Confessional Membership?

Discussion in 'Ecclesiology' started by Dearly Bought, Nov 17, 2008.

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  1. Dearly Bought

    Dearly Bought Puritan Board Junior

    I'm interested in understanding which North American confessional Reformed/Presbyterian denominations hold to a position of "confessional membership." I'll use the definition provided by PB member Daniel Hyde as a guide to what I'm talking about:
    Here's what I have so far:

    PRCA (Prot. Ref.)

    APC (Associated Pres.)
    FCS (Continuing)

    Yet to be classified

    APC (American Pres.)
    PRC (Pres. Ref.)
    RPC (Hanover Pres.)

    Please offer additions, corrections, etc. If "No," then what are the standards for membership? Thanks all.

    Please stick to membership practices rather than restricted/closed/close communion practices. That'll probably be another thread.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2008
  2. CIT

    CIT Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    To get membership in the ABRCA you have to adhere to the LBC. At least that was the case at the one I attended.
  3. interalia

    interalia Puritan Board Freshman

    Meaning, if the member does not adhere 100% to Westminster (or other applicable confession), then that one cannot partake in the Lord's Table?

    A bit haughty and extra-biblical, eh? I hope I misunderstood. I think the PCA's approach to membership (broad subscription) and partaking (exclusive faith in Christ) is healthy.

    If I am not misunderstood, then we are assuming that all members/common Christians can even comprehend all that is said in WCF. Frankly, I think that would be a bit optimistic. It would be nice, but I think many of us forget that understanding is also a gift...:confused:
  4. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    The ARP uses the following as one of its membership questions:

    I'm not quite sure you would classify that as "assent." Anyone vying for church office must answer a modified form of the question:
    With regard to the Lord's Supper, the ARP's new book of worship says the following:

    Hope that helps.
  5. Dearly Bought

    Dearly Bought Puritan Board Junior

    Is this understood to require assent to "essentials" or the whole breadth of the doctrines? In other words, can a Predestinarian Baptist become part of your congregation or other ARP congregations while retaining his convictions?
  6. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    My understanding is that confessional membership is a characteristic of the Continental tradition and historically has not been seen in the British (Presbyterian) tradition.
  7. Dearly Bought

    Dearly Bought Puritan Board Junior

    Yes, we're talking complete assent to confessions as far as the person is conscious of it. I don't think that most churches who maintain this practice require a person to be able to give a lengthy exposition of every sentence in the confessions. There would be an expectation of both the church and the new member that they have been properly catechized and do not harbor any opposition to what they learned as they were catechized. Thus, when we say "the church confesses," every member is speaking.

    I'd rather this thread stick to the OP's question than debate confessional membership. Having said that, if you'd like to start another thread contesting the idea, I'd be willing to discuss (and defend) the view. I do believe there are biblical foundations for this practice.
  8. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    If you are a Christian who is in good standing and not under church discipline yet believe that it is silly to announce that the Pope is the Antichrist, would one of these churches then bar that Christian in good standing from the Lord's Table for disagreement on this minor and secondary issue in the Confessions?
  9. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    I take it you would prefer not to discuss whether this is a good practice, only where it is practiced and perhaps how it is implemented.

    Your statement reflects part of the difficulty with the phrase, as far as the person is conscious of it. On the one hand subscription would require complete knowledge. On the other complete knowledge is not required or even expected.
  10. TheFleshProfitethNothing

    TheFleshProfitethNothing Puritan Board Freshman

    Is this to say that all the believers at Corinth, believed the gospel? Or that they understood the Lord's Supper even?

    Paul had to rebuke them for the use of the Supper it's self...and even expound a bit about what the Supper entails. He simply straightened out the use of it in the form of some kind of party. He did though, emphasize the importance of knowing what the bread and wine were for, and warned that those that partake of it unworthily, partake of it to their own comdemnation.

    I would say, if one understands the Five Points, that that person would have every right to the table, plain and simple...yet it seems, the visible church at the time all partook of the Sacrament.

