Monday, June 23, 2008

Permission needed to start a new ecclesia

The following motion has been proposed for the Sydney Christadelphian Conference 2008:
Proposed Motion # 5:

'That the Australian Christadelphian brotherhood adopts a practice that, prior to the formation of any new ecclesia, a representative of the proposed ecclesia contact the Central Fellowship ecclesias in their local area, for recognition as a bona fide ecclesia meeting on the Australian Unity Basis of Fellowship.'

Moved by South Brisbane

Seconded t.b.a.

Rationale, as provided by South Brisbane

Objective

To provide a framework for effectively assessing the bona fides of all new ecclesias seeking fellowship on the Australian Unity Basis.

Procedures

1 All new ecclesias wishing to be recognised as a Christadelphian ecclesia meeting on the Australian Unity Basis should write to the recorders of established ecclesias in the local area of the proposed new ecclesia, stating they meet on the Australian Unity Basis of Fellowship.

2 The proposed ecclesia's location will determine the number of established ecclesias to receive such a letter, but it is suggested a minimum of five ecclesias should be approached for recognition as a bona fide Christadelphian Ecclesia.

3 Ecclesias receiving such notice should consult one another, after determining their own position, and if no objection is communicated to the proposed ecclesia's representative within one month, the request should be accepted and the new ecclesia notified in writing by the local ecclesias involved.

4 If any objections are raised by the local established ecclesiae, discussions should take place in order to resolve the perceived impediments.

5 A reasonable time should be allowed for resolution of the difficulties on the basis of the Ecclesial Guide and the Unity Booklet.

This motion raises a number of interesting matters.

First, we need to question the intention of the motion. Never in the past has a new Christadelphian ecclesia in Australia (or anywhere else in the world as far as I am aware) needed to obtain the consent of other ecclesias in the area. So why now? What is the reason for changing the practice of more than 140 years? Is this motion designed to restrict new ecclesias starting up or to control the activities of new ecclesias? If so, why?

Second, the motion appears to be totally impractical. Let's take one Australian city as a hypothetical example. Newcastle currently has three Christadelphian ecclesias: Newcastle, Charlestown and Boolaroo. The last time I spoke at Charlestown ecclesia I was asked to sit on the platform for the entire meeting as the hall was literally filled to capacity and there were no spare seats in the congregation. This is a good sign of a healthy ecclesia, and because there is "standing room only" the ecclesia is considering extensions to their meeting place. However, another option they might consider is starting a new ecclesia as an 'offshoot'. Under this proposed motion they would need the consent of at least five ecclesias in the area. But there are only three ecclesias in the area! Under this proposed new rule they would have to look further afield to other cities for approval to start a satellite ecclesia. Charlestown is a well-established ecclesia with a solid reputation and was an original signatory to the Australian Unity Agreement. To suggest that they can't start a satellite ecclesia without the permission of other ecclesias is not only insulting to them, it raises the question as to what authority the other ecclesias might have which Charlestown lacks.

Third, this motion smells of fear, a controlling spirit, and authoritarianism.

Are some ecclesias afraid that new ecclesias might operate differently, and do they find this threatening? There was a recent example (in Brisbane) of an ecclesia sending out an appeal for people to move into their area and join them because they were declining so sharply in numbers that they were at risk of dying out. At the same time this same ecclesia was a party to a move to restrict the activities of a new ecclesia which was bursting at the seams and which was growing numerically almost week-by-week. Are they afraid that as they die out their remaining members will transfer to the new dynamic meeting? What do they find so threatening about this?

It smells of a controlling spirit because new ecclesias sometimes do things a bit differently from the older ecclesias in the area, and some traditionalists don't like this. Instead of an organ they might decide to use guitars and drums (God forbid!). Instead of 17th century hymns they might want to sing contemporary music! They might even drop "thees" and "thous" and Elizabethan English and pray to the Almighty in contemporary English!! Where will this lead? It must be stopped!!!

