Chapter 11 » 11.13

Membership of children

Yearly Meeting in Aberdeen, 1989, considered children’s membership and affirmed that Quaker tradition has embraced divergent ways of looking at this. These can be summarised under three main heads:

  1. membership must stem from a deliberate profession of faith, which some children will be too young to make;
  2. children brought up within the community of a Friends’ meeting may be full members in every sense;
  3. children may be recognised as members but must confirm their membership when they are old enough to do so.

These different understandings express different aspects of membership, and do not exclude one another. Each emphasises something of what it means to have been shaped by the family and community we have been born into, but having to choose our own position in relation to our family and community. All have solid roots in our Quaker history, and they remain acceptable. It is open to parents to seek membership on behalf of their underage children if they wish to do so, but this is neither required nor expected. Similarly, it is open to child members to reaffirm their membership when they consider themselves sufficiently mature, but their membership will not lapse because they have not done so. The age when a child is ready to decide for him- or herself (either to seek or to confirm membership) depends on the child and cannot be defined arbitrarily. A particular area meeting may have a preference towards one or another of the various ways of looking at children’s membership, but it should be open to the wishes of parents or children to follow one of the other paths.

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