Our primary moral and ethical obligation is to glorify God and serve the Lord Jesus Christ according to his word as expressed in the New Testament. That all of our life, our character and ambitions, our hidden motives and overt deeds be conformed to God’s will is our constant prayer. Our biblical mandate to maintain Christian integrity and honesty was eloquently expressed in the Manila Manifesto:
- Nothing commends the gospel more eloquently than a transformed life, and nothing brings it into disrepute so much as personal inconsistency. We are charged to behave in a manner that is worthy of the gospel of Christ, and even to ‘adorn’ it, enhancing its beauty by holy lives. For the watching world rightly seeks evidence to substantiate the claims which Christ’s disciples make for him. A strong evidence is our integrity . . . .
- Our challenge to others to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Christ will be plausible only if we ourselves have evidently died to selfish ambition, dishonesty and covetousness, and are living a life of simplicity, contentment and generosity.
- We deplore the failures in Christian consistency which we see in both Christians and churches: material greed, professional pride and rivalry, competition in Christian service, jealousy of younger leaders, missionary paternalism, the lack of mutual accountability, the loss of Christian standards of sexuality, and racial, social and sexual discrimination. All this is worldliness, allowing the prevailing culture to subvert the church instead of the church challenging and changing the culture. We are deeply ashamed of the times when, both as individuals and in our Christian communities, we have affirmed Christ in word and denied him in deed. Our inconsistency deprives our witness of credibility. We acknowledge our continuing struggles and failures. But we also determine by God’s grace to develop integrity in ourselves and in the church.
- (from the Manila Manifesto, section 7, “The Integrity of the Witnesses”)
In light of the foregoing statement, the areas named below identify our major concerns for promoting Christian integrity. The contents of this Manual are not exhaustive and are subject to revision by the Board. We believe that attention to these critical trouble spots of ministry in North America will be especially helpful to EMNR members and to others involved in parachurch ministry and missionary activity.
Members of EMNR who are in violation of these ethical standards must demonstrate efforts made to resolve them to remain members in good standing. If these weaknesses are known to exist in Associate Members, they must be satisfactorily resolved before they can achieve Full Member status.
PERSONAL SPIRITUAL GROWTH. We exhort all members to cultivate a devotional life with the Lord Jesus Christ, to reserve special times for prayer and study of the Scriptures. We will prepare ourselves for ministry not only by careful study of the Bible, but also by expanding our knowledge of Christian doctrine and Church history, by interaction and fellowship with other believers, and by the exchange of information in our field of work with other ministries. As temporary stewards (not owners) of our bodies, we will show due concern for our physical health, that we may serve God many years upon the earth, and for our mental health, by eschewing unwholesome entertainment or unedifying diversions.
Recognizing EMNR’s mission as one aspect of a global effort of evangelism, we will also strive to stay abreast of various aspects of world mission; to remain interested in and somewhat familiar with the affairs of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization; and to pray for unreached people groups around the world.
In line with EMNR’s unique calling, we will seek accountability and relationship with other EMNR members. As much as feasible and practical, we will preserve fellowship and establish relationships with our colleagues, financially contribute to other ministries, and be an encouragement to our peers. As the Lord enables and circumstances allow, we will try to attend EMNR conferences and other peer functions, not only to grow in knowledge but also to show ourselves to be friendly and accessible to our co-workers who labor among the new religions.
CHURCH MEMBERSHIP. All Christians should be in a close relationship with a local church which should provide direction, counsel, and prayerful support in their Christian growth. EMNR members are required to be members, or the functional equivalent thereof, of a church which meets regularly. One’s local Christian church should be the primary source of nurturing, teaching, care, and personal ministry. EMNR is a secondary association, not a replacement for a full life of congregational piety and worship.
This principle of active involvement in a local church or congregation is so important to us that (barring unusual circumstances) failure to be involved in a church congregation of some form for a period of more than two months shall itself be grounds for a Letter of Admonition.
