Throughout the presentation concerns were repeatedly expressed that we were guilty of questioning the integrity of the many brethren involved in the development of the NASU document. At no point in our discussions or presentations have we cast doubt on the integrity of those in the Unamended community who have signed onto the UA08 agreement. Neither are we suggesting that during NASU’s development was there some subversive plot to deliberately deceive. The NASU document was developed to a certain level and was removed from the unity process before it was finalized; we sincerely believe that the level at which the process was terminated was insufficient for becoming a viable unity agreement. This whole discussion is not about personalities but about the basis being promoted for unity.
Our issue is with the NASU document itself and the manner in which you understand the additional clarifications (as stated in your presentation of January 23, 2010). However it should surely be acknowledged that not all those on the original Steering Committee now believe as you do regarding NASU. This raises the question of the document’s integrity for providing a sound basis for unity.
We do not believe that it is “possible to misinterpret or misconstrue certain words or phrases taken out of context” (page 15), as you note in your presentation. We believe that the NASU document is ambiguous and does not adequately deal with some of the serious issues that have divided our two communities; this has been adequately demonstrated in the Book Road study day booklet, “Come let us reason together”. Neither do we consider it to be a basis upon which fellowship can be shared.
You also state, “No human document is immune to this” (page 15). While we can agree with you in part, we must draw your attention to the simple fact that the BASF has been around since 1898 over which period of time it has served as a defining document for the truth of the scriptures; it has been accepted by all Central ecclesias as the basis for inter-ecclesial fellowship and has formed the basis for earlier reunion activities. Many people might say that the BASF could have been written differently, and no doubt it could, but the fact remains that as a human document it has stood the test of time and has adequately served the Central community over that period. Why then introduce another document which it is claimed expresses explanations by which the BASF and BUSF can be understood? It is difficult for us to understand your reasoning in this regard; NASU is also a human document, subject to the same weaknesses shared by all human documents, yet you fiercely defend making any modifications which would satisfy the whole of the North American Amended community; why is this?
Our concerns with the NASU document are expressed in part in the document “Come Let Us Reason Together”, produced for the Book Road Study Day, but we would also submit the following concerns:
- Where does the NASU document address Unamended teaching that “the race is in a state of alienation from Divine favor, consisting of a legal defilement as well as a physical and moral defilement (i.e. proneness to sin)”?
- Where does the NASU document address JJ Andrew.s teaching that in order to be in Christ we must pass out of Adam – “We are either in Adam or in Christ, there are no other alternatives?”
- Where does the NASU document support Central teaching that knowledge is the criteria for resurrectional responsibility?
- Where in the NASU document does it clearly show that Jesus was not symbolically cleansed from his own physical defilement by baptism?
An inordinate amount of time has been wasted on discussing the results received from the NASU survey. It has been ably demonstrated that no matter how the survey results are presented the figures will be manipulated to suit one’s own position and we do not feel that much is to be gained from arguing about your interpretation of the presenters remarks in the first study of our study day. To date no one has satisfactorily addressed the fact that the NASU document has not been ratified by the Christadelphian community in North America; rather this document is being used in a way which was never communicated or ever intended to be used. The second phase was never implemented and therefore the process was never concluded.
One comment however is somewhat misleading, you noted, “approval by a preponderant majority of Amended ecclesias of NASU as a doctrinal basis for unity in the Amended community, subject to final approval in Phase 2 once implementation details were developed and shared” (page 15). It is the use of the phrase “approval…as a doctrinal basis for unity” that seems to exaggerate the purpose for the survey. The stated purpose of seeking approval from both communities was to “determine the support for the enclosed NASU Unity Proposal, before asking for a final decision to proceed with implementation” (NASU Committee 2004 . bold and underline our emphasis); later a similar communication was circulated in which it was noted that “This vote was conducted to assess the will of the Christadelphian Amended and Unamended communities regarding the NASU Unity Proposal.” (NASU Committee April 11, 2005). The communiqués provided no indication approval was being sought for doctrine.
This is a critical point. Since the NASU was clearly a proposal only and was never taken to the second phase level, once this point can be acknowledged we can deal with the issue that the NASU should be opened up and clarified of ambiguities. It is statements such as yours above that have added confusion to the discussions over the past three years and the sooner we can accept what was written about the purpose of the survey, the sooner we can move on to more profitable discussion. As was mentioned at the Book Rd Study Day, the character of the NASU/ UA08 agreement and the NASU/UA08 process itself is vague and unclear. You know that the NASU Steering committee could not agree on what the NASU document itself stated about the key issue of resurrectional responsibility. At the time of the vote the ecclesias did not know the Steering Committee was divided and they should have been informed. The ecclesias did not understand the terms of the vote, some thinking it was a ‘straw vote’ and some that it was a binding vote. The ecclesias can still not agree on the interpretation of the results of the vote. We were never informed that if the continental vote was not ‘preponderant’ the process would move to be resolved at the very contentious regional level. These matters are not the way of good stewardship and they have given the fruit of the UA08/NASU agreement a bitter taste and caused division.
Under the heading NASU Mutual Assurances (page 15) reference is made to correspondence engaged in between committee members in 2005. In reviewing your response we notice that there is no denial of the statements made, neither is there any hint of confirming that we have misunderstood what was written. We are disappointed that you spend two paragraphs addressing your statement yet provide no reasons to believe that you agree with us in your understanding of Clause 24 of the BASF. Why after all this time is this still unclear? The Amended community believe that knowledge and calling are the criteria for resurrectional responsibility as expressed in our statement of faith whereas you relegate it to “a” basis – not for resurrectional responsibility, let it be noted – but for condemnation. We will quote the reference in full for clarity:
“The Mutual Assurances explicitly acknowledge respect and tolerance for different viewpoints on aspects of resurrectional responsibility”
“We have not agreed that knowledge and calling are “the” criteria for resurrectional responsibility. We have acknowledged them as “a” basis for condemnation. and that God will raise those whom His justice demands from those who have rejected His knowledge and calling”
“Mutual Assurance items B & C also recognize covenant in this connection, while item E acknowledges knowledge and calling as elements in covenant making (baptism) as well as in those to whom bullet #3 applies”
There is little point trying to persuade us that “no doctrinal differences which should stand in our way of full unity and fellowship” when you do not speak plainly about something that has been documented as a different position of what we consider a fundamental principle. If you do not accept Clause 24 of the BASF please say so as this will at least help us to appreciate to know where we both stand on this matter.
One final comment regarding the concluding paragraph under this section; it was noted that the Central community depicts itself “as the true Christadelphians in the unbroken line from John Thomas and Robert Roberts, while UA08 brethren are portrayed as branching off into divergent doctrine” (page 19). It is a fact of Christadelphian history that JJ Andrew separated himself, along with others, from the Christadelphian body in London, England in 1894. His views presented in The Blood of the Covenant became the key focus of his little group, and the remaining body of Christadelphians under the guidance of the Birmingham Central ecclesia amended the BSF to reflect a clearer statement on resurrectional responsibility, hence the BASF. Thomas Williams supported JJ Andrew in part but could not support the position that God cannot raise those outside of covenant relationship, but concluded that God was at liberty to raise those He deems worthy. In 1909 the BUSF was created out of the BSF. From this albeit brief synopsis of early Christadelphian history we believe it is true to say that the Central community is indeed the same worldwide community that existed in Brother Roberts day and from which JJ Andrew removed himself. The Unamended community resulted from this early division following in part the views of JJ Andrew and later Thomas Williams.