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It's character assassination time

I've been sent (13 July 2011) a letter from the committee of my church, ostensibly as a basis for a private discussion with them. Now, less than a day later, I find they've sent it to all the members. So I've replied, like this:


Hello everyone


As you might imagine, I wasn’t given the courtesy of being told this was being sent out to you all, but Chris had sent me essentially the same document last night as the basis for what I was led to believe was a private discussion with the committee. There was only one precondition – that I was told who’d raised these matters, as I don’t like responding to anonymous allegations.


The timing is evidently to prevent my being listed in the ALS diary, from which the ABs removed me last year without the courtesy of telling me; I assume the aim is to force me to resign. I am disinclined to give them that satisfaction

.

Earlier this afternoon, I prepared a few comments on the text, and attached is what I had intended to send him privately. You can judge it for yourselves, and I’m happy to receive comments. And do take a look at the website,www.davidbrownuk.webs.com/ : it seems to have drawn more traffic lately....


Yours


David


To see my message, containing the committee's letter and my annotations as a Word file click here. It's reproduced below (square brackets refer to notes at the bottom):

Chris


I am replying to your email and the document attached to it. I look forward to hearing who the individuals are who have made representations to the committee, as I do not wish to discuss anonymous accusations. In the meantime, I will respond to some of the topics by adding some notes referencing points in the text, and unlike the author of your document, I shall attempt to do so in a reasoned and measured way. I invite your answers to those questions I have underlined.


First however, one general point. The forums to which I have contributed allow others to reply eiter publicly or privately. My website provides a facility for comments, and gives an email address for any private messages. As far as I am aware, none of the objectors have taken advantage of any of those facilities. Why not? And why has the committee entertained criticisms and accusations from them in the absence of those simple courtesies?


I remain very willing to discuss matters of faith and Scripture in a brotherly and constructive manner, consistent with the inquiring and rational approach which characterises our community at its best. It is regrettable that yet again, complaints and accusations behind my back have been used by members of the committee (and others?) to misrepresent and suppress views with which they disagree, and to resort to character assassination.


David


Annotated document follows:

Brother David Brown


Prepared by the Arranging Brethren’s Committee of Knowle and Dorridge Ecclesia


Preliminaries


1.       This document arises from concerns about the content of Brother David Brown’s website (https://davidbrownuk.webs.com) and contributions he has made to Christadelphian on-line forums. The website is open and not protected. This means that anyone including our ecclesia and its young people, the whole of the Brotherhood and indeed the whole world has access to this website. The online forums are viewed by very many brothers and sisters throughout the world.


2.        The Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith (BASF) is the basis for fellowship and membership of the Christadelphian community worldwide, including Knowle and Dorridge Ecclesia as stated in article 2 of our Constitution. It is recognised that the BASF is a man-made document and has no authority of itself. However we believe that the BASF is a summary of the doctrines and principles taught in the Scriptures. Our faith is based on the Bible, of course, but the BASF is what we understand the Bible to teach, and so it forms the basis of our fellowship and membership.


3.       On his website and in contributions to on-line forums Brother David writes with scorn and contempt [1] against the use made by Christadelphians of the expression ‘the Truth’. The implication made by Brother David is that this is an arrogant expression implying that Christadelphians ‘know everything’ (and other ‘Christians’ know nothing). This is of course a caricature. The expression is directly from Scripture (2 Thess 2:12-13; 1 Tim 2:4,4:3, 2 Tim 2:18, 2:25, 3:8, 4:4, Titus 1:1, 1:14, James 5:19 (particularly relevant), 1 John 2:21, 2 John 1:4, etc.) and by ‘the Truth’ Christadelphians mean ‘the gospel (Colossians 1:5), those teachings found in Scripture which define the beliefs the Lord has set out for those who will take hold of His salvation in Christ’; in other words the doctrines we believe to be summarised in the BASF. We do not claim to know everything about everything. Even within our essential doctrines we do not claim to know everything – for example we believe that the Lord Jesus was a human being and also that he was, and is, the only begotten Son of God and that both these beliefs are essential; but that is not to say that we can explain or fully comprehend how these two facts were worked out in the person of the Lord Jesus. So far from being an ‘arrogance’ our belief in ‘the Truth’ involves a submission to Scripture which goes beyond reason and does not claim total knowledge or understanding.


4.       It is the ABs’ responsibility (along with all members of an ecclesia) to seek to protect the spiritual welfare of the members of the ecclesia. The ABs have been aware that brothers and sisters not of our ecclesia have expressed concerns about Brother David’s views in contributions to on-line discussions and the ABs have therefore found it necessary to consider these matters, not least because the young people of the ecclesia are particularly active on the internet. The requirements of Matthew 18:15-17 relate to personal disputes between individual brothers and sisters; in connection with this present situation which relates to matters of sound doctrine and practice the letter to Titus is particularly helpful. Other Scriptures which are relevant include Romans 16:17-18 and Galatians 1:8-9.

 Specific concerns

1.       Consideration of Brother David’s website (‘Manifesto for change’ section) and online forum contributions makes it clear that Brother David does not accept the separateness from other ‘Christians’ which has always characterised the Christadelphian position. An example is the following quotation (http://christadelphian.uk.com/articles/0520113.htm) [2]:


“Let’s drop the arrogance. De we really, seriously believe we’re the only ones who’ve ‘got it right’? As if we could understand God fully! The C’dns are one denomination within the Christian family, all with allegiance to the carpenter from Nazareth, all seeing God in him, even if we do have to struggle with inevitably inadequate metaphors, be they ‘son of God’, ‘God incarnate’, or whatever. It’s challenging enough just to try to do what he has told us to”.


