Last Updated on : October 11, 2014
An Ocean of Proof, One Drop at a Time
Drop 1: The Ecclesial Guide
Drop 2: Ecclesial Autonomy in 1866
In an effort to exhibit true pioneer beliefs and practices concerning the topic of scriptural fellowship, bro. Jay Genger has compiled many recorded beliefs and actions the ecclesias believed and implemented during the lives and times of the pioneers. These historic facts are taken from the Intelligence sections of The Ambassador / Christadelphian magazine (1864-1898). It is also well known by Christadelphia that bro. Roberts composed, A Guide to the Formation and Conduct of Christadelphian Ecclesias. This booklet was intended as a guide to help new ecclesias get a start through the several recommendations made by bro. Roberts. Between the Guide written by bro. Roberts, and the Intelligence reports included by bro. Roberts in his magazine, there exists a harmony between the two that constitutes an over- whelming "ocean of proof," revealing that the present day "Fellowship" structure of ecclesias is not the same as the pioneer structure of the independent and totally autonomous structure of their ecclesias, as well as the other ecclesias of their day. The differences are important to understand, because, according to the pioneers, an ecclesia cannot properly develop if the structure is anything other than an apostolic structure.
Bro. Stephen Genusa makes the claim that a study of the Intelligence reports, which another brother suggested he examine, started him on his enlightening journey of discovering the true pioneer belief of scriptural fellowship, which he asserts is not being taught today in Christadelphian Fellowships. There is no reason we cannot investigate and determine the accuracy of his claim for ourselves. We have no objection to reviewing any pioneer work.
If bro. Genusa is correct, there will be an agreement between what is recorded in the Intelligence, and what is recommended in the Guide; furthermore, the unity between the Intelligence and the Guide will also appear in other pioneer works. If he is incorrect then; 1) the bulk of the pioneer works; 2) A Guide to the Formation and Conduct of Christadelphian Ecclesias, and 3) the Intelligence reports, may demonstrate a uniformity between present day Christadelphian Fellowships and the pioneer day ecclesias.
We find the claim of uniformity between past and current day eccleias to be untrue, and share our findings with all readers. An Ocean of Proof, One Drop at a Time intends to list and annotate pioneer works that agree with one another, and intends to demonstrate the beliefs held and actions taken by the ecclesias contemporary with the pioneers. For the convenience of the reader, we will strive to look at the many proofs one at a time. I have no doubt that for every day that has passed since bro. Genusa asked for the pioneer proof of their understanding of scriptural Fellowship, a single proof could have been produced each and every day; from the Intelligence reports. They clearly demonstrate pioneer beliefs. This currently numbers 1,564 proofs from the pioneer era Intelligence reports alone (the number of days that have passed without any proof). Think not, or disagree? Please send the correct pioneer understanding of scriptural fellowship to us, while we post our one drop at a time reviews from an ocean of proof. We are convinced that 1,564 quotes will be easily produced from the Intelligence reports, Lord Willing, which will validate huge and unhealthy differences between pioneer beliefs and practices relating to fellowship, and fellowship as believed and practiced by today's Christadelphian Fellowships. Think so and agree? We would love to hear from you as well. Remember, not one legitimate pioneer quote has been sent to bro. Genusa during all of this time. Please, also remember that pioneer teachings were meant to nurture and support scriptural fellowship. Establishing scriptural fellowship between Yahweh, Christ, and other brothers, and between other ecclesias, was an intense desire and work of bros. Thomas and Roberts, as they are ours too. Division has its place, but not when it goes beyond the scope of Yahweh's Will. Please consider, nay, investigate: An Ocean of Proof, One Drop at a Time.
We begin with our first drop, and it aptly defines the limitations intended for A Guide to the Formation and Conduct of Christadelphian Ecclesias, by its author; [and with my thoughts in blue]
The Ecclesial Guide
ECCLESIAL NOTES full text:
The Ecclesial Guide is a suggestion: not a mandate — which is not within the function of any (by Christ) unauthorised brother. It only becomes a rule when made such by an ecclesia adopting it: and even then it remains outside the structure of an ecclesia's constitution. The ecclesia takes so much of it as pleases them, and makes it theirs. There must and there always will be rules of some sort in every body of people who have a collective and mutually-related existence. It is a question of rules that work for good or those that work for evil. If we could have apostolic bishops, it would be a relief: but where is the wisdom of playing at what we have not and cannot have unless God speak by the spirit?
