committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

 

IV. HER POLITY AND STATISTICS.

      The polity, or form of government of the ekklesia tou Theou, is strictly scriptural and apostolical. All her local and individual churches are formed on the principles of a free and independent republic. After confederation and organization every particular church is under the supervision, watch-care, and government of an official church council, consisting of the preacher or preachers in charge, and a competent number of elders and deacons. These jointly co-operate in feeding, ruling, and governing the flock of God, on the rational principles of family government, and consist chiefly in these things, to wit:

      "In going before the people, and leading the several parts of their worship, and becoming their example in every duty. In teaching them the principles and rules of their religion; the knowledge, profession, and practice of those doctrines and duties, that worship and order, which reason and natural religion dictate, and which Christ Himself has revealed, superadded, and established in His Word. It consists in exhorting and persuading, and charging the members of the church with that seriousness, circumspection, and propriety of conduct, which becometh saints; in instructing them how to apply those general principles and rules to particular cases and occurrences, and giving them their best advice under every circumstance. It consists in presiding in their [181] assemblies for worship or otherwise; in examining and admitting applicants for baptism and church membership; in watching over and guarding the church against errors and dangers. It consists in conducting the moral discipline of the church; in admonishing, and warning, and reproving, with all gravity and authority, those who neglect or oppose any of the rules, ordinances, and commandments of Christ; and expelling from the church, and scandalous, and in receiving again the truly penitent." {d}


ANNUAL ELDERSHIPS.

      These individual churches are confederated or united for co-operation. The Church of God, therefore, has within her bounds at present, four Elderships, namely: the East Pennsylvania, the Ohio, the West Pennsylvania, and the Indiana Elderships.

      Each Eldership holds an annual meeting, consisting of all the teaching elders within its bounds, and a delegation from the churches, or rather from the stations and circuits, of an equal number of ruling elders.

      Co-operation, and not legislation, is the main object of these meetings; and that on the itinerant and stationary plan, combined. Thus it was originally. Whilst some were stationed, others itinerated in given districts; whilst others again missionated, or traveled at large. This plan the Church of God finds to be the most rational, scriptural, and efficient; and therefore, she has adopted and pursues the same.

      Every station and circuit is required to support its own preacher or preachers for the time of their service among them, and to aid in supporting the missionaries and preachers at large.

      No one is allowed to remain longer than three years; generally not more than one or two years, on one station or circuit. Frequent changes work the best for ministers and people.

      The EAST PENNSYLVANIA ELDERSHIP was formed in the fall of the year 1830. It had at its first formation, six ordained ministers--it now has fifty-six.

      The OHIO ELDERSHIP was formed in the year 1836. It had then six preachers--it now numbers twenty.

      The WEST PENNSYLVANIA ELDERSHIP was established in the year 1844. It consisted at the time of ten ministers--it now consists of fifteen.

      The INDIANA ELDERSHIP was set off from the Ohio Eldership, in the fall of 1846, and consists of three teaching and as many ruling elders.


GENERAL ELDERSHIP.

      These annual Elderships hold a general Eldership every three years. The first general Eldership met and was formed in Pittsburg, in the year 1845. Out of twenty-two delegates which were appointed, namely twelve by the East Pennsylvania Eldership; six by the Ohio Eldership; and four by the West Pennsylvania Eldership; thirteen only were in attendance, to wit:

      From the EAST PENNSYLVANIA ELDERSHIP.--TEACHING ELDERS;--J. WINEBRENNER; DAVID KYLE, E. H. THOMAS, and GEO. McCARTNEY. RULING ELDERS:--JOHN S. GABLE and WM. HINNY.

      From the WEST PENNSYLVANIA ELDERSHIP.--TEACHING ELDERS;--JOSEPH A. DOBSON, and JOHN HICKERNELL. RULING ELDERS:--JOHN KARNER, and ABRAHAM SHERICK.