It smacks of authoritarianism because it suggests that a 'group' of ecclesias should be empowered to control the activities of other ecclesias in the area. There is already at least one case in Australia of a 'group' of ecclesias in an area banding together while excluding other ecclesias in the area which might see some things differently, and then attempting to impose their collective will on the excluded ecclesias (and it's significant that this proposed motion comes from one of the ecclesias which is a party to this 'group'). This motion, if adopted, would give more power to these 'groups' which Robert Roberts condemned as"collective despotism":
Ecclesial independence should be guarded with great jealousy with the qualifications indicated in the foregoing sections. To form "unions" or "societies" of ecclesias, in which delegates should frame laws for the individual ecclesias, would be to lay the foundation of a collective despotism which would interfere with the free growth and the true objects of ecclesial life. Such collective machineries create fictitious importances, which tend to suffocate the truth. All ecclesiastical history illustrates this. (Clause 44 of the Ecclesial Guide)
I would hope that the majority of ecclesias represented at the 2008 Conference will see this proposed motion for what it is and soundly reject it.

13 comments:

Cliff said...

Hi Steve

Congratulations on another very well written article.

I have personally spoken to a cross section of Brethren and Sisters across Australia about this proposed motion... and the reaction has been universal!! Total astonishment commonly mingles with unbridled disgust, that men who call themselves "Brethren in Christ," could (in all seriousness) put their names to such an Anti-Christ style motion.

Comments are offered, like... "What kind of mind even thinks of proposing a motion like this one proposed for consideration at the forthcoming conference in Sydney?" "How many wasted hours of life have been devoted to creating such an unChristlike, unGodly, unfaithful, unprofitable, fear driven and potentially intimidating "legislative instrument"? "What is it that these Brethren are so fearful of?"

What is it that leads people to reveal their massive insecurities in such a potentially abusive way? What is the underlying problem within our religious community which drives men to so want to interfere in the affairs of other meetings in this incredibly debilitating, stifling and destructive way?

The wasted hours in formulating such motions and legislative instruments represents a blatant form of "robbery" - firstly robbing the Father of His right to guide the affairs of His Children by His Spirit. To me, the underlying spirit of the proposed motion appears to be one of preventing any new meeting from leaving behind our 19th Century church legacy/modality and allowing the Spirit to move with the times.

Such Ecclesiastical Legislation as revealed in the proposed motion would also rob those who wish to be led by the Fathers Spirit in creating a new "lightstand," of the opportunity to return to the One True Faith in creating "Doors of Hope" and "Cities of Refuge" for folk who are totally fed up with the controlling mentality of those who behave as if they were CEO's of a "business" left to them by none other than Jesus Christ Himself.

Paul faced the same fear driven attitudes in his day when certain [“Angels of Light” etc] who followed him around the Empire, took off their “aprons” and put on their “crowns” and ruled as kings [cp 1 Cor 4:8], instead of doing what the Father had asked… that is, to spread the gospel and share the message that the Father had graciously entrusted to them.

How true were Robert Robert’s words in the Ecclesial Guide, when he warned that the collective despotisms formed by such (faithless) fearful men would ultimately lead to collective machineries creating fictitious importances, tending only to suffocate the truth [Jesus], interfering with the free growth and the true objects of ecclesial life.

And the “robbery” continues, when such high handed Ecclesiastical interference as proposed intrudes into the affairs of any meeting, and members are forced to either counter the unwelcome intrusions and/or spend hours counseling those who have been abused and intimidated by such Ecclesiastical interference. Isaiah 61:8 reveals that the Father hates “robbery given as a burnt offering.” In our 2008 language… that would be insisting on doing things in His name that He has not asked us to do, and claiming that as a bona fide “work in the Truth.”

For at least 5 years now, the meeting I support in Brisbane has been persistently accused [by certain] of not being "Bona Fide." (Mind you, how our accusers would even know if our meeting is “Bona Fide” or not remains a mystery to me… as their judgments concerning our “Bona Fides” have been made without any of them even visiting our meeting! Our accusers would not even know most of the regular supporters at PRWC.)

I suspect that the proposed legislation that you have revealed on your blog here Steve, may have even been dreamed up [in Brisbane] to prevent meetings like the one that I support “seeding” a new meeting in the local area.

Happily though, any new meeting anywhere in the world only needs to have the Fathers blessing to start, thrive and survive – cp Acts 5:38-39. As a result of the Father’s Blessing, the meeting I support is bursting at the seams most Sundays, and the day will soon come when we will need to make the decision to “seed” a new meeting.

