Who is a Member of All Saints?
This question always comes up around the time of Annual Meetings in November, because only members of All Saints’ are able to vote in elections. It is very tempting to say, “What does it matter?” And in one sense, when it comes to how we think of our Christian community at All Saints’, it does not matter! Everyone who attends on a regular basis is a part of us, and we are a part of them. This, after all, is the definition of The Body of Christ!
However, here is where it DOES matter: All Saints’ also has a legal identity. As such, the Annual Parish Meeting is a gathering of the members of the corporation. The Board of Directors and CFO (Vestry) and the CEO (Rector) report out about the state of the corporation.
Committees also report out. Those assembled members vote, usually only on elections to the vestry and representatives to Diocesan Convention and the Pennypack Deanery. But, on occasion, the members are asked to vote on something weightier, perhaps something to do with property or investments, and then voting becomes very important indeed. So it is always important that those who are firmly planted at All Saints’ be the ones in whom these decisions rest.
How does one get to be a member? An official member? So, just to make it more complicated, we have three sets of rules, the first in the Canons of the Episcopal Church, the second in the Canons of the Diocese of Pennsylvania and the third in the Bylaws of All Saints Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church says that to be a member one must be baptized in an Episcopal Church, which is the entry for everyone. However, baptism is the only sacrament universally recognized by almost every Christian denomination. One is not “baptized Roman Catholic,” or “baptized Episcopalian.” One is just baptized – and becomes a Christian. So if you were not baptized at All Saints’, all that needs to happen is that All Saints and the church where you were baptized need to communicate by Letter of Transfer, and your membership needs to be moved from the baptismal church to All Saints’. The Letter of Transfer literally transfers you from the spiritual care of one church to the spiritual care of the “receiving church.” In some cases, confirmation or reception by the Bishop is required. Just ask the pastor, it is easy to set that in motion.
According to The Episcopal Church, members, also known as communicants, are considered active members, or communicants in good standing, if they have been faithful in corporate worship and faithful in working, praying, and giving for the spread of the Reign of God in the past year. Only active members are eligible for election to office. As long as we are being blunt, since one of the requirements is giving for the spread of the Reign of God (that means money), it is most helpful if that giving is in church-provided offering envelopes or checks. That’s because cash in the offering plate is impossible to track, and the nominating committee, when they check in with our Pledge Secretary to find out if that requirement for a nominee has been met, can’t verify cash that has no paper trail. (And, if your contributions are trackable, they are also tax deductible, and we’ll send you a receipt for your tax records.) Finally, although in the Episcopal Church, Adult Communicants are those over sixteen years of age, legally, adults must be eighteen years of age to vote, and so that is the requirement for a voting member.
Fortunately, our diocesan canons do not add to the definition, rather they provide clarity for the secretary or cleric charged with keeping such records up to date.
However, the current By-Laws of All Saints’ Episcopal Church do provide a few more requirements, which are permitted, so long as none of these contradict the Canons of the Episcopal Church or the Diocese. Article I.1 says:
The Members of the Corporation qualified to vote at elections of members of the Vestry and on all questions which may come before any meeting of the Corporation shall be those persons of the age of eighteen (18) years or upwards who shall appear by the books of the Corporation to have contributed to its support not less than twenty-five dollars ($25.00) per year during each of the two successive years immediately preceding such election or meeting.
So if you think you want to become “official” please see the pastor. It is easy to accomplish!