This document explains the international Internet fellowship of the Christian Community. This is the anchor point for members of the Body of Christ who are aware they are members of the worldwide community of Christian believers. It also serves as an organization pattern for establishing Christian Communities in fixed locations. We believe all things contained in it contribute to creating and maintaining harmonious and Jesus' centered Christian Communities.
A "denomination": the Christian Community confesses that it is only a unit or denomination of the one Church of Jesus Christ. While it confesses it is not The Church, the Christian Community is part of The Church Universal, which is the one Body of Christ, including all Christians of every place and time.
The Christian Community confesses that such units or denominations of the larger Church Universal are God ordained in that it is possible only to be a part of The Church Universal and impossible for any particular local church body to claim it is the total and one "true" Church Universal.
Confessing that the Christian Community is but a part of the Church Universal, we affirm that we are at one with the whole church and with each other local church and denomination. We affirm that we are always open to fellowship with members and groups of any other church body of Christian believers.
The Christian Community regrets denominational competition and rivalry. Its members are committed to avoiding any such grieving of the Holy Spirit. The Church with its members, is committed to resolving any such differences while always affirming God's law of unity with variety.
Authority to Organize: From the earliest days of the Christian Church, believers met together and organized for order and worship (Acts 6:1-7). The Christian Community recognizes this tradition and claims the right to organize and meet for worship and fellowship.
Authority of the Church: The ultimate authority in the Church is our loving Heavenly Father, God as He expresses His will through the majority vote of Church members.
Such vote is exercised in Congregational Conventions of the Church members which may be held as often as required, but not less than quarterly periods, in order to supervise and transact the business of the Church under the Holy Spirit's guidance. All members of the Church shall be notified in advance of the Conventions and shall be entitled to attend and vote on all Church affairs.
Members as both ministers and servants: The Church understands that all Christians are called to minister (Matthew 26:31-45, 28:19,20; Mark 16:15-20), and to serve (Matthew 20:25-28). Such ministering and service is for the benefit of the congregation and does not include the authority to govern. All members, ministers, and stewards are but trusted servants, serving by the will of God as His will is evidenced through the witness of the congregation and as appointed by congregational conventions.
Because all members of the Church are called to be both ministers and servants to the congregations, all are eligible to serve. Each member, regardless of gender or age, may both minister and serve the Church in any role the congregation calls and appoints, recognizing those God given talents and the available time of each person.
Stewards, the special servants of the congregation: At each congregational convention, a number of stewards shall be elected to serve the congregation of the Church and to implement its wishes between conventions. The types of stewards and their serving duties shall include, but not be limited, to the following:
STEWARD OF THE CONGREGATION
Servant to the entire congregation in every particular required of him or her by God (Matthew 23:12). This steward must be called by God Himself to take this role. This call must be recognized by the entire congregation. This Steward is responsible for worship services, preaching the Word, and ministry to the members. The Steward of the Congrgation acts as chairman of the Congregational Conventions and meetings of the stewards. He/she is an ex-officio member of both groups, serving without a vote.
STEWARD OF CHURCH RECORDS
Church secretary and record keeper.
STEWARD OF FINANCE
Church treasurer and account keeper.
STEWARD OF CHURCH MUSIC
Plans and directs the music of the church in its worship and classes.
STEWARD OF CHURCH PROPERTY
Manages the Church material possessions.
STEWARD OF SENIOR EDUCATION
Organizes and supervises all Sunday School classes for members eighteen years and older.
STEWARD OF JUNIOR EDUCATION
Organizes and supervises all Sunday School classes for members younger than eighteen years.
STEWARD OF WORSHIP
Serves the congregation by supervising the order and reverence of all worship services.
STEWARD OF ORDER
Monitors all Church activities and measures all activities against the mind, teachings, and example of Jesus, the will of the congregation, and the written Articles of Incorporation, Faith, and Order. Serves the congregation by suppressing deviations from the intentions of the congregation and also supports new innovations not in conflict with the Articles and the mind of Jesus.
STEWARD OF CHURCH BENEVOLENCES
Screens, monitors, and oversees all expressions of Church social action, outside giving, and church tithing.
STEWARD TO THE WHOLE CHURCH UNIVERSAL
Promotes and maintains relationships between the Church and other local units of The Church Universal.
STEWARD OF PLANNING
Monitors all church activities and, with the insight of the Holy Spirit, seeks to suggest plans and programs in advance of Church needs so orderly growth may continue at all times. Hears and responds to requests of the members by cooperating with other Stewards responsible for specific areas of Church activity.
STEWARD OF FELLOWSHIP ACTIVITIES
Plans, promotes, organizes, and supervises all activities held outside of regular Church worship hours or off Church property.
