Church Membership & Vowing Rashly

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Puritan Board Senior
I have been thinking about this issue for a while and want to get the thoughts from others on the board regarding membership vows and children.

Here is the scenario: a child is eight years old and is ready to make their profession of faith and become a member of a particular Church. I am not sure what vows are taken at a Baptist Church but in the PCA the vows are as follows (from BCO 57-5):

"(All of) you being here present to make a public profession of faith, are to assent to the following declarations and promises, by which you enter into a solemn covenant with God and His Church.

1. Do you acknowledge yourselves to be sinners in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope save in His sovereign mercy?
2. Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel?
3. Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ?
4. Do you promise to support the Church in its worship and work to the best of your ability?
5. Do you submit yourselves to the government and discipline of the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace?

The minister may now briefly admonish those making a profession of faith as to the importance of the solemn obligations they have assumed; then baptism may be administered, if there be present any candidates for the ordinance, and the whole concluded with prayer."

Now a child of eight is obviously under the authority of their parents and if the parents leave the church for some reason, the child will go with them. But because the child has made a "solemn Covenant with God and His Church" have the parents caused the child to vow rashly in that the child is most likely not going to be consulted when the parents leave the Church and the child will not be able to fulfill their vows because they can not get to Church on their own? Is the Church culpable in that it knows that a child is subject to the authority of parents and under certain circumstances be unable to fulfill its membership vows? I guess the bottom line question is what obligation does a child have in regards to fulfilling their membership vows considering that they are under the authority of their parents?


Puritan Board Senior
Good question Wayne.

We do not have vows, so to speak, but members do sign a covenant when they are accepted as members.

For this issue, we need to understand that the child is first and foremost to be obedient to God, and then his or her parents, and then the Church. Church never trumps parents and parents do not trump God.

If the parents refuse to allow the child to fulfill this vow, then the problem is with the parents, not the child. They as the authority are responsible.

Another key is the phrase "to the best of your ability." A child is not able to come to church if his parents don't take him!

So I do not think membership vows would be considered rash if circumstances beyond the control of the child hinder him from fulfilling them.


C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
I would agree with Phillip on the parents culpability on this.

If the church "made" the child stay and fulfill his vows there, woudl that not be causing him to break the fifth commandment?

The authority structure, then, before God, is the way I woudl look at the situation. The child if first responible to God, then to his parents and then to the church.

Do you see a loophole here? :think:


Puritan Board Senior
I would agree that the parents are culpable. Even though a child is under the authority of their parents and should obey them, ie; 5th commandment, but the parents have an obligation under the 5th commandment as well in that they should not put there child in a position where they cannot fulfill their vows to God and His Church.

Should parents then think twice before allowing their children to become members of a Church or do they need to consult the child before making any final decisions before leaving a Church?

A loophole for whom?
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