To: All Amended brothers and sisters in the Great Lakes Region
Loving greetings in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Seeking to unite Amended and Unamended ecclesias in North America is the expressed desire of us all, even as Paul beseeches us in Ephesians 4 “that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Evidence of this desire for unity has been expressed in many ways in the Great Lakes region; indeed, over a decade has been spent on documents and processes to unify the two communities. Many brethren, sincere in their desire to unite, have sought to work through the doctrinal differences existing between the two communities, and to come to a mutual understanding of each other’s fellowship practice as each believes it is taught in the Scriptures. This desire to unite resulted in the North American Statement of Understanding (NASU), in many local ecclesial based unity attempts, in the Midwest Unity Agreement, in a document built upon the NASU by four Toronto ecclesias called the Unity Agreement 2008 (UA08), and lastly in a proposal to restore unity by five southwestern ecclesias in the Great Lakes region. Unfortunately to date, all of these attempts have failed to truly unite our two communities.
Our focus in this booklet is the UA08/NASU, which was proposed in 2008 as a sound basis for reunion. All Amended ecclesias in the Great Lakes Region were encouraged to examine the agreement as to its merits and were encouraged to support it. Sadly, three years later we find the implementation of this document has had a devastating impact on the Amended community. Inter-ecclesial fellowship has been suspended in some cases, and severely strained in others. Brothers and sisters who once worked in harmony now find themselves in opposition. Instead of being a document that unites, the UA08/NASU has proven to be one that divides and as time passes, we fear the division will grow deeper and more permanent.
First principles involving resurrectional responsibility, the nature of man, and baptism are explained in the UA08/NASU in a manner which accommodates two distinct points of view, depending from whose perspective the document is read. It accepts a fellowship practice that changes the Central community’s ecclesial-based understanding of fellowship and promotes an individual conscience-based fellowship practice. The manner in which the UA08/NASU has been implemented redefines the teaching of resurrectional responsibility as a first principle, to being only a matter of conscience, in which the doctrinal views of both the Amended and Unamended communities are accommodated in fellowship. This is how Thomas Williams, a leading Unamended brother in North America defined the issue in the early 1900s, and why he would not make resurrectional responsibility a test of fellowship. While he viewed the doctrinal issue significantly different than brother Roberts and the Central community, he simultaneously contended that the different doctrinal beliefs between the two communities should not prevent fellowship and was highly critical of the Central community for doing so.
We believe the UA08/NASU and its implementation represent a departure from the Truth in accommodating errors that have never before been given a place in our community. If accepted, they result in permanent changes to our doctrine, a distortion of our fellowship practice, and the undermining of our Statement of Faith. These changes compromise our commitment to the worldwide community to uphold the Truth in doctrine and in fellowship. These errors include:
- The elimination of the BASF as the touchstone for inter-ecclesial fellowship within North America.
- Replacing a common basis of fellowship accepted by all amended ecclesias (i.e., extending fellowship to the Central community only on the basis of the BASF), with multiple bases of fellowship that vary from ecclesia to ecclesia and from week to week. It would support fellowship outside the Central community, even with those who do not share our beliefs.
- Ecclesial autonomy in respect of fellowship practice superseding Ecclesial responsibility to the greater body of Christ, thus wrongly empowering each ecclesia to determine what is acceptable for fellowship.
- The enshrinement of certain Unamended erroneous beliefs in the NASU, teaching them alongside the Truth and making them a permanent addition to our community’s beliefs. This makes the NASU doctrinally ambiguous and unsuitable for an effective reunion.
- A rejection of over 100 years of scriptural exposition and counsel from pioneer brethren in our community regarding the need to uphold Clause 24 as a first principle and a test of fellowship, and to exclude from fellowship those who deny it.
- Forfeiting our ability to teach our young people and interested friends that the Bible clearly teaches they are responsible to a resurrectional judgment based upon God’s calling through the gospel. The result is that no single view can be taught to the exclusion of another because fellowship is extended to accommodate different doctrinal views on resurrectional responsibility.
The information contained in this booklet is our appeal to brothers and sisters to consider our concerns with the UA08/NASU document and process, and to provide clarification on doctrine and fellowship practice which can be used as a resource to redress the drift toward error. This resource contains this booklet and four taped public addresses on this subject given on Jan. 14, 2012 which can be viewed at http://comeletusreasontogetherstudyday.com. DVD’s of the addresses are also available by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. The addresses are entitled:
- Except the LORD Build the House
- The Truth We Continue to Believe
- Why the NASU is not uniting the Christadelphian Community
- The Relationship of Doctrine and Fellowship
Our loving commitment and strong desire is to reestablish unity among our Amended ecclesias without compromising first principle doctrine or changing the fellowship practice our ecclesias have committed to uphold as members of the worldwide Central community. While we realize that going through this material with Bible in hand may be time consuming, we believe it is imperative in the effort to restore the unity of our Amended ecclesias. This will require the participation of all ecclesias, and that every brother and sister become educated in these matters. Paul states in Romans 15:5-6 “Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”