Christianity is not a religion, but a faith. The treatment of it as a religion has opened the door to man's drive for power rooted in his corrupted nature. Every institution shaped by man, whether a Christian college, missionary society, "sponsoring church," or lectureship carries in its veins the poison of power. Power and countervailing power in the secular world may be treated as a necessary evil to prevent some greater evil or achieve some modest good. But power in religion is wholly evil. We have stressed the fact that Christ at the beginning of his ministry rejected Satan's offer of power. At the end, he refused to bow to power: No man taketh my life; I lay it down! His people were to be a commune, a koinonia of equals, each voluntarily subject to all others. And the greatest among them would be the servant of all!
“It Shall Not Be So Among You”
by Dr. Norman L. Park (Murfeesboro, Tennessee)

Force! Power! Authority! This is the triumvirate, which rule the City of Man. They are barred from the City of God. Force is the means to compel another to do one's will or to punish his disobedience. Power is the silk-gloved hand of force utilizing law and tradition. Authority is power consented to or accepted as rightful.

God gave man dominion over the earth, to subdue it and possess it, but no dominion over other men. Cain usurped dominion and founded the earthly city built on force. Hear his descendant boast, "I have slain a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventyfold." The earthly city from Cain until now has rested on force in one or all of its forms. [1]

Though a man-willed world could not function without it, power's only antidote is countervailing power. And as Lord Acton pungently observed, power corrupts wherever it resides. It is only beginning to press upon us how close we came to a presidential Nero in Richard Nixon's bold scheme to subvert the Constitution and create the imperial presidency. [2] Whatever halting progress has come through force in the quest for civilized order, we may be sure there can be no redemption in it for man.

But is there not honorable and compassionate power, which may be put to work to undergird the city of God and to promote righteousness and punish evil? The answer is no. In the wilderness, the aged Cardinal's "wise and mighty Spirit" offered Christ the Throne of Caesar from which to launch the impending Kingdom of Heaven. [3] Certainly it was his to extend. And why not from his vantage point proclaim the Sermon on the Mount as the constitution of the new kingdom and the basis of a new world law firmly backed by incontestable force? Why not send forth the gospel in the hands of armed legions? Why wait for some apocalyptic time for every knee to bow and every tongue confess? "Get thee behind me, Satan!"

The powerless Jesus! The world God so loved was the one we still experience -- one of defiance and opposition to God, one lost to pride and power. The incarnation, to save the world, required the adjuration of power. And so He came offering freedom in the Nazareth Charter. To his disciples he called attention to the role of lordship in the City of Man and said, "It shall not be so among you." His kingdom is not of this world -- that is, it rejects all appeal to power. He would accept only the voluntary heart. Yet there exists the Lordship of Jesus and all authority has been given him. God has exalted him that every knee should bow and every tongue confess he is Lord. He confers lordship on no man and no power structure on his assembly. He has not delegated authority to any man, lest "all" authority cease to be his. He appointed no surrogate on earth. His yoke is voluntary and bears no weight. He came to serve rather than to be served. He submitted to death to triumph over the grave. He chose the route of defeat to victory, for it is impossible to defeat. Paradoxically, his total abnegation of power conferred on him total lordship.

This the world cannot understand. And all too few of his disciples have grasped the lesson. By its actual behavior, organized Christianity throughout history has held Christ's choice in the wilderness to be wrong. The Roman Catholic Church took over Caesar's system and remains the most impressive religious power structure. The Reformation produced a galaxy of power structures. The current "restructuring" movement in the Disciples of Christ, which has alienated so many of their churches, is organized around the pole of power. The rapid growth of the Mormon Church is directly tied to power, centered in works-righteousness and the continuing "revelation" God is held to communicate to its leaders. Power appeals because it seems to work. It can promote orthodoxy and punish heresy; it can generate uniformity and suppress diversity; it can command resources and demand loyalty; it can even serve both God and mammon. But because it belongs to a hemisphere apart from love, it in the end fails.

What relevance has a disquisition on power to the contemporary Churches of Christ? It is because the phenomenon of power flourishes among us. Some of its hallmarks are legalism, negativism, exclusivism, and authoritarianism. Others are the reduction of congregational autonomy to a myth, the growth of a professional clergy and a spectator laity, the acceptance of membership as the means to salvation, ownership and control of church property by a self-perpetuating body of elders, concentration of all decision-making in church officers, and the persecution of dissenters by threats, the silent treatment or excommunication. Beginning about 1800 as the most radically democratic religious movement in America, the Church of Christ is approaching almost the opposite pole of a conservative pyramidal power structure. The free assembly has become the institutional church, an organization with officers, hierarchy, and tradition. Since it is seen as having an existence independent of its members, its officers may ban "controversial" Christians and cut members off "for the good of the church," it being bound by ecclesiastical rules not applying to individual Christians (an example: the elders may "withdraw fellowship" of the church from one with whom the members as individuals can continue their fellowship). Fundamental to the development of power has been the growth of the myth that the elder holds a position which entitles him to exercise authority not vested in any member. The enormous rise of institutional giving, aided by the income tax, has placed great money-power in the hands of the officers. Commonly the chief generator of power is the professional minister, who moves the elders, sets the church goals, speaks for the elders or in their names, identifies the enemy, and drafts the bills of excommunication.

Any study of power in the Church of Christ must necessarily focus on the presbyterian system, which has matured in the present century. Noting its incipient development in the nineteenth century, Restoration writers in the Gospel Advocate--David and William Lipscomb, Sewell, Fanning, Jackson, Franklin, Harding, Scobey--challenged the claim that authority and decision-making were the province of a few elders. No such evidence exists in the New Testament, they insisted. Twelve of the major letters to the churches do not even mention elders. Paul did not call upon elders to straighten out the problems of the Corinthian church. He did not urge Galatian elders to guard the flock from the threat of Judaisers. He made no reference to elders in his two missives to the Thessalonians or in his letters to the Asian churches (Ephesians, Colossians). Philemon, Jude, 1 John, 2 Peter, and 2 Timothy are likewise silent on the subject. Revelation directs its message to the seven churches without reference to these functionaries. Hebrews is likewise silent, though its mention of "leaders" could be presumed to include them along with teachers, apostles, prophets, and evangelists. However, Paul's two lists of church leaders does not include elders. This may be true for the very good reason that the word described no particular group, but embraced all leaders mature in age and spiritual experience. The only reference in 2 John and 3 John is to John himself as "the Elder." In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul does no more than to include elders along with "all true Christians." Where elders are mentioned--in 1 Timothy, Titus, James, 2 Peter, and Acts -- they appear as older disciples teaching, shepherding, and serving by word and example. They never appear as teaching by proxy, that is, through a professional "minister," nor as few in number, nor as masters of the treasury, nor as decision-makers, authorities, or rulers.

