Chapter 4: Church Order
4. Church Order : Our Vows
The act of taking vows is a sign of giving oneself completely and binding oneself unreservedly to the service of Christ in church community. Through this solemn and public act we pledge to no longer claim anything for ourselves, out of love to Christ. Our example is Mary the mother of Jesus, who said: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Jesus told those who wished to follow him: “Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” He also taught: “When you have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” It is in this sense that we take our vows.
Vows of membership are made in the spirit of the traditional monastic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience:
Poverty: We pledge to give up all property and to live simply, in complete freedom from possessions.
Chastity: We pledge to uphold sexual purity and, if married, to stay faithful in the bond of marriage between one man and one woman for life.
Obedience: We pledge to yield ourselves up in obedience to Christ and our brothers and sisters, promising to serve the church community wherever and however we are asked.
Vows of membership are made publicly, to God and before the church community, by answering the following questions:
1. Do you promise to proclaim Jesus in word and deed, for the rest of your life?
2. Are you certain that this way of brotherly and sisterly community, based on a firm faith in God and in Jesus Christ, is the way to which God has called you?
3. Are you willing, for the sake of Christ, to put yourself completely at the disposal of the church community to the end of your life – all your faculties, the entire strength of your body and soul, and all your property, both that which you now possess and that which you may later inherit or earn?
4. Will you accept admonition, when justified, and will you yourself admonish others if you sense within our community life something that should be clearer or would more fittingly express the will of God?
5. Because a living church will always be a repenting church, do you affirm and uphold the practice of church discipline, and will you be ready to ask for it yourself if necessary?1
6. Are you firmly decided to remain loyal and true, bound with us in the service of love as brothers and sisters in building up church community, outreach to all people, and the proclamation of the gospel?
Upon answering yes, the new member receives the laying on of hands in the prayer that God will fill him or her anew with the Holy Spirit.
Because vows of membership are made to God, no human being has the authority to dissolve them. Accordingly, if members leave our fellowship, the church community has no obligation to return any property or to remunerate them for the labor or anything else they may have contributed while they lived within it. To do so would violate the vow to renounce all possessions. Any who are unsure about such a commitment should rather stay away, keep what is theirs, and leave us in peace.
While we are accountable to God and our brothers and sisters for our vows, no one should remain in our church community who does not do so “with joy and to the delight of his soul.”2 Members who leave our fellowship are provided with transitional support. Such assistance is not a right, but is offered at the discretion of the church community, as an expression of its continuing love.
* This online version of Foundations is for reference only. For the authoritative version, see the print edition.