New Membership Bylaws

Jul 1, 2023 | Beacon

A more inclusive Membership bylaw has been approved by our members!

The membership section of our Bylaws describes qualifications to be a member, responsibilities of membership, privileges of membership, and resignation and removal of membership.

The most significant changes are:

Separating Donations from Membership

That means no longer requiring a donation in order to become a member or maintain membership. Requests and asks for donations would still happen. Separating donations from membership is recommended in order to be more welcoming. We avoid elitism based on affordability and eliminate a perceived barrier to engaging with East Shore.

Do any privileges of membership require a member to have money?

No. Privileges of membership are: to vote at congregational meetings, to serve as a trustee, to have access to records of the church, and attend church meetings except when any group is in executive session or its charter prohibits it.

Won’t the church lose money?

Most donors are on automatic donation plans rather than one-time-only donors that provides a steady income to East Shore. There will still be a need to donate funds for the budget of the church. Events such as the Auction and the Mission Fund Drive will still need to happen. The call to donate will still need to be put out, and people will still need to be motivated to donate to keep their community going. Those asks don’t end by not requiring a donation in order to join. We want to be a place where people want to donate, not have to donate.

How does this change ESUC’s relationship with members?

It is preferable to ask for engagement with East Shore in ways that demonstrate our Mission. Nicole Duff, our Director of Membership Development, uses a Pathway to Membership where prospective members are being asked to participate and engage with East Shore, thereby encouraging them to make connections to our community. Let’s be a church to which people want to donate, not have to donate.

Will current members feel it is unfair that new folks won’t have to donate, when they had to in order to become a member?

Members who have been a member for a long time probably didn’t have to participate in congregational life as much as new members are being asked to before they become a member. Previous membership orientations were one class and/or signing the book depending on if a person was new to UUism, or had lesser requirements. We still want and need donations, of course, and members will still be appreciated for their donation. Big donors can still be appropriately asked and thanked.

To Remove the Non-discrimination IV Section

This is because it is not needed in bylaws per Washington law. However, UUA still recommends including a non-discrimination clause in the Membership section. Today’s UUA and wider world are striving to end many -ism’s and oppressions. The  new Membership bylaw is a broader statement of member responsibilities than non-discrimination.

Reducing the Minimum Age for Membership to 14 from 16 years old.

People aged 14 – 24 are capable of having more responsibilities in our modern society and in the UU world. Many religious and societal benchmarks are at 14 years old. For example, Jewish transition to adulthood, coming of age as a UU rite of passage, HIPPAA requirements (13-years-old for medical care), and other UU churches use the age 14. People as young as 14-years-old can be capable of being active members with voting rights.

Minimum age of a Trustee of the Board to 16-year-old from 18.

An officer of the East Shore Board would need to be 18-years-old. The age of 18 or older for officers is due to legal ability to sign contracts. Adding a Board member younger than 18 will require developing policies about Youth on ESUC Board.

Other Changes

  • A section about access to records of the church is proposed to move to policy.
  • Appealing the loss of membership is proposed to move to policy.
  • Some details of Disruptive Members already in policy are proposed to be deleted, and the removal process is proposed to end with the Board’s final decision.
  • The member category of “Life Members” is proposed to change to “Legacy Members” to reflect the revised purpose of the section and words changed to address ableism in the original language. There are two voting categories in bylaws: members and legacy. Bylaws only need to be clear on who has voting rights. Options for non-voting categories of membership can be described in policy.

There are brand new policies drafted for Board approval and congregational comment. Drafted policies may be viewed at or contact the church office to have a copy sent to you.

by Grace Colton, Policy & Governance