PLAGIARISM. EMNR members must always give proper source credit to works published under their name. For our purposes, plagiarism shall be defined as:
- The act of appropriating the literary composition of another, or parts or passages of his writings, or the ideas or language of the same, and passing them off as the product of one’s own mind. To be liable for plagiarism it is not necessary to exactly duplicate another’s literary work, it being sufficient if unfair use of such work is made by lifting a substantial portion thereof . . . (Black’s Law Dictionary, 5th ed.)
We recognize that plagiarism can be committed unintentionally, such as when the original source for a stream of ideas and concepts has been forgotten and the source text is not physically before the writer as it is worked into the new document. Quoting clichés, catchphrases, or data of common knowledge (which can be found in three or more reference sources) is not cause for action. However, plagiarism of substantial portions of another writer’s material is grounds for disciplinary action within EMNR. Sustained or repeated instances of plagiarism in a member’s career, followed by no acknowledgment of regret or remorse, may result in Expulsion or Temporary Suspension of Membership.
SELF-REPRESENTATION. The way EMNR members represent themselves in terms of background, experience, testimony, education, and expertise is to be honest at all times. This affects us in a variety of ways:
(a) Educational degrees and ordination. EMNR members shall not advertise themselves as having degrees of higher education unless the degree has been legitimately earned at an institution requiring in-class instruction or through an accredited “distance education” facility. Honorary degrees and degrees from correspondence schools may be advertised provided there is no effect of deceiving the reader through ambiguous description. Degrees obtained from “diploma mills” must not be listed on a member’s resume or biographical summary. Ordination obtained through mail-order institutions should be omitted from one’s list of credentials.
(b) Authorship. EMNR members should not claim authorship of any book, article, essay, pamphlet or other literary work which in fact has been “ghostwritten” or largely composed by someone else. Joint and composite authorship is permissible if the names of the authors are identified in the copyright and publication data section of the work in question. Members must refrain from employing ghostwriters for the duration of their membership.
(c) Testimony. All testimonies given either orally or in other forms by EMNR members must be strictly true and capable of standing the test of investigation by impartial observers. EMNR members must never embellish testimonies of their backgrounds or life experiences by adding events which never transpired or magnifying the importance of their actions, enemies, or friends beyond what is fair and true. If an EMNR member makes extraordinary or highly unusual claims about his life and background, the member must also make special steps to see that this testimony can be corroborated by external or multiple sources.
EMNR members must also not use common terms to simplify things for an audience if the term used would be likely to cause misunderstanding by an informed listener. This means, for example, that one must not refer to herself as “Mormon” if in fact she was RLDS; one must not claim to have been a “Catholic priest” if he was ordained in the “Old Catholic” movement, etc.
(d) Employment. EMNR members must be scrupulously honest about their employment. In resumes, biographical sheets, and other materials which describe the titles and positions they have held in the past, the nomenclature they use must match the nomenclature of the originating institution (e.g., an “associate editor” is not an “editor-in-chief”; and one should not claim to be a “lecturer” at a college if one is not regularly employed at this profession by the college). Any literature advertising EMNR members as campus speakers must not give the impression that they hold formal, paid positions on staff with a campus unless this is indeed the case.
(e) Accomplishments. Regardless of the temptation, EMNR members must not inflate their accomplishments or Christian service, including such things as statistics regarding conversions, numbers of people ministered to, countries preached in, book sales, ministry growth, or other matters where pride may find an opportunity in us.
If members of EMNR are questioned or challenged about the truth of their credentials, testimony, or accomplishments in the five areas listed above, they will make a sincere effort to respond to these questions by presenting reasonable evidence.
DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE. This is one of the most difficult areas to determine. We recognize that churches of our members do not agree on what constitute legitimate, biblical conditions for divorce and remarriage. In general, we suggest the following:
(a) Persons divorced under recognized biblical grounds may remain as EMNR General or Associate Members. We recognize no greater latitude than the following causes: infidelity, physical abuse, or desertion. If their local church authorities have no objection to their continuing in public ministry, they may continue as active members of EMNR. It is our recommendation that persons recently separated or divorced should step out of the limelight, removing themselves from prominent roles as speakers, teachers, talk-show hosts, or church officers to permit adequate time for emotional recovery.
