Established February 10, 1998
If you want to become a church, you should ask yourself this basic question: What is the Intercontinental Church of God? The answer to this question is not complex. Host groups seeking to be chartered and already chartered churches do need to understand the answer to this question. This understanding helps church groups focus their efforts on the reason for their calling. Garner Ted Armstrong wrote in his booklet Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About the CGI and Weren’t Afraid to Ask (page 3):
“I recognized that I was only beginning a new legal entity; that the true Church of God is a spiritual organism; that the ‘called-out ones’ who constitute the church cannot possibly be constituted by a single corporation.”
“I recognized that I was not ‘starting a new church,’ but merely incorporating a group of people who were already members of God’s church into a legal entity in order to continue doing God’s work—the work of the church.”
There is a great difference between the spiritual organism and the physical organization.
The Church of God, then, is composed of spirit-filled Christians who constitute the body of Christ. They are the many branches connected to the Vine who is Christ. The true church is a spiritual organism which knows no corporate boundaries. Some have mistakenly thought of the many different church organizations as the branches. This is simply not true. Individual Christians are the branches. Do not confuse the spiritual with the physical. When you were baptized, it was “into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, into the family of God” not into any church organization.
On the other hand, the Intercontinental Church of God, is a physical corporation chartered under the laws of the state of Texas whose purpose is to direct the efforts of some of the spiritual organism through its organizational strengths to accomplish a Work. Members of the spiritual organism have voluntarily joined together into a physical organization to do common work.
The basic answer to the above question, then, is: “Christians united by the Holy Spirit who voluntarily are also united into an organization to perform a common Work.” Just as the Holy Spirit directs each Christian in his individual daily life, so the ICG organization gives direction to its members to perform a common work.
Simply stated, the relationship between the ICG corporation and its churches is to focus their efforts through firm direction. It is the intention of the ICG and its ministry to provide a strong sense of direction so that our efforts can be better focused and coordinated to perform the work God has given us to finish. Thus, these guidelines will provide a structured environment for host groups and chartered churches. Please understand, the ICG will never define the conduct of individual Christians, other than through the preaching of God’s Word by its ministry, or unless the individual Christian’s actions adversely affect the good of the collective church. Each Christian must decide for himself how he is going to conduct his own life. But, when it comes to common efforts of the church, the ICG will provide firm direction. These guidelines are intended to provide that direction so that the Work of the Church has focus and, therefore, greater efficiency.
The ICG’s emphasis will always be on the purpose of your calling. It is not just to become a Christian-although that is part of the purpose-but to do a Work. The ICG’s goal is to encourage the development of WORK-oriented churches, not church oriented churches.
Why is it that some feel that loyalty to Christ is a good thing, yet loyalty to an organization is a bad thing? Part of this thinking is based on bad experiences individuals have had in the past when dealing with organizations. We reason that Christ has never let us down but church organizations and their leaders have. The ICG is not asking for your “undying” loyalty, but if it is doing the Work, and its leaders and ministry are remaining steadfast to God and His Word, then we would ask for a “guarded” loyalty. To do otherwise, would be tantamount to throwing out the baby with the bath water. Please remember, no organization of men is perfect nor can ever be. We must always judge it according to its fruits. If the fruits are bad, then you should rightly look elsewhere for an organization that is producing good fruits and is doing a good work.
However, if its fruits are good, and you have become a chartered church of the ICG, then you are obligated to follow these guidelines (chartering means you have voluntarily accepted these guidelines) and to unitedly show your support and loyalty to the efforts of the church which is the Work of the Church.
To be chartered by the Intercontinental Church of God, should be viewed as a value, an asset. The following list includes benefits of being chartered: 1) Tax benefits for all donations made to the church, both to the home office and locally. 2) Referrals of those interested in joining in worship with local congregations. 3) Ministerial oversight. 4) An official partner of the work of the Intercontinental Church of God. 5) Becomes the focus of the credentialed ministry to make every effort to meet with these congregations regularly. 6) A published list from Tyler of a roster of ICG’s chartered churches.
The following information describes the requirements and the procedures for establishing a local area church under the direction of the Intercontinental Church of God.
