Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Christadelphian authoritarianism today

I gave some examples in recent posts of the trend towards authoritarianism in the Christadelphian movement. However, these weren't isolated events in history - there is strong evidence of authoritarianism in some parts of Christadelphianism today.

Here is just one example. The Adelaide Suburban Young People recently sent a letter to their member ecclesias emphasising the need to ensure their young people "conform" (their word) to certain dress standards which they will "enforce at the door" (their expression). Their letter is below, with my emphasis.

Suburban Young Peoples’ Activities

16 January 2006

To the Recorders of the Adelaide Suburban, Glenlock, Mildura, Murray Bridge and Victor Harbor Ecclesias, and the IEAC.

Dear Brethren,
Loving greetings.

Over many years the Suburban Young Peoples Activities have become a valuable part of our Ecclesial life for young people. This facility provides a balance of activities to cater for their social and spiritual needs in a world that can give them nothing of lasting value. These activities draw together young people from a whole range of social and ecclesial circles, and yet united in a course of life, which can develop within them an appreciation for the ways of God. The worth of these activities in developing and promoting the spirit of the Truth in the Ecclesial environment both now and into the future is inestimable.

Amongst the young people, we have a wide variation of opinions on standards in relation to dress and attitude. Attention needs to be given to ensure our young people understand and conform to the accepted inter-ecclesial standards. This is nothing new and is something that has been constantly addressed in order to maintain a wholesome atmosphere in all that is done. Human nature is very persistent in attempting to promote “individual” standards based on current trends and not to conform to an agreed higher standard. It is essential to understand that the Suburban Young People’s environment is not the arena where these values are meant to be taught. They must be taught and promoted in the home environment, and supported by the Ecclesia so that they are naturally expected within the scope of the Suburban Young People’s activities. The wholesome atmosphere we have long enjoyed does not just happen, it has to be cultivated. Sadly non-compliance is often an issue and the work of hosting becomes exceedingly difficult when confronted by rebellion and the denial of respect for the rules and standards we ask our young people to respect.

We are seeking the renewed support of all Ecclesias who have young people from their meeting attending the Suburban Young People’s activities. Every young person and their parents should be aware of what is expected before they participate in these activities. The booklet “The Things We Stand For” plainly outlines the acceptable standards for young people’s activities. These booklets, along with introductory letters to each young person when they first attend and their parents should be considered and understood so that areas of non-conformance are minimised at all activities. Attendance at Suburban Young People’s functions is open to any young person fifteen years of age and is conditional on adhering to these standards. Please be aware that they must have already turned fifteen to be eligible for attendance.

There are a growing number of young people attending from Ecclesias which have not traditionally been associated with our Suburban Young People’s activities. They are most welcome to join us but are subject to the same rules and standards as everyone else. Young people involved with them should make them aware of the accepted standards before leaving home as we prefer not to have to deal with these issues at our first point of welcome.

There are currently a number of things that need to be addressed so that we can continue with a clear understanding of our position on dress and behaviour.

• There is a growing trend towards sloppiness in dress. The booklet “The Things We Stand For” clearly outlines what is required. For classes formal wear comparable to that of a Sunday morning meeting.
With particular reference to the boys, a collar and tie is expected to be worn. Jeans and sneakers are not classified as formal wear and should not be worn at study classes. Shirts must be of a suitable style to enable them to be tucked in as untucked shirts are unacceptable.
For the girls, modest dress is required. Interpretation here is always a problem but common sense needs to be used. Obvious immodest dress is unacceptable and anything that is borderline should be avoided. The hosts’ decision on an individual basis is final and must be respected. Remember that the style of dress should also be formal, not sloppy or provocative.
Head coverings are required to be worn by all girls, whether baptised or not. It seems the wonderful principle of the head covering is largely misunderstood. We will address the principle with the young people separately but please be aware that it is a standard which is not negotiable.
It is our intention to enforce matters of dress at the door. There would be no problem if young people all adhere to the simple requirements. There can be no real excuse for non-conformity. There may be parents that are unsupportive of our position on these matters but the accepted standards are not negotiable. Please put in the effort as it is not our desire to make a show of any young person. If they fail to wear a tie or head-covering, the hosts will provide one for them. There is no satisfactory excuse.
• Attendance at study classes is for the primary purpose of scriptural learning. Everyone attending must do so on the basis of respecting the purpose of this activity. We are finding that some are distracting others or disrupting the proceedings with childish behaviour. Disinterest in the meeting should not be displayed. This can result in a number of things such as foolish behaviour during hymns and prayers, frequent toilet breaks, constant talking throughout the meeting, notes back and forth, SMS messaging to others in the meeting, laughter or other forms of distraction. Sadly It is often evident amongst the same minority group each meeting.
• The Study class meetings start at the set time of 7:30 pm but many see no need to make the effort to arrive on time. Some even arriving half an hour late. This on its own is a distraction as seating is sought for the late comers. Parents need to ensure their young people leave home with adequate time to arrive well before the start time. This will help to set the proper sense of decorum of the meeting.

The hosts have been appointed to oversee these activities for the good of the whole group. We enjoy the role we play, and it is a very positive work as we watch young men and women develop within the activities of the Truth. We understand the many trials and experiences our young people face in a world that is so determined to defile their conscience and destroy the Godly principles. At times, some of this influence can become evident in their behaviour. The responsibility of the hosts is to make decisions to maintain an appropriate level of decorum.

If disciplinary action is required, the decisions of the hosts must be respected by the young people, and supported by their parents and their ecclesias. In the first instance the matter will be discussed with the young person. If this cannot be resolved, then the issue will be raised with their parents. If no improvement in the situation is evident, the matter will be referred to their home Ecclesia and the young person instructed not to attend any Suburban Young Peoples’ activities until the matters are resolved to the satisfaction of the President. This may also include referring the matter to the IEAC for direction. We would hope that such measures would never be necessary, but if the course of action is known, there can be no surprises or excuses.

As a whole, we have a wonderful group of young people. In all that we do, we seek to glorify our Heavenly Father. To that end we would seek your earnest support to maintain the spirit which strives to imitate the example of our Lord, who served his Father in the spirit of holiness with a zeal and passion in self denial.

Could you please distribute this information amongst your ecclesia so that all parents and young people understand the seriousness of the matters we have raised. Additional copies of the booklet “The Things We Stand For” are available on request.

On behalf of the Adelaide Suburban Young People
Bro Rob Scott (President)

It's made clear that the young people will not be permitted to think for themselves, and that even their parents opinions will not be taken into consideration. The role of parents has been taken over by the authorities in the youth group. "There may be parents that are unsupportive of our position on these matters but the accepted standards are not negotiable." The rules have been made and will be enforced. Even visitors from unaffiliated ecclesias will be "subject to the same rules."

No wonder that their young people are restless and inattentive in the classes when those in control are demanding adherence to "rules" rather than providing a message which is stimulating, relevant and life-changing.

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