I have no doubt that denominations are formed over theological issues. But I don’t really care how they are formed. I don’t recognize the “churches” of the denominations as Christian Assemblies. Rather I regard them more as clubs.
One has to join a club to become a member. One has to join a denominational church to become a member. The Assembly of Christ cannot be joined. The Lord Himself adds those who are being saved to their number (Acts 2:47)
A member has to pay regular membership fees to a club. A member of some denominational churches are required to pay a tithe of their income to the church. Assemblies of Christ do not require such fees.
A club has a president that is elected democratically. Many denominational churches elect their pastor through a democratic process. Overseers or elders are appointed in the assemblies of Christ (Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5)
The president of a club conducts all the meetings. The pastor of a denominational church conducts all the meetings. In the a local assembly of the Assembly of Christ, everyone has something to contribute as he is led of God’s spirit (1 Corinthians 14:26). Thus God Himself conducts the meetings.
I am referring to a circle of fellowship that calls its mission “Global Missions, Inc.” I do not fully agree with either its practice or its statement of faith. Nevertheless there are several practices that parallel the early assemblies of Christ. The bread and wine of the communion is taken every Sunday as in the early assemblies. It is unleavened bread and unleavened wine (that is alcoholic wine in which the leaven has settled as dregs and the unleavened wine has been skimmed off.) This symbolizes the purity of Christ and the absence of “the leaven of the Pharisees” (Luke 12:1). The celebration of the communion to remember Christ is regarded as a sacrament, and not merely an ordinance. There are elders and deacons appointed in every congregation. (Congregations are called “churches.”) The elders and deacons are unpaid. There is “body ministry,” that is, every person present is regarded as a minister.
There are also “travelling elders” that some call “apostles” though they don’t take that name themselves. They oversee all local churches. There are also “travelling deacons.” So there are elders and deacons at three levels:
Travelling elders and deacons
Local elders and deacons
The elder and deaconess in the family. (The husband is regarded as the elder in the home, and his wife the deaconess).
It is a relatively small circle of fellowship. There are 19 congregations in Canada, 19 in United States, and 10 in the Caribbean. There are missions in the Congo, Ghana, Guyana and Suriname, India, Kenya, the Philippines, Tanzanian, and Uganda.
Here is their website where you can find the locations of their churches by clicking on “ATTEND.”
I would suspect that the service format, is similar to a community or non-denominational church. And probably the hymns are 100 years old or more - and NOT contemporary, with guitars, an electric piano, drums, etc. The statement "
reminds me of Quakerism.
P.S. Message to Zombie. I love your ideas that Paidion quoted. It would be interesting to meet you sometime. I suspect that a P-Zombie and a real Zombie (if that’s what you are), would have a lot in common
P.S. As someone who likes an academic style, you might find me presenting articles on different sides. The Got Question position on open communion, differs from that of the Protestant article on closed communion. And I don’t always agree with every point, an article makes. For example, I don’t agree with the Protestant article on closed communion’s, criticism of the Roman Catholic Church.
Another thing regarding the Orthodox Church allowing only Orthodox to partake of communion:
It is easy (especially for us moderns) to fall into the error of thinking that the Church is saying in a supercilious tone, “We Orthodox are better than all you losers. We get the good stuff, while you sorry lot have to just stand there and forlornly watch us elite and happy few. Sucks to be you.” Certainly not!
The liturgy makes it clear that we Orthodox are desperately sinful. We make zero claim to superior righteousness. If anything, we make claim to being worse than everyone else. Joining the Orthodox Church is the prerequisite to partaking of communion. Simply that.
If a person confesses Jesus Christ as their lord and savior and believes in the Triune God, they are our brother or sister. We are fellow believers and shouldn’t be excluded from taking communion with them.
It depends what is meant by ‘universalist congregation’. Paidion’s arguing against a church where universalism is the main focus and of course he’s completely right if that is what’s meant by ‘universalist congregation’.
If, on the other hand, you mean a congregation/church where universalism is simply the generally-held soteriological belief, then I don’t think there’s any problem.
Dave has illustrated the point I want to make. Virtually everyone (including those who practice what they call “open communion”) has some sort of restrictions on who can take communion in their church. Qaz listed two requirements, and Dave has listed one. Some are more liberal than Dave, opening communion to all monotheists (whatever their opinions of Jesus). Yet others open it to all human beings without exception. I’ve even seen an article in which this one church allowed people to bring their dogs up to communion.*
The Orthodox Church simply has a longer list of requirements for taking communion.
The Orthodox Church believes that every little thing proclaimed in its liturgies to be the truth revealed by God Himself. One either accepts that truth in its entirety, or one does not. If so, one joins the Orthodox Church and takes communion therein. If not, one does not join the Orthodox Church and does not take communion therein.
*I’m reminded of an Irish joke: O’Flanagan went to his priest and said, “Father, me dog has died, and I was wondering if you could conduct a funeral for him.”
The priest replied, “O’Flanagan, what is wrong wi’ ye? How dare you mock the Church like that!”
O’Flanagan, downcast, said, “I’m really broken up about me dog, Father. Are you sure nothing can be done?”
The priest replied, “Look, there’s a Protestant church over the hill. Why don’t you check with them? God knows what they’re doing over there.”
