Baptist Polity of Autonomy

Discussion in '2005 Archive' started by CubeX, May 11, 2005.

  1. CubeX

    CubeX
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    I'm interested to hear everyone's take on the Baptist polity (way of doing things) of autonomy (self-sufficiency as an individual unit).
    [*Note - autonomy is not self-sufficiency from Christ, only other churches and any form of hierarchy such as the pope to the Catholics.]

    I know that this view varies from sub-denominations to others such as Southern, Independent, etc.; but I would like to hear nonetheless.

    My view is that autonomy is a great freedom to have an prevents any form of "communist conformity" within the church. I also believe that it helps reach individuals with the proper approach because these approaches surely change from church to church. However, I do not believe that the church and what has been referred to as the "invisible" church should be confused. I'm sure that not many of you would oppose, but there are relatively small passages that refer to this. I believe that the modern SB approach is doing very well (as far as I've determined so far). Each individual church makes a decision seperate from other churches (ex. - selecting pastors, building commitees, etc.) but when it comes to the ministry of serving others like mission work or financial support as well as things concerning proper theology (ex.- if a preacher were to preach something contrary to God's Word) the churches work together to further the Gospel. I think that this should be maintianed although some parts seem a bit like adiaphora and should be considered by each individual church.

    -David
     
  2. StefanM

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    Local church autonomy is a very good policy.

    In churches such as the Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church, where there is a hierarchial structure, the local churches are forced to accept the "higher-ups" decisions, whether they like them or not. Whenever something objectionable happens, such as endorsing homosexuality or denying a central tenet of the faith, in hierarchial churches, one has no choice but to conform or leave the local church. In Baptist denominations, if the denomination strays, the local church has the ability to sever itself from the denomination without having to change the local church.
     
  3. gb93433

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    The problem I see with local church autonomy is that it is easy for the leaders of the convention/denomination to hide behind the cloak of autonomous. A denomination has the responsibility to discipline its members who do not teach the Bible. I have experienced it first-hand in an SBC church where I was the pastor. I found out later that the church for over 20 years the church had a history of working together with the Mormon bishop. They invited him to preach at Christian gatherings. The previous pastors just ignored that practice because it was not something they were directly involved in. The SBC would not help me nor would the local association. They told me they could not help all in the name of autonomous. What they really said is that we really don't want to stick our neck out and get involved.
     
  4. Pastor Larry

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    GB,

    The church was given the authority to discipline members. Even Paul, the apostle, said so in 1 Cor 5 where he said the church should have been the one doing the disciplining. There is no denominational heirarchy in Scripture, much less with the responsibility of disciplining anyone.

    In the case you cite, what did you want the denomination to do?
     
  5. Gold Dragon

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    How would you describe the Council of Jerusalem? Would you consider James the Just to be an apostle?
     
  6. Pastor Larry

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    YEs, James was an apostle. The council at Jerusalem was an apostolic council giving revelation from God on certain matters. Revelation has now closed and the Jerusalem council type of authority is found in Scripture.
     
  7. Gold Dragon

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    I would say that there is no biblical support for the ideas that God no longer reveals himself in this manner and that councils of this nature were only the domain of the apostles. But you are welcome to believe that tradition.

    Regarding the apostleship of James the Just, how would you define who is an apostle? I have heard definitions including the 12 and Paul because Jesus gave them specific callings, sent forth with orders.

    We are not privy to such orders from Christ for James the Just in the New Testament although they may have been given.

    What makes the calling of James the Just any different from any other Christian based on NT evidence?
     
  8. Gold Dragon

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    Just a note to add that while I see some benefits to the idea of local autonomy as well as problems with the idea, I believe the claim that there was no hierarchy in the church in scripture to be a false one.
     
  9. TexasSky

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    I'm not sure what you mean when you say it varies with regards to SBC. The SBC churches are also autonomous.

    From a purely personal viewpoint. I also believe this is correct. I've seen so much damage done in churches that are dictated to by "authoritarian" figures, usually because non-Christians see an easy way to maky a profit from other people's faith and manage to work their way into highly placed positions.

    Churches need the authority to call their own pastors, or to ask them to step aside, rather than having to wait for a ruling from someone the people don't even know.

    From a scriptural point, I believe that Christ is the only "High Priest" and authority a church really needs, and that this is reflected in the autonomy of the church.
     
  10. exscentric

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    This doctrine is being redefined in some groups today. The Conservative Baptist district men are allowed to send (even encourage) men of their choice to see if they want to candidate at certain churches (yes, the church can say no, but if they are small they may not feel they have a choice - one church I know of however did not know the man was sent from district), when a church is having troubles they send district men in to assist and I've been told they have a policy covering plural elder situations that the district has set in place and the churches are expected to follow.

    If this is their mode of operation that is their business, but they ought to reconsider autonomy in their literature/retoric :)

    I also feel it has been taken to extremes that are laughable. Years ago in a large city there were dozens of Christian schools, and they wouldn't get together to buy school supplies at reduced (bulk) rates. I'm sure the men felt justified but .....
     
  11. dh1948

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    I am a conservative Southern Baptist pastor, and I am totally oblivious to the term "district men" used by exscentric.

    I think he may be referring to Directors of Missions and/or State Convention Missionaries. If that is the case, he is totally confused. I do not know of any such person who has ever sent others in to mediate conflicts in churches unless the church invited them to do so.

    Neither do I know of any situation where a small SBC church felt it was compelled to call a pastoral candidate just because that candidate was put in contact with that church by a Director of Missions or a State Convention. I guess anything is possible, but I have not heard of this.

    It wrinkles my feathers when folks jump on the "SBC churches are not autonomous" bandwagon when they seem to know very little about how SBC churches operate.

