Church Governments

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Church Governments

Jesus - Apostles -- Servant Ministry

Matthew 8:20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man (Jesus) hath not where to lay His head.

Mark 9:33-35 And He (Jesus) came to Capernaum: and being in the house [Peter's house] He asked them [Disciples], What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. And He sat down, and called the Twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.

Luke 1:53-55 He [God] hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away. He [God] hath holpen [helped] His servant Israel [Jacob], in remembrance of His mercy; As He spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

John 18:36 Jesus answered, My Kingdom [the Kingdom of God] is not [earthly] of this world: if My Kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews [Temple guards]: but now [Heavenly] is My Kingdom [and servants] not from [this world] hence.

Acts 13:1-2 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul [Apostle Paul]. As they ministered (served) to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate Me Barnabas and Saul [Apostle Paul] for the [missionary] work whereunto I have called them.

Romans 1:1 [Apostle] Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an Apostle, separated unto the Gospel of God,

Romans 16:1-2 I [Apostle Paul] commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: That ye [in Rome] receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer [helper] of many, and of myself also.

Colossians 4:12-13 Epaphras, who is one of you [from the city of Colosse], a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I [Apostle Paul] bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis [an ancient Greco-Roman city in Phrygia (in modern-day Turkey) - source: wiki.com].

James 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter [Apostle Peter], a servant and an Apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:

Jude 1:1 Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called:

Revelation 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to shew unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by His Angel unto His servant [Apostle] John:


New Testament -- Three and Four Tiered Fellowships

  1. Bishops - Pastors - Leaders
  2. Elders - Office-bearers - Teachers {the Bishops were to test their theology, get their Biblical instruction and receive leadership guidance primarily from the church Elders}
  3. Deacons - Servants {the Deacons served the Congregants (internal and external i.e. hospital visits) and inform the Elders regarding the needs and condition of the Congregation}
  4. Congregation - Members {believing in God the Father, the Deity - Virgin Birth and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Ministry of the Holy Ghost, publically confessing Jesus Christ the only Son of God, water baptized, and having received the bread (unleavened - unsweetened) and cup (fruit of the vine, grape juice) communion}


The biblical pattern

The three prominent forms of church government [Episcopal, Presbyterian, Congregational] all appeal to the Scriptures as well as church tradition for support of their respective positions. Since the Bible is not silent on the subject, key elements in the biblical examples are germane. Greg Bahnsen has noted the following:

  • There is no distinction between "elders" and "bishops" (Titus 1:5-7; Acts 20:17, 28); these represent the same office and order.
  • Each congregation and center of leadership is to have a plurality of elders (Acts 14:23; 20:17; Phil. 1:1), not one-man rule.
  • These elders have oversight of the church (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2-3) and are thus responsible to rule the congregation (1 Tim. 3:5; 5:17; 1 Thes. 5:12; Heb. 13:7, 17, 24). They judge among the brothers (cf. 1 Cor. 6:5) and, in contrast to all the members, they do the rebuking (1 Tim. 5:20). Christ calls them to use the "keys of the kingdom" to bind and loose (Matt.16: 19; 18: 18; John 20: 23)—these keys being the preaching of the gospel (I John I :3), administering of the sacraments (Matt. 28:19-20; I Cor. 11: 23ff.), and the exercise of discipline (Matt. 18:17; I Cor. 5:1-5).
  • The elders are assisted in their ministry by "deacons" who give attention to the ministry of mercy (Phil. 1:1; Acts 6:1-6; cf. 1 Tim. 3:8-13).
  • The office-bearers in the church are nominated and elected by the members of the congregation (e.g. Acts 6:5-6), but must also be examined, confirmed and ordained by the present board of elders (Acts 6:6; 13: 1-3; 1 Tim. 4: 14).
  • Members of the church have the right to appeal disputed matters in the congregation to their elders for resolution, and if the dispute is with those local elders, to appeal to the regional governing body (the presbytery) or, beyond that, to the whole general assembly (Acts 15). The decisions of the wider governing bodies are authoritative in all the local congregations (Acts 15:22-23, 28, 30; 16:1-5).

