A couple of weeks ago, I posted A pre-history of the Christian Baptists. The focus was on the surrounding preceding church culture and events that helped form our foundation. That is still an area of interest and further research. Many others were also very interested and is provoking some further research on my part.
The Christian Baptist (officially known as the Ohio Valley Association of Christian Baptist Churches of God), has a beautiful heritage. You can find more about our history and current context by visiting the website at www.christianbaptistassociation.com. One of our richest traditions is the annual camp meeting that takes place in Wheelersburg, Ohio. It will take place in just a few weeks, July 21-30th. The website has more information provided on it.
Today, I want to write about the cardinal principles of the Christian Baptist. To be honest, this is something not mentioned often enough. There is more emphasis placed on articles of faith and bylaws, but those critical statements have a foundation as well. That foundation is the cardinal principles or distinctive aspects of the Christian Baptist. Cardinal principles are by definition the most important rules. All other bylaws and resolutions funnel through this principles. In a way, the bylaws and faith statements are expressions of these principles.
Due to a lack of attention, have slipped into a state of ambiguity. It could be that these were not in the original manual printed in 1948. The next manual in 1980 (at least that is available), does include these principles This uncertainty is an issue that I would like to address, if for no other reason than to answer the question, “Why Christian Baptist?”
So, what are the principles? There are six.
The Oneness of the Church of Christ
We know that the Christian Baptist members are not the only ones going to heaven. We celebrate and affirm many sister denominations in the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition and others. Differences in many denominations and churches many times are based on governance of the churches, the geographical locations, and events that took place in history. To use the quote,
In Essentials, Unity,
In Non-Essentials, Liberty,
In All Things, Charity (self-giving love).
Christ the Only Head
The Christian Baptist Association is governed by Christ alone. We feel that he has given the responsibility of leadership to His people as under-shepherds, Christ being the Great Shepherd. While we do have a General Superintendent, we do not view them as the source of God’s revelation to us. The person that fills this role has the highest degree of responsibility for the care of the churches, under Christ.
The Bible the Only Rule of Faith and Practice
This principle is expanded in our second Article of Faith, “the scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the inspired Word of God, and that the New Testament is our rule of faith and practice.” This principle is based on the groundwork of the previous one. If Christ is the Only Head, the surest way of having His leading is to give complete authority to His Word over us. Our Articles of Faith and bylaws are closely related to scriptures, especially as it pertains to issues of morality.
Good Fruits the Only Condition of Fellowship
If a member of a Christian Baptist church wishes to transfer their membership to another Christian Baptist Church, the only requirement is a letter from the current church testifying of good standing in that congregation. With believers who are coming in from another congregation, we do not have a rule that to take membership that they have to have a baptism performed by a Christian Baptist minister if they have previously been baptized in another church. Of course, this is also based on the pastor of that church and what they feel is the proper steps of discipleship. Lastly, we do not have a rule that denies participation to the Lord’s supper to non-Christian Baptist members. The fifth article of faith states, “We believe that the Church of Christ is composed only of those who are partakers of the Holy Ghost and the powers of the world to come.”
Christian Union Without Controversy
The next two principles are the most affected by ambiguity. The previous four are much easier to define. Their difficulties are in practice, much more than definition. This statement, “Christian Union without controversy, ” seems related to scriptural admonitions to have peace with all men. Still, the end statement, “without controversy” is hard to understand in its intentions. Does this form the foundation the fairness we aim for in business meetings? Is this why we use Roberts Rules of Order, and majority votes? This is an area needing an inquiry.
Each Local Church is a Permanent Member and is Governed by the General Council
The last principle is the real kicker to me. I remember sitting in the bylaws course for ordination and the teacher saying, “I don’t know what this means either.” Of course, I have my interpretation now, and that is what I am going to share. The last part about governance is easy. Whatever bylaws are accepted that would directly affect a local church, must be adopted by the local churches without question. When a church wants to join the association, or a new church is formed, they have to be accepted by a majority vote in our general council (where every ordained minister and two delegates from each church comes together for voting and elections once a year). Once accepted, they can withdraw. Now, let’s suppose that a withdrawn church wants to rejoin. My understanding of this rule is that they would only have to notify the council, probably by an official letter. Their membership would be automatically reinstated. Now, that’s Christian union without Controversy. Hmmm.