Robert’s Rules of Order-Boring or Helpful?

Many people view Robert’s Rules of Order as a boring exercise in being obtuse and rule-driven. I was asked by the stated clerk of Palmetto Presbytery to be a sort of Stated Clerk in Training. Part of that training was to be, according to his recommendation, studying Robert’s Rules of Order so as to become a good parliamentarian. I agreed to that suggestion, and just recently passed my test to become a member of the National Association of Parliamentarians. I found all the caricatures of Robert’s Rules of Order (and the people who seek to know these things) to be woefully wrong.

The first caricature I wish to eradicate is that Robert’s Rules of Order is all about using rules for one’s own advantage, and being able to use tricks to get one’s way in an assembly. Actually, Robert’s Rules has as its agenda the protection of the rights of every member of an assembly, both of the majority and of the minority. Everything I have been learning has been related to this question: how do we treat everyone fairly, and how do we treat everyone’s ideas fairly in a deliberative body?

The second caricature that is wrong is that Robert’s Rules of Order is boring. My hunch is that many people who say this believe that since they cannot understand it, it must be boring. With a little application, and some help understanding these matters (the training for becoming parliamentarian is extremely helpful!), one actually becomes much more confident in one’s participation in a deliberative body. A person can understand the nature of the motions, and how they rank, and what is in order, and what is not. I have found the study to be fascinating. The logic of the ranking of motions, in particular, is a beautiful thing. It is a very useful tool to help a person become productive and useful in a deliberative body.

The third incorrect caricature that I have found is that people who are interested in Robert’s Rules of Order are only interested in rules, not in substance. Now, there is some basis for this accusation, since there definitely are some people out there who study Robert’s Rules in order to be able to manipulate the system, as it were. However, as I have pointed out, that is not the purpose of Robert’s Rules. The purpose of Robert’s Rules is fairness. Furthermore, there is a level of informality allowed by Robert’s Rules in certain areas. There are shortcuts that are allowed. Robert’s Rules actually helps streamline the process: it does not hinder it. It is actually the ignorance of Robert’s Rules that creates enormous difficulties and time wasting, in my experience. I have seen meetings where, because no one knew Robert’s Rules, the result was an absolute mess, when a knowledge of Robert’s Rules would have streamlined the process amazingly quickly. I highly recommend the study of Robert’s Rules or Order to my readers who are involved in a deliberative body. It will save time and embarrassment (since you will no longer make a motion that is out of order). It will streamline the process. It greases the wheels rather than grinding them to a halt. On occasion in the future, I may point out some things that often happen in deliberative assemblies that are incorrect. I will point out why they are incorrect, and what the solution is.

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88 Comments

  1. darrelltoddmaurina said,

    May 8, 2013 at 9:39 am

    With all due respect, an officer of a church that uses Roberts Rules of Order and doesn’t take the time to learn to the rules deserves what he gets. A person who claims that “people who are interested in Robert’s Rules of Order are only interested in rules, not in substance” is likely crying sour grapes after having lost in a procedural matter to someone who knew the rules better.

    I’ve covered government now for decades. I’ve seen good mayors and bad mayors, and a key difference between the good and bad mayors is whether they ran meetings in accordance with established rules or did whatever they felt like in the chair with no respect to the rights of the minority to be heard or the majority to act. The same principle applies to moderators of ecclesiastical assemblies.

    There’s an old Dutch proverb which, roughly translated, says the best way to make a difficult situation into an unsolvable situation is to ignore the church order. There is much truth in that proverb.

  2. May 8, 2013 at 9:44 am

    I actually received a copy of Robert’s Rules for Christmas this past year, and it has been fascinating to read and study them. Looking to join NAP later this year sometime.

    Then again, I’m a bit of a freak in matters like these, since I think it would be pretty awesome to be a professional parliamentarian…

  3. Cris Dickason said,

    May 8, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Congratulations, Lane! How much study did it require to pass the exam?

    Robert’s Rules and the Book of Church Order are essential to well run Presbytery meetings. Those, plus a good moderator. How does one become a good moderator? Uh, knowing Robert’s Rules and the Church Order.

    I just had some questions yesterday so I’m off to get the latest RRO from Barnes & Noble. They do not carry it on the brick & mortar shelves, which I find silly.

    -=Cris=-

  4. May 8, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Echoing Cris @ 2: Congrats! That’s a test I wouldn’t mind taking some day. I, too, found RRO a fascinating read – it was a book I devoured while I was studying to become an elder. Totally agree with your conclusions. RRO is a remarkably humanizing book.

  5. Frank Aderholdt said,

    May 8, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    I am an accountant and administrator by profession, so I love all things done “decently and in order.” And I admire RRO for its sense of order and proportion. RRO must be one of the finest examples of God’s common grace. Whenever I’ve had occasion to dig more deeply into details, I’ve always found RRO to be balanced, full of common sense, and best of all, respectful to all persons as image-bearers of God. Dig into Robert’s sometime and ask, “How would a Christian do this differently?” I’ve always found the answer to be, “I can’t think of a better way.”

  6. Alan D. Strange said,

    May 8, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    General Robert put together his rules after he discovered the need for such in running a church meeting. He thought that it would be helpful to bring the sort of rules that governed a body like the House of Representatives to other deliberative bodies, like church meetings or civic organizations. In its Newly Revised form, it is now in the 11th ed.

    Given Robert’s Christian sensibilities, I would argue that more than common grace is involved. There is a commitment to equity and to esteeming others–particularly respecting the rights of minorities and majorities–that savors of Christian virtues.

    Much more of what I argue about this can be found in an article that might be found to be helpful: http://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=356&issue_id=84.

  7. Frank Aderholdt said,

    May 8, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    Excellent, Alan! Thai you.

  8. May 8, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    Congratulations on starting in the National Association of Parliamentarians. It’s a great organization with members who enjoy sharing knowledge. The American Institute of Parliamentarians can also be a good resource.

    As an attorney and parliamentarian (and rotated Elder and past Clerk of Session), I regularly see proper parliamentary procedure result in shorter, fairer, and more legal meetings. That said, organizations often don’t use the right level of procedure for their size and business. As Professor Strange notes in his fine OPC article, most parliamentary manuals, including “Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (11th Edition),” generally recommend that smaller boards and committees follow more informal procedures. Rules aren’t one-size-fits all.

    For those who enjoy meeting procedure issues, the article “Robert’s Rules of Order: 10 Myths About Parliamentary Procedure” http://www.idiotsguides.com/static/quickguides/reference/roberts-rules-of-order-ten-myths-about-parliamentary-procedure.html may be of interest.

    There are also many free charts and articles on Robert’s Rules and meeting procedure at my Website, http://www.jimslaughter.com. All of the information on the Website is free, so feel free to use or share.

  9. Roy said,

    May 9, 2013 at 8:03 am

    Once heard what I thought an amusing and revealing exchange during break in a PCA presbytery meeting. One pastor, bit miffed by not being able to proceed in a touchy-feely manner (my interpretation, tho he actually used the phrase “warm fuzzies”,) complained to another pastor about the burden of RRO. The second pastor asked the first if he also had reluctance about using grammar.

  10. Frank Aderholdt said,

    May 9, 2013 at 8:27 am

    I actually enjoy times when a body seems hopelessly lost in a labyrinth of motions, amendments, and substitutes (PCA Committee of Commissioners for Overtures, anyone?).There are moments when no one seems to know exactly where we are. Then, a sharp parliamentary expert will ride up on his white horse, brandish Robert’s Rules, cut through all the confusion, and clear the path again for all of us to proceed. It also helps to break the tension when the Moderator exclaims, “Help, I’m lost! Get me out of this!”

  11. May 15, 2013 at 5:44 am

    The fundamental right of deliberative assemblies require all questions to be thoroughly discussed before taking action!The assembly rules – they have the final say on everything! Silence means consent!

  12. May 16, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Hi Lane,

    The original writer of RRO was so frustrated by a church meeting (Baptist) in New Bedford, MA in the 1870s that he wrote the book! In good faith Henry Robert studied the United States House of Representatives as a model for how orderly decisions could be obtained and came out with simplified 1st edition for use in representative governments – both secular and religious. Today, as you well know, it continues to sell briskly in it’s 11th edition.

    As wonderful a man as I’m sure he was Henry Robert did not examine Scripture to learn how Christ and His apostles gave Spirit-inspired directives on how churches should make decisions. He started with a practice of the world that can’t help but fall short of the minimum ethic Jesus Christ has for the local church – spiritual unity (1 Cor. 1:10, Phil 2:1-2). Instead, if i may be so bold, RRO in the church proceeds upon the greatly mistaken assumption that voting unity honors the Trinity. But how much majority is unity? A simple majority, 2/3rds, 3/4ths, or more? What does God say is the right percent?

