Seven Reservations Concerning the Amended Statment of Faith

An open appeal to the consciences of my brothers and sisters in Christ

James Farrar

An Open Letter (of Explanation and Introduction)

November 6, 1995

Dear Brothers & Sisters in the Unamended Ecclesia's:

Are you prepared to accept the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith as your inter-ecclesial basis of fellowship? This is a timely question to ponder in view of the recent agreement which the Lancaster, Pennsylvania ecclesia reached with the Amended ecclesia in Echo Lake. Following this Lancaster-Echo Lake example, there are a number of discussions currently taking place between other Unamended ecclesia's and certain corresponding Amended ecclesia's. The idea is that the Amended ecclesia could potentially sponsor the Unamended ecclesia to join their fellowship and so achieve union. The principal condition is that the Unamended ecclesia accept the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith as its inter-ecclesial basis of fellowship.

It is difficult to know who is involved in these discussions because, with few exceptions, they are being carried out quietly and with great discretion. To the best of my knowledge, no open , public meetings have been held and no information has been broadly disseminated in advance of decisions being taken. In such circumstances, it is possible that further Lancaster-Echo Lake arrangements may be announced as fait accompli without any prior notice to our ecclesia's. There may be some who would see the application of the principle of ecclesial autonomy as authority for the arranging board of their own ecclesia to engage in these discussions with a partnering Amended ecclesia without any requirement that anyone else be involved or informed. Such a view of the matter, however, seems not o recognize that the implications of one unamended ecclesia changing its basis of fellowship will affect not only other ecclesia's but also long-standing ecclesial institutions, such as Bible Schools and gatherings, where we have enjoyed fellowship harmony together all of our lives. Can there not be – should there not be – more openness and discussion before any decisions are taken? It is in keeping with such a right spirit that I have undertaken this labour at my personal expense to make known where I stand in answer to this question about accepting the Amended Statement of Faith. I encourage those who differ from my conclusions to bring forward their reasons from the Scriptures in order that we might seek to resolve any disagreements in a spirit of goodwill.

If you have had an opportunity to read the letters exchanged between Lancaster and Echo Lake, did you find, like I did, that they left many important question unanswered? In the circles of international diplomacy, imprecise language in agreements is referred to as constructive ambiguity. Does this political approach have any place among brethren, especially when we are dealing with something as precious as our fellowship at the table of our Lord? The Central fellowship until now has been a "closed shop" in which acceptance of the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith without reservation has been a precondition of fellowship. Implicit in this acceptance has been the withdrawal of fellowship from those who do not go along. This is why the adoption of the Amended Statement of Faith, in the first place, caused a division. If our brethren in the Central ecclesia's have now taken a different stand on this matter, do they not have a duty to make their new policy known in clear terms? If they have not changed their policy about exclusive acceptance of the Amended Statement, does it not require that any unamended brother or sister who participates in fellowship with them on this understanding has withdrawn and separated from all those unamended brethren who do not embrace the Amended Statement as their inter-ecclesial basis of fellowship? These are some of the questions which need to be clarified in precise terms that all of us understand.

Are there any scriptural precedents for a situation of this kind? The following analogy is not exact but it offers certain parallels. There was a case in the ecclesia in Antioch of Pisidia in which the majority of the Jewish believers in Christ pressured Peter and Barnabas to withdraw and separate from the Gentiles there who believed. [Galatians 2:13] When the apostle Paul sought to correct their mistake, he took his argument to Peter before them all. This open debate was instrumental to resolving an unsatisfactory development in the ecclesia. The apostle Paul did not mince his words: the step taken by these men of stature in the faith, Peter and Barnabas, he referred to as dissimulation. His outrage at their dissembling was based on a profound reason: I saw that they walk not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel. What was their error? There is no evidence in the account that Peter and Barnabas actually changed any of their fundamental doctrines. Their error was that their fellowship practice made a statement that denied the truth about the sacrifice of Christ: Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified… for if righteousness came by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. [Galations 2:16,21] By separating from the Gentiles in the ecclesia, and openly siding with the Jews, they gave their support to the principle that elements of the Law of Moses were necessary for salvation. What is the parallel in the present situation? First, whether we actually change any of our beliefs or not is less the issue than the public statement made by our fellowship practice. Our Amended brethren meet on a Statement of Faith that disconnects the resurrection and judgment from the sacrifice of Christ and the everlasting covenant ratified by the shedding of his blood. Is agreement with this fellowship also a form of dissimulation? While it may be a harsh indictment to some, I will share with you seven reasons why I believe it is.

While I recognize the paper which follows is long, and may be tedious reading in places, I do not think the matters under discussion can be dispatched in two or three paragraphs. I would be pleased to hear from you and discuss any of the points further, particularly your answers to the question at the end. It is not my custom, when writing about the truth, to write in the first person, using the pronoun, "I". If I have done so in this paper, it is because I want you to view it in its entirety as an open letter – a personal appeal to you.

Your fellow-laborer in Israel’s Hope,


James Farrar

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