Among the Advocate writers, the church particularly disturbed E. G. Sewell, absorbing the power mentality from the political and economic culture. The growth of statism and corporation in the century was stimulating churchism (churchianity). The three might be capsuled as follows: the state (corporation, church) is an entity within itself and apart from its citizens (stockholders, members). Its interest takes precedence over those of the individual. For the good of the state (corporation, church) the individual may be sacrificed. Its structure is hierarchical, distinguished by superordination, and subordination as the only alternative to anarchy. [4] The low estate assigned to mere church members herded to their pews seems to accord with the Grand Inquisitor's scornful challenge to Christ, "Thou didst think too highly of men therein."

Sewell presented the counter-view that the ecclesia of Christ is ideally a society of older and younger members knit together in fellowship through union with Christ. Since all members are equal, the society is egalitarian, though all voluntarily subject themselves to all others in keeping with New Testament instruction. Since all authority is vested in Christ, no member exercises command over others. Each "does his own thing" religiously according to the gifts he has received. That which is beyond the capacity of the individual to do, the whole body may do by common agreement. While older members (presbyters) owe a special responsibility to the younger members in teaching and example, the church is without officers to rule or make decisions. It is a body of loving interaction and full participation.

From what these "fathers" of the Southern church had to say on the questions of church government over a fifty-year period in the Gospel Advocate there emerges a view radically different from the overblown presbyterian system of today. They were profoundly concerned over the threat of concentrated power to the free life of the church. Their warnings are relevant to the laws and traditions, which "boards of elders" are binding on today's congregations. [5] From their pens emerged the following affirmations:

1) The assembly is not an institution or an organization, but a society of believers.

2) The church is not hierarchical, that is, in descending order of minister, elders, deacons, male laity, male children, women, and female children.

3) The Christian's relationship to the church is organic, not organizational.

4) The church has no office and elects no officer.

5) Elders and deacons are not officers.

6) There is no such thing as "instant elders" created by official act. In the pursuit of the Christian vocation members become elders as a matter of growth and maturity.

7) Elders are not "over the church" and members are not "under the elders."

8) Overseers are "in" and "among" rather than over the assembly.

9) Overseeing does not involve control and carries no authority -- that is, the power to rule and to decide.

10) "Elders" are simply senior members, male and female, who have matured through years of service. Ideally, there should be as many elders as there are older members, with no case of arrested growth.

11) "Deacons" is simply a generic term describing members, male and female, who serve. In New Testament times deacons ranged from apostles to lower members.

12) Deacons in the church do not constitute a special class or have a special rank, or do any special work. They are merely servants devoted to the life of the Christian community.

13) Permission of elders is not required before anyone may engage in any Christian work or share in the activities of the church. Denying a member any active participation in prayers, songs, teaching, or exhortation is a gross usurpation of power contrary to the Bible.

14) No man or group of men has any authority in the church by virtue of office which does not belong to other members.

15) Nothing shall be done which affects the whole church without every member being heard before the decision is made. The quorum necessary for any action by the church is the entire membership. Quod omnes tangit, ab omnibus approbetur--"What touches all, is to be approved by all." This is not a matter of passive assent or silence, but the result of active participation.

Those on our university campuses are aware that the politicization, institutionalization, and traditionalizing of the church are alienating an ever increasing number of youth from the Churches of Christ. The church of the future can well bear instruction on these points by the Gospel Advocate veterans.

Though it is widely agreed that the word "church" is unbiblical, it is less commonly understood to be anti-Christian in its root origin. Aristotle's Politics may be translated to say in its opening sentence that the "state is the highest church" -- that is, the supreme power structure (kyrios--the Greek from which "church" is derived). As a substitute for Christ's ecclesia ("my assembly," or "my gathering," his "body"), it is a repudiation of his wilderness choice of non-power in the fulfillment of his mission. [6] He made it explicit to his disciples that among them there should be no appeal to power, but rather the rejection of it. [7] The history of Christianity is a river of troubles flowing from power-centered religion.

God made no special institution to house his saints. He never added anybody "to the church." Despite the correction of the faulty and prejudiced King James translation of Acts 2:47, there flourishes among us the notion that the church is a saving institution, organized and structured with empowered officers. [8]

Nineteenth century Restoration writers in the Gospel Advocate insisted that since Christ's body is an organism, not an organization, it cannot have offices. If it is a community (koinonia) living the common life, it has no need of power-endowed leaders. If it is "this Way," the concept of authoritative position is absurd. "All denominations used the word church meaning authoritative institution," wrote David Lipscomb. "The word 'organization' is not found in the Bible . . . if the words 'office' and 'officer' were wholly eschewed and ignored, the difficulties would vanish." [9]

Lee Jackson pointed out that the Greek ecclesia had no religious significance within itself (in Athens it referred to the whole body of citizens ) and could refer to "a howling mob." Only when associated with Christ did it connote a religious community, but never anything more. He concluded, "The 'church', therefore, is not an ecclesiastical institution in any sense, either local or general, but an assembly of saints, composed of those who are in a saved relationship to God . . . congregated around the name Jesus." [10]

Rejecting the idea that a local group of Christians could not be a church until "organized" and authoritative officers appointed to govern the group, Tolbert Fanning observed:

Each church is scripturally organized the moment it is planted. The house of Stephanos and others mentioned (because of their longer experience in the faith) . . . were heaven's overseers without the appointment of the members. I know of no duty required in the church that is not specifically required of (all) the members. [11]

Having determined that the nature of Christ's people was associational and organic, not organizational and hierarchical, the Restoration writers attracted at great length the whole concept of church officers with powers not belonging to other members. Does the church have offices to which one may resign, and which carries authority one could not exercise outside that office? The contemporary Churches of Christ answer "yes." In practice they have reproduced the New England Puritan autocratic rule -- "the silent majority facing the speaking aristocracy." In even the largest churches no more than a dozen men rule with the absolute authority of the Soviet Politbureau. [12] Though they may invite suggestions, nobody is allowed to miss the point that their decisions are final and beyond appeal. Though they may have an "alpha" elder, they invariably act collegially as "the eldership." They speak ex cathedra by virtue of power inherent in their office and extending to no other member, and they act en camera, their model being capitalism's corporate board. Why do good, sincere men behave so? They are following a pattern shaped in this century and heavily promoted by the professional minister, whose own welfare is generally identified with that of the elders. Accepting this official institution as divine, the elder feels that as God's surrogate and Christ's own vicar in the congregation, he and his fellow elders would be remiss in responsibility if they did not "rule," make all decisions, and spend the money "given to God." [13] To deny an elder's "authority" in a congregation is only a cut below the "unforgivable sin."