One of the ingredients necessary for a church is members. We should understand that a church is literally an “assembly” of God’s people. However, the Bible is silent on a specific number necessary for starting a church. The Board of Directors of the Intercontinental Church of God, has directed that we will only grant a local church charter when there are at least twelve adults in regular attendance. This requirement, however, does not keep us from working with smaller groups to potentially bring them to the level of being chartered. Furthermore, the information that follows will contain definition of terms, expectations and requirements for fellowship groups, chartered churches, and other pertinent information for our field churches. It is our hope that all who read these words will be prayerfully attentive to their meaning and intent.
Those wishing to progress toward becoming a local chartered congregation of the Intercontinental Church of God, should know what are the essential activities of a local church. Basically, there are four:
- Worship: This involves prayer, songs of praise, and in general, honoring God with our presence.
- Edification: In the simplest terms, preaching and teaching, either live or on tape; or it can also involve the advice and encouragement received from conversations with the brethren.
- Fellowship: Simply being together. Fellowship involves mutual exhortation, encouragement, consolation, and sometimes admonition.
- Service: This includes assisting the needy, visiting, encouraging, and helping the sick as well as all other forms of Christian service. These can, of course, be done individually, but can be effectively coordinated by the local church.
As to the form of church services or worship, we do not find this outlined in the Bible in such a way as to give us a permanent method of worship. In fact, Paul made significant modifications in routine assemblies (1 Corinthians 14). No one questions Paul’s authority to restrict the number of speakers-apparently unrestricted before (1 Corinthians 14:29)-or to prohibit the use of tongues unless an interpreter was present (1 Corinthians 14:26-28). The Intercontinental Church of God, reserves the right to establish the form of our worship and address or modify the different needs at different times and places. Such decisions are reached after consultation with both members and ministers. The Board of Directors takes seriously its responsibilities regarding the sacerdotal duties required of it.
Invariably, the question will arise: “How should I treat other churches and other organizations?” Again, we caution you not to confuse the spiritual organism and the physical organization. The two are not synonymous. Nor is the answer the same for the individual Christian and the collective church. The Board of Directors has addressed this subject in some detail, exploring many pros and cons of this important subject based on the twin principles of: What does the Bible say? and What have been the fruits? As stated previously, individuals are free to do as they please (but are cautioned to look for fruits). But the attitude the collective church should have is an entirely different matter. Of course, we always hope that the individual attitude and the collective one coincide. Our conclusion was that we must recommend against official recognition of interchurch relations beyond that which individuals can freely partake of. The reasons that colored our concerns and caused us on the Board to reach the conclusion that we should discourage interchurch activities are as follows: (1) Doctrinal differences, (2) Unclear motives beyond simple worship and fellowship, (3) We lose our identity, (4) Christ did not encourage it, (5) Leads to compromise, and (6) Conflict of interest. Some of the scriptural reasons we discourage such activity can be found in Amos 3:3, II Timothy 2:14, Matthew 12:25, and the cogent arguments presented by the apostle John in his second and third epistles.
For those families who are scattered and on their own, we offer a service we call “the extended church.” To those who are enrolled in this service, we send a weekly taped sermon which includes all the important announcements made here in Tyler. This service has proved to be extremely important for keeping all of our scattered brethren “of like mind.” We also offer counseling by letter and telephone to any of those who are in the extended church. We find that if they are able to attend regional holy day services, and to attend the Feast of Tabernacles at one of the approved locations, our extended church families manage quite nicely. If two or more families are able to meet together for fellowship and listen to, or view videotapes together, so much the better. However, no attempt should be made to organize a group into a church or to rent meeting facilities without ministerial direction. There are several ministers at the home office who are designated to take your letters and calls and to offer assistance where needed. Just identify yourself as a member of the extended church when you call or write, and your letter or call will be directed accordingly.
Do not allow anyone in your little group to appoint himself a teacher or preacher (see “The Speaking Credential”). Talk to us before allowing this to happen. There is no greater source of confusion and disharmony than disputes over leadership-particularly speaking.
We are reluctant to give out the names of our extended church families to other people even to other extended church families. Unfortunately it’s not possible for us to know and vouch for everyone-hence our caution. Extended church families will, of course, find each other very quickly when they attend regional holy day services. If you want to become a part of the extended church, just write headquarters and ask to be enrolled. This service is offered without any charge, but there is one condition attached-under no circumstances may members of the extended church claim to represent the ICG. This is a service offered by the church to individuals and families, and conveys no official recognition as a church.
