REPORT OF THE CHURCH GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE

TO THE 102ND ANNUAL CONFERENCE


    The Church Government Committee held four regular meetings to work on assignments relating to the Government of the Bible Fellowship Church.  Much of the work of the Committee was completed in sub-committee meetings and individual study.

    The Government Committee has given the responsibility for planning the Annual Pastors, Elders, Deacons Retreat over to the Board of Christian Education.  The date for the Fourth Annual Retreat is Nov. 15-16, 1985.

    The Church Government Committee presents the following legislation for first reading:

 

    1. Location of Form for Ordination

 

Resolved, that the Form for Ordination of Ministers, page 141 of the 1981 edition of the Faith and Order, appear in the section on By-Laws of Annual Conference as #4, Article II, Procedure for the Recognition of a Minister, page 93 of the 1981 Edition of the Faith and Order.

 

    2. Placement of the Material on the Ministerial Convention Committee

 

Resolved, that a category entitled, Organizations Adjunct to Annual Conference be placed in the appendices following the material on forms.  The material on the Ministerial Convention and the Beneficiary Society shall be place in this category.

 

    3. Reporting the Annual Conference Delegate to Annual Conference

 

Resolved, that the following appear as #5 of Article VII, Miscellaneous By-Laws of Particular Churches, Faith and Order (1981 Edition) p. 73f., and to replace #6 of Article X, Miscellaneous Bylaws of Annual Conference, p. 135f., 1981 Edition of Faith and Order:

 

    Each pastor shall inform the Registrar of the Annual Conference of the names of the Annual Conference Delegate(s) and Alternate Delegate(s) as soon as possible after their election by the congregation, but no later than October 1.

 

    4. Annual Conference Representatives

 

Resolved, that the final paragraph of Article I, The Officers of the Church: Elders, page 55 of the 1981 Edition of the Faith and Order be amended to read:

 

    The Board of Elders shall be the channel of communication between the particular church and the fellowship of churches and its organizations.  The Elders shall nominate from their number and the congregation shall elect one delegate and one alternate delegate.  Congregations of over two hundred members shall elect one delegate plus one additional delegate for every one hundred members in excess of the first two hundred, and the same number of alternate delegates.  When congregations have more than one delegate the Board of Elders shall designate one delegate as "First Delegate" for the purposes of pulpit supply procedures.  In the event of death, resignation or removal of the First Delegate, another First Delegate shall be designated from among the remaining delegates.

 

    5. Amendment of Article IV - Members of Annual Conference page 29, 1984 Yearbook. (This article is scheduled for second reading)

 

Resolved, that proposed Article IV - Members of Annual Conference, Section 1f., page 29, 1984 Yearbook be amended to read:

 

    One delegate from every properly constituted church with a membership of two hundred or less and one additional delegate for every one hundred members in excess of the first two hundred.  If a delegate(s) is unable to attend the Annual Conference or some meetings of Annual Conference, the alternate delegate(s), with the permission of the Conference, shall be seated for the Conference or those specified meetings.  Unexcused absences shall result in the church forfeiting its representation by an alternate delegate during the unexcused absence of the delegate.

 

    6. Amendment to Article V - Bylaws of Annual Conference

 

Resolved, that the word "Registrar" replace the words, "Secretary of Annual Conference" in the 3rd and 4th sentences of the 2nd paragraph on Article V, Annual Conference Registration of the Bylaws of Annual Conference, pages 13-15 of the 1982 Yearbook.

 

The Church Government Committee recommends the following:

1. Resolved, that the following material entitled, "Guidelines For Discipline In The Church" be approved at one reading, and further,

 

   Resolved, that upon approval of this material at one reading the Board of Publication and Printing publish this material in booklet form in time to be distributed

at the Pastors, Elders, Deacons Retreat on Nov. 15-16, 1985.

 

Guidelines For Discipline In The Church

 

    The purpose of this booklet is to help us know how to confront a brother or sister lovingly and constructively.  Discipline of another person begins on an informal, personal basis.  It should be the desire of all that any problem be solved at the personal level so that formal, public charges may not be necessary.  The following guidelines are offered to give assistance to those who care enough about others to face problems in love.

 

What is Discipline?

 

    In the broadest sense of the word "discipline" means to "train" or "to cultivate according to rules".  The Christian life is a life of self-discipline.  All believers are in training for the purpose of cultivating godliness in accordance with the teachings of Scripture (I Tim. 4:7,8).

