Monday, March 5, 2007

How to Survive Discipline -- Resign quietly (part 7)

For many people the goal is not stay in the church but rather to avoid public disclosure of some sin or event the church believes occurred. The goal may also be to avoid formal excommunication. If you aren't sure if your church will allow you to transfer or resign to avoid excommunication you can ask. Meet with the pastor and ask if you can coordinate a quiet withdrawal / transfer from the church. Again most churches are not that interested in discipling someone who is leaving.

They may refuse to be quiet feeling that your new pastor needs to know about the problem. If your have a new church and your new pastor already knows you can ask for a "letter of transfer" to the new church. Note however that many churches will not issue a letter for someone starting the disciplinary process unless you are willing to have the cite the problems. In this case most church will be amenable to the letter of transfer. Further be forewarned that even if the letter says nothing your old pastor may feel that your new pastor needs to know about any issues so as the transfer progresses they will be informed.

If a letter of transfer is not an option then the next possibility is for you to issue a letter of disassociation. This is a much more serious matter since for most churches a letter of disassociation is considered a disciplinary act and they will record a "black mark" next to your name.
A letter of disassociation has a few key parts.
  1. Formal statement of disassociation.
  2. A brief history of your introduction to the church and your positive impressions
  3. A discussion of "major issues" that forced you to disassociate. This part can be grouped by related topics, such as "Doctrinal", "Personal", "Social", "Organizational" and so on.
  4. An explicit list of requests (e.g. "Don't do follow-up calls", "Don't try to shepherd my children"). If you have no specific requests, you can leave this part out.
  5. Conclusion. (e.g. wish them well on their quest to find meaning, and assure them that you are pleased to have made your decision to broaden your search for truth).
The formal statement is simply statement indicating you are no longer a member. They look something like:
  • I hereby renounce all claim to membership in church XYZ.
  • It is with great reluctance that I am forced to resign my membership from church XYZ
  • Many hundreds of hours and over seven hundred compiled scriptures later, my clear conscience will no longer allow me to uphold the convictions common among (name of denomination)
This has to appear somewhere in the letter to make it clear that you no longer consider yourself a member. This can appear anywhere but its the most important part. The second part is important for explaining your reasons for membership. Because it occurs in the letter you are acknowledging you were at one time a member and that this is being drawn to a close. It goes hand in hand with the 3rd section which explains why you've decided that the new information/status is causing you to leave. I.E. you are indicating the bad outweighs the good. These two sections are often far too specific to offer much advice. The key thing is (if possible) you want to include some point of disagreement with a statement that is required for membership (generally the profession of faith). By doing this, you establish you are not merely fleeing a disciplinary procedure but no longer share their beliefs. You'll want to pick a genunine area of disagreement. So for example:
  • Quiting the Mormons: I no longer believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet or that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.
  • Quitting a Baptist Church: I have come to believe that children are part of God's covenant and should be baptized at birth.
  • Quitting Soka Gakkai: I no longer believe that chanting the Gongyō will bring benefit to my life.
If doesn't have to be that fundamental it could be much more minor proving its a part of the creed:
  • Quitting Baptist church: Our profession of faith requires assent to the Nicean creed, however I no longer believe that Jesus is of one essence with the Father.
  • Quitting the Mormons: I no longer believe in the gift of tongues
After this the next step is to establish how you want the church to treat you as an x-member. This is where you can make explicit your request that discipline halt. This part can sometimes be harsh. You need to be explicit.
Since I have voluntarily resigned from the organization, and are therefore no longer a Jehovah's Witness, I expressly prohibit you from disfellowshipping me or in any way defaming my character before others. If I am disfellowshipped or am slandered in any way, I will have to take legal action against you.
I have prayerfully considered the vow I made. Jesus said "My yoke is light." I am casting off the burden I have been under for so many years while under the scrutiny of the man made organization, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. In full faculty I am stating that I am disassociating from that organization. I no longer want to be recognized as a Jehovah's Witness because it does not fill the expectations I was led to believe.

(1) I do not want my family to contacted or coerced in any way.
(2) At my death I do not wish to be remembered as a Jehovah's Witness.
(3) There is no need for prayers or further attempt to reverse my decision.
(4) When the Congregation makes an announcement it should be an announcement of disassociation not apostasy

Finally the conclusion. Again this should be friendly if possible

some samples: Gloria Muscarell Juliann Velasquez Melissa C. Thiring

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