Miller’s conclusion focuses on the articles of incorporation of the Richland Hills Church of Christ. You see, as is true of many Churches of Christ, the original articles specified that the church may never use “mechanical” instruments of worship and must take the Lord’s Supper every Sunday.
Moreover, the articles specified that only men who agreed with the founders on instrumental music may be ordained elders. The articles actually attempted to add conditions beyond those stipulated in God’s word!
The elders amended the articles to remove these specific rules. Miller is outraged.
But Miller forgets his principles. After all, the articles of incorporation were nothing but a creed — which I thought we in the Churches of Christ long ago rejected.
And don’t we believe that the elders have the spiritual leadership of the congregation — not a legal document? Do we really believe that elders should be bound by charters written decades ago by men long dead? Is that the Biblical pattern of church governance?
As stated in a classic article by Batsell Barrett Baxter,
Does the church of Christ have a creed? No. At least, there is no creed in the usual sense of the word. The belief of the church is stated fully and completely in the Bible. There is no other manual or discipline to which the members of the church of Christ give their allegiance. The Bible is considered as the only infallible guide to heaven.
This is from John Telgren’s website “Qohelet Web Ministry” and speaks the Church of Christ position well —
We advocate discarding written creeds and having the Bible as our only creed. The problem with creeds is that they have a tendency to become the authority rather than the Bible. The creed is consulted rather than the Bible. Another problem of creeds is that they are generally not open to change and examination. They become the authority in a denomination, whether stated or un-stated. This is especially dangerous because history has shown that people can be wrong in their interpretations.
If the Bible is entirely sufficient, then why state our doctrines in corporate charters? How is that any better than a denominational creed? How can we let a human document govern God’s church — even adding to the terms of 1 Timothy and Titus for who may be elders? In the modern world, what could be more wrongly authoritative than a doctrinal statement enforceable by a court of law contrary to the beliefs of the elders — or even contrary to the beliefs of a majority of the congregation?
Of course, the men who wrote that charter thought they were correctly summarizing God’s will — but so did the men who wrote the Westminster Confession and every other creed or confession ever written! No one writes these things intending to be error!
And even if they were right in what they wrote, they were wrong in writing it into a charter. Nothing could be more contrary to the Restoration plea. And yet Miller is outraged that the elders amended their charter to remove a creed.
(1 Cor 6:1, 7) If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? … The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?
We are not supposed to rely on secular law to impose our beliefs on one another. That’s just not New Testament teaching. We are not to even imagine going to court over such things.
It’s the current, living elders who set the doctrinal course of the church — not the church’s founders, not whoever donated the land, and not some author three states away. If the elders are wrong, they’ll be accountable. But it’s just as wrong as can be for us to try to impose creeds on one another.
And it’s far worse to try to do so via the secular legal system with corporate charters.
(I represent a lot of nonprofit clients, including churches, including some Churches of Christ. I have always refused to write such charters. I’d rather lose the client.)