Restoration writers of the preceding century branded men playing this role of elders as "rebels," "usurpers," and "traitors." Sewell summed up their views succinctly.

"Christ, the head is in heaven, but all authority on earth is his; and since the church is on earth, all authority connected with it belongs to Christ, and not to the church. Christ has never divided authority with the church . . . Since the church has no authority of its own, it can impart no authority to a man to take the oversight of a church is utterly absurd . . . it is a usurpation, a species of treason that puts the actors in direct rebellion against the head . . ." [14]

James E. Scobey said bluntly, "No, there are no offices in the church of God which can be vacated and which may be filled at pleasure of poor, frail, erring man." [15] Fanning declared that if office was synonymous with vocation, then all members are officers:

"It appears from this scripture (Romans 12:4) that each member of the natural body, perhaps, is a natural office, and if there is any fitness in the illustration, each member of the body of Christ is, by virtue of his spiritual existence in the church, an officer. In other words, we are not prepared to affirm that some of the members of the church are officers and others are not." [16]

Sewell, emphasizing the egalitarian nature of the ecclesia, declared:

"Overseers are not officers, like governors or magistrates, to carry out laws by force of official authority: for there is no man in the church that has such authority. Is there official authority in any members of the church of God more than others? The idea that certain members . . . on account of authority . . . that others have not . . . shall not be this way among his (Christ's ) people . . . All have equal rights and authority." [17]

Attacking the claim that an elder by virtue of his position has the power to make the decisions for the church and authority which does not belong to the ordinary member, Lipscomb insisted:

"We have frequently affirmed that in the ordinary use of the term an "officer" is unknown in the Christian scriptures . . . An officer . . . is one who is appointed to do a work, which he could not do without the appointment and to do which, without official investiture, would be a crime. In Christ's church all are brethren and (none is an officer) . . . Whenever a man in the church of Christ claims authority or exercises power merely on official grounds, he is essentially a pope . . . He may be a smaller one . . . but the principle is the same." [18]

Leadership responsibilities naturally fall to the older members of the fellowship, Fanning explained, because of their maturity, experience, and Godly example, but that is all:

"There are, perhaps no congregations of the Lord without elder and younger Christians . . . (W)e wish to say at once that elder, translated from the Greek presbuteros . . . means older, senior, more experienced than others, and was never intended in divine nature to denote an official . . . (W)e failed to find official elders in either Old or New Testament . . . God, it is true, made it the duty of older persons among Jews and Christians to perform service unsuited for younger persons; but they were to do the work, not from official conferred authority, but because of their natural and acquired fitness for the service . . . So far we have found no elder officially made, by any performance of men . . . Carpenters are made by using the saw . . . Elders, or seniors, are made by years of labor, deacons and deaconesses by servitude . . . by lives of devotion to rules of right, and we had just as soon to make a scholar by prayer, fasting and imposition of hands, as a church leader." [19]

Since elders are not officers holding a position by election or appointment, they cannot resign, the Advocate writers agreed; an elder can quit the faith, but he cannot shuffle off his years of experience or rightfully give up the responsibility to do what his experience, loyalty to Christ, and health permit. Lipscomb summed it up by saying that an elder "had as well talk of resigning the service of God as resigning the work of an elder." [20] Even in his feeble old age he is still honored by the members as an elder.

Restoration writers did not have to face the current fetish of "under the oversight," but they foresaw and warned against it. Today the absolute power of the elders has been so advanced that everything must be "under the oversight" of them, be it a Bible chair in a college, a radio or TV program, campus crusades, a charity or benevolent activity, a missionary, a religious library, group religious meetings in homes, youth retreats, or what have you. One must get the permission of the elders to engage in a particular religious activity of his own, even to make an announcement "in church." The claim that elders have the power of review over what a member may write for publication has not gone unnoticed. Similarly, elders may enquire into the finances of a member to determine if he is giving enough "to the Lord." If a matter is "under the oversight," the presumption is that it is orthodox and proper, and such oversight is necessary to safeguard other flocks than their own who may want to share. [21]

Sewell denied that Paul's speech to the senior members of the Ephesian church implied that the Holy Spirit had given them the authority to govern or police or have any authority over other members. The King James version's "over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers" was, in fact, a mistranslation:

"(T)he word in this passage was an incorrect rendering of the preposition en. The proper meaning is in, or among . . . The word overseer therefore means a worker, a laborer in the house of God . . . (T)here is nothing to indicate official relationship, but workers simply." [22]

Stating that the expression "oversight" did not imply superordination-subordination, Sewell added:

"We simply state that the word over in this expression is from the Greek preposition en. This preposition occurs 2700 times in the New Testament and is nowhere translated over. Mostly the word eu is translated "in." It does seem our translators were determined to have the idea of office, whether or not . . . God has arranged that the seniors among his people . . . shall teach and care for the younger ones, but this does not make one part officers over another part . . . "And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church." Nothing more can possibly be made out of this occurrence of the word than simply the senior or older members." [23]

Must every religious activity be carried on under the supervision of officer-elders? Must a member wait until he is "authorized" before he can speak in the assembly or undertake any activity? Decrying the notion that elders are "a separate, distinct, set-apart order in the church, possessed of some sort of nebulous authority and official dignity," William Lipscomb wrote:

"I did not suppose . . . that we had reached the point of claiming that we individual men and women have no right to speak or perform an act unless authorized . . . This whole idea of waiting for some human sanction and committing the grand question, "What shall we do?" to the decisions of any sort of corporate existence . . . is most ruinous and destructive of vigor and energy in the Master's service." [24]

William Lipscomb found the emerging elder institute debilitating because it changed the members from participants to attendants, from workers to "drones." There is a vast difference in having leadership and work carried on by the whole body of older persons from having rule, power, and decision centered exclusively in the hands of a few "authorities." He wrote:

