THE COMMON CONSTITUTION OF BEREAN CHRISTADELPHIAN ECCLESIAS
1.— That we are a Christadelphian ecclesia.
2.— That we accept and profess the doctrines and precepts of Christ, as taught in the apostolic writings, and defined (positively and negatively) in the annexed Statement of Faith and Epitome of the Commandments of Christ.
3.—That we recognize as brethren, and welcome to our fellowship, all who have been immersed (by whomsoever) after their acceptance of the same doctrines and precepts.
4.—That we meet on the morning of every first day of the week for the breaking of bread, worship, and exhortation; and in the evening, for the exhibition of the truth in its invitation to the alien to become fellow-heirs of the Hope of the Gospel; also on the evening of one day in the week, for the study of the Holy Oracles, when the meeting is not otherwise engaged; also that we meet once a quarter to receive and consider the reports of the serving brethren, and at special meetings as may be required: the third quarterly meeting in the year to be also the annual meeting for any annual business that may require to be transacted.
5.—That we mutually engage to submit to the order and arrangements preferred by the greater number.
6.—That brethren holding offices among us shall be described as "serving brethren;" and that the denomination of each particular office shall have "brother" or "brethren" associated with it (for the sake of preserving the family character of our assembly in harmony with the mind of Christ).
7.—That in the appointment of these, we shall have in view, and strive always to follow, the directions given by Paul as to the qualifications that ought to exist.
8.—That our serving brethren shall consist of _ arranging brethren, and _ presiding brethren, a recording brother, an assistant recording brother, a finance brother, assistant finance brother, and such other brethren as the arranging brethren shall appoint to attend to various matters of detail, such as door-keeping, visiting, examining, etc. (See Rule 26.)
9.—That the arranging brethren, presiding brethren, recording brother, assisting recording brother, finance brother, and assistant finance brother shall be elected every three years, in accordance with Rule 11.
10.—That no brother shall be eligible for appointment as arranging brother, presiding brother, speaking brother, recording brother, assistant recording brother, finance brother, or assistant finance brother, for the first two years after his immersion (or resumption of fellowship, in case he has been separated), except by the unanimous consent of the arranging brethren; but any qualified brother may be elected for any number of times, who has not lost the Scriptural qualifications.
11.—That the mode of election shall be by ballot, before which there must be a nomination in writing, signed by _ brethren, and handed to the Recording brother, to be read by him at the week-night meeting fourteen days before the annual meeting. There shall be no canvassing for votes. Votes obtained by canvassing shall be invalid. Nomination shall not be necessary in the case of retiring brethren, whose previous service shall stand in lieu of nomination. All names nominated (together with the names of retiring brethren) shall be submitted in a printed voting form to the brethren and sisters, who shall be required to put a mark before the name of each brother whom they desire to be appointed. Election to take place in the case of those having the highest number of votes. In all elections of serving brethren by vote, it shall require the voice of at least one-third of those voting before a brother be considered appointed to any office. In case of failure of election in any case from the application of this rule, or from any other cause, the arranging brethren shall have power to fill the vacancy.
12.—That the function of the arranging brethren shall be to arrange for the conduct of the meetings, fix speaking appointments, and decide all matters affecting the working of the ecclesia.
13.—That the arranging brethren shall meet once a quarter, namely, on the Monday previous to the quarterly business meeting, but they may meet as much oftener as necessary. Any brother desiring a special meeting of the arranging brethren to be held during the quarter shall be at liberty to convene such a meeting by handing a written request to the recording brother, signed by brethren, specifying the nature of the business requiring attention. (This is not to apply to cases of personal accusation, unless accusers have first taken the course prescribed by Christ.)
14.—All meetings shall be announced beforehand to the ecclesia, except where the nature of the business does not admit of delay; and that the brethren and sisters shall be at liberty to attend and take part in the deliberations that may take place, but not to vote in the decisions that may be taken.
15.—That their decisions shall have immediate effect, but may be reversed by the ecclesia at the quarterly meeting, only, however, in so far as they affect the future.
16.—That the arranging brethren shall (by the Recording brother) read the minutes of their proceedings every three months, to the brethren and sisters in quarterly meetings assembled, for confirmation or otherwise.
17.—That the recording brother, assistant recording brother, finance brother, and assistant finance brother, shall attend all the meetings of the arranging brethren, and have power to vote in their decisions.
18.—That the presiding brethren shall do duty week by week in alphabetical rotation, or provide substitutes from their own number: the brother presiding on Sunday to preside at all meetings during the subsequent week, except at tea-meetings and business meetings, for which the arranging brethren shall make special appointments; the duties of the presiding brethren to be limited to the conduct of the assemblies.
19.—That the recording brethren shall (a), keep a record of all the proceedings of the ecclesia; (b), receive and communicate all applications intended for the ecclesia or the arranging brethren; (c), remind the ecclesia of meetings to be held, or other matters affecting them; and presiding brethren and speakers of their several appointments; (d), take note of all moneys received by the finance brother, and (e), generally keep the working machinery of the ecclesia in motion.
20.—That the finance brother shall receive and disburse the funds accruing in any way to the ecclesia, with the co-operation and cognizance of the recording brother, and shall report quarterly to the ecclesia for confirmation.
21.—That the following order be observed at our Sunday meetings—MORNING: 1, singing; 2, reading two of the Scripture selections for the day according to the Bible Companion; 3, brief fraternal announcements; 4, prayer; 5, singing; 6, exhortation (not to exceed half-an-hour); 7, breaking bread, and drinking wine, after thanks for each; 8, collection; 9, singing; 10, prayer. EVENING: 1, singing; 2, reading; 3, prayer; 4, singing; 5, lecture; 6, singing; 7, prayer.
