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.