CON Contact Us DON Donate
Our History General Assembly Worldwide Outreach Ministries Standards Resources

Question and Answer

Church Membership from a Distance


Why is it necessary to transfer church membership when moving to a new state? Is this mandatory? Why can't one be a lifetime member of their home church, since they will be buried in their home state and would prefer having their funeral from their home church? As long as one is worshiping with fellow believers in their new state of residence, I don't see the need to transfer membership. Your thoughts and comments, please.


I am put in mind of one of the foundational texts for the modern doctrine of Church membership, Hebrews 13:17: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

In one sense, no, a transfer of membership is not necessary in that a session may allow a member to remain on the congregation’s rolls even when that member lives in another state. However (and here I speak from personal experience), it’s very difficult to keep watch over the soul of a person with whom one has very limited contact. Pastors and elders know we must give an account for each person under our care; the reality of not providing pastoral care can lead to a burdened and groaning conscience.

Sessions have the option of forcing members off of Church rolls through a process called “erasure” (OPC Book of Discipline chapter II). The effect of that process, though, is identical to excommunication: the person erased is no longer a member of a Church and cannot participate in the Lord’s Supper. Because we know the people who do not transfer their memberships to be Christians, this option would be unacceptable to most sessions.

In my pastoral tenure, elderly members have moved out of state to live with family members, and have left their memberships with us for the reasons you mention. Others, not as old, have not requested transfers because of family connections. To be blunt, it can take a long time for some people to get around to dying, and these situations leave sessions in a difficult position.

I don’t want to speak for every Presbyterian pastor, but I can’t imagine very many of us would refuse to conduct a funeral for a former member. In fact, I’ve known a few to return to a former pastorate for that purpose. I appreciate your concerns, but I believe submission to our elders is best demonstrated by transferring membership to the congregation where one worships regularly.

About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those people who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.

You will receive an answer by e-mail. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two (2) weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.

Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references or from some source may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.

© 2020 The Orthodox Presbyterian Church



Chaplains and Military Personnel

Diaconal Ministries


Inter-Church Relations

Ministerial Care

Planned Giving

Short-Term Missions


Church Directory

Daily Devotional

Audio Sermons

Trinity Hymnal

Camps & Conferences

Gospel Tracts

Book Reviews



Presbyterian Guardian