22.—That no business be introduced for consideration at any Sunday meeting, and that the doors always be closed during singing, Scripture reading, or prayer.
23.—That special meetings of the ecclesia may be convened by the recording brother at the request of the arranging brethren; or, by the written requisition of _ brethren, whose requisition, however, before it shall have full force, shall be submitted, without discussion to the vote of the ordinary week-night meeting of the ecclesia the next ensuing Thursday. If the vote is against it, the meeting shall not be held. At all such meetings it shall require a _ part of the ecclesia to form a quorum.
24.—That all applications for immersion or admission to fellowship must be reported to the Recording brother, whose duty it shall be to announce the same to the ecclesia at the first Sunday morning meeting thereafter, and to make arrangements for the necessary examination. The result of such examination to be announced on the following Sunday; after which, in the absence of objection, immersion or admission to fellowship to take place. This rule not to apply to persons from a distance, passing on.
25.—That in each district, a suitable number of visiting brethren and sisters, nominated preferably by the brethren and sisters residing in the district shall be appointed by the arranging brethren to communicate at least once a month with brethren and sisters absent from the table, with a view to ascertain the cause of absence, and administering comfort in cases of sickness, and in cases of need. Such visiting brethren and sisters to report to the recording brother anything coming under their notice which the ecclesia ought to know.
26.—That a convenient number of brethren and sisters be appointed by the arranging brethren to confer, in conjunction with the recording brother, with persons applying to be immersed or admitted into the ecclesia, with a view to ascertaining if the requisite qualifications exist.
27.—That all funds and property belonging to the ecclesia, shall legally vest in the arranging brethren for the time being, as trustees for the general body, to whose direction they shall at all times be subject as to the disposal thereof.
28.—That any brother holding any office in the ecclesia, may be removed at any time by the vote of the majority of the whole ecclesia.
29.—Behaviour unworthy of the Name of Christ (see 1 Tim. 3.; Titus 1.), shall, when proved against any brother, to the satisfaction of the arranging brethren, have the effect of cancelling any appointment such brother may hold, without a vote of the ecclesia; and the appointment shall in that case be treated as vacant, and steps taken to fill it accordingly.
30.—That any brother departing from any element of the One Faith, as defined by us in our Statement of Faith, shall, on proof of the fact being given to the satisfaction of the arranging brethren, cease to be in fellowship, without a formal vote of withdrawal, on the fact being announced to the ecclesia.
31.—That no accusation or matter of evil report against any brother shall be listened to in public or private, until the brother bringing or reporting the accusation shall have taken the course prescribed in Matthew 18: 15-18; and any brother refusing to take this course while persisting in his accusations, or in alienation on account of it, shall himself be considered and dealt with as an offender against the law of Christ.
32.—That absence from the established assembly of the brethren for the breaking of bread, except from illness or other lawful reason, is an offence against the law of Christ; unless the said assembly shall tolerate the rejection of any element of the Truth of the Gospel, or shall sanction doctrines or practices inconsistent with the commandments of Christ.
33.—That none shall, even for a legitimate cause, separate themselves from the assembly, without first stating, in writing to be addressed to the recording brother, the cause or causes of impending separation; and asking the same to be considered, with a view to their removal, at a special meeting, at which they consent to be present and take part.
34.—That no brother or sister withdrawn from by, or out of fellowship with, another ecclesia shall be received in fellowship until the cause shall have been investigated, and found such as to warrant the reception of the said brother or sister; but that this investigation shall not take place without first asking the said other ecclesia to take part in the proposed investigation; that if the said other ecclesia shall refuse their co-operation in the said investigation, the matters in question shall be investigated without them; that if, on the other hand, they consent to take part in it, they shall, after the re-investigation conducted in their presence, have equal voting power with the first ecclesia, and that no decision shall be valid without the concurrence of a majority of the assembly so constituted of the two ecclesias fused together in equality of numbers; if one ecclesia exceeds the other in number, the equality to be obtained by arrangement.
35.—That in case of another ecclesia, after either of these processes, receiving into fellowship any brother and sister from whom we have withdrawn, or who may have separated from us, we shall not consider it a cause of separation from them, regarding the case as one of difference of judgment as to facts merely. We shall be content in that case to maintain our own withdrawal from the brother or sister in question. Should they, on the other hand, receive such, without re-investigation or without asking our concurrence in any re-investigation that may take place, we ourselves shall apply to the said ecclesia for re-investigation in the form defined by the last rule, and only in case of their refusal shall we consider that their action in the case has furnished a cause of separation.
(NOTE: Bro. Roberts wrote, "Rule 35 of the Birmingham Constitution has no reference to cases where first principles are in question. The rule relates solely to disputed questions of personal action and character, as to which it is possible for even two men to be righteously disagreed in their opinion concerning a third person"—Christadelphian, April, 1887.)
36.—That marriage with the alien is an offence against the law of Christ. That those who maintain the contrary are unfit for fellowship with those who "consent to the wholesome words of the Lord Jesus." That when offence takes place in the matter, the ecclesia shall signify their disapproval by resolution, sent to the offending brother or sister; after which the brother or sister shall only retain their places among the brethren by admitting their offence. All communications in the case to be in the form and spirit required by Rule 31.
37.—That any Sunday School established in connection with the ecclesia shall be under the control of the arranging brethren. The ecclesia to elect every_year(s), in the mode observable in the case of other serving brethren, a superintendent, secretary, assistant secretary, and treasurer, who shall appoint the teachers, and, in conjunction with them, manage the school in matters of detail.
38.—That none of the foregoing rules be altered except by a ballot of the whole ecclesia; and a month's previous notice of intention to propose such alteration (which shall be signed by at least _ brethren) must be given to the recording brother, who shall read the same at each intervening week-night meeting.