Son of Monica,
- We believe the term “church” is used in 2 different ways. One is that of an autonomous local congregation. At the same time, we agree with the Nicene Creed in affirming “one holy catholic and apostolic church,” with Christ as its head and the communion of saints, which is the spiritual union of all the redeemed.
As far as your question about the church in Corinth, I don’t really have time to research it now, but I’ll get back to you.
As far as the denominational structure being biblical- There really isn’t a specific command about doing that. With that said, each SBC church owns its own property, calls its own pastor, manages its own affairs, etc. The SBC is a voluntary organization to join together for specific purposes that I outlined in my last post. The national organization does not control the local churches, which are free to leave the convention.
I agree with you, for the most part, about the money being used for determining the number of messengers. Here’s an excerpt from the SBC constitution:
Article III. Membership: The Convention shall consist of messengers who are members of missionary Baptist churches cooperating with the Convention as follows:
- One (1) messenger from each church which: (1) Is in friendly cooperation with the Convention and sympathetic with its purposes and work. Among churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior. And, (2) Has been a bona fide contributor to the Convention’s work during the fiscal year preceding.
- One (1) additional messenger from each such church for every two hundred and fifty (250) members; or for each $250.00 paid to the work of the Convention during the fiscal year preceding the annual meeting.
- The messengers shall be appointed and certified by the churches to the Convention, but no church may appoint more than ten (10).
- Each messenger shall be a member of the church by which he is appointed.
It’s not too bad because a church only has to come up with $2500 to send the maximum number, but I would like to see this changed.
- I’ll admit that congregationalism is not a clear cut case. Could you please refer me to the verses where Paul tells the church what to do?
I do want to make clear that most Baptist churches aren’t pure democracies. The congregation votes on big decisions, electing deacons and trustees, approving ordinations, approving SBC messengers, granting letters of dismissal, and approving the budget, etc. The congregation can vote on other things and even overturn actions of the Trustees and Deacons, but that rarely happens.
In practice, power is shared by the Deacons, Trustees, Pastor, and the congregation. It’s a very “American” form of church government and has a lot of checks and balances.
As an example, at my church new deacons are nominated by a Deacon Nominating Board, then voted on yes or no in a business meeting for a 4 year term. If they are not yet ordained as a deacon, that is then done. After serving for 4 years, they have to wait one year before they are eligible for re-election. (Note that even between terms, they are still deacons by virtue of their ordination, they’re just inactive.) Then the pastor chooses among the deacons and picks the Board of Trustees. Then the Trustee nominees are voted on by the church. The church can approve or reject the slate as a whole. After that, the Trustees choose corporate officers from among themselves.
I should have been more clear than “things the local church has to agree to.” The SBC can’t force a church to do something. But to be in the SBC, a church has to agree to the denominational structure, give to the CP, and there are some things, like ordaining gay pastors, that will get them kicked out.
Yes, Catholic churches are valid local churches even if they’re not set up properly by Baptist standards.