The Ecclesial Guide is a suggestion [as intended in the title of the booklet: "A Guide to the Formation and Conduct of Christadelphian Ecclesias"): not a mandate which many Fellowships of today have rendered the Ecclesial Guide] which is not within the function of any (by Christ) unauthorised brother [please note; bro. Roberts clearly states that Christ restricts A Guide from becoming a "mandate" by "any unauthorised brother," which includes "unauthorised brothers" from within an ecclesia, as well as all brothers from all other ecclesias, as the next sentence reveals. Fellowships of today are not so structured, and the Fellowship decides what is mandated, and what is not; in some Fellowships, parts, if not the whole, of the Ecclesial Guide are mandated for all of the ecclesias within it]. It only becomes a rule [the suggestion in the Ecclesial Guide becomes "a rule"] when made such by an ecclesia adopting it [and not by one member in the ecclesia; nor by another member in another ecclesia; and definitely not by a group of ecclesias in a Fellowship; but by the entire, autonomous ecclesia]: and even then it [the suggestion made in the Ecclesial Guide] remains outside the structure of an ecclesia's constitution [in other words, the suggestion appearing in the Ecclesial Guide, which inspired an ecclesia's constitutional "rule", must not be included in the ecclesia's constitution as the Ecclesial Guide's "mandate"]. The ecclesia takes so much of it [the Ecclesial Guide] as pleases them, and makes it theirs [makes it, the Ecclesial Guide's suggestion, which the ecclesia has "adopted" as their "rule,"] There must and there always will be rules of some sort in every body [single ecclesias, and not single Fellowships] of people who have a collective and mutually-related existence [within a single ecclesia]. It is a question of rules that work for good [within a single ecclesia, which makes or adopts its own rules] or those that work for evil [in the same ecclesia]. If we could have apostolic bishops [men with the Holy Spirit Gifts], it would be a relief: but where is the wisdom of playing at what we have not and cannot have unless God speak by the spirit? End of quote.
Compare the title of, "A Guide to the Formation and Conduct of Christadelphian Ecclesias," with the above quote, and a harmony between the two is easily discernable. Now compare these with the structure of present day Fellowships, and a definite contrast between the two is also easily discernable. The most obvious difference noted is the legislative manner the Ecclesial Guide is mandated in several ecclesias within a single Fellowship. This is described by bro. Roberts as: "not within the function of any (by Christ) unauthorised brother." Or other ecclesias, we might add.
Ecclesial Autonomy in 1866
Christadelphian 1866, page 186
Birmingham.„ ...During the month, four immersions have taken place, the subjects being WILLIAM PEARSHOUSE, (41) greengrocer, formerly Wesleyan; AMOS PITT, (27) revolving shutter worker, formerly Plymouth Brother; SAMUEL BETHEL, (36) brazier, formerly neutral; ALFRED E. DAVIS, (15) son of brother Davis. In the same interval, viz: on Wednesday, August 15th, an unanimous resolution, of which three weeks' notice had been given (by the Birmingham ecclesia), was adopted by the ecclesia, over 50 brethren and sisters being present, repudiating the fellowship of those professors of the truth, who meet in connection with George Dowie, in Edinburgh (there were two ecclesias in Edinburgh, and the Birmingham ecclesia was in fellowship with both ecclesias [while the two ecclesias in Edinburgh were not in fellowship with each other]; that is, until the Birmingham ecclesia unanimously decided to withdraw their fellowship from "those professors of the truth, who meet in connection with George Dowie, in Edinburgh." At the end of this quote, it is revealed that the Birmingham ecclesia, who was in fellowship with both ecclesias in Edinburgh for "some years," finally remained in fellowship with only the other "Christadelphians in Edinburgh, who separated from the 'Baptised Believers' some years ago") The resolution runs as follows: "That the (Birmingham) ecclesia having heard read to them, and having considered the report of a discussion on the bearing of the immortality of the soul on the one faith, which took place on Sunday, April 8th, Sunday, April 15th, and Sunday, May 6th (reported in the Christadelphian 1866, Page 265) among those in Edinburgh, styling themselves "Baptised Believers in the Kingdom of God," and meeting in Union Hall, 98, Southbridge, the (Birmingham) ecclesia consider it their duty, as witnesses of the truth, to disavow, and hereby disavow and refuse all connection with the said so-called "Baptised Believers in the Kingdom of God," and request the Secretary (Birmingham ecclesia, Recording brother) to write to George Dowie, Secretary (Recording brother) of the community (Edinburgh ecclesia) in question, apprizing him, for the information of himself and the said community (bro. Dowie and "Baptised Believers'"ecclesia), of this their (the Birmingham ecclesia's) solemn decision." The occasion of this resolution (made by the Birmingham ecclesia), as appears from the wording of it, was the reading of the report of a discussion which took place among the parties referred to, on the question of whether or not it was necessary to reject the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, in order to a reception of the truth; and the necessity for it arose from the fact that the parties referred to (bro. George Dowie and the "Baptised Believers in the Kingdom of God" in the Edinburgh ecclesia) claim the fellowship of the Birmingham ecclesia, and ("the parties referred to") stand before the brotherhood æ(in a monthly magazine ["Messenger of the Churches," by bro. George Dowie), and by a yearly gathering, to which they [the "Baptised Believers in the Kingdom of God,"] invite the friends of truth), as representative men. The unfaithfulness to the truth (regarding the first principle of the mortality of man), and even ignorance of it, exhibited in the discussion referred to (reported in the "Christadelphian," 1866, Page 265), was felt (by the Birmingham ecclesia) to be such as to call for the act of separation (withdrawal) resolved on (by the Birmingham ecclesia). A virtual disconnection (between the ecclesias at Birmingham and Edinburgh) had existed for a long time; but, except in the way of report (from others), nothing had come under the notice of the ecclesia as such (in other words, "nothing had come under the notice of the Birmingham ecclesia in the way of report from others" concerning the "Baptised Believers'" ecclesia at Edinburgh), to justify collective action (that is, to justify a collective action taken by the members of the Birmingham ecclesia to withdraw from the Edinburgh ecclesia), and collective action had never been taken (by the members of the ecclesia at Birmingham against the ecclesia at Edinburgh). It was known that the Edinburgh professors were at best but pseudo-friends of the truth; but their own voice (the Edinburgh's voice) had never been so clearly heard (by the ecclesia at Birmingham) in their own condemnation as now (reported in the "Christadelphian," 1866, Page 265). This is not the place to go particularly into the question (that is, the Christadelphian Intelligence is not the placeƒ); but we may mention, as an illustration of the kind of sentiment current in this pretended tabernacle of the truth (the ecclesia in Edinburgh, styling themselves 'Baptised Believers in the Kingdom of God,'"), that George Dowie refused to say whether he should immerse a person believing in the immortality of the soul; and James Cameron affirmed that it was "dangerous" to assert that a man must regard Jesus as the author of eternal life, before his immersion could be valid! The discussion may be published in extensor (it was; 1866, Page 265), and the brethren (from all Christadelphian ecclesias) will then have an opportunity of judging for themselves (from the pages of the "Christadelphian"), and deciding whether, as faithful witnesses of the truth, they can continue to hold fellowship, and thereby partake of the evil deeds of those who profess the truth in word (the ecclesia at Edinburgh claims they believe the above first principles), but in principle overthrow and destroy it (however, they do not require others to believe as they do when baptizing members coming into fellowship with them. Please note, in this example, the Birmingham ecclesia decided to withdraw from the Edinburgh ecclesia for themselves. They forced and spoke for no other ecclesia/s, but recommended the other ecclesias to judge whether or not they could remain in fellowship with the Edinburgh ecclesia, once the "published discussion" could be reviewed by the other ecclesias from the pages of the "Christadelphian" magazine). For ourselves (in other words, the Birmingham ecclesia made its decisions autonomously, and independently from all other ecclesias), we shall have nothing to do with any who are guilty of such an offence against the Christ, or who abet those who are (that is, the Birmingham ecclesia would not fellowship another ecclesia which professed the first principles themselves, but did not require incoming members to believe the same first principles as some in the ecclesia at Edinburgh professed, prior to the baptisms of the applying members"). "Friend Truth above all friends!" (Yahweh's Truth comes first always, and never humans exercising their own thinking on spiritual matters.) [Of course it will be understood that the foregoing remarks do not apply to the Christadelphians in Edinburgh, who separated from the "Baptised Believers" some years ago.] (Please note, former members from the "Baptised Believers" ecclesia in Edinburgh had withdrawn from this ecclesia "some years ago," and had started another ecclesia in Edinburgh. Obviously, the Birmingham ecclesia had been in fellowship with both ecclesias for "some years" before they withdrew from the "Baptised Believers."