"Again, this constant reiteration of talk about the need of the "eldership" to feed and watch over the flock indicates a low conception of the character of members of the body of Christ. Christians are nowhere spoken of as "fledglings" with mouths agape ready to receive dainty morsels provided by human manipulation; neither are they regarded as timid lambs to be guarded and shielded from every contact with the evils of the world . . . by a sort of watchdog protection . . . (T)here is no demand for human intervention more than to encourage one another to a diligent study of the word itself . . . (I)t needs no intervention of elder or preacher to adapt it to man's acceptance or practice. The curse of the age is the prevalence of this enervating idea." [25]

In response to the protest that his displacing of elders as ruling authorities would open the door to anarchy created by heady, presumptuous church members, William Lipscomb replied that the elder system was "ten-fold" worse. He was ready to rest his case with each member assuming responsibility. The growth potential in the participatory church lies in the fact that "no hurt ever came to man, woman or child from a deeper sense of individual, personal responsibility in dealing with every question that concerns life and its issues. It is, indeed, the basic principle of all worth and power for good." [26]

Defining authority as the power to command, to compel obedience, to punish ("withdraw" from a member or silence him), to decide, David Lipscomb rejected it in strong, even shocking, language:

"The whole evil has grown out of false notions concerning official authority and the thirst for power among "so-called" officials. Whenever a man or set of men . . . assume they have rights and authority as officers over others . . . . they should be resisted even to the disruption of the body." [27]

Concerning the claim of Nashville elders involved in a church suit that they "possessed the official power of the church and . . . could control it by virtue of that authority," Lipscomb dryly observed, "(W)e would have said no church government by the Bible was so constituted or directed." [28] Describing the whole church "as a system of service and not a matter of . . . authority," Sewell insisted that no person "has authority to do what another has no authority to do." [29] Any four members of a congregation would have just as much right to hire a preacher or issue an edict of excommunication against a member as the "eldership" of four persons.

Then who are to make the decisions for a congregation if the power is denied to the "official board of elders?" Lipscomb replied that, since there cannot be a scriptural official board, the responsibility belongs to the entire congregation.

"It is the right of every member of a congregation to know and be heard in every work taken by that congregation . . . To act without unanimity is to sow the seeds of strife, jealousy and partisanship in the church of God." [30]

Such participation in decision-making, he continued, is not passive or silent consent, but responsible and sharing. Should a conflict of judgment arise between a member and so-called elder, "the church must decide." The whole church is to be appealed to when any difference between any two or more members cannot be satisfactorily resolved otherwise and the difference precludes continued church association." [31] When a new work is undertaken and somebody designated to do it, the responsibility is not that of a few elders, Lipscomb argued. Rather, "the whole body of disciples in free and full and confidential intercourse ought to select the person in moral qualities and character, taking into consideration the nature of the work." [32]

The Restoration "fathers" were too close to the giant sweep of democracy in America not to have a profound respect for the worth, dignity, and potential of each Christian. The contemporary concentration of power in the hands of the "eldership" marks a decided swing away from the older view. The ordinary member cannot be trusted to hear or participate in dialogue or to listen to anybody except approved speakers. The elders and their "minister" are fully competent to determine these lines of censorship. The century-old church is still spoon-fed, unorthodox programs and persons are branded from the pulpit "to safeguard" the members, and a program of busy-work is carried on to keep them employed. But spontaneity is frowned on, independent house meetings are viewed with dark suspicion, and group activities not first cleared and checked on by the "eldership" are banned.

Sewell, Scobey, Lipscomb, and others found the source of this retreat from the acceptance of the church as a fraternity of equals and the expanding exercise of power by a power elite to be rooted in part in the faulty translation of a few words like "rule," "obey," "elder," and "bishop," as well as from the prevailing religious culture of the "denominations." One failure of the translators was to take the Greek adjective presbuteros, meaning "older," and make it into the English nouns "presbyter" and "elder." Sewell wrote:

"The word elder . . . is from the Greek presbuteros . . . (I)t is an adjective of the comparative degree and literally means older. It cannot be properly called a noun . . . It would be strange if in so large a church as that of Jerusalem there should not be a plurality of older or senior members; members who, by their age and work were well suited to aid in the settlement of so grave a question (the Antioch crisis) . . . There is not one single word to indicate that any of these elders or seniors had been elected or ordained to anything . . . Moreover, there is no intimation that these elders attempted to use or claim any authority any way, in the whole matter any more than other members of the church . . . The whole church, all the brethren, are just as much included in the decision as they were." [33]

Agreeing with Sewell that "elder" is a relative term, James E. Scobey observed:

"The disciples of Jesus meeting at any place for worship would be called a "church." In this assembly there may not be found a man over 25 years old, and some as young as 15; yet among this number would probably be found some who could teach well and lead others in the paths of peace . . . I maintain that there are elders in this . . . assembly. You have elders in the assembly because some are older than others." [34]

The word "bishop" from the Greek episcopos (shepherd, pastor), found its way into the 1611 English version on King James' insistence. He meant it to connote something of the power, majesty and rule of the king himself. It appears five times in the Greek New Testament, once with respect to Christ, and four times applied to seniors in the churches on Crete and at Ephesus and Philippi. According to the Restoration writers it was a term connoting "tender, loving care" and was best exhibited in teaching ("feeding the flock"). It carried no connotation of power. [35] Their view that the chief function of the pastor, or elder, was to teach by word and example has since given way to the business view of the elder as initiator, manager, director and decision-maker.

A closer examination of the Greek text by Sewell and others dissolved the claim to authority by elders as based on Hebrews 13:7. "Remember them which have the rule over you," [36] and Hebrews 13:17, "Obey them that have the rule over you." The first verse was an admonition which came much nearer referring to the evangelists who converted the Hebrew Christians than to elders. Denying that the latter admonition settled the question of the power of the elders to command and the necessity for obedience by the members, Sewell insisted that "rule" involves nothing more than teaching by the older and more spiritually advanced members, and nothing in the Greek words warranted the expression "obey." [37] In keeping with later versions, Stroop points out that the Greek word Peithesthe, translated "obey" in the 1611 version, is a passive form and is best translated "be persuaded by your leaders." [38] In early Christianity, "leaders" could involve a galaxy of Christian workers including prophets, preachers, apostles, and shepherds -- born men and women.

In the light of the above, the development and intensification of power in the Churches of Christ and Christian Church appears to say that Christ's choice of nonpower in the wilderness was wrong and Satan's offer of power to carry out religion was the proper choice.