There are other similar quotations from the online forums, but the inevitable conclusion is that Brother David does not believe that the Bible teachings summarised in the BASF are of sufficient importance for us to retain the separation which has been a characteristic of our community from earliest times [3], and he relegates clear Bible teachings and Scriptural words to ‘inadequate metaphors’. In the ‘Manifesto’ section of the website the very words of Scripture are given this unfortunate classification where the expressions ‘son of God’ and ‘trinity’ are placed in the same category [4]. The ‘Manifesto’ includes the following statement:


‘What are the basics? It [the Christadelphian community] is a Biblical Unitarian community – one that doesn’t subscribe to the concept of God as Trinity, a mainstream Christian belief albeit one that isn’t in (some might say ‘isn’t explicitly in’) the Bible, and one that most ordinary Christians would have a bit of difficulty explaining in detail. I wouldn’t want to lose that distinctive feature. But much else could go.’

In what follows there is no mention of any other distinctive Christadelphian beliefs and the implication of 'But much else could go' is that most other aspects of our faith are unimportant [5].


2.       Earlier in the year (2011) Brother David was asked by the ecclesia to avoid actively promoting controversial and divisive issues . As is obvious from his website and contributions to on-line forums, Brother David has not complied with this request [6]. Not only are these sources openly available and strenuously evangelising all manner of controversial issues, but David’s website address and material is promoted. Some of the young people of the ecclesia have been contacted by Brother David (via Facebook) with the clear intention of directing them towards such material. The intention is clearly indicated by the fact that David proposed that a link to his website be put on the K&D ecclesial website [7] , which though for another purpose (Tyndale) would have automatically meant that all material on the website would be available to anyone who followed this link. David has an openly expressed objective to influence ‘the next generation’ towards his own significantly modified version of the Christadelphian community [8] .


3.       Brother David’s website, open to all, also contains unpleasant denunciations and denigrations of the Christadelphian community, the K&D ecclesia and individuals easily identified by many in the Brotherhood [9]. In particular there is a particular charge of fraud clearly intended in the final part of paragraph 9 of ‘Goodbye to Trust’ on David’s website and directed presumably at the members of our 

ecclesia who counted the returns from the ballot we conducted last November [10]:


‘And the outcome shows the ploy worked. (Well, so the vote –only 5 in my favour – suggested. Thing is, I know of rather more than that number, people I trust and who were under no pressure to tell me, who tell me quite categorically they voted ‘No’ to the proposal....which raises a very big question mark indeed)’


We believe this to be totally unacceptable.

My notes:

1.       This is false and uncalled for. Why, if my view is one of ‘scorn and contempt’, do you suppose that I have remained an active member of the Christadelphian community throughout my adult life? My objection is to the use of ‘the Truth’ – a term Jesus applies to himself - to refer to our denomination and in particular to ‘possessing the truth’ as though it were our property: if anything, the truth possesses us.


2.       The reference is not to the original source, but from an edition of the extreme conservative periodical the ‘Waymark’ by Chris Maddocks, where he quotes me, out of context and with neither permission nor proper citation. The forum quoted is ‘Ecclesia-Discuss’, where the style is often robustly worded and direct (you’d perhaps expect that as it’s dominated by Australians!), and you would need to refer to the full exchange of postings from which the quotation is taken.


3.       Again, why do you suppose I have remained a part of this community for almost 40 years if I see no reason for operating as a separate community?


4.       ‘Son of God’ is a metaphor (in the sense that Jesus is not fathered by God in the same sense as other men) and a deeply meaningful and Scriptural one, albeit that no language can do justice to the greatness of Christ and His relationship to God. ‘Trinity’ is a metaphor, and an un-Biblical and a pretty incomprehensible one.


5.       This ‘implication’ is nonsense and mischievous. The list of points on the ‘Manifesto’ page is not intended to be comprehensive in any way or to imply the dismissal of all topics not included there. This should be clearly obvious since boldly advertised in the banner across the top of the page are a lengthy section on Israel in fulfilled prophecy which has featured on the meeting’s own website, and a discussion about baptism which still does – you even (incorrectly) claim copyright on it!


6.       Allegation rejected. I undertook to avoid raising ‘divisive issues’ in the context of K&D ecclesia (though I reserved the right to respond to issues raised by others). My contribution to online forums, and on my website (on which there is little or no mention of K&D by name), are entirely separate from the K&D ecclesia. Your accusation misrepresents me. Will you please withdraw it?


7.       I offered the use of my material on Bible Language in the context of the 400th anniversary of the KJV. That offer stands, and provided due acknowledgement is given it need not be linked to my website.


8.       Of course I would like to see the community move in the direction I have set out. That applies to all, regardless of age.


9.       On the contrary, my website sets out a positive vision of the Christadelphian community as I’d like it to be. The names of individuals are deliberately not given on the site. In contrast, it is the narrow approach taken by others that brings forth ‘scorn and contempt’ and ‘unpleasant denunciations and denigrations of the Christadelphian community’ such as those posted from time to time by a former member on his ‘blog’ at ........ .


10.    This is a disgraceful allegation. Will you please withdraw it? The ballot tellers are entirely above suspicion, as they were fully aware that the majority of votes cast were against me: there would have been no reason at all for tampering with the votes at that stage. I assured the tellers that I had no criticism of the way they conducted their duties, and I copied a message to them to that effect to Andrew, then Secretary. Perhaps it has been overlooked? Now, would you please address the substantive question in my quoted words?

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