A group who would like to begin meeting together can request a minister be appointed for that group. Under ministerial guidance, a meeting place can be arranged and regular services scheduled. The group may then petition the Board of Directors, in writing, for recognition as a fellowship group and for the appointment of the minister as pastor. In the absence of a specific written appointment by the Board of Directors, local ministers are not permitted to assume pastoral responsibility for a local church. In some circumstances, a minister at headquarters may assume those responsibilities at the direction of the Board.
Fellowship groups function as a church, and are in most respects conducted as the church. They simply are too small for the formal structure and requirements of a chartered church. Fellowship groups will be more formal than family groups, and less formal than a chartered church. Brethren in fellowship groups should be prepared to make certain transitions over time. While it may be acceptable to eat and drink while listening to a tape or watching a video, it is not appropriate for church services. While the ministry does not want to dictate behavior, it is our duty to remind everyone that they are coming to appear before God, and that certain higher standards of conduct and behavior must be maintained in any local church.
The Board of Directors have granted permission to issue a charter to field churches under certain conditions:
- The group must be composed of at least twelve (12) adult members living in a reasonable proximity to one another and in regular attendance.
- A minister holding ICG credentials must meet with the group at least once a month.
- At the discretion of the minister-of-record, he may form a local church council to assist him with the physical responsibilities for the care of the church. He may either choose or let the congregation choose five to seven members to form the council. Both men and women can constitute the council but must meet the qualifications discussed later in this Guidelines for Field Churches. The minister-of-record has final approval over the slate of candidates. If an election is held, the minister-of-record should supervise the election. The minister-of-record will always retain the right to excuse a council member from his duties on the council with due cause, such as gross unchristian actions, or causing division and dissension in the church. If the council members are chosen by election, then a reelection should take place each year. At the pastor’s discretion, a church may continue without a council-the councils general functions being carried out by the entire church. This is recommended for small churches. It should be clearly understood that a local church council does not ever “run” the church, but oversees the physical duties and responsibilities of caring for a church under the direction of the pastor or minister-of-record. The local council is a support arm to the pastor or minister-of-record. The specific duties of the local council are further outlined under the section titled “Local Church Councils.”
- The members should have met together regularly in harmony for at least three months.
- A charter application must be submitted which accepts the Constitution and Bylaws of the Intercontinental Church of God, as well as the fundamental and essential teachings of the church. No local bylaws are required or desired.
- An up-to-date church roll should be submitted with names, addresses and phone numbers of all in attendance.
- A chartered church may not be separately incorporated (except with written permission from the Board of Directors. That permission may be granted in order to meet specific local needs or problems).
- A quarterly financial report must be presented to the brethren with a copy to the Secretary of the Board of Directors. Failure to submit such reports will result in de-listing a chartered church. Full charter status may be restored by bringing reports up to date. Six months after the original charter application, the local minister should submit to the Board of Directors confirmation that the church has borne fruit, demonstrated an attitude of unity, brotherly love, and care for one another; and is fully qualified to care for “little ones” whom God will add to the church. When this confirmation is received, the Board of Directors will, at their discretion, issue a charter for the local church. Should a church lose its minister for any reason, the local council members shall notify the general Secretary of the Board of Directors immediately.
It should be understood by chartered churches and those wishing to be chartered that all local funds and physical assets are held in fiduciary trust and come under the extended responsibility of the Intercontinental Church of God, Tyler, Texas, and its governing board.
A chartered church may establish a local fund and open a bank account in the name of The Intercontinental Church of God. Normally we recommend that local church funds do not exceed three thousand dollars or three times the budgeted needs for one month. Should there be a special need at a local church to exceed this amount in the local fund, then, written permission must be obtained from the Board of Directors.
Extensive past experiences have demonstrated that problems relating to the accruing and management of local church funds are many. Therefore, we discourage local building funds without written consent from the Board of Directors. In addition, we acknowledge that local accounts should be used for love funds, flowers, holy day special meeting facilities, emergencies, and such things. When asked, Tyler pays for hall rentals.