(b) Persons who have initiated a divorce from their mates must not be known to “rationalize” the divorce to other parties (that is, by claiming the divorce to have been God’s will, that they were unavoidably overcome by temptation, etc.). Though EMNR does not have the means or interest to investigate all its members on such matters, we do ask divorced members who are rationalizing or excusing sinful behavior to show repentance to the satisfaction of their local church.
(c) Persons whose divorce occurred over five years ago, who show evidence of sorrow and repentance over the divorce (if they initiated it and were biblically wrong to do so), may apply for or continue in membership without restriction.
SEXUAL SIN AND VIOLENT BEHAVIOR. We suggest that a member of EMNR who is guilty of fornication, adultery, rape, incest, homosexuality, or other unbiblical sexual behavior committed in the recent past should withdraw from EMNR voluntarily for a minimum of three years. Sexual sin and physical violence upon people is particularly egregious for Christian leaders. Unrepentance of sexual sin or a pattern of physical violence upon others will result in expulsion from EMNR.
To prevent the false accusation of sexual sin and to limit possible temptations in this area, EMNR members will refrain from counseling or discipling members of the opposite sex alone in private rooms or secluded places (except in formal counseling offices where other safeguards are in place).
DEPROGRAMMING. Members of EMNR will not engage in nor promote any form of deprogramming or “exit counseling” which involves illegal activity (kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, abduction, involuntary restraint, or violation of civil rights).
REPORTING AND CRITICISM. Members must display tact and courtesy in how they minister to, report on, and publicly criticize other groups and fellow Christians. (Regarding how EMNR members should report their own background or accomplishments, see the section on Self-representation, above.)
Christian apologists to the cults and to new religious movements are, by their particular calling, divisive. Scripture instructs them to “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2); they must speak with a prophetic voice, condemning sin and error where it occurs. At the same time, they must also “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) in a spirit of peacemaking, humility, and patience (2 Tim. 2:24-26, James 3:13-18). This is a delicate balance, and none of us will always walk this tightrope perfectly. God’s desire for Christian ministry is to bring about the restoration of both sinners estranged from God and brothers estranged from one another.
(1) Public critique of fellow Christians in a public forum. We generally hold that when persons are disseminating a testimony or a point of view- whether by book, lecture, newsletter, media broadcast, or other form of group communication -the statements expressed by the speaker are fair game for critique, investigation, or open rebuttal. The steps in Matthew 18:15-18 requiring initial private confrontation are not mandatory in these cases, due to the very nature of public discourse. However, there are cases where private contact beforehand with a Christian leader or author is wise, even though it is not mandatory. It allows us to extend professional courtesy to other Christians and allows them opportunity to revise errant views or misjudgments (Matt. 7:12).
Ethical conduct here, especially if the speaker or writer is a professing Christian, requires that public responses of EMNR members be made with honor and grace toward the one criticized; not with sarcasm, rancor, ridicule, debasement, judgmental attitudes, nor any attempt to impugn the speaker’s motives (only God knows the hearts and minds of mankind: 1 Sam. 16:7, 1 Ki. 8:39). Criticism should not be done to shame or embarrass the other party. We should have a deep love, not only for the body of Christ and its protection, but also for the offender.
EMNR members must understand Christian doctrine from the viewpoint of a variety of orthodox Christian traditions. They must recognize that other Christians will differ on matters of doctrine and evangelism, and be willing to tolerate such differences among fellow EMNR members without casting doubt on their salvation or Christianity because of them. Division has been occasioned among us on the issues of Calvinism and eternal security; deliverance or exorcism for Christians; theonomy; generational Satanism and ritual abuse; and the proper stance toward Roman Catholicism. In a practical sense, this means that verses such as Galatians 1:8-9 (“another gospel”) and Philippians 3:18-19 (“enemies of the cross”) must not be applied to fellow EMNR members who have signed the Lausanne Covenant in good conscience. Public castigation of fellow Christians, where their stance on a doctrine not essential to salvation becomes a test used to deny or cast doubt on their own salvation, is unacceptable behavior.
EMNR members should sincerely pray for those they criticize, display a teachable attitude if the one criticized objects to their analysis, and make no boasts of their own discernment or education over against their neighbors. As a courtesy, members should try to send a copy of any published criticism to the author, speaker, or organization they may criticize.
