Servants' News

November 1995

What is the Role of Church Members in Governing the New Testament Church?

How was the Church governed in the first century? This question is being asked in many Churches of God today.

There were three major groups who together governed the early first century Church. One of those groups consisted of the entire Church membership. The other two were the apostles and elders. Many people do not realize that the collective membership of the first century Church was very much involved in leading and governing the Church. The purpose of the paper is to show how Church members were involved in governing the Church in the first century.


A Definition of “Church”

The term Church in the Greek is ekklhsia (Ekklesia). The Ekklesia or Church is the assembly, the gathering, the company, the collective body of believers who comprise the Church of God. The best translation of Ekklesia is probably Assembly . So the term Assembly will be used in place of the term Church throughout most of this article.

The Greeks used the term Ekklesia primarily to refer to a body of citizens gathered to discuss the affairs of state. There are a number of other secondary meanings such as the one in Acts 19:32 where Ekklesia refers to the gathering together of a riotous mob.

In the Septuagent translation of the Old Testament the term Ekklesia is used in reference to the nation of Israel. It refers to the gathering of the nation of Israel, where the nation was summoned for a specific purpose. The Septuagent also uses the Greek

term Ekklesia to mean a gathering of a group that was smaller in size then the entire nation, but which was regarded as representative of the entire nation of Israel.


How Jesus Christ Used the Term Ekklesia

But as a definition of how the Greeks used the term Ekklesia, "Assembly", is only a starting point for this discussion. Of critical importance is how Jesus Christ used the term. What did He mean when he said Ekklesia?

The first usage of the term Ekklesia or Assembly is found in Matt 16:18. Jesus said I will build my Assembly. Here Assembly means Jesus gathering, His group, His body of collective believers. There is absolutely no connotation of hierarchy in this statement or in the term "Ekklesia." People read the concept of hierarchy into the verse because of their belief that the Church, the Assembly, is a hierarchy. It is not. Christ said he was going to build an Assembly, a gathering of people. It would be His. His people, His gathering, His Assembly. He said that the gates of hell, would not prevail against it. Nothing could destroy it. He would take care of this Assembly of His!

In verse 19 He further defines what His Assembly would do. He would give this Assembly the keys of the Kingdom of God. That means He would grant them an understanding of the Kingdom of God. He would give the disciples access to the Kingdom of God now and in the future. He had already told His disciples to pray for the Kingdom of God to come and He would later tell the disciples to preach the Gospel of the kingdom of God into all the world and make disciples of all nations.

Jesus goes on in verse 17 to say that the disciples would have the authority to make binding decisions within the Assembly. They could not change His laws. They could not bind what He has loosed. Nor could they loose what He had bound. But in those areas where the disciples had been given responsibility and authority they would be able to make decisions that would be binding on the Assembly.

To whom did He give this authority? It was not to Peter. It was not to the apostles. There were no "ordained ministers" at this time, so it was not to them. He gave the authority to bind and loose to the entire Assembly, all of his disciples collectively

which included the apostles. In verse 19 we clearly see that Jesus was teaching all of his disciples. The disciples were the audience to whom He addressed these statements. He ends this very first discussion on the Assembly by instructing His disciples that they should tell no man that He was Jesus the Christ.


Men and Women Are to Have a Voice in the Assembly

In Matt 18:15-21 Jesus used the term Ekklesia for the second time in the New Testament. Jesus shows that inevitably there would be problems and controversies within His Assembly. Here He provides the principles of how to handle problems that arise within the Assembly. He uses a specific example of one member of the Assembly, a man or woman, in some manner hurting another member of the Assembly, a man or woman.

Over time the severity of the hurt would cover the entire gamut of possibilities. We have tended to think these verses apply only to men. Being hurt by others of course is not limited to the male gender. This involve both sexes. It would include a man hurting a man, a woman hurting a woman, a man hurting a woman and a woman hurting a man.

He says we are to take the matter before two or three fellow members of the Assembly. This would include men or women or both. In verse 16 we read "But if he will not hear you, then take with you one or two witness more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established."

In the past some had assumed that this meant only men. This is an incorrect assumption. Jesus is not addressing a specific gender. The individuals could be any member of the Assembly, man or woman or elder or prophetess.

In fact a woman should probably take a personal matter to two or three other women. If the group of women solve the problem there is no need to take it before the entire Assembly. Many sensitive problems can be handled very privately in this manner.

If, however, the person causing the problem does not hear this small group, Jesus says these two or three individuals, men or women, are to be witnesses to establish the truth of what was said and they are to take it before the entire Assembly.


