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Back to Table of Contents, A Declaration of Universal Rights

Ecclesiastical Government

Section 1: Proselytization

The right to declare, and maintain religious beliefs, as well as freely communicate with others such beliefs is immutable. No law shall be passed or construed to infringe in any way this right exer­cised either individually or in association with others. No law shall compel association.

This Article is to be considered along with Article 2, particularly Sections 6-10.

Article 4 concentrates on the exercise of rights in a corporate ecclesiastical setting. Its underlying premise is that the freedoms we enjoy as individuals are not enlarged or impaired because of association and that forced association violates the right to choose with whom to associate.

 

Section 2: Training, Discipline, And Excommunication

A church or denomination's authority to train, discipline, and excommunicate its members is based upon the immutable right of its members to associate for any lawful purpose. No law shall be passed or construed to infringe in any way this authority or the right of association from which it is derived.

Section 2 affirms that a church or denomination may maintain internal discipline as it sees fit. These mat­ters are beyond the jurisdiction of the civil government and are not susceptible to review except when such dis­cipline constitutes criminal activity. The civil government, however, has no jurisdiction over ideas, true or false, as Article 2, Section 8 indicates.

 

Section 3: Church Government

A church or denomination's authority to organize its powers in such a way as to them shall seem most likely to effect their purpose is based on the immutable right of its members to associate for any lawful purpose. No law shall be passed or construed to infringe in any way this authority or the right from which it is derived.

Section 3 points out that one of the necessary incidences of the right of association is freedom to choose among all lawful forms of association. The civil government may not prescribe or prohibit a given form. Thus the biblical model of elders and deacons, for instance, in I Timothy 3 cannot be required nor prohibited by civil government.

 

Section 4: Religious Establishment

No civil law shall require or authorize any religious society, or the civil government to levy on themselves or others, any tax for the erection or repair of any house of public worship, or for the support of any church or ministry. It shall be left free to every person to select his religious instruc­tor, and to make for his support such private contract as he shall please. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent a law requiring an oath or affirmation prior to assuming civil office, but no religious test shall be prescribed.

Section 4 affirms and rearticulates the proposition found in Article 2, Section 8. It affirms that the civil government is not to be employed by any religious group to coerce acts of charity, including the erection, sup­port or maintenance of a church or similar structure. The section likewise does not permit the religious society to be employed by civil government for their ends. The section affirms the principle that each man is free to direct his mind and contract and associate for any lawful object.

 

Section 5: Jurisdiction

No ecclesiastical government shall exercise jurisdiction over any object entrusted to any other government, self, family, voluntary, civil or otherwise. Neither shall any such government exercise jurisdiction over any object entrusted to ecclesiastical government.

Though noted in this section, it is not meant to imply that jurisdictional limitations are peculiarly appli­cable to ecclesiastical government alone. See also Article 1, Section 4.

 

 
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