    So, by what biblical criteria are these churches listed as YES to confessional membership holding to, or presenting as biblically essential?

    I can understand that they do so, but, at the same time, how MUCH is enough to KNOW and recite, to gain access?

    With that, I see you have a list. So, I'm not actually getting the gist of your question. But I will mention that I believe the Independent Reformed Baptists I have decided to fellowship with (for lack of anything else at the moment), tend to hold to the 5 Points as the very foundation of their Confessional Standard. In other words, if you show by the confession your mouth, the Biblical gospel, you are Confessional, and may partake of the Lord's Supper. This is the Church Visible, and adding more to the list of things to Confess might be a bit too much, I think.

    Sorry, I didn't have much to add toward your list...but, with ALL those Orginisations/Denominations...I can SEE why they might feel the NEED to have people hold to EVERY point of THEIR confession.
  11. Dearly Bought

    Dearly Bought Puritan Board Junior

    Yeah, let's try to keep these conversations in this thread so that the present thread can focus on the OP's question. I've answered a few of your questions there. I'd like to keep this thread on the topic of which denominations actually practice confessional membership rather than the validity of the practice.
  12. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    The churches in the Free Church (Disruption) tradition do not hold to confessional membership, according to the definition provided in the OP.
  13. Grace Alone

    Grace Alone Puritan Board Senior

    We are currently in an ARP church plant, and it is exciting to see new people coming to our church who are either new Christians or who have not been to church in years. If these people have a credible profession of faith, they are allowed to join the church. They are not required to have years of instruction in reformed theology before being allowed to join. Our pastor teaches reformed doctrine as he goes through scripture. Those who attend Sunday School would be studying the Westminster Confession. Other than those of us who have been in reformed churches previously, I doubt most of them would even know who Calvin was, much less be able to name the 5 points!
  14. Dearly Bought

    Dearly Bought Puritan Board Junior

    Do you know how the aforementioned membership vow is understood? Are families required to baptize their children or face discipline?
  15. Grace Alone

    Grace Alone Puritan Board Senior

    I honestly do not remember being asked that particular question when we joined. I'll have to check on that. But I am sure no one would be forced to baptize their children unless they were elder candidates. In that case, they need to agree to the doctrine. We did have some former baptists in our last church (PCA) who waited awhile before they decided to have their children baptized. And we had another man who would have been nominated as elder except for his view regarding baptism. I would think ARP would fall into the same category as PCA in your original post.
  16. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    It would be possible for a Reformed Baptist to join an ARP if he were approved for membership by the Session. He would have to agree that the ARP's position was indeed founded on the word of God (even if he disagreed with it). He would need to register the exception as well. He would be a member, but he would not be able to hold a position as an elder or deacon.
  17. Dearly Bought

    Dearly Bought Puritan Board Junior

    I know we have members/former members of at least Presbyterian Reformed, Free Presbyterian, RPCGA, RPCNA, and WPCUS churches. Anyone want to enlighten us? :detective:
  18. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    A few questions here, regarding the ARP:

    1) Is this member vow understood to allow for a member to not be acquainted with the doctrinal standards at all? (E.g. someone became a Christian recently and knows nothing of doctrine save the Gospel, nothing about the Westminster Standards)

    2) If the member does have to have some knowledge of the Standards how is this enforced?

    3) Are you saying there can be no exceptions for an officer?

    4) Any idea how this is interpreted "no exceptions"- no semantic differences, no different intepretations of a statement or proposition, does this mean no provision for any kind of scruple (e.g. light recreation on the sabbath)?

    5) Also, is this system what we might call strict subscriptionism or is there some other term?

  19. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Moderator's Voice On

    This post borders on disrespect to such denoms that hold to confessional membership, such as the RCUS. If this is your approach to church membership, then do you think the pastors of the church ought not to have to hold to the confessions?

    To say that people cannot understand the confession is simply not true. With patient explanation of terms, anyone can understand the confession.

    I know you said you hope you misunderstood. But then you defined away confessional membership churches as arrogant and haughty if they hold people to confessional subscription. There is no need for that.
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