Did You Know A Church Membership Contract Is A Legal Document That Protects The Church?

Is signing a church covenant the same as signing a legal contract? Some folks seem to think it is. Why insist on members of a local body signing a membership covenant? Here's a post written by an attorney who some say, is in the business of protecting churches, not individuals rights. Christina Holcomb, litigation counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, wrote an article for The Gospel Coalition (TGC), 5 Actions Churches Should Take in a Changing Legal Culture, which was published April 9.

  Ms. Holcomb summarizes the new threats she sees in our current culture as it relates to religious rights and freedoms:
 These new political, cultural, and legal realities directly affect the church’s freedom to live out its faith. While most church decisions about internal governance or doctrine currently enjoy constitutional protection, churches cannot assume that these protections will stand indefinitely. Maintaining a gospel-centered witness in today’s culture requires not only standing firm on the truths of Scripture, but also taking affirmative steps to protect the church’s freedom to continue peacefully teach and live out its faith.

She gave a brief paragraph for the following points, but it's the last point, that has caused people to wake up and smell the coffee.  “Adopt a written membership policy,” 

1. Adopt a written statement of faith about marriage.
2. Establish religious employment criteria.
3. Create a facility use policy.
4. Establish a written marriage policy.
5. Adopt a written membership policy.

Whose Rights are Protected in The Gospel Coalition’s Article on Churches and Current Legal Culture? God, I can’t get my head around needing legal contracts to be drawn up and signed between members and leaders in a local church. It’s not in the bible.


  1. There are many advantages for adopting a meaningful, church covenant. In light of the fact that over the last century American church membership has lost its meaning to both the church and to the culture, I don’t think we can overemphasize the importance of clarity in church life.
    Another major advantage of church covenants in addition to protection from legal action by disgruntled members is that a covenant can be used to clarify what actions may warrant church discipline.

  2. Thanks for the heads up. Most members are not even aware there is a church covenant, and it was not presented to them at the time they joined the church. The Church Constitution, By-Laws, and covenant must all agree with each other. I bet a lot of church members didn't know that.


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