First Congregational Church of Sullivan

What We Believe

We believe in the God of the Bible that manifests Himself as a Triune God: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit.

We believe that the Bible is truth and is completely without error. We believe that it is authoritative, perfect, and complete. It is inspired by God and contains all that man needs to live a godly life.

We believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died a vicarious death by crucifixion, and was resurrected from the dead after three days.

We believe that those that reject Jesus Christ are lost. This means that unless they receive Christ they will spend eternity in Hell, separated from God.

We believe that every person must give account of himself to God and that our only hope for heaven lies in trusting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

We voluntarily cooperate with other Congregational Churches affiliated with the National Association of Congregational Churches.

We do not participate in the National Council of Churches or the World Council of Churches. We are an independent autonomous Church. Our property and buildings are owned by our congregation. We establish our own budget, programs, services, and ministries. Our church selects, under the Holy Spirit's guidance, its own pastor.

Congregationalism came to America on the Mayflower. The Pilgrim voyage to a new land was made necessary in order to re-establish a Church on the New Testament pattern - a fellowship of those who had chosen to be followers of Christ, spiritually competent to direct their own life and work.

Because they had pledged themselves to live and worship in freedom according to the dictates of conscience, the Pilgrims were compelled to flee from their homeland. One of the abiding effects of their costly plea for liberty is that modern Congregationalists will not submit to a conformity which their forefathers resisted unto death.

The Biblical Basis of Congregationalism, by Harry R. Butman, D.D. Edited by David L. Gray, D.Min.:

Congregationalists accept the Bible as a sufficient rule in matters of faith and practice. They therefore base their polity, their church government, upon Scriptural foundations. At a time when the Congregational Christian Churches are being asked to speak up for their Way, it is well to ask: What is the basis for their faith and practice and how does it harmonize with the Bible-based usages which Congregational Christian Churches have followed across the centuries?

The great central text of Congregationalism is Matthew 18:18-20, in which Christ says to the early Church: Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

From this passage we draw two principles of faith:

1. THE HEADSHIP OF CHRIST

THE HEADSHIP OF CHRIST means that Christ is the head of each local Church. It is commonly but erroneously supposed that congregational Christian Churches are democratic, or majority-ruled, in their government. This error, together with the strong and persistent stress on the democratic ideal in secular government, has led to a perversion of the New Testament teaching of the Divine in the midst of human activity and decision. True Congregationalists simply do not determine ultimate issues of right and wrong by counting noses! Such arithmetical heresy has been widely practiced, and in no small measure it has fostered an ecclesiastical secularism. Because of this men have turned to centralized forms of church government in the hope of finding more spiritual authority than is resident in the common human mind of fifty or a hundred neighbors. The true Congregational Christian Church is a theocracy; it is ruled and guided by God. It is not ruled by a written constitution, person or tradition of the church.

2. THE COMPLETENESS OF THE GATHERED LOCAL CHURCH

THE COMPLETENESS OF THE LOCAL Church is based upon Christ's words to the Church; "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matt.18:18) This means that God has given to the local Church every power necessary for its spiritual functions. The local Church does not need the authority of a pope or general council or any body external to itself in order to do the Lord's work. This is a radically different concept than that of the one great national or international Church. Any ecclesiastical organization which ignores or contravenes the completeness of the local Church is not Congregational.


In historical practice in America, Congregationalism has come to stand for two basic principles:

1. THE AUTONOMY OF THE LOCAL CHURCH

No better definition of Congregationalism has ever been written than that of the noted scholar Dr. William E. Barton, which is to be found on page 15 of his definitive book, The Law of Congregational Usage.

Congregationalism is that system of church organization which recognizes the equal rights of all believers, the independence and autonomy of the local Church, and the association of the Churches through voluntary organizations devised for fellowship and cooperation, but without ecclesiastical authority.

Those Churches which intend to be Congregational cannot accept a constitution or ecclesiastical organization which is at variance with this definition.

AUTONOMY, self-government under God, is the distinct witness of churches of the congregational order. The small "c" is deliberate here in order to include denominations such as the Baptist and Unitarian, which have a polity like ours. It is worth remembering that the most popular polity in the United States is congregational. In practical terms, Autonomy means that a local Church is free from the bondage of ecclesiastical control. In our long, harsh struggle to maintain the autonomy and freedom of the local Church, we have unfortunately been forced to stress our principal doctrine to the exclusion of the second great truth of Congregationalism.

2. THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE CHURCHES

That truth is THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE CHURCHES. In the New Testament we find the Churches associated with one another as equals, with neither one Church claiming authority over the others, nor the several Churches lording it over the one. The early Churches lived together in an atmosphere of mutual love, not in a relationship of dominance and submission. Congregationalists, following their example, have companied together because they wanted to, not because a book of discipline forced them to. Any ecclesiastical organization which attempts to define, describe, or delineate the life, work, and relationships of our Churches violates the Congregational principle of fellowship because it presumes to put in black and white what ought to be written only on the heart.
Any organization which claims to be congregational in polity will therefore have these four marks, clearly stated and visibly practiced:

1. It will specifically honor the Headship of Christ in each local gathered Church;
2. It will exalt the spiritual completeness of each local Church;
3. It will acknowledge, respect, and defend the autonomy of each local Church;
4. And it will recognize Christian fellowship, not ecclesiastical law, as the tie that binds our Churches together. Congregationalism is based on Biblical truths which are eternal.