Source: Theopedia.com


Church Fathers -- Bishop Ministry

Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (b. 120/140 Asia Minor - d. 200/203 AD)

The oldest lists of bishops also were countermeasures against the Gnostics, who said that they possessed a secret oral tradition from Jesus himself. Against such statements Irenaeus maintains that the bishops in different cities are known as far back as the Apostles - and none of them was a Gnostic - and that the bishops provided the only safe guide to the interpretation of the Scriptures. With these lists of bishops the later doctrine of "the apostolic succession" of the bishops could be linked. Source: NT Canon

Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea (b. AD 263 – d. 339 AD) also called Eusebius of Pamphili was a Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist - He became the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine [Israel] about the year 314 AD

Eusebius' list [of NT Bible books] shows that a consensus had already been reached on at least twenty books to be included in the new collection of sacred writings [finalized with 27 NT books], to be known as the New Testament. He divided books into three categories: "acknowledged," "disputed," and "rejected" writings. That division is typical of earlier lists also. We know, for instance, that Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon in Gaul (France), in works produced about 185 C.E., regarded the twenty books that later appeared in Eusebius' "acknowledged" category as canonical books. In addition, he recognized Revelation and the Shepherd of Hermas, for a total of twenty-two. Early in the next century, Origen of Alexandria endorsed twenty-two writings as canonical. Origen's list was nearly identical with those accepted by Irenaeus and listed as "acknowledged" by Eusebius. Source: How the 'Bible' Canon Was Formed

Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria (b. 296-298 AD – d. 2 May 373 AD)

By the early 200s, Origen may have been using the same twenty-seven books as in the Catholic New Testament canon, though there were still disputes over the canonicity of the Letter to the Hebrews, Epistle of James, II Peter, II John and III John and the Book of Revelation, known as the Antilegomena. Likewise, the Muratorian fragment is evidence that, perhaps as early as 200, there existed a set of Christian writings somewhat similar to the twenty-seven book NT canon, which included four gospels and argued against objections to them. Thus, while there was a good measure of debate in the Early Church over the New Testament canon, the major writings are claimed to have been accepted by almost all Christians by the middle of the 3rd century.

Origen was largely responsible for the collection of usage information regarding the texts which became the New Testament. The information used to create the late-4th-century Easter Letter, which declared accepted Christian writings, was probably based on the Ecclesiastical History [HE] of Eusebius of Caesarea, wherein he uses the information passed on to him by Origen to create both his list at HE 3:25 and Origen’s list at HE 6:25. Eusebius got his information about what texts were then accepted and what were then disputed, by the third-century churches throughout the known world, a great deal of which Origen knew of firsthand from his extensive travels, from the library and writings of Origen. In fact, Origen would have possibly included in his list of "inspired writings" other texts which were kept out by the likes of Eusebius, including the Epistle of Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, and 1 Clement. Notwithstanding these facts, "Origen is not the originator of the idea of biblical canon, but he certainly gives the philosophical and literary-interpretative underpinnings for the whole notion."

In his Easter letter of 367, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, gave a list of the books that would become the twenty-seven-book NT canon, and he used the word "canonized" (kanonizomena) in regards to them. The first council that accepted the present canon of the New Testament may have been the Synod of Hippo Regius in North Africa (AD 393); the acts of this council, however, are lost. A brief summary of the acts was read at and accepted by the Councils of Carthage in 397 and 419. These councils were under the authority of St. Augustine, who regarded the canon as already closed. Pope Damasus I's Council of Rome in 382 AD, if the Decretum Gelasianum is correctly associated with it, issued a biblical canon identical to that mentioned above, or, if not, the list is at least a 6th-century compilation. Likewise, Damasus' commissioning of the Latin Vulgate edition of the Bible, c. 383, was instrumental in the fixation of the canon in the West. In c. 405, Pope Innocent I sent a list of the sacred books to a Gallic bishop, Exsuperius of Toulouse. Christian scholars assert that, when these bishops and councils spoke on the matter, however, they were not defining something new but instead "were ratifying what had already become the mind of the Church."

The New Testament canon as it is now was first listed by St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, in 367 AD, in a letter written to his churches in Egypt, Festal Letter 39. Also cited is the Council of Rome, but not without controversy. That canon gained wider and wider recognition until it was accepted at the Third Council of Carthage in 397 AD and 419 AD. Even this council did not settle the matter, however. Certain books, referred to as Antilegomena, continued to be questioned, especially James and Revelation. Even as late as the 16th century, the Reformer Martin Luther questioned (but in the end did not reject) the Epistle of James, the Epistle of Jude, the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Book of Revelation. To this day, German-language Luther Bibles are printed with these four books at the end of the canon, rather than in their traditional order as in other editions of the Bible. In light of this questioning of the canon of Scripture by Protestants in the 16th century, the (Roman Catholic) Council of Trent reaffirmed the traditional western canon (i.e., the canon accepted at the 4th-century Council of Rome and Council of Carthage), thus making the Canon of Trent and the Vulgate Bible dogma in the Catholic Church. Later, Pope Pius XI on June 2, 1927 decreed the Comma Johanneum was open to dispute and Pope Pius XII on 3 September 1943 decreed the Divino Afflante Spiritu which allowed translations based on other versions than just the Latin Vulgate, notably in English the New American Bible.