      From the OHIO ELDERSHIP.--TEACHING ELDERS;--EDWARD WEST, THOMAS HICKERNELL, and ARCHIBALD MEGREW. RULING ELDERS:--

      ABSENTEES:--JACOB FLAKE, WM. McFADDEN, JOSEPH ROSS, A. WEIKER, JOHN YOUNG, A.J. KAUFFMAN, DANIEL MARKLEY, JOSEPH SHERICK, and SETH HOLLINGER.

      This body for their own efficient government and co-operation, drew up and adopted the following constitution; namely:


CONSTITUTION OF THE GENERAL ELDERSHIP
OF THE CHURCH OF GOD IN NORTH AMERICA.

      ARTICLE 1. The General Eldership of the Church of God, shall consist of delegrates [182] from all the annual Elderships, which are, or may be formed within the geographical territory of North America, in the following ratio, to wit:--One teaching elder for every ten, together with an equal number of ruling elders, during the first twenty years; after that, the ration of representation shall be defined as the Eldership shall deem most advisable.

      ARTICLE 2. The General Eldership shall meet every three years, during the first twenty years, and every five years thereafter, at such time and place as shall be agreed on, at each consecutive Eldership.

      ARTICLE 3. Each session of the Eldership shall be opened and closed with religious worship, as the Speaker shall direct: and two-thirds of the members in attendance shall constitute a quorum to transact business.

      ARTICLE 4. The first meeting of each regular Eldership shall be opened by the Speaker of the preceding one--in his absence, by the oldest minister present; then two persons shall be appointed by acclamation, to constitute the meeting; and after that, the Eldership shall be organized by electing by ballot, first a SPEAKER, next a TREASURER, and then two CLERKS, namely:--a journalizing and transcribing clerk--all of whom shall hold their office till the meeting of the next stated Eldership.

      ARTICLE 5. The SPEAKER shall be the presiding officer of all the meetings of the Eldership during the time for which he was elected. He shall conduct the business thereof, according to the rules and usages of deliberative bodies--he shall endorse all orders on the Treasurer, and shall call a special meeting of the Eldership, whenever a majority of the standing committees of the several annual Elderships shall require it, and not otherwise.

      ARTICLE 6. The TREASURER shall hold the funds of the General Eldership--he shall invest or disburse the same, according to the warrants of the Speaker,--he shall also exhibit a report of the receipts, investments and disbursements at each consecutive Eldership, and give approved security to the Speaker and Clerks for any amount that the Eldership may require.

      ARTICLE 7. The JOURNALIZING CLERK shall read all papers and documents which the Speaker shall lay before the Eldership--keep a regular journal of its proceedings, and read the journal every morning, of the preceding day, during the sitting of the same.

      ARTICLE 8. The TRANSCRIBING CLERK shall transcribe the journal, and such other papers as the Eldership may direct, into a protocol, or book of records; and also furnish a copy of the same for publication.

      ARTICLE 9. The General Eldership shall own and control all the public, joint and common property; such as the printing establishment, stereotype plates, copyrights of books, and whatever else may come into its hands, by way of purchase, bequest, donation or otherwise.

      ARTICLE 10. All publications for general use; such a hymn books, newspapers, periodicals, &c., shall be under the direction of the General Eldership.

      ARTICLE 11. It shall be the exclusive right and duty of the General Eldership, to elect or appoint the editor or editors of all newspapers and periodicals--a publishing committee--a board of directors of the printing establishment and book concern, and all other agents necessary for carrying out the true principles and plans of co-operation.

      ARTICLE 12. The proceeds of all the public property shall be divided among all the annual Elderships, according to their numerical strength, or otherwise, as the General Eldership may direct.

      ARTICLE 13. All orders from the annual Elderships, on the Treasurer of the General Eldership, for their share of the public funds, or any part thereof, shall in all cases be issued and signed by a majority of the members of their respective standing committees.

