Baptist Polity

Discussion in 'Baptist History' started by Rev. G, Oct 23, 2002.

  1. Rev. G

    Rev. G
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    What is "historic" Baptist polity?
    How did previous generations of Baptists understand the "authority" of the pastor? Of deacons? Was there a time when Baptists maintained a plurality of elders? Your thoughts?

    By the way, here is a helpful link to a book on the subject.

    http://www.founders.org/library/polity/

    Rev. G

    [ October 23, 2002, 11:43 PM: Message edited by: Rev. G ]
     
  2. Daniel David

    Daniel David
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    I believe the Bible teaches a plurality of elders as correct polity (doctrine, theology, ministry direction, budget, etc.).

    I also believe that some issues need to be decided upon by the whole church (discipline, membership, new elders, new deacons, etc).
     
  3. Daniel Dunivan

    Daniel Dunivan
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    Preach,

    He didn't ask about what the Bible says on the issue; he asked about the historical understanding within baptist churches.

    Rev,

    It depends upon the group you are discussing. Because the baptist movement was quite disjunctive from the start, it is difficult to say baptists as a whole have ever done anything so particular in a resemblance of harmony. Do you have a particular instance in mind?

    Also, define what you mean by a plurality of elders?

    Grace and Peace,

    Danny
     
  4. Rev. G

    Rev. G
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    Daniel:

    Although there were two "streams" of Baptists (Regular and General), were the polities similar? I'm thinking of no particular instance.

    As far as "plurality of elders," that has to do with having a "board of elders" / a "plurality of pastors" / more than one pastor / etc.

    Rev. G
     
  5. rsr

    rsr
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    While this doesn't address all your questions, I found it helpful:

    http://www.baptisthistory.org/pamphlets/congregationalism.htm

    A couple of other sites:
    Scottish Baptist, 17th Century:
    http://www.graceonlinelibrary.org/etc/printer-friendly.asp?ID=37

    The language of the 1689 London Confession assumes more than one elder:

    So does the 1660 Standard Confession:

    [ October 24, 2002, 04:06 PM: Message edited by: rsr ]
     
  6. Daniel Dunivan

    Daniel Dunivan
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    Rev,

    I don't have my reference works in front of me and this question is so large it could be researched ad infinitum; however, I do remember that John Smyth and Thomas Helwys were both leaders in the earliest baptist group (General). Smyth was the main leader, but Helwys had enough leadership to keep many of the group from converting to anabaptist (Meddinite, sp?) and lead them back to establishing the first baptist church in Spitalfield (sp?), England--near or in London.
     
  7. rsr

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    From the Helwys Confession (1611):

     
  8. Daniel Dunivan

    Daniel Dunivan
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    Thanks rsr [​IMG]
     
  9. J.R. Graves

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    Historically and Biblically are two different times. I think there is some proof for a plurality of elders among Baptist churches in England in the 17th century. However I think you will be hard pressed to find it practiced in America. I have found it interesting that strong calvinists such as Boyce and Mell did not teach or pratice a plurality of elders.
     
  10. rsr

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    The Philadelphia Confession (1742) appears to treat multiple elders as the norm:

     
  11. Jeff Weaver

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    J. R. Graves noted:

    Primitive Baptists in America have tended toward a pluarality of elders WHEN there were enough to go around. I think this is perhaps why it has fallen into disuse in the US -- specifically in colonial/early federal years there simply weren't enough elders to adequately supply each congregation, and that is why singular elders is the current norm. Hopefully that sentence made sense.
     
  12. rsr

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    Perfect sense. Much of Baptist history was made on the frontier, where one would expect elders to be in short supply, especially in times of revival. It's a short step from necessity to normative.
     
  13. tyndale1946

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    Let me ask one question is that a good thing or a bad thing?... Not the purality of Elders if sent from God but just ordaining ever Tom, Dick, or Harry?... Is that not the problem now not the shortage of elders but of qualified ones? Are not men ordained that shouldn't have been ordained in the first place?... I've met a few in my lifetime that it would have been better off if the one ordained chose a different calling. Not all that go to seminaries and colleges or are self taught have been given the gift to preach... Some were never called except in their own mind. Is this a valid question? Any of you brethren especially preacher brethren care to elaborate?... Just a few thoughts!... Brother Glen [​IMG]

    [ October 29, 2002, 01:24 PM: Message edited by: tyndale1946 ]
     
  14. Daniel Dunivan

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    I belong to the General Association of General Baptists and my understanding of this subject must be slanted from my life-long experience with this group. We have often in our history had multiple elders within our churches, but we are odd because we even have local presbyteries consisting of both deacons and pastors (local churches have not authority to ordain in our group).
     
  15. Jeff Weaver

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    Bro. Glen

    It certainly is a valid question. Some are called in their own mind -- they think it is a good thing to do. -- A good job as it were. Some are pressured into it from family connections. And some are ordained that should have never been. I know of one family where five brothers are ordained ministers, and they can't get along with much of any body. Their father was a minister, as was their grandfather and great-grandfather.

    I had the unhappy experience once upon a time to preside over the session where one of these brethern was excommunicated. He had been arrested and convicted of shoplifting, and unrepentant about it. He showed very few fruits of being a child of God. I am not saying he wasn't, just it didnt show.

    Now, there are diverse gifts among ministers, and some that reach/communicate with some will not do the same to others. Just because they don't reach me, doesn't mean they aren't called. If everyone had the same spiritual needs, all we'd need to do would be to clone the one. :D

    It is my experience also that some men who show every evidence of being called on occasion become lazy. If you catch them in a lazy period, you may think somewhat less of them that you might otherwise. And sometimes a man, relying on himself can make a total mess of things. If God isn't in the arrangements, He just ain't in the arrangements.

    I realize I have used language perhaps particular to Primitive Baptists, since Glen and I both are of that faith, So if this message isn't clear I'll try to take some mud out of the mix.

    BTW, hope you all had good meetings in California this past weekend. We had an exceptionally large congregation, for us, on Saturday afternoon, and a little larger than usual on Sunday morning, and good preaching both days -- probably because I wasn't among those called to the stand. :D

    Jeff
     
  16. rlvaughn

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    I found this online at http://www.pbministries.org and thought some might find it interesting historically (and possibly theologically) as it relates to plurality of elders:
    This is from Hanserd Knowles' Exposition of Revelation (1688).
     
  17. Rev. G

    Rev. G
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    Thanks for that info., rlvaughn!!

    Rev. G
     
  18. tyndale1946

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    Brother Robert I also want to thank you for the link... It is going to be added to my favorites!... Brother Glen [​IMG]
     
  19. Bob Farnaby

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    Sorry, I don't see theproblem with a plurality of elders, the church I'm a member of has such. Simply mature christian men with the kind of character described in the Pastoral epistles. The pastor being one of the elders with specific responsibility for the preaching.
    Regards
    Bob
     

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