Our Path Forward
Over the past several years the Fellowship National Council has received requests from churches and Regional Directors, as well as others, to clarify and, if necessary, change our policy on membership. The question presented might be framed thusly: “Could a church within the Fellowship accept a member who had been baptized as a profession of faith by an irregular mode (i.e. not by immersion)?”
It is important to note that the question presented was not to force any church to change their current practice or beliefs, but rather to ask churches who would not want this change if they could still fellowship with a church that might adopt this practice. It is also important to note that there has been no suggestion that any of our churches might change our universal practice of baptism by immersion only.
As National Council began to consider this issue, one fact came to the foreground and has been the cornerstone of Council’s response from the beginning: this was an issue that needed to be decided by our churches as a whole and not by a “ruling from upstairs”. Thus, Council embarked upon a course of action that sought to shepherd a process that might clarify the issue for our churches and assist them in making a decision on this matter.
Council came up with a motion to be presented at National Conference in 2017. The motion favoured the change so that when the churches had spoken, there would be clarity of the position of our churches which Council would then be responsible to uphold. Council understands that there is significant variation in the positions held on this matter among our churches.
During the last three years Council has considered the issue and arranged significant times of discussion at our National Conference, which is held each year somewhere in Canada. This year there will be an “open-mic” experience so that we can speak to one another on this issue.
During this year, Steve (as National President) and I (as chair of National Council) have been travelling to various Regional conferences to present the proposal and to listen to what our brothers and sisters from the various places have to say; we have heard the perspectives of many people on this subject.
As a result of the feedback we have received, National Council has decided to reassess our proposed motion and to present the issue in a different manner. We had proposed a slight change in our doctrinal statement. Council has decided this is not the wisest and best way to proceed after hearing from our people in various ways and forums.
At our meeting in August, National Council crafted a new proposal which was forwarded to all our Fellowship churches, along with an explanation of the thinking behind it. The proposal is planned to be presented to our churches in November of 2017 for a vote. Again, when this proposal is finally presented for our churches to decide upon, it will be carefully worded so as to require no change in practice on the part of any church. The question will revolve around the willingness of our churches to remain in fellowship with those who may be different than they are in requirements for membership.
In all of this we are seeking God’s wisdom and His guidance as we aim to strengthen the bond of unity between our churches and to maintain the forward and outward thrust of our movement.