Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Quibbling siblings united or allied children of an organisation or a church

Coming from a 'huge' family in contemporary terms, I had lots of brothers and sister to quarrel with and we had some tussle or squabble at regular intervals. The tussles more than once in our childhood turned or became skirmish. We did dare to fight a bout. But it does not mean because we would have a brawl that we did not consider ourselves a sib or siblings of each other.

Even when we had a brush we were straight ahead there to stand up for each other. We would always be ready to stick up for each other and to cling together.

We wanted to make it through the days and the nights together, make it through the heartaches and make it through the things that crush the very Bones of the Soul, like the Southern Californian girl Roxanne would say it. {What have you learned?}

Like any child that has to grow up by falling and standing up, we fell down more than once and we had to get up more than once.  I, not believing in the Trinity and questioning lots of things, had to be collide with my parents, religious people and school teachers. Always posing many questions I can imagine I have been not an easy child and still may not be called easy. Questioning habits and being outspoken or not afraid to say my opinion, I more than once drove against walls.

Though I am convinced we are not brought into this lifetime without a mission and a purpose. Some may think we do have to fulfil all missions on our own, but I do think we also have missions we should try to fulfil together.
While our mission, in some part, might be a collective effort with others, our purpose, I have found, is singly our own to do with what we are meant to. In order to find our purpose, we must be willing to learn, not only about other people, but mostly, about who we are and what is our place in the grander scheme of things. {What have you learned?}
We do have our civil life in which we can pursue our dreams, but next to it we also do have our spiritual life, which might even be more important than many in the world would think.

The last few weeks I encountered many sites, from ex-christadelphians and from people against Christadelphians which said true but oh so many more untrue things. On several church-sites it is also presented that when there is no union in church that can not be the true church. But then they forget that they themselves seem to be connected with churches where there is even more disunity or different ideas going on than by the Christadelphians. When we look at the so called "true catholic church" there might be seen more differences between all the groups in that Catholic Church than you shall be able to find between the Christadelphian groups. In a way that is something which makes me so cross, that they can not consider that they all belong to one "church" or main group "The Christadelphians" and step over their little differences, feeling united all, willing to meet each other as brethren and sisters in Christ.

With the experience of the last few moths and some recent reactions from certain organisations who should know better, out of frustration perhaps, I ought it necessary to act and to write a "Declaration of independence" for 'my' ecclesia. [- Straight-away: To take away any misconception, know I never really consider the Belgian ecclesia as "my" ecclesia, because everything I try to accomplish I try to do it for the Most High, and not for myself. As a worker for God I would love to see His Word been spread in Belgium, and therefore I try to do all this work, but not for my own profit and not considering it as something which is "mine", because it belongs to God.]

In the Declaration of independence for the ecclesia Brussel-Leuven I mention different groups of Christadelphians.  This might give to some the impression there is much division by those Christadelphians, But when they would look close at their teachings and at their way of life, they would come to see that as a matter of fact they really belong more to one great family.


English: Picture of the Monastery of Our Lady ...
Picture of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Annunciation of Clear Creek near Hulbert, Oklahoma. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Because Belgium is a so called Catholic country, I would like to ask to see that there are more differences between groups like the Jesuits, Franciscans, Black Fathers, White Fathers, Opus Dei, Apologetic Society, Saint Willibrord Society, Thijmgenootschap, Traditionalist Catholics, Tridentines, Lefebvrists, Society of St Pius X, Priestly Fraternity of St Peter, Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer, Servants of Jesus and Mary (Servi Jesu et Mariae, SJM), Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem (CRNJ), Canons Regular of Saint John Cantius (SJC), Canons Regular of the Holy Cross, Miles Christi (MC), Monastery of Our Lady of the Annunciation of Clear Creek, Monastery of St. Benedict in Norcia, Monks of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel,  Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen (CMRI), Sedevacantists, Conclavists, which include the "true Catholic Church" the Palmarian Catholic Church  and many many others.

By the Catholics as by many protestant denominations you can find "conservative", "contemplative", "traditional", "modernist" or "liberal". In a way we may see such tendencies also by the Christadelphians; There we also can find very conservative groups , more moderate groups and more liberal or progressive groups, even in one group itself.