(2) Public critique of private misdeeds. Where EMNR members wish to admonish, correct or criticize a fellow member or member ministry for character flaws and misconduct, or should they wish to “investigate” complaints lodged against a fellow EMNR member, special care is needed. The private lives and actions of members are not in the same public forum as are their books or published articles. Although EMNR is interested in the moral probity of its members, EMNR should not take the place of a “church court” to investigate allegations of wrongdoing.
In cases of individual moral misconduct, a member with questions or complaints about another EMNR member must follow the stages of personal, limited, and public confrontation described in Matthew 18:15-17 and other passages of Scripture. We suggest that practical guidelines regarding how such confrontation and reconciliation might be accomplished appear in chapters 7-12 of The Peacemaker, by Ken Sande (Baker Book House, 1991). If one of us knows that a colleague is engaging in behavior that is damaging to himself or others, it is our duty to either speak the truth in love to that person or, if for some reasons we cannot do so, to find someone else who can and will.
EMNR members should bear in mind the difference between public and private misdeeds. In the words of Augustine, “Those sins which are committed before all must be reproved before all, that all may fear. [1 Tim. 5:20] Reprove in secret those who offend you in secret. For if you alone know the guilty person, yet you desire to reprove him before others, then you are not a corrector but a betrayer.”
For this reason, EMNR members must properly distinguish between the two kinds of transgressions. Allegations of private misdeeds must first be conveyed to the individual and later (if needed) to the pastor or ruling elders of the local congregation of the EMNR member being complained against. If it reaches this second level, the process of investigation, discipline, and restoration should be conducted by the local congregation or church body, using its own prescribed standards for discipline. If the brother or sister responds satisfactorily with evidence of repentance, the matter is ended and the misdeed should not be made public by the outside party. The burden of “public disclosure” (if any) of the transgression should rest with the person’s home church and his/her personal conscience.
On rare occasions, the denomination or church which ought to investigate the matter may be compromising due to sin, complacency, or fear of man. If the accused is part of such a church, or is not in good standing with a church, or is otherwise not accessible to the normal channels of church discipline, then the accusation against an EMNR member should be carried first to an outside body of conciliators such as the Institute for Christian Conciliation (address on page 24) or a similar group. If the conciliatory process is refused or abandoned, then the accusation may be brought to the Committee on Membership of EMNR under the terms set forth in the section on Enforcement, below.
Failure of the complainant to follow the procedure outlined in the preceding five paragraphs means that the complainant has no “standing” with EMNR to request that action be taken. This means that unless these guidelines are followed by the accusing party in approaching the EMNR member he seeks to correct, the EMNR Committee on Membership is not obligated to rule or take further notice of the complaint itself.
This does not mean that EMNR cannot rule on a case brought before it improperly. Rather, EMNR is not obligated to respond to such a request. EMNR members cannot violate due process in accusing or criticizing other members, and expect EMNR to ignore their own misbehavior in the process.
(3) Public critique of non-Christians. In the public treatment of non-Christians, members must also possess Christlike virtues. The same sacred Scripture which allows for the prophetic rebuke and denunciation of sin also commands the preacher to “be gentle unto all, . . . in humility correcting those who are in opposition” (2 Tim. 2:24-25, NKJV). Bear in mind the Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12, and avoid the use of harsh language where possible (Eph. 4:29).
Members must also beware of presuming to discern the motives, intents or inner thoughts of non-Christians. Though unbelievers are slaves to sin and possessed of a darkened, rebellious nature toward God, we have no warrant for impugning their motives in all cases. The unbeliever may simultaneously possess a sincere desire to find God (as an act of God’s prevenient grace) even while having sinful rebellion against God. Since the unregenerate may be in the process of making steps which will eventually culminate in their conversion, we must especially beware of rhetoric which totally denies any good works or worthy motives which may already be at work in the unbeliever.
In public criticism of non-Christian religions and systems, we must bear in mind that our goal is to win them, not to alienate them; to reach them in humility, not to repel them in haughtiness. In our printed and oral presentations against error, EMNR members must recall that a “bad witness” can sometimes undo months or years of “seed-planting” on the part of others. We must avoid the use of “loaded language” or emotional terminology which will breed contempt in the audience rather than compassion. After our presentation of another religious movement, listeners should be incited to prayer and evangelism rather than moved to pity or revulsion by our manner of portrayal.
