Bridging divisions within North America and also within Australia was helped by production of “A Time to Heal”[1] and other articles[2],[3] that expounded scriptural teaching on the disputed matters[4],[5]. American difficulties were similar in nature and language to the Australian issues. Articles on fellowship in practice, and interecclesial responsibilities in fellowship described the balance Central ecclesias sought in these matters[6],[7].

A Reconciliation Conference in Melbourne (1951) effectively committed Australian ecclesias to the American reunion basis, namely, the BASF, and cessation of fellowship for those not endorsing the Statement of Faith[8]. In 1946, the Sydney (Shield) Ecclesia wrote to the Sydney (Central) Ecclesia declaring they believed that Jesus did not have “clean flesh”, and, he possessed natural desires that are the source of man’s temptation, becoming sin only when they are indulged in contrary to God’s law and will[9]. In 1951 the Central Standing Committee wrote to Brother Carter supporting his statements in “A Time to Heal”, and requesting assistance in re-drafting BASF Clause 5 to negate ambiguity.

Progress towards reunion of Central and Suffolk Street ecclesias in the UK encouraged dialogue amongst Victorian ecclesias. A Melbourne Unity Committee developed a basis for reunion acceptable to all Tasmanian and Victorian ecclesias (1953) except one[10].

The Shield ecclesias formed a Unity Committee of four brethren in Sydney to assist ecclesias in Qld, NSW, SA and NZ. The NSW and Victorian committees collaborated over two years, developing the basis for Australia-wide reunion[11]. Major Central ecclesias, led by Concord West, declined cooperative discussions with the Unity Committees, separating themselves from reunited UK ecclesias[12],[13] , citing extracts from publications as “evidence” of erroneous teaching. These ecclesias became the Old Paths fellowship. However, about 90 ex-Central brethren in NSW, Qld, SA and WA co-operated with initiatives of the NSW committee that was enlarged to include representatives from these brethren, becoming a committee of three ex- Recorders of Central ecclesias and three brethren from the Shield ecclesias. Claims of wrong teaching among Shield ecclesias broadcast by ex-Central ecclesias were established to be unfounded[14].

Brethren Carter and Cooper suggested a basis for reconciliation among Australian ecclesias, drawing upon the North American reunion model in a letter