elementary understanding of Christian doctrine is no longer seen as a qualification even for church leadership. Many of us who worship at All Souls’ are the inheritors of this sad situation: some of us have been instructed very well in the faith, others poorly, still others hardly at all. The membership classes at All Souls’ and the Membership Covenant that they point towards are designed to insure that those who lead this community, and those who vote on the future of this community, share a very basic common foundation of Faith. In a phrase much favored by the Most Reverend Peter Akinola, “Can two walk together, unless they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3) We want the members of All Souls’ to be able to walk together in the light of the Gospel.
Why this Membership Covenant?
We wanted to have a simple Covenant based in Scripture and Anglican liturgical tradition to summarize our core beliefs. The idea was to construct a minimal statement, one that created enough common ground for us to “walk together,” but with no more detail than absolutely necessary. On non-essential matters this is a community of significant theological and spiritual diversity, and we do not want to limit the richness of our fellowship. It is within the context of shared core commitments that our differences can be mutually enriching and can strengthen our fellowship.
Our Membership Covenant
• I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God; no one comes to the Father except through Him.
• I accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and desire to follow him.
• I believe and acknowledge the Holy Bible, Old and New Testaments, to be the true and living Word of God, containing all things necessary for salvation.
• I renounce Satan and all of his works and repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbor.
• I affirm the Nicene and Apostle’s Creeds as sufficient statements of the Christian Faith.
• I will worship with the church regularly.
• I will work, pray and give for the spread of Christ’s kingdom.
If you are interested in becoming a member of our church, please contact Fr James Arcadi.