    Thousands of church constitutions claim the Bible as their sole authority in all matters of faith and practice and yet bind themselves to one of the world’s practices that has no power to sanctify believers but instead possesses the power to divide them. I’ve seen people come to church meetings clutching their Robert’s Rules under their jackets like swords in scabbards while leaving their Bibles back at home. They were prepared for battle but not for biblical decision making. Is our best hope for unity in the church more skilled parliamentarians (as your posts seems to suggest)? 1000s of churches have schismed using Robert’s Rules and instead of examining why the schism happened biblically we cry out for better trained parliamentarians. This cistern holds no water, my brother.

    Parliamentary procedure, whether practiced in the United States Congress or in a Christian church is a technique of decision-making designed to regulate those entrusted with authority. Its entire premise rests on distrust. The principles and presuppositions of Robert’s Rules of Order are useful in the world because they recognize that men are naturally selfish and prone to abuse power. However, this distrust is diametrically opposed to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, and His ruling presence through Scripture in His church. It is perfectly suited for non-Christian religions such as Unitarianism which also use RRO voting procedures as an integral part of their decision-making policies. They require voting power so that they can hold their leaders in check and retain self-determination in an atmosphere of religious distrust. They don’t know the weakness of the cross.

    As well as this matter of distrust, Robert’s Rules is designed to encourage dissent in an environment of external decorum. However dissent eventually bears it’s fruit in jealousy and selfish ambition. God says this “is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic” (James 3:13–16). God’s church is never to provide a platform for even the tiniest bit of strife and division nor to encourage any kind of “political process.” Strife and dissent breed church splits and many an injured saint will tell you so. Dissent among God’s people is Satan’s strategy that pits us against one another and rips at the unity the Spirit creates for all those in Christ (John 17:21–26). So let’s not help him. Let’s resist him. Satan is a roaring lion seeking in your church whom he may devour. Distrust and dissent are two of his favored talons that shred what your soul and the souls of those under your care truly need: Christ’s 100 percent commanded church unanimity.

  13. Alan D. Strange said,

    May 18, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    I agree, Simple Elder, that Robert’s has been, and can be, misused in the ways that you suggest. So has the BIble, the Standards, and the Book of Church Order. The Standards and the Church Order are expressions of unity and Robert’s, rightly used, is about how to achieve this in the actual working of a meeting.

    Being cautious about the use of church power, as every other power, is not inappropriate. It is not opposed to unity but can help promote it. Lord Acton, in his famous dictum about power tending to corrupt and absolute power corrupting absolutely, voiced this in his opposition to the impending declarations of Vatican I (1869-70) promulgating papal infallibility. The concern about misuse of power is not extraneous to the church.

    The unity that you describe sounds like uniformity. And this the Scripture nowhere teaches. God himself, in fact, is a unity of three distinct yet undivided persons. The Father does not become the Son nor does the Son become the Spirit: there is unity in the Blessed, Holy, Undivided Trinity, not uniformity.

    I agree that we want unity and that Robert’s may be used to militate against that. What’s the alternative? A bishop with whose pronouncements we all must agree? I agree with a proper sort of consensus building (perhaps this is what you have in mind) that comes from a thorough airing of perspectives as we seek to have the mind of Christ. But not when this is used, as I’ve seen it done, by a few strong parties who seek to cow their oppositon and achieve a unanimity through strong-arm tactics.

    Most church meetings that I’ve been in enjoy unanimity or near unanimity on many important issues. What do you do when you don’t? One side should not seek to intimidate the other. This is where some procedure for discussing our differences is important. I am actually quite sympathetic, brother, to your concerns about Robert’s engendering strife and promoting division. This is a fleshly use of it. We ought to use it as a way to deal with differences so that all might be heard and we might truly pursue in such circumstances the purity, peace, and unity of the church.

  14. CD-Host said,

    May 18, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    Just to weigh in her. I think RRO are excellent. But it is important to understand that rules or order are designed for legislating not discussing. And that’s not the same thing at all.

    Group A has 60% of the votes for X
    Group B has 40% of the votes against X
    Group A makes an official statement why X is a good
    Group B makes an official statement why X is bad
    X passes

    That’s perfect legislating. All the objectives are met. It isn’t a discussion. In a discussion you want to encourage people to be open minded and persuadable. A good legislative system wants people to become locked into a position so that their votes don’t swing back and forth inconsistently.

    Ted’s criticism is quite right. RRO is designed around democracy not consensus. Unity and understanding are not the goal. RRO does a great job of allowing groups to reach decisions when the goal is to move forward when only 55, 65, 75, or 85% agree with the plan but if you aren’t sure you want to ram things forward but rather reach consensus RRO doesn’t work well.

    Take for example a key component of RRO, majority voting. Majority voting works really well to get a leader or policy that can command majority support. As long as you don’t care how passionately the losers dislike the outcome it is a good system. But in something like a voluntary cooperative organization like a church you do often care how passionately the lowers dislike the outcome. So often you want to use a voting system that looks for things like “highest approval” which is not necessarily an option that a majority thinks is best and others hate but rather an option that say 80% think is pretty good and the other 20% think is far less than ideal.

    ___

    I don’t know what Ted had in mind. But I do think it is important to understand a well organized meeting whose outcome leaves 1/3rd the church so angry they start diminishing their involvement and commitment is not a success.

  15. Alan D. Strange said,

    May 18, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    While it is quite true that the rules of order for a meeting are not for merely discussing, they are both for deliberating and deciding (legislating). Votes, in fact, are not properly taken as long as significant deliberation remains.

    I agree that the rules can be used in a way that is higly politicized and allow a bare majority to dominate. It’s not the rules themselves that engender that, however, but sinful hearts, which no mere rules, or procedure of any sort, can overcome.

    Here, Simple Elder and CD, is what I appreciate about what you’re saying, if I understand it correctly (and I address in my article in OS cited above in this thread): Robert’s used in a highly political and partisan way, not in a way in which we esteem others better than ourselves and seek unity, is divisive in the church. I agree. I’ve seen it used that way before and it’s lamentable.

    Think of this–our local Session which has six active members–tends not to go forward on any important issues without unity, not satisfying ourselves with bare majority rule. Now, you may say “that’s contrary to Robert’s.” No, it’s not. Robert’s urges particular bodies to develop their own standing rules or by-laws that trump Robert’s. It is wise for the church to be sensitive, particularly in its local expressions, to work for greater unity than Robert’s may require.

    So, I don’t know that we’re as far apart as may seem, but Robert’s, thoughtfully and judiciously used, can be a help, in the larger meeting especially.

  16. May 18, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Hi CD and Alan,

    Just a little clarification if i may, Alan. I wasn’t at all suggesting that Roberts’ Rules are subject to abuse. That is true but wasn’t nearly my concern. Nor was i asking for uniformity but rather unity – the precise kind mandated by Jesus Christ in 1 Cor. 1:10. No one should be forced to be in uniformity to any human – just to our beloved Lord Jesus!

    And you are so, so correct to note the distinctions in the ontological Trinity. Yet when it comes to the Trinity and decision making, they do in fact practice uniformity! All that they do, they do according to the will of the Father. They’ve yet to vote on anything ;).

    Nor have they ever taught their people to ever vote on anything. So beneath RRO is the acceptance of practices that themselves are found wanting in the Word and Will of God for His church.

    CD – man i wish you possessed saving faith! I almost ant to say, “thou art not far from the kingdom” but what do i know about God’s choices?

    You wrote, “in something like a voluntary cooperative organization like a church you do often care how passionately the lowers dislike the outcome.” So, so, so right! In fact, according to the apostle Paul, I am to prefer others more important than myself (Phil. 2:3-4). If I don’t I sin. Yet we go against that every time we vote in church – it’s an exercise in which i affirm I want my will done in preference over others. Hence in our church, we vote as often as Jesus and the apostles taught us to.

  17. Alan D. Strange said,

    May 18, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    That’s helpful to see where you’re coming from, Simple Elder. You not only reject Robert’s, but the Church Order (which speaks of voting, as Acts 6 implies) and the Standards of the Church, which were arrived at through voting. You also, of necessity, reject not only the Reformed and Presbyterian Churches, but also the other churches that vote (most others have some form of voting at some point).

    So, your disagreement is far deeper and more fundamental than Robert’s. It was misguided on my part to assume some agreement between us (as I have no idea who either you or CD-Host are; I’ve not read other comments from you). Comments that you make to CD-Host suggest to me that I also don’t know where CD-Host is coming from at all, so I withdraw my comments assuming our level of agreement and now realize that you are on a different page altogether from the institutional church in its various manifestations.

  18. CD-Host said,

    May 18, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    @Ted — Thanks!

    ____

    @Alan

    It’s not the rules themselves that engender that, however, but sinful hearts, which no mere rules, or procedure of any sort, can overcome.

    I’d disagree. Obviously in the end of 51% are absolutely committed to getting their way and don’t care about the other 49% then any system that allows for majority rule is going allow that. They can block vote, force rules changes… But it is almost never the case that the 51% are that committed to something that has strong disapproval.

