ICOC Cooperation Agreement: The Sequel

September 21, 2009

Our congregation has decided to affirm the August 2009 revision of the ICOC Plan for United Cooperation. I am fully in support of this decision. Since I rather famously objected to the original version, it seems appropriate for me to explain why I am comfortable with affirming the new document.

Each of the two documents begins with a statement of purpose. The original document states:

The purpose of the following paper is to affirm and enhance the unity of the family of churches known, since 1992, as the International Churches of Christ.

The revised document states:

The purpose of this document is to provide a structure for Regional and International cooperation among our family of churches around the world.

The difference in the two purpose statements is representative of the difference in the two documents as a whole. My original objection was that the first document defined a subset of the worldwide church based on a set of doctrinal beliefs and practices. I have always believed that there is a doctrinal boundary to the worldwide church, comprised of the basic gospel facts which must be understood in order to become a Christian. But the original document defined a narrower boundary in which a person had to agree with additional interpretations beyond the core gospel facts in order to participate. My objection was not over any particular doctrine on which that document called for agreement. Instead, my objection was over the principle of defining a subset of the worldwide church based on a set of beliefs in addition to the core gospel doctrines. To me, that seemed to create a faction in the church. While many have disagreed with me about that, it still appears that way to me.

The new document abandons that approach. Instead of trying to define a subset of the church based on peripheral doctrines, it simply seeks to establish a basis for cooperation among willing congregations. It calls for “sound doctrine” but it doesn’t attempt to list the doctrines on which there must be agreement. For example, our congregation can disagree with others in the co-op on topics like the role of women, without for that reason being excluded from the co-op. To me, that is a significant because it respects the consciences of churches and church leadership groups in a manner consistent with Romans 14.

Someone might object that the new agreement still references the old in the footnotes, and therefore affirming the second document is equivalent to affirming the first. I asked the same question, and was assured that the new document does not incorporate the old. That makes sense to me. They produced the new document to address the concerns of people like me, so we could cooperate with a clear conscience. It would make no sense to do that if they were going to still require agreement to the first document.

Here is my heart in the matter. I deeply appreciate the effort of those who produced a plan for cooperation which people like me can affirm. I believe they did this in order to address concerns like mine. I want to express my gratitude for that, and to demonstrate that gratitude by affirming the new document.

Despite not affirming the first document, our congregation has continued to cooperate in foreign missions, regional meetings, conferences, bringing in guest speakers, sending out guest speakers, and in many other ways. We strongly believe in the stated purpose of the new document, and can demonstrate that belief by our past actions. We affirm our desire to cooperate with these congregations to do God’s work around the world. May God bless our collective efforts.


  1. well said. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.Good for the revised document that includes an 'automatic' affirmation clause that changes the agreement from the first to the second.I hope there are no hard feelings from anyone in regards to changing to the second one.

  2. Alan,Its interesting that you would be OK with ratifying the unity proposal after such a fantastic argument for a more appropriate one.Wasn't it the system that got us into so much trouble? A system championed by very ambitious men? Yet we are so quickly going back to this system and these men – we can reshape it; re-bottle it; re-word it; and spin all we want – it's still the same system; The wineskins were never replaced, how then can you add new wine into them?The system is already bearing the same fruit it once did. It has made me (and others) an alien to a church I was a part of since I was 17, as these violent men begin to take it by force (Matt 11:12).A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough… All I can do is throw my arms up and pray that God will be patient with us and open the eyes of those who are again allowing themselves to be caught by the system and these ambitious men.

  3. Hi Roddersf,I can't speak for every church but where I live things are much different today than they were pre-2003. And today all decisions for our congregation are made locally, so we can make sure the harmful old ways do not return.

  4. […] for me to explain why I am comfortable with affirming […]      by ICOC Cooperation Agreement: The Sequel « Christian Unity February 6, 2010 at 11:03 pm […]

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