The church of Jesus Christ is that company of people, elect of God(Ephesians 1:4;1 Peter 1:2) called, justified and in the future to be glorified (Romans 8:30) through the work of Christ’s self-sacrifice upon the cross (Romans 3:23-26; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 3:18) . As such, the church is, among other things, the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-27; Revelation 21:2), the pillar and ground of truth (1 Timothy 3:15), a royal priesthood and a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9). Since purchased by Christ’s own blood (Acts 20:28) and mindful of this privilege (1 Corinthians 6:20) and the need for good order (1 Corinthians 14:40), we, a local company of Christians known as Crich Baptist Church do ordain and establish the following rules that determine our Church Constitution. We submit ourselves voluntarily to the articles contained in this Constitution and seek, with God’s help, to glorify Him (Hebrews 13:15), to grow in the knowledge and grace of God (2 Peter 3:18), and to be salt and light in a fallen world (Matthew 5:13-16).
A) Articles of Faith.
1) The role of the Bible
Crich Baptist Church accepts the full authority and plenary and verbal inspiration of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). We hold it to be infallible and without error as originally given by God (Psalm 19:7-11). All the beliefs and practices of the church are to have their basis in Scripture which is held to be the sole and sufficient rule in matters of faith and doctrine (Isaiah 8:20). It is not believed that further help is needed or to be sought in ‘special revelations’, ‘tongues’, ‘prophecies’ or from modern-day ‘apostles’ and ‘prophets’.
Furthermore, only such Bible versions that are based on the Textus Receptus, and that display faithfulness to the original Hebrew and Greek texts are to be commended, or used in public worship. In this respect many modern versions are to be judged as deficient because of poor translation and departure from the meaning of Scripture.
2) Confessions of Faith
While recognising that godly and faithful Christians have differed in their interpretation of Gods holy word through the ages, we nevertheless assent to that body of doctrine known as the ‘Reformed Faith’, a theology and related church practice as taught by the Reformers. Although not claiming infallibility for their teachings, we do hold such formulations of Christian doctrine to be accurate and faithful to the letter and spirit of Scripture, to be pleasing to Almighty God and to best safeguard the present and future spiritual prosperity and peace of the church and of our nation.
We therefore acknowledge the place in the life of our church of the 1689 Second London Baptist Confession of Faith which formulates good and edifying Reformed and Baptist doctrine. Though not inspired it is held to be the product of prayerful and godly men from a previous generation and therefore of abiding help to God’s people in this present age. It embodies the doctrinal standard of the church and is the required rule for all appointed to eldership and the regular preaching ministry of Crich Baptist Church. While not denying the place of individual liberty or personal conscience in the interpretation of Scripture, nor demanding explicit acceptance of every single word it contains, we do nevertheless assent to the centrality of this Confession as a rule for our church, its conduct and its ministry, as well as being an arbiter in doctrinal disputes and controversies.
A summary of these doctrines are contained in the Basis of Faith in Appendix One. Copies of the 1689 Second London Baptist Confession of Faith are available at the church.
3) Vital error.
In the light of contemporary trends at the time of forming this Church Constitution, we do also express grave concern at the practices, teachings and expectations of the so-called ‘Charismatic Movement’ and at the wider doctrinal compromise embodied in the so-called ‘Ecumenical Movement’. While separating ourselves from these errors (Matthew 24:4-5; Galatians 1:6-7), we do strongly affirm the necessity of the work of the blessed Holy Spirit in the regeneration, sanctification and empowerment for service of the believer (John 3:3-8; John 16:7-11; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18). Similarly we gladly embrace in fellowship like-minded churches and believers in promoting together the cause of Christ.
It is accepted among us that there should be a Membership Roll comprising those who have covenanted together and do assent to the Basis of Faith and Constitution of the Church. In the New Testament, there was a precise knowledge as to who did belong to any local gathering of believers (1 Corinthians 5:4-5) and we subscribe to this practice and are willing that our names be known to one another.
