Objections Raised

 

 

A brother of the NASU committee writes us to object of comments that we included in the article “Burning Questions” that appeared in last month’s version of our web site and may be accessed from the ARCHIVES page.  We had made the statement to the effect that the NASU wants us of the Unamended community to accept the BASF as “representing a true and common definition of the One Faith”.  The correspondent objects to this statement and contends that the NASU document does no such thing.  We contend that by accepting the NASU that we would in fact be recognizing the Amended Statement of Faith (BASF) as a valid outline of the Truth (along with accepting the BUSF), and that to do such thing is unacceptable if the Unamended position is to be maintained.  

 

We have made the following correspondence available so that those interested might see open argument concerning this matter, which then opens up to other issues surrounding the NASU document.  The writer who took offense to our comments and questions our “integrity and honesty” had requested that this correspondence remain private.  But considering the serious implications of these issues and that nothing personal in nature is addressed in this correspondence, along with the fact that our entire ecclesia position was brought into the argument we feel that this information is to be shared and may be of help to others who have questions on these very matters.  During the early days of the Christadelphian Advocate Bro Williams would print extensive correspondence between himself and dissenters (such as what follows) that dealt with controversial matters as to keep the Household informed.  So we felt that providing such information is not without precedent.  Sometimes names would be withheld other times they would not.  In this case we have chosen to withhold the name of the one who has questioned us on our position.   We could have only provided selected quotes but this could have had an affect on the proper context of the arguments being made.   

 

 

 

INITIAL MESSAGE:

 

Dear Brother Aaron,

We all believe in our causes and we are right to speak up for them. However, it is incumbent on us - as brethren of our Lord and saviour - to do so with integrity and honesty. Otherwise we could find ourselves amongst those who would sow discord.

I would suggest that you review your quote below and consider its merits in terms of honesty and integrity.

[And the NASU wants us of the Unamended community to accept the BASF as “representing a true and common definition of the One Faith”? (NASU, p. 6)  And also wishes us to concede that world-wide inter-ecclessial fellowship will continue to be based upon the BASF?  Considering the “absurdity” of the Amendment that characterizes the BASF would not the BUSF then be the only appropriate and acceptable basis for unity? ]  - A. Thomas  

The NASU does not want us to accept the BASF as representing a true and common definition of the one faith. The NASU doesn't say that, and you have not only inferred it, you have categorically stated it as a fact. The fact that you have cited a portion of page 6 in parentheses doesn't excuse the falsehood, it heightens it; as it indicates that you had it in hand when you wrote the quote above.

As you know, the NASU says:

It is understood and agreed that the doctrines to be believed and taught by us are the first priciples of the One Faith as revealed in the scriptures. The two principle statements of faith, The Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith (BASF) and the Birmingham Unamended Statement of Faith (BUSF), as set out herein, (including the Doctrines to be Rejected  and the Commandments of Christ) understood as expressed in the North American Statement of Understanding (including its Clarification Statements on Responsibility and Fellowship) represent a true and common definition of the One Faith.

Aaron, if you argue that your quote is justified because the statement above includes the BASF, then it would be equally true to say:

[And the NASU wants us of the Unamended community to accept the BUSF as “representing a true and common definition of the One Faith”? (NASU, p. 6)   

because it also includes the BUSF in the same measure. You chose not to say that, however.

I (and numerous others) have worked very hard to get the treatment of the BUSF that is in the NASU. Your misrepresentation diminishes that work and is hurtful to me (and likely others as well - if they saw your quote). I feel compelled scripturally to take up this offence directly with you in the spirit of Matthew 18.

This email is a private communication between you and I alone, as we have had previous correspondence and it has been ammicable in the past. I know you are concerned about the brotherhood and I respect that and as such, I am writing in a spirit of genuine entreaty. Disagree with the NASU by all means, but please do so honestly and with integrity.

Bro. ---- ------

 

 

OUR REPLY

 

Bro. ----,

I have read and reread the comments I included with the article "Burning Questions" that you find objection to, and I am taken aback by your questions in regards to my "intellectual and spiritual honesty" in regard to this matter.  I believe that I have spoken honestly and accurately, but see it as very unfortunate that you don't perceive it that way.  It would probably be best if we take a closer look at this.