Thus, some claim that, from the 4th century (300's), there existed unanimity in the West concerning the New Testament canon (as it is today), and that, by the 5th century, the Eastern Church, with a few exceptions, had come to accept the Book of Revelation and thus had come into harmony on the matter of the canon. Nonetheless, full dogmatic articulations of the canon were not made until the Canon of Trent of 1546 AD for Roman Catholicism, the Thirty-Nine Articles of 1563 AD for the Church of England, the Westminster Confession of Faith of 1647 AD for Calvinism, and the Synod of Jerusalem of 1672 AD for the Greek Orthodox.

Source: Wikipedia.org

Saint Ambrose - Aurelius Ambrosius, Bishop of Milan (330 AD – 4 April 397 AD) was a bishop of Milan who became one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the 4th century. He was one of the four original doctors of the Church. -- Wiki.com

Ambrose was born a citizen of Rome in Trier, Germany, between 337 and 340 AD. His family were Christians. His father was prefect [equivalent of a mayor and commissioner - Wiki.com] of Gallia Narbonensis, his mother a woman of intellect. He was educated in Rome a for a career following that of his father. As his education in literature, law, and rhetoric progressed he was placed by praetor Anicius Probus on the council of Ligura and Emilia and then made consular prefect with headquarters in Milan. In this position he established himself as an excellent administrator.

In the contention between the Nicene and Arian parties for the succession to the vacant see of Milan after the death of the Arian Auxentius in 374, an address that Ambrose delivered in the midst of the crisis led to his acclamation as the only competent candidate for the position of bishop of Milan. While he was only a catechumen, he was quickly baptized and then within days installed as the new bishop of Milan. He quickly began studying theological under Simplician, a presbyter of Rome. After settling his personal life, dividing his money among the poor and arranging for the care of his family, and he, then, devoted himself to the work of the church.

Ambrose is ranked with the great Western Christian leaders of the time: Augustine, St. Jerome, St. Gregory the Great, and St. Hilary of Poitiers. Ambrose was most known for his administrative talents, given his education and early experience before becoming a bishop. Yet, like Hilary he [**Ambrose of Alexandria (before 212 AD - 250 AD) - not Saint Ambrose] was an Alexandrian and [the Saint Ambrose] was in the forefront in the doctrinal issues of the day, particularly those concerning Arianism. His sermons were famous and were influential in the conversion of Augustine. His endeavors in hymn writing became models of hymns of dignified simplicity for future times. Ambrose is credited with introducing antiphonal chanting wherein one choir alternates with another. Of particular note is that Ambrose baptized Augustine, his celebrated convert. Ambrose's successor as bishop of Milan was Simplician. Source: OrthodoxWiki.org


Roman Catholic -- Bishop Hierarchy - The Bishop of Rome

Catholic Church hierarchy

The term hierarchy (literally, "holy government") has a variety of related usages in the Catholic Church. There is a hierarchy of truths, which refers to the levels of solemnity of the official teaching of the faith. There is a hierarchical nature of the church, which is a structural feature considered to be of divine institution.

Most commonly, it refers to the ordering of ministry in the church into the threefold order of episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate, which is considered to be divinely instituted and essential to the Church itself. In some cases, it refers only to the magisterium, the official teaching body of the church, the bishops, excluding deacons and presbyters (priests).

There is, in addition, an order of precedence of the various offices and ministries, which indicates the precedence or 'rank' of various ministers and offices in the Church for use during liturgies or other ceremonies where such protocol is helpful.

The Catholic Church comprised, as of December 31, 2011 [of] 2,834 dioceses, each overseen by a bishop. Dioceses are divided into individual communities called parishes, each staffed by one or more priests. Priests may be assisted by deacons. All clergy, including deacons, priests, and bishops, may preach, teach, baptize, witness marriages and conduct funeral liturgies. Only priests and bishops are allowed to administer the sacraments of the Eucharist, Reconciliation (Penance), Confirmation (priests may administer this sacraments with prior ecclesiastic approval), and Anointing of the Sick. Only bishops can administer the sacrament of Holy Orders, which ordains someone into the clergy.

The Pope - The Bishop of Rome

Catholics believe Pope Benedict XVI, like his predecessors, is the Vicar of Christ and 265th successor of St. Peter the Apostle, and therefore the leader of all Catholics and head of the Catholic Church.