    There are two kinds of discipline.  The first is formative or preventive discipline.  Formative discipline of believers should be occurring regularly in the local church through mutual admonishing, rebuking, correcting and encouraging of the brethren (II Tim.  4:1,2; Col. 1:18).

    The second is corrective discipline.  Corrective discipline focuses on those actions by which a particular church, in the name of Christ, authoritatively admonishes, suspends, or if necessary excommunicates one of its members.  This discipline is more restrictive in nature than formative discipline since it is directed toward specific individuals who have committed specific offenses.  It involves the administration of some form of punishment with view to eventual repentance and restoration of the erring brother or sister (I Thess.  5:14; II Thess. 3:6-15; I Cor. 5:2,5,7; 11:13).

 

 

    In Matthew 5:23,24 we are responsible to seek reconciliation from those we have wronged so that they may forgive us.  In Matthew 18:15 we are responsible to confront those who have wronged us in order to bring them to repentance so that we may forgive them.  That the obligation to confront and rebuke rests on all Christians can also be seen in such passages as Luke 3:19, Ephesians 5:11, II Timothy 4:2, Titus 1:13 and 2:15.

    In its initial stage, discipline is both personal and private (see Matthew 18:15 and Luke 17:3).  The implication of Luke 17:3 is that forgiveness is granted only if there is repentance.  Biblical forgiveness is not cheap forgiveness that overlooks the offense, but real forgiveness that is based on real repentance in which there is not only the forgiving of the "act" but also the restoration to the fullness of fellowship.  Therefore if personal and private confrontation does not bring repentance, no forgiveness is granted and a new development in the process of discipline begins.

 

When is it necessary to discipline?

 

    It is the will of Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, that His Father be glorified by a people whose lives are above reproach in doctrine and in conduct.  When there are breaches in the biblical standards of truth and behavior, some form of discipline is required (Heb. 12:16).

 

    Specifically, discipline ought to be administered when:

 

1. There is breakdown of fellowship between two or more believers. (Matt. 5:23,24; 18:15-18)

 

2. There is a divisive person in the church (Rom. 16:17,18; Titus 3:10)

 

3. There is false doctrine being propagated (I Tim. 1:19,20; 6:3-5; I John 7-11)

4. There is immoral conduct within the body of Christ (Titus 1:16; I Cor. 5:1-5)

 

    In each of the above situations it is anticipated that properly administered discipline will lead the offender to repentance and restoration.  When the offender refuses to repent, the disciplinary process must continue.

 

What is the purpose of discipline?

 

    The purpose of church discipline is always to restore the offender as well as to promote the purity of the church.  Scripture speaks of it as "for our profit" (Heb. 12:10), "gaining your brother" (Matt.18:15), and "saving the spirit" (I Cor. 5:5).  Even if the offender is not reclaimed, biblical discipline produces positive effects.  It removes occasions for unbelievers to blaspheme (Rom. 2:24), puts the fear of God into the hearts of other believers (Acts 5:11, I Tim. 5:20), removes sin from the body of Christ (I Cor. 5:6) and prevents giving cause for God to set Himself against a local church (Joshua 7:12,13; Rev.  2:14-25).

 

How should you confront another person when you have wronged that person?

 

    Our Lord Jesus teaches in Matthew 5:23-24 that each one has an obligation to go to someone that he has wronged and seek to be reconciled to that person and receive forgiveness from him.  Such confrontation is difficult but necessary if love and harmony are to prevail.  The following suggestions will prove to be

helpful in your meeting with a person you have wronged:

 

    1. Pray before you initiate the confrontation.  You need wisdom and sensitivity.

 

    2. If necessary, practice what you will say in private.  Such practice may help you overcome an initial lack of courage as well as assist you in knowing exactly what to say.

 

 

    3. Speak only of your sin.  The person you have offended may have contributed his own sinful behavior to the situation.  However you are there to speak of your sin, not his (Luke 6:41).  Do not make excuses or try to lessen the fact of your sin.  Be specific in telling your offenses.

 

    4. Ask forgiveness for your sin.  Do not simply apologize, but press for the other person to forgive you.  Express how you plan to prevent such problems in future.

 

    5. Ask if there are other things you have done to offend him.  Listen carefully to his response so that you are sure that you understand.