Will we be seeking the blessing of 5 local Ecclesias when we do…. or will we be seeking the Father’s Blessing only?

I will leave you to work that one out for yourself…

By the way… “Bona Fide” (according to one Thesaurus) means ‘genuine, real, authentic, true, valid, above-board, legitimate, legal, authenticated, with faith.’ As far as I am aware, the meeting I support is indeed, ‘genuine, real, authentic, true, valid, above-board, legitimate, legal, authenticated…’ and everything in the meeting is done openly, transparently, above-board and ‘in faith’ [ie. “Bona Fide”] every decision and every problem is given to the Father in faith and in prayer for His direction and His guidance.

So far, the Father has not directed us by His Spirit in any way (and certainly not by His written word any where) to seek the permission of any man (or group of men for that matter) in the local Ecclesial scene, to start and/or to maintain a faithful witness to Himself and His glorious Son at PRWC.

Let us pray that the Brotherhood see through the absolute wickedness and utter faithlessness of the proposed motion for the Sydney conference and soundly reject it, consigning the proposed motion into the Lake of Fire where it truly belongs (cp Rev 21:8)

And, in the days ahead, may our Lord “seed” many more “Bona Fide” meetings and communities… where creativeness is celebrated, initiative is applauded, Jesus is elevated, and stifling legalism is ‘outlawed’ by GRACE!!

Your “Bona Fide” Brother by Grace,
Cliff

Deb said...

Just a little smile. If the endorsement of 5 local ecclesias were required for each of the 8 ecclesias in my city, I think that some might end up 'de-registered'!

Strangely, the more conservative ecclesias would have less trouble getting 5 votes of confidence, due to the generous outlook of the more liberal ecclesias.

In any 'cluster' of ecclesias, the odds are high that some came out of others through some controversy (on these occasions we may thank God for freedom of association!) As such, they serve a vital purpose, whether recognised by the ecclesia of origin, or not.

Why ask? Just get on with the job of building and nurturing all of Jesus' flocks.

Abigail said...

I shook my head in despiar when I read of this proposal. Where is God in the lives of men who propose these things? It is not to men we look to validate our worship. We are worshipping God, not men. We look to God alone to validate our worship and the places where we worship. An ecclesia can be set up in one's own home is necessary, do we have to get the 'blessing' of 5 other 'homes' to be able to worship. Good grief - where are the minds of these men. They seem to have lost God in their lives. If this is what Christadelphia is coming to I want nothing to do with it.

Anonymous said...

You might want to correct Cliff I know of two brethren who went to his meeting as they were asked to do and see for themselves and what they saw was not the main stream Christadelphian teaching , it did not uphold the unity basis and so help is needed for those brethren and sisters and that is what is trying to be acheived if they would only listen. His following comments are not correct.

For at least 5 years now, the meeting I support in Brisbane has been persistently accused [by certain] of not being "Bona Fide." (Mind you, how our accusers would even know if our meeting is “Bona Fide” or not remains a mystery to me… as their judgments concerning our “Bona Fides” have been made without any of them even visiting our meeting! Our accusers would not even know most of the regular supporters at PRWC.

Cliff said...

I would like to thank “Anonymous” for “correcting” the record as he (I am assuming “Anonymous” is a CD male) sees it.

I was away in Adelaide last year when two Brethren from the North Oaks Christadelphian Ecclesia did indeed make a visit to the Pine Rivers Worship Centre. It is true that (at least one of them, and I suspect that he is “Anonymous”) had been personally invited by myself to attend PRWC and to personally experience the love and warmth and fellowship of his Brothers/Sisters/friends first hand any time he wished to.

Before I go any further, just let me set the record straight.

Contrary to the assertion made by “Anonymous", Pine Rivers Worship Centre (a.k.a. Pine Rivers Christadelphian Ecclesia) is not “my meeting” in any way, shape or form. I happen to support PRWC because it endeavours to model itself on the first and second Century church model of House Meetings. If anything, PRWC is “His [Christ’s] Meeting”… it certainly is not a meeting belonging to any other individual or individuals!!

It was observed by other members of PRWC present on the day referred to above by “Anonymous”, that the 2 Brethren who “visited” PRWC did not appear to be there to find fellowship… but rather to find fault!