What most obviously distinguishes the Catholic Church from other Christian bodies is the link between its members and the Pope. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting the Second Vatican Council’s document Lumen Gentium, states: "The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, ‘is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.’"

The Pope is referred to as the Vicar of Christ and the Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church. He may sometimes also use the less formal title of "Servant of the Servants of God". Applying to him the term "absolute" would, however, give a false impression: he is not free to issue decrees at whim. Instead, his charge forces on him awareness that he, even more than other bishops, is "tied", bound, by an obligation of strictest fidelity to the teaching transmitted down the centuries in increasingly developed form within the Church (though he himself is the final arbiter of what constitutes fidelity to those teachings.).

In Catholic theology, the bishop who is the successor of Saint Peter in the episcopal see of Rome is viewed as the head of the College of Bishops, as Saint Peter was the chief of the Apostles; and communion with him is considered essential for the existence of the College of Bishops. He has direct authority, not an authority mediated through other bishops, over the whole Church.

Source: Wikipedia.org


English Catholic -- Anglican

Anglican History

The name "Anglican" means "of England", but the Anglican church exists worldwide. It began in the sixth century in England, when Pope Gregory the Great sent St. Augustine to Britain to bring a more disciplined Apostolic succession to the Celtic Christians. The Anglican Church evolved as part of the Roman church, but the Celtic influence was folded back into the Roman portion of the church in many ways, perhaps most notably by Charlemagne's tutor Aidan. The Anglican church was spread worldwide first by English colonization and then by English-speaking missionaries.

The Anglican church, although it has apostolic succession, is separate from the Roman church. The history of Christianity has produced numerous notable separations. In 1054 came the first major split from Roman administration of the church, when the Eastern Orthodox church and the Roman split apart.

The conflict of authority in England between church and state certainly dates back to the arrival of Augustine, and has simmered for many centuries. The murder of Thomas a Becket was one of the more famous episodes of this conflict. The Magna Carta, signed by King John in 1215, contains 63 points; the very first point is a declaration that the English church is independent of its government.

The beginning of the sixteenth century showed significant discontent with the Roman church. Martin Luther's famous 95 Theses were nailed to the door of the church in Wittenburg in 1517, and news of this challenge had certainly reached England when, 20 years later, the Anglican branch of the church formally challenged the authority of Rome. Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries and abbeys in 1536 AD.

The newly-separated Anglican church was given some formal structure in 1562 during the reign of Elizabeth I. That structure is not a management process or governing organization. What binds us together is not common administration but shared tradition and shared belief. Our belief is written down in the Holy Bible and the Articles of Religion; our tradition is in part embodied in our Book of Common Prayer. The first Book of Common Prayer was produced in 1549. In it the Latin liturgy was radically simplified and translated into English, and for the first time a single 'use' was enforced throughout England. It has been revised numerous times since then, the most significant revision being the first, in 1552. All revisions since then, before the modern era, were very conservative revisions. The 1662 English Book of Common Prayer forms the historical basis for most Anglican liturgy around the world. While several countries have their own prayer books, all borrow heavily from the English tradition rooted in Cranmer's original work [Thomas Cranmer (2 July 1489 – 21 March 1556 AD) was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury - Wiki.com].

Source: Anglican.org


November 9, 2012 Justin Welby Named as Next Archbishop of Canterbury He will take on the Church of England's most senior post at a ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral on 21 March 2013. Bishop Welby will become the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury ... At a press conference at Lambeth Palace on Friday, Bishop Welby said it was a time for "optimism and for faith" in the Church.


November 8, 2012 Justin Welby to Be Named New Archbishop of Canterbury The Church of England - Anglican Church, Anglican Communion -- The Church will hope that his passion for resolving conflict and finding workable solutions will equip him for some of the huge challenges confronting the worldwide Anglican community over the coming months and years.


The 1563 AD Anglican Thirty Nine Articles of Religion PDF

The 1559 AD Anglican Book of Common Prayer PDF


THE DESTINY OF THE ANGLICAN CHURCHES - A SHORT STUDY OF THE HISTORY, PRINCIPLES AND PROSPECTS OF THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION by EDWIN JAMES PALMER, D.D. 1931

Why the AMIA (Anglican Mission in the Americas) is Causing Schisms

AMIA Church Podcasts


Reformed Anglican -- Episcopal

History of the Episcopal Church

The beginnings of the Church of England, from which the Episcopal Church derives, date to at least the second century, when merchants and other travelers first brought Christianity to England. It is customary to regard St. Augustine of Canterbury's mission to England in 597 as marking the formal beginning of the church under papal authority, as it was to be throughout the Middle Ages.