It is accepted that some brethren for reasons of conscience, the temporary nature of their residence or peculiar work commitments may feel unable to accept the precise duties and responsibilities of church membership, as set out here, but who in principle do heartily subscribe to them and desire to participate in the life of the church. Such believers are welcome among us and may be invited to partake of communion, will be much in the thoughts and prayers of the church, and will be shown Christian care and concern.
2) Qualifications for membership.
It is acknowledge that all Christians suffer regrettably from defects, spiritual infirmities and imperfections (Romans 7:19). We acknowledge that we all fail to live up to the light we have received and the commandments of the gospel. Nevertheless we accept that membership of the local church is to be regarded as a high calling and privilege, the entrance to which and the continuation in which place distinct obligations upon the believer.
Membership of the church shall be open to all Christians who can furnish credible evidence of conversion (Acts 20:21), who have been baptized by full immersion as believers (Matthew 28:19), who are walking in obedience to the commandments of the gospel and who have regularly attended the church for at least three months.
While making due allowance for individual liberty of conscience, anyone seeking church membership should be able to assent to the merits of the church being regulated by the principles of the Basis of Faith and the 1689 Confession and be prepared to submit privately held views to this standard.
Accepting that all have fallen short of the glory of God, there may still be issues relating to matters of previous conduct, past decisions or wrong treatment by another church that may require further investigation. This is to prevent misunderstanding, rumour, reproach or slander circulating which may permit Satan to gain an advantage. Any such inquiries will be dealt with discretely, with the knowledge of those involved and always subject, where possible, to the strictest confidentiality.
Discretion may also be shown toward believers whose mode of baptism differs from the prescribed ideal. Such variations may arise by reason of impracticality, insufficient teaching or unavailability of the necessary means.
3) Application for membership.
Those desiring baptism and membership of the church shall make their wish known to the Pastor or Elders of the Church. Upon receiving an application the Pastor and Elders shall arrange for two of their number or delegated authorities to interview the applicant. If the interview proceeds satisfactorily with respect to the qualifications listed above, the Pastor and Elders shall notify Church members of the application for baptism and membership of the church in advance of the Church Meeting. Any member having grounds for believing the applicant unsuitable for membership should make these known privately to the Pastor and Elders within 14 days. The Pastor and Elders will then bring a recommendation to the Church Meeting together with a testimony provided by the prospective church member. They will be received into membership on the basis of a 2/3 majority of those present. The applicant will then be baptized, given the right hand of fellowship at an appropriate time and admitted to the rights, privileges and duties of church membership.
In cases of Christians already baptized applying for church membership, it will be normal practice to obtain a letter of commendation from the church where the applicant was previously in membership. It is accepted that this will not always prove to be possible or practicable especially in situations where the move has been precipitated by false accusation, unbiblical practice or unbiblical excommunication. Nevertheless any seeking membership must accept in principle the duty of Church Officers to seek commendations from those churches where the applicant was previously in membership.
On receiving such a letter of commendation the Pastor and Elders shall arrange for two of their number or delegated authorities to interview the applicant. If the interview proceeds satisfactorily with respect to the qualifications listed above, the Pastor and Elders shall notify Church Members of the application for membership of the Church in advance of the Church Meeting. Any member having grounds for believing the applicant unsuitable for membership should make these known privately to the Pastor and Elders within 14 days. The Pastor and Elders will then bring a recommendation to the Church Meeting together with a testimony provided by the prospective church member. They will be received into membership on the basis of a vote by 2/3 majority of those present. The applicant will then be given the right-hand of fellowship at an appropriate time and admitted to the rights, privileges and duties of church membership.
Where further inquiry into an application is necessary this will be conducted by the Pastor and Elders in conditions of the strictest confidentiality. Where the concerns prove to have substance, the application will be suspended until such time as those concerns have been properly addressed and resolved. Any such decision will be relayed to the Church Meeting although without compulsion to disclose all details in order to maintain confidentiality.
4) Responsibilities of church membership.