LAWSUITS AMONG MEMBERS. 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 clearly warns that Christians should not sue one another in civil courts. The Holy Spirit, speaking through Paul, instructs us that Christians have the moral obligation to make judgments between disputing brethren, and since we shall even judge the angels, a fortiori we are more obliged to make sound judgments in things pertaining to this life. For us to place disputes within the Church before the world is “to our shame” (verse 5). This spectacle weakens the testimony of Christ before the world and before the Church herself.
At the same time, Christians are expected to follow the apostolic example of forbearance and self-denial, even if it leads to defamation, slander and financial loss. “Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be defrauded?” (verse 7). Paul lived by this standard: “. . . when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we conciliate” (1 Cor. 4:12-13, NASB). The agape love of the Holy Spirit “is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered” (1 Cor. 13:5). Likewise, Christians are not to take worldly retaliation: “To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead . . . keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” (1 Pet. 3:8-9, 16; see also Col. 3:13)
In this light, it is contrary to our standards for one member to threaten or initiate a lawsuit against a fellow EMNR member unless all biblical remedies have been pursued and exhausted. The threat of lawsuit before a civil court will result in a Letter of Admonition. A subsequent threat to the same party will result in a Letter of Rebuke, with Probation. Initiating the lawsuit will result in a temporary Suspension of Membership on the part of the member plaintiff, including announcement of this discipline to the general membership of EMNR.
If an EMNR member threatens or actually initiates a civil lawsuit against a professing Christian or Christian organization who is not a member of EMNR (the substance of their profession not being in doubt, as it would be in the case of pseudo-Christian cults), the Committee on Membership will need to see a letter from the EMNR member’s pastor or materially significant peers (not the member’s attorney), reasonably justifying the propriety of such action. Failure to produce such a letter within 30 days of the action or threat of action or the lack of urgent and credible rationale for the plaintiff’s actions will be grounds for discipline of the EMNR member plaintiff, as specified above.
GOSSIP AND SLANDER. The Bible speaks often of the sins of gossip, tale-bearing, revealing private secrets, spreading rumors, and slander (Lev. 19:16, Ps. 50:20, Prov. 11:13, 20:19, 2 Cor. 12:20, Jas. 4:11). The word gossip includes the idea of idle talk, conveying rumors and behind-the-scenes information of an intimate and personal nature, and especially (for our purposes), the act of passing on an evil report about one or more people, whether true or false, for the primary purpose of injuring their reputation. In a more serious vein, the word slander denotes “speaking evil of someone, a malicious false report that injures their reputation or brings reproach to their good name.”
Gossip can include passing on true information, and it is one of the most common sins among Christians today. Slander is a violation of the Eight Commandment (“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” Ex. 20:16), and many people falsely believe slander has not been committed unless it has been proven in a court of law.
While members of EMNR are encouraged to form close relationships of mutual accountability, entering into fraternal concern and friendships, the danger still exists that what begins as “shop talk” about the activities and accomplishments of our colleagues can degenerate into gossip, tale-bearing and worse. To forestall this possibility, we offer the following admonitions:
(a) Never pass on information about a colleague that would embarrass them, or make you feel awkward if they were to discover that you had passed on this anecdote.
(b) Never talk about colleagues in order to simply impress others, or to “puff yourself up” as one who is in a special circle of acquaintance or who is “in the know.”
(c) Beware of passing on critical, unflattering, or negative information, even if true. If God has forgiven the sins or shortcomings of those whose flaws you are discussing (and who are we to know that He has not?), then we are acting presumptuously to assume that we should raise them once again to a third party.
(d) In private conversation critical of a colleague’s beliefs or personal habits, members will always speak responsibly and temperately.