In its modern form, the church dates from the English Reformation of the 16th century, when royal supremacy was established and the authority of the papacy was repudiated. With the advent of British colonization, the Church of England was established on every continent. In time, these churches gained their independence, but retained connections with the mother church [England] in the Anglican Communion.

MOVEMENTS WITHIN THE CHURCH: The Evangelical Movement in the 18th century tended to emphasize the Protestant heritage of the Church, while the Oxford Movement in the 19th century emphasized the Catholic heritage. These two attitudes have persisted in the Church, and are sometimes characterized as "Low Church" and "High Church." Since the 19th century, the Church has been active in the Ecumenical Movement.

A completely revised Book of Common Prayer was adopted in 1979, and an updated Hymnal was adopted in 1982.

(Copyright 1999, Diocese of Oregon. All rights reserved.)

Source: EpiscopalChurch.org


Episcopal Church Structure & Governance PDF

Episcopal 1979 AD Book of Common Prayer PDF

Episcopal Dissertation on BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION PDF


Reformation -- Presbyterian

Presbyterian Church History

In western Europe, the authority of the Roman Catholic Church remained largely unquestioned until the Renaissance in the 15th century. The invention of the printing press in Germany around 1440 AD made it possible for common people to have access to printed materials including the Bible. This, in turn, enabled many to discover religious thinkers who had begun to question the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. One such figure, Martin Luther, a German priest and professor, started the movement known as the Protestant Reformation when he posted a list of 95 grievances against the Roman Catholic Church on a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, in 1517 AD. Some 20 years later, a French/Swiss theologian, John Calvin, further refined the reformers' new way of thinking about the nature of God and God's relationship with humanity in what came to be known as Reformed theology. John Knox, a Scotsman who studied with Calvin in Geneva, Switzerland, took Calvin's teachings back to Scotland. Other Reformed communities developed in England, Holland and France. The Presbyterian church traces its ancestry back primarily to Scotland and England.

Source: PresbyterianMission.org

Reformed churches are joined by historical lineage and certain beliefs rather than by a way of structuring their communities and churches. They are churches that developed out of the Swiss Reformation founded by Huldrych Zwingli in Zurich and John Calvin in Geneva. Like other Protestants they state a belief that salvation is through faith alone, and a belief that the Bible is the final authority for matters of belief and practice. In contrast to other Protestant Christians they are more likely to hold to the doctrine of predestination, though contemporary Reformed scholarship has helped them to understand this in the light of the grace of Christ. They are more likely to believe that Christ is present spiritually or symbolically in the Lord's Supper than physically.

Reformed and Presbyterian churches are somewhat distinguished from Lutheran and Anglican (Episcopal) churches in the way they organize their communities. This derives from Zwingli's principle that what is not expressed in scripture is not allowed (as opposed to Luther's principle that what is not forbidden in scripture is allowed). In some ways Zwingli and Calvin are more radical reformers than Luther, especially when it came to Church structure. They, and Reformed Christians who followed them, tried to set up their churches on the model they found of the early Church in scripture. In general Reformed churches reject a model of organization based on bishops (Lutherans, Anglicans, and some Wesleyans continued this model) in favor of a structure based on elders and deacons. ... Written by: Ted Vial Source: Patheos.com


The 1647 AD Westminster Confession of Faith PDF

The 1662 AD Book of Common Prayer PDF


Westminster Confession of Faith (Kindle)

Westminster Confession of Faith (iPad)

Westminster Confession of Faith (Palm)

Source: The Orthodox Presbyterian Church


Reformed Presbyterian -- Congregational

History of the Congregational Church

According to the congregationalist theory of the history of the Christian Church, the early disciples of Jesus had little or no organization. Congregationalists believe that in the centuries after the spread of Christianity, attempts to gain influence over all the churches were made by leaders in centers like Rome, Antioch, Alexandria, Byzantium, and Jerusalem. Typically, congregationalists view this supposed accumulation of power to be complete by the year AD 1000, with the bishop of Rome claiming authority over all Christendom, and many churches throughout the western part of Europe submitted to his authority. The churches of eastern Europe, all of Asia, and Egypt likewise had been gathered under a hierarchy of bishops, but retained their independence from the pope, according to this view.