    Instead you usually have a range of views say 6 plausible solutions. Roberts Rules of Order is focused on finding 1 of those solutions that can get to majority as quickly as possible. There are alternative systems which aim to get alternatives listed and then look for a “winner” which is a 2nd or 3rd choice of almost everyone out of the 6. Like I said above, “an option that say 80% think is pretty good and the other 20% think is far less than ideal”.

    You can build systems that encourage compromise. Switch from majority voting to approval voting. In Approval voting all the possible solutions with even minimal support go forward for a vote and everyone gets to vote yeah or nay on all the possible solutions they like and the one with highest level of approval wins. This tends to encourage solutions that most people can live with.

    There are variants like Schulze voting which take the advantages of approval much further, and have other voting theory benefits. One of those that isn’t a theoretical benefit but a practical one is that that the specific scoring in borderline cases will usually be too complex for humans to understand (i.e. the scoring needs to be done by a computer). So these votes don’t tend to cause hard feelings of the, “I can’t believe you voted against me and let ______” type happen. The connection between the final result and individual votes while having lots of good theoretical advantages is opaque to anyone not very good at math (which is most of the population).

    You can have rules that make stopping debate with mere majorities difficult. You can have overlapping veto patterns so solutions that command mere majorities are hard to form… etc.. Honestly the way the US government is structured is designed to make 50%+1 rule impossible. Yes, there is a lot you can do systematically to encourage people towards consensus.

    RRO doesn’t do those things because consensus isn’t the goal. It assumes people are very committed to the body, and the body has lots of complex issues they need to resolve fast. Use RRO for something like a student council, no one is moving to a different college over how much money the film club gets.

  19. Alan D. Strange said,

    May 18, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    CD-Host, I do not disagree that there are other ways to do this than Robert’s and that a pure Robert’s approach can be harsh.

    But note a few things: your “opaqueness” observation is a little dust in the jury’s eyes, no? Robert’s never permits a mere majority to stop debate. You have overlapping veto patterns in a congregation when electing office-bearers. Every organization adapts Robert’s to suit its purposes.

    Again, I think that Robert’s can be adapted for the church’s needs, but I do think that it needs adapting and we’ve done so in a number of ways at every level of governance in the OPC. I do get your point in the last paragraph, however.

  20. May 18, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    It’s been said that consensus is the goal, and a meeting which leaves a third of its members dissatisfied with the outcome is not a success.

    Here are three examples of voting, in levels of increasingly more serious consequences if the minority had been allowed to continue to advocate its case despite losing the vote:

    * The Westminster Assembly, with regard to church government.
    * The Synod of Dordt, with regard to Arminianism.
    * The Nicene Council, with regard to Arius.

    I think virtually all of us in the Reformed faith (apart from a few extreme Reformed Episcopal and extreme Covenanter people) would agree that church government is not of the essence of the church, but a church can’t function if it isn’t in agreement on how it is to be governed.

    Likewise, we can disagree on whether Arminianism is error or heresy, but the difference between the two views is serious enough that a Reformed church can and must drive out Arminians, and a Nazarene church can and must drive out Calvinists. Both view cannot be correct; one or the other must be contrary to Scripture.

    As for Arianism, that **DOES** deal with the foundations of the gospel. No toleration can be given for error on that point.

    I trust those examples make clear that consensus is neither necessary nor desirable in all ecclesiastical cases.

  21. May 18, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    Rev. Keister: I checked the link for CD-Host, which goes to the following website: http://church-discipline.blogspot.com/

    With respect, I would suggest you read this person’s website and see if you believe it is within the spectrum of beliefs tolerated for Green Baggins posters. Your views may not be mine.

  22. CD-Host said,

    May 18, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    @Darrell

    Lets use your 3 examples

    * The Nicene Council, with regard to Arius.

    There were debates back and forth for about 2 generations. By the end of the voting the Arians were not satisfied with the outcome. The medieval Germanic kingdoms: Ostrogoths, Vandals, Burgundians, Visigoths, Lombards were Arian for centuries. The post-Empire military stayed Arian much longer. Europe would not be Trinitarian uniformly and officially until the 8th century.

    I have a hard time calling that an example of success.

    * The Synod of Dordt, with regard to Arminianism.

    Again the Arminians didn’t feel they got a fair hearing and walked away from the vote angry. Today, 2013 the overwhelming majority of Protestants are Arminian: General Baptist, Pentecostal, Methodist… Dordt has for them no moral authority and it didn’t resolve the issue. Instead it created a semi-schism on issues of justification that exist through today. I don’t have the data but my guess would be if you were to map the ratio of Reformed to Arminians every decade from say 1600 to 2010 in about 38 of those 40 intervals or maybe even all 40 the ratio has gone down.

    I have a hard time calling that a success.

    * The Westminster Assembly, with regard to church government.

    A set of agreements that lasted 17 years and were revoked by Charles II with the Restoration in 1660. Yes they absolutely got adopted in Scotland and have had influence on the PCA and OPC. But… again

    I have a hard time calling that a success.

    _________

    Those are 3 good examples of precisely the problem of majoritarianism. Compromise is about keeping the losers onboard.

  23. May 18, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    @ CD-Host: I do not want to speak for Rev. Keister, but speaking only for myself, I agree that while you may be right that “compromise is about keeping the losers onboard,” some losers need to be thrown overboard.

    Certainly that is true with regard to the Arians.

    At least with regard to ordained officebearers, it is also true with regard to those who dissent on Arminianism and on church government.

    But again, I’m speaking solely for myself, not for anyone else.

  24. Andrew Duggan said,

    May 19, 2013 at 8:51 am

    Darrell @20,

    A large part of the issue is contained when looking at these two passages of scripture together.

    Amos 3:3

    Can two walk together, except they be agreed?

    and Matt 28:19,20

    Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

    It seems to me that we are to preach and teach everything that Christ has commanded. So the question is: Do the Scriptures teach Presbyterian church government, or not. If so, then that comes under the requirement of Matt 28:20? Where do find Christ letting anyone off the hook for passing in fulfilling what He requires in Matt 28:20?

    You might want to check out Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici

    I am neither a Reformed Episcopal nor a Covenanter.

    Also the churches stemming from the continental Reformed, generally since Dort have required all members to subscribe to the TFU, so for them it’s not just about requirements for ordained officers.

    So given Christ’s command in Matt 28:20, where do we find in Scripture the authority for us to pick and choose what the church is to teach (and therefore require our member to believe)?

    Christ says “everything”, but the contemporary and 18th through 21st century churches behave as though we can limit that to the Trinity and the substitutionary atonement.

    Does anyone wonder why you see Romans 1 working out in the world and the churches right in front of your own eyes?

  25. CD-Host said,

    May 19, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    @Darrell #23

    This discussion has been so far about whether Roberts Rules of Order tend to produce strife and discord because of the distinction between unity and legislating.

    You had given 3 examples, “Here are three examples of voting, in levels of increasingly more serious consequences if the minority had been allowed to continue to advocate its case despite losing the vote“. I countered by arguing that in all 3 of those examples despite using a majoritarian criteria the minority was able to continue to advocate. Moreover, in 2 of those 3 examples the minority successfully advocated and effectively overturned the original decision. Let me just add the 3 examples you gave all happened within the context of confessional states which add considerable pressure for the minority to conform that a church in 2013 America doesn’t have.

    I think those prove my point that if your goal is to get the minority to stop advocate for their case then the minority has to be convinced of the rightness of your point of view. That is much much higher bar than convincing a simple majority. The assumption in this thread so far has been that people are looking for a system to get the people in the pews to work together.

    Most of the time we are talking about issues like whether the church kitchen gets the double basin sink or the single basin sink. RRO is based on trying to make sure that 55% what the single basin that gets decided fast. It is not based on making sure that the 2 women that wanted the double basin don’t decide to stop church shopping because they are tired of not being listened to and feel picked on.

    When we start talking about more heated issues:
    * an elder who may have done something bad but there is questionable evidence
    * what kind of curriculum is used for children’t biblical education
    * policy towards teen pregnancy. Whether to effectively normalize unwed motherhood or whether to be firmer and encourage abortion

    etc…

    the potential for division increase but we still aren’t talking idealogical matters but often issues of judgement and discernment.

    Your latest post questions that assumption that the goal is unity and instead makes a case that the goal isn’t necessarily to get people to work together but rather to weed out those people who don’t have a high enough level of idealogical agreement with the majority. Build consensus by removing dissent not by changing hearts and minds. I just want to make sure you are really arguing that and it isn’t a property of the 3 examples you picked.

    In my book I talk about the distinction between a fellowship and a team. A fellowship is a temporary alliance brought about by common interests where people form ad-hoc relationship with one another. They submit to advance the common goal. A team is a permanent institution whose members value the structure itself.

    Generally the assumption in the PCA is you are form a team not a fellowship when you form a church. That is you want people who wouldn’t otherwise agree to come together, and work together. The goal is not to select from the population narrow and narrower groups of people who agree on more and more. American Protestantism is moving in that direction and that may be happening but i don’t think the PCA openly embraces that theory of itself. Certainly I’d agree that my criticism that RRO tends to encourage the creation of angry minorities isn’t a problem if angry minorities are a feature not a bug because it makes them more likely to leave.

