Faith In Practice
1. The fundamental principles of our faith are those contained in Holy Scriptures known as the Holy Bible (being the King James Version or a New Translation from the original languages by JN Darby) which are comprised of the Old and New Testaments (“Holy Scripture”), and in particular those identified in the statement of doctrinal principle at Schedule 1 of the Trust’s Trust Deed. **
2. The following elements of that statement of doctrinal principle are particularly relevant to the aspects of the undertaking of our daily lives in this world which are dealt with in this Schedule:
1) that the Assembly of God which He has purchased with the blood of His own, is bound to keep itself pure in doctrine and godly walk. This purity is preserved by instruction in the Scriptures, the exercise of pastoral care and infrequently where necessary, assembly discipline according to the Word of God (Acts 20:28, 1 Cor 1:1-9, 1 Cor 5:7,13, 2 Tim 3:16, Eph 4:11);
2) that the oneness of God can only be known amongst those who are of Christ’s Assembly which is holy and blameless and formed by those who keep themselves unspotted from the world. The collective Assembly position is inviolate and central to Christianity (1 Tim 2:5, Eph 5:27, James 1:27, Matt 16:18);
3) that in order to know union with Christ and unity with God, who is essentially separate from evil, it is necessary for us to separate from evil in this world. (2 Cor6:14-18, 1 John 2:15-17, 2 Tim 2:19-22, Matt 16:24-26);
4) that the Lord has left two rites or ordinances both representative of His death. One being baptism which signifies our identification with His death as separating us from the world. The other, a weekly collective celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the remembrance of His death in the loaf speaking to us of His body and the cup speaking to us of His blood. This provides the enduring bond of our fellowship and unity with God. (Acts 16:15, Rom 6:3, 1 Cor 11:23-25); and
5) that we should hold aloof from every form of wickedness in our daily walk so that God Himself can sanctify our spirit, soul and body to be preserved holy and blameless at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess 5:22-23).
1) The principle of separation outlined at paragraph 2 above involves drawing away from the world in a moral sense, rather than in a physical sense. It represents a commitment to those with whom we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and involves choosing to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and to eat and drink together in social fellowship only with those persons. Eating and drinking in social fellowship with other persons who share our faith represents a bond of Christian fellowship with them (1 Cor 10.18-31). As a consequence, the Lord’s Supper is the centre of our lives and it promotes a foundation for the bond of Christian fellowship and our commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3, 7, Eph 5:11).
2) Within the parameters set out above, the principle of separation permits inter-personal communication and social interaction with non-Brethren (including former Brethren) and service to them – because we seek to do good to all in the world, as opportunities arise. (2 Cor 9:6-8, Gal 6:10).
3) Those in fellowship must ultimately exercise their own judgment in the practice of separation both from those (family, friends, colleagues) they leave when joining the Brethren community, and from those (family, friends, colleagues) who choose to leave the Brethren community. They exercise this judgment based upon their understanding and appreciation of Holy Scripture, the guidance provided in Ministry (now including this statement of doctrinal principle), and the exemplary practice of fellow members of the community.
4) The nature, and extent, of inter-personal communication and social interaction between those within and outside the community – including former Brethren – is therefore based upon a continuous and personal assessment by each member of the community of whether such communication is consistent with Holy Scripture and his or her committal to the bond of the Lord’s Supper. The principle of separation permits inter-personal communication and social interaction between those within and those outside the community – including with former Brethren – (except for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper and eating and drinking in social fellowship which, as noted in paragraph 3(1) above, is confined to members of the community), and indeed this is necessary and desirable in all sorts of contexts.
5) An example of the practical consequence of the principle of separation is that we abstain from media used for the delivery of the entertainments of the world (such as television, radio and other electronic technology and the internet) but this does not extend to education and business activities where the use of electronic technology and the internet are accepted for the purpose of modern communication.
6) Our adherence to these principles should never stop us offering to the wider public (including former Brethren) the opportunity to attend and benefit from our system of Christian worship in accordance with paragraph 4 below, or to learn from us the benefits of a Christian life. Nor should these principles ever result in us acting other than in accordance with the law, or at any time in a manner that lacks compassion, care, or fails to pay due regard to the needs or vulnerabilities of others. A person who acts otherwise is not acting in accordance with our doctrine or beliefs. Some practical examples are set out in the paragraphs that follow.
1)The services of worship conducted in each gospel hall included in the property of the Trust (other than the Lord’s Supper and services convened for a particular family or by a visiting elder, minister, servant or evangelist for the benefit of a congregation gathering by way of special invitation) should be open to all properly disposed persons who wish to be present and observe such worship. “Properly disposed persons” are members of the public (whether members of the Brethren or not) who: (1) respect the gospel hall as a sacred place, (2) do not threaten the safety or privacy of the Assembly, and (3) come to the service in a spirit of gravity, genuinely wishing to learn from the teachings that are given there.
2) We should ensure that a gospel hall in every locality displays prominently outside its premises a sign indicating how persons from outside the community (including former Brethren) can attend a hall for worship.
