This is , in today’s definitions and expectations of “church membership”, a totally meaningless debate. Church “membership” means next to nothing in today’s typical American church. This flack over whether McCain is a “member” of North Phoenix Baptist Church is inane when one considers that there are thousands of members there, most of which don’t even know or care whether McCain was actually baptized. Membership is so meaningless, that the majority of Baptists don’t even believe that baptism should be a requirement of membership. As long as one is “spiritually baptized” (in keeping with the individualistic, privatized notions of today’s “people of faith”, distinctive signs are not significant to most.)
Here I am not even focusing on the act of baptism. I am focusing on the ease and lack of impact “membership” has on the average American church “member”. There are no demands. Noone has asked me to reconsider my membership in the church where my membership currently resides, even though I haven’t been to worship there in months; probably more than a year. If that isn’t an indication of meaningless, then nothing is. It’s almost like the Groucho saying “I wouldn’t be a member of any group that would have me as a member”. The operating principle here is similar: “I don’t want to be a member where it’s so easy to be a member, and nobody cares if you are or not”.
Here, on this issue, again, I confess my indebtedness to the concept of church membership that is a distinguishing mark of The Church of the Saviour churches in Washington DC. They actually “renew” memberships every year.