Whilst our 2 Brethren did refrain from taking the emblems of Christ’s sacrifice of love at PRWC (lest they be “guilty by association(?)”)they apparently did NOT refrain from taking notes.

I suspect (from information shared with the G13 group of Ecclesias here in Brisbane) that those notes actually included the names of certain Brothers and Sisters who did “break bread” that Sunday at PRWC and this information has been used to bolster a case to threaten to "dissociate Pine Rivers Meeting" (based on Clause 2(b) of the Unity Basis of Fellowship).

I challenge “Anonymous” to reveal on this forum what he and the other Brother saw that day at PRWC which:-
(a) was not “main stream Christadelphian teaching”?

(b) was not upholding the Unity Basis?

Over the 5 years PRWC has been functioning, we would have had in excess of 200 other visitors (besides the 2 referred to by “Anonymous”)… and not a single one of them has ever pointed out that what is taught at PRWC is anything but solidly Bible Based and Jesus/God centered.

How is it then, that the 2 Brethren referred to by “Anonymous” are the only ones with the special insights to see any “problems” at PRWC? Perhaps the 2 referred to by “Anonymous” (who appear to have “visited” PRWC to ‘spy out our Liberty in Jesus’) should have heeded Paul’s instructions, when he commanded “let every man examine himself…"

I see nothing in Jesus’ commandments where we are instructed to examine others when we come to His Gracious Table, as to who else is also sharing the Lord’s Love Feast.

Over the years (to my knowledge), no other person regularly visiting PRWC has ever vocalized doubts with us over the “bona fides” of this meeting. And in all that time, the basis of fellowship at PRWC has never been questioned by any of our regular visitors either.

“Anonymous” goes on to say… (presumably as a result of legitimate major "salvation issues" observed by himself and his friend... but not yet revealed to PRWC) “so help is needed for those brethren and sisters and that is what is trying to be achieved (sic) if they would only listen.”

Thank you “Anonymous”… but we have not asked you for any help in this regard. And, unless I am seriously mistaken, I doubt that Jesus has asked you to help in His stead either. I believe you should look to the major moral issues that are harboured in your own "backyard" first.

However, perhaps “Anonymous” and his friend might care to reveal on this forum, exactly “what help is needed”? At PRWC, we are always ready, with Bible in hand, to discuss any spiritual issue in an atmosphere of love.

I would hasten to point out to “Anonymous,” that at PRWC there would be around 700 collective years of experience in the Lord.

Add to these years, the LARGE number of friends and supporters from all around Australia and across the world who also share their advice with PRWC on a regular basis. On this basis, it would be amazing indeed if PRWC is so “wide of the mark” as to cause rational folk who know Jesus, to come to “the conclusion themselves, that continued association with PRWC would put [anyone’s] salvation at risk, as we certainly believe that your relationship with the “Father and His Son, and thus your own salvation, [is] at risk” (to quote another communication with PRWC recently – presumably with the knowledge of the 2 “visitors,” including “Anonymous”.)

“Anonymous,” I have firm reason to believe that it was you who recently sent me an SMS text revealing that “Pine Rivers [meeting] will not be in the kingdom.”

I also know for a fact that one of the 2 (mentioned by “Anonymous) who “visited” Pine Rivers last year, rang one of our (PRWC’s) “interested friends” who has written and published a book ["They never told me THIS in Church"], and posed as an “interested friend” himself so as to engage in a (CD style) discussion to ascertain our friend (the author’s) understanding of the atonement.

This same deceitful and devious behaviour was further repeated by that same individual to attempt to uncover certain information about the author of this blogsite.

I am so glad that Jesus says that it is “He who holds the Churches in His right hand, and that it is He who walks in the midst of all the Churches” (cp Rev 2&3).

At PRWC we welcome all who wish to share the experience of Fellowship in the Spirit of Christ to do so.

You will be glad you did.

Let the Sonshine in
Cliff

P.S. Someone said recently that it is high time we Christians stopped thinking as Christadelphians … or Baptists… or Lutherans...etc and started to think as Christ.

I agree.

Anonymous said...