 

    6. When you have expressed yourself and listened to the other person's response you have two ways to respond.

         a. Ask forgiveness for your sin.

         b. If you believe that your actions have been           misunderstood, offer explanation for those           actions that you believe were not scrip turally wrong.

    7. Conclude by reaffirming your love for one another and your commitment to the relationship.

 

How should you confront another person when that person has wronged you?

 

    In the administration of discipline there are a number of points at which confrontation takes place.  While this is necessary in fulfilling the responsibilities which rest with the church it does not follow that confrontation must be insensitive and overly aggressive.  You should remember that your desire to promote the purity of the church should issue from a love which impels you to keep His commandments and a desire to restore the offending party.  You should therefore determine to handle any and all confrontation in a way that shows love for truth, the church, and the offending party.  General guidelines for confrontation are:

 

    1. The confrontation ought to be preceded with specific prayer that God give wisdom as to time, place, manner of confrontation, and result (Phil. 4:6; James 1:5).

 

    2. The confrontation ought to be preceded also by careful self-examination before the Lord in order that your motives be pure and correct (Matthew 7:3-5).

 

    3. In testing your attitude in handling confrontation it is valuable to ask: "Will my attitude in presenting this make it as easy as possible for the other party to admit error, repent, and be restored?" (Matthew 7:12).

 

    4. The confrontation ought to take place at a time which is as convenient and appropriate as possible to all parties involved (Matthew 5:23-34).

 

    5. Since the wording of an accusation may contribute to the solution of the problem, it is wise to give careful consideration to the exact wording to be used in introducing the accusation.  Wording which is needlessly harsh, which goes beyond established fact, and which is vague contributes to making the problem more difficult to solve.

 

    6. All matters to be discussed must be clearly and fairly stated.

 

    7. Do not allow matters unrelated to the accusation to enter into the discussion.

 

    8. Care should be taken to determine that your facts are accepted as accurate by the person being confronted and that the accusation is clearly understood.

 

    The confrontational situation ought to be handled with sensitivity and skill.  A sense of inadequacy or a lack of skill is no excuse to ignore a problem.  It is helpful to remember that when you do what God commands you to do, to the best of your ability, he finds your service acceptable.

    The battle for purity in the church is a spiritual one.  Remember, that after all has been done on the human level, it is God alone who can bring repentance to the heart of a person who is being confronted concerning his sin. (II Tim. 2:24-26).

 

How should you react when you are confronted?

 

    You must begin by establishing if the offense of which you are being accused is factual.  To do this, you must first:

 

    1. Hear and understand the accusation.  In order to do that you must resist the impulse to become defensive.  It is not possible to give the person who comes to you a fair hearing if you are trying to protect yourself.

 

    2. If it is needed, assure your understanding of the accusation by repeating it back to the person who is presenting it.  "Do I understand you to be saying...?"  "Can you help me to get a clearer understanding of what it is you believe I said/did?"

 

    If upon hearing the accusation you objectively reflect upon the matter and conclude you are not guilty of it:

 

    1. Attempt to explain your understanding of what happened in such a way that your explanation will answer as many of the questions raised by the accusation as possible.

 

    2. Seek to gain acceptance of your explanation by the other person.

 

    3. If it is not possible to gain acceptance of your construction on the basis of facts, ascertain whether the other person will accept the truthfulness of your response on the basis of your integrity.

 

    4. If it is not possible to resolve the issue in this way, seek to agree on a third person who might help the two of you to reach agreement.  If you are unable to agree on a third person or if a third person is unable to help you resolve the issue then you should proceed to the next stage in the process of discipline.

 

If you conclude there is basis for the accusation:

 

    1. Admit your fault freely and without excuse.  (Luke 15:21)

 

    2. Seek forgiveness vigorously from the offended person (Ephesians 4:32).

 

    3. Seek God's forgiveness and commit yourself to whatever steps will help you avoid causing similar offenses in the future. (Psalm 51:4; Matthew 5:23-24)

 

    4. Take any needed steps to re-establish the relationship.  If necessary, make restitution to the offended person. (Luke 19:8)

 

When should you involve witnesses?

