The following is the article that I wrote for our church's newsletter this month. It explains our church's new name that stems from us departing from the denomination that we had been a part of, the Church of the Brethren, to joining a new denomination known as the Covenant Brethren Church.
As you picked up your Assistant Pastor today, you may have noticed something different. (If you didn’t, you are now flipping it over to see what you missed.) Our name has changed. The church is no longer known as the “Mt. Joy Church of the Brethren” but the “Mt. Joy Covenant Brethren Church.” The congregation is not affiliated with the Church of the Brethren denomination anymore but has joined the new Covenant Brethren Church. At our last congregational business meeting, the congregation voted unanimously to depart from the Church of the Brethren with only a single “no” vote to become a part of the Covenant Brethren Church. I also have transferred my ordination to the Covenant Brethren Church as well.
There have been issues and great concerns that we have had with the Church of the Brethren for a while now and things appear to just continually get worse in the denomination. In recent years, we have witnessed conservatives being pushed to the side, ignored, and much being done to prevent them from being voted into leadership with the current leadership refusing to affirm and enforce what the Annual Conference has decided and what the Bible plainly teaches. Currently, a lesbian is allowed to serve as a pastor and there are churches preaching and promoting unbiblical views with nothing being done about it. More and more, apart from a miraculous work of God, it appears that any attempts to bring about any necessary change is akin to rearranging the furniture on the titanic. Since the root of all of these issues ultimately is a failure to have a firm unified view of Scripture as the inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word of God, no change can occur until such a foundation would be reestablished. And by all appearances, there seems to be no movement to do just that and whenever it has been tried, somehow it gets blocked or turned down. This has resulted in an exodus of Brethren churches from the denomination.
All of this has led to the formation of a brand new denomination called “The Covenant Brethren Church.” In August 2019, a group of a little over 50 conservative pastors and leaders in the denomination met to pray and plan for the future. The decision was made at this meeting to pursue the formation of a new denomination that would provide a place for the conservative churches who were leaving to go where they could maintain their Brethren heritage and be with other like-minded churches that they would be in agreement with. After much hard work and a number of meetings, the new denomination was officially launched on October 24, 2020. More information about this denomination that we have joined can be found on their website, www.covenantbrethren.org.
What does this denomination transfer mean for Mt. Joy? Well, for one thing, we are not associated with the unbiblical practices that are being allowed to occur in the Church of the Brethren or with churches that are preaching outright heresy anymore. There are churches in the denomination who preach and teach things such as Jesus not being the only way to heaven, that there is no literal hell, that Jesus did not die for our sins, and who refuse to call what God has deemed to be sin, sin. We no longer have to explain that we are not THAT Church of the Brethren or that we do not agree with the official statement that has just been released by denominational leadership. I still remember one time back when I was in VA and active in the congregation that I grew up in when I encountered a man in Wal-Mart who accused my church of not believing the Bible, denying some of the basic tenants of the faith, and supporting sinful practices. Obviously, he had experienced a number of the liberal pastors and churches in the denomination and thought that every Church of the Brethren must believe and teach the same. That is something that should not happen to us moving forward.
We now belong to a fellowship of churches which we can be in full agreement with, at least when it comes to the essentials of the faith. Every pastor and church who joins the Covenant Brethren Church must agree with their statement of faith and will be held accountable to it. I firmly believe that one of the reasons why the Church of the Brethren has become what it is today stems from the denomination never having put together a statement of faith that laid out what the Brethren believe and setting the boundaries of what would be considered to be orthodox Brethren teachings as well as never having any way of holding anyone accountable to both Annual Conference decisions and those teachings.
And while our name and affiliation may have changed, the one thing that will not change is our commitment to the Word of God. The Bible will continue to serve as our guide in determining what we believe and what we do as a congregation. In fact, it is on account of such a commitment that we felt the need to make such a change. We could not in good conscience remain a part of a denomination that does not uphold the authority of Scripture and which refuses to hold accountable pastors and churches who openly defy God’s Word and preach and allow things which expressly go against it. We did not see how we ever could continue to associate with a denomination that refused to stand upon God’s Word and proclaim its truth. In obedience to Scripture, we will march forward, as a Christ-centered church committed to the Word of God and the proclamation of the gospel. This recent change will not in any way hinder that but hopefully help us better to be so.
Love in Christ,