Members of Crich Baptist Church covenant together before God to contribute toward the development of true spiritual fellowship by the pursuit of practical holiness, love of all the brethren, faithful attendance at all regular meetings for worship, ministry and prayer (Acts 2:41-47), and regular, practical support of the work of the gospel. This also includes regular attendance at the Lord’s table, this being an ordinance instituted by our Lord Himself. Any member consistently neglecting their responsibilities or guilty of action by which the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be dishonoured shall be subject to the admonition and discipline of the Pastor, Elders and, if necessary, the Church. It is to be expected that members attend regular worship services on the Lord’s Day and at least one Midweek Meeting as well as Church Meetings. Ability to attend Church Meetings unmatched by ability to attend other Midweek Meetings may result in having the voting rights of such members suspended where no adequate reason for absence at Prayer Meetings and Bible Studies can be offered.
Understanding and compassion is to be shown to friends who by virtue of illness, infirmity, essential duties or unavoidable transportation problems are unable to attend meetings as often as they would wish or as the Constitution ideally requires. These reasons may be examined by the Pastor and Elders but understanding and sympathy will be shown for those experiencing such hardships and difficulties.
5) Termination of membership.
It is accepted that inevitably there will be reasons for members to terminate their membership upon:
– moving away from the area;
– inability or unwillingness to accept the doctrinal standards of the Church.
In such situations it is desirable that members signal their intention to the Pastor and Elders so that, if necessary, further discussion, encouragement and exhortation may take place. The reasons given will be relayed to the Church Meeting as far as this is possible and subject to confidentiality.
Where a member is moving away, they will be encouraged to seek a like-minded church. Where this proves to be difficult the member may remain in membership with the church subject to regular contact being maintained. Situations of ‘absent’ members will be subject to six monthly review.
6) Discipline of Church Members.
It is acknowledged that occasions may arise which warrant the application of biblical discipline. This would apply when a member embraces teaching that is rank heresy (2 John 9-10), commits wilful sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) or causes deliberate division in the church (Romans 6:17), subverts the church standard of faith or behaves in an unchristian manner towards other Church Members. Upon such matters coming to the attention of the Pastor and Elders, the biblical procedure shall be adhered to where private admonition by one elder, having been succeeded by subsequent warning from two elders and their delegated authorities, the matter shall in due course be brought to the Church Meeting (Matthew 18:15-20).
If, after reasonable efforts to effect communication and after reasonable time for the offending Church Member to repent, no change of view or behaviour has become evident, the church may then:
– suspend the membership of the offending member whereby such privileges as receiving the Lord’s Supper shall be withheld;
– finally remove the person from the Church Roll.
Such actions will be taken by a vote of those present at the Church Meeting, based on a 2/3 majority.
In upholding the honour and dignity of God’s name, the full restoration of the errant Church Member will be prayed for and sought (2 Corinthians 2:6-8). Upon credible repentance with any necessary restitution made and forgiveness sought, the person will be received back into church membership. In all these matters, Church Members undertake not to divulge matters of this nature to those outside the church and seek not to gossip.
If a Church Member is absent from the regular worship services, communion services and other meetings of the church, efforts will be made by the Pastor and Elders to ascertain the whereabouts and reason for absence of the Church Member. If, after reasonable efforts to contact them, the whereabouts of the person are still unknown or the reason for the absence is not satisfactorily explained, the Pastor and Elders may bring the name of the person to the Church Meeting with the recommendation that the name be removed from the Church Roll after the elapse of six months. Such actions will be taken by a vote of those present at the Church Meeting based on a two thirds majority.
Baptism is to be, where practicable, by full immersion. This ordinance is a requirement of church membership.
D) The Lord’s Supper.
The Lord’s Supper will be observed at least twice per month on the Lord’s Day. It is to be expected that all Church Members will attend unless having a good reason to be absent. This ordinance is to be administered in an attitude of reverence and reflection.
Those admitted to the table include Church Members (except those under church discipline) and other believers in good standing with an evangelical church who have been baptized by full immersion.