Fruits of power in the Restoration Movement are hierarchy, legalism, authoritarianism, and institutionalism. [39] The development of the office of "minister" [40] and the power interplay between that functionary and the "eldership" have highlighted the growth of power in the Churches of Christ and the decline of the members to pew-sitting spectators.

Though the minister's Power is basically derivative, he being hired exclusively by the elders, it is nevertheless real. It is enhanced by his priestly role, his monopoly of communication, his influence over the elders, his role as their proxy, and his need to build up their power to promote his own. [41] So potent a repository of power is the minister that the orthodoxy of a congregation is commonly judged exclusively by the orthodoxy of that official. Should that worthy edit a paper like the Journal of Truth, produced until recently in Murfreesboro, it is printed as the voice of the congregation and sits in judgment on other congregations. [42]

If the eldership institution has profited from ministerial buildup, its power was originally rooted in the biblically assigned duty to older men and women to "nourish the flock" by word and example. There are vast numbers of church members who have yet to hear a single elder standing before the assembly in a teaching role. This function is now carried on by proxy. [43] Instead, a small elite corps of officeholders called elders has emerged as governors. In keeping with our technological age, the contemporary church has developed "instant elders." On a given Sunday the existing elders announce, generally through the minister, the appointment of a new elder, to take office the following Sunday unless the members can make a case against him. The "unless" being only perfunctory, the following week the designate instantly metamorphoses from the chrysalis of ordinary member to an officer of authority, fully equipped to "rule" and make the decisions of the church.

The Restoration writers under the editorship of David Lipscomb flatly rejected the concepts of office, power, rule, and authority. According to Lipscomb, elders are nothing more than "the mare experienced men and women in the church (who) are the proper persons to instruct, admonish, and reprove." [44] How many elders are there in a given assembly? Their answer was: as many as there are older men and women of responsibility. How is an elder made? They replied: never by election, selection, or ordination, but by the process of growth and maturation. [45] But would not a large number of elders be unwieldy? Why not at least a rotation of them? They answered: you might as well speak of rotation of Christians as rotation of elders. Since elders do not govern, but rather teach and lead by example, there cannot be too many in a congregation.

Quoting 1 Timothy 5:1, Sewell reminded his readers that the status of elders is not exclusively masculine:

"Here the words elder and younger are used in contrast, and we have just as much right to say (that women are elders as men) . . . The phrase elder women is from the Greek presbuteras. If, therefore, presbuteros means official man, presbuteras means official women. The older women, according to this passage, are just as much officers as the older men are." [46]

Considering the times in which they wrote, Sewell and other essayists held a surprisingly advanced view of the full and responsible role of women in the nonhierarchical church. Like the older men, the older women were, in the language of Paul, to be viewed as "mothers" who teach, guide, counsel, and reprove, and share in the decision of the Christian community.

These writers made short shrift of the claim that elders have the authority to "rule." They knew the history of the 1611 version and the determination of King James to confer on both bishop and king the divine right to rule: "No bishop, no king." Hence his demand that the Greek word proistmi be rendered "rule," though it actually carried no connotation of authority, power, or governance. It merely meant that elders should be "foremost" in zeal, knowledge, quality of life, and concern for the welfare of the church -- a quality which rightfully should be embodied in all saints. In a very real sense, then, "ruling" was not the preserve of the few, but the duty of all. [47]

Having grown up under our present authoritarian system, most men on becoming "elders" unquestioningly accept it to be their duty to "rule" in the King James sense, with ultimate responsibility only to God, and make themselves absolute dictators, or, as Sewell described them, "usurpers," over the life of the congregation. One result, as Sewell pointed out, is to reduce the whole membership to the status of "privates" to do as they are told, or as "drones" carrying no responsibility. [48] The consequence, as William Lipscomb saw it, "is that with a large number the so-called 'worship' is an attendance on, rather than a participation in . . . (I)t has well-nigh driven out all that is vital, healthful, and nourishing in religious worship." [49]

A book of "rule and ruin" by elders could be compiled from cases in 1974 alone. Elders of one Nashville church announced through the newspapers their intention of withdrawing from approximately 75 members, with notices going to all area churches not to accept these rejected people. Three elders in a north Alabama church drove out approximately 150 members for being "rebellious" against their rule. Elders in a West Tennessee small town church black-listed a brother, who has prepared himself to teach by taking his doctorate under a distinguished theologian in a great European university, in spite of a petition from a bloc of the membership to organize a class with him as a teacher. The method in this case was a written creed for him to sign and a questionnaire to be answered. [50] Elders in a large Murfreesboro church, who had announced ex cathedra the appointment of additional elders, expressed surprise when a theology professor advised them that their act was wholly unbiblical, their reply was that his view was wholly novel to them. Elders in a north Texas city agreed to meet with a large group of unhappy brethren who wanted to remain in the fellowship, but felt spiritually deprived and wanted to present a number of proposals to make their fraternal life more meaningful. The "alpha" elder examined the sizeable list of proposals and answered, "Number one, no! Number two, no! Number three, no!" And so on to the end, then stated that the matter and meeting were closed, even though he knew that this dedicated and earnest group of lawyers, physicians, housewives, and business people had no alternative but to form a separate fellowship. [51]

Since all power is held to be vested in the college of elders, they rarely have to resort to the extreme of excommunication to get rid of a disapproved member. The "silence" treatment, denying him any participation, is generally enough. However, they do firmly claim the power to "withdraw" the fellowship of every member of the congregation from a brother. D. Lipscomb, writing about this arrogant and arbitrary claim to power, observed:

"The idea of one man or two or three saying to a member, we, by the authority in us vested, excommunicate you from the church . . . is as unauthorized as the assumptions of Pope Pius himself . . . (S)uch a notion as official authority vested in a few individuals to act for the congregation is not found in any example or precept in the word of truth." [52]

The steady accretion of power has made "the eldership" in effect the church. When a majority of elders meet, the church is meeting, and when they decide, the church is bound. Christ's teaching that the unrequited brother should take his case to the church was loftily restated by one elder, "That means take it to the elders." [53] Nothing could be more foreign to the thinking of the power-structured church than the notion that a business meeting could not go forward for want of a quorum; the elders are the quorum.

Deacons are a part of the power structure of the contemporary church, though as compared with the elders they are a case of arrested development. However, they do rank many cuts above the ordinary member and their names are carried on the church letterhead and in the weekly bulletin. They constitute a pool from which future elders may be drawn, and along with the minister they get to sit in on some of the deliberations of the hierarchy as hand-picked (by the elders) biddable junior officers.