Not Just the Apostles and Ministry

Let us look at verse 17 (Matt 18) in detail, it reads "and if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Assembly but if he neglect to hear the Assembly, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican."

This small group was not to take such matters before just the apostles. There was no church hierarchy to take them to either. They are to take problems to the entire Assembly of converted men and women who comprise the Church of God.

Major questions, major issues, major problems, major changes in direction, major question of doctrine need to be taken before the entire Church membership. Even the apostles did this, when there was no direct revelation, as is evidenced by the Jerusalem conference.

"He" the offending individual is to hear the Assembly. It does not say "he" is to hear the apostle or the leadership. The Assembly of men and women are to "bind or loose". "Verily I say unto you, whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven", verse 18 (Matt 18). Note that "you" the Assembly is doing the binding and loosing. This is exactly the same thing that we read in Matthew 16.


The Father Does the Bidding

Going onto verse 19 (Matt 18) we read Jesus goes on to say that if two or three men or women are gathered together in His name and seek His guidance in making a decision for their Assembly, He will be with them and the Father will bind and loose what they decide to do.

Jesus Christ is the head of the Church. He leads and guides it. That is His job. But at this point the Father gets personally involved. He wants men and women from all levels of society to work together and discuss the matter, led by His Holy Spirit. He cares deeply about the problems and discussions. He cares so deeply that He personally binds their decision.


Women to Have a Voice

Women are to have a voice with men in the Assembly in this type of judgment.

Some Churches of God may in reality consist of only a small number of righteous women. There may be no men at all. This was in fact the case in Acts 16:13 where Christ raised up a small group of righteous women in Philipi. These women in Philipi were empowered by Jesus to make decisions on behalf their Church. When these ladies made such decisions the Father in heaven would bind or loose those decisions. It was a promise!

This inclusion of women should be no different in a congregation of mixed sexes. There would the same kind of voting in a mixed congregation as there would be in a congregation that consisted solely of women. In fact when the Philipian congregation grew to include both men and women do you think that the women were pushed aside and stopped from being a part of the decision process in Christ's Assembly there in Philipi. I think not!

Paul says, in Galatians 3:28, that before God "...there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Women have a voice in the Assembly with men. Jesus gave them a voice in the administration of the Church. Women do not preach in the Assembly, they are not to usurp authority over men, and they are to be in subjection to their own husbands. Yet they are to help lead and govern the Assembly. They provide a much needed balance to the singular perspective and biases of men. They can also deal much more knowledgeably and justly with women's issues and problems.


Women Are to Prophesy

In Acts 2:17 were read that in the last days your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. The Greek for prophesy is profhteuo (propheteuo) and means telling forth the divine council (see Vine s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words). Since women are not allowed to preach in the Assembly, this may in large part refer to women being moved by God's spirit to vote as part of the Assembly of God as Jesus Christ said should occur in Matt 16 and Matt 18.

We as a Church need to let women assume the role Christ wants them to have in the Assembly, the Church of God. If we do not allow this liberty in Christ, if we do not allow the Spirit of God to work in them as the Father desires, we as a Church will be quenching the Holy Spirit. The Father provides the inspiration. He gives gifts of His spirit to those He chooses in the Assembly (Eph 2). Women have been given and will be given the gift of prophecy.

The Church must allow for women to receive the gift of prophetic judgment. This won't occur if the entire congregation, including women, is not given its rightful voice in governing the Church.


Men Accpeted Women’s Positions in the Assembly

In Acts 21:9 we read that Philip the evangelist had four daughters, virgins which did prophesy. This gift of prophesy appears to be different then participating in the Assembly. But notice the language. This is a very matter-of-fact statement. As if the there is nothing unique or special about women prophesying, it was taken for granted. Men apparently were not threatened by women having this gift. Nor was the entire first century Assembly threatened by it.

In Rom 16:1-2 is a reference to Phebe. Paul commends unto the Romans "Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the Assembly which is at Cenchrea: That you receive her in the Lord, as becomes saints, and that you assist her in whatsoever business she has need of you: for she has been a succourer of many, and of myself also."

The word servant here is "diakonon" (diakonos) in the Greek. This is exactly the same word that is translated as deacon and minister. It is translated 3 times as deacon, 8 times as servant and 20 times as minister. Phebe was a servant, deacon, minister of the Assembly.