The same as, I find in my worldly or civil family, there might be people who do not like so much to associate with one or the other. Some nephews or nieces on the other hand may like each other very much or may like not the association with each other. This is something what many more Christadelphians should come to understand. That though they are loving to have a spiritual group or organisation, not willing to be part of this world, they are living in this world and are confronted with our own particular personalities. As such it always shall happen that they will meet people where they will have not such a nice report with.

It is not because we do not like a certain group, or do not like the way a person or group does something, that we would not, or should not consider them as brother or sister. There lies the difference of real brotherhood or sisterhood, the dna-string which can not be cut. In Dutch we would say "in hart en nieren" in "heart and kidneys", all those different groups in the Christadelphian denomination are really part of one millenarian Christian group which came out of the teachings  John Thomas, who coined the name Christadelphian.


John Thomas
John Thomas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Many from the sites against Christadelphians do accuse John Thomas of picking material of others and bringing teachings of other Christian writers together. They use it as a negative factor, I would use it as a positive factor. John Thomas, though he never saw himself as making his own disciples, in my eyes had the qualities of a good teacher in him. It is the task of a teacher to bring the right ideas together and to make a good plan or a good amalgamation of all the teachings. Bringing the biblical truth presented by many writers from different denominations, all together in a good constructed and easy to understand text, he succeeded very well in his task to teach the Gospel of the Good News.

For him it was not a matter to impose "his own" teachings onto others, but to bring biblical truth onto those to whom he could speak and to whom wanted to listen to him. After his bad experience at sea he believed that he had rediscovered 1st-century beliefs from the Bible and compared it with what he heard around him. He also exchanged ideas with many 'New World' or American Bible-Students. As many, like Charles Taze Russell came to listen to his teachings and where willing to go in debate with each other, they pollinated each other. Because there was such a fecundation made possible, they saw a progressive growth in the bible student movement. Through a process of challenge and debate and writing journals, John Thomas not only got followers, but also got others to think seriously about what at first looked controversial teachings.

I think Dr. Thomas would not have been afraid to go into debate and to take his Bible to compare it with others their Bible. He for sure was not afraid to compare his teachings with that of others. So why should we avoid such comparison or to be afraid to compare with others their teachings? It is by his preparedness to go in discussion with others that he could bring people together and bring people to believe in what he believed and what he was preaching. This way a number of people became convinced and set up various fellowships that had sympathy with that position, where John Thomas also never claimed to be the one and only to be followed or to be the patron of those ideas.

Already from the beginning the New World saw several groups associated with John Thomas which met under various names, including Believers, Baptised Believers, the Royal Association of Believers, Baptised Believers in the Kingdom of God, Nazarines (or Nazarenes) and The Antipas. Some of those groups still continue their activities today.


Christadelphian Hall in Bath/England
Christadelphian Hall in Bath/England (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
John Thomas did not like it that people just would follow him or would take him as 'a god' or only special leader.  Jesus should be the leader and not a specific organisation. It was Robert Roberts, who in 1864 began to publish The Ambassador magazine, who formed a structure for the community of those who followed the teachings of John Thomas. But the debates did not stop in the many different groups and some did find to have clear doctrines or rules to which members of their community should keep. The different ideas were not always appreciated by everybody and brought some into discord. The disagreement and way of handling then as today disenchanted several people. Some might have had a dream of a peaceful Christian community and had to face people who acted childishly or with envy. This jealousy and contempt for others created different streams or little groups. A century later it looks like nothing has changed yet. Several who left the Christadelphian community uttered their voice of being disenchanted. And for me this nearly would have been the same reason I would have left the community.

It was a sore disillusionment how certain organisations, which I considered of much importance in the community, acted against each other and took repercussions against my own person, because I did not want to pull "one string". The foolhardiness of two parties insisting on their right of ruling in Belgium and not willing to have people from each organisation meeting with each other, so that they could be with more, was going against the grain with me.  Particularly when both parties started throwing all sorts of accusations to each-other and to us, who tried to reconcile both parties.

My fault was also that I had concentrated to much on 'organisations' instead of trusting God, Who is the One Who calls people in His time, and not ours. I did not forget that, but I perhaps wanted to press the time a little bit more, having our ecclesia grow. This way I could receive a good lesson. Up unto recently my eyes have been on an organisation I really thought their main concern was to do missionary work, and to have as many brothers and sisters in the world, having better opportunities to meet with each other. I was mistaken.
One of the parties might perhaps have hoped that I would become so disillusioned that I would leave the community for what it was.