Congregationalists sympathetically interpret various dissident movements among the western churches, that were suppressed throughout the Middle Ages. By the sixteenth century, political and cultural changes had created a climate in which the Roman church could no longer suppress the protests of men such as John Wycliffe, John Hus, Martin Luther, and John Calvin against alleged church abuses. These reformers advocated a return to the simplicity and sincerity they saw described in the New Testament Church, which congregationalists believe is fulfilled in the congregationalist model of church governance.

There are difficulties in identifying a specific beginning because Congregationalism is more easily identified as a movement than a single denomination, given its distinguishing commitment to the complete autonomy of the local congregation. The idea that each distinct congregation fully constitutes the visible Church can, however, be traced to John Wyclif and the Lollard movement which followed after Wyclif was removed from teaching authority in the Roman Catholic Church.

The early Congregationalists shared with Anabaptist theology the ideal of a pure church, which made adult conversion experience important for full membership in the church, unlike other Reformed churches. As such, the Congregationalists were a reciprocal influence on the Baptists, differing from them in that they counted the children of believers in some sense members of the church unlike the Baptists, because of baptism.

In England, the Roman system of church government was taken over by the king, Henry VIII, who (because he wanted to legitimize his marriage to Anne Boleyn in 1533 after divorcing his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, without the blessing of the Pope in Rome) influenced Parliament to enact the 1st Act of Supremacy in 1534, which declared the reigning sovereign of England to be 'the only supreme head on earth of the Church in England', an act which is in effect to this day. Robert Browne, Henry Barrow, John Greenwood, John Penry, William Brewster, and John Robinson were notable people who, in defiance of royal command, established churches separate from the Church of England.

With the demise of the monarchy, the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) was officially declared the statement of faith for both the Church of England (Anglican) and Church of Scotland (Presbyterian). The Congregationalists created their own version of the Westminster Confession called the Savoy Declaration in 1658. The underground churches in England and exiles from Holland provided about 35 out of the 102 passengers on the Mayflower, which sailed from London in July 1620. They became known in history as the Pilgrim Fathers. The early Congregationalists sought to separate themselves from the Anglican church in every possible way and even forwent having church buildings. They met in one another's homes for many years.

The Pilgrims sought to establish at Plymouth Colony a Christian fellowship like that which gathered around Jesus Himself. Congregationalists include the Pilgrims of Plymouth, and the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which were organized in union by The Cambridge Platform in 1648. These settlers had John Cotton as their most influential leader, beginning in 1633. Cotton's writings persuaded the Calvinist theologian John Owen to separate from the Presbyterian church, after which he, among others, became very influential in the development of Congregationalist theology and ideas of church government. Jonathan Edwards, considered by some to be the most important theologian ever produced in America, was also a Congregationalist.

The history of Congregational churches in the United States is closely intertwined with that of American Presbyterianism, especially in New England where Congregationalist influence spilled over into the Presbyterian churches farther west. Some of the first colleges and universities in America, including Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Williams, Bowdoin, Middlebury, and Amherst, all were founded by the Congregationalists, as were later Carleton, Grinnell, Oberlin, Beloit, and Pomona.

Without higher courts [church committees - synods] to ensure doctrinal uniformity among the congregations, Congregationalists have been more diverse than other Reformed churches. Despite the efforts of Calvinists to maintain the dominance of their system, some Congregational churches, especially in the older settlements of New England, gradually developed sentiments toward Arminianism, Unitarianism, Deism, and transcendentalism. By the 1750s, several Congregational preachers were teaching the possibility of universal salvation, an issue that caused considerable conflict among its adherents on the one side and hard-line Calvinists and sympathizers of the First Great Awakening on the other. The first church in America with an openly Unitarian theology was established in Boston, Massachusetts in 1785 (although in a former Anglican parish) and by 1800, all but one Congregational church in Boston had Unitarian preachers teaching the strict unity of God, the subordinate nature of Christ, and salvation by character. Harvard University, founded by Congregationalists, itself became a source of Unitarian training. Eventually, the Unitarian churches, prompted by a controversy over a theological appointment to Harvard, separated from Congregationalism in 1825; most of its descendants now hold membership in the Unitarian Universalist Association, founded in the 1960s by a merger with the theologically-similar Universalists, another group dissenting from Calvinist orthodoxy.

Thus, the Congregational churches were at the same time the first example of the American theocratic ideal and also the seed-bed from which American liberal religion and society arose. Even still, many Congregationalists in the several successor denominations to the original tradition consider themselves to be Reformed first, whether of traditional or neo-orthodox persuasion.