    The big counter from my perspective is the narrower the population the less effective churches / denominations will be in things like intergenerational retention which traditionally they have cared greatly about. Once you stop working towards high intergenerational retention that is a major change in the nature of the church.

  26. May 20, 2013 at 1:06 am

    @ CD-Host and Elder Duggan:

    This is Rev. Keister’s blog, not mine. That means he sets the limits of acceptable and unacceptable disagreement.

    I may have some pretty strong views on this issues being raised, especially those raised by CD-Host, but I need to let Rev. Keister comment if he chooses to do so. It’s his blog and his rules.

  27. CD-Host said,

    May 20, 2013 at 7:37 am

    RRO is based on trying to make sure that 55% what the single basin that gets decided fast. It is not based on making sure that the 2 women that wanted the double basin don’t decide to stop church shopping because they are tired of not being listened to and feel picked on.

    Wow did that turn into word salad what I meant was.

    RRO is based on trying to make sure that when 55% want the single basin that gets resolved fast. RRO is not based on making sure that the 2 women that wanted the double basin don’t decide to start church shopping because they are tired of not being listened to and feel picked on.

    @Darrell —

    http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/guidelines-for-commenters/

  28. Reed here said,

    May 20, 2013 at 8:34 am

    Cd, no. 22: as Iexpect you will agree, you basis for defining “success” is decidedly different from the majority of commenters here. You are self-limited to mere worldly measurements. Regardless of unbelief, there is a spiritual realm by which to measure success. On that basis, Rev. Maurina’s examples hold true. I would call them great successes in that they preserved orthodoxy.

    But, if I held your naturalistic presuppositions, I might agree with you.

  29. CD-Host said,

    May 20, 2013 at 10:34 am

    @Reed

    Again most of the time this is about the 2 basin sink vs. the 1 basin sink these aren’t deep theological matters but at best pragmatic theological matters, how to apply complex theology to a variety of situations.

    But even for the big ones I wouldn’t agree I’m assuming materialism. Let’s grant a supernatural orthodoxy I don’t see how it changes anything. Assume we have X2 being the supernatural orthodoxy. And after this sort of debate we end up with 3 churches:
    C1 with 80% of Christians preaching X1
    C2 10% of Christians preaching X2
    C3 10% of Christians preaching X3

    How is X2 materially preserved? I can see how orthodoxy is preserved if the numbers look like:
    C1 with .8% of Christians preaching X1
    C2 99.1% of Christians preaching X2
    C3 .1% of Christians preaching X3

    But that’s not what happened in those example. I’d argue it is far closer to what happened in the 19th century American context of the 19th Arian movement which was concerned minority voices.

    To go from the other direction. You know there have been church votes where the Conservative Reformed views have lost. Take for example 1926 when it was decided that the GA could not create a litmus tests for candidates without the consent of the presbyteries, designed to effectively normalize Auburn Affirmation theology. My guess is you don’t agree that preserved orthodoxy. My guess is you would agree it was a critical vote in what eventually undermined orthodoxy in the PCUS/PCUSA. Knowing though that it won a majority doesn’t change your view.

    I think you would admit that if Dordt were held today in 2013 among all Protestants, Reformed theology would get massacred and something halfway between Arminianism and semi-Pelagianism would easily win a majority. Knowing that doesn’t change your view on the issue of justification one bit.

    To preserve orthodoxy in a material sense requires a broad overwhelming consent. To preserve orthodoxy in a spiritual sense is something humans can neither assist nor thwart. So I’m not sure if I understand your criticism of my position.

  30. May 20, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    In 1876 General Henry M. Robert set out to bring the rules of the American Congress to members of ordinary societies with the publication of Pocket Manual of Rules of Order. It sold half a million copies before this revision of 1915 and made Robert’s name synonymous with the orderly rule of reason in deliberative societies.

  31. Frank Aderholdt said,

    May 20, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    Please excuse my bluntness here, but much of this discussion about Robert’s Rules has turned just plain weird. (You know who you are who have caused this.)

    Lane’s original post was a simple, sensible reminder about the utility of Robert’s to effect business in the world and in the church “decently and in order.” We were reminded that Robert’s Rules sprang from a Christian worldview. We noted that Robert’s procedures are happily in sync with Biblical principles. No one claimed perfection for the Rules, yet we acknowledged how helpful they can be. Such a blessing is all too rare in this fallen world.

    And then, as so often happens on this blog (which I love, by the way), the dog started chasing his tail. To change the metaphor, someone opened a door, and we walked into Bizarro World. Making a simple point and commenting on it clearly and succinctly is not enough for some people. No, we must be treated to layer upon layer of complex, tortuous, obscure reasoning, and pointless pontificating. (Many of us can “blow smoke” with the worst of them; we just choose not to.)

    I’m always amazed at the ability of some contributors to take an obvious point and twist it beyond all recognition.

    Oh, well, enough said. “Senior citizen rant” over for today.

  32. Ron said,

    May 20, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    Frank,

    Darrell made an observation in post 21 that might speak to your concern. It speaks to mine.

  33. Alan D. Strange said,

    May 20, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    Frank and Ron,

    I agree. I came back in to make a point or two but discovered that I was dealing with something altogether different. In response to Darrell’s sensible challenge of these fellows, I started a long piece on the first four councils (and other councils and synods) and then abandoned it as I thought it best to disengage Bizarro World.

    This will make good fodder for my teaching of RONR at Mid-America and tomorrow in the OPC Form of Government class for MTIOPC at Bethel OPC in Wheaton.

    We would never want the church to be able to express her mind through such a mechanism as voting, never mind the truth! Oi vey!

  34. May 20, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    Thank you, Prof. Strange.

    Reporters can occasionally be useful for something ;-)

  35. May 20, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    With regard to the issue of divisions and driving out dissenters, let’s not forget what Scripture teaches about divisions in I Cor. 11:18-19: “In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.”

    The existence of divisions is not necessarily a problem. In fact, it may be essential “to show which of you have God’s approval.”

    Fidelity to truth, not maintaining consensus despite fundamental differences, is what counts.

  36. May 20, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    One more thing: Remember that I am a former liberal and stayed in a mainline denomination for many years after my conversion until I was more or less driven out by a new pastor’s open advocacy of abortion. I know from firsthand experience what happens when not just sincere error but wicked heresy are tolerated in a church.

    Toleration of God’s enemies is not an act of love, either toward God or toward His sheep.

    Scripture teaches us to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (I Pete 3:15-16.)

    There is a big difference between people asking sincere questions, who are to be answered with gentleness and respect, and a different sort of question arising from a fundamentally different mindset.

  37. Alan D. Strange said,

    May 20, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    I just finished, Darrell, a long series of lectures on liberalism, neo-orthodoxy, and ecumenism in my Modern Church class. Privileging unity and ecumenism at all costs, mainly that of the truth of the Holy Sriptures, marks these movements.

    You are spot-on, Darrell, that there’s something worse than division (because of the truth) and that’s compromise of the essential truth of the gospel. Paul was not willing for it. Machen was not willing for it. And we ought not to be willing for it either.

    I am minded of the wise words of my former Professor at WTS, Robert Knudsen, who was intimate with these movements and declared, “I refuse to accept as orthodoxy that which has arisen Phoenix-like from the ashes of the destruction of orthodoxy.”

  38. Tim Harris said,

    May 20, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    Yeah, I gotta say, it gives me the heebie jeebies to see atheists and Christians discussing theology as if it is merely an intellectual project.
    But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Cor 2:14

    Now, if the post were giving the thesis, “the non-Christian has no basis for ethics” etc., then it would be different — though even then, the posture of the Christians would be apologetics vis-a-vis the atheist.

  39. Alan D. Strange said,

    May 20, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    Right, Tim. All of the contentions of the atheists would be self-refuting, since antitheism presupposes theism.

    And it’s a good thing, because otherwise everything that the atheist says and does would be nonsense simpliciter and not, instead, reduce to nonsense. I say this because I see from a click on your name that you are a Wagner fan. Kudos!

    There was a fool–as Psalm 14 identifies such–who wrote some glorious music. This is, of course,the 200th of both him and Verdi! Thank God that He gave them the kinds of gifts He did, though they deny Him. Sorry for the thread departure. I could not resist when I saw your encomium to Die Walkure. We need more Reformed opera lovers!

  40. Reed here said,

    May 21, 2013 at 12:32 am

    CD, you can’t escape your materialism. Your conclusion rests on material measurements alone.

    Truth being secured is always success no matter the percentages. Aside from that, you seem not to be considering (aware of?) the Bliblical doctrine of remnant. The material fact of a minority is actually a potential mark of the only kind of success that matters.

    But then, seeing as you deny the existence of your Creator, I don’t that to float your boat much. All I’m seeking to point out is that Rev.Maurina’s examples are good, if one does not rely on unbelieving materialistic presuppositions.