 

    The next stage in the process of discipline can be seen in Jesus' instructions in Matthew 18:16.  In this verse, the confrontation is no longer personal, but it is still private.  It is generally understood that the witnesses mentioned in this passage would most likely be elders from the church.  However, if the witnesses were not leaders from the church, the principles demonstrated would be the same.  The witnesses could judge the truthfulness of the accusations being made and verify either the repentance or refusal of repentance of the person accused should the accusations be judged valid.  If the accusations are judged valid, the responsibility to rebuke the offending brother or sister would now fall upon the witnesses as well as the person having been offended, since the witnesses now have a knowledge of the offense.  This rebuke would still be in private with the intention of producing repentance.

 

When should the issue be brought to the church?

 

    Jesus states that a third stage of discipline begins when and if the involvement of witnesses fails to bring the desired repentance on the part of the offender.  Then the church as a whole becomes involved in the disciplinary process. (Matthew 18:17)

    For the church as a whole to be involved directly in discipline, the stage of personal and private rebuke must have failed.  The basis of discipline is now no longer a personal charge but an offense verified by witnesses.  The only time in the process of discipline that these first two stages would be by-passed would be when the nature of the offense was public and/or against the church as whole.

    The procedure for the church to follow in seeking to deal with disciplinary matters is contained in the Book of Discipline of the Bible Fellowship Church.

 

How should the repentant one respond?

 

    When the offender recognizes his guilt and desires to be restored, there are several things he must do:

 

    1. He shall confess his sin to God, seeking His forgiveness and cleansing and determine in His strength to forsake his sin (I John 1:9; I Cor. 10:13).

 

    2. He shall seek the forgiveness of the person or persons offended (Luke 17:4).

 

    3. He shall make restitution if someone has suffered loss as a result of his offense (Exodus 22:1,3,7; Leviticus 6:5; Luke 19:8).

 

    4. He shall make public confession before the church when the offenses has been public and has brought reproach to the church and shall seek their forgiveness and restoration (I Cor. 5:1-13; II Cor. 2:4-11).

 

 

How shall the Church respond to the repentant one?

 

    1. The Church shall receive the confession.  When the offense and the disciplinary measure involve the Church as a body, they shall hear the confession of the offender.

 

    2. The Church shall grant forgiveness and restore the offender to fellowship.  Confession having been heard, the Church shall grant forgiveness and restore the offender to the fellowship of the Church (II Cor. 2:4-11; Matt. 18:18).

 

    3. The Church shall comfort and encourage.  The Church shall seek to give support, comfort and encouragement to the restored offender lest sorrow for his offense overwhelm him (II Cor. 2:7,8).

 

**********

 

2. Whereas, the 1984 Yearbook of the proceedings of the 101st Annual Conference did not contain the following material from the Book of Discipline approved at Second Reading:

    (1) Introduction

    (2) Chapter I - Nature and Purpose of Corrective Discipline

    (3) Chapter II - Jurisdiction, paragraphs 1,2 and 3

    (4) Chapter V - Evidence

    (5) Chapter VI - Censure and Restoration

    (6) Chapter VII - Appeals

    (7) Chapter VIII - Dissents and Protests

and,

 

Whereas, the Rules of Annual Conference call for printing in the yearbook of all material approved and part of the minutes of the Annual Conference, and,

 

Whereas, the Report of the Government Committee printed on pages 103-118 of the 1984 Yearbook is not a correct copy of the Second Reading material approved on the Book of Discipline, therefore be it,

 

Resolved, that the correct copy of the wording of the omitted items mentioned above from the Book of Discipline approved at Second Reading be included in the Report of the Committee to Examine the Minutes of the Annual Conference.

 

    (The Government Committee has forwarded a correct copy of the material from the Book of Discipline approved at Second Reading and omitted in the 1984 Yearbook to the Committee to Examine the Minutes of the Annual Conference.) 

 

3. The Church Government Committee recommends the following amendment to the material scheduled for Second Reading from the Book of Discipline: Chapter IV, Conduct of Trials, paragraph 5, page 113, 1984 Yearbook (cf. also the Resolution at the bottom of page 41, 1984 Yearbook).

 

Resolved, that we add the following sentence to the end of the 5th paragraph of Chapter IV, "Conduct of Trials":

 

    Any person serving as a representative of the accused or the judicatory must be a member in good standing of the Bible Fellowship Church. 

 

James A. Beil, Chairman; John H. Herb, Secretary; Richard E. Taylor, David J. Watkins, Carl K. Spackman, Thomas P. Shorb, Randall A. Grossman