Two ethical exceptions exist to item (c), above. The first exception is made if an injustice would almost certainly occur to someone if we were to fail to speak. For example, if minister A is known for failing to pay his bills, and minister B is about to enter into a business dealing with him, unaware of his past record of financial irregularity, then minister B needs to know about this past circumstance and it would be improper for you to hide it. (At the same time, you must be ready to be identified by minister B as the source of this information, should minister A request it of him.) If Ministry C tells you they have just hired Dr. D for a time- critical writing assignment, but you know from personal experience that in ten years he has never met a deadline, then the production manager for Ministry C needs to know this. Other people who may legitimately “need to know” a person’s secret faults would be those to whom the person is structurally accountable, or who would be in a pastoral position to directly confront them or counsel them.
On the other hand, if a woman has a child out of wedlock or a colleague was fired for sleeping on the job, most people are not in a “need to know” position that these embarrassments should be conveyed to them. A common excuse used by Christians to justify conveying gossip is that the listener “needs to know” so they can “pray more effectively” for the party they are talking about. This is a rationalization, not a valid excuse. The speaker should repent of this desire to pass on the private details of another person’s life.
The second ethical exception to item (c), above, obtains when a person has been the object of church discipline or public exposure for fraudulent practices, and their sins have been made known to the church as an example to avoid (1 Tim. 5:20). In this case, conveying news about them which has already been made public knowledge to a large body of people could be gossip (depending upon our own motives or attitudes) but may also be legitimate conversation. For this reason, we must carefully examine our hearts lest a secret delight in the fall of others may creep in.
In summary, EMNR members are not to “pass on” gossip or slander (either by voice, fax, or electronic mail), and not to passively “listen to” or participate in gossip or slander. Past actions of gossip should be repented of and brought before the Lord. If one is told gossip, we suggest that as soon as you begin to recognize the direction the conversation is going, gently admonish the gossiper of his or her actions and remind them of the biblical injunctions in this regard.
CONFIDENTIALITY. Many EMNR members act in the role of Christian ministers, evangelists, and counselors, even if not formally ordained to a church office as elder, deacon, etc. The statements made to an EMNR member during counseling or evangelism (e.g., confession of sin, spiritual struggles) are to be considered confidential, even if at the time the concept of confidentiality was not expressed or mentioned. The purpose of confidentiality is to protect the counselor, the counselee, and the relationship between them. At the same time, the counselor is obligated to protect innocent people from the counselee’s deviancy if he should persist in criminal behavior. EMNR members are normally forbidden from disclosing the private confessions of their counselees, with the following exceptions:
(a) If the details are so generalized as to become generic, and to totally hide the identity of the counselee from any possible speculation. Saying that you spoke last month with a Christian leader who said he was addicted to masturbation is permissible. Saying that this leader was pastor of the largest Baptist church in a particular city would enable many people from that city to identify this man, and thus speech of this sort is forbidden.
(b) If there is a likelihood that the person may physically endanger himself or others, perhaps through suicide or violence. In this case, confidentiality may be broken to warn his relatives or law enforcement authorities of the impending danger.
(c) If they have confessed to incest, physical child abuse, or the sexual abuse of children. Use good judgment to weigh the circumstances: an event that took place 25 years ago may be beyond the statute of limitations, and a hard spanking is not in the same category as broken ribs or deliberate scalding. Many states require clergy and counselors to report cases of sexual contact with minors, even if it happened two or three years ago. EMNR members would be wise to be conversant with the laws on this subject in their home states.
If someone confesses to sexual relationships with minors or children, the counselor should tell the person at the time that they are legally obligated to report this to the authorities, urging them to cooperate in making the report, rather than saying nothing and calling authorities while the counselee does not expect this action.
(d) If the counselee has committed a major crime such as arson, embezzlement, or murder, the circumstances may or may not require a violation of confidentiality. At this point, we believe the circumstances should dictate the response by the counselor. The counselor in any case should urge the person to turn himself in, seek some way to undo the wrongs done, and make restitution to whatever degree is possible.
COMMITMENT TO RECONCILIATION. The Bible instructs us to be at peace with our brothers and sisters, and so to display the love of Christ. Indeed, according to Jesus, the act of reconciliation with our brother (whether or not his division with us is well-founded) is a duty which comes even before the formal act of worship.
