Appendix J – 100 years of Consistent Scriptural Counsel Regarding Fellowship

All references are from The Christadelphian Magazine

Robert Roberts – 1867 – pg 269

It is not a question between schism and unity among those holding the truth; it is a question of truth versus error among those professing the former. The Dowieites (a group outside Christadelpia) are consistent in the position they maintain, supposing that their doctrines are the truth: but the Aberdeen (a Christadelphian ecclesia) brethren have not even that feeble plea. They believe the Dowieites to be wrong in many of their doctrines, and yet they advocate connection with them, although justifying separation from the (other Christian) sects. They do so on the ground that the Dowieites have a great part of the truth: but this is not a principle that can be scripturally defended. There is no authority for making one part of the truth less important than another. A reception of the truth on one point will not condone its rejection on another. Can we suppose that the Judaizers had no part of the truth? Did the Gnostics who denied that Christ had come in the flesh, reject the kingdom of God? Did not the unbelieving Jew hold the truth in great part? Yet Paul counselled withdrawal from them all. Nothing short of fidelity to the whole truth can be accepted as a safe policy. “The things concerning the kingdom of God,” and “those things that concern our Lord Jesus Christ,” in their scriptural amplitude must be the measure and standard of fellowship. Those who go for less than this must be left to themselves; in this they are not judged; they are only subjected to the action of another man’s conception of duty, and are left at perfect liberty to organize themselves on whatever they may conceive to be a scriptural basis.

The act of separation is not an act of judgment against those from whom we may separate. It is an act of self-vindication; an act by which we discharge a duty and wash our hands of evil.

Robert Roberts – 1873 – pg 552

It is crucifying to the flesh to refuse friends—some of them excellent people as human nature goes—who in one way or other have been seduced from their allegiance to the doctrine of Christ; but there is no alternative.

He that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” This applies to all without distinction, and erects a barrier to fellowship with even some who hold the truth; for though they may hold the doctrine of Christ themselves, yet if they keep up a “God-speed” connection with those who don’t, by John’s rule, they make themselves partakers with them, and therefore cut themselves off from those who stand for the doctrine of Christ.

We have been obliged to stand aside for the doctrine of Christ from some we love. The epistle of John justifies us in our course, both as regards those who have departed from the doctrine of Christ, and those who, while holding on to it themselves, see not their way to break connection with those who have departed.

Robert Roberts – 1878 – pg 228

The question of fellowship is governed by the question of what the truth and its requirements are. Where these are mutually recognised, fellowship ensues as a natural result. It would be in every sense an unsafe thing to compromise first principles for the sake of friendship that ought not to commence till these principles are mutually endorsed.

Robert Roberts – 1885 – Fellowship – It’s Nature and Conditions in the Truth – pg 388

A man himself believing the truth, but willing to wink at its denial among those infellowship in any of its essential elements, becomes, by this willingness, an offender against the law of Christ, which requires the faithful maintenance of the whole. Faithful servants of Christ cannot unite with such, on the ground that though he hold the truth himself, such a man is responsible for the error of those whom he admits, and therefore becomes the channel of a similar responsibility to those who may endorse him in fellowship: “He that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”

That it is the duty of the friends of the truth to uphold it as a basis of union among themselves by refusing to receive either those who deny any part of it, or those who would receive those so denying.

Robert Roberts – 1885 – The End of the Inspiration Controversy in Birmingham – pg 304

I cannot agree with those who say we should only separate from those who teach error, and not from those who believe it (which I take it is practically the same thing as “refusing to repudiate”). The basis of all fellowship is identity of belief—not identity of teaching.

Paul nowhere recommends us to receive those who are in doubt as to first principles. On the contrary, he inculcates jealousy and faithfulness as to these.

Many of you say you do not hold this doctrine (partial inspiration). At this, we are glad, but your determination to abide by those who do hold it, or uphold those who teach it, makes it impossible for us in our action to make any discrimination between you and them.

We cannot make ourselves responsible for the dishonour to God’s word implied in the doctrine of partial and erring inspiration; nor for the consequences that will certainly spring from it in the workings of things among many…but if you make yourselves one with those who nullify it by the doctrines they hold, you erect the same barrier between us and you that exists between us and them.

Robert Roberts – 1885 – pg 520

Withdrawal from brethren on account of their belief in partial inspiration or their uncertain attitude towards those who do, does not mean a judgment or declaration that such are not brethren…It is merely a refusal to be implicated in what we believe to be an offence against the Word of God…We do not judge those who feel at liberty to parley with such an offence and such a danger. We judge ourselves only: we say we will not, and cannot, and dare not be responsible for such things. We leave the responsibility with those from whom we withdraw, and leave their judgment with God. If they are brethren, they are brethren in a state of offence, with whose sins we are commanded not to partake.

