Who Are Members?

A Primer


It's not like joining a health club or the YMCA, but the Episcopal Church does have membership standards. Hopefully they are not used to define who is "in" or who is "out", but are used to establish who belongs and who we should invite! Membership is defined by canon, specifically National Canons Title I, Canon 14 and Title 1, Canon 17 along with Diocesan Canons 5.4, 5.6, 6.4.


Let's be clear: there is only one standard of membership in the Church.




In the Episcopal Church a member is a person who has received the Sacrament of Holy Baptism (with water in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit) whether in the Episcopal Church or another Christian Church, and whose baptisms have been duly recorded in the Episcopal Church.


Is your baptism recorded in your Church Register(a book used to keep track of such things)? If it isn't, technically you are not a member of your congregation. If it hasn't been recorded in any Episcopal Church, technically you're not an Episcopalian!


Don't worry --- no one is running you out of town because your baptism isn't registered. It may be a clerical error (the entry kind, not the priestly kind, although it may well be the latter because priests are the ones who are supposed to keep the Church Register up-to-date). If you know you were baptized but don't know if it was ever recorded, ask your priest to record your baptism in your Church Register.




A Baptized Member (i.e. baptism is recorded) who receives Holy Communion at least three times during the preceding year is a Communicant. The three times a year reflects Episcopal Church history when in many parts of the country, Morning Prayer was the prinicpal service and Holy Communion was only offered on occasion.

Adult Communicant 


A Communicant who is at least sixteen years of age is an Adult Communicant so in the Episcopal Church, you're an "adult" at sixteen.

Communicant in Good Standing 


A Communicant who for the previous year has been faithful in corporate worship (i.e. you come to church, unless for good cause prevented) and have been faithful in working, praying, and giving for the spread of the Kingdom of God (i.e. you pray, do church stuff and give to the church) is a Communicant in Good Standing. Giving is most easily reflected by monetary gifts, but isn't required to be.


Being a Communicant in Good Standing is often the criteria for being elected to leadership positions (which makes sense when you think about it). You also are required to be a Communicant in Good Standing to be a Convention Lay Delegate. This is why the Diocesan Office gets a form after the election where the Rector (or Vicar or Priest-in-Charge or Warden and Clerk) affirms that you are.


What about Confirmation and Reception?


You may have noticed the membership categories above don't include Confirmation or Reception from another Church. There's a good reason. Confirmation and Reception aren't about church membership. They are about the mature public affirmations of faith and commitment of an individual to the responsibilities of their Baptism.


Final Words

Membership in St. John's, in the diocese and in the Episcopal Church is something to celebrate. We celebrate our birthdays: why not celebrate your baptism? Do you know the date of your baptism to celebrate it? If not, why not check and see if its in the Church Register?