William Styles, A Guide To Church Fellowship (Complete)

Article 24 – Reception Of Members From Sister Churches

Articles Of The Faith And Order Of A Primitive Or Strict And Particular Baptist Church Of The Lord Jesus Christ, Based On The Declaration Of Faith And Practice Of John Gill, D. D., 1720

XXIV. Reception of Members from Sister Churches.

We believe that a member of another Church, professing the same Faith and Order as ourselves, who is desirous of uniting with us, should be received by an honourable dismission from the Church to which he belongs, without an oral and public statement of his experience and Faith. [The Rule at Chadwell Street Chapel is that “Members of other churches professing the same Faith and Order may be received by an honourable dismission, such dismission to be regarded as a guarantee of their moral character, but all such persons shall come before the Church and state their Faith and experience previous to their dismission being sent for.” The words, “such dismission to be regarded as a guarantee of their moral character” are not in the Original Rules, and were added in 1889 after the death of John Hazelton.]


2 Cor 3:1; Gal 2:9; Phil 2:22


Note 1.—When Providence removes Members of our Churches to new localities they should, at once, seek a Chapel in which the Truth is preached and the Ordinances scripturally maintained, and “assay to join themselves to the Disciples” in Church fellowship, as Paul did when compelled to leave Damascus and reside in Jerusalem, (Psa. 119:60; Acts 9:26.) Delay here often proves dangerous, while prompt obedience brings its own “reward.”[1] (Psa. 19:11.)

Note 2.—To effect this, a Member of a Church desiring to unite with another of the same Faith and Order should be “received, at his request, by an honourable dismission from the Church to which he belongs.” The “custom” of “the Churches of God” (1 Cor. 11:16), in this matter is to name the person to the Church he seeks to join when assembled as such, and, if all the Members present consent, to request their Secretary to apply by letter for the Transference solicited; and if this is satisfactorily answered, to receive him.

Note 3.—Care should be taken, in taking Members from adjacent Churches to ascertain that the applicant’s motives in wishing to effect a change are commendable. Should any know him as “contentious,” (1 Cor. 11:16), hyper-critical[2] (Isa. 29:21), unsocial, or devoid of the love that begets love, who therefore found his former associations uncongenial and unprofitable, it should be stated a man who has troubled one Church is rarely of service to another. At the best, “transplanted trees seldom thrive.”

Note 4.—A Church is an Independent Body. “In deference to the Master’s will, its Members are at liberty to receive or decline such as seek their Fellowship,” page 134, and all should be as manly and straightforward in opposing the admission of unsuitable persons, as cordial in welcoming those in “whose favour the tongue of good report has been heard,” (Acts 16:2.) All Members should vote, “for” or “against,” and none remain neutral.” “Nem Con” (nemine contradicente, no one speaking in opposition) is a phrase which should be unknown at Church Meetings. Voting by ballot, though not commendable, is preferable to none. The Friends or Quakers never vote at their assemblies, but are careful to act in accordance with the “moral majority.” The judgment of those who live in close communion with God, and possess a lengthened experience, though few, deserves respect and deference. Church action, once determined on, should not afterwards be canvassed or criticised. If any Members have aught to say, “let them now speak, or else hereafter forever hold their peace.”

Note 5.—A member of a sister Church, if his Dismission has been honourable and cordial, “should not be required to make a public profession of his experience and Faith.’’ This, however, is not the Order of some Churches, which require oral testimony from all who join them. There is, however, no authority for twice exacting “the good Confession” (1 Tim. 6;12; page 177), of any whose Christian conduct since their baptism has been consistent, and their Church Membership honourable. So to do is to offer a slight upon the judgment of the Church which honourably dismissed them.

Yet, what cannot be demanded as a right, may be craved as a favour; and it were well that strangers that join our Churches should, in their courtesy, “give a reason for the hope that is in them.” 1 Pet. 3:15), especially in these times of vacillation and indecision for the truth (2 Tim. 4:3.)

The Amalgamation of Churches UnscripturaL

Note 6.—Should the continuance of a Church as such be impracticable, and its disbandment imperative, prompt steps should be taken to secure the future welfare of its Members. To this end Amalgamation with another Church is sometimes adopted, which receives the Members en bloc, or as a body. The motive is good, but the act is inexpedient, for:

(1) It lacks the authority of the New Testament. 

(2) It has no valid precedent in the annals of the Denomination. 

(3) It is contrary to the order of our Churches which receive none but accredited Strict and Particular Baptists as individuals. No reason exists why scriptural and well-considered rules should be broken in favour of any, simply because their present Chnrch has to be disbanded.

(4) A person might thus be admitted to the Fellowship of a Church, whose character and conduct were dubious, though sufficient ground for his expulsion from his own assembly had been lacking, and prove a “root of bitterness,” which “springing up” would trouble the united Churches, and “thereby many be defiled” (Heb. 12:15).

(6) Were a Church as such received, its Officers must be received as officers, its Deacons as Deacons, its Pastor (if it has one) as a Pastor. The united Church would have Officers not chosen by the whole body, whose cordial co-operation with the others would be so uncertain as to render the experiment hazardous. The observance of God’s principles always conduces to prosperity. The Members of the Church whose dissolution is inevitable should individually seek fellowship with some other in a Scriptural manner. Their present Church should grant them severally, honourable dismissions, if such can in integrity be given. God s Word, illuminated by His Spirit, will direct further proceedings, and blessing will come from Him who has said, “them that honour Me, I will honour.” (1 Sam. 2:30.)


[1] Far better is this than retaining formal membership with the Church from which one is locally separated. “Paper membera”—or those whose Membership consists simply in the retention of their names on a Church roll, are, in most cases, blameworthy. Equally reprehensible are those who attend the Lord’s Supper occasionally only, “to keep up their Membership.”

[2] “When people whine that ‘there is no food for the soul,’ I am disposed to inquire ‘whether there is any soul for the food?’” Joseph Parker, D.D.

William Styles (1842-1914) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He is the author of several works, including “A Guide To Church Fellowship As Maintained By Primitive Or Strict And Particular Baptists” and “A Manual Of Faith And Practice”.

William Styles, A Guide To Church Fellowship (Complete)
William Styles, A Memoir of John Hazelton (Complete)