The word "deacon" appears a maximum of four times in one translation, two times in several others, and not at all in the better versions. The term diakonis literally means "slave" or "servant." It is a generic term that describes a relationship and implies neither office nor duty. Christ, Paul, Apollos, Peter's mother, the apostles, Phoebe, Mary, the angels, and the Roman magistrates are all called "deacons" or "deaconesses" in the New Testament. It is ironic that we have taken this Greek word and made TWO offices out of it in the modern church -- the "minister" and the junior board of "deacons." In view of his dominant pastoral role, the minister could be more appropriately called the "magister" and the deacons "the junior chamber."

Attacking the translation of diakonis, Sewell lamented, "The only explanation is that the idea of official deacons as a class or order of men in the church, was in the minds of those who made the translation . . . What a pity that priest-craft should have been given to the world instead of the pure word of God." [54]

The Restoration writers scoffed at the idea that, while all members should be servants, only a few could fill the "office of deacon." Lipscomb insisted, "Deacon means simply a servant." [55] These would include teachers, ushers, painters of the building, and women who prepare the communion service. Sewell said, "in the early days of the church when some sort of work or service was to be done that the whole church could not do, men . . . trustworthy were chosen to do that work . . . and they were ministers or servants of the church until that work was done." [56]

Rejecting, along with Fanning, the expression "office of deacon," Durst wrote, "Our Savior was called a deacon (Romans 15:8). The apostles were called deacons. (1 Corinthians 3-5) . . . We must get out of our minds the idea of honor, or authority in the shape of office. The apostles were speaking of the work, not the authority to work." [57] If this thinking was sound, then the stenographer who prepares the church bulletin, the keepers of the library and the nursery, and those who maintain the church pantry are as much entitled to be recognized as deaconesses as any man on the junior board. Barnes addressed the problem directly:

"There is a public diakonia or serving the word, and the diakonia in the church is doing the service of the church . . . In this there were men and women (1 Timothy 3:8-9). The deacons like the bishops must be grave . . . The women (deacons) in like manner must be grave, not slanderous, sober, and faithful in all things. If this does not mean the women among the deacons, what is the apostle's doctrine on this subject? . . . Why are the women put here when the wives of deacons are spoken of in the next verse? Now turn to Romans 16:1 . . . does not this passage (referring to Phoebe as deaconess of the church at Cenchrea) help us understand why women are included among the deacons of 1 Timothy 3? When a passage can be understood only one way, I know that one is correct." [58]

Noting that the hang-up about church offices, limited officially to elders and deacons but denied to teachers, prophets and servants, was associated with the concept of "qualifications" for office, the Advocate writers rejected the idea of legal qualifications. One may qualify for sheriff and, if elected, exercise powers belonging to that office and denied to others, Sewell pointed out, but such language belongs to the political lexicon, not to that of the Holy Spirit. One does not "qualify" to be elder or deacon, it is a matter of growth and experience. The person with the ability, insight, and inclination should begin to be a teacher. The person with a deep concern over the problems of others and the ability to understand and help should counsel. One who cannot work effectively with his own household (this term does not necessarily imply children, it could apply to slaves and freedmen attached to his household) [59] obviously cannot work well in the larger household of Christ. [60]

Their conclusion was that any congregation in which anything is done had deacons and deaconesses, whether they are called that or not. When a job is completed, the deaconship ends. Deacons are not assistants to elders, they are not church leaders, they are servants of the church. Deacons are not given assignments because of their business acumen and their functions are not necessarily financial. If a deacon is also a leader, his leadership arises from some other capacity than his work. Age or marital status has nothing to do with deaconship. Young virgins were deaconesses in the early church. [61] The word "deacon" is not a title, but a term to describe a person at work for another; the Christian ideal would be every member of the congregation a deacon or deaconess. [62]

Christianity is not a religion, but a faith. The treatment of it as a religion has opened the door to man's drive for power rooted in his corrupted nature. [63] Every institution shaped by man, whether a Christian college, missionary society, "sponsoring church," or lectureship carries in its veins the poison of power. Power and countervailing power in the secular world may be treated as a necessary evil to prevent some greater evil or achieve some modest good. But power in religion is wholly evil. We have stressed the fact that Christ at the beginning of his ministry rejected Satan's offer of power. At the end, he refused to bow to power: No man taketh my life; I lay it down! His people were to be a commune, a koinonia of equals, each voluntarily subject to all others. And the greatest among them would be the servant of all!

The Restoration writers were deeply fearful of power in the church. As one examines their writings, the conclusion grows that probably none of them, including Lipscomb and Harding, could gain acceptance on the faculties of a contemporary Church of Christ college or find admission to "mainline" pulpits. The gap between them and the present are too great. At the very times their names have achieved canonization among the Church of Christ orthodox, their ideas have been flatly repudiated. Biblical scholarship has moved forward since their day, but none can doubt they were headed in the right direction, and modern hermeneutics has undergirded their feel for the word, as well as their passion for the pure speech of the Holy Spirit. It is too bad that the church of this century turned from the signposts they erected in preference for the pursuit of power and politicization of the fellowship.

Nevertheless, their vision of the church as a society of equals, devoid of hierarchy, offices, power, authority, bound together in love, fully participant, making decisions by common agreement, [64] and mutually in subjection -- that vision is too powerful to be lost, too desirable to be forgotten, and too biblical to be denied. Such a community is hard to come by. Authoritarian rule is the easiest thing on earth. But the impossible Christ points us toward the fulfillment of the vision along the strait and narrow way. The route is for those who would be "God's freemen."