Titles: There is much Scriptural and traditional evidence of the giving of titles to various Church officers. The Christian Community recognizes this evidence but declines to give ecclesiastical titles to any member in the interest of humility and harmony. Titles serve to divide rather than to harmonize members of Christ's Body. Titles as herein listed represent only job descriptions and areas of responsibilities for service to the congregation as a whole. Members assume no titles, only responsibility.
Remuneration: There will be no pay and no love offerings to any minister for any ministry according to the teaching of Jesus to the disciples. Jesus taught, "Freely you have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8-10). However, employees of the Church may be paid for time and services according to the ability of the Church to pay, the wishes of the congregation and the standards of the community. Visiting evangelists, preachers, and teachers may be paid an honorarium and expenses according to the wishes of the congregation. Therefore, the remuneration of the Steward to the Congregation will be based on his administrative time and talents, and will not be considered payment for preaching the Gospel.
Faith statement: The Church confesses Jesus is Lord of our lives with first claim upon our total beings. We accept all the teachings and examples of Jesus as reported in the Gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. This four book record is our primary guide. The New Testament, read in the order as it now stands, is our statement of faith. The Old Testament's message, also from God, supports our faith.
Validation of teachings: The Christian Community recognizes there are many different interpretations of Scripture by well intentioned teachers. Because of the primacy of Jesus as our Lord and Master, we require all teachings, sermons, and other material presented in the Church to be based upon Jesus as He is recorded in the four Gospel books. To facilitate the accomplishment of this goal, all preachers and teachers are required to verify and document lesson themes from the Gospels before presenting the sermon or lesson. Each lesson or sermon must have at least one Scripture from one of the Gospel books read in advance of the lesson or sermon that will support the lesson theme with direct Gospel statements.
The Bible as the Word of God: The Church recognizes the entire Bible - both Old and New Testaments - as the inspired word of God. Teachings and sermons from any section of the Bible can be used in Church activities. However, the New Testament is where our faith is revealed. The Old Testament is used only in support of the New Testament Gospel message.
Biblical interpretation: This Church recognizes the right of each Christian to interpret the Bible according to the dictates of their own conscience under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Biblical prophecy: This Church recognizes that there are as many interpretations of the meaning of Biblical prophecy concerning end times as there are comitted Christians. Historically, speculations on Biblical prophecy have led to schisms and embarassments for The Church Universal. Considering our call to harmony and dedication to Christian discipleship, there remains very little time for prophetic speculations. Therefore, the Church believes that such controversial and speculative prophetic discussions should be outside the Church. Within the Church, such teachings cause division and debate that detract from our call to discipleship and promote intellectualism that contradicts the simple Gospel of Jesus' love (agape). To avoid such distractions, the Church prohibits teachings and sermons presenting individual opinions and interpetations of Biblical end time prophecy. In keeping with the liberty of Articles Eight, Nine, Ten, and Eleven, direct statements, devoid of individual interpretation and speculation, may be used at any time within the Church.
Equality of all of God's children: This Church understands Jesus' teaching concerning leaders, Matthew 23:8-12, and woman, Matthew 15:22-28, and race, Matthew 12:15-21, and age, Matthew 18:1-6, to mean that all of God's children are equal in His sight, regardless of position, gender, race, or age. Therefore, no stewardship within the Church shall be denied any person because of their race, gender, or age. Any member displaying the appropriate gifts, so recognized by the congregation, may fill any stewardship within the Church according to the will of the congregation.
Social and political actions: The Christian life is not lived in a vacuum, but within the social and political areas of the world. Therefore, each Christian is called to express social and political opinions, and to act on those opinions. However, this Church recognizes that there can be many different opinions on a single subject. Because of this, it requires that social and political actions be effected through organizations outside the Church and on time other than time reserved for praise and worship. In order to maintain harmony and avoid vain disputes, the Church will take no official position on any political or social event. All of its members are encouraged to do so, but the name of the Church may never be used to support such actions.
Ownership of property: Title of ownership of any property accumulated by the congregation will rest in the name of the Church. Use of Church property will be subject to the wishes of the congregation as expressed through the Congregational Conventions and carried out by the Steward of Church Property.
Additional local churches: This Church may permit other congregations to use the name of the Christian Community, but only when such congregations also adopt the same Articles of Incorporation, Faith, and Order. Such additional congregations would be "in connection" with this Church and subject to close cooperation, support, and fellowship.
Changes, amendments, and liturgy: These Articles of Incorporation, Faith, and Order may be amended or changed by a vote of the majority of the Church's members at any regularly scheduled Congregational meeting. However, no doctrine contrary to that written in these published Articles may be enacted.
No mandatory liturgies or rituals may be imposed on the congregation, or added on to these Articles. Jesus warned against unnecessary "add ons", the laying of "heavy burdens, hard to bear" on God's people, (Matthew 23:4,15). No religious liturgies, rituals or duties, that are not specifically required by Jesus' New Testament words, shall be required by the Christian Community.