Vol.X No.III Pg.7
May 1973

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

How does one prove by the Scriptures that each local church should be independent and autonomous?


I have been asking that question for many years, and wondering when my brethren would ask and answer it. Of course some have, but many still affirm independence and autonomy who evince little understanding of them.

Autonomy means "self-rule," so it is immediately apparent that we are not talking about either legislative, judicial or executive authority which belongs to Deity. The church (all of God's people) are subject to Christ---in fact, that is what makes them His people in the first place. The self-rule here is in matters of judgement or expedience left to man's discretion. Did God intend that each church should independently reach these conclusions, or that many should depend on a "sponsor" for such decisions? GOD must answer THIS question. If He answers "INDEPENDENTLY," then we are not free to turn this decision making over to others. One would think, from some arguments about contribution to a "sponsor" arrangement "of our own free will" that God gave us a choice of being dependent or independent.

But how does God answer the question? He answers by defining the limitations or scope of the oversight and means of collective operation.

If God intended the universal body to operate collectively we would have to have universal oversight (in these matters of human judgement) and a universal treasury (the medium of exchange by which many act as one). The Roman Catholics affirm this principle of universal church action---and they have a universal bishop and treasury. If God intended for a plurality of churches to function collectively He would have provided oversight on a "churchhood" scale or scope; and authorized a treasury of the same scope. Protestant denominationalism has the "churchhood" concept, and is organized accordingly.

But God put oversight on a local scale. "Elders in every church" and "tend the flock...among you," (Acts 14:23; 1 Pet. 5:1-3). He authorized no "churchhood" oversight, either for one or many projects. And God put the pooled funds of saints on a local scale, (1 Cor. 16:1-3). Note, it was the Corinthians fund that Paul delivered to Jerusalem, the recipient. It did not lose its identity in some pooled fund of churches.

It is well to note also that IF Paul was an executive officer of some "churchhood" fund, as some claim (see 2 Cor. 8:19 ASV), then we should cease to contend that each church is "independent and autonomous." IF there is authority for executive officers and funds on a "churchhood" scale, then we should devise denominational machinery (which is exactly what some have done) and cease this talk about "independent and autonomous churches."

Proof of "i and a" churches is the all sufficient word of God which authorizes nothing but local church oversight and treasury.