404 Minerva Drive, Murfreesboro, Tennessee 37130


1 Augustine, City of God, passim.
2 Nixon's successor, a man of apparent candor and limited ambition, quickly found the taste of power exhilarating. Witness the swift and unanticipated pardon. Consider his astonishing demand for prime time on the nation's networks for a dull and insignificant speech which millions turned off before half completed.
3 Read the Grand Inquisitor's interpretation of the temptation in Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov, sometimes called the "greatest passage in Western literature."
4 The Common Law as it took its American shape has at times been more faithful to biblical principles than the Church of Christ. In some states elders are not accepted as the owners or controllers of the property of the church. Florida, for example, requires the entire congregation to elect two trustees of the property. A Lebanon Church of Christ received a gift of property by will. When the elders sold the property, the chancery court voided the sale and the Presbyterian chancellor gave the elders a lecture on the nature of congregationalism. He required all members to sign the deed, underage members to be represented by the trustees. When the East Main Church in Murfreesboro bought a commercial building as an investment the mortgage company refused to recognize the deed as valid for loan purposes until the whole congregation, both male and female voted to purchase the property as their own.
5 The current youth resurgence in the church has touched off absurd rules by elders feeling the "old ways" threatened. Some are: Youth meetings may not be held on or off church property without programs being cleared in advance and with an elder present; lights may not be dimmed for meditation or prayer; there must be no holding of hands; impromptu singing at church; the Lord's Supper must be eaten in silence; praying or singing with uplifted hands is "Pentecostal" and prohibited; girls may not participate vocally in prayer groups; where a woman must speak at a mixed class or at church, she must be seated.
6 J. Ridley Stroop, the Church of the Bible (1962) and Restoration Ideas on Church Organization (undated) canvass the Ideas of the Restoration writers on the subject of power and office. The latter work is a splendid anthology to which this paper is indebted.
7 "It shall not be so among you" (Matthew 20:25).
8 Charles A. Holt, "The Church of the Bible," Sentinel of Truth, September, 1966. In the seven years of its existence this formidable periodical reasoned cogently the case against the church as a hierarchy of power and elders as authorities.
9 Gospel Advocate, 1887, p. 567, hereinafter cited as G. A. Lipscomb was willing to accept the word "church" if understood to mean only the body of Christ or God's people either assembled or dispersed. But one did not go "to church." G. A., 1867, p. 896, quoted by Stroop, Restoration Ideas on Church Organization, p. 16.
10 G. A., 1891, p. 691.
11 G. A., 1866, p. 714.
12 A certain congregation serving a university community may be regarded as typical. There is one elder to every 100 members. They control the property, decide on expansion of the building, approve interior painting, hold the church treasury and spend all of the money, hire the preacher and set his secret salary, select the deacons, name their own members as a self-perpetuating body, appoint all committees (on each of which an elder serves ex officio, including the flower committee), choose teachers and merge or abolish classes without consulting either teacher or student, determine who may and who may not lead prayer, serve at the table, or usher or otherwise actively participate in 'worship' exercises, approve study material for the classes, and set the church budget.
13 The treatment of the treasury as "sacred" has enormously increased the power of elders, for it has become their exclusive trust. Money in our culture constitutes enormous power. Since God has no need of money, the fund belongs to the members, who laid by in store collectively and should be spent by them.
14 G. A., 1898, p. 717.
15 G. A., 1901, p. 242.
16 G. A., 1898, p. 717.
17 G. A., 1898, pp. 280, 717.
18 G. A., 1867, p. 567.
19 G. A., 1867, p. 651.
20 G. A., 1903, p. 176. The resignation of an elder in a Tennessee church recently discloses the great gap between contemporary thought and that of Restoration leadership. Resigning after 30 years of service, he expressed his "appreciation for those with whom I have worked within the eldership". He wrote to the church that he expected "to continue working with you as a member." This man clearly thought of himself vacating office and stepping down to mere membership. From what did he actually resign? Like Nixon resigning from the presidency, he gave up certain powers and prerogatives belonging exclusively 'within the eldership'.
21 Often the "oversight" is that of the hired "minister" acting for the elders. This writer recently asked that his gift be forwarded to missionaries building up a religious library in China. His letter specified that among the books purchased he wanted included Ketcherside's Simple Trusting Faith and The Royal Priesthood, both of which he thought would be helpful to people who had not grown up in the Western religious tradition. Without consulting the missionaries or even the "sponsoring elders," the "minister" returned the check with a lecture. He later admitted that neither he nor the elders had ever read anything Ketcherside had written, but he knew the author's "reputation."
22 G. A., 1872, p. 829.
23 G. A., 1872, p. 829.
24 G. A., 1904, p. 578.
25 G. A., 1903, p. 827.
26 G. A., 1903, p. 227.
27 G. A., 1877, p. 232.
28 G. A., 1877, p. 41.
29 G. A., 1878, p. 280.
30 G. A., 1890, p. 119.
31 G. A., 1874, p. 637.
32 G. A., 1877, p. 41.
33 G. A., 1872, p. 829.
34 G. A., 1901, p. 82.
35 G. A., 1872, p. 873.
36 Sewell declared that authority to rule "is wholly human". G. A., 1897, p. 356. D. Lipscomb insisted that "controlling the church by virtue of authority . . . is unknown in the scriptures." G. A., 1871, p. 794.
37 Sewell said that if one man of authority can be set up in the church, then so can popes and cardinals. G. A., 1897, p. 356.
38 Stroop. The Church of the Bible. 123.
39 The "restructure" movement among the Disciples of Christ is an open acceptance of power and its regularization. Though one of its rationalizations was that autonomous, bureaucratic power structures should be brought into accountability, its logical end is the repudiation of Restorationism and the alienation of many hundreds of churches. Power flourishes among the Independent Christian and "instrumental" Churches of Christ, though more widely distributed and with more responsible roles for women. However, it is admitted that the North American Christian Convention is less a fellowship than an autonomous power structure catering to special interests. The "anti-instrumental" Churches of Christ, though theoretically committed to a fierce, local-church autonomy, are in many ways the most institutional of all. The phenomenon of power in the "mainline" Churches of Christ is under oblique attack through the emergence of "free" churches, the spreading rediscovery of grace, and the growing rejection of legalism by the younger generation.
40 The Latin word from the Vulgate "insignificant" or "powerless" in contrast to magistrar, connoting "masterful" or "powerful." The biblical Greek equivalent is doulos, meaning "slave", or huperetes, meaning "vilest slave," or diakonis, meaning "servant." Its biblical meaning and the contemporary concept of professional pulpiteer are poles apart. Ministers are in fact pastors and are more honestly called so in other wings of the Restoration.
41 Illustrative is the case of the "minister" of the old Lipscomb College church, who found it wise every Sunday to proclaim "the o-thority" (sic) of the elders until the elders decided to fire him, whereupon he swiftly shifted to "the o-thority of the congregation." The interplay of power is not commonly smooth, and ministers frequently lament their elder "burden."