It is accepted that some believers may be present who have not been baptized in the prescribed manner. Such people may be admitted to the Lord’s Table at the discretion of the Pastor and Elders. The Pastor and Elders reserve the right to inquire of visitors not known to them before administering the Lord’s Supper.
E) Church Officers.
Christ, as Head of the church, has ordained Pastors, Elders and Deacons (Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Timothy 3:1-13) for the good of the church. All who hold this office must be members of the church. It is also part of the biblical rule that the holders of these offices be male (1 Timothy 2:12-14).
1) Qualifications for Office.
Pastors and Elders must meet the requirements as set down in 1 Timothy 3:1-7.
Deacons must meet the requirements set down in 1 Timothy 3:8-13
2) Responsibilities of Pastors and Elders.
The Elders shall be responsible for preaching and public teaching in the church (1 Timothy 5:17), and will also be responsible for ensuring a preacher is available in their absence. Their task will include the general oversight and leading forward of the church as well as the safeguarding of the church from error. The Elders will also undertake to visit Church Members and other friends of the church as necessary.
3) Responsibilities of the Deacons.
The Deacons shall be responsible for the material needs of the church. This shall relate to the fabric of the building, its maintenance and upkeep and also including other properties belonging to the church as well as oversight of any material help given to a Church Member or Christian body (Acts 6:3).
Since there will be a degree of overlap between the work of Elders and Deacons it is to be expected that they will liaise frequently in the carrying out of their duties. Authority will be invested in the Pastor, Elders and Deacons to spend up to a discretionary amount without needing the approval of the Church Meeting. This discretionary amount will be agreed at the Church Meeting and be subject to review.
4) Appointment of Pastors.
It is believed that the work of the church is best carried forward through having a man occupying the office of Pastor. Ideally this office is to be filled by a man doing this work full-time. Such a man may emerge from the existing church membership or be a man invited to the position from another fellowship.
Subject to the necessary qualifications being met and subject to the recognition of the call by the person concerned, the name of a prospective Pastor will be brought by the eldership to a Special Church Meeting called specifically for this purpose. The name of the prospective Pastor will be notified in advance of the Special Church Meeting and any having confidentially-held objections to such an appointment should approach the Elders and Deacons in advance to make these known. The outcome of any inquiry will be communicated to the relevant parties.
The prospective Pastor’s name will be brought to the Special Church Meeting and, subject to 2/3 of a vote cast by a secret ballot having been obtained, shall then be set apart for that work.
The appointment will be subject to fulfilling conditions as required by the Trustees of the church.
A separate Agreement will be drawn up with the Pastor to cover matters relating to conditions of work.
5) Appointment of Elders.
Subject to the necessary qualifications being met and subject to the recognition of the call by the person concerned, the name of a prospective Elder may be brought by the eldership to a Special Church Meeting called specifically for this purpose. The name of the prospective elder will be notified in advance of the Special Church Meeting and any having confidentially-held objections to such an appointment should approach the Pastor, Elders and Deacons in advance to make these known. The outcome of any inquiry will be communicated to the relevant parties.
The prospective Elders name will be brought to the Special Church Meeting and, subject to a 2/3 of a vote cast by secret ballot having been obtained, shall then be set apart for that work
6) Appointment of Deacons
Subject to the necessary qualifications being met and subject to the recognition of the call by the person concerned, the name of a prospective Deacon may be brought by the eldership to a Church Meeting. The name of the prospective Deacon will be notified in advance of the Church Meeting and any having confidentially-held objections to such an appointment should approach the Pastor, Elders and Deacons in advance to make these known. The outcome of any inquiry will be communicated to the relevant parties.
The prospective Deacon’s name will be brought to the Church Meeting, and, subject to a 2/3 of a vote cast by secret ballot having been obtained, shall be set apart for that work.
7) Duration of appointment.
Such appointments are regarded as life-long offices.
8) Termination of office.
