In order to be received into the local body and to participate in the activities as a member of the assembly (including partaking of the Lord’s Supper, whether as a visitor or on a regular basis), an individual must:
CONFESS a similar faith by professing to believe the same core doctrines;
COMMIT to observe the same local church practices while participating; and
COMMEND the above to us by way of verbal, written or electronic communication:
from their current local church;
from a member of Bermondsey Gospel Hall; or
as part of a personal discussion with us.
It is hoped that this policy will provide the necessary framework for making decisions regarding reception to the assembly for both visitors and new members. The application of this policy to the particular circumstances will involve a reasonable amount of discretion and wisdom. At all times, the communication of this policy should be characterised by grace and love.
The requirement that an individual CONFESS the same core doctrines aims to ensure that all who come into fellowship are genuine, healthy and faithful Christians.
The requirement to COMMIT to observe the local church practices aims to ensure that what we gather together to practice as an assembly is taught and maintained.
The requirement to COMMEND this to us, in whatever form that takes, aims to ensure that these issues are considered and reception is not simply assumed. Commendation can also build up relationships with other local churches and emphasise the importance of local church membership.
While many will have very similar ideas of what doctrines should be recognised as core and what needs to be practiced in the local church, there will be variations from person to person. Therefore, there is a need to have a record of what we consider to be core doctrines and the practices that should be observed. Otherwise, there will be inconsistency on the part of those who make the decisions, uncertainty on the part of those who bring visitors and a lack of candidness for those visiting us.
In order to provide for consistency, clarity and candidness, we have adopted two new statements of faith, a Doctrinal Summary and a Doctrinal Statement. The Doctrinal Statement contains a detailed statement of what we believe on each doctrine along with the supporting Scripture references. The Doctrinal Summary contains short summaries of the Doctrinal Statement. Having two separate documents, holding the same positions, allows us to use the one that is most appropriate in the circumstances.
Both the Doctrinal Statement and the Doctrinal Summary contain two types of doctrines - DECISIVE DOCTRINES and DISTINCTIVE DOCTRINES.
DECISIVE DOCTRINES are those that somebody must profess to believe in order to CONFESS a similar faith as us. While it could be argued that not all of these doctrines are necessary for salvation, they are of such importance that to deny them would either:
so fundamentally distort the gospel message (or result in a clear logical consequence that does so), that it would be a ‘false gospel’ with no power to save; or
have such a negative spiritual effect that a genuine Christian’s faith and faithfulness would be significantly undermined.
Therefore, although they will not do so either absolutely or exclusively, these doctrines can be decisive in determining whether somebody is a genuine, healthy and faithful Christian. Given that we can expect all genuine, healthy and faithful Christians to believe these doctrines, these are doctrines that we can expect to share with other evangelical churches and Christians.
DISTINCTIVE DOCTRINES are doctrines that not all genuine, healthy and faithful Christians will agree with. However, these are the doctrines that we, being convinced of them by God’s Word, have gathered together to believe, teach and practice at Bermondsey Gospel Hall. As a result, they relate to our life together as a body and fall within the sphere of ecclesiology (our doctrine of the church). They can be divided into two categories, the order and ordinances of the local church. In order to be an active and effective part of the fellowship at Bermondsey Gospel Hall, a Christian should COMMIT to practice local church life in accordance with these beliefs.
Finally, above all else, it should be remembered that the Doctrinal Statement and Summary, along with this Reception Policy, are only tools for assisting us in making reception decisions. We have sought to ensure as much as possible that they reflect the teaching in God’s Word. Where they are found to be contrary to Scripture, they should be revised and redrafted accordingly. It is God’s Word which is our only and final authority.
If you have any questions regarding the Reception Policy, please do contact us. We would love to discuss it with you.
For further information, the audio recording of the session introducing and proposing the adoption of the Reception Policy set out above, along with the corresponding document, can be accessed below.