Without quoting the entire paragraph once again I will quote the sentences that YOU YOURSELF have put into bold type.  You put into a bold and underlined form that, "The two principle statements of faith" which refers to the BASF and the BUSF, "understood as expressed in the North American Statement of Understanding"..."represent a true and common definition of the One Faith."  

Now without getting twisted in political jargon let me break this down for you as to what I (and others as well) believe this to say. 

1.       The NASU document recognizes both the BASF and BUSF to "represent a true and common definition of the One Faith."  This is the NASU's words not mine.  I nor anyone else can deny that the BUSF is mentioned in the NASU, as well as the BASF, and no attempt has been made to say otherwise or lead individuals to another conclusion.

2.       If the above is true then an Unamended individual or ecclesia that accepts the NASU document as a valid expression of faith or basis of fellowship (already breaking break on the BUSF basis), would also in fact be recognizing the BASF as a "true and common definition of the Faith", sense such an endorsement is found in the NASU document.  If I read it correctly I believe that the NASU stands for the North American Statement of Understanding.  I would hope that any individual would only endorse such a document if they themselves also share the same UNDERSTANDING or position.  Unfortunately it is a "Understanding" that is seriously flawed.

3.       Whether or not the BUSF is recognized by the NASU as valid  or on an equal footing with the BASF is not the question here.  The problem lies within the fact that the BASF DOES NOT  "represent a true and common definition of the Faith", but yet it endorsed as such in the NASU document.  One cannot logically except both at the same time when both Statements are mutually exclusive of each other.

4.       When I said, "the NASU wants us of the Unamended community to accept the BASF as 'representing a true and common definition of the One Faith", why would I make mention of the NASU's endorsement of the BUSF as well?  Again, the problem does not lie in the NASU's endorsement of the BUSF but its included endorsement of the BASF.  And, if you noticed in my comment I used the term "us" twice.  This indicates those to whom this comment was addressed, which is others within the Unamended Community - those who already have a copy of the NASU document and are fully aware of what the document states.  The NASU can endorse the BUSF until the "cows come home" but as long as it also endorses the BASF then this is wherein the problem lies and the very problem that I was calling attention to in connection to Bro. Williams' comments on the matter as referring to the Amendment as an "absurdity".  Do you wish to be found endorsing an absurdity?  I surely do not and that is where my concern rests.

5.      To try to make this even more clear: If I would have stated "that the NASU accepts both the BASF and the BUSF as valid " the problem still rests with the fact that the NASU recognizes the BASF as acceptable.  If the NASU committee wishes us of the Unamended community to accept the NASU document as a viable solution for "unity" then you are in a very real sense asking us to endorse what is written in the Statement.  And what in fact is found in the Statement is an endorsement of the BASF.  If you deny that fact then it is clear that NASU effort is something far more devious and manipulative in nature then the Unamended Community has ever faced- by putting into writing one thing but yet telling us that it means something else!       

I said and will continue to say that "the NASU wants us of the Unamended community to accept the BASF as 'representing a true and common definition of the One Faith'".  This is an accurate assessment based upon what you all put into writing.  Maybe it is not the intention of the framers of the document for it to be understood this way but this is what it appears to say.  I really find it difficult how you or anyone else could admit anything otherwise.  If the NASU committee wishes Unamended ecclesias to accept the NASU document as a basis for unity, then by going along with it we would in fact be recognizing the BASF as having equal footing with the BUSF based upon the statement that they both are considered by the NASU document as to "represent a true and common definition of the One Faith."  This is absolutely unacceptable and the point that was being made. To further strengthen my conviction as to my observation are the comments made in the very next paragraph (NASU, p.6) in regards to the fact that "it is recognized that the touchstone for inter-ecclesial fellowship between North American ecclesias and Christadelphians ecclesias worldwide is the BASF."  This should make one wonder if the BUSF would even be considered on equal footing with the BASF once everything was said and done.  Really makes me wonder about "intellectual and spiritual honesty".  Is there an attempt being made here to fool the Unamended community?  Have you all been fooling yourselves?

