In the previous article, the prologue, I discussed the definition and nature of an association, more specifically, of ARBCA, one of the more influential Particular Baptist associations in the U.S. If you have not read that article yet, I’d encourage you do so by clicking here. In this article, I would like to discuss the nature of councils and committees, particularly the administrative council (AC) in ARBCA and any committee ARBCA churches might form for the accomplishment of any given end.
What Is The Administrative Council?
Again, we shall go to the source, ARBCA’s own website:
The Administrative Council or a member church may propose new policies and
amendments. Such proposals must be submitted in writing to the Administrative Council. The Council will send these proposals to all member churches at least sixty days prior to a properly called meeting.
Properly submitted proposals may be amended at the meeting in accordance with ARBCA Rules of Parliamentary Procedure (see Appendix #2). A two-thirds vote of messengers present and voting will be required for passage. Policies shall be appended to the Constitution after they have been approved.
The Administrative Council shall have authority to adopt operational and procedural policy, but not positional or major policy.
The administrative council is almost a self-defining term. It’s a council purposed to administrate or facilitate the business of the association. However, it does not have any ecclesial power or responsibility over any individual church or group of churches within the association. To mention one example, the administrative council cannot discipline, per se, a given local church within the association beyond calling a meeting to determine a course of action to be decided by two-thirds vote of the association. And even then, the action would consist only of disassociation if any “disciplinary” action occurred at all. The administrative council could not remove elders and replace them with other, more qualified elders as a presbytery might do in the case of leadership inadequacy. That task is left to individual local congregations.
Thus, the AC really only functions as a point of mediating contact for things like applications for associational membership from prospective churches and requests for policy changes and amendments of the constitution, which would eventually be brought to a vote by the association. The decision, say, to allow a new church to associate with other ARBCA churches would be a decision made by voting members of the association during a GA. And each eligible member voting at the GA, for example, is responsible to make an informed decision. When the American people vote for a president, governor, or mayor, they do not––nor should not––settle for what they hear from one or even two sources, but are responsible for their own thorough research so as to make informed decisions. If this were not the case, the idea of voting would be near useless.
The AC, therefore, functions (and this should be obvious), administratively, not authoritatively. Of course, as can be seen above, the AC does have the liberty to adopt other ways of operating. Sometimes, small changes, for their operational convenience, need to occur rapidly and it would be burdensome to bring every minuscule proposal to an associational vote at the GA. Local church leadership does not even do this and so neither should the AC be expected to do so.
What Are Committees?
The administrative council does not work in a vacuum. As said before, anything and everything (aside from operation and minor procedural changes) are brought before the association for majority approval. Yet, there is also the ability for the association to form committees depending on various needs. The ARBCA constitution reads, “5. Other officers and committees may be appointed as necessary, at the direction of the Association, for the performance of specific tasks on behalf of the Association.” But, these committees are formed by the association, not on a whim of the AC.
These committees can be permanent or temporary. An example of a more permanent committee within ARBCA is the membership committee. A temporary committee may be something like a planning committee.
Commonalities Between The AC and Committees
Though they exist for distinct purposes, there is one major commonality: neither suggests authority or responsibility over ARBCA; that would be to say that the AC or a given committee is ARBCA. But, as has been discussed, ARBCA is the association of its member churches. There are some fascinating implications here. I will list three. First, when the acronym “ARBCA” is used, it should be used in reference to every member church in the association. Second, ARBCA is not the AC or a committee. Third, the decisions of the AC are not necessarily representative of ARBCA, since ARBCA is to be understood as that which consists in the associating churches.
First, it would be a mistake to understand “ARBCA” as referent to the AC or any given committee. The AC and committees can only function insofar as the ARBCA member churches allow them to function. This is a ground-up structure rather than top-down. For example, when a church leaves “ARBCA,” they do not remove themselves from the branding and/or “authority” of the AC (there is none). Instead, they remove themselves from the fellowship and accountability of each and every local church which has voluntarily associated with one another under the heading of “ARBCA.”
Second, to think of ARBCA as just being the AC or any given committee is problematic. To do this is to practically talk about ARBCA as if it were a presbytery. To say “ARBCA did this or that,” when really what is meant is, “the AC did this or that,” is to practically misunderstand what the association is in the first place. The AC cannot act, in large part, without the voluntary oversight of the local congregations which make up ARBCA. Moreover, to apply anything the AC might do to the entirety of ARBCA is to suggest the AC governs or leads ARBCA. It does not.
Third, it is easy to associate every decision of the AC and any given committee (right or wrong) with the whole of ARBCA. But this is a less than accurate way of thinking about the association. ARBCA has the power within itself to change the AC, not the other way around. So, to talk as if the AC is the governing body of ARBCA is to place the cart before the horse. Each and every local church within the association is responsible for what happens with the AC and any given committee. The AC is under the jurisdiction of the ARBCA churches, subservient to the associated body of local churches. The AC is under the “headship,” so to speak, of the ARBCA churches; the ARBCA churches are not under the headship of the AC. To identify the AC with the whole of ARBCA is to fail to recognize the power each individual church has in electing administrative volunteers. The AC can change and committees can change; but it takes the informed action of each local church to make that happen.
To place the burden of a presbytery or a bishopric on the AC works to destroy the association in two ways: (1) it undermines the authority of the member churches, and (2) it elevates the authority and responsibility of the AC to a place in which it never resided. This is why it is vitally important to have a correct understanding of what our association is, what the AC is, and what the purposes of committees are.
In the following article, I will attempt to discuss the general assembly and the role it plays in the direction of the association as a whole.