O’Flanagan brightened and said, “Father, I have 10,000 pounds. Do you think that will be enough for them?”
At which the priest changed his tune and said, “Why, O’Flanagan. You didn’t tell me that your dog is Catholic!”
It’s a pretty awesome responsibility deciding who we consider to be a follower of Christ - or not.
And that is THE question, isn’t it? Any group that considers all of it’s interpretation of dogma to be infallible is made up of fallible people, who then decide what is infallible? Same with what is ‘essential’ - is what is essential to join our group the same as what our Father in heaven considers essential to genuine belief? I’m not criticizing any group here, other than to point out that people - every single one of us - CHOOSE what to believe; to then make our choice the benchmark for anyone else to have fellowship with us seems - arbitrary.
The Orthodox Church does something much easier: Gives communion only to members of the Orthodox Church. If there’s any doubt about a given person, one need only look to see if his name is on the membership list.
While I’m on the fence regarding whether or not trinitarianism is essential to Christian faith, I can recognize Orthos, Catholics, Pentecostals, Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, nondenominationals all as part of one body. We have many disagreements, but I don’t look at a Christian with different doctrines as not Christian. If someone has been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he professes Jesus as his lord and savior, who is any Christian to say they don’t have communion with this person?
The Orthodox Church recognizes all of her teachings (i. e., every word of the liturgies) as essential because they are all the truth given to us by Christ through the Apostles. In any denial of even a single letter (compare the controversy over homoousios vs. homoiousios) of the liturgy we hear the serpent whisper, “Did God really say…?” (cf. Genesis 3:1)
The Orthodox Church does not think that she is part of some larger body. She teaches that she is the one Church in all of its fullness. Nothing is lacking in her. Nothing is unbalanced. She is the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, against which the gates of hades cannot prevail. She is the body of Christ. All Christians outside of the Orthodox Church are not members of the Church. We do not believe in the Protestant doctrine of an invisible church. We believe the Church is visible with no ambiguities as to who is a member and who is not. To speak exactly, there is only one Church–the Orthodox Church. Any other body that calls itself a church does so erroneously.
Neither do I. I simply recognize that they are not Orthodox.
The word “communion” comes from the Latin “communio”, which means “a sharing”, which is derived from “communis”, which means sharing common duties. Partaking of Christ’s body and blood in communion is the culmination of the liturgy, which word comes from the Greek “leitourgia”, which means “work”. When one participates in the liturgy, one is doing his divinely-appointed work, accomplishing his shared duties with his fellow Orthodox. The liturgy is not something to merely watch or to listen to. It is something one does. Every word of the liturgy is one’s heart-felt prayer. Every movement one makes is divine service. We bow to the icons. We kiss the icons. We pray to the Theotokos. Etc. We are all, as it were, in an exactly-choreographed dance. We dance with all our fellow Orthodox, both in Heaven and on earth, as well as with all the hosts of angels. We participate in the celestial liturgy around the throne of the holy Trinity.
Now imagine someone inside an Orthodox Church building listening to the liturgy saying, “Hmmm. No, I don’t believe that. Oh, I definitely don’t believe that. My goodness, who could possibly believe that! Oh, this part is OK. I’m OK with this, though it’s not that important. What? Hey, everybody is getting in line. Maybe I can get a bite of wine-soaked bread, too.”
That hypothetical person is clearly not in communion with us. His heart does not beat in time with ours. His feet are out of step with the dance. His voice is not joined with the angelic choir. He does not recognize the truth of Orthodoxy. He, at most, thinks that we are a group that has some correct opinions and some incorrect opinions, not essentially different from any other group.
We don’t believe that taking communion signifies mere agreement on a few points. We believe it to be perfect union with the holy Trinity and therefore with each other. There can be no discordant notes. Otherwise we don’t have communion but only…a bite to eat. One might as well eat a solemn meal at home or elsewhere.
I’m honestly perplexed as to why a non-Orthodox would even want to take communion in an Orthodox Church. He would be basically saying, “Hey, you guys believe a lot of stuff that is (at best) nonessential and (at worst) downright wrong. But you believe in some important things that I also believe in, so why don’t you guys (by giving me communion) implicitly recognize that I’m right and that all your stuff that I don’t believe is just disposable packaging for the real deal?” The Orthodox Church could not accept that. To do so would be to cease to exist. It would be to become one more denomination.
And from a purely pragmatic viewpoint, where would one draw the line? Let us say that of the thousand things proclaimed in the liturgy, a man believed 999 of them. Would communion be OK? How about 998? 997? 10? 5? 1? 0? At some point one would have to say, “Ah, this thing MUST be believed for communion” (unless, of course, he went to that church that allows Fido to lap from the communion dish). The Orthodox Church has already given us a list of essentials: everything in her liturgy. One may believe howsoever he wills on other matters. UFOs? The chemical composition of water? The best way to plant a radish? Etc. are all unessential. If it’s in the liturgy, it is essential. By having a different list of essentials than that of the Orthodox Church, one isn’t even in agreement with her, must less in communion with her.
Forgive me for my post’s imprecision and lack of grace. I’m speaking of something so transcendent that my words are merely weak pointers.