“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty [enough to go] into the fiery hell. If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” (Matt. 5:22-24, NASB)
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (Rom. 12:18)
“And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. And beyond all these things [put on] love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (Col. 3:12-15)
“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting [Himself] to Him who judges righteously.” (1 Pet. 2:21-23)
“To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Pet. 3:8-9)
“A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” (Prov. 19:11)
The above instructions from God must guide us in dealing with disputes. The overarching issue is that we should realize that God deals with us with boundless mercy and grace. He does not deal harshly with us every time we sin. His love and forgiveness are everlasting. So, we too ought to deal with each other. But these principles do not mean that we are never to confront one another. To point out another’s sin to prevent them from damaging themselves or others is the loving thing to do.
Sometimes the injury by another to yourself is so grievous that it can significantly hinder the work of Christ. Rather than overlooking it, it may be better to confront the issue. If the sin or accusation against another is very public, then it is important to confront and peacefully resolve the issue, with restitution. In any event, both the attitude and the manner of addressing the issue are crucial for the cause of Christ and the sanctification of the Christians involved.
Matthew 5:22-24 and 18:15-18 are principles that should govern our meetings with one another. First we should go to our brother or sister privately, after first examining ourselves and our motives (Gal. 6:1, Matt. 7:1-5). Be quick to listen and slow to speak (Jas. 1:19), so that both sides may clear up any misunderstandings of fact or intention. Whether the dispute or concern be a personal sin, an injury against another, a theological dispute, or some combination, these steps should be followed. So far, everything should be conducted privately.
If there is still an honest disagreement of facts, consequences, or the issues involved, then other witnesses can be brought in who are directly aware of the issue. The “witnesses” need not be people who can testify to a fact or event (as in a legal court) and should not be people who will “back up” your side regardless of the circumstances. Rather, they should be people whom you respect and whose opinions and whose advice is normally weighty enough to get you to change your mind. (In theological disputes, each side bringing in others who already agree with their point of view could serve to escalate the problem.) Participants must have a real commitment to display love and grace toward one another, and to follow the instruction of 2 Tim. 2:23-26. If a satisfactory conclusion is not reached, you are to go to the church body for remedy. Some denominational structures have mechanisms for accountability and discipline; others do not. The pastor and/or elders should be called in for a denominational resolution. If the disputants are from different churches, the churches should appoint a panel of objective and mature believers to hear and settle the dispute. On occasion, one or both churches may refuse to get involved.
If the dispute should need to be taken a step further or if the churches of the disputants are unequipped to give counseling for reconciliation, EMNR recommends the following ministry which can provide such services:
|Institute for Christian Conciliation
PO Box 81130
Billings, MT 591082590 Holman Avenue
Billings MT 59102
Phone: (406) 256-1583
Fax: (406) 256-0001
|Mennonite Conciliation Service
21 South 12th St.
PO Box 500
Akron, PA 17501-0500
Phone: (717) 859-3889
Fax: (717) 859-3875
In the event that conflict with or problems regarding an EMNR member cannot be resolved because all efforts at conciliation are rebuffed, the dispute may be brought to the Committee on Membership.
FINANCIAL INTEGRITY. As servants of God and representatives of Jesus Christ, EMNR members must be responsible not only in their handling of money but also in their attitude toward wealth, possessions, and earthly gain.
Members must always consider their service for Christ primary and their concern about remuneration secondary, avoiding the suspicion of a love of money and never measuring their work by the size of their salaries. They must be scrupulous in the prompt payment of bills and careful in the incurring of financial obligations. If the ministry is separately incorporated or corporately distinct, EMNR members shall not use ministry funds or resources for private advantage or enrichment.
Any finances raised for specific purposes shall be reserved or spent entirely for those purposes. Letters of appeal for finances must be honest and never portray false accomplishments or ministry “crises.” Members must, to the best of their ability, live up to the terms of any business or ministry contracts; and, if a reversal of providence and circumstance should prevent this, show a good-faith effort to meet these obligations or humbly ask their partners for a contractual amendment or rescission.
