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Removal of Membership: Writing Congregational Bylaws

Congregations who have no provision in the bylaws for removing members often get bogged down with lists of names of people who are no longer interested, no longer in the vicinity, no longer known by anyone in the congregation, or no longer alive. It is helpful to include a provision in the bylaws that spells out how to remove a member and specifies any differences in the process that depend on whether the member has moved, is deceased, or simply cannot be reached.

In addition, congregations need to determine whether they wish to incorporate a provision in the bylaws for removal of membership status from individuals against their will. This subject is particularly touchy, as UU (Unitarian Universalist) congregations have long prided themselves on openness and inclusion of diverse populations. However, from time to time it might be necessary to remove individuals from congregational life and membership, especially if they prove to be a risk to the health and well-being of others in the congregation or of the congregation as a whole. The congregation must take care in drafting such a provision to ensure that a good process is in place for removing someone's membership for cause.

Please refer to Gilbert R. Rendle's book Behavioral Covenants in Congregations: A Handbook for Honoring Differences (see "Appendix A: Resources").

Sample Provisions

Example 1: A member who has not participated, nor contributed services or funds, during the current and preceding church years may be placed on the inactive membership roll pending a return to participation, written resignation or death.

Example 2: Members may terminate their membership through written request or through the recommendation of the Secretary of the Board and by the vote of the Board when the member has died, moved away, or cannot be located.

Example 3: A member's name shall be removed from the Membership Roll in case of: (1) the member's death; (2) written request by the member to the Clerk; (3) a period of inactivity over one year, pending review by the Board; or (4) removal by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the Board for actions that threaten the well-being of the Congregation.

Example 4: Membership shall be reviewed at least annually. Members who have requested resignation shall be removed immediately. Members who do not respond to inquiries shall be removed after a period of one year.

Example 5: The Governing Council shall remove a person from the membership when that person has died. The Governing Council may remove a person from membership when that person has moved away and cannot be located or is no longer active. Such a removal shall take effect six (6) months after notice of the action has been sent to the member's last known address by conventional mail.

Example 6: A member who for one year is voluntarily absent from all participation in the life of the Church or has submitted a letter of termination to the Steering Committee may be ruled inactive, and in such case, may not vote at a meeting or serve as an elected officer or be included in the church population count. The Steering Committee at its discretion may at any time strike names from the list of inactive members and adopt such rules as it may deem necessary with respect to the removal or suspension of any member on the inactive list.

Example 7: Any person having become a Member shall continue to be a Member until: (a) he or she gives notice of resignation to the Board; or (b) no identifiable financial contribution has been made on his or her behalf during the current calendar year up to one month before the date of the Annual General Meeting; or (c) he or she has Membership terminated by the Board for cause, as determined by a vote of two-thirds of the Board, provided that the member has the right to appear before the Board and the right of appeal to a meeting of the Congregation.

For more information contact growthresources @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Thursday, February 7, 2013.

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