When a sense of commitment between an attender and a Friends meeting is strong, a member of the meeting may encourage the attender to apply for membership or the attender may initiate that process. In some cases, members of a family may apply together. There are several steps involved in the application process, some taken by the meeting and some by the attender.
- The attender sends a written request to the clerk of the meeting, stating why he/she is moved to join the Religious Society of Friends.
- Typically, the clerk reads the applicant’s letter at the next meeting for business and then refers the application to the pastoral care or membership committee. That committee promptly appoints a clearness committee to visit the applicant.
- The clearness committee is expected to make this visit as soon as possible. During the visit, the committee members and the applicant explore together, in a probing and candid manner, fundamental questions of religious faith and practice. The clearness committee is expected to explain both the responsibilities of membership in a Friends meeting and the nature of the commitment the meeting makes when it accepts an application for membership. The applicant will be encouraged to share expectations concerning the meeting and the significance of membership.
Among the questions the committee might ask the applicant are:
- What are some milestones in your spiritual journey? How do you expect membership in the meeting to help you in this journey?
- How familiar are you with Friends faith and practice? Which of these particularly attracted you to Friends? Which aspects do you find puzzling or disturbing?
- Do you welcome participation in a religious community whose unity of spirit coexists with a diversity of beliefs? Are you prepared to join a meeting community which includes people whose perspectives differ considerably from your own?
- Have you read and reflected on the queries and advices? Which of these do you find most helpful? Which do you find puzzling or disturbing?
- How closely are you in harmony with Friends testimonies and with Friends’ work for peace and social justice?
- What gifts do you believe you might bring to the meeting community? In what ways would you like to share your time and talents with the meeting?
- Are you willing to provide the meeting with financial support in order to help the meeting carry out its activities and fulfill its responsibilities?
- Do you understand the relationship among the monthly, quarterly and yearly meetings? Are you aware of and willing to meet our expectation of financial support for programs, services and facilities associated with the quarterly and yearly meetings?
- The clearness committee will report to the pastoral care committee regarding the outcome of its visit with the applicant for membership.
- If there is a positive recommendation from the clearness committee to the pastoral care committee, and if that committee concurs, it will recommend at the next meeting for business that the meeting accept the application for membership.
- Action by the meeting may be postponed until a later session to give time for members to become better acquainted with the prospective member.
- If the meeting approves the application for membership, it will minute its decision and appoint two or more Friends to welcome the new member.
- The name of the new member and other pertinent information will be given to the meeting recorder for the meeting’s records, and will be reported to the quarterly and yearly meetings.
The desire of an attender to become a member is generally a cause for rejoicing. However, the pastoral care committee may advise the meeting to postpone acceptance or even to reject an application if there is good reason to do so, such as an applicant’s inflexible disagreement with some significant aspect of Friends faith and practice. In cases where the pastoral care committee recommends postponement of a decision or rejection of an application, and the meeting agrees, the committee should maintain sympathetic communication with the applicant, clearly explaining the reason for the hesitancy and seeking to help remove it. If and when the committee judges the applicant to be ready for membership, it should then encourage the meeting to consider and accept the application for membership.
If a person whose residence is remote from meetings of Friends wishes to become a member, the meeting may consider carefully whether the applicant’s needs, as well as those of the meeting, will be served by membership at a distance or whether the person’s spiritual needs can be met in another way.