  41. Alan D. Strange said,

    May 21, 2013 at 1:15 am

    Darrell, I thought that I preached the ordination of your pastor, or was it yours? :-)

  42. Don said,

    May 21, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    I’m really rather surprised at the ad hominem censorship attempts here (“Because you’re an atheist, you shouldn’t be allowed to join this conversation.”) This CD-Host guy has a better (intellectual) understanding of Protestantism than most of the Catholics who occasionally comment here.

    Anyway, the statement in #20 deserves inspection:

    Here are three examples of voting, in levels of increasingly more serious consequences if the minority had been allowed to continue to advocate its case despite losing the vote

    CD’s argument in #22 seems to be that the minority view did persist for centuries if not eventually win out, advocating its case in other contexts. So what good did the vote effect? Where CD’s naturalism falls short may be his idea that the goal is to get everyone on board, rather than to define the truth. But it’s an odd path that this conversation took, going from “Good thing we had a vote, and the majority got it right!” in #20, to a rather Ibseneque “The majority is always wrong” in #40.

  43. May 21, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    Good question, Prof. Strange. It’s been a number of years, but unless my memory fails me, I do believe you were the preacher at Rev. Schiebout’s ordination.

    You may be aware that I turned down ordination many years ago back in the early 1990s, chose to be licensed to preach rather than ordained, and eventually served several churches as an unordained tentmaking lay preacher. Even that doesn’t apply today, however — my licensure ended when I joined the Springfield church. Since the closest church of my own denomination is almost three hours away, I am a member of a church in a denomination where I cannot and should not be ordained. My views would be acceptable in the URC, but they’re contrary to the Westminster Standards, and I declined nomination when one of the leaders in the Springfield church wanted to put me on the board of trustees before the church formally organized with its own elders and deacons.

    The Dissenting Brethren at Westminster were called both “dissenting” and “brethren” for a reason. It’s fine to be brothers, but ecclesiastical unity requires more than brotherhood in the Lord.

    As for office and ordination, I have very little respect for people who would ignore their own confessions to admit someone to office who dissents from the confessions. There are reasons why I never joined the PCA despite attending for about half a decade, and finally walked out after the local PCA pastor tried repeatedly over a period of many years to get me to accept ordination. Admitting someone like me to office could very easily become a precedent that would lead to much worse people being ordained, and I will not let myself be used as a precedent leading to watering down of confessional integrity, whether in the PCA or any other denomination.

    Confessions exist for good reasons. Among those reasons are that they keep people out of office who do not belong. I have little doubt that Spurgeon, Knox, Cromwell, Edwards, Machen, Ussher and Augustine are all in heaven right now, but they were in different denominations during their earthly lives, and that was the way it should have been. Sometimes people can get along fine in different churches who would have no choice but to fight if they were in the same church.

  44. greenbaggins said,

    May 22, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Darrell, I allow many radically different viewpoints to comment here, as long as it doesn’t get to the level of personal attacks. I would allow an atheist, a Roman Catholic (and many of them comment), a Jew, a Pentecostal, or Hindu, or just about anyone to comment. They are supposed to stick to the issues, which alas does not happen very often.

  45. Tim Harris said,

    June 5, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    The original post says, “previously Reformed people are becoming persuaded by this viewpoint.”

    But the mistakes of the Hebrew movement are so many and so elementary, that I find it hard to believe that any seminary-educated man would be tempted to it. Can the original statement be substantiated?

  46. greenbaggins said,

    June 5, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    You sure you posted this in the right thread? To answer your question, Pete Rambo (who has been commenting on the other threads) is a seminary educated previously ARP minister who has now embraced the ideas of the HRM.

  47. Tim Harris said,

    June 6, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Sorry. Thought I was putting it under “The Hebrew Roots Movement.”

  48. July 7, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    Pardon this atheist commenting here. I got here via searching for commentaries on Robert’s Rules of Order, and have something helpful to add in defense of them:

    It helps when people have an accessible, yet authoritative primer to Robert’s. The authors of the current edition of Robert’s have provided such a book, “Roberts Rules of Order, In Brief”, now in it’s second edition (to coincide with the 11th edition of “Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised”).

    The more people are informed of their rights and responsibilities in a meeting under the rules, it runs much more smoothly. It helps ensure a greater trust in the process, and reduces the ability of others to abuse the process, by exploiting other’s lack of knowledge.

  49. July 7, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    […] defense of the use of Robert’s Rules of Order, at Green Baggins, “Robert’s Rules of Order-Boring or Helpful?” (also read the first […]

  50. asimpleelder said,

    July 7, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    @ Alan Strange, via Shawn Levasseur,

    Shawn, for us Christians, we believe that trees bear fruit appropriate to their nature. A good tree bears good fruit, and a bad tree bears bad fruit, as Jesus Christ taught in the Sermon on the Mount. A year ago I tried to make the point here that RRO has no foundation in the Bible, and instead briefly detailed its history, which came out of churchly conflict (comment 12). And as those here will attest, church conflicts are still everywhere, and RRO has not solved the problem of conflict one iota. Presbyterians and Baptists alike do the RRO thing all, and not only call our “division” when they want to parse out a matter they don’t like. It’s the very thing they all end up doing.

    That’s because RRO can’t get to people’s hearts, like something else can that is very special, and very sacred. It is called the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is the certain record of what happened in and through Jesus Christ was He died on a cross, and was risen from His grave a few days later. The Bible promises, and I pledge my own affirmation to it, that in that sacred death and resurrection is all the power necessary to deal with people’s hearts, and to end church conflict. Folks with a sincere faith in it would not use RRO for handling church conflicts, for those who originally taught us the gospel, the apostles, taught us how to handle church conflicts differently.

    This is why RRO is a masking tool for churches, for it can be used to promote the externals of decorum while allowing all sorts of distrust and self-oriented agenda to play themselves out in a hypocritical manner.

    @ Alan, Shawn is with you doctrinally on this matter of how churches should be governed, is he not?

  51. greenbaggins said,

    July 8, 2014 at 8:39 am

    Simple elder, speak for yourself when you claim that RRO doesn’t solve church conflicts one iota. My experience has been the exact reverse. And just because something doesn’t have a foundation in Scripture doesn’t mean the church should ignore it. There is such a thing as common grace. God has revealed Himself in nature as well, and that includes human reason. My experience with Presbytery meetings and General Assembly meetings indicates that those meetings go about a thousand times better when RRO is followed. I have also seen despisers such as yourself run meetings. The result is absolute disaster.

  52. asimpleelder said,

    July 8, 2014 at 8:49 am

    Lane, that’s pretty harsh, ‘despisers?”

    Help me understand. Are you saying that RRO solves conflicts that James says arise in the heart (James 4:1ff) or that it helps a parliamentary body arrive at a consensus decision, hopefully without fisticuffs?

    And is it not likely that RRO will be an important tool you’ll be using in a few years to help churches break away from the PCA and form a new Presbyterian group?

  53. July 8, 2014 at 10:39 am

    asimpleedlder: “And as those here will attest, church conflicts are still everywhere, and RRO has not solved the problem of conflict one iota.”

    RRO is a tool to help hold debate and come to decisions without abridging the rights of the meeting members to participate and be heard.

    It is not a conflict resolution tool. Ultimately that’s on the people involved. Differences may not be smoothed over using RRO. Anger, suspicion, a lack of patience, and other vices can poison any organization. Meeting rules on any kind will not overcome those obstacles. To that, you need to look elsewhere.

    To blame such strife on RRO, is to blame a hammer for not being a screwdriver.

    I’ve been in organizations where RRO has been scapegoated; blamed for causing internal strife. This falsehood is prevented by greater understanding of RRO, and what it does. Which is why I recommended “Robert Rules of Order in Brief”.

    asimpleelder: “@ Alan, Shawn is with you doctrinally on this matter of how churches should be governed, is he not?”

    I have no opinion on church governance or doctrine. I do, however, have opinions on the utility of RRO.

  54. asimpleelder said,

    July 8, 2014 at 10:56 am

    Hi Shawn,

    To blame such strife on RRO, is to blame a hammer for not being a screwdriver.

    True. But the solution among parliamentary oriented ecclesiastical institutions, whether connectional or independent, is for strife to be resolved in public meetings if enough folks are divided on an issue. These meetings only use RRO as a tool for folks in the church to air their thoughts, choose a side, and then vote. As you said, it doesn’t resolve human strife, but it does provide a way to avoid submitting to some of the commands of Jesus Christ and His apostles, and substitute them with man-made alternatives.

    Alternatively, Christians can follow Scripture on how to govern their churches as I explain in my article, “The High Call of Eldership Churches”. The Bible is remarkably robust at forcing us to humble ourselves so that our heart is humbled, and thereby allows for churches to apply all relevant Scriptures passages to their conflict resolution.

    For Christians to claim that RRO is a “common grace” method of resolving conflicts ignores history and Scripture. If you would like to read Jesus’ own method instead of Henry Roberts’, please read Matthew 18:15-17.