The local account exists solely to meet the needs of the local congregation. Do not donate funds to local accounts which are then (in whole or part) to be sent to headquarters or elsewhere. If you wish personally to donate to the work of the Intercontinental Church of God, send your donation directly to headquarters at P.O. Box 1117, Tyler, TX 75710. Holy day offerings are offerings to the Intercontinental Church of God, and should not be retained or deposited locally. If you wish to donate for local needs, please donate directly to your local church fund apart from the holy day offerings. Holy day offering envelopes should remain sealed and be mailed (registered mail) in a package addressed to H.D.O., c/o Intercontinental Church of God, 17444 Hwy 155 So., Flint, TX 75762.
The Intercontinental Church of God is a nonprofit corporation subject to the regulations of the Internal Revenue Service. Both the pastor and the local council are responsible for seeing to it that the treasurer keeps accurate and complete records as required by law. The treasurer must keep a record of each contribution including the name of the donor (anonymous if appropriate), the date and amount of each donation. Receipts should be issued, and balanced against bank deposits. He or she must also keep a record of each expenditure including date, amount, purpose and who authorized the expenditure. These records must be available to authorized examiners of the church upon reasonable notice, and a quarterly summary of income and expenses submitted to the entire church, with a copy to headquarters. Members are advised not to contribute to a local fund where such reports are not forthcoming in a timely manner.
Members are also advised not to let your local funds grow beyond the needs of your congregation. This can seriously interfere with the needs of the church at large and with our ability to carry out the commission given to us by Jesus Christ.
The Board of Directors is unanimous in its position regarding local church accounts. Failure to properly report on these local accounts can lead to revocation of charter. We want to pool our resources to be effective in our evangelical efforts, not diffuse them by individual local efforts. Even though we can effectively demonstrate that headquarters is more effective in conducting the universal work of the church-it is a concept that not everyone will accept.
The objective of having a local church council is to involve the lay membership in the decision making process of the local church.
The council is not elected to manage, govern, or otherwise “run” the church. Rather they are servants of the church in areas covered by their duties, and counselors to the pastor of the church.
At the pastor’s direction, a local church council may be created preparatory to an application for charter. The brethren will elect, under the pastor’s supervision, from five to seven members to serve as a local church council. Until a church has reached substantial size, there is no need for a local council. In the meantime, the pastor will work with the church, getting everyone involved in the decisions affecting the group, and teaching them the responsibilities involved in self-governance.
When a pastor feels a local group needs a council, he should prepare a slate of eligible members and should review for everyone the qualifications of council members. Anyone not wishing to serve should notify the pastor ahead of time so he or she is not included on the slate. The pastor may also omit from the list of council candidates anyone he feels should not serve, but he must explain his reasons privately in advance to those concerned. (While ministerial ethics may prevent a minister from explaining his actions publicly, he may be called on to explain to the Board of Directors.) The minister and two witnesses will tabulate the ballots and announce the results. New council members shall assume their responsibilities immediately. Since the minister must depend heavily on the council, be may at his discretion nominate one of the council members to serve as chairman, and another to serve as treasurer. The local council should ratify those nominations unless there are very strong reasons to the contrary.
Council members should be mature, long-standing, baptized members with a good reputation in the community and a record of service to God’s people. They should be in regular church attendance. They should be sober, hospitable, and a good example in the conduct of their lives. After the foregoing, it is essential that the local council members be strong supporters of the Intercontinental Church of God, its goals and its programs. A council member whose preferences run to a church that is more or less independent, or who is critical of ICG, its structure, its ministry, or its policies is bound to be a divisive force on the council, no matter how good a person he or she is otherwise.
No more than one member of an immediate family may serve on a local council, and no more than two members of an extended family.
Those wishing to serve as local council members are required to attend an official Intercontinental Church of God, Feast of Tabernacles every year. The only exception would be due to extenuating circumstances. Neither council members nor ministers should be staying home to provide services for people who do not attend the feast. The proliferation of “stay at home” festivals will defeat a major purpose of the Feast of Tabernacles-the promotion of unity.
The duties of council members lay in the area of physical duties though performed by spirit-filled individuals. Spiritual responsibilities, such as choosing credentialed speakers, baptism, and anointing, remain the duties of the pastor, or minister-of-record, unless he specifically grants or appoints a council member to hold a local baptism or to deliver an anointed cloth, for example.