      ARTICLE 14. The General Eldership shall have the exclusive right of arranging and settling the boundary lines of all the annual Elderships.

      ARTICLE 15. All controversies and difficulties arising between the members of any two or more annual Elderships, shall be adjusted by a council of the several standing committees of the same; but either party may take an appeal from their decision to the General Eldership, provided notice thereof be given to the chairman of [183] the council, or through the paper or regular organ of the church, within twenty days after the rising of said council. A majority of the council, as above constituted, shall form a quorum to transact business.

      ARTICLE 16. All matters of controversy or dispute which may arise between members of the several annual Eldershsips, shall be settled, either by their respective standing committees, or in their yearly meetings; and their decision shall in all cases be final, except where two-thirds shall sanction an appeal, or consent to refer it to the General Eldership.

      ARTICLE 17. No person shall be considered an accredited Minister in the Church of God, without a regular license; and all the preachers in good standing shall have their license renewed annually by the Elderships of which they are members.

      ARTICLE 18. All persons expelled from any given Eldership, shall be treated as such by all the rest.

      ARTICLE 19. No preacher shall be transferred from one Eldership to another, without mutual consent.

      ARTICLE 20. No minister shall be eligible to an appointment, as a delegate to the General Eldership, who shall not have hold a license for five years previous to appointment; except in the new Elderships, or in all cases where it is unavoidable.

      ARTICLE 21. The General Eldership shall have power to employ suitable persons as missionaries or agents, whether they are members of an annual Eldership or not; provided they go into their employ voluntarily, and give due notice thereof--if members of an Eldership, to the standing committee, or to the annual Eldership of which they are members.

      ARTICLE 22. All persons in the employ of the General Eldership shall have the credentials expressive of their appointment, signed by the Speaker and Clerks thereof, to whim they shall also be held accountable for the faithful performance of the same; but all such as are ministers of the gospel shall be amenable, for their moral and religious character, to the annual Eldership of which they were members.

      ARTICLE 23. Any resolution or set of resolutions, brought forward by the committee on resolutions, shall be acted on immediately; but any resolution or set of resolutions offered by a single members of the Eldership, shall be referred to the committee on resolutions without debate, and said committee shall have discretionary power to suppress or to return the same, either with or without amendments.

      ARTICLE 24. No member shall speak more than twice, on the merits of one question, whilst under consideration, without leave of the house.

      ARTICLE 25. When a question is under debate, no motion shall be in order, except it be to amend, strike out, commit, postpone or adjourn.

      ARTICLE 26. A motion to adjourn shall always be in order, and shall be decided without debate.

      ARTICLE 27. All questions shall be decided by a plurality of votes, and all voting shall be done viva voce, except when otherwise called for.

      ARTICLE 28. On no question before the Eldership shall the yeas and nays be ordered, except they are called for by at least one-fourth of the members present.

      ARTICLE 29. No member shall be permitted to withdraw from the Eldership before the close of the session, without first obtaining leave of absence.

      ARTICLE 30. Two-thirds of the members in attendance, at any stated or regular meeting of the General Eldership, shall have power and authority to annul, to add, change or amend any article or articles of this constitution.

      The General Eldership, also, passed the following resolutions:


RESOLUTION ON THE BIBLE CAUSE.

      Resolved, That we regard the Bible cause as being emphatically the cause of God; and, therefore, we earnestly recommend this noble cause to the special care and patronage of the "Church of God," hoping that she will not be a whit behind the most forward in supporting the same.


RESOLUTIONS ON EDUCATION.

      Resolved, That this Eldership consider the subject of education of vital importance, both in a civil and religious point of view. [184]

      Resolved, That we recommend to the members of the churches to have their children liberally educated to the utmost extent of their ability.

      Resolved, That we highly approve of Sabbath schools, Bible classes, and all systems and modes of instruction, calculated to impart useful and scriptured knowledge to the young and rising generation.