  55. July 8, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    “These meetings only use RRO as a tool for folks in the church to air their thoughts, choose a side, and then vote. As you said, it doesn’t resolve human strife, but it does provide a way to avoid submitting to some of the commands of Jesus Christ and His apostles, and substitute them with man-made alternatives.”

    I cannot comment as to the theology. But I do know human nature, and if a person would seek to avoid “the commands of Jesus Christ and His apostles”, removing RRO would not prevent it.

    If I read correctly, the path of conflict resolution your cite in Matthew 18:15-17, could make use of a meeting held under RRO as one of the steps; as RRO gives participants in a meeting the opportunity to also point the way towards what those commands are, and why they are just.

    And I’m sure that there are many decisions to be made that are too mundane to be guided by scripture, such as budgets. These lesser matters need resolution too. If not RRO, then what?

  56. Reed Here said,

    July 8, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Use of RRO is NOT intended to resolve anything. These are simply a method for agreeing on how to debate a topic in a civil (read: Chritlike) manner. Assuming their use is in any manner to resolve the inherent tendency to “fight” is in effect to imply that Jesus is unnecessary. Surely this is imputing too unkindly to the motives of those of us who use RRO.

    To suggest limiting the Church to mere use of Mt 18:15-17 is to declare ALL debate equal to discipline, surely a naive and unintended goal. Further, it ignores the vast amount of wisdom in the rest of Scripture on how to conduct debate in a manner consistent with the 2nd great Commandment.

    Finally this denial of the proper helpfulness of RRO ignores that this body of debate rules is actually the product of a Christian culture. Roberts did not come up with them in isolation. Nor did he come up with them independently. Rather he is a compiler and systematizer of generations of acceptable social conventions governing debate; with “acceptable” being understood as that which the Bible describes as consistent with belief that one is both personally sinful and personally in need of Jesus as Savior.

    That such a manmade reflection on Scripture ends up both imperfectly expressed and imperfectly applied neither confirms it’s less than Biblical rooting, nor affirms sinfulness on the part of those who use it.

  57. greenbaggins said,

    July 8, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    simple elder, RRO, as Reed mentions, does not resolve conflicts. However, a proper use of them can prevent many conflicts from arising. In my old Presbytery, for example, many personal comments and attacks were flying back and forth, and the moderator allowed them because he didn’t know that RRO were being violated. According to RRO, personalized insults and actually personal comments of any kind are to be avoided, especially when the issue being discussed is controversial. The more controversial an issue is, the more formal and precise the moderator needs to be in enforcing RRO. My old Presbytery would have been MUCH better served had many of its moderators known RRO better. The better Presbytery meetings we had were better because the moderator in question DID know RRO.

    There are certainly times when RRO is abused. That is not RRO’s fault, but rather the “practitioners” who are trying to trick other people into going along with pre-laid plans. This is not true RRO, but an abuse of it.

    As to the future of the church, that is unknown at this time. Withdrawing from the PCA, if it happens, is not something that RRO deals with at all.

    Ironic that at this point, the atheist in the discussion is showing more wisdom with regard to RRO than some churchmen. I would commend especially Shawn’s comment here: “I cannot comment as to the theology. But I do know human nature, and if a person would seek to avoid ‘the commands of Jesus Christ and His apostles,’ removing RRO would not prevent it.” The removal of RRO DOES NOT help anything. What is rather needed is PROPER use of RRO.

  58. rfwhite said,

    July 8, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    Reed Here: “hear, hear!” A couple of more things come to mind. 1) The larger the group, the more helpful RRO become. Even in smaller groups, the basics generally help groups exercise self-discipline for more profitable deliberation. 2) All such rules are subject to corruption.

  59. asimpleelder said,

    July 9, 2014 at 8:11 am

    Lane wrote (51):

    Simple elder, speak for yourself when you claim that RRO doesn’t solve church conflicts one iota. My experience has been the exact reverse.

    Reed wrote (56):

    Use of RRO is NOT intended to resolve anything… Surely this is imputing too unkindly to the motives of those of us who use RRO.

    Then Lane wrote (57):

    simple elder, RRO, as Reed mentions, does not resolve conflicts.

    Ok, I guess. But if you are confused on what RRO does and doesn’t do, then why defend it?

    Regardless, here’s the ultimate ecclesiological issue. RRO, in itself, is fine when used in a deliberative assembly. However, the churches of Jesus Christ, as defined in both precept and example in the writings of the apostles and prophets to the churches, and collected in the 27 books of the NT, are not deliberative assemblies. And if your mind races to the Jerusalem Council, that was not a church acting as a deliberative assembly, but the apostles of the churches, and the elders of one church (Acts 15:2, 16:4).

    Reed wrote (56):

    To suggest limiting the Church to mere use of Mt 18:15-17 is to declare ALL debate equal to discipline, surely a naive and unintended goal.

    when what I had actually written was (54):

    For Christians to claim that RRO is a “common grace” method of resolving conflicts ignores history and Scripture. If you would like to read Jesus’ own method instead of Henry Roberts’, please read Matthew 18:15-17.

    Reed – perhaps I need to bold the words resolving conflicts?

  60. asimpleelder said,

    July 9, 2014 at 8:29 am

    Shawn wrote (55):

    If I read correctly, the path of conflict resolution your cite in Matthew 18:15-17, could make use of a meeting held under RRO as one of the steps; as RRO gives participants in a meeting the opportunity to also point the way towards what those commands are, and why they are just.

    Hey Shawn,

    I don’t think so, because before the public meeting the evidence of wrong doing must be factually established by two or three who must do a thorough and impartial investigation, as stipulated by Jesus in Mat. 18:16. The public assembly doesn’t do that, or even decide if the commands of Christ should or should not be carried out in a particular case. The church only assembles so it may be told to do what the first accuser has done in v. 15: “go and tell him” –i.e., verbally bring to the person who is resisting repentance the accusation(s) of his sin, and call on him to repent. The context of Jesus’ words assure us that it is to be done with a spirit of tenderness, as a shepherd seeks for a lost lamb (Mat. 18:12-14).

    As you can see, that is contrary to deliberation and moderation. It is authoritative, and the congregation’s only response is compliance or noncompliance. That’s one reason it’s important for Christians, and those contemplating following Christ, to understand the church is not designed to function like a representative body, or a club, or a service organization. It is designed in the New Testament to be a group of people fleeing sin and this world’s values, of which RRO is in step with, and pursuing slavery under the one Master, Jesus Christ.

    That slavery is the joy of being a Christian, and it starts with seeing God’s glory in a crucified Jew who was not merely innocent of all crimes, but perfectly righteous, dying to release us from our manifold crimes against God. Having been rescued by that, I am God’s slave and lost all my rights to myself and having my voice heard in a church. The only word that matters now, in a church, is Christ’s. That word, my friend, is found in the New Testament.

  61. Reed Here said,

    July 9, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Simple elder, might you identify yourself for me, church affiliation? Thanks. (As per blog rules.)

    The Jerusalem Council included elders from more than one church. The Church in Antioch had elders there.

    I’ve read your objections to the use of RRO to basically be absolute, as they have no value of use in the ministry of the Church. If that is not what you are arguing, please forgive me and then clarify your objection to RRO? Limited? If so, how?

    Finally, even if you are objecting to RRO being useful in conflict situations alone, surely you do not think that ALL conflict situations in the church devolve to nothing more than matters of sinfulness which call for the application of discipline? Even this is a narrowing beyond the use of Scripture, no?

  62. asimpleelder said,

    July 9, 2014 at 10:51 am

    Reed, I serve at pastor at Grace Church (http://www.gracechurchministry.org/).

  63. Bob S said,

    July 10, 2014 at 1:37 am

    WCF 1:6
    . . . and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed. 1 Cor. 11:13,14, 14:26,40

    ASimpEld

    It may not be real “spiritual”, but the Bible doesn’t give us explicit directions on a lot of things, ergo something like RRO or a church order.

    Two, Acts 15 is not an inspired assembly, but a joint council of a number of churches deciding a theological issue.
    But as above, is everything that is decided in a church necessarily theological or a conflict? Hence again, something like the RRO.

    Of course, if we have qualms about a written confession of faith like the Westminster to begin with, the Bible doesn’t help out when it exhorts us to teach and preach sound doctrine, particularly in the pastoral epistles.

    Neither is fundamentalism a biblical option, if Paul in Act 20:27 can pretty much tell us that teaching the whole counsel of God is a requirement in order to evade the electric chair/lethal injection. But fundamentalist objections are pretty much all I’m hearing.

    Further, abuse does rule out use, because then food and drink are no no’s.

    cheers

  64. asimpleelder said,

    July 10, 2014 at 8:32 am

    Bob,

    I trust you and others here are studied in the WCF. When WCF 1:6 refers to ‘the Church,’ capital C, what exactly is it referring to?

    the Bible doesn’t give us explicit directions on a lot of things, ergo something like RRO or a church order.

    Regarding ‘church order,’ if what you say is true, then Scripture is insufficient for the churches. But for a faith that does view the writings of Christ’s apsotles as sufficient for the order and government of the churches, please read “The High Call of Eldership Churches”.

