Wherever we see the word of God sincerely preached and heard, wherever we see the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there we cannot have any doubt that the Church of God has some existence.  

 Calvin, Institutes

Having been a member or the Lumber River Conference of the Holiness Methodist Church (LRCHMC) for such a short time and not knowing very much about church government and Rule of Order and seeking to understand the difference between the Congregational system and the Episcopal system in which one person has the authority to appoint clergy to Conference churches at his own discretion the following conclusions have been made. First, as defined, the episcopal system of government is based on the belief that the government or rule of the church was delivered by Christ to the bishops as successors of the apostles. Secondly, there are different degrees of episcopacy. The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church and the Council of Bishops for the United Methodist Church (UMC) are types in the United States in which there is equality of bishops. These systems come from the Anglican Church (the Church of England) from which John Wesley and the Methodist Congregations adopted their Articles of Religion. These are the same Articles from which H. H. Lowrey and the founders of the Holiness Methodist Conference-not to be confused with the UMC, adopted their Articles of Religion and Rule of Governance. The Roman Catholic system is episcopal in nature but is ruled by a monarch, the Pope.

             Ignatius is probably the earliest advocate of episcopacy. He speaks of the church “as having three grades of officers; namely, the bishop, the elders, and the deacons.”  Along with the move toward episcopacy and growth of the powers of the bishopric there is the corresponding departure of power from the lay-members of the church. Finally, in the Roman Catholic system, the laity has no voice in the government of the Church. This, however, is not the case for the LRCHMC the laity not only has voice but also has the right and obligation to remove any leader who in the opinion of the Conference Bar can no longer fulfill their elected duties or fails to adhere to the Doctrines and Disciplines of the Church. Should elected delegates have a “crisis of confidence” in those in leadership the limited power of the bishop can not only be challenged but through proper channels and due process the bishop can be removed from their position of authority. This is not like the Roman Catholic election of a single authority in the person of the Pope who is elected for life. It is clear as Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus that the need for the church to have effective leadership was paramount for the body of believers to receive the training necessary to do the work of the ministry. No system of order can survive poor, reluctant or ineffective leadership this includes the church. This is evident by all the churches that are closing their doors and placing for sale signs on the front lawn.


Time’s up.