What is the Work and Authority
of Elders?

James R. Cope versus Homer Hailey

"In matters of judgment and expediency, those meeting the divine qualifications of bishops are supreme and their word is final. The Holy Spirit has appointed them and to resist their authority is to rebel against the Holy Spirit. God knew that the final decisions in the sphere of expediency had to be made by somebody, and divine wisdom has provided for them in the eldership. Regardless of the individual's judgment, it becomes his solemn obligation to acquiesce in the bishop's rule when that rule is announced. For all practical purposes, their decision is God's decision, and therefore, must become the disciple's decision. To do otherwise is to nullify the office of elders and reflect upon God's purpose in providing them..." -- James R. Cope, Guardian of Truth, September 19, 1985.

* The above view has become increasingly common among some preachers within the last 35-40 years. It is a relatively new concept. It is but a necessary part of the institutional church position. If "the local church" is an institution, body corporate, as now claimed, we must have a Board of Directors to run it. And all the decisions for this body corporate operation are in the realm of human judgement to be sure. The corporate body and the corporate officials are both from the wisdom and will of men! Is there any wonder why we have so much confusion, trouble and division?

The above position is from men. Homer Hailey clearly sets forth the teaching of God's word. Also, see the quotation from David Lipscomb in this issue, that sets forth God's truth on this subject.- CAH

* "Previously, the rule of elders was defined. Here, attention is given to the sphere and scope of that rule. There appears to be an idea prevalent among us today expressed something like this: 'Elders rule in the realm of judgment and opinion, not in the realm of faith.' I believe this is exactly in reverse: They rule in the realm of faith, and not in the realm of judgment and opinion."

* "Elders" watch in behalf of your souls "Human judgment does not affect one's soul except as that judgment is affected by faith."

* "The contention of this writer, is that in the realm of judgment or opinion, an elder has no authority more than another individual... In the realm of faith he is to see that the will of God is carried out."

* "The 'rule' of elders is in the realm of faith."

* "Instead, there appears to be a growing trend toward the disposition of leaving all matters of decision to the elders, which is not healthful."

* "From this brief discussion, it seems clear that the 'rule' of elders is that of wise oversight, superintendence, leadership, and guidance, exerted by moral persuasion, and submission encouraged by service and example. They rule by pointing out the teaching of the Lord which the Christian is to obey . . ."

Note: All quotes are from Hailey's Comments, Vol. II, in "Watchmen-Their Realm of Rule," pages 526-545. (Emphasis mine, CAH)