    Thanks.

  65. rfwhite said,

    July 10, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    64 asimpleelder: with regard to WCF 1:6, the term “Church” refers the church as it is found in Scripture and in the world and as summarized in WCF 25, 30, and 31: particular (local and regional) or universal, as context may require. No? Help us understand your views a bit more. Would you tell us if the churches in Acts 14-16 were governmentally related? If they were, how? Further, can you tell us where in Scripture the rules are found for the conduct of the debate in Acts 15:7? Again, I’m trying to understand your views.

  66. asimpleelder said,

    July 10, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    rfwhite,

    Thanks for the sections from WCF. I read them. And thank you for your brief notes therein.

    My views on ‘the church’ are summarized in our church’s ‘What We Teach’ statement under the ecclesiology heading (http://www.gracechurchministry.org/about-us/what-we-teach).

    Help us understand your views a bit more. Would you tell us if the churches in Acts 14-16 were governmentally related? If they were, how?

    The early churches were governmentally related for a time, under the apostles, who having died, the churches were, and still are, only connected through a common faith generated in and through the apostolic deposit – that is, their writings in the canon (e.g., Jude 1:1:3, 2 Peter 3:1-2), but not a common governmental connection. This is not autonomy, since autonomous churches are their own authority. Church history, up and through the mono-episcopal phase, gives explicit testimony to this apostolic deposit functioning among the churches. Church history, in the period of the Apostolic Fathers, offers no more explicit testimony to a See in Rome than it does to a connectional framework of elders in regions or territories.

    This “linked-through-faith” is visibly displayed in the ecclesiology of Revelation, where the Lord of the Church speaks directly to seven churches and calls each one a “church,” all of them collectively “the churches,” and never collectively “the Church.” It is the responsibility of every teacher who proposes to use the word “Church” to collectively define churches to explain why his usage of ecclesia is preferable to Christ’s in Revelation, especially of those those strictly subscribed to the WCF.

    If you want to argue the merits of your case, may I suggest you do so at my blog at “Jesus Defines His Church.

    As I wrote above to Lane and Reed (59),

    And if your mind races to the Jerusalem Council, that was not a church acting as a deliberative assembly, but the apostles of the churches, and the elders of one church (Acts 15:2, 16:4).

    Further, can you tell us where in Scripture the rules are found for the conduct of the debate in Acts 15:7?

    Why? Apostles (and elders) are mandated to rule churches on behalf of Jesus Christ. With the general command given to rule, all subsidiary tasks underneath it are thereby authorized to be carried out as deemed best by those qualified to be in the office. What need is there of such detail?

    rf, the ultimate issue is the nature of a Christian church. Lane writes at the beginning of this post,

    Everything I have been learning has been related to this question: how do we treat everyone fairly, and how do we treat everyone’s ideas fairly in a deliberative body?

    In contrast, I wrote in 59:

    RRO, in itself, is fine when used in a deliberative assembly. However, the churches of Jesus Christ, as defined in both precept and example in the writings of the apostles and prophets to the churches, and collected in the 27 books of the NT, are not deliberative assemblies.

    If I may be forward (probably too much), you may need to read the New Testament and figure out that deliberative/non-deliberative nature for yourself.

  67. Bob S said,

    July 10, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    64 ASimpEld
    The difference is between sufficient and exhaustive. Otherwise the article you mention, “The High Call of Eldership Churches” is unnecessary/unbiblical.

    You can’t have it both ways.

    We will either enter into the labors of those whose gifts Christ has given his church – this is after all the year of our Lord 2014 – or we will reinvent the wheel and pride ourselves for it.

    No thanks.

  68. asimpleelder said,

    July 10, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    Bob,

    Early in church history a man named Justin lived in Rome and was martyred around 165AD. He wrote,

    “On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits… Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly.” (Justin Martyr, Apology, 1:67).

    Don’t want to reinvent the wheel. Just want to obey the apostle’s teachings on the churches.

  69. Bob S said,

    July 10, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    66 Why? Apostles (and elders) are mandated to rule churches on behalf of Jesus Christ. With the general command given to rule, all subsidiary tasks underneath it are thereby authorized to be carried out as deemed best by those qualified to be in the office. What need is there of such detail?

    Again, all I am hearing is pious baptist biblicism/fundamentalism. But being a Christian or a church doesn’t magically remove conflict or disagreement.
    And I have been in situations where supposedly there was no need of “such detail”. It wasn’t, shall we say, lot’s of fun. Sincerity on the part of church members and officers does not always translate into orthodoxy, equity and justice.

    Everybody believes the Bible. The crux is, at this late date, how do they interpret and apply it. Ergo confessions, church orders and even RRO.

    The alternative? Been there, done that.

  70. Bob S said,

    July 10, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    68 Didn’t know Justin was an apostle or his Apology was part of the NT.

  71. rfwhite said,

    July 10, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    66 asimpleelder: thanks for indulging my questions.

    You state the following: “all subsidiary tasks underneath it are thereby authorized to be carried out as deemed best by those qualified to be in the office.”

    This raises a question for me, so help me understand: if what you say is true, why object to the use of RRO by some in office who deem it best to do so?

  72. Reed Here said,

    July 10, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Simple, are you familiar with the Didache? How does that fit into your scheme of how the church is to be ordered?

  73. rfwhite said,

    July 10, 2014 at 8:24 pm

    66 asimpleelder: more thanks for hearing another question or two.

    I am interested in your statement that “the churches were, and still are, only connected through a common faith, but not a common governmental connection.” Question: if they are connected through a common faith, would you also affirm that they are connected through the one Spirit (Acts 15:8-9) and if through that one Spirit, then through His gifts of teaching and governance also, as exemplified at the Jerusalem council of churches and in the dissemination of its Spirit-worked decrees thereafter (15.28)? In short, I don’t understand how your claim about a common faith relates to the uniting work of the one Spirit and His gifts. Can you help?

    Also, your statement about the teacher who proposes to use the word “Church” to collectively define churches must explain why his usage of ecclesia is preferable to Christ’s in Revelation. Question: Do you mean to say that our usage must square only to Christ’s in Revelation? Do you grant that it must also square with Paul’s usage in Ephesians and Colossians where the church is universal as well as local? Again, I don’t understand how you see the relationship between the church in Eph and Col and the churches in Revelation.

  74. asimpleelder said,

    July 11, 2014 at 9:11 am

    Hi rf (71),

    Allow me to play Socratic with you for a moment – please don’t misunderstand my intention, for it is a pleasure to exchange back and forth with you,

    You wrote,

    This raises a question for me, so help me understand: if what you say is true, why object to the use of RRO by some in office who deem it best to do so?

    Instead, why does the Jerusalem Council, as detailed by Luke for the churches of all subsequent history, feature none of the debate format (if there were any), but only speeches from apostles, and an authoritative letter from them (and the elders)?

  75. asimpleelder said,

    July 11, 2014 at 9:29 am

    Dear rf (73),

    “Question: if they are connected through a common faith, would you also affirm that they are connected through the one Spirit (Acts 15:8-9) and if through that one Spirit, then through His gifts of teaching and governance also, as exemplified at the Jerusalem council of churches and in the dissemination of its Spirit-worked decrees thereafter (15.28)? In short, I don’t understand how your claim about a common faith relates to the uniting work of the one Spirit and His gifts.

    I think you might be conflating the koinonia that comes from Christ, and is worked in the lives of His own through the Spirit. However, this take physical contact, precisely because the gifts require flesh and blood interaction. Human governance of churches, apart from the apostles in the 1st C, in the NT is located always in a local body of Christ.

    To understand the local body of Christ, please consider reading, “The Local Body of Christ ”.

    You wrote,

    Do you mean to say that our usage must square only to Christ’s in Revelation? Do you grant that it must also square with Paul’s usage in Ephesians and Colossians where the church is universal as well as local? Again, I don’t understand how you see the relationship between the church in Eph and Col and the churches in Revelation

    The “church” in Ephesians (all instances of ecclesia) and Colossians (1:18 and 1:24, but not 4:15-16) is comprised of ALL those currently in heaven, AND those who are saved on earth, AND those who have yet to come to faith in Christ. This is the universal group Jesus spoke of in Mat. 16:18. But when our Lord spoke in Revelation, He did not mean the universal church, but churches in a geographic location only.

    These are the only two definitions of ecclesia in the NT, geographically located in a physical locale on earth, in which real flesh and blood believers meet together every Lord’s Day, and the universal church – wherein we shall all meet the Lord in the air, and forever be with Him.

    The Lord of the Church defined the one in Mat. 16:18 and the other in Mat. 18:17.

  76. asimpleelder said,

    July 11, 2014 at 9:30 am

    Hi Reed (72),

    Simple, are you familiar with the Didache? How does that fit into your scheme of how the church is to be ordered?

    Can you be a bit more specific?

  77. Reed Here said,

    July 11, 2014 at 9:44 am

    Simple,

    1. Are you familiar with the document called the Didache? If not, follow up questions along this line will need some backgrounding first.