Some significant differences of structure between today's "Christadelphian Fellowships," and the pioneer ecclesias, as illustrated in the above Intelligence:
1) The Birmingham ecclesia was in fellowship simultaneously with two ecclesias who were not in fellowship with each other. After "some years" the Birmingham ecclesia obtained solid proof that one of the ecclesias in Edinburgh rejected a first principle of Truth, and as a result, also withdrew from the "Baptised Believers," as the other ecclesia in Edinburgh had done years previously.
Most "Christadelphian Fellowships" of today consider the entire "Fellowship" defiled if a wayward ecclesia remains in fellowship within the "Fellowship of ecclesias." A common teaching among the "Fellowships" is that the faithful ecclesias must withdraw from all the wayward ecclesias of a "Fellowship," (including those wayward ecclesias who correctly understand first principles and the commandments of Christ, but will not take action against the wrongful ecclesia) and "re-identify" as a new "Fellowship," if the faithful ecclesias are to remain faithful and undefiled. Wrong! The pioneers never advocated "Fellowships," but did inculcate 1 and promote independent, autonomous, and apostolically structured ecclesias.
[1 inculcate: to instill (an attitude, idea, or habit) by persistent instruction: teach (someone) an attitude, idea, or habit by such instruction. Ed.]
2) The Birmingham ecclesia withdrew from the "Baptised Believers in the Kingdom of God" at the Edinburgh ecclesia, with the same ecclesial autonomy and independence as the "Christadelphians in Edinburgh, who separated from the 'Baptised Believers' some years ago," (please note, the Birmingham ecclesia's separation was at a time far distant of the withdrawal exercised by the "Christadelphians in Edinburgh," and was totally free and independent of the withdrawal exercised by the "Christadelphians in Edinburgh." The Birmingham ecclesia acted on their own independent findings, and with complete ecclesial autonomy.
Most "Christadelphian Fellowships" today act as a single structure. When one ecclesia withdraws from another, the "Fellowship" of ecclesias considers the ecclesia withdrawn from as out of the "Fellowship." No further investigation is required by the other ecclesias, and the ecclesia/s who exercised the withdrawal, speak/s and act/s for the other ecclesias. In fact, other ecclesias within a "Fellowship" are often threatened with withdrawal by the "Fellowship," if they do not openly agree with the "Fellowship's" decisions and actions, often reached by a single ecclesia within a "Fellowship." All of the ecclesias within a "Fellowship" agreeing with this structure, are said to be acting with the same autonomy and independence as the pioneer ecclesias were structured. False! The pioneer ecclesias were structured with the same autonomy and independence as the apostolic ecclesias were. Structuring and operating a single "Fellowship" of several ecclesias as Christ's "Ecclesia," and calling this ecclesial independence and autonomy, is not a substitute for structuring and operating each ecclesia with its own true independence and autonomy, exhibited by the Birmingham and "Christadelphians in Edinburgh" ecclesias in the above Intelligence.æ ææ
3) The pioneer ecclesias "merged" with no other ecclesia/s, and recognized each independent and autonomous ecclesia as responsible and answerable to Christ for their actions and decisions (or lack thereof). Nevertheless, the pioneer day ecclesias withdrew and extended fellowship according to the decisions of each ecclesia. æææ
"Christadelphian Fellowships" of today, consisting of several ecclesias per "Fellowship," wrongfully equate true pioneer teachings on the subject of ecclesial autonomy and independence, with not extending any fellowship at all between ecclesias. Those who understand the true pioneer teachings are regarded by "Fellowships" as promoting "their new ideas," and not pioneer beliefs. In fact, several "merged" ecclesias within a "Fellowship" (something the pioneers and apostles strenuously objected to), believe that a merger with another "Fellowship" of ecclesias is a completely scriptural, apostolic, and pioneer structure. A "merger document" is often formulated by the separate "Fellowships," in addition to a common Statement of Faith, and a merger of two "Fellowships" is orchestrated between them. Today's "Fellowships" know of no other way to extend fellowship, and therefore, the "Fellowship's" belief of fellowship incorrectly becomes the pioneer belief of fellowship. It is not, as attested by the above Intelligence; just one proof from an ocean of proof. The pioneers objected to just one ecclesia merging with another; and this renders their thoughts concerning the merger of two "Fellowships" unmistakable; they were against such a merger, and considered this unscriptural structure as spiritually unhealthy for the ecclesias.