Apart from an officer’s transfer to another Church, the only grounds for termination of office, whether of an Elder or Deacon, are heresy, immorality or inability to meet the requirements of holding office owing, for example, to age or failing health.
If at any time complaints presented in a scriptural manner concerning the behaviour or teaching of a Church Officer are found to have a basis in fact, that man must be disciplined by the other Elders and Deacons. In the event of continuing difficulty or failure to accept discipline, the matter will be brought to the Church Meeting and further action may be taken.
In the event of the Church Meeting needing to dismiss a Pastor or an Elder a Special Church Meeting will be called. For a resolution to dismiss to be carried will require a 2/3 majority,
9. Other appointments in the church.
It is desirable in order to ensure the smooth running of the church that responsibilities be formulated and delegated to particular individuals. Such instances of regular service would include Church Secretary, Treasurer, Sunday School teachers and Young People’s Club leaders. In the execution of these duties, the incumbents will be directly responsible to the Pastor, Elders and Deacons and ultimately responsible to the Church.
The names of people in regular service will be communicated to the Church through the Church Meeting. Any objection to a particular Church Member occupying one of the regular roles in the church should be relayed to the Pastor and Elders.
Changes to personnel will also be notified to the Church Meeting.
F) Church Meetings.
1) The purpose of Church Meetings.
The purpose of Church Meetings shall be:
1. The transaction of all church business including receiving believers into membership, the recognition of Elders and Deacons and all other matters which rightly belong to the gathered church. Matters of business discussed in a Church Meeting are strictly confidential.
2. For the Officers to share with the members their plans for the work of the Church.
3. To provide opportunities for fellowship in the gospel and to stimulate interest and prayer in the work of the local church and like-minded churches.
2) Frequency of Church Meetings.
The Church shall gather formally as a Church Meeting four times each year. The Church Meeting will be open only to those who are Church Members. One of the meetings each year shall by the Annual Church Meeting at which reports of all aspects of our work must be presented and the Financial Accounts examined and approved.
3) The conduct of Church Meetings.
For a Church Meeting or Special Church Meeting to be quorate not less than 2/3 of members who can practically attend shall be present. Members who are suffering long-term illnesses or are housebound, or for whom there is no means of transport to come to the Meeting will not be included in the number to make a quorum. Likewise members who have moved away and are worshipping regularly at another church but who for legitimate reasons retain membership of Crich Baptist Church will be deemed not eligible to vote at Church Meetings.
Voting on matters of church membership, church discipline and expenditure in excess of the discretionary amount vested in the Pastor, Elders and Deacons will be by 2/3 majority.
Voting on the appointment of Pastors, Elders and Deacons or their removal from office will be by 2/3 majority.
Failure to attend regular meetings of the church without furnishing a satisfactory reason will debar the person from exercising voting rights at the Church Meeting. Such a forfeiture will be consequent upon non-attendance on a majority of Lord’s Days including Communion and Midweek Meetings without good cause. The decision of the Church Meeting to suspend voting rights shall take precedence over other provisions granting voting rights to individual members.
Any matters of a significant nature a Church Member would like to raise are to be notified at least ten days in advance of the Church Meeting to the Pastor, Elders and Deacons.
Church Meetings will be announced at least two Lord’s Days prior to their taking place.
Church Members are not eligible to vote at Church Meetings until six calendar months have elapsed since joining the church.
Church Members must be at least 18 years old to be eligible to vote at Church Meetings.
4) Special Church Meetings
A Special Church Meeting will be convened for the purpose of deciding on improvement or enlargement of the church building or for projects involving demolition and re-building. Similarly a Special Church Meeting will be called to decide on matters regarding the sale or letting of any church property. Such a Special Church Meeting must be announced at least two Lord’s Days beforehand.
A Special Church Meeting can be called by the Pastor, Elders and Deacons or at least one tenth of the Church Members who inform the Pastor, Elders and Deacons in writing. The number constituting this one tenth must not be less than 12 people.
