Following is an excerpt of an exhortation given nearly 100 years ago, dealing with an issue that continues to this day—the issue of intolerance. This was shared in North America by Bro. Harry Tennant (Watford, UK) in 1989, as part of an Ecclesial Eldership study day. ~ Editor
This question of tolerance is one of the most difficult with which we are confronted in the brotherhood. There is the danger that in our endeavor to avoid the tolerance of the world, we may become intolerant amongst ourselves.
There is a sort of Christadelphian tradition, if one may so speak, that intolerance in the brotherhood is proof of piety, and of zeal for the Truth. It may be so, but most often is not.
There has grown up much intolerance in the matter of fellowship. We have had much evidence of it in recent years, and we feel that if it continues there will be so much disintegration that the work of the preaching the gospel must cease. It makes one wonder whether we have a right conception of fellowship.
What is this but the tradition of intolerance gone mad?
Brethren and sisters should be in fellowship with each other because they are in fellowship with God, and with Christ. The basis of that must be God’s law and Christ’s commandments. And yet we are forced to witness the painful spectacle of brethren subscribing to the same statement of fundamentals, and honoring the commandments of Christ, denying fellowship to one another.
We are forced to read that some ecclesia in a distant corner of the world has decided that it will not fellowship brother So-and-So of another ecclesia; and, not only that, but it will not fellowship those who fellowship him, nor those who fellowship those that fellowship him, and so on. What is this but the tradition of intolerance gone mad?
We shall have to stem the tide, or there will be ruin! And if to do it we must forget tradition—let tradition be forgotten! Christ and his apostles could be both tolerant and intolerant as the circumstances needed. So must we.
Christ was very intolerant of the scribes and Pharisees and lawyers in their hair splitting arguments, but very tolerant to those who loved him and put their trust in him, even when their understanding of him and his teaching was very incomplete—yes, even when through weakness they denied him and forsook him and fled.
By all means, let us be intolerant of the world and its practices but let us be very tolerant with those for whom Christ died. Brethren and sisters, this is one of the things which has troubled us during the past year, and it is sure to trouble us again in the coming year. Let us be prepared for it.
Let us in our self-examination enquire concerning our fellowship with God and with Christ, and with the brethren, and if we find anything wrong, let it be our resolution to put it right.
W. J. Owen (1885-1932),