Council members should work under the guidance of the local pastor and cooperate fully with him:
- To ratify as chairman the member nominated by the minister.
- To arrange for a meeting place for the group with all necessary equipment and supplies.
- To ratify as treasurer the member nominated by the minister. The treasurer will have the duty of creating a local church fund to meet local church expenses.
- To call a quarterly business meeting of the local church at which a complete financial report will be submitted verbally and in writing with a copy being sent to the Secretary of the Board of Directors.
- To submit a quarterly report on attendance and church activities to the Secretary of the Board of Directors.
- To coordinate the efforts of the local church in assisting those in need.
- To encourage festival attendance in officially sanctioned locations on the part of all members and to assist members in attending where appropriate, organizing shared transportation, shared accommodations, etc.
- To attend the Feast of Tabernacles at an official ICG location.
- To consult the minister and one another on all decisions pertaining to the church.
- To abstain from interference in the affairs of any other local church.
- To cooperate fully with the ministry as they carry out their duties, including planning regional holy day services and national festival locations.
- To submit an up-to-date church roll each quarter with the names, addresses, and phone numbers to headquarters.
In the Intercontinental Church of God, deacons may be recommended by the brethren and ordained by the ministry following the pattern in Acts 6:3. The deacons will serve the local church under direction of the ministry. Since deacons are recommended and ordained locally, the deacon will not automatically carry his office with him to a new church area. No Council approval is required for deacons, but ministers should register all deacons with the Board of Directors by sending a “letter of ordination” to the Secretary of the Board of Directors. A list of all certified deacons may be obtained from Board of Directors.
- To properly take care of their own families (1 Timothy 5:8). Most ministers in the Intercontinental Church of God, are not salaried and must pursue their own jobs or careers. The brethren therefore should exercise discretion in making demands on their minister’s time which may interfere with his job or his family.
- To oversee the church. Jesus Christ invested the ministry with the responsibility to provide leadership to His church. While a pastor is not a “lord over God’s heritage,” he does hold an office in the church and should be respected for his work’s sake. It is fully recognized that this office is open to abuse, and for this reason the local pastor is held strictly accountable to the Board of Directors.
- To feed the flock-not necessarily to do it all himself, but to see to it that it is done. In the Intercontinental Church of God, the Sabbath service program is the responsibility of the ministry. Sermonettes by mature men in the congregation are encouraged for training purposes, but they should only speak on invitation of the minister. (See “The Speaking Credential” below.) The use of audiovisual material provided by the Intercontinental Church of God, is recommended and encouraged.
- As his time permits, to make himself available to members for ministerial duties such as counseling, baptism, weddings, funerals, and prayer.
- (5) Following the example of Paul, to resolutely maintain his financial independence from the local congregation he may oversee them objectively, teach and correct effectively.
- To submit his own quarterly report to the Secretary of the Board of Directors, summarizing the quarter’s activities and the condition of the church.
- To arrange cooperative services on holy days, pulling area churches together whenever practical.
- To encourage attendance of all members at the Feast of Tabernacles at officially sanctioned locations and to attend the feast himself. (Do not ask your minister to remain home to conduct services during the feast. He needs the contact with his colleagues in the ministry and the inspiration he himself will receive from festival attendance.) Note: It is the responsibility of headquarters to establish officially sanctioned locations for the Feast of Tabernacles. Headquarters solicits input from all members and ministers to assist in festival planning. Under no circumstances should local churches take it upon themselves to unilaterally arrange a festival site.
- To conduct himself at all times according to the highest ethical standards of the ministry.
- To train local men and to share ministerial duties with them when appropriate.
- To recommend qualified men for ordination to the ministry.
- In the spirit of the admonition to “be subject one to another,” to hold himself accountable to the ministry at large and the Board of Directors in particular, but at all times maintaining his ultimate accountability to Jesus Christ.
- If the local council has been chosen through election, the minister may call and supervise an election of new council members each year after the Feast of Tabernacles. This should be done as soon as possible, and in all cases before the end of the calendar year. A minister may consider, instead of all council members being replaced each year, a replacement of two or three members each year to be appropriate. In this way there will be an overlapping of service by council members and opportunity to serve without the disruption of training a new council each year.