In 1931 the Congregational Churches and the General Convention of the Christian Church, a body from the Restoration Movement tradition of the early 19th century, merged to form the Congregational Christian Churches. The Congregationalists were used to a more formal, less evangelistic form of worship than the Christian Church members, who mostly came from rural areas of the South and the Midwest. Both groups, however, held to local autonomy and eschewed binding creedal authority.

In 1957, the General Council of Congregational Christian Churches in the U.S. merged with the Evangelical and Reformed Church to form the United Church of Christ.

© 2008 by Gene Webster

Source: - kellerhouse


The 1658 AD Savoy Declaration of Faith and Order PDF

The Principles of the Congregational Independents PDF - Prepared by the committee of AN EVANGELICAL FELLOWSHIP OF CONGREGATIONAL CHURCHES


Emergent church -- Emergent Anglican

What is the Emerging Church?

The Emerging Church is a movement that claims to be Christian. The term 'Emerging Church' is used to describe a broad, controversial movement that seeks to use culturally sensitive approaches to reach the postmodern, un-churched population with the Christian message. Some Emerging Churches might use props such as candles, statues, and incense along with poems, open mics, and videos, etc. EC services are sometimes extremely informal, while others are more formal.

Emerging Churches seek to reach the lost by focusing on relationships and developing a "story," a "journey of life" that is expressed through the "narrative" of learning. These words and others are often used by emerging teachers in describing their religious experience. Other terms sometimes used are "reimagine," "tribe," "story of Jesus," "deconstruction," etc. There is sometimes an ambiguous, feelings-oriented desire to experience God and also share in the lives of people as they seek to find God in their way. Some Emerging Churches are inclusivistic (those outside of Christianity will be saved), while others are not. Some Emerging Churches are environmentally focused, while others concentrate on local issues. Some downplay doctrine, reinterpret creeds, and de-emphasize tradition, while others hold to them. Obviously, it is difficult to define precisely what is emerging and what is not.

Seeker-sensitive churches are similar to Emerging Churches except that Emerging Churches are sometimes lax doctrinally, where seeker-sensitive churches, which sometimes are lax in presenting the gospel, hold nonetheless to orthodox theology. Seeker-sensitive churches try to meet people's needs through programs, where Emerging Churches do this by investing time in people's lives. Seeker churches tend to focus on people in their thirties and up where Emerging Churches tend to reach people in their teens to thirties. But, some areas of the Emerging Church are so similar to seeker-sensitive churches that it is hard to tell the difference. So how do you distinguish between the two? Generally, a church is emerging if it seeks to reach those lost in the post-modern culture, rejects doctrinal absolutes, and, of course, proclaims itself to be emerging.

No official Emerging Church or doctrine

There is no official single Emerging Church or Emerging Church doctrine so there is no unified structure to examine. But, there are a lot of Emerging Church writings. The more I read them, the more concerned I become. It is apparent that the movement as a whole is off-center and is sacrificing time-honored biblical truths for a let's-get-along kind of attitude.

Remember, the Emerging Church is, in part, reacting against the modernistic, absolute structure of stale traditional churches that want people to convert to their style of worship and time-frozen culture. Instead, Emerging Church members believe it is necessary to establish relationships with people, going where they are, meeting them on their level, and then later presenting doctrinal truths after they have become part of their lives. I must admit, this is what Jesus did. He was involved with the lives of the disciples, interacted with them, grew very close to them and taught them by example, not just propositionally.

Conclusion

Even though there are some pastors in the Emerging Church Movement that are true to scripture, the movement as a whole needs to stick to the essentials of the Christian faith, otherwise, in spite of its proclamation to renew Christianity afresh, it will become stale and heretical. No one, no movement of people should ever be so arrogant as to say that they can't fall into error -- even though they seek truth. As I've always said, if you want to mess something up, all you need is two things: people and time. The Emerging Church movement has much good in it, but it also has a good bit of bad already within its doors.

by Matt Slick

Source: carm.org


Cults

The Marks of a Cult

1. Extrabiblical Authority: All cults deny what God says in His Word as true. Cults have shifted their theological point of authority away from God's full and final written Word, the Bible, to their own unique, self-promoting opinions about the Bible; they generally will use parts of the Bible but will have their own unique scripture which is considered to be superior to the Bible. While some cult groups give token respect for the Bible and go through the motions of accepting the authority of Scripture, in reality, they honor the group's or leader's novel interpretation of Scripture as normative.

2. Works Salvation/Legalism: Cults teach that eternal life depends upon something other than the Atonement; i.e., faith in the atoning, finished work of Christ on the cross is deemed not to be sufficient (usually replaced with human works and human responsibility). Rather than relying on the grace of God alone for salvation, the salvation message of the cults always boils down to required obedience to, or abstention from, certain obligations and practices (some even including obedience to the Old Testament law).

