Requesting a letter of transfer

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by dyarashus, May 1, 2010.

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  1. dyarashus

    dyarashus Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm getting ready to leave one congregation/denomination (RPC, Hanover) and join another of like faith and practice (OPC).

    This will be the first time in my life I've changed my Church membership (well, since leaving the Roman Catholics many years ago as a youth), and I'm told that it's customary to request a letter of transfer.

    Can anyone point me to sample verbiage for a letter one would submit to one's session requesting a transfer of membership? We've discussed it, and I expect they'll accept anything I send, but I'd like to send something that would be ... well ... proper.


  2. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    Typically, the request does not come from the individual, but from the receiving Session. One is typically received into membership, pending transfer, and the transfer is effectuated by the receiving body. This let's the transferring body know that oversight is continuous.
  3. dyarashus

    dyarashus Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for the insight into norms, but my receiving session told me I should request the letter of transfer, so I intend to do so.
  4. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Moderator

    Book of Church Order

    Book of Discipline II.B.2.b explains the situtino for your case.
    Ask your current session to write a "letter of transfer" to the new session indicating that you are a member in good standing and that they commend you to their care. It should be the clerk of that session, not you, that delivers the letter to the OPC session. Once the OPC receives you into membership, the session will notify the former session that you have been received. Then the former session will remove you from their own membership role. That's how it's suppose to work, so long as the former session doesn't have a reason to keep you on their roles for disciplinary reasons. Hope that helps.
  5. dyarashus

    dyarashus Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for the instructions and background from the BCO. However, I'm not asking what to do, but rather how to do it. I know to write my current session, and I understand the general process. I'll wing it if I have to, but had hoped someone might offer a suggested template ... like in the BCO, there are forms for a variety of things. I've googled, but didn't find anything that struck me as suitable for a letter of request. I'm probably just hung up on the formality of it, but I'm thinking of Mowgli in Kipling's Jungle Book, when Bagheera told him to thank Kaa "according to our customs" -- I'd like a suitably respectful letter, such that they might think, as Baloo did, "Well said." I'll try to craft it on my own if there aren't forthcoming suggestions in the next day or so.

    I'm probably making too much of it, but I feel a fondness for the congregation I'm leaving, and want to thank them for the good years there, and to honor their goodness to me in this final request.
  6. Scottish Lass

    Scottish Lass Puritan Board Doctor

    You're probably not finding what you're looking for because most of us are unfamiliar with an individual making the petition rather than one session asking another session. I commend you, however, for desiring to thank and honor the congregation you're leaving; you could always write that letter separate of the session's request.
  7. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    Since you are being asked to do something you shouldn't, I would write a simple heartfelt letter thanking them, and include a sentence asking them to transfer your membership.

    Your difficulty is exactly why it is the job of the clerk of Session to ask, not yours.
  8. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Moderator

    Hey Fred, is there something like that explicit in the PCA BCO? Perhaps that's a difference between PCA vs. OPC? All the transfers I have witnessed have been requested by the individual not the receiving session. Just curious. I'm still learning the finer points.
  9. dyarashus

    dyarashus Puritan Board Freshman

    Reading the assertion that requesting a letter of transfer is something I shouldn't do surprises me. If there's doctrinal substantiation for that position, I'd like to know it.

    I see nothing in the OPC BCO that suggests there's anything out of order with me making the request. Transfers are addressed in chapter two of the OPC BCO, with no specific direction as to who initiates them. As the primary interested party, it seems reasonable I'd have the responsibility for getting it done.

    Curiosity compelled me to check the PCA BCO, and I similarly see nothing there that burdens a receiving session with the duty of making the request for a letter of transfer, though chapter 46 specifically states it is the church member's duty "to secure a certificate of dismission" when moving to another church due to a residence change. I suppose there must be an undocumented norm in at least some parts of the country that the way the church member does that is by asking the receiving session to do it for him, but that seems an odd bit of delegation in the context of what I'm reading.

    Incidentally, "letter of transfer" has a much nicer ring to my ears than "certificate of dismission."
  10. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Moderator

    I did find the relevant portion in the OPC BCO about transfers (BOD II.B.3.a):
    In the OPC it's clearly the member who requests the letter of transfer from the session to be sent to the receiving session. That's why the OPC session told you to request the letter from your former session. Now, whether that's the practice in other Reformed denominations, I don't know.

    In the PCA BCO, it's not as clear. 46-2 states it's the member's duty to transfer his membership. But then in the next paragraph it states it's the sessions duty to request the new session to take pastoral oversight over the member "with a view of having him transfer his membership". I'm not sure if that requires a different practice than the OPC. I'll leave that to the PCA BCO experts.
  11. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    Patrick and David,

    The responsibility of obtaining a transfer rests upon the member himself (per BCO 46-1), but I see no reason why (and in my PCA experience, it has never been the case) for a member to have to navigate the waters of ecclesiastical protocol. This is what clerks do all the time - even TEs often (mostly!) cannot understand how to follow the paperwork of the BCO. The OP makes my point, as an entire thread came up about how to write such a letter, what it should look like, how it would not offend, etc.

    Should every member have that burden? How it could possibly be described as a burden for a Session is beyond me. As a former clerk of Session, it takes about 2 minutes to pull up the form (since I did it all the time), put in the name and address and print.
  12. SemperEruditio

    SemperEruditio Puritan Board Junior


    I transferred in and we just had a member transfer out. It was my responsibility but the Clerk and TE did all the work of contacting my former pastor since they do not have a session. We just had a member transfer out and she was responsible for making her intentions known but it was the Clerk who did the paperwork.
  13. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Moderator

    Well, I don't think there's a burden either way. Just a difference between denominational practice. It's not a huge burden to ask the clerk, "Could you write me a letter of transfer to this session please?" But again, you've seen it practiced the PCA way, I've seen it practiced the OPC way, so the PCA way looks odd to me, and the request the OPC session made in this case fits with OPC practice. The RPCNA has another way too, simply asking for a "certificate" to give to the new session that expires within a year. That seems odd to me too. Just one of our differences I guess. I'm still not sure there's much of a difference in practice though...
  14. dyarashus

    dyarashus Puritan Board Freshman

    Fred, you seem to be focused on who's skilled in formal paperwork. That's never been fundamentally related to my question.

    I see the process as straightforward, and I know that any simple request I put in will fulfill the requirement and be acted on. My point was that I wanted to do something that's more strongly honoring and respectful than simply perfunctory. I'd like to add a personal touch, and was looking for some inspiring ecclesiastical language to get me going. I'll wing it. There's no point in beating this to death further.

    Thanks, all, for your input.
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