Paul told the Romans to do "whatsoever" she asked them to do. The "them" is men and women. Here a woman is given significant authority by an apostle and both men and women are to follow her direction. They are to do what she asks them to do. They are to heed her instruction. Paul told them to listen to her. The point is that women can exercise significant authority in the Assembly. They of course are not to usurp authority. But they can function as servants of the Assembly, the Greek implies they can function in the same manner as a "deacon" or “minister”.


The Church in the Old Testament

There was a Church in Old Testament Israel. It existed in Moses day. Stephen refers to it in his discourse with the high priest (Acts 7:37). It was a genuine Assembly, a congregation. It was this Assembly after which the first century Church was patterned. When Jesus used the term Assembly in Matthew 16 he spoke to people who were just like Stephen. They were schooled in their national history. They knew what an Assembly was. They knew Moses led one in the wilderness, and that their fathers were a part of it. They also knew a good deal about how it functioned.

When Christ said He would build His Assembly, they had a good idea of what He was referring to. Jesus went on however to define how His Assembly would differ from that of ancient Israel and the assemblies of first century Jews.

After Christ s death the apostles continued to define how the Assembly was to function. The Church was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ the chief corner stone (Eph 2:20). The apostles had a unique role. They were eye

witnesses of Christ's life, his death and his resurrection and they were taught directly by Him.


The Unique Role of the Apostles

The apostles set an organizational structure within the Church that was based on existing scriptures, the direct teaching and revelation of Jesus, and the guidence of the holy spirit. Men were selected to tend to physical duties in the congregation when the need for this function became apparent (Acts 6). Synagogues were run by elders (older people) and pastors or overseers (rendered "bishops" in some translations). This practice was continued in the governing of the Assemblies of the believers.

The first century Church was filled with dynamic change. It grew rapidly. There were all sorts of problems and issues with which to wrestle. The apostles were required to lay the foundation of the Church. They were required to make decisions based on the Scriptures to resolve all major issues. These decisions would reflect the instructions Jesus gave the Apostles and the direction of the Holy Spirit on converted minds.

The apostles finished the task. When John the last of the apostles died, the Church had the structure Christ wanted it to have. After John there were no longer any apostles.

The two remaining groups, i.e. the Assembly and the elders were expected to continue what Jesus Christ, the apostles had set in motion.


Patterns from the Old Testament

It is extremely important to realize that the new structure that the apostles put in place was based on Old Testament patterns. The institutions of the Old Testament were modified to serve the needs of this new spiritual Assembly.

In Matthew 16 and 18 Jesus begins to make distinctions between the responsibilities of the assemblies of the nation of Israel and responsibilities of the Assembly that would be the Church of God.

The Church of Moses day, the Assembly in the wilderness, made decisions for the collective Assembly. Jesus Christ assembled the nation of Israel and He asked them if they would live by the Covenant that Moses presented to them. The people said they would.

The ancient Assembly was asked by Jesus Christ to decide on the direction it would go. Would they abide by the terms of the Covenant or not. The Assembly chose to follow Jesus Christ and live by the terms of the Old Covenant.


The People Lose Their Voice

This calling of an Assembly to make local and national decisions was present during the period of Moses through the time of the Judges. It later goes away when Israel insisted on having a king, instead of being ruled by Jesus Christ. A rigid hierarchy was created. Starting with Saul, the kings of Israel and Judah ruled the people in hierarchical fashion. It was a manner of rulership not found in Israel prior to Saul's reign.

The people lost their voice when this hierarchy was established. They lost the ability to give their community and their nation direction. Christ gave this back to His Assembly. He once again gave His group, His called out ones the voice that the monarchy took away. He wants the Church to exercise this decision making role just as the Church in the wilderness was made to do.


The Church as Discussed in the Epistles of Paul

The role of the Assembly in Paul s writings is not as clear. He writes assuming that the reader understands how the Assembly is to function, how it is to make decisions.

Paul and the various churches he raised up must have applied Matthew 16 and 18. They must have, because Jesus said to convene an Assembly and make judgments on Church matters. We have no clear example of that occurring in the epistles. But there are strong indications that Paul addressed how the Assembly was to function in at least three places in the Paul's epistles and also in Acts 15.

We can safely assume that the Assembly's role and voice are therefore not diminished by Paul's epistles. Paul would not do away with Christ's instruction. One would expect Paul to develop the concept of how the Assembly is to function more completely. That is in fact the case in I Cor 5, I Cor 6 and I Tim 5:19-20. Each one of these sections of scripture will be discussed in detail later in this paper. Each one must be viewed in the context of Matthew 16 and Matthew 18.


