In the light of the recent Autumn Council action adopting a uniform baptismal certificate and summary of faith, it is well to restudy the 1941 General Conference action on "Adherence to Church Standards" and deprecation of independent standards. Following thereafter is the covering statement by Oliver Montgomery, as chairman of the committee that framed the action and presented it to the conference at the time of adoption.
Whereas, The principles of truth and righteousness which underlie Christian conduct are eternal and do not change with the passing years ; and,
Whereas, It is recognized that certain essential church standards must be established and maintained, such being clearly understood and accepted by all candidates for baptism and membership within the remnant church ; and,
Whereas, Throughout the years these standards have been clearly enunciated by the leadership of the denomination and acted upon at General Conference sessions, Autumn Councils of the Executive Committee of the General Conference, such bodies being the only authority in the denomination empowered to establish church standards ; and,
Whereas, It is clearly recognized that there are matters which we as a people teach, seeking thereby to educate and establish our people in vital Christian experience and conduct, but upon which the church does not legislate or which it does not establish as tests of church membership ; and,
Whereas, It is to be regretted that some individual workers have taken a very liberal attitude and thus have greatly lowered the standards, while others sometimes have gone much beyond the mind and expression of the general body in their interpretation of church requirements, thus bringing unnecessary embarrassment and misunderstanding to new converts and fellow believers ;
Resolved, That we hereby direct the attention of our workers and organizations to the principles clearly laid down in our "Church Manual" with respect to standards and practices, and urge that such be followed without any attempt to require standards not adopted by the general body.
Remarks by Chairman of Committee
O. Montgomery: Just a brief statement to help you better to understand the effort of the committee. May I call your attention to the various paragraphs?
The first Whereas. To meet the attitude and claims on the part of some that times and conditions have so changed that the church, in order to meet this situation, should take a more liberal attitude; that the church should no longer try to hold to the standards held by this people in former years, we have stated in this Whereas broad, clear, fundamental prin.; ciples that godly conduct and principles of truth and righteousness have never changed.
The third Whereas. It is stated in this paragraph that the General Conference Corn-. mittee compose the only body that is empowered or authorized to establish church standards. That being true, it is clear that no evangelist, pastor, or worker, no conference committee or union committee, has any right or authority to set up standards for baptism or disfellowshiping of church members. Your committee made no attempt to list the many points of faith and matters of conduct which we hold to be becoming to Christian believers. There were several suggestions made to the committee before we took up our work as a committee, that we might list this matter and that matter. But we felt that if we undertook to list all the various points, we would have —well, it would be impossible. We preferred to deal with principles instead of detailed items.
The fourth Whereas. A broad, clear, fundamental principle is set forth in this paragraph; namely, that as a denomination we teach and preach many things upon which we do not legislate, and of which we do not make tests of fellowship. My brethren, there are some of our workers and many of our dear people who cannot differentiate between a teaching and a baptismal requirement or a church-membership requirement. We have tried to make it clear in this paragraph.
In connection with these two paragraphs it might be stated that we have made no reference to the instruction given this people through the Spirit of prophecy in regard to many evils to be avoided and the right principles to be followed. On this point may I state that as a denomination, we hold to the fundamental Protestant principle of "the Bible, and the Bible only" as our rule of faith and conduct. Every doctrine, every principle of faith, every truth of the gospel, every standard of righteousness, is found in the word of God. The Spirit of prophecy sheds wonderful light on the word of God. It magnifies the Word, and makes its meaning clearer and more beautiful. It is for our enlightenment and instruction. We recognize the divine source of this counsel and light. It is counsel from the Lord. It teaches, instructs, and admonishes. It clearly sets forth the right way, and the true principles, but does not legislate. It has never undertaken to establish baptismal requirements in the church. It is for the denomination to do this in its official capacity. Therefore, it seems clear that the personal or private interpretation of the teachings of the Spirit of prophecy should not be used or applied by an individual worker as a substitution for, or an addition to, accepted church standards as adopted by official action of the body.
The fifth Whereas. We have attempted in this paragraph to point out the dangers of a liberal, careless attitude on the part of some workers that is neutralizing or lowering proper denominational standards. On the other hand we have tried to warn against the danger on the part of others of taking extreme positions and giving unwarranted interpretations of church requirements, and sometimes adding their own requirements to those principles held to by the denomination. We believe that both of these tendencies are productive of evil.
These are the principles that your committee had in mind in doing its work.