As to Deposing A Baptist Minister
IT is agreed among us, and indeed all Baptists, that each congregation or church is distinct from every other church, and that no supervision or dictation by any presbytery, council, or Association can be admitted in regard to the action of a gospel church in any matter of discipline.
1. It is established among Baptists that as each church has the inherent right to judge of the fitness or unfitness for her fellowship, and has the inherent scriptural right to admit into or exclude from her membership those whom she deems worthy or unworthy, so she has the inherent scriptural right to ordain to the ministry or exclude from it any one holding membership in her body whose calling, character, and gifts she considers fit for that office or justify his exclusion from it.
2. The comity of churches of the same faith and practice - their associational harmony, order, and co-operation - so essential to the advance of Christ's kingdom, requires (and the requirement has always been admitted) that a council from neighboring churches or a presbytery of preachers be called to
advise the church as to the fitness or unfitness in doctrine and character of the person whom that church proposes to set apart to the work of the ministry, No church may fall back on her inherent right to do this without counsel or aid from other churches. She may form a presbytery within herself and ordain a man in defiance of churches or ministry. She may disregard the decision of a council when called by her. But in such cases she may expect that her action will not be recognized by other churches and that ministerial courtesy will not be extended to him whom she has thus ordained without consultation. She in fact places herself by this course outside the pale of denominational co-operation and fellowship, and, unless in some very exceptional instances, her acts merit associational disapproval.
3. A like comity of churches - their harmony, order, and co-operation - requires that a council from neighboring churches or a presbytery of preachers be convened by a church before she vidicates the pastor's character from alleged immorality or heresy or deposes him from the ministry. Such a council or presbytery was convened and its advice taken before he was set apart. Churches, if they act considerately, vote to accept the advice or decision of the council. The ordination or setting apart is finally proceeded with. Churches, if ocnsistent, vote to accept the adivce
or decision of the council and then the deposition or exclusion of the accused takes place. The churches and ministry were represented in ordaining him. They should be repesented in the deposition. The general recognition of the man as a minister by the denomination at large is based upon the fact that the denomination at large was represented in setting him apart to the ministry. It was for the churches generallyand not for one church exclusively that he was ordained. The churches have an interest, more or less, a common stock in an ordained Baptist minister, and, as ordaining him does not end with that one church of his membership, neither does deposing him stop with that church. Other churches must feel it. The man's relation to the denomination is changed by ordaination, also by deposition. No church, therefore, should expel from her membership or depose from the ministry an ordained minister without first calling a council from churches or a presbytery of ministers to aid by their advice and decision.
4. If a church, falling back on her inherent right to act for herself without consulting other churches in her vicinity or Association, depose or expel an ordained minister, he has a clear right to apply to a neighboring Baptist church and ask it to right the wrong done him by calling a council from associated churches, including the one which
expelled or deposed him, and, if that council vindicates and sustains him and condemns the action of the excluding church, then the church which called the council may rightfully receive him into membership and recognize him as a minister in good standing in the denomination. The act of one church, without counsel or advice, is not to control every other church. The inherent right of one to expel whom she thinks unfit proves the inherent right of any other church to receive whom she thinks fit. In regard to the ministry, neither should be done without the counsel of the other churches.
[Note: Number 5 was skipped]
6. It is the duty of a church in which an ordained minister, whether pastor or otherwise, holds membership, in regard to whom there are specific reports respecting his moral character, with crediible evidence of being true, to call a council or presbytery and lay the facts and evidence before it and then follow its advice or decision.
7. It is the duty of ministers, when there are such reports affecting the moral character of a minister in their vicinity, with credible evidence of being true, to consult with each other and informally request the church where such minister holds membership to call a council to investigate the matter, so that the scandal may be removed, either by his vindication or his exclusion from the ministry, and, if the church will not heed such requests,
the ministry have the right to meet as a presbytery, investigate the reports or facts, and give the results to the churches and the world. Ministers have no right to remain silent while the cause of Christ is being scandalized by the delinquencies of an immoral man who may be sheltered by a church under his influence, or, by indifference or weakness, sustained in his wrong-doing.
No man lives to himself. No church lives to herself. No minister lives to himself. It is our duty to sustain each other's character and standing firmly and affecitonately. And it is equally our duty to withdraw from him whose life is a scandal. ========
[Samuel H. Ford, Baptist Waymarks, ABPS, 1903. Transcribed from the original document by Linda Duvall; the document was provided by Pastor Steve Lecrone, Burton, OH. Formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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