Now, if the NASU withdraws any mention or endorsement of the BASF in its "Understanding" and endorses the BUSF as the only basis for unity and inter-ecclesial fellowship then I will gladly retract my statement that you find objection to.  But until then I see that I have no choice but to continue to say what I have been saying.        

You hypothetically mention in your letter, "if you argue that your quote is justified because the statement above includes the BASF, then it would be equally true to say: And the NASU wants us of the Unamended community to accept the BUSF as 'representing a true and common definition of the One Faith' ?" I would suppose there is some truth to that, but that is not the problem or issue that I was addressing.  You seem to pretend that since you have included the BUSF in the statement that you have created some kind of legitimate loophole for yourselves in order to be free of criticism.  ONCE AGAIN, The problem is not with the NASU's endorsement of the BUSF but with its included endorsement of the BASF.  Let's try to keep that clear, remembering that the reality of the matter is that you cannot accept both Statements as valid at the same time.  This is the problem that page 6 (1st paragraph) creates for itself.  It is like saying "I accept both Evolution and Creationism as valid explanations of the Earth's beginnings."  As a Creationist, which belief do you think I am going to take issue with if someone stated such a thing?  Likewise, as an Unamended individual, which Statement of Faith do you think I am going to point out as error?  No matter how hard you all try to make two different belief systems appear to be one, the reality of the situation will always come back on you.

One final thing, you say "I (and numerous others) have worked very hard to get the treatment of the BUSF that is in the NASU."  Quite frankly, no matter how hard or sincerely you all have worked the result still falls seriously short.  The NASU committee does not represent this ecclesia as well as many other ecclesias in the Unamended community.  I do not recall that there ever was a vote or open forum that sanctioned the effort like the Continental Reunion efforts of the past.   So what ever work has been done in this regard has not been done on behalf of the Unamended Community as a whole.  You say that my "misrepresentations diminish that work".  No Bro. Doug, the "work" has diminished and compromised the Truth, which has been and is currently being clearly demonstrated by other well seasoned and skillful brethren.   Anything I have said is only a confirmation of what has been recently mentioned or already has been stated and restated over the past 100 years.  Call into question my "intellectual and Spiritual honesty" if you wish, but this will do nothing to remove the problems that are inherit in the NASU effort and the difficulties and unrest that the NASU has created in the Unamended community.  Attempts to call into question or discredit my character will not change that fact. 

I have said enough for now. 

Sincerely yours in the Master's Service,

Aaron Thomas 

 

 

CONTINUED ARGUMENT

 

Aaron,

M' thinks ye doth protest too much.

Your voluminous reply does not address the point. As I pointed out in my email and you re-iterated in yours, the underlined and highlighted portion of the NASU says:  "The two principle statements of faith ... understood as expressed in the North American Statement of Understanding...represent a true and common definition of the One Faith.

This indicates clearly what the NASU is all about. Both statements are there with the NASU, understood as expressed in the North American Statement of Understanding

The NASU is the understanding that reconciles the differences in the communities by setting out common expressions of understanding. So it is the NASU that you should argue against. The only difference in the BASF and the BUSF is the RR clause. Some have argued that there are other differences (although they appear nowhere in the statements). The NASU deals with these perceived differences in the 4 sections and ultimately deals with the RR section as well. Clearly the BASF doesn't go into these things, so to characterize the NASU as "[wanting] us of the Unamended community to accept the BASF..." is patently false - still - in spite of your protestations.

The NASU itself  is the proposed representation of "a true and common definition of the One Faith" - not the BASF alone any more than the BUSF alone (as you have graciously acknowledged). This is what the NASU says. Therefore, if you have an argument, again, it is with the NASU. 

You seem to acknowledge that (albeit not quite as graciously) below: 

No Bro. Doug, the "work" has diminished and compromised the Truth, which has been and is currently being clearly demonstrated by other well seasoned and skillful brethren.