Brethren have been critised for speaking about Pine river ecclesia and that critisim is that "how would you know you have never been to Pine rivers meeting)so the opportunity arose when that was able. I dont know of where bro. Cliff gets his infomation from but no NOTES were taken by myself of who did not partake of the emblems.
And I did not go there to find fault Bro. Cliff is making up stories. If a Brother has been disfellowshiped and you visit another meeting and he is there then the main stream Christadelphian teaching is not to partake of the emblems which happened on this day. if this so called informnation was presented to Cliffs G13 as he calls it then that news to me.
Let me say that I did not go to SPY OUT the ecclesia but it was constantly said to me that I should come to see for myself.
It sems to me that Cliff has more of a problem with some one else and not myself. I ask Cliff he would be willing to sit down with a Group of Brethren and discuss these issues and stop hiding behind Blog sites. I know he will probably say the same about me but its worth asking.

Anonymous said...

by the way I have never said that Pine rivers ecclesia will not be in the Kingdom another misleading statement by Bro. Cliff he probably doesn't understand layers

Steve said...

I have received the following reply from Cliff to the last comment above. I have edited his reply to remove the personal details.

For the record, on the 2nd of April 2008 at 18:55pm I received a message from [mobile phone number provided] which reads "Pine Rivers will not be accepted into the Kingdom"

[That mobile phone number] is the number that belongs to [name of a Brisbane Christadelphian provided].

He is dead right that I do not understand "layers" - what on earth does that mean?

Dave Holman said...

I am wondering why Anonymous won't reveal themselves on such an important issue. Fear of ridicule? Why stand behind the cloak of anonymity? Can't recall Jesus ever doing that. I dont understand layers either. I have been to Pine Rivers several times and was uplifted by seeing the Spirit in Action - true fellowship.
Bro Dave Holman
Kedron Brook Ecclessia

Steve said...

Dave,

I don't understand 'layers' either. Perhaps it's part of the jargon that has been developed as part of the cult-like mentality of the exclusives.

Thanks for your comment. Some time ago I introduced a policy of not allowing anonymous comments unless the poster emailed me and gave me their reasons for wishing to remain anonymous. I must confess that I've breached my own policy here. I did so in order to expose the stupidity of the exclusives, although I'm really tired of the cowardice of such people.

Anonymous said...

Hi, my heart was deeply moved when I read this blog site, how sad would our Father in heaven be to witness such fighting amongst Brothers in Christ. My husband and I have recently joined PineRivers Ecclessia, we were new to the country and were battling to settle in, my hubby has come from a Christadelphian background and I from a Christian background & baptised as a Christian. Having witnessed the exclusivity of Christadelphians worldwide and non-acceptance of "unbelievers" ("anyone who is not a christadelphian"), I was very reluctant to even consider joining a christadelphian meeting when we moved to Australia. To my UTTER delight, by the GRACE of God, we were introduced to PineRivers Worship Centre, they have become our Spiritual family and have JUST GOT IT RIGHT!!! They are tuned into the Spirit of God are loving, warm, welcoming, uncondeming and all accepting, isn't this how Christ was??? Didn't Christ accept EVERYONE, prositutes, etc. Didn't CHRIST break bread with people who were NOT baptised, YES the baptisms happened AFTER they'd broken bread with the Lord. PineRivers have been our saving grace and we know that God led us to that ecclessia because their work is blessed by God.

When are people going to realise that we are ALL part of God's family, we are baptised into the family of God & not into a religious sect.

What I can't understand is where people get the notion that they have the right to judge if someone is worthy / not worthy of partaking in the Father's emblems??? Isn't it up to each individual to determine where they stand with God, isn't it up to them to decide, lest they drink judgement unto themselves?

I have NEVER heard of someone not partaking of bread and wine, because THE CHURCH RULES SAY THAT THEY CANNOT BREAK BREAD WITH A DISFELLOWSHIPPED BROTHER / SIS. Who are we to REFUSE someone fellowship at the Lord's table or in the Lord's house??? It's NOT OUR house / meeting / ecclessia, it's the HOUSE OF THE LORD. How has this got so messed up!!!! It's like saying "sorry you're not worthy of partaking of Lord's table in MY presence". WHEN on EARTH did it become about US???

