ELDER G. BEEBE AND SON – VERY DEAR BRETHREN: – Myself and many other brethren desire your views on the following point of order, viz: When an association has dropped correspondence with another association is it gospel order to invite ministers from such dripped associations to sit in council at their sessions, or to administer ordinances in churches of that association after dropped her from correspondence? Your views on this subject will oblige myself and others. Yours in hope of eternal life,
E. A. NORTON.
Hampton, Iowa., Jan. 11, 1881
REPLY. – As a former associational correspondence is not indispensible to gospel fellowship, the opening or dropping of such correspondence does not, in our judgment, necessarily effect christian fellowship. We may be in full fellowship with churches which are unassociated, or with many associations with which we have no direct associational correspondence. But when a association, a church, or even an individual has so far departed from the faith and order of the gospel as to require that they should be dropped from our fellowship, it cannot be orderly for those who have so withdrawn fellowship, or for any who have fellowship, to extend tokens of fellowship where such fellowship does not actually exist. The extension of fellowship to an association, church or individual that stands excluded, is a virtual withdrawal of fellowship from those who have withdrawn their fellowship from the disorderly parties.
Associational correspondence is intended to express fellowship and unity, and certainly does imply a oneness of faith and order; but still that unity and oneness is not created by a formal correspondence, thought it may be expressed and promoted by correspondences.
When dissensions disturb the peace of associations to such an extent that fellowship is broken and separation becomes inevitable, and a sacred regard for the laws of Christ and the order of his house demand a withdrawal of fellowship and correspondence, it is not unfrequently the case that there are in the offending associations or churches a minority who disapprove the disorder of the majority, and, although they may remain with the offending majority, in the hope that they may be reclaimed, we see no just cause why they should be ignored or deprived of the fellowship of their brethren; but of this the churches, in our opinion, are the most competent judges.
When we consider the shortcomings and imperfections of the most orderly, forbearance and long-suffering is forcibly suggested, as suitable and proper to be cherished and exercised among brethren, churches and associations.
Associations are sometimes called creatures of the churches; but that the churches are divinely invested with any such creative authority, is justly doubted; especially if they are to be considered as ecclesiastical bodies holding authority delegated by the churches, either legislative or executive. But we think it will not be doubted that any or all the branches of the church of Christ may, and should, as far as they have opportunity, meet for correspondence, and the cultivation of union, fellowship, and peace; exhorting and admonishing one another in the fear of the Lord; in all such meetings and correspondence they should cautiously avoid biting and devouring one another, lest they should be consumed one of another.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Middletown, N. Y.
Signs of the Times
Volume 49, No. 4.
February 15, 1881