Obviously, we don't feel we have diminished or compromised the Truth in any way in the NASU. Let me also assure you that no such thing has been "clearly demonstrated" by other well seasoned and skillful brethren. Most of the feedback we have received in in the form of brethren suggesting that the "Amended really believe X, how does the NASU deal with that?" This sort of question doesn't question the viability of the NASU, it ignores what the NASU says the Amended are saying altogether - and sets up a straw man that they then ask us to account for. Generally, those taking this approach avoid the opportunity to hear from us directly at all costs and seem to want to make their observations and pronouncements without the benefit of having gone through the NASU in full context with those involved in drafting it. What about you and your ecclesia? You have made a pronouncement without having gone through a meeting with the NASU people directly. Is that fair? Are you willing to hear from us? We will come to your ecclesia at our expense if you are. You can invite whoever you want to attend.

In the article you put out that I responded to, Bro. Williams was defending against those who did exactly the same thing! They were drawing conclusions without hearing the whole context. They undoubtedly had the writings of Andrew in their possession for the most part - as you have the NASU in your possession. (Some would have taken more time to look at it than others - true to life). Williams however, felt compelled to be there to give them the benefit of the whole context which can make all the difference in the world - as your article shows.

Aaron, sometimes it is hard to be objective and passionate at the same time. However, it is critically important that we do so. I can see now (by your reply) that you may not have been consciously deceitful in your quote, but perhaps unable to see what was actually written. Fair enough. We all do that from time to time. I hope you can see what the NASU quote actually says with this explanation.

Further, I hope that you and your ecclesia take advantage of our offer to come to your ecclesia and get the whole story from us, with context and explanation. After having done that, you will be able to speak out passionately and credibly about the problems you have with the NASU. The optional route of answering a matter before hearing it - all of it - (as with your article) is what you are left with.

 

Brother ---- ------

PS      Please, if you feel the NASU is in error, show me where and in due course (this sometimes takes a while) I will answer you. Start at the first section. Where does the NASU contradict the scriptures or the BUSF? Where in the second section? etc.

 

 

OUR SECOND RESPONSE

 

Bro. ----,

You refer to my answer to you as a "voluminous reply" that "does not address the point."  I prefer to be thorough in my responses to questions and "the point" was indeed addressed over and over again.  The fact of the matter remains that even though you and I clearly have a different take on the implications as to what your document states (p.6, paragraph one),  the wording and included context of the following paragraph certainly indicates an acceptance - or let's use other related words to hopefully clarify the situation -  indicates a recognition or tolerance of the validity of the BASF.  Remember, the second paragraph continues to state that "it is recognized that the touchstone for inter-ecclesial fellowship between North American ecclesias and Christadelphian ecclesias worldwide is the BASF."   According to my Webster's Dictionary the word "touchstone" is defined as:  "a test or criterion for determining the quality or genuineness of a thing" and the synonym is listed as "STANDARD".  Now since what I read in the NASU document recognizes the BASF as the "touchstone" or "STANDARD" of "worldwide" fellowship then it seems very clear that no matter what amount of clever wording you have all attempted to produce the final "test or criterion for determining the quality or genuineness" of fellowship is still the BASF. It is the "Amendment" that has and continues to be (among other serious issues) a barrier to fellowship.  It is the "Amendment" as an official representation of the Central Fellowship's position as it is worded that it is in violation of the Gospel Truth.  I would have hoped that you would have gotten that much from Bro. Williams' article besides your apparent distraction to my comments.  Until you can satisfactorily answer that problem I think we have little to talk about in regards to other issues that appear or do not appear within the NASU document.  You are right when you say that it is "the NASU you should argue against".  It is because these items are found in the NASU that I made mine objections known in the first place.