    2. If you are familiar with the Didache, how does this document fit in with your scheme of church governance? At present I am reading you as insisting on only what Scripture commands, with no augmentation of any sort.

    3. If I am reading you incorrectly, then I’d ask you to answer a previously asked question you might have missed, what exactly are you arguing against, for?

  78. rfwhite said,

    July 11, 2014 at 11:58 am

    74 asimpleelder: You ask me why does the Jerusalem Council, as detailed by Luke for the churches of all subsequent history, feature none of the debate format (if there were any), but only speeches from apostles, and an authoritative letter from them (and the elders)?

    In response, I would infer that Luke features none of the debate format (to which debate Acts 15:2, 7 refer) because his interest was in the final product of the debate as distinct from the detailed process of reaching it. I take it that this inference is consistent with what you stated above (66): With the general command given to rule, all subsidiary tasks underneath it are thereby authorized to be carried out as deemed best by those qualified to be in the office.

    Since I agree with that statement of yours, I’m still wondering why you object to the use of RRO by some in office who deem it best to do so.

  79. asimpleelder said,

    July 11, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Hi rf, thanks for the reply,

    You wrote,

    In response, I would infer that Luke features none of the debate format (to which debate Acts 15:2, 7 refer) because his interest was in the final product of the debate as distinct from the detailed process of reaching it.

    It surely was. But the process was also crucial, for Luke records several speeches that got them there.

    Which appears to align more with Luke’s intent for the churches in recording the event. Apostles only spoke those speeches, and only those speeches are recorded in Scripture as prophecy of the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28), and hence dogma for all the churches of Christendom, for all time.

    These dogma then come from the the Holy Spirit and are Christ’s rule over the churches (the vast majority of which featured no one of their congregation in attendance, Acts 16:4).

    Thus submission to the apostolic rule of faith, itself prophecy from Christ, is what connects the churches together and to the apostles, and thus to Christ.

    From here we need to see how the apostolic rule of faith is understood so that churches may agree upon it, and for that, may I recommend for your reading “Precept and Example”.

  80. rfwhite said,

    July 11, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    79 asimpleelder: Thanks for your patience as I try to understand your claims.

    Since you and I agree on Luke’s interest in Acts, and since you and I agree that “with the general command given to rule, all subsidiary tasks underneath it are thereby authorized to be carried out as deemed best by those qualified to be in the office,” can you explain why you object to the use of RRO by some in office who deem it best to do so?

    Also, in 75 you affirm that the churches were connected through a common faith. My further question is, Do you also affirm that those churches were connected through the one Spirit? As a specific example, was “the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria” (Acts 9:31; notably “the church” throughout those regions) connected through the one Spirit? I’m trying to understand how the church and the Spirit relate in your doctrine.

  81. asimpleelder said,

    July 11, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    Hi rf,

    can you explain why you object to the use of RRO by some in office who deem it best to do so?

    Sorry, I thought i had in several posts above – churches are not deliberative assemblies. The JC was not a church. As far as elders using it as a means of discussion among themselves on matters that are adiaphora, it can be effectively used. But not on doctrinal, or judicial matters.

    Do you also affirm that those churches were connected through the one Spirit?

    No, churches are not connected by the Spirit, for there may be few or none in it who are indwelt with the Spirit (Rev. 3:1, 14). However, all churches regardless of spiritual condition are accountable to the Spirit (Rev. 3:22). Many, if not most churches are notable for disobedience, especially in the sins of schism and heresy.

    As for Acts 9:31, that is one of several NT texts that appear to break the two-definition-only view I advocated above (ecclesia = universal or local). Given all textual considerations, please consider the church there as the scattered church of Jerusalem, Acts 8:1, 3.

  82. rfwhite said,

    July 11, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    82 asimpleelder: Thanks for repeating yourself … at my request. It appears there are a myriad of assumptions and qualifications to sort out. Perhaps another time …

  83. rfwhite said,

    July 11, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    81 asimpleelder: Ah, well … allow me one more question: so am I right to understand from you that churches were and still are connected by a common faith, but those churches are not connected by the one Spirit?

  84. asimpleelder said,

    July 11, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    Hi rf (call me Ted),

    am I right to understand from you that churches were and still are connected by a common faith, but those churches are not connected by the one Spirit?

    I tried to answer this earlier – the churches are connected to the Spirit through an obedient relationship to the Spirit-inspired apostolic deposit of the canon. That’s all – Rev. 3:22. I probably should have been clearer, my bad.

    As you know, churches are more than just the people in them; they are also institutions and so of themselves are not savingly connected to the Lord, for they may be schismatic or apostate, and thereby “not recognized.”

    Also, remember that in apostolic times there was but one church in a city, not like what we live in today where the regenerate are scattered among all sorts of churches. That one church in apostolic times contained all the regenerate in that region, so in that way an early church could offer a much easier answer to your question – yes, each one of all the churches were connected to the Spirit, for all the gifts in operation in that region were only operative in one body, i.e., one church (Eph. 4:16). And the church in Ephesus could say the same thing of the one church in Corinth (1 Cor. 12:12-14) and the one church in Rome (Rom. 12:4-8).

  85. Bob S said,

    July 13, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    But Ted, how do we know that we are not just getting ASimpleElder’s Rules of Order rather than Robert’s?

    Two, the council of Jerusalem included non apostolic members who voted on the outcome. IOW that’s not how apostolic prophecy works, much more the decrees were temporary in the transition from a Jewish Christian church to a Gentile Christian church. Worse, if the council was not deliberative, we know not what.

    I’m with RF. The account does not include all the details of how the meeting was conducted, but only gives us the highlights and conclusions.

    Again, scripture is sufficient, but not exhaustive.
    If it is the latter, as well as the former, your apology/exposition is out of order, not to mention in contradiction to your fundamental axioms.
    Neither do I see your responses as dealing substantively with that objection.

  86. rfwhite said,

    July 14, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    84 Ted: another week, another question … what can I say? I’m curious. In your “House Churches” essay, one of your statements caught my attention: the “Christians met during the week in house groups but altogether on Sunday for worship.” Question: how do you know this to be the case?

    Mr. Moderator: if you’d rather not see this discussion pursued in this thread, I’ll promptly “cease and desist.”

  87. asimpleelder said,

    July 14, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    Hi rf,

    one of your statements caught my attention: the “Christians met during the week in house groups but altogether on Sunday for worship.” Question: how do you know this to be the case?

    The context of that statement in the article provides a great likelihood of that being the case, but not an absolute certainty.

    That the whole church of Corinth met together on every Sunday is beyond reasonable dispute – the verses used to support that were 1 Cor. 16:2 (“first day of the week”) 1 Cor. 12:27, 1 Cor. 11:18, 1 Cor. 14:23, 1 Cor. 1:2, 1 Cor. 10:16-17. To that could be added 1 Cor. 5:4 and the 5-fold repitition of “come together” (συνερχοµένων) in 1 Cor. 11:17-34. Of particular importance is the phrase “in one place” (ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ) in both 1 Cor. 11:20 and 14:23.

    At the same time there is abundant evidence for multiple meetings occurring among “people groups” of the one church in Corinth, most likely in homes. These could include up to the following:

    1) The household of Stephanas, 1 Cor. 1:16, 16:15;

    2) Crispus and his household, Acts 18:8, 1 Cor. 1:14;

    3) Titius Justus (perhaps)? Acts 18:7, who maybe hosted the whole church for a while;

    4) Perhaps up to five other house groups from 1 Cor. 1:12 – “Chloe’s people,” “of Paul,” “of Apollos,” “of Cephas,” “of Christ”;

    5) Gaius’ house, in which the “whole church” met on Sunday, 1 Cor. 14:23, Rom. 16:23.

    Now, it would be pleading to claim that these groups learned to identify themselves as groups apart from the whole church while among the whole church gathered on Sunday. That defies logic. No, almost certainly they met as groups together at some point during the week, thus providing a way to gain identity as a group.

    From here it is deduction. We have a choice – to believe they all met in separate places (likely homes) on Sunday, before or after the whole church gathered in one place (14:23), or to assume they did not meet on Sunday, but rather during the week.

    The likelihood that they met on Sunday is hard to picture. They either separated off from the whole church which had gathered in their own separate rooms, or each group separated each week, leaving Gaius’ house after their Sunday fellowship meal was finished (14:33), and going to their own group meeting (at another house?). – ask too much. There are any number of reasons as why this is virtually impossible, and if you know Sunday to Sunday church life as a family man, or leading people, then I don’t need to explain further. Further, it strains credibility to think of slaves and free men being able to take so much time on the first day of the week in a 1st C pagan culture.

    Therefore, the only alternative left is what I wrote in my article, “The Christians met during the week in house groups but altogether on Sunday for worship”

    rf, may I have your permission to enter your question into my web site’s comment section on that article?

  88. rfwhite said,

    July 15, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    87 Ted: yeah, use the question without attribution, as in “a reader asked … “


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