The following text is from the First Lecture (“General”) of the “Probationer’s Hand-book: Religious, Historical, Doctrinal, Disciplinary and Practical” by Rev. S. Olin Garrison, M.A. The handbook, also known as the Probationer’s Catechism, is a series of lectures in catechetical form, intended to prepare probationary members for full membership in the Methodist Episcopal Church. These outlines could be adapted for a church membership class.
1. What condition is required of those who desire admission on probation into the Methodist Episcopal Church?
The Discipline of the Church names but one condition: on a desire to fiee from the wrath to come, and to be saved from their sins.” —Discipline, ¶29, (1896.)
2. How will this desire he shown?
By observing the General Rules. (See Appendix.)
3. What is the object of the probationary term?
The object is twofold: (1) To give the probationer an opportunity to study the doctrines, discipline, and general usages of the Church; and (2) To give the Church an opportunity to learn of the piety and general fitness of the probationer for Church membership.
4. How long must one remain on probation?
At least six months. He may remain longer, at his own option or that of the Church.
5. What has the Church a right to expect from the probationer?
(1) That his inner life shall be sincere, that he shall have “a broken and a contrite heart.” (2) That he shall be faithful in the performance of his outward duties, such as attendance on the appointed means of grace, public and private; contributions, according as God prospers him, to the support of the Gospel, and “the various benevolent enterprises of the Church;” diligent study of the doctrines and discipline of the Church.
6. Should a probationer be baptized before his reception into full membership?
*Probationers who have not been baptized should be given a separate lecture on Baptism, its nature, design, and mode. Let the pastor call the attention of those baptized in infancy to the baptismal covenant and the relation they bear to it. See Appendix M for the form.
7. Should an unbaptized probationer partake of the Lord’s Supper?
It is well that he first be baptized.
8. If a probationer has been baptized in infancy, should his baptism be repeated?It should not. He must, however, before his reception into full membership, solemnly ratify and confirm the baptismal covenant.*
*On the day of reception into full membership let the probationers recite in answer to the 1st question of the “form” the Baptismal Covenant in the Appendix.
9. Is this ratification sacred and binding alike to those who have received infant baptism and to those who have received adult baptism?
It should so be considered.
10. Should a probationer be converted before he is received into full membership?
Yes. For, unless he be truly converted, he cannot reply affirmatively to the Disciplinary question, “Have you saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?”
11. What is done with a probationer who backslides?
If he is hopelessly backslidden his name is simply dropped. He cannot be tried.
13. If a probationer desire to change his residence, what should he do with regard to his Church relations?
He should secure from the preacher in charge a probationer’s certificate, and this certificate should be deposited in a Methodist Episcopal Church wherever he may be located. If he find no Methodist Episcopal Church, let him join at once some other evangelical Church.
Continue reading: “The Probationer’s Catechism, Part 2: Q&As on the History of Methodism.”