Sunday, October 07, 2007

More Queensland madness

This past week I heard of yet another case of bullying and intimidation by a Queensland ecclesia. A brother who had resigned from an ecclesia in south-east Queensland was sent a threatening letter from the Arranging Brethren saying that "Resignation from an Ecclesia is effectively resignation from the Brotherhood".

Since when is membership of an ecclesia a prerequisite for membership in the Body of Christ? And since when did someone lose their place in the Body of Christ because they didn't belong to a local ecclesia? Does this mean all those Christadelphians who live "in isolation" and away from a local ecclesia are no longer in the brotherhood? Perhaps someone should tell the Isolation League that all the people on their isolation list are no longer in the Brotherhood, and by implication aren't bona fide Christadelphians.

This is relevant to my series on the Australian Unity Agreement (and why it failed), because it is precisely this kind of mentality which has been the most destructive influence in the Australian Christadelphian community.

I probably don't need to go into what 'membership' means in a Scriptural sense because most Australian Christadelphians would immediately recognise the sheer madness in the statement quoted from this letter. However, for the benefit of people who have to deal with this bullying on a regular basis I will briefly comment on the references in the New Testament to 'membership' of the body of Christ.

In Romans 12 Paul uses the analogy of a human body with its various parts to teach about how all the believers are connected to each other and form part of a single 'organism' he calls "the body of Christ". In verse 5 he says "in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others". The Greek word translated "member" is melos and literally means a limb or body-part. He uses the same analogy in Ephesians 3:6; 5:30 and Colossians 3:15 where he says we are "members together of one body" or of "His body". In 1 Corinthians 12:12 he draws out the analogy and says "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts (melos); and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ." In verse 20 he says "there are many parts (melos), but one body" and then in verse 27 "Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part (melos) of it". In 1 Corinthians 6:15 he says "your bodies are members of Christ himself".

So in all these places we have a metaphor where each individual believer is a 'part' or member of a worldwide 'body'. Paul says nothing about membership of local organisations. That parochial concept was developed later by the institutionalised church (which used 'membership' as a way of controlling believers and forcing their allegiance to the local bishop).

One does not leave the Body of Christ simply because they leave a local ecclesia.

The absurd idea that "resignation from an Ecclesia is effectively resignation from the Brotherhood" appears to stem from a fear that the so-called 'leaders' of the ecclesia will lose control if people are allowed to resign at will. If they argue that someone who has resigned from their area of control has resigned "from the Brotherhood" then their next step would be to say that the former-member is no longer "in fellowship". They can then use this threat to keep someone in line or else risk being "out of fellowship" with the wider brotherhood.

This bullying is so transparent I will be surprised if most people don't see through it.

9 comments:

Steve said...

Here is just another couple of examples which illustrate the lunacy of the position taken by the S.E. Qld ecclesia which argues that resignation from a local ecclesia is resignation from the brotherhood.

Someone resigns from a local ecclesia on a Tuesday and joins another ecclesia on Thursday. Does that mean that on Wednesday they were not part of the Body of Christ? What were they on Wednesday - a body-part without a body?

The apostle Paul set out from Antioch as a missionary. As he wasn't planning to return to Antioch I guess he must have resigned from the Antioch ecclesia. As he didn't reach another local ecclesia for some time that must have meant he wasn't part of the Body of Christ during his journey. Upon reaching another city (let's say it was Corinth) he starts preaching the Gospel, but as there is no local ecclesia in Corinth (yet) he cannot join it. I guess that means he's still not part of the Body of Christ. After he's baptised a few people they start an ecclesia (and I suppose that means they have to adopt a Constitution, a Statement of Faith and a Basis of Fellowship). At last Paul can belong to a local ecclesia and rejoin the Body of Christ!

abigail said...

Thank you Steve for that very insightful description. I know many brothers and isters, who, for one reason or another, have chosen to 'resign' from an ecclesia whilst they either transfer into an area where there is no meeting, or they disagree with the control methods or running or decisions of a certain meeting, or just plain undecided as to where to meet. No meeting should have such a hold on their members so that they are 'threatened' with 'dis-membership' from the body of Christ. We are his, we are not anothers. And he will in no wise cast out those that are his, if they try these sort of tactics, then beware, for Jesus firmly said, that WHOSOEVER shall cause this sort of distress, they had better beware. Luk 17:1 Jesus told his disciples, "Situations that cause people to lose their faith are certain to arise. But how horrible it will be for the person who causes someone to lose his faith!
Luk 17:2 It would be best for that person to be thrown into the sea with a large stone hung around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to lose his faith". We must be vigilant to see when this sort of bullying is happening and be prepared to name and shame such, otherwise we are like those who watched Stephen being stoned and did nothing about it. God hates those who cause discord and a false witness that speaks lies. Proverbs 6:16-19
Let us be honest and truthful at all times, for it is God that we have to answer to.
Institutionalised religion (which is what Christadelphia has become, sadly) are no better than the Catholics, where permission has to be granted and abuse of (so called (real or imagined)power) takes place. These are man made rules that try and keep others in control. This sort of 'policing' is condemned by the scriptures of truth, Paul exhorts us to be free and not shackled to a system of religion that prevents freedom of thought. Is this not talking about Legalism vs Grace: Gal 4:31 Brothers and sisters, we are not children of a slave woman but of the free woman.

Martyn said...