42 The theory of congregational autonomy is no barrier to the overreach of pulpit power. When the Thirty-Ninth Street Church in Gainsville, Florida got a new preacher, that church "withdrew fellowship" last year from the dynamic Crossroads congregation for practicing the seven current cardinal sins identified by that authority, one of them, of course, having to do with women and other gifts of the Spirit.
43 The "founding fathers" drew a sharp distinction between preaching, which was directed to the unconverted, and teaching which was directed to the saved. They had no objection to a church employing a preacher provided he spent his time evangelizing the world. Dr. Carrol Kendrick wrote: "The ancient disciples met 'to break bread,' etc. What we now call preaching was no part of their purpose or practice in the observance of the Lord's day. They never met to be preached to, and they never were preached to in our modern sense--not even once. In Acts 20:7-9 where the common version says: 'Paul preached to them,' the revision rightly says: 'Paul discoursed with them.' Luke does not use the word for preach. His speech was social discourse, conversational. There is absolutely neither precept nor precedent for preaching to the church. Preaching the gospel is for the world. Teaching is for the church, and is to be done by a plurality of bishops in each congregation." G. A. p, 373.
44 G. A., 1859, p. 118.
45 Scobey wrote: "Paul, how are bishops made? 'The Holy Spirit makes them.' Is there a different way now? We answer: No . . . We grow up in Christ in all things, and to be a bishop is a thing we may grow to be." G. A., 1901, p. 842. James A. Harding observed: "I reply: elders cannot be made by election." G. A., 1883, 419. Brunner wrote: "Elders . . . . are begotten and born in to the family of God by becoming Christians . . . and by this birthright . . . they have a divine right to serve their heavenly father in any sphere or capacity they can, and by growing in grace and knowledge of truth . . . hence any system of things that would make the servant of God or God's freeman look up and confer with any human tribunal . . . is popery and should be relegated to the dark ages." G. A., 1889, p. 242.
46 G. A., 1872, 829.
47 Building on this, Lipscomb said that elders "are to make no rules of their own . . . They have no authority . . . save set an example of fidelity to God to be followed . . . They are to rule by teaching and by their own example of obedience and fidelity to God." G. A., 1903, 344. E. A. Elam defined ruling as "letting their lights shine." G. A., 1903, 273. Sewell declared that the church is composed of two groups, the younger and the older. The Bible calls upon the younger to follow the leadership and example of the more experienced members, but there is no case in the Bible where both the younger and the older are required to subject themselves to the "rule" of an official body of men called "elders." G. A., 1872, 871.
48 G. A., 1872, 871.
49 G. A., 1903, 273.
50 This is a favorite device of authoritarians to justify their claim of protecting "the flock" from heretics. When the sister of a nationally known TV and screen performer became suspect in her West Tennessee congregation because her brother was held to have "departed from the faith," she received a questionnaire from the elders. She replied to them archly, "Do I pass if I make 80?"
51 Restoration Review provides other shocking cases of rule or ruin by elders in Dallas, New Orleans, Dyersburg, Tennessee, and Caruthersville, Missouri. The Caruthersville church was one in which this writer's family and relatives were deeply involved in its founding early in the century. There the majority of elders recently used the device of "dissolving" the whole congregation to get rid of one-third of the members. In the next breath they instituted a new congregation of those signing a creedal statement, leaving the senior elder and seventy members sitting aghast at the raw power play. The fine church building which the outcasts had largely financed was not "dissolved," title being retained by the majority of the elders. Not dissimilar was the action of the majority of elders in the Wynnewood Church in Dallas forcing out a large number of that congregation. For sheer sordidness. few cases can surpass the behavior of the preacher and elders in a Mississippi church described by Leroy Garrett. See Restoration Review, November, 1973, April, 1974, and December 1974, pas passim.
52 G. A., 1903, 344.
53 Men brought up on the theory that elders are the lords of the church feel that they must wield authority or fail in their duty. How dictatorial and arbitrary this can be appears in the following case: A member published almost simultaneously an article in Mission on separation of church and state and in Integrity on women in the church. These articles aroused the anger of the minister, who was also an elder. He drafted a "bull," signed by the four elders, which said, "He (the writer) will discontinue all financial support to the mailing of Mission, Integrity, or any other publication, to any student (of the university) or members of the . . . congregation either directly or through any other means . . . He will cease . . . to publish articles or letters in local or national publications for local or national distribution which lend an air of 'doctrine' to what are clearly his opinions . . . He will be fully entitled to his opinions, but he will cease teaching them or dialogueing (sic) them which amounts to teaching them except in the select company of these individuals with whom he has been associated for a long period." Both St. Peter 's and the Kremlin could pick up a few pointers in arbitrary power from these worthies.
54 G. A., 1892, 377,
55 G. A., 1883, 499.
56 G. A., 1892, 377.
57 G. A., 1883, 612.
58 G. A., 1893, 43.
59 Scott Bartchy, First-Century Slavery and 1 Corinthians 7-21, 1973, 73.
60 G. A., 1885, 241. The absurdity of legalistic "qualifications" was demonstrated in the selection of deacons for a Murfreesboro church. One man under consideration was a song leader, a leader in corporate worship, a superior student of the Bible, an excellent teacher, a private evangelist, and a person with a warm, outgoing personality. An elder persuaded him to withdraw his name because he could not "qualify" since he had no children. Another member far less active "qualified" since he had a three-week-old baby. In short, to be a deacon there had to be proof of fertility.
61 Lipscomb's acceptance of the idea of young women "waiting on the congregation" would make him a "woman's lib radical" in most church circles today. Yet he observed a century ago, " . . . to hand around the bread and wine, a nimble, handy boy or girl would suit much better for this than stiff-jointed elders." G. A., 1867, 567. Commenting on this, a contemporary preacher said that to accept the communion service from the hands of a woman "would violate my conscience."
62 G. A., 1883, 499.
63 The inclusion of women in full equality in the life of the church, though they are a majority, would not within itself be an effective estoppel to power. As Augustine pointed out in The City of God, pride, the source of power, operated in Eve as well as Adam. The role of women in contemporary black Churches of Christ, in which women as a rule are superior to their male counterparts, throws light on this matter. However, whether for cultural or biological reasons women are less moved by power considerations and more by the welfare of the community, and their incorporation in the decision-making process would enormously benefit the church.
64 While accepting the importance of leadership, Lipscomb placed the focus of decision-making in the full assembly, even to the point of unanimity, in matters of joint enterprise and concern, but retained for each autonomous individual every issue of faith. G. A., 1874, 637. See also G. A., 1877, 232; 1904, 578; 1877, 41; 1873, 163.

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