You have asked us to listen to what you all are trying to do.  You have tried to sell the NASU to us as acceptable terms for unity.   I am afraid that it is you (the NASU committee) that has failed to listen.  The only viable standard for true unity that has been expressed by many of the Unamended community is a rejection of the BASF by the Central Community and a return to the original basis.  The NASU has not accomplished this but has given us something else to where the BASF is acknowledged on equal footing with the BUSF and alone is recognized as a "touchstone" for worldwide fellowship.  The only acceptable standard is a return to the original basis (pre 1898).  This has been contended for by the Unamended community for the past 100 years.  It would appear that the NASU is acting like children who know what the standard is, know they can't change it, so try to find a way around it.  I see this behavior demonstrated on a daily basis with my own students at school.  What part of the word "no" do you all not understand?  This is the answer to why many of us have come to the decisions we have made.  For those well founded upon the principles of Truth that the Unamended community has always contended for your attempts have made the decision to "just say no" extremely easy.

I referred in my last message to "well seasoned and skillful brethren" who have clearly demonstrated the fact that the NASU has diminished the Truth.  I take exception to your response that "no such thing has been clearly demonstrated".  You say that you want to hear objections but it seems that when those objections are raised you fluff them off as invalid.  Bro. Garvey through Doctrinal Insight has more then "clearly demonstrated" in his efforts the failings of the NASU.  Bro. Wayne Tanner has been very explicit in showing deficiencies in the NASU document through e-mails that have been circulated throughout the community.  I am also aware of the concerns expressed by Bro. Joe Arabia., and of the meeting that took place between the Advocate Committee and the NASU before Bro. Farrar died.  I know the San Antonio ecclesia has expressed concerns to you all in writing.  The St. Louis Ecclesial Statement along with the Clinton, AR Statement also raised concerns.  If you reject these brethren's comments and positions as demonstrating the problem that is the NASU then I see little benefit in getting into a long and drawn out rehashing of these issues with you when clearly we do not agree.

You seem willing to send a delegation down to our meeting to discuss the issues but why did the NASU committee pull out of a scheduled meeting with the San Antonio ecclesia when they requested that it be audio and video taped?  This does not seem conducive to creating an atmosphere of trust in order to have an open and fair dialogue.  I think it would be safe for you to assume that the NASU committee is not welcome to come speak to our ecclesia.  As I have already mentioned, you all have made saying "no" very easy.  If this has some bearing on my credibility then so be it.  This will not keep me from speaking passionately about what I believe.  I didn't realize that meeting with the NASU committee caries the keys to deciding who is credible and who is not.  And I am still perplexed as to why we are expected to give the NASU any serious consideration when it has no mandate from the Unamended community as a whole to act in the first place.  If it started off as a "grassroots" effort involving local ecclesias then it makes little sense that the matter is now being forced on the entire community.

Since this matter is clearly not resolvable between us and you have dragged our ecclesia into the subject matter it is clear that this is no longer a personal issue, so I no feel inhibition against sharing this correspondence with others who might be intersted.  This matter isn't about personal trespasses but about very big issues that affect us all.  I am sure that you will be disappointed by such a decision but if you believe what you have stated then you have nothing to be ashamed of as I am not ashamed of the position that I have taken. 

Yours in the Master's Service,

Aaron Thomas

 

MORE QUESTIONS

 

Aaron,

 

Here are a few straightforward questions for your consideration.

1.       What are your specific objections to the treatment of doctrine in the NASU?

2.       If you were in Malawi, Africa and decided you decided (as in, your choice) to break bread with the Christadelphians there, on what basis would you reasonably expect to do so? (Please understand that the only basis most Christadelphians like this know of throughout the world is the BASF. If you asked them about the BUSF - or the NASU - they would have no idea what you were talking about).

3.       You say: "The only acceptable standard is a return to the original basis (pre 1898). This has been contended for by the Unamended community for the past 100 years." What about the NARP which certainly did not make this recommendation at all? Involved with the NARP were the most senior brethren in our community. Do you think that these brethren were not the "Unamended community"?

4.       You say: "It is the "Amendment" as an official representation of the Central Fellowship's position as it is worded that it is in violation of the Gospel Truth." Do you feel that those holding the BASF are fundamentally wrong? Do you consider them brethren?  

Being that our discussion is between you and I and is about the merits of the NASU, I am mostly interested in an answer to the first question. (I believe we have covered your quote on the fellowship issue as much as we are likely to).