RESOLUTIONS RESPECTING THE DEEDING OF CHURCH PROPERTY.

      1. Resolved, That this General Eldership recommend to all the brethren in the Church of God to have their Bethels, or meeting houses, parsonages, &c., deeded to the elders of their respective local churches, and their successors in office, to be held by them in trust for the church.

      2. Resolved, That we also advise them to have inserted in the deed, a provisionary clause, transferring and conveying all their right, title and interest in, of and to the property of the church so deeded, to the annual eldership of the Church of God, in the bounds of which it is located, in the event that the local church should become extinct, or cease to exist.


RESOLUTIONS RESPECTING A BOOK CONCERN.

      1. Resolved, That we recommend the establishment of a general book concern, as soon as practicable; and the publication of such books and pamphlets, as the funds will justify, and the wants of the churches demand.

      2. Resolved, That the SPEAKER, TREASURER, and CLERKS of this Eldership be, and they are hereby constituted a publishing committee, and are authorized to do all they can towards commencing a Book Establishment.


RESOLUTION OF THE LORD'S DAY.

      Whereas, the sanctification or proper observance of the Lord's day is a subject of vital importance, intimately connected with the glory of God, the salvation of the soul, and the moral and political welfare of our country; Therefore, Resolved, That we heartily and zealously recommend to all our brethren of the Church of God, to avoid the desecration of the Sabbath by travelling, feasting, sleeping, working, worldly conversation, &c.; but duly to sanctify the same by meditation, prayer, reading, worshipping God privately and publicly, according to the requirements of his law.


RESOLUTIONS ON SLAVERY.

      Whereas, it is the duty of the ministers of God to testify against sin in every form and place; Therefore,

      1. Resolved, That it is the unequivocal and decided opinion of this General Eldership of the Church of God, that the system of involuntary slavery, as it exists in the United States of North America, is a flagrant violation of the natural, unalienable and most precious rights of man, and utterly inconsistent with the spirit, laws and profession of the Christian religion.

      2. Resolved, That we feel ourselves authorized by the highest authority, and called upon by the strongest ties and obligations, to caution our brethren in the Church of God, against supporting and countenancing, either directly or indirectly, the said iniquitous institution of involuntary slavery; and should any of our ministers or members ever become guilty of this great and crying sin, we do most earnestly and religiously recommend and advise, that all such be excommunicated, or cast out of the church, and denied the right of Christian fellowship among us.


RESOLUTIONS ON TEMPERANCE.

      1. Resolved, That we are grateful to Almighty God, for his goodness in smiling upon the efforts made to promote the Temperance cause:

      2. Resolved, That in our opinion the time has fully come, when men in every condition of life, who have the welfare of the human family at heart, should come forward and sign the pledge of TOTAL ABSTINENCE, and strive to advance the noble cause of temperance by precept and example. [185]

      3. Resolved, That the friends of temperance remember, that the cause in which they are engaged is a cause whose advocates and supporters are of no particular creed; that its aim is to reform the life, and fit men for the society of the good here, and under God, for the society of the blessed hereafter; and therefore, they should take care not to "fall out by the way," but to join in one united effort to do something worthy of their day, which shall cause their children to rise up and call them blessed.

      4. Resolved, That we are sorry that there are yet ministers of the Gospel in this country, who are so far influenced by selfishness, as to refuse to give their views and influence in favor of a cause like that of temperance, which is so closely allied to that of Christianity.

      5. Resolved, That we consider it inconsistent for professors of Christianity in any way to countenance the traffic in intoxicating drink; and especially to assist the rumseller to procure a license by signing his petition, which is nothing less than signing the death warrant of many poor inebriates.

      6. Resolved, That we consider the traffic in intoxicating liquors as a drink, always sinful and demoralizing in its results; and that no man is entitled to membership in the Church of God who is engaged in it.


MISSIONARY RESOLUTION AND SOCIETY.

