Thanks to those of you who prayed about the elder / deacon sessions, and followed it up to ask about it all.
Turns out I had the date incorrect. I had only copied part of it off a church's bulletin board. It was not "1", but "15"! So, there are still chances to pray. And please do. Perhaps you can ask our Congregation there to pray for the unity efforts in Tennessee this week. So, it is this coming Saturday!
The E Main St CoC is one of the older Congregations here in my area of middle TN, and even had Pres. Garfield preach there once back in the 1860's! Pres. Garfield is one of 4 US Presidents to be affiliated with our Brotherhood. E Main has taken up hosting Elder / Deacon / leader "lectureships" one Saturday each Summer, and usually the topic deals with a focus on those areas.
For the last 30 years, all 3 streams / aspects of the RM / SCM have been trying to understand what went wrong, that a "unity" movement could not hold it together. Many have tried differing methods without establishing the ground work of a Biblical framework to allow such. And since it was not part of a Biblical hermeneutic, several left to start more conservative or liberal wings, or just left, in part due to the inconsistencies.
And our a cappella aspect has seen this even moreso, with there now being 26 different "sects" within that tradition of our Brotherhood. Those 26 align into 6 camps who cannot work and worship together. The result for them is not only do they say the CC / DoC are not the "true Church", but they also say the CoC up the street is not the "true CoC". The world looks at that and says, "why bother going there, I can find that anywhere!" And so the CoC's have been losing members steadily since the 1980's at least. (So have the DoC's as well as the CC's until the 1990's when we started turning things around, yet in some areas, we are still losing members — just like other old school faith groups. That is one of the hopeful dynamics of returning to the Matthew 28 Approach to Scripture, that it allows us to use many of the "Emergent" trends [not so much Emerging school] which embrace much of what this generation seeks from community, and what our Brotherhood started out doing in the first place.)
Seeing their situation as needing remedying, the CoC's have returned in many recent "lectureships" to deal with what they feel are the key issues, the "elementary teachings" of (Heb. 6). So, this lectureship focuses on what the see as key components of their return to their "foundations". The 2 doctrines in question are:
1) 1st AM session – the "Doctrine Of Authority" (known as RPW by most Reformed Church faith groups). It suggests that the way to approach the Scriptures is to see that we "do not add to" or "subtract from" the Scriptures, Further, that if you "go beyond", then you have sinned. I say this so-called doctrine is "DOA"! ha!
Tied strongly to that approach is their view on Biblical silences.
2) 2nd AM session – the "Doctrine Of Silence Forbidding". This is sometimes used by Reformed Church faith groups, but usually in a lesser formulaic version. The CoC version states that if the Bible says nothing about a topic and you do it, it is a sin. Our brothers limit it, as did Calvin (the man creditied with the origination of this approach to Scripture) to the work and worship of the Church. The Amish do not so limit it saying "all of life should be worship anyway", and so apply it to all of life. The Mennonites do similarly (e.g., rejecting zippers on clothing saying they did not have them in Bible days). And the Primitive Baptists apply it to worship in restriction on things like not have central heat or air in their worship buildings since forced air systems were not available in Bible days. The Baptists in using these doctrines are now 300+ separate denominations! We are fortunate that by God's grace we are simply 3. And it has been God's grace that He is allowing us to learn how to become one again, and in so doing, be a witness to what God can do, when we let Him lead. And since this false doctrine is used so widely, once our Brotherhood is into this a few years, we can start using what God has helped us with, to help them leave this false gospel as well.
Fewer than 10% of these 450+ Congregations that I now visit are on this program. And it seems to take about 7 years to rid our lives of the old leaven, and then it just becomes part of the normal 7 year cycle of congregational regeneration that many of you are already using. For example, in our aspect of the Brotherhood, we used to teach, "well, we do so and so because the early Church did so and so". That was a generalization, but in the details, it is false. We used the doctrine of "CENI" (Command, Example, and necessary Inference) to say something was "authorized" or okay to do in all situations. And we said if the Bible specified one way to do something, then there was only one way to do it. (The more restrictive CoC's would say and if more than one way is specified, that does not authorize any method, but all those methods are thereby "authorized".) Another way our aspect uses this approach to the Scriptures is through "pattern theology" (quick note – in the OT, the "pattern" was seen to be physical, but in the NT, when speaking of the NC's "pattern", it is always Personal! – wow, now is that not what this generation cries out for – relationship!).