But perhaps they overlooked something, or better did not take into account those who by the years either where children from one of those great teachers, the Christadelphian forefathers or 'granddads'. Or those who by the years had also found that this (the Christadelphians) was a Christian community which kept to the right teachings, according to the Word of God and did not want to hold on to doctrines laid up by people.
Like in a big family it is in time of trouble that brothers and sisters can show that they are there for each other. And that is what happened the last few days.

It is in such small, and sometimes very hidden actions, that valuable relief can be given, and proof is been given that there is more unity and brotherhood than the world can see by first glance. Those, from places far away, who gave little pads on my shoulder, gave proof that there is more to the Christadelphian community than can be seen from outside, or others want to believe.
Knowing the time of encouragement and daring to take action, is what shows to be a brother or a sister.

People may accuse the Christadelphians having several groups separated from the main body of Christadelphians, but they should look at the people in those several groups, who still have the same string as the founder of the community, and are willing to be part of the one great family, though there might, by now, be many households all over the world.

Outsiders, ex-Christadelphians, those against Christadelphians and non-trinitarians, like to focus on the shortcomings of the people who run the many Christadelphian organisations. They do not see beyond those organisations and their leaders. They also forget that in all the other denominations you can find similar divisions. Often they forget that it is even worse in many other denominations.

In Belgium we have seen many battles going very strongly between many religious groups. Lots of people lost their lives for their religious conviction. Many religious leaders tried to pull more people to them but also abused their position to enlarge their power, fill their pockets with money or even to abuse children; or bishops helping them to get away with it (in the Catholic church). Some would say
"Truth can’t change, nor can it be devalued by the unworthiness of those who are supposed to defend it, or the blindness of those who can’t get the message – often, because they have never been taught it properly " {Convert To The One Church, Not To Francis.}
Instead of navel-gazing, some in the Christadelphian world would better not have such an introspective view of their closed community, but would better open the doors to look more what happens outside their community. Others who spit on the Christadelphian community would also better to the same exercise.

Perhaps we better listen also to "the one who likes to be cleansed", Mundabor, a Catholic who writes:
This is why many, like me, criticise the Pope – and boy, how could one not do it who has eyes to see! – without this denting their Catholic faith in the least. On the contrary: if my faith is tested by a bad Pope, I will strenghten my faith by clinging to the Church even more closely; praying more; learning more about Her; praying more for the wayward Pope; putting all my trust on heaven, not on the reckless statements of a man drunk with popularity, and as vain as a peacock. {Convert To The One Church, Not To Francis.}
It is not by criticising an organisation or more organisations that we would not like them or would be totally against them. Out of concern we do have to come out of our personal little shell.

Sometimes we may not like it ourselves, to quarrel or to lay open a dispute, but only by trying to go in debate we can perhaps fall and have to stand up again, but shall give ourselves opportunities to learn and grow and to show how we need each-other and how we care for each other. It is this caring for each other and more important, caring for the Truth that should keep us going.

We should not be afraid to avoid strong regulating organisations, being afraid we shall not be able to feel united as brethren and sisters. We also should not be afraid to face those unpleasant moments, and should not try to hide them. Better we should be open and honest, showing how things go and how we do try to cope with such circumstances, helping each other to fall not to badly  and even more help them to stand up on stronger legs. As followers of the Word of God as it is written in the Holy Scriptures, we should guard our community that it no becomes enslaved by those who would like to take charge of it and would like to have controlling organisations. To avoid doctrinal teachings it is important that no such controlling organisations take over in the community. Independence and freedom for all members to discuss believes, teachings and organisations is what a community keep free from any wrong dogmatic teachings. It will always be better to have little different ideas, which can not all be right, than having one uniform idea where more teachings could be severely wrong or where people believe their dogmatic teachings are right and to be followed by everybody in the community. The Christian world is already full of such dogmatic churches and does not need another one.

The Christadelphians should be content to be a construction of different necessary parts in the Body of Christ.

We should also learn to be not so uncomfortable and more willing to take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake:
 for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9,10).

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