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Wednesday, June 21, 2006


How much loyalty should one show to their denomination, er fellowship (as we call it, in the name of autonomy)? Lately, there have been some baffling moves within denomination lines:
    Episcopal Church
There continues to be backlash from the appointment of V. Eugene Robinson, an openly gay bishop. Now the denomination is spilt over this issue when considering their next bishop. They also now have to restore relationships with African Episcopalians who are frustrated with the church's liberalism.
    Southern Baptist
At their recent convention, within a resolution regarding alcohol, they resolve ...we urge that no one be elected to serve as a trustee or member of any entity or committee of the Southern Baptist Convention that is a user of alcoholic beverages. Within this document they also urge people to support legislation to curb alcohol use (since that worked so well before), and state they are totally opossed to the consumption of alcohol. You can read entire statement here. (By the way, you can read some of Piper's comments in a sermon given a while ago here.
After making schizophrenic decisions regarding homosexuality and clergy, Mark Roberts has written a great article about his denominations decisions.

So what is the denomination/fellowship role in a local church? As one who does defend autonomy, it seems that it should not be that of governing. Our desire should be to cooperate with our denomination for the futherance of the Kingdom (not just the denomination). Sometimes, fellowship organizations have contacts, support and even finances to make things possible. Individuals should support their denomination only as their denomination structures are supporting local churches. It should be important to remember that Jesus said He would build His church, not His denomination of churches.

I feel for people in frustration with their denominations right now. They are, no doubt, wondering whether they stay to try to reform, or if it is time to leave. I don't know that there is any easy answer to those questions. But I believe the church must be diligent to make disciples of Christ, and not just followers of certain religious organizations.


  • At 9:07 PM, Blogger TheReformedThinker said…

    You and I have talked about this lately and I think we may disagree a little. So please don't take my comments as hostile, or anything like that.

    My question would be then what is the purpose of a denomination or fellowship? Why not be an independent church, if you feel that the church should be completely autonmous.

    I agree totally that a concept of a mother church, or a fellowship dictating every little thing to the local churches is unbiblical. However, if your church belongs to a fellowship/denomination that is organized around certain doctrinal beliefs and church polity then the local church should abide by that organizations set standard. Otherwise, why be a part of it.

    Obviously the biggest issue here would probably be baptism, correct? If your fellowship, that you joined, and when you joined it, stated that we baptize this way, then why should the local church just say, nah, I don't think so, we think it can be done however. That may be fine for your church, but say another church in your "fellowship" doesn't think so. Let say then that you accept someone as a memeber into your church that was not baptized they way your fellowship states to baptize because you feel that is not important. Then that person has to move and comes to the church that says you need to be baptized the way the fellowship states. Typically if it is within the fellowship, not many questions are asked and the membership would be transferred. In this case the church that "autonomously" says we follow the polity of the fellowship will be accepting into fellowship someone that didn't meet all the "autonmous" standards of membership they follow.

    For me, personally, baptism is not something I would get into a big fight over. But if I join a church that is a part of a fellowship, then why would I not abide by the fellowships rules. For example, I would never join a fellowship that allowed women teachers or gay preachers. The same would go for something like baptism. If I had a real problem with it, I wouldn't join.

  • At 8:01 AM, Blogger TheReformedThinker said…

    by the way, I just want to be clear, I agree that in each of the 3 situations you mention, that they are. I don't think that a denominatin/fellowship should dictate rulings that the local churches must abide by, much like the Catholic church, or even the ones you mentioned.

    I am simply saying that if a local church joins a fellowship they should be willing to abide by the fellowship requirements for membership, basic church polity, and doctrine. Otherwise, they shouldn't join the fellowship.

    I re-read my post from last night and I think I might have come across as one who thinks the fellowship is all controlling. I am bound only to obey Scripture, not church rulings on if I can or can not drink, acceptence of gay pastors, etc...

  • At 9:12 AM, Blogger danny2 said…

    i am thankful that our fellowship does not dictate local church polity, since i think most churches in our fellowship use something contrary to eldership...but they allow us freedom there!

    i do see your point about submission as well. i think it kind of depends when policies or standards are made.

    if you entered a fellowship, that AFTER you were in decided to make some standards you considered anti-biblical, i suppose you would have to work through the process of reform (trying to turn the decision around) or removal (getting out of the fellowship).

    however, if you are aware of a decision BEFORE entering a fellowship, you have two choices: either don't enter, or make your objection clear and allow the fellowship to decide whether to include you or not.

    as for baptism (the specific you gave) for our fellowship. my understanding is that the statement of faith (which "brethren" tried to avoid even penning for the longest time) deals with the ordinances regarding practice. as a gbc, you agree to PRACTICE triune immersion. however, the statement makes not comment as to whether your church will recognize baptisms from other churches that were done in a different way. this seems to be up to each church to decide.

    i believe a fellowship's purpose it to create unity, to build strength, provide accountability, combine resources, help others find like minded churches/individuals. in short, the fellowship exists to assist the local church (not the other way around). but, as a matter of integrity, a church should not enter a fellowship if they are not willing to submit to the fellowship's standards.

    dunno if that clears things up? (incidently, i reread my article and found this one to be even more poorly written than most of mine!)

  • At 9:52 AM, Blogger TheReformedThinker said…

    Good points Danny. I see your point on the church polity and Elders. I guess it is a little harder to define the issue than it at first appears.

    I think you are correct in it depends on when standards are made and what the response should be.

  • At 1:40 PM, Anonymous fisher said…

    Being part of specific denominations will, for the most part, eliminate certain doctrines from being corporately debated or examined in local churches and conventions/fellowships. This can be good and bad.

    Take the SBC for example - good that they don't even consider debating whether the Trinity is Father, Son and Holy Spirit OR Mother, Child and Womb. They can focus energy on a public debate at the convention between two seminary presidents (Mohler and Patterson) about Calvinism.

    However, it eliminates other issues like mode of baptism or the Lord's supper from ever coming up.

    Net result is bad because, ultimately it creates a "mother church" concept whether we intend to do so or not. We are limiting the degree to which we (more corporately than individually)"rightly divide the word of truth" and "search the scriptures to see whether these things are so" because our convention/fellowship has already authoritatively decided the matter.

  • At 8:08 AM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…

    Man, if it wasn't for the FGBC, you and I never would have met at Grace College. True.


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