So, again, those 2 doctrines:
1) "Authority" is dead on arrival since Jesus, Whom the Scriptures testify was sinless, did not obey it. The early Church did not obey it. God did not obey it. And in fact, we find Jesus doing the opposite, in "going beyond" (often touted as the NT proof text that "authority" is required and that "silence forbids", but in reality is a misapplication of 1 Cor. 4:6, which actually refers back to 1:31).
2) While I can disprove "silence forbids" with one Scripture (Jn. 12:48), they likely will not be satisfied unless I first disprove about 50 false scenarios. One classic scenario used is Moses in bringing water from the rock the 2nd time, strikes the rock. They take a quick look and say, "see, he added to God's command, and that was why Moses did not get into the Promised Land in his lifetime. Is that what Scripture says, or have our brothers "added to" Scripture in order to say that? This so-called doctrine says that if the Bible does not command it or even mention it at all, and you do it (again, limited to those two areas concerning the work and worship of the Church – which is why they allow a piano in their homes, but not in their Church's building – it tends towards compartmentalization of life), then it is a sin. (Heb. 7's) Melchizedek / priest not specified from Judah, or (Acts 15's) "we gave no such command" are often trotted out as proof texts for this. sample conundrum they would suggest is "can you have watermelon as part of the Lord's Supper to represent His fleshy Body?".
Oh, for those of you who wish to study this last topic in depth, an a cappella CoC brother, Al Maxey, has written about this weekly for 15 years now. He recently debated online a brother from a restrictive CoC preacher training institute, Memphis School of Preaching as to whether all the NT is "pattern" or the "NT contains pattern". You can find the archives of both online at http://www.Zianet.com/Maxey. (He is very close to my statement that "Silence does not exclude. Stating that something must be done that way and only that way excludes".) That should be interesting reading for any of our brothers who cling to "patternism". You can contact him. You can subscribe to his weekly e-letter. Either way, please thank him for his work.
It has taken me years of study to try and sort out the sense from the nonsense.
Since our aspects have been apart for so long, we have developed key jargon terms that have weighted meaning distinct from their normal sense meanings.And while& I may be close to being an expert in this translating of our traditions, I am not perfect. And since I work to support this outreach, I will not have lots of time to spend in preparation, but I tend to have Saturday free, so I am trying to do that.
And so, with about one week left until this next opportunity for our Brotherhood to find healing, I continue to ask for your prayers:
– that an opportunity will be granted to present questions to the gathered brothers,
– that God's Spirit will prepare our hearts to hear His Voice over tradition's,
– that I will be given the words to heal and they the ears to hear,
– that I will serve in meekness and humility,
– that God will help His Word not to return to Him void, but to accomplish Its mission.
Please feel free to come if you live locally, the more the merrier.
Registration in Murfreesboro, TN starts at 8 AM. Maybe you can ask a question or two as well. And if you have insight into any of this and wish to share it, feel free to forward that to my attention. And please pray. Thanks!
Master, we believe You are not the author of confusion. Thank You for helping us start to recognize that old trickster up to his worst again, encouraging us to promote a false gospel in place of freedom in Christ. Thank You for allowing our Brotherhood the opportunity to embrace Your commands as repeated by Your Apostles and to use that to energize Your One Church. Thank You for praying for us to share in Your Oneness, and please give us the courage to do so, being Your bondservants. Help us always to be to the praise of Your glory! In Jesus' Name, amen.
In HIS love,
kevan peer, a servant 615.481.4503
"for it does not yet appear, what we shall be"