A Special Church Meeting will be convened to appoint a Pastor or an Elder to office. It will also be necessary to call a Special Church Meeting to dismiss a Pastor or Elder from office.
G) Constitutional Authority.
This Constitution, as with any other non-inspired document, is not infallible. It does, however, reflect an earnest and sincere attempt to apply the Scriptures in ordering the life of this local church. Only when we must obey God rather than the provisions of the Constitution may its requirements be disregarded (Acts 5:29). If at any time a member of this church becomes aware that adherence to this Constitution would violate Biblical principle, this should be made known to the Pastor and Elders. Any such matter should, after due consideration, be brought to the Church Meeting with a recommendation. Any such changes to the Constitution will require the approval of 75% of the membership of the church.
Similarly, experience may show some of the practical provisions of this Constitution to be deficient and therefore amendments to the Constitution may be adopted by three quarters of the membership at a Church Meeting. Any such proposed amendment will be distributed in written form to all Church Members at least four weeks prior to the proposed adoption.
BASIS OF FAITH
1: The full inspiration of the Holy Scriptures; their authority and sufficiency as not only containing but as being in themselves the Word of God. The reliability of the Scripture’s witness to itself as the only, the complete and the infallible Word of God, the New Testament witnessing to the reliability and divine character of the Old Testament; the necessity also for a reverent faith in the Word, and the teaching of the Holy Spirit, for a true understanding of the whole.
2: The unity of the Godhead and the divine co-equality of the Persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit eternally; the sovereignty of God in creation, providence and redemption.
3: The true and proper deity of our Lord Jesus Christ; His virgin birth; His real and perfect manhood; the authority of His teaching and the infallibility of all His utterances; His substitutionary death on the cross as being the full and sufficient and only atonement for sins; His bodily resurrection and His ascension into Heaven; His present priestly intercession for His people; His personal return in glory.
4: The justification of the sinner solely by faith, through the atoning merits of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
5: The total depravity of human nature in the consequence of the Fall of man from the original state of perfection in which he was created, by which Fall all mankind is in a state of condemnation and separation from a holy God, and can only be delivered by the divine work of regeneration and redemption.
6: The sovereign grace of God, by which we mean His free and unmerited favour; and that by His sole choice the elect have been predestinated to salvation.
7: The work of regeneration, conversion, sanctification and faith as being not an act of man’s free will and power, but of the mighty, efficacious, and irresistible grace of God through the Holy Spirit.
8: All those who are chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and sanctified by the Spirit, shall certainly and finally persevere, so that not one of them shall ever perish but shall have everlasting life.
9: The resurrection of the body; the judgement of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, with the eternal blessedness of the redeemed, and the eternal punishment of those who finally reject Christ as Saviour.
10: The observance of the divine institution of the baptism of believers by immersion, in loving obedience as an act of witness, but not as conveying any regenerating grace. The observance of the Lord’s Supper as a commemoration of our Lord’s death, but not as being a sacrifice for sin nor involving any change in the substance of the bread and wine.
11: The sole authority and prerogative of Christ, through the Holy Spirit, speaking in His Word, for the government of the church.
(This Basis of Faith first appeared in the Sword and Trowel Magazine and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the publishers).
COMMENTS ON THE 1689 BAPTIST CONFESSION
While accepting the immense value of the 1689 Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, it was felt right to add the following observations.
- Concerning Section 10 – ‘Effectual Calling’ and paragraph 3 regarding infants dying in infancy:
Christians differ on this issue and it is not possible to be dogmatic. We therefore decline to adjudicate on a matter on which God has not given clear light. We know that the Judge of all the earth will do right (Genesis 18:25)
- Concerning Section 26 – ‘The Church’ and paragraph 4 regarding the Antichrist:
Although many Christians through the years have held this view identifying the Pope with the Antichrist, we feel unable to be dogmatic on this issue. The view expressed in the Confession may well prove to be true, but the man of sin may yet emerge from another quarter, and so we wish to preserve the liberty to hold different views.