3) We should offer to people who attend our gospel halls for worship from outside the community (including former Brethren) the opportunity to better understand our faith and services, through literature or in person.
5. Living a Christian Life
1) We seek and are encouraged to live exemplary lives in all our relationships with others in the wider community (including former Brethren), in accordance with the teachings of Holy Scripture (1 Tim 2:2).
2)We regularly go out from our homes to preach on the streets, to distribute Christian literature and engage with the wider community (including former Brethren) in order to present eternal salvation, available to all men by faith in Jesus Christ. (2 Tim 4:2).
3) We seek as members of the public to lead Christian lives as husbands and wives, parents, children, employers, employees and neighbours. (Col 3:22-25, Col 4:1).
4) The preservation and protection of the family unit is fundamental and children are prized as a blessing from God. (Psalm 127:3-5). The elderly are valued members of the community, for whom both their family and the wider community are expected to care.
5) Holy Scripture commands us to be good neighbours to others, and deal with all other people (including former Brethren) openly, honestly and fairly and consistent with these principles, we should give our time, talents and money to assist those in need in the wider community, in so far as reasonable given our abilities and our available resources. (Matt 7:12, Matt 22:39, Eph 4:28).
1) As Christians, we are to follow the example of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and show compassion to others. (Prov 19:17, Luke 10:33-37, 1 Cor 12:25-26, 1 Peter 3:8).
2) We are expected to care for those who are receptive to such care in our own community, but then also in the wider community (including former Brethren), to the best of our abilities and within our resources. (Gal 6:10, 2 Cor 1:3).
3) In circumstances necessitating pastoral care including but not limited to where fault occurs (Gal 6:1), then pastoral care is provided. When church admonition is necessary, due provision will be made for the welfare of the church member who is under review. This should cover emotional, health, family and financial considerations (1 Tim 5:8). The Holy Scriptures require the practice of admonition and discipline to reflect justice and fairness.
4) Persons investigating any matter should be those that are morally and spiritually qualified in order to display the necessary advocacy for and humility towards the person concerned (1 John 2:1). This must include the ability to ascertain whether the person being cared for shows repentance and contrition (Psalm 32 1,2, Psalm 51:1-4). After the facts are accurately obtained, discernment and judgement must be based on the correct application of the Holy Scriptures. Spiritual persons apply these principles in a manner that will cause the least damage, including reputational damage as regards what is disclosed publicly to the Assembly.
5) Where the spiritual persons discern that God has forgiven the person concerned but the matters confessed to by the person concerned extend beyond a fault and need to be settled in the Assembly the first principle for the Assembly to consider is remission and forgiveness on the basis of the Holy Scriptures. Scriptures to refer to include the following: Gal 6:1, John 20:23, 2 Thess 3:6, 14-15, 1 Tim 5:20, 2 Tim 2:19-21, 1 Cor 5:5, 13.
6) If repeated pastoral care is unsuccessful then the next stages of admonition could include (1) inviting the person being cared for to attend a meeting of the Assembly to listen to an appeal and if suitable to present their differences; (2) a “shrinking” from the person concerned (which involves minimising social contact with the person for a limited period to provide them with the space and time to make a private and personal choice about their continuing in the fellowship), which is relatively rare as pastoral care is intended and does in most cases resolve the matter (Gal 6:1); and (3) the final stage of Assembly admonition would be excommunication this being necessary when a person leaves and separates themselves from the Assembly entirely on their own personal decision and accord, in which case their position as a member of the Assembly becomes untenable, and in other very rare cases where excommunication is necessary as an extreme or last resort measure for serious misdeeds wholly at odds with basic scriptural teaching. Even in cases of excommunication, there is follow up pastoral and shepherd care in view of the possibility of re-including the person concerned in fellowship and the restoration of him or her to full privileges as a member of the Assembly, if he or she wishes.
7) No action should be taken in any way to treat vindictively, maliciously or unfairly persons whether within or outside the community, including those who were within the community and who are leaving or have left the community. Every care should be taken to provide for and support the welfare and education of children and young persons within the community. Where persons seek to leave the community, reasonable assistance should be afforded to them in terms of support and/or financial assistance relating to employment or other matters, where they have been dependent on the community for that support. Reasonable steps should also be taken in these cases (consistent with and subject to any legal requirements applying to the persons involved and the human rights of the persons involved) to allow the continuation of family relationships where a family member has left the community, including providing access to family members, in particular children. Where a person within the community dies, the principle of separation allows members of the extended family of the deceased, including former Brethren, to attend their funeral service. Any people attending a funeral service (whether from within or outside the community) should respect the wishes and beliefs of the deceased, behave with dignity and be treated considerately.
8) Where legal redress needs to be taken in relation to breaches of the law affecting the church, a proportionate and preventative approach should be taken.
**Extracts from the Holy Scriptures referred to in this Schedule are only a guide to the many Scriptures in support of our way of life and the principles which govern our gathering.