“For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers … whose vain mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not…”
(Titus 1:10-11). Since its inception, the Intercontinental Church of God ministry has been careful to watch over the pulpits of its fellowship groups and chartered churches. It seems there are always those who appropriate to themselves the “right to speak,” often denigrating the dignity reserved for our worship services. For this reason, as well as for the sake of continuity, the Board of Directors feels that only men holding a speaking credential be allowed to speak before congregations of the Intercontinental Church of God, (unless a minister is present). To this end, the following guideline is offered for direction. A speaking credential may be recommended and granted to qualified men only by credentialed ministers of the Intercontinental Church of God. Headquarters will automatically issue the credential upon the ministerial recommendation unless there is some overriding consideration. The credential will expire annually on the date of issue unless there is an application for renewal initiated by the person credentialed or the recommending minister. We will not initiate the renewal from here. A list will be available to all ministers of those holding the speaking credential. Anyone having any comments regarding those on the list should first make them known to the recommending minister, and afterward to the Board of Directors, if necessary. The Board reserves the right to withdraw this credential at any time at its discretion.
A mere aptitude for speaking and knowledge of the Bible, while of paramount importance, are not enough to receive this credential. Any man given a credential to speak to the ICG should go a long way toward meeting the qualifications for ministers and deacons as set forth in I Timothy 3. In addition to this, they should also meet the qualifications for a council member as stated elsewhere in these guidelines.
It is not our desire to place roadblocks in your way, but to protect those little groups around the country who sometimes are victimized by would-be preachers. We are also concerned about liability and responsibility. In this litigious society, it is wise to exercise great care in placing men before the congregation. This is not to mention our liability before God, which is far more serious (1 Timothy 5:22).
Recommendation for the credential should be in the form of a letter with a completed background information form of the man in question (unless we already have one). A man will be considered credentialed from the day the minister mails the letter, so there should be no unnecessary delays. The necessary corollary to this is that the minister must be prepared to accept full responsibility for those men he recommends for credentials. Men elected to or appointed by the local pastor to be members of the local council do not automatically have speaking credentials nor can they choose their own speakers. This stipulation puts more responsibility on the ministry to get to know local members and choose good speakers.
We hope that this will introduce a little more structure without getting bogged down in red tape.
Few subjects elicit more emotional response than that of music in worship. Since we are all individuals, having our unique experiences, we bring to our corporate worship experiences from different musical disciplines. Some have experienced a more formal and classical music experience, while others have exposure with a more informal and common musical preference. This reality can lead to conflict that need not occur. If we follow a few simple principles we can minimize the differences we bring to our corporate worship. Since music is an important part of our worship format, let us consider these guidelines. We should all feel free to pursue our musical preferences as individuals in our private worship. But let us conclude to abide by a more moderate approach to our worship together. Whether one’s preference leans in the direction of energetic gospel music, or the more high-toned classical “sacred” music, each taste can be satisfied without imposing our preferences in our collective time together in worship.
It is the responsibility of headquarters to provide a musical tool to enhance the unifying principle of worship through music. Through the years we have provided hymnals, accompaniment tapes, and examples of special music from the worship services conducted in the Tyler area. It is our intent that these examples and tools provide insight Into the moderate approach to corporate worship.
Anyone seeking to be a worship leader, or provide special music to the congregation, should work within the established pattern. All individuals desiring to perform the service of providing music in worship must be subject to ministerial oversight. Should a minister recognize his lack of musical expertise, he has available to him the counsel of headquarters, Board of Directors, and his fellow ministers as resources to settle questions that may arise.
Our worship in music should be dignified, thoughtful, edifying to the listener, and glorifying to our Creator. Having said that, it requires some discipline on all our parts not to limit nor enlarge our circle beyond reasonable bounds. It is impossible to create an appropriate list of performance music or how to interpret it. We must rely on good will and the subjugation of our personal preferences in this area of potential conflict. Where no accompanist exists within our groups, accompaniment tapes may be sought from headquarters to enhance our hymn singing. Individuals desiring to provide solo performances may consider accompaniment tapes where appropriate.
