It has been often claimed that Ecclesiastical or Ministerial fellowship may and ought to be pursued with anyone, just so long as they profess a love for the Lord Jesus Christ. Is this true? I would contend that ecclesiastical fellowship is NOT only to be pursued on the basis of a Christian profession, or even upon an historic Confession of Faith, but also on the ground of Scriptural Practice - faithfulness to God in public testimony. Just because I can agree with the vast majority of what is contained in the 39 Articles doesnâ€™t mean I can have Anglican ministers preaching for me, for example, or that I ought to share a platform with them. This applies to other professors of Reformed Confessions. A man can profess to be sound in doctrine, but if he is unsound in practice we have a duty to rebuke him, and if he is unrepentant we must withdraw from him. It is often objected that 2 Thessalonians 3:6 is not referring to ministerial fellowship or communion. But the fact remains, on the basis of this verse in Holy Writ, that there ARE circumstances in which one must withdraw â€śfrom every BROTHER that walketh disorderlyâ€ť. So the notion that unity trumps faithfulness to Godâ€™s Word is patently false. Separation from professing brethren is, in certain circumstances, not only proper but is the duty of Christians, including ministers of the Gospel. In the Addendum to Chapter 25 of the W.C.F. (FPCNA Book of Church Order) it states: "It is the duty of particular churches to maintain the highest possible standards of purity of doctrine and practice. 1 To be faithful to Christ, they are called to separate themselves unto Him from all fellowship or cooperation in worship or service with churches or other organizations or individuals that have degenerated into apostasy by denying or by maintaining fellowship with those who deny any of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith; 2 or by adopting the moral relativity of the world in defiance of the ethical standards of the Scriptures of truth. 3 They are further called to separate from brethren who maintain fellowship with those who deny the faith, 4 to repudiate all false ecumenism, and to refuse to compromise any essential truth of the gospel in an effort to achieve visible church union with de-generate churches. 5 They must also humbly maintain Scriptural standards of holiness among their members and officers, not being conformed to the standards of the world but purposing to live by the faith of the gospel in obedience to Godâ€™s holy law."
Rev. Stephen Hamilton
Rev. Stephen Hamilton is the minister of Lehigh Valley Free Presbyterian Church, Allentown, Pennsylvania.