      Resolved, That this Eldership form itself into a Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, under the following constitution, to wit:


CONSTITUTION OF THE DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN
MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF THE CHURCH OF GOD.

      ARTICLE 1. This society shall be called, THE DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF THE CHURCH OF GOD IN NORTH AMERICA.

      ARTICLE 2. The object of this Society shall be to employ, send out, and support, both Domestic and Foreign Missionaries.

      ARTICLE 3. Any person paying annually the sum of fifty cents, or upwards, shall be a member of this Society.

      ARTICLE 4. Any person paying the sum of five dollars, for five years in succession, or the sum of twenty dollars at any one time, shall be a life member.

      ARTICLE 5. All the members of the General Eldership, who are members of the Society, shall constitute a Board of Missions, competent to transact all the business of the Society; and the Speaker, Treasurer and Clerks, shall be the regular officers of the Society, ex-officio; (provided they are members; if not, they shall be elected by the Society); and form its Executive Committee--three of whom shall be a quorum; and shall have power to carry on the operations of the Society, during its recess, as the Board of Missions shall direct.

      ARTICLE 6. The Society shall meet at every regular meeting of the General Eldership, at which time the Board of Missions shall exhibit a particular account of the funds of the Society; of their receipts and expenditures; of the Missionaries employed by them, and the places to which they are sent.

      ARTICLE 7. All the Ministers in the Church of God, and all such as shall be appointed by them, shall have full power and authority to act as agents on behalf of this Society, to exert themselves in getting members to the Society--to receive their yearly subscriptions, life, subscriptions, donations, &c., and to transmit them to the chairman of the standing committees of the several Elderships, and by them they shall be forwarded to the Treasurer of the Society.

      ARTICLE 8. This Constitution may be altered or amended by two-thirds of the Board of Missions, at any regular or stated meeting of the Society.


BOUNDARIES OF THE ANNUAL ELDERSHIPS.

      1st. The East Pennsylvania Eldership shall include the whole of the States of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, East of the Allegheny mountains.

      2nd. The West Pennsylvania Eldership shall comprehend that part of [186] Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, which lies West of the Allegheny, in connexion with that part of Ohio, east of a direct line from Lake Erie to the Ohio river, along the line between Columbiana and Stark counties.

      3rd. The Ohio Eldership shall comprise the States of Ohio (Indiana {e} and Michigan), except that part of Ohio contained within the boundaries of the West Pennsylvania Eldership.


PUBLICATIONS.

      The Church of God has one religious Newspaper under her patronage: The Church Advocate, published at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Bishop John Winebrenner, editor.

      She also publishes several Pamphlets or Tracts, and is preparing to publish Books.


STATISTICS.

      In the EAST PENNSYLVANIA ELDERSHIP there are at present:

Licensed and ordained ministers,

56

Organized churches,

75

Regular preaching places, about

130

Probable number of church members,

6500

      In the OHIO ELDERSHIP there are:

Licensed and ordained ministers,

20

Probable number of organized churches,

40

Probable number of other appointments,

90

Probable number of church members,

3000

      In the WEST PENNSYLVANIA ELDERSHIP there are:

Licensed and ordained ministers,

16

Probable number of churches,

30

Probable number of regular preaching places,

60

Probable number of church members,

200

      In the INDIANA ELDERSHIP there are:

Licensed and ordained ministers,

4

Probable number of organized churches,

10

Probable number of other appointments,

25

Probable number of church members,

300

      In other States and Territories there are to be found, scattered abroad, a considerable number of members and a few Ministers, amounting, at least, to 200, or upwards.


RECAPITULATION.

Aggregate number of licensed and ordained ministers,

96

Aggregate number of organized churches,

155

Aggregate number of preaching places,

305

Aggregate number of church members,

12,000

      {d} See Brief View of the Formation, Government, and Discipline of the Church of God, by John Winebrenner, V.D.M.
      {e} These two States are now included in the Indiana Eldership.

 
 
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