How the Corinthian Assembly Should Have Dealt with Sin

In I Cor 5 Paul deals with the question of a major sin in the Assembly. The Assembly should have met and dealt with the problem. They should have put the individual out of their fellowship. It was their responsibility. They had not done their job and they were puffed up. Paul as an apostle corrects them (v 2). The man doing these things should have been removed from their fellowship through a meeting of the Assembly and through their collective action. He is telling them to use the process Christ gave us in Matthew 16 and 18.

It is important to realize that pastors, overseers, elders or any other function are not mentioned separately. They are not the ones who had the responsibility to put this man outside of the Church's fellowship. They were not to act unilaterally. Their primary responsibility in the first century church was that of an "overseering" (Acts 20:28), i.e. a coordinator or facilitator in modern language. They made sure that the affairs of the Assembly were properly carried out.

So here the Assembly had not done its job and Paul instructed them on what they should have done, and he corrected the problem.


Assembly Is to Judge Civil Matter and Angels

We read of similar situation in which the Assembly should have acted, in 1 Corinthians 6. This chapter also shows how the Assembly is to function. Here Paul states we are not to take our controversies to a civil court. The Assembly, the saints, the plur plural "you," the entire congregation, are to judge these matters as a group. "You" will judge angels, Paul tells them. The plural "You," the members of the Assembly, should be able to judge these small matters.

In verse 4 he tells them not to abandon their collective responsibility. He tells them not to delegate these matters by choosing some who were "least" esteemed to do this job for them. They, the Assembly, the group, the congregation should judge the matter just as Jesus told them to do in Matthew 16 and 18.

In verse 5 Paul asks is there not a wise man among you who can judge between His brethren, men or women, "I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? No, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren." Again he does not tell the elders or designate some "official" to do the judging. It is very important to realize this. The elders do not act as a body on their own separate from the Assembly. The Assembly which includes the elders is told to consider the matter.


Paul Adds to Christ’s Teaching Regarding the Assembly

Those who are wise within the Assembly should give advise and council to the whole Assembly. This is a part of the process that Christ did not address. Paul adds it under inspiration. This wise council is done within the Assembly and is probably the resul result of the Father giving gifts to various members.

Judging in this way is not to be delegated and handled apart from the Assembly. What we see hear is exactly what Christ addressed in Matthew 16 and 18. The Assembly on a local level needs to handle its own problems. A hierarchy is not to do this. The elders are not to do this separately. They are to be a part of the process, and function within the Assembly.


How to Correct and Elder

In I Tim 5:19-21 Paul discusses how to deal with an elder if he sins. This is a classic Matthew 18 type of situation. Did Paul change the way Christ said to deal with the problem? No he did not. He did not have the elders judge the sinning elder. That wou would not be scriptural. Paul had the Assembly judge the elders. Note that virtually the same language that is used in Matthew 18:16 is used in I Tim 5:19!

Matt 18:16 reads "But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established (Matt 18:16). Paul writes in I Tim 5:19 "Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses."

Elders are not to receive any special treatment. They are to be accorded the treatment Christ outlined for anyone who sins against a brother. In verse 20 Paul says that those who sin are to be rebuked before the entire congregation. They are not to be judged by other elders but by the Assembly as Jesus said. They are to be corrected publicly before the entire Assembly so that all will fear.

In verse 21 Paul goes on to tell Timothy not to show partiality, not to give elders special treatment. Even at that early point in the Church's history, there was a strong tendency to give elders preferential treatment.


Three Groups Involved in Church Government

There are of course many broad issues that go beyond the scope of the local congregation. There are issues that all of the congregations need to address collectively. An example of this is in Acts 15, the Jerusalem conference. The Jerusalem conference involved the three main groups. The apostles, the elders and the Assembly.

It is these three groups that are involved in governing The Church of God. They are mentioned throughout out the New Testament, but they are mentioned together most often in Acts 15. For example we read "then pleased the Apostle and elders with the whole Assembly to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch..." (Acts 15:22).

Notice the involvement of the Assembly in Acts 15 events. These scriptures show that the Assemblies in both Antioch and Jerusalem were involved in apparently most every step of the conference. The apostles acted as spokesmen, the elders were involved in the discussions, but the Assembly in Jerusalem was also involved. The Jerusalem Assembly and the Antioch Assembly had the option to concur or object, to rejoice or reject. The following scripture highlight their involvement.

Verse 2 - "...they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question." The "they" is the Assembly. The Assembly sent Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem.

