Query on Church Constitution
Is it indispensably necessary, in the constitution of a Baptist Church of Christ, to have two or more ordained ministers present to form a presbytery, in order to make such a constitution legal or Scriptural?
We find no law in our code touching the forms necessary to constitute a church; nor do we find in the New Testament any example or intimation that a presbytery of ordained ministers ever acted in constituting a church. Christ says the most about it, and it is but little: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there will I be in the midst of them." When a company of baptized disciples, if only two or three, associate themselves as a church, covenanting with each other to be governed by the authority of Christ as indicated in the New Testament, they are, to all intents and purposes, a gospel church under the constitution. A foreign missionary and his wife would thus constitute the essentials of a church; but, as we always should send forth by twos, two missionaries and their wives could constitute themselves into a church without a presbytery. But as churches now are associated, it is a matter of proper caution, and [prevents confusion? - JCS] for a presbytery to be called to see that the organization, at the very outstart, is sound and orderly. An ounce of preventative is worth a pound of cure.
[From J. R. Graves, editor, The Baptist, 1877, page 661. Document from Jim Settlemoir.]
The Constitution of ChurchesA brother at a distance wishes to know how many ministers are necessary to constitute a church?
The Tennessee Baptist, 1860
By J. M. Pendleton
I hesitate not to say that when only one minister is present at the organization of a church, the organization is as valid as if there were twenty ministers in attendance. When a missionary goes forth to a heathen land, preaches the Word of the Lord, and is instrumental in the conversion of souls - has he not the right to baptize the converts ? Certainly. - When they are baptized, is it not his duty to see that they are constituted a church? Unquestionably. This is required of him even if there be no other minister within a thousand miles. If there is nothing wrong in all this in a heathen land, is it wrong in our country? Principles are the same in all climes. Still, I say that where more ministers than one can be had at the constitution of a church, it is desirable and proper to have them. So I would say of the ordination of ministers and deacons. Titus was left in Crete to ordain Elders in every city. There is no intimation that any one was to aid him. The matter, I think, stands thus: When practicable, there ought to be a plurality of ministers at church constitutions, ordinations, &c.; but the absence of a plurality does not invalidate the constitution or ordination. If any brother thinks otherwise, he is at liberty to show that I am wrong.
[From the Tennessee Baptist, February 18, 1860, p. 2. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall]
These subjects had been dealt with early in northern Kentucky Baptist church life. The Northbend Baptist Association answered in 1804 to the following: Two queries were sent up from Bullittsburg to this effect: "Whether a lay member may properly assist in constituting a church?" And "Whether a church, when sent to, may properly send lay members as a help to judge of the gift and qualifications of a minister, who is set apart for ordination?" Both were answered in the affirmative. [History of the Association, pp. 21-22.]
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