Since covetousness and love of money is named in the Scripture so frequently as a cause of sin and offense (Ezek. 33:31, Mic. 2:2, Hab. 2:9, Luke 12:15, Eph. 5:3, Col. 3:5, 1 Tim. 3:3), we vow to share our goods and property with others who have need, to remember the poor (Gal. 2:10), and to contribute to other Christian ministries and churches.
Corporate and institutional members of EMNR are admonished to remember that as the amount of money that passes through your hands increases, your responsibility to provide financial reports and audits available for public inspection becomes correspondingly greater. Ministry in the service of Christ should always take precedence over fundraising.
UNJUST TECHNIQUES IN EVANGELISM. The use of fear, intimidation, pressure, group processes, or incentives for conversion must be avoided. Apologists and evangelists within EMNR should never be involved in efforts to manipulate a person into making a profession of faith. While we are certainly within our calling to exhort and persuade sinners to come to Christ and to “flee from the wrath to come” (Luke 3:7), tactics which use people’s fears or personal afflictions as leverage against them must be shunned.
As stated in the Manila Manifesto, “Christians renounce unworthy methods of evangelism. Though the nature of our faith requires us to share the gospel with others, our practice is to make an open and honest statement of it, which leaves the hearers entirely free to make up their own minds about it. We wish to be sensitive to those of other faiths, and we reject any approach that seeks to force conversion on them.” (sect. 12)
We also must shun any hiding the “cost” of discipleship, by failing to tell the prospective convert that he will have to repent from sin, forsaking unbiblical practices, as part of his Christian commitment. While only God can give a person the power to live a holy life, performing moral renovation and regeneration, it is nonetheless improper for ministers to omit the call to moral purity and holiness, which must characterize the Christian and is part of the New Testament message.
DISCLOSURE OF POTENTIAL EMBARRASSMENTS. Members of EMNR have an obligation to inform the EMNR Committee on Membership in the event that their conduct might pose an embarrassment to EMNR as a whole. This obligation is primarily understood to cover behavior or belief on the part of a member or the member’s close associates which would very likely bring a reproach upon EMNR or upon themselves if this information were widely disseminated. EMNR affiliation must not be used as a cover for unrepentant gross sin, false doctrine, financial misdealing, felony convictions, or any other actions which are not befitting to a person in public Christian ministry.
We must never attempt to excuse, ignore, minimize, or deny sin using theologically-based rationalizations (e.g., “God knew that I was going to do it anyway”; “it’s all covered by the blood”; “even if I sin this way a hundred times, God still forgives me”; or “you’re a sinner too, so who are you to judge my sins as worse than yours?”). It is expected that the confession of sin will be accompanied by true repentance, orally acknowledged by the contrite person.
RESTORATION. It is a general principle that even persons who have been expelled from EMNR for gross misconduct may someday be reinstated or restored to membership. It is the general consensus of many that there are certain types and degrees of sin which forever exclude a person from a role as a Christian pastor, congregational leader, or as a leader in the public eye (such as child molestation, incest, sodomy, repeated adultery, etc.). We do not deny that this can be the case occasionally; however, we also believe that even persons who have sinned in this way can be restored to private ministry of an unobtrusive nature. We believe one of the general principles of discipline is for the reclamation, not the destruction, of the individual to proper functioning as a servant of Christ.
Persons who have been expelled or suspended from EMNR membership who wish to be reunited with EMNR should clearly show evidence in their lives of the principles of open repentance and restitution. We recommend the advice of D.L. Moody, that if you have sinned before God and man, your repentance should be as notorious as your transgressions. If one’s sin has affected other members of the body of Christ and become known unto the world, his confession of sin, public repentance, and open acknowledgment of wrongdoing should be noised abroad and promoted.
This evidence and correspondence must be made to the EMNR Committee on Membership.
Likewise, members wishing to reaffiliate with EMNR must demonstrate the biblical principle of restitution. They should repay (ideally and most desirably, repay with interest) the parties they have taken advantage of, or they must provide other forms of recompense in a meaningful way to undo whatever damages they have done.
In the event of a Removal from Corporate Office, a Temporary Suspension from Membership, or an Expulsion from Membership, a person who is restored or returned to full affiliation with EMNR shall receive a special Letter of Restoration and Welcome, in addition to their general membership papers, signed by the Committee on Membership.