3. No Assurance of Salvation: The issue of a cult member's salvation is never settled, but is constantly affected by the changing circumstances of life; in this way, cult leaders are able to produce continued obligation and spiritual bondage, rather than spiritual freedom.

4. Guru-Type Leader/Modern Prophet: The cult leader is looked to as the infallible interpreter of Scripture, specially appointed by God to be a special saint, guru, or contemporary messiah, and thereby, has divine authority that must not be violated. Cultists almost always quote their leader rather than the Bible. The cult's adherents often expound the virtues of the founders and seek to cover the founder's sins and wickedness.

5. Vacillating, Ambiguous Doctrines/Spiritual Deception: In order to gain favor with the public, and thereby aid in the recruitment of new members, cult "doctrine" tends to be characterized by many false or deceptive claims concerning the cult's true spiritual beliefs (e.g., Mormons are not quick to reveal their belief that God was a man, who has now become the God of planet Earth).

6. Exclusivity from/Denunciation of Other Groups: Each cult group, regardless of what other doctrines are taught, will all have this one common idea -- "The Only True Church Syndrome." The members of each specific organization have been taught that their church, organization, or community, is the only true group and that all other groups are false. The group's leaders will explain that it is impossible to serve God without being a member of the specific group. Moreover, when the cult leader announces himself as the true "Messiah," all others are declared to be dishonest, deceitful, and deluded, and must be put down; alternative views are denounced as being satanic and corrupt. Persecution is welcomed, and even glorified in, as "evidence" that they are being persecuted for righteousness sake. Thus, if a member decides to leave the group, they have been told that they are not simply leaving an organization, but rather they are leaving God and His only true organization. Hence, for a member of a cult who has been in a group for any length of time, the action of leaving the group is much more difficult than what most Christians understand. To leave the group is, in the minds of the cult member, tantamount to leaving God.

7. Claims of Special Discoveries/Additional Revelation: Acceptance of new, contemporary, continual revelations that either deny the Bible or are allowed to explain it. The fundamental characteristic of Christianity is that it is historical, not dependent upon private knowledge and secret, unconfirmable relationships, while the almost universal basis of cult religion is the claimed exclusive revelation that one person has supposedly received. Rather than conforming to Biblical rules of evidence (2 Cor. 13:1), cult leader revelations almost always emanate from hallucinations, visions, dreams, private discoveries, etc. These new revelations often become codified as official written "scripture" of the cults (e.g., The Book of Mormon), and are considered as valid as that of the apostles (and even more relevant because they are given in these end times).

8. Defective Christology: Cults always have a false view of the nature of the Person of Jesus Christ; a cult will usually deny the true deity of Christ, His true humanity, His true origin, or the true union of the two natures in one Person.

9. Defective "Nature of Man": Most cults do not see man as an immortal being; instead they see him either as an animal without a soul or as a being which is being perfected to the point of becoming a god. They usually do not see man as a spirit clothed in a body of flesh awaiting the redemption of body and soul.

10. Out-Of-Context Scripture Use as Proof-Texts/Segmented Biblical Attention: Cults tend to focus on one verse or passage of the Bible to the exclusion of others, and without regard for the context in which Scripture is given (e.g., 1 Cor. 15:29 used by Mormons to justify baptism for the dead). In addition, cults have made an art form out of using Christian terminology, all the while pouring out their own meanings into the words.

11. Erroneous Doctrines Concerning Life After Death and Retribution: Covering the gamut from soul sleep to annihilationism to purgatory to universalism to the progression to godhood, cults invariably deny the existence of a final judgment of, and a final "resting" place for, the unrighteous.

12. Entangling Organization Structure: The less truth a movement represents, the more highly it seems to have to organize itself; the absence of truth seems to make necessary the application of the bonds of fear. Cults often demand total commitment by their converts to an organizational involvement that entangles them in a complicated set of human restrictions, giving the impression of passionate and often irrational devotion to a cause.

13. Financial Exploitation: The cultic practitioner strongly implies that money contributed to the cause will earn the contributor numerous gifts, powers, and abilities, and in many cases, outright salvation.

14. Pseudomystical/Spiritistic/Occultic Influence: Occult influence is many times found in either the origin of the group and/or in its current practices.

Source: The Marks of a Cult

See Also: Minister or Sinister?

MARKS OF A CULT They are now found in Fundamental Bible believing fellowships


David Anson Brown 16:38, 14 July 2012 (MST)