Steve has quoted from events in south east Queensland. Praise the Lord someone at last is bringing before us the sheer madness within our community. We need to pray for these bully boys and for those who are cowered into submission by their tactics.

To be part of the body of Christ has nothing to do with membership of a Christadelphian Church Assembly. Given a choice, I know which one I will choose.

Keep up the good work, Steve, We love you here.

Anonymous said...

It is really sad to consider this situation when we consider the broader issues of being a Christian. In recent years many of the 'churches' have regard for each other to the extent that everyone is welcomed. It seems that it is too much for a few of the stricter [read: controlling] to understand where the real enemy is. May be they need to read up on the position of held by many claiming Islam to be the only true religion. I would really like to see these 'bullying brethren' engage with the real problems facing us all instead of just 'ganging up like they did at school'....In love and hope through Grace

ntbrierly said...

Jesus said "if you did it to the least of these, then you did it to me". This indicates to me that Jesus takes our behaviour towards his brothers and sisters VERY personally. It also indicates to me that if you disfellowship someone, you had better be VERY VERY certain that that person is no longer in Christ, because otherwise, you may very well be, in essence, disfellowshipping Christ.

The missing piece in all of this (which I like to call a theological vitamin deficiency) is grace. We are saved by God's grace. That is all we can rely on, certainly not our own works (as important as those are). But it is that same grace that covers my sins, which is also going to cover my brother's "honest" doctrinal errors. If doctrinal error is going to keep us out of the Kingdom, then Christadelphia is doomed, because there is at least one major point of doctrine on which I'm pretty sure Christadelphia is in error. But God's grace will cover that as well.

Elijah Ben Freedman said...

More Madness

Another great post Steve. Keep up the good work!!

Would you like to comment on the the following [wicked?] practise.

Here is the scenario.

A number of meetings get together for a Study Weekend Camp somewhere outside the local city limits.

The studies are first rate, and the discussion over cups of tea or coffee are very enlightening. Prayers, readings and communal meals are engaged in by all... until Sunday, when certain attendees refuse to take the bread and the wine [ie, they stage a "spiritual 'Hunger Strike' "] just in case there is someone "Breaking Bread" at that camp who is from a meeting that they do not agree with, or who they imagine is astray [in their own minds] on some aspect of... fellowship [for example].

Sadly, this is not such an uncommon practise, especially up in the "Sunshine State".

I read the following very interesting comment on the web from a "cousin" of ours from the Church of Christ. It seems that CD's are not the only ones who make their take on things as being the arbitary point[s] upon which all must agree first before "Breaking Bread" etc.

Our friend writes... "Those who plead for uniformity in certain aspects of the word of God as a basis for fellowship must either demand perfect knowledge or else they must designate the areas in which one must be knowledgable to be in the fellowship, as distinguished from those areas in which he may be ignorant and still be justified of God.

How much is there in God's word that can one be mistaken about and still be justified? What percentage must we be right about, before God no longer recognizes us as part of His family? How much must one grow in intellectual attainment in order to continue as a brother of/in Jesus? How sick must one become from spiritual vitamin deficiency before the Father disowns us as a child?

To postulate that one must have perfect knowledge of every detail of the Atonement [for example] is to require inerrancy and infallibility and to demand that that one be God. This is what I call "the Haman's gallows argument." If it is affirmed that fellowship with ourselves is contingent upon knowing all we know and understanding everything as we do, [ie. as printed in a book, or a creed, agreement or a statement], then this means that our own fellowship with God is dependent upon knowing all that God knows and understanding everything as He does.

Since no one is rash enough to claim this for himself, he must thereby admit that he is not in fellowship with God, and condemns himself by the argument he concocted to deny others.

Remember what Jesus said? "By what judgment you judge you will be judged."

Copied (largely) from http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/wcketcherside/tts/chap10.html

A Friend of Jesus - John 15:12-14

Steve said...

The Premier of New South Wales recently announced that he would introduce legislation into the Parliament to "name and shame" certain offenders whose identity has previously been kept secret.

Someone suggested to me that I should also "name and shame" the ecclesias who practice bullying and intimidation.

In the case of this last piece of madness I've already named the ecclesia concerned in two other posts (yes, it's usually the same people who perpetrate spiritual abuse), so I guess there would be no harm in identifying them again.

I generally use an acronym (NO) for this particular ecclesia which I think is rather appropriate:

1. They generally quote NO Scripture to support their extreme fellowship practices;

2. Despite telling others to "apply Matthew 18" there is NO application of these principles by themselves when making public accusations against others;

3. There is NO tolerance by this ecclesia of views which differ from their own. This even extends beyond the Unity Agreement where they expect others to uphold their particular views on other subjects outside the Agreement in order to remain 'in fellowship";

4. They generally have a Negative Orientation against any views, ideas, practices or behaviour which vary from their own rigid interpretation of what it means to be Christadelphian;

5. They are Neo-Orthodox. By this I mean that their peculiar interpretation of what Christadelphian orthodoxy should look like is actually a new version of Christadelphianism and not what the majority of Christadelphians believe or practice.

For my other posts about the NO ecclesia see:

Truth in reporting
More on Chinese whispers

Anonymous said...

dont hide behind a blogsite do something about it

Steve said...

The last comment was interesting: “dont hide behind a blogsite do something about it”.

Ummm, I’m not “hiding” behind a blogsite – it has my name on it! (unlike the ‘anonymous’ poster). And by posting this stuff I think I AM doing something about it – exposing it!