Local groups may consider hiring an outside accompanist if one is available. This would be an acceptable local cost to be paid out of local funds. However, it is preferable to encourage talented individuals in our midst to be participants in worship through music. All of our groups, whether chartered or fellowship groups, should rely on the experience and overview of the Board of Directors and headquarters in the matter of worship in music. We will be more than happy to help guide you through sticky circumstances that may arise from individual preference. Let us go forth unified in our commitment to scintillating music in our worship.
Members of a local congregation are unlikely to agree on all questions that come their way. Working together requires some give and take on all our parts.
However, even with the best intentions, there sometimes are disagreements we seem unable to resolve. Fortunately, being a part of an international church gives us some tools to sort out our problems. When differences of opinion arise over the interpretation of a church policy, and all concerned have been unable to resolve the matter locally, let all agree to write to headquarters for clarification, interpretation, and, if necessary a ruling that will enable us to go ahead together. Most of our differences are not fatal if we will work together in good faith to solve them.
Both in the Old Testament and in the New, a ministry is established to resolve matters of controversy. Even if your controversy is with a minister, the rest of the ministry is still here to help sort out the problem. Don’t let hurt feelings, misunderstandings, differences of opinion, or stubborn pride divide the church for which Christ died. Follow the biblical admonition to go to your brother alone. Then take a witness. Then, if you must, you may take it to the Board of Directors by writing to the Secretary of the Board. But whatever you do, don’t cause one of these little ones God is calling to be offended by squabbles in the local church.
Neither the granting of a charter nor the recognition of a fellowship group should be construed as an exclusive right to a territory. To grant such rights would be contrary to the principles of liberty and freedom of association upon which the ICG was founded. It is entirely possible that there will be more than one chartered church or fellowship group in a community.
In answer to the obvious question about referrals, the ICG will treat each referral as an individual and will always do what we deem is in the individuals best interest.
Those who are familiar with the origins of the ICG and the CGI, will remember that this church was born in pain. There were some 554 of us who attended the first CGI Feast of Tabernacles in 1978, and virtually all of us who attended had suffered through disfellowshipment from another religious organization. This disfellowshipment had resulted in being shunned by friends of many years, and in some cases, even by family. Some had been disfellowshiped for asking embarrassing questions of their pastor, and others had been disfellowshiped for talking to people who had been disfellowshiped. The hurt this causes is hard to understand unless you have been there. In order to fully understand the policy of the ICG on disfellowshiping, and the theology behind it, we recommend reading the article entitled “Excommunication, What Does the Bible Teach?”
It is the firm policy of the ICG that while a minister may, for cause, bar a person from local church attendance, no minister may unilaterally bar anyone from the fellowship of the church at large, nor may he demand that a person be shunned. On the rare occasion when it is necessary for a pastor to disfellowship or to bar them from services, a full report of this action must be submitted in writing to the Board of Directors. The person who has been disfellowshipped has the right of appeal to the Council and should be given a copy of the charges that have been made against him. Meanwhile, he may attend another congregation of the ICG or the annual Feast of Tabernacles at the sufferance of ministers elsewhere. A pastor who disfellowships a person may inform other pastors of his actions and the reasons for them, but it is at the sole discretion of each pastor as to whether the person may attend.
We recognize that this manual cannot cover all possible variants of needs and activities of a local church but we feel that it represents a minimum standard of consistency for field churches. Exceptions to the policies set forth in this manual may be permitted, but only if a letter is submitted to the Board explaining the exception and the reasons for it. It may be that a revision in the church guidelines is called for, but in any case, the exception will be noted. It is our desire to maintain maximum freedom for the local churches, but some degree of cohesion is required if we are to do our job and meet the legal requirements of the governments where we live.
We also recognize that there may be local congregations which, for one reason or another, do not want to come under the guidance of the ICG, its board, or its Board of Directors. They may be in general doctrinal agreement, but may object to these guidelines in whole or in part. We feel it is best for those congregations that they establish themselves as an independent local church. We will still consider them individually as our brothers and will serve them as we do all men, but will bear no responsibility for them as a church.
These guidelines are published by the Board of Directors in the hope of clarifying the policies of the ICG. They are offered in good will and with an open mind to the needs of God’s people.