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1883 Ecclesial Guide

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21. -- Mode and Term of Appointment.

The mode and periodicity of appointment are of great importance. If serving brethren are appointed too frequently, and in too open a manner, there will be a recurrence of electioneering agitation, which will prove hurtful to the whole body. The body exists for spiritual objects: the growth of love and holiness. The appointment of serving brethren is for the promotion of these results, and their appointment ought not to be conducted in a manner that will interfere with them. The process ought to be quiet, and with as little general disturbance as possible.

The first point (quietness) is secured by having all nominations in writing, by having the ballot papers taken home and gathered afterwards. Nomination in writing has also the advantage of excluding frivolous proposals. There ought to be no proposing in open meeting, and no discussion of the qualifications of candidates, and no canvassing. The whole operation should be in quietness, and in secret, and in love.

Freedom from too frequent disturbance, is secured in one of two ways: either all the appointments ought to be for a period of years (say four); or if the yearly process is perferred, it ought not to affect all serving brethren each year, but only a proportion at a time. Let a fourth of the whole retire each year (by alphabetical rotation in the case of those at first appointed, and afterwards in the order of their election). In this way, the agitation connected with appointments would be reduced to a minimum, while the principle of ecclesial control would be retained. Practically, each brother appointed would be appointed for four years. A safeguard against the possibility of a very unsuitable person being appointed for the length of time would be found in the power of the ecclesia at any time to remove any brother from any office, by the vote of a majority, on cause being shewn.

 

22. -- Eligibility for Re-election.

There ought to be a power of re-election without limit. In the case of the spirit-appointed officials of the apostolic ecclesias, their position would be permanent, after the analogy of appointments to the Kingdom of God. When a brother is peculiarly qualified, there is no reason why, in our age, he should ever cease to serve. The power of re-election would enable us to approximate to the apostolic model as nearly as is compatible with the system of periodic appointments.

 

23. -- Arranging Brethren.

There must be arrangement, and it must be the work of some in particular. If those appointed to do the work are called arranging brethren, it will be a literal description, and not a name of honour. Names of honour are to be avoided in the probationary stage of the body of Christ. Seven is a convenient and scriptural number for purposes of management. Their function would be to attend to all business matters connected with the operations of the ecclesia. Their qualifications would principally require to be of a practical order. But as the business they would have to do would be business with spiritual objects, arranging brethren ought, above all things, to be men of a truly brotherly spirit possessing a business turn, but chiefly the brotherly character. It is not sufficient that they have a business turn: they must be brethren first, arranging brethren afterwards. This is the first qualification for all offices -- a point liable to be overlooked in young ecclesias. If it be asked, how is a brotherly spirit to be known, the answer is, by the test of the commandments of Christ: are they obeyed? If so, the man has a brotherly spirit. Are they not observed in the man's conduct? Then he is not a brotherly man, and not suitable for management, however great his practical abilities may be.

Good arranging brethren may often be found in men not possessing the gift of public utterance. What is wanted is, the Spirit of Christ and a good practical judgment. Such men may quietly arrange many things for the general good that would not occur to even brethren of more showy gifts.

 

24. -- Arranging Meetings Open to All.

Their deliberative meetings should be open at all times to the rest of the brethren. Several advantages are secured by this. The growth of a gap between the arranging brethren and the general body is prevented; the prevalence of the brotherly family feeling among all is maintained. There being nothing secret, no envious curiosity can arise,while, the way being open for any brother to attend and speak (though not to vote), there is secured any advantage there may be in the general wisdom. Any brother to whom a good idea may occur having it in his power to attend and ventilate it, has the double advantage of securing any benefit there may be in the general body; or relieving the brother's mind by showing him that the advantage of his idea is not available. Thus murmurings and surmisings are prevented.

 

25. -- Presiding Brethren.

The only reason for having presiding brethren as distinct from arranging brethren, is, that some brethren may be qualified to give their services as arranging brethren, who have not the gifts to fill a public part. On the other hand, some may be qualified to lead the assembly in its public exercises, who are not gifted with practical talent. Some may have the qualification for both offices. It is desirable to have a variety of presiding brethren for the sake of preserving the fraternal character of the assembly, which would gradually be lost sight of if there were only one. It is also an advantage to the assembly to have the diversity of style that is secured by a plurality. The duty of a presiding brother is not so much to perform the exercises, as to supply the initiative in their performance. He may perform them himself; but his office is fulfilled if he call upon others to perform them. Thus he may pray or call upon others to pray: he may read or call upon others to read: he may speak or call upon others to speak. The duty of his office is alike performed in either case.

The advantage of this liberty lies here, that a brother may possess personal worth, and gravity, and composure, and vocal enunciation that qualify him to lead the assembly while destitute of the ability to profitably engage in prayer or address the assembly. If he were compelled to perform the two latter duties, his services would be lost to the assembly. Being at liberty to exercise the presiding office in calling upon others, the comfort of what qualifications he may have is secured to the assembly, notwithstanding his lack in other qualifications. The presiding brother is, in fact, chairman, or master of the ceremonies, though, if able, he is at liberty to supply the leading parts.

It is important that his office be limited to the actual session of the assembly, and carry no function with it beyond it. The way must be fenced against priesthood in all directions. This is secured by his function ceasing with the dispersion of the assembly. He should be at liberty to appoint a substitute; but only from the list of those whom the ecclesial appointment has signified as suitable.

Presiding brethren stand prominently in the front of an ecclesia's proceedings. It is therefore necessary, in their appointment, to have peculiar regard to their qualifications specified by Paul, as before quoted. Men ought not to be appointed against whom the finger of reproach can be lifted.

 

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