This is going to be a controversial post. Some of you will wonder why it is controversial. The topic itself does not seem to be that big of a deal. However, I serve as a pastor in a fellowship of churches where the issue if ecclesiastical separation (i.e. churches separating from other churches because they differ in areas of belief) is a major concern. My views are probably very different from many of my colleagues’ views. Please do not take this post as representative of the standard position of other pastors in our fellowship. It is not.
Actually, my plan with this post is just to introduce the topic of separation by giving the “official” position of the GARBC (General Association of Regular Baptist Churches). Here is the official stance of our fellowship taken directly from the doctrinal statement found on the GARBC website:
We believe in obedience to the Biblical commands to separate ourselves unto God from worldliness and ecclesiastical apostasy. 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; Romans 16:17; 2 John 9-11.
My plan is to do a follow-up post to this one where I will look at each of the passages cited above in support of biblical separation and then also look at how this doctrine has been understood within our fellowship (and perhaps by others).
For now, I would like to get your feedback regarding this issue. How far should we take the Bible’s commands to separate ourselves from false teaching? Does this mean that Baptists should not partner with Methodists, or Lutherans, or other Baptists because we do not believe exactly the same things? What if we do believe the same things, but we happen to come from different Baptist groups? Where do we draw the line? Share your thoughts. I will share mine in the next day or so with a follow-up post.
Update: The follow-up post to this article is located here.
Have you read Ernest Pickering’s Biblical Separation? As a former member of GARBC churches I found that most of our pastors had in mind any mainline church, any church in the NAE and any other church not considered fundamentalist enough. There are any number of fundamentalist Baptists who think the GARBC has lost its separatist convictions.
I have not read Pickering’s work, but I know I should. I have read the GARBC doctrinal statement, as well as the statement on separation written by Robert Ketcham and the statement on separation (2006) from the Council of 18. All of these are readily available on the GARBC website. Also, I have been a part of the GARBC for 13+ years and have learned much about the association’s views through experience. I think there is a slow shift occurring within the fellowship concerning this doctrine. I think it is for the best as we move to a more biblical position. What are your thoughts? Did you leave the GARBC over this issue?
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No. Ileft because I found myself moving away from dispensationalism toward covenant theology, and because I came to accept the Anabaptist position on non-resistance and the involvement of Christians in the military. My local church barred me from teaching because of that view.