Robert Roberts – 1886 – pg 69

You (addressing a written inquiry) speak of excluding” from fellowship. This is not the question: it is “withdrawal.” There is a great difference. No enlightened man will claim jurisdiction over another. His jurisdiction is limited to himself: and here, surely, it is absolute. If the conditions of Scriptural association do not exist, he is bound to perceive the fact and act upon it, or else accept the character of neutral, of which the divine law provides no recognition. It is not a case of pulling up the tares, but of acting a part apostolically enjoined. The tares are still left, if tares they are. It belongs to God to pull them up. Nevertheless it belongs to men who may wish to be garnered with the wheat to meanwhile act a faithful part by the truth which God commits to every man who receives it, and when necessary to “withdraw from every brother who walks” inconsistently with apostolic principles… We have truly no right to excommunicate: but we have a right to take ourselves away if circumstances call for it.

Robert Roberts – 1891 – pg 149

The apostolic rule is to “withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly,” and from those who teach heresy, without reference to the question of what the Lord may finally think of them. And this rule is defensive in its bearing, not offensive. It means that we are not to be partakers of other men’s sins. John lays down the axiom that He that receives the holder of wrong doctrine or practices partakes of their evil deeds.

In withdrawing, we wash our own hands. We leave to God those whom we withdraw from. We are not authorised to judge or condemn them. But this document (he is responding to) lays it down that we must not withdraw, unless we are prepared to maintain that the cause of withdrawal will make salvation impossible. This would erect an ecclesia into a spiritual judicature, deciding questions which the Lord has reserved for himself.

The time for withdrawal is when men drift into unscriptural attitudes of faith or practice. These we note and separate ourselves from, without reference to the question of whether the offenders can be saved, which we cannot decide. And the withdrawal is not putting them out but going out ourselves, as the term implies. We simply go away, saying we cannot be responsible.

John Carter – 1945 – Inter-Ecclesial Responsibility – pg 80

If an ecclesia is known to persist in teaching wrong doctrine, or in retaining in fellowship those who so do, other ecclesias can only avoid being involved by disclaiming association. In matters of doubt, where it is a question of judgment of fact, ecclesial decisions must be respected, as the Guide and the Constitution provide. But when there is grave error in doctrine or practice, an ecclesia has the duty of loyalty to the Truth, and it is recognized among us that by the Truth is meant the definition of doctrine in the Statement of Faith. If an ecclesia fail in such loyalty, other ecclesias cannot co-operate without complicity. Harmony in essentials has ceased to exist, and behind a facade of union there is really disunity. Division is a sin when there is loyalty to Truth; when there is disagreement on fundamentals it is an evil to be endured with patience.

John Carter – 1953 – The Ecclesia and Ecclesias – pg 308

Ecclesias are autonomous, and it is a principle to be jealously guarded that ecclesias manage their own affairs. But that does not mean that an ecclesia can tolerate or eschew any belief or conduct without regard to other ecclesias. Individuals have free wills, but that does not mean they can do as they wish.

John Carter – 1957 – Ecclesial Authority and Mutual Relationship – pg 48

[The following, written by bro. L. C. Jennings in association with the Suffolk Street (i.e. unamended) Recognition Committee, is reproduced from the Fraternal Visitor (Suffolk Street Fellowship Magazine) of January. It will be read with pleasure and satisfaction by brethren and sisters of Central ecclesias. We must bear in mind that the principles expressed demand the loyal acceptance of Central ecclesias.— Ed.]

There are ecclesias who have not been directly concerned with the negotiations for the co-operation between the Central and Suffolk Street ecclesias, as they themselves are not associated with either. When the agreement comes into operation they will not, of course, be included, and the desired relationship will not exist.

The two other ecclesias are, we believe, prepared to accept the Final Statement as such, but they are not willing to accept its terms as a basis of fellowship. They wish to exercise an ecclesial autonomy which would enable them to treat as “in fellowship” another ecclesia which does not regard itself as in association with either the Suffolk Street or Central fellowship, and which has not, of course, accepted the terms upon which agreement is based. This is a point of view which the Suffolk Street Committee cannot accept.

During the discussions leading up to the preparation of the Final Statement, the Joint Committee found it necessary to exclude certain extreme views before they could arrive at an agreed position. Is it not, then, a point of simple logic that recognition (reunion) can be extended only to those ecclesias who accept the agreed basis? This is the unanimous view of the Suffolk Street Committee…

CMPA – 1972 – Fellowship – It’s Spirit and Practice – pg 11

Ecclesias should understand that they do not live to themselves. Their decisions matter, since they form the basis not only of fellowship within their ecclesial family circle but also with the wider Brotherhood.

(There is) no excuse for ignoring the existing boundaries of fellowship. To act in such a way, is to do despite to the brethren who have gone before and to treat irresponsibly the beliefs of ourselves and others.The boundaries must be respected until we find a means of healing the breach on sound and mutually accepted lines. Those who have had experience in repairing such breaches can testify that some of the greatest hindrances to their work have been brethren who moved irresponsibly between fellowships, as though barriers did not exist.