Finally, I suggest that we continue this dialogue in a spirit of civility and try to eschew and suggestion of hostility. Regardless of one's views of the merits of the NASU, we should be able to communicate as brethren of our Lord (both of us) without malice or anger. If it turns out after we have discussed what you feel are the shortcomings of the NASU document, that you conclude one thing and I another, so be it. We are called to live in peace. Your article, and even your suggested remedy of going back the way things were 108 years ago underscores that.

 In the One Hope,

 ---- ------ 

 

 

OUR FINAL RESPONSE

 

Bro. ----,

As I mentioned in my last message to you I see little benefit in getting into a long drawn out rehashing of the issues if what has already been explicitly expressed by the efforts of brethren such as Joe Garvey and Wayne Tanner are not seen as satisfactory objections by you or the NASU committee.  Question #1 of yours has been dealt with repeatedly and I for the time being have nothing more to add to the matter then what has already been written.  Also, I feel that I have answered all of your questions up to this point (including your previous questions several weeks ago in regards to our ecclesial position in relation to the Responsibility issue), [this previous correspondence referred to can be seen by going to the Archives Page under January] but I do not see that you have given me answers to what I believe to be crucial matters.  I do have thoughts on the additional questions you pose but to answer them at this point will take us very far away from the far more fundamental issues at hand.  And until some of these outstanding issues can be explained I think I have done enough answering of your questions for now.  Especially when my answers to you are regarded as "voluminous", and not addressing "the point", or that I "protest too much".   I have already come to conclusions regarding the NASU so any further efforts to convince me otherwise I can assure you are a waste of time and spiritual energy on both our parts. 

I will say that regarding your questions #2 and #4, these seem to be issues that you all have struggled with.  I wish that it could be realized that these matters cannot not be scripturally resolved by trying to bring two different belief systems under a vaguely written document that both sides can interpret in their own way.  This is not unity Bro. ---- but something else.  So even before one discusses specific objections to the NASU wording, there is a serious issue present in relation to the existence of the NASU concept in principle in the first place.

Someone has sent me links to the Christadelphian Waymark (Amended) that has been dealing with these matters but from the opposite side of the fence so to speak.  Though I definitely disagree with his promulgated doctrine in reference to "responsibility" and also do not agree with some of his observations as to the wording of the NASU, I do think that his overall concerns as to the deficiencies in the NASU effort are interesting and dovetail nicely with my concerns, albeit from a very different point of view.  The material can be found at:      

http://www.christadelphian-waymark.org.uk/nasucorr.html

http://www.christadelphian-waymark.org.uk/nasuresponse.html

 

In the Master's Service,

Aaron T.

 

 

 

The brother who began this correspondence replied with one additional short message in which a couple of his questions from his previous list were again repeated.  We did not feel it necessary to answer any further questions until the NASU committee (more specifically the brother who began the correspondence) could properly address our concerns on more fundamental issues regarding the NASU.  It is also useless to go into specifics in regards each point of the NASU document when 1) It has already been done, 2) The NASU refuses to acknowledge many questions or complaints, and 3) The NASU is flawed in principle in the first place in that you cannot bring together two different belief systems together under a bridging like document that due to its vagueness can be interpreted in any way you choose.  So going into details regarding the wording of the NASU under every single point is a mute issue.  There seems to be a vicious cycle that one gets into when trying to reason with those who are pushing the NASU initiative.  Many explicit concerns have been raised regarding the NASU issue but yet those concerns are obviously ignored as if they never existed.  One can choose to argue, reason, etc. as long as they wish on this subject but it is clear that those promoting the NASU have made up their mind to make it work no matter what the consequences may be.  At the same time there are those of us on the Unamended side that have made up our minds not to endorse the NASU.  So what now?  As we have heard mentioned on more then one occasion “the battle lines have been drawn.”  It is so very unfortunate that we see such a thing as “battle lines” among those who call themselves Christadelphians at this late date prior to our Master’s return.  But if we love the Truth of God’s word, do we proceed to compromise that Truth for the sake of a make believe unity effort?     

 

A.     Thomas