I thank God everyday that I am saved by Grace and that He accepts me for who I am, I thank God too everyday for PineRivers and the wonderful light they are to the community and to us as a family!!!
I pray too that God will open the eyes of the people who are blinded by rules / regulations because they have not experienced the true Grace of our Lord and what He did for us.

I am also amazed at that sms, who decides who makes it into the Kingdom? We only need to read the scriptures to know who is going to be accepted into the Kingdom, there is NO evidence in the word of God that says "only if you're a mainstream Christadelphian will you receive eternal life into the Kingdom". We need to STOP being a people of judgements, the Lord tells us to look at ourselves first before judging those around us.

The bottom line, THE WORD OF GOD IS FOR EVERYONE, SALVATION IS FOR ANYONE WHO "BELIEVES IN THEIR HEART AND CONFESSES WITH THEIR MOUTH THAT JESUS CHRIST IS LORD".
When we are baptised, NOT as a christadelphian, but baptised as a NEW being in CHRIST, not in a church / religion, then we receive the wonderful promise of eternal life through our Lord and Saviour.

You WILL receive your inheritence in the Kingdom, because the PROMISES of God are TRUE and we should stand on those promises.

Stop living in the Old Testament and CLAIM the Grace that is yours through the crucifiction of Jesus Christ, lest his death have been in vain.

It's time we all stood together, not as Christadelphians, but as people who all belong to the family of God.

When will the exclusivity of "main stream christadelphia" be broken and replaced with INCLUDING those from near and far & from all walks of life as CHRIST did..... this is something that PRWC does and it SHOULD NOT BE condemned but should be encouraged as they are doing God's work and that is reaching out to the lost "main stream christadelphia" since it is so often referenced, rejects anyone who is NOT a christadelphian and makes is SO difficult for anyone to integrate into the community without passing tests, etc. Imagine if we had to pass tests for our salvation, Christ gave it to us freely, why are we suddently "judging" people to obtain theirs?

As far as I'm concerned the ONLY rule book we should be reading and abiding by is the Word of God & God encourages us to go out and multiple, any non-christadelphian reading this would say "I DO NOT WANT TO HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH GOD IF THIS IS HOW GODLY PEOPLE BEHAVE"... we have to ask ourselves are we shining His light or are we diluting His message to make it more digestible and ensure that it suits the Ecclessial Guide so as not to upset "Main stream Christadelphia". If it's the latter, then we're in a lot of trouble.

WHOEVER sent the message about PRWC not going to the Kingdom, I will pray for you everyday that the Lord will soften your heart and that He will forgive you for speaking those words!!! I pray that your eyes will be opened so that you will see and accept the TRUE Grace that is yours in Christ Jesus.

Dave Holman said...

Amen and Amen

Kathleen said...

When I first heard of Pine Rivers, I nearly cried. I found out through a friend who was living in Brisbane at the time that there was an ecclesia who was 'being investigated' by other ecclesias due to apparent 'misconduct'. I was intrigued, and searched the internet for this wayward group. To my joy did I discover that their 'misconduct' was in fact a ray of hope. I do not necessarily agree with every 'radical' move they may make, but then I hardly agree with the stagnant traditional pool in the backyard of Christadelphia either.

I am a 19 year old Sister in Christ, and my boyfriend is a non-denominational Christian who was brought up in the Uniting Church. He has regularly attended Sunday morning meetings for the past 15 months, and now considers it to be 'his' church.

A Christadelphian ecclesia where his confirmation can be recognised as the turning point in his life that it was, one which could understand that a subsequent baptism is not a life change, but rather a missed step from long ago is a dream that I pray for. Pine Rivers represents to me a step in that direction, the direction of understanding those who have come from other Christian backgrounds and acknowledging that they are not worldly sinners who did not know God, but rather our Brothers and Sisters who, in some cases, may have been denied a step in a life transformation that took place years ago. They do not need to begin their journey again, they have simply been walking in the dark or the rain. We are providing them with lamps and umbrellas so that they can continue along their walk to Christs Kingdom.

My hope is that I will be able to travel to Brisbane and Pine Rivers in the coming months with my boyfriend, and that he will find there the understanding and christian unity which is lacking elsewhere.


Sis. Kathleen Caudery
Heathmont, Melbourne