Verse 3 - And being brought on their way by the Assembly, they passed through Phenice.... The apostles were brought on their way by the Assembly.

Verse 4 - "when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the Assembly, and of the apostles and elders and they declared all the things that God had done...." The delegation from Antioch was received by the "Assembly". The entire Church in Jerusalem was present and involved.

Verse 12 - "Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul...." Here "All the multitude" heard the discussion, which included the Assembly in Jerusalem.

Verse 22 - Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole Assembly to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch.... After James made his pronouncement, the Assembly was very much a part of the deliberation and action.

Verse 23 - "And they wrote letters by them after this manner; the apostles the elders and the brethren send greeting...." Note that this includes the brethren. They helped write the letters.

Verse 30 - "...and when they had gathered the whole multitude together, they delivered the epistle." This was sent and was read to the "gathered multitude" the Assembly in Antioch. The Assembly "rejoiced."

What we see here are bits and pieces of a process that has been hidden by time, and that was not meant to be a minute detailed description of how to conduct a conference. Paul deals with the main players and shows that all three groups were involved every step of the way. This is what would be expected in light of Matthew 16 and 18.


We No Longer Have the Apostles

The apostles, who were to be the eye-witnesses to the resurrection, have all died, the last who died was probably John near the end of the first century. Now the governance of the Church falls on the remaining two groups, the elders and the Assembly.

The apostles had a unique level of revelation and authority. The other two groups appear to have different functions but equal authority. Where there was no direct revelation even the apostles were subject at times to the other two groups, the elders and the Assembly.

In matters of conscience, matters of mutual concern, where there is human need, in controversies, and in question on the direction the Church should go, they all have equal authority. If any one of these three groups or any individual within them sees a human need in the Church, or realizes there is a problem, or is given a special revelation, that group or the individual is expected to speak and act according to the way God's spirit leads them. The matter then needs to be brought before the entire Assembly.


A Flat Organization with Christ at the Head

What Christ created is a flat non hierarchical form of government. Implicit in this organizational structure are strong checks and balances. Christ is the head of the Church. This flat organization forces all the groups to look and see where and through w whom He reveals where His Church should go. He expects the rest of the Assembly to consider what His direction and then collectively follow. Peter wrote that we all should be subject to one another and clothed with humility (I Pet 5:5). It is through this humility and this subjection that the checks and balances work.

These three groups interacted with one another within the Assembly, and together they governed the Assembly. In the first century Church Jesus Christ chose to whom he would reveal truth, i.e. apostle, elder, or member. He chose how He wanted to correct problems in the first century.

Today, we have elders and the Assembly. Our method of determining who is an elder may be somewhat different than that used in the first century when the word simply meant "an older, experienced person." Nevertheless, the people we call "elders" are largely recognized as the leaders in our congregations. Christ still works the same way. He continues to choose how He wants to reveal things. When that choice is made the two groups are expected to submit to the individuals or to the group through whom the Spirit of God is working.


Checks and Balances

The entire Assembly must recognize that a flat organizational structure allows for checks and balances to ensure that Jesus Christ (and not men) lead the Assembly. The following are examples of the dynamics of these three groups working together within th the first century Church. Notice how there are no distinct lines of authority, but Christ works where He chooses and the body follows.

1) The Assembly chooses deacons: The members of the Assembly were asked by the apostles to chose men to be deacons (Acts 8:5). This is probably an example of Matt 18. The Assembly met as Christ commanded and chose men to be deacons.

2) An apostle corrects an apostle: Paul corrected Peter regarding the matter of eating with gentiles (Gal 2:11). The apostles, though special, were not above making mistakes and needing correction.

3) A future church member gave a message to an apostle: Cornelius, a gentile Jewish convert whom we can safely assume became a Christian, was given a revelation by an angel. The message was passed onto the apostle Peter. Peter was then given even further revelations (Acts 10:22). You do not even have to be a Church member to be used by the Father to reveal truth to the Church.

4) Apostles send other apostles on a mission: The Apostles sent Peter and John to baptize those in Samaria. The apostles were subject to each other. They gave each other tasks to perform and they reported back to one another on what Christ had done (Acts 8:14).

5) The Assembly sent two apostles on a mission: The Church at Antioch "sent forward" Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem over the question of circumcision. This was done in conjunction with the apostles (Acts 15:2-3). But apparently the Assembly was very much involved in the process.

6) Apostles, elders, and Assembly sent prophets: Judas and Silas, both prophets, are chosen to go with Paul and Barnabas on a mission to Antioch. All three groups agreed on the decision and took the action collectively (Acts 15:22).