CMPA – 1987 – Commenting on California Reunion Proposal – pg 28

[Although never implemented, this proposal reveals principles of fellowship endorsed by the CMPA]

The brethren we have met have assured us that they understand completely the implications of the statement on fellowship incorporated in the reunion proposals which reads as follows: “We agree to restrict our fellowship at the Memorial table of the Lord to Christadelphian Ecclesias in the Central fellowship, and to Unamended Ecclesias in California who subscribe to these statements and honour them in fellowship.”

Harry Tennant – 1986pg 250

It is not open to us to arrive at different conclusions by varying the faith or the practice of Christadelphian ecclesias. For example, it would be against the principles of fellowship in Christ, for an ecclesia to express willingness to receive those who have been withdrawn from elsewhere without regard to our common faith and our common practice. To do that would be for the ecclesia itself to renounce in practice that it is a Christadelphian ecclesia.

Harry Tennant – 1988 – True Fellowship – pg 46

“…as its individual members must preserve the unity of faith and practice, so each ecclesia must seek to maintain the unity of the brotherhood. Ecclesial autonomy is not ecclesial freedom to do as we like. It is freedom to run our own affairs in accordance with the accepted faith and way of life of the community to which we belong.”

The Christadelphian – 1992 – Ecclesias and Fellowship – pg 63

We do not decide as individuals who we are going to fellowship; we are part of the body of Christ, and for the present these decisions have been delegated to the body.

Though the day to day affairs are in the hands of those chosen to serve the local ecclesia, they must always be conscious of the greater Ecclesia of which they form part. The foundation of each local group is the same as the foundation of the worldwide community of believers: “the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship” (Acts 2:42). No ecclesia is free unilaterally to change this basis of fellowship; that would be a recipe for chaos. They exist to uphold it, and to act in accordance with it…The freedom of movement of brethren and sisters around the ecclesial world, for example, is predicated on the fact that all ecclesias recognize and uphold the common faith. In the Central fellowship, this requires that they acknowledge the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith (in all its parts: the Truth to be Received, the Doctrines to be Rejected, and the Commandments of Christ) as a faithful embodiment of the Scriptural gospel.

We can welcome to the Table at our ecclesia only those who are in fellowship with an ecclesia that meets on the same basis as ours.

We do not therefore carry out interviews at the door, as if a person can share our fellowship one week and someone else’s the next. Nor do we invite anyone to share our fellowship, even if they agree with our Statement of Faith, when they are members of another group meeting on a different basis.

If artificial divisions exist because historical difficulties have been perpetuated long after a breach should have been healed, they are not solved by ignoring these principles of ecclesial fellowship. Divisions can only be ended by individuals or whole ecclesias leaving one fellowship group and joining with another in accepting a common basis of fellowship

It is worth reminding ourselves that ecclesial autonomy does not confer the right to act without consideration for the wider community. That would not be autonomy, but anarchy!

Ecclesias also have a responsibility to the brotherhood worldwide to ensure that they uphold our common basis of faith, and they should listen carefully to any comments brethren from surrounding ecclesias make who may feel this basis has been threatened.

The Christadelphian – 1997 – The Apostles’ Fellowship – pg 426

Fellowship can only be extended to an individual who accepts the same fundamental beliefs as us and who is prepared to fellowship consistently on the basis of them. That is the situation which exists between ecclesias, and it must operate on the individual level as well.

The importance of our basis of fellowship is paramount. It is the only instrument which binds us together, and therefore must be upheld honestly and honourably by all. Neither individuals, therefore, nor the ecclesias to which they belong, are free unilaterally to adopt different beliefs or operate on a different basis and still expect to benefit from belonging to our worldwide fellowship.

We are not free to relax what is required for the conditions of fellowship to exist. We cannot decide to exclude some doctrines from our basis of fellowship, or treat some others as of secondary importance.

Because of the bonds between them, each ecclesia is responsible to all others for upholding and maintaining fundamental Bible teachings and fellowship.

No-one has freedom to change this basis and still benefit from the advantages of our worldwide fellowship.

The Christadelphian – 1998 – A Basis of Fellowship – pg 385

These teachings (in the BASF) are therefore the ones we believe it is necessary to know and accept in order to be in the way of salvation…The Statement lists first principle teachings which we believe are essential for salvation, but it is also a basis of fellowship.

The BASF is the test of inter-ecclesial fellowship in the Central community.

A person may agree that the doctrines listed in the Statement of Faith are scripturally sound. He may not agree that they are “first principle” teachings…and he may be happy to share fellowship with people who deny the truth of some of those teachings…This is not how we view the teachings forming the basis of our faith…there are no grounds for fellowship between us and someone who holds that position.

Alternatively, a person…(may) agree that (the BASF) adequately summarises the first principle teachings of the scriptures, believing also that these teachings are essential if we are to be in the way of salvation. But he may not see the need to restrict fellowship accordingly. Once again, this is not our position and, although it appears in this case that a person is much closer to us, we could not in fact extend fellowship on this basis, because that view of fellowship is radically different from ours.

If we agree that the BASF is an accurate epitome of the first principle teachings of scripture, we are not being unreasonable when we require assent to all the doctrines—and agreement to fellowship consistently on that basis—before fellowship can be extended.