    I thank God that my church (present one or past ones) has never been told by any "higher up" that we had to do anything.
     
  12. TexasSky

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    With all due respect exscentric, I think whoever you were speaking to much have no or little experience with churches that participate in the SBC. You wrote (yes, the church can say no, but if they are small they may not feel they have a choice - one church I know of however did not know the man was sent from district),

    Perhaps, having asked for advice, they felt compelled to follow it. That is their decision/choice, not something that was forced upon them by the SBC. There is nothing to "gain" or "lose" by saying, "Thank you, but we aren't interested after all."

    You also said, I've been told they have a policy covering plural elder situations that the district has set in place and the churches are expected to follow .

    Whoever told you this just is wrong. May I ask you why you feel they were in a position to speak about the SBC?

    As far as I know, all Baptist Churches have elders or deacons, or both. Some Baptist churches state that the elders and deacons are one and the same, some have a group of elders and also a group of deacons. The SBC doesn't dictate church organization.

    Sometimes when discussion of the SBC come up I want to laugh or cry at the misinformation that is spread. Please consider this. Most of what you hear about the SBC is as accurate as saying, "Baptist Pastor's tell their congregation how to vote," or "You can't be a Baptist unless you vote in the Republican Primary."

    Misinformation is just that - misinformation.
     
  13. gb93433

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    From what I read I see Paul giving the local church instructions. I did not see that from the convention in the church I pastored. I confronted them but that is as far as it went until another passtor in the community received word from his son told to him by one of the deacon's children. Then the other pastor told me and also confronted some of the deacons from the church. But they did not listen.

    In my case I wanted them to come in and talk with the deacons of that church. It was the deacpons who supported the copperation with the Mormons. Some of the deacons actually told me they thought the Mormon bishop was a Christian! Even the state and local association told me they had known about the church for years yet they were willing to accept money from a disobedient church and say or do nothing. Clearly that is an offense to the gospel that saves and God by their compromise with the Mormon bishop.

    What really surprise me is how much the SBC talks about believing the Bible yet they said and did nothing in any effort to stand against such practices. They had let it go on for years.

    Later I wrote a former SBC president and was told just to move on.

    Should not the SBC discipline its own churches when the local church is unwilling to make change.
     
  14. exscentric

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    Hey, guys get out those reading glasses you've been hiding for so long and try em, you might like em. I said Conservative Baptist, not conservative Southern Baptists.

    Two different groups. CBA and SBC, now that we got our abc's down, blast away again if you like but this time on target :)

    I speak about the man being sent with truth - the man that was sent told me and I know that the church did not know it - know the church leaders also.

    As to the men being sent into the church to help and the policy, it was my daughter's church so that is factual as well.


    Again, don't care what they do, but they shouldn't talk about autonomy quite so loud. :)
     
  15. dh1948

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    Didn't know there was such a creature as the CBA. Given the situation you have described, I would question their conservativism in terms of their autonomy. Sounds pretty liberal to me. Don't think I would want to be a part of any church that has a denominational hierarchy that dictates the church's moves.
     
  16. exscentric

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    CBA originated back in the same era that General Association of Regular Baptists formed. Were good for awhile but have been drifting in my mind for quite awhile.
     
  17. jdcanady

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    GB

    You have a lot of teaching to do. Remain faithful to teaching God's Word and let the Holy Spirit convict your people of it's truth. It may be that many will not accept it. It may very well give hope to, or even save, many.

    The only power associations have over autonomus congregations is that of fellowship. A local churches can believe and teach whatever they like, but the other churches are not bound to stay in fellowship with those who teach outside their confession of faith.
     
  18. Bro. James

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    "SBC churches are autonomous"--

    Only so long as they stay within the guidelines of the Convention which is the lien holder on their property.

    What happens when an SBC church decides to depart from Mainline Convention doctrine? What kind of "strings" are attached to property and buildings when a schism occurs?

    Church Sovereignty is a fragile thing--it cannot exist outside the assembly. If any pope, potentate, convention, or whatever has a say, there is no autonomy.

    New Testament Churches answer only to the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Selah,

    Bro. James
     
  19. jdcanady

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    Bro. James

    As far as I know, the SBC does not hold a lien on any church property, anywhere. The only senerio I can conceive where that may occur is if a church closed and signed over the property for the SBC to use as needed. Every local church manages its own property and affairs apart from the SBC.

    The SBC exists primarily as a conduit for the cooperative program which allows individual churches to pool their resources for missions, seminaries, and other ministries.

    Every year, local churches send messengers to the National convention (the number of messengers are based on contributions to the cooperative program)to decide how the money will be spent and what issues need to be addressed by the convention as a whole. Their decisions are only recommendations (such as the boycot of Disney) and are not binding on the local churches, though many do accept those decisions.

    In addition, churches voluntarily fellowship in local associations and State conventions. All association is voluntary. Neither the local associations, nor the State Conventions, nor the national SBC has any direct control over any local church.

    Again, the only recourse for associations that believe a church is not following scripture, is to disfellowship with that church.
     
  20. USN2Pulpit

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    Bro. James, this is an outrageous thing to say! It shows that you have very little actual knowledge of Southern Baptists - other than things you've heard. I must say that your information - at least in this regard - is entirely and unquestionably false. Further, being false, it should not be repeated - regardless of your feelings about Southern Baptists.

    I am the pastor of a Southern Baptist Church, and as far as legal ownership goes, the church belongs to the congregation - not to an association, state or national convention. We know, however, that we exercize stewardship only, and the real owner is the LORD.

    You must have Southern Baptists confused with our liturgical brethren.
     

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