7) A prophet tells an apostle what to expect: the prophet Agabus in Caesarea told Paul what was waiting for him in Jerusalem. Paul went on his way with a awareness of what to expect (Acts 21:11).

8) Disciples inspired to give advice to an apostle: In Tyre the disciples were moved by the spirit to tell Paul not to go to Jerusalem. Paul had the choice of whether or not to follow the inspired advise. He chose not to (Acts 22:4).

9) Scattered members preached and baptized: One of the scattered members, Philip a deacon, decides to preach Christ in Samaria and also to an Ethiopian Eunuch, he baptizes the Eunuch. He apparently does this without asking anyone's permission, being led by the spirit of God (Acts 8).


The Assembly Is to Judge the Prophets

Notice in I Cor 14:29 those who are prophets and who speak under inspiration are to each speak in turn. The Assembly is to judge the correctness of the preaching. Paul acknowledged that during the service Christ may reveal something to a person sitting in the audience, this individual who was moved by God's Spirit was to be quiet until it was his turn to speak. Paul said that the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets (v 32). Women of course were not permitted to speak in the Church.

The point of this example is that there were no restrictions on who was to speak to the Church during their services. We do not function this way today. Through that freedom and openness there was a vehicle for the Holy Spirit to use a variety of individuals to reveal truth to the Church. There was the admonition to watch out for heresies, and to reject a heretic after the second admonition (Titus 3:10).

Paul wrote to the Ephesian Assembly. He addresses all the members and not just the elders. He is hopeful that God the Father would give them, the Ephesian Assembly, a spirit of wisdom and revelation to understand Jesus Christ (Eph 1:17). There appears to be a definite spirit of revelation that we should desire and ask for. With regard to Church services, this spirit of revelation would be allowed to function if the members were allowed to speak as the Spirit moved them.

In some cases the members speaking were prophets and in some cases they were not. The members of the Assembly to whom God the Father gave the gift of prophecy may have been made prophets for only a temporary period of time. It appears that members were inspired to preach or prophecy at some points in time and not at others.


Conclusion and Recommendations

The Church needs to follow the first century example as closely as the legal environment in various countries will allow. The Assembly needs to be allowed to exercise the authority that Jesus Christ gave it to assist in governing the Church. The following is a list of recommendations based on the information in this paper.

1) We should not reestablish a hierarchy where elders and the board of directors assume the responsibilities Jesus gave to the congregation as a whole. The current Constitution and By Laws give the Board of Directors too much power. They should not make major decisions for the Church. They should make recommendations to the Church. They should coordinate and facilitate a unified Work of preaching the gospel. The Assembly should make all major decisions.

2) The Assembly needs to be given a voice in all major decisions in the Church. This could take the form of a yes or no vote within local congregations on local and Church wide issues. This could be done simply and in a very orderly manner.

3) There needs to be a process for a referendum by the membership. If a major question arises and the entire congregation is upset, there must a process by which the Assembly can call a vote on the issue that has disturbed them.

4) There should be a dialogue initiated within the Church as to how the Assembly should function. The Assembly needs to define what decisions it should address on a local level and what decision it, the Assembly, should address on a Church wide level. These should just be guidelines. This process should be initiated by the Board of Directors. They should request input from all Church members. The results of the Board's actions should then be put before the membership for a vote.

5) The entire subject of the roll of the Assembly needs to be studied in greater detail then I have addressed here. I think the scriptures speak for themselves. A committee should review the scriptures on the role of the Assembly and also on the role of women voting in the Assembly. This review should be reported to the Board and to the entire membership.

6) The issue of women voting in the Assembly is so important that it should be addressed quickly and separately. The Church needs to define the role of women in the Assembly. We need to move with courage to begin to allow women a voice in the Assembly, and to allow them to vote in the Assembly.

7) The role and responsibilities of the Assembly need to be incorporated in the constitution and by laws of the Church. This would also include an additional section on the rights of the members of the Assembly. The specific functions and rights of the membership need to clearly stated.

8) The Assembly should be invited to participate in the Conference in December. How this is done should be discussed by the Board of Directors and presented as an option to the membership. The membership should vote yes or no and members should be asked for input if there is a no vote.

9) There needs to an openness on major issues affecting the Church as a whole. The information should be discretely presented. But the information should be complete and it should not be filtered. A hallmark of our old fellowship was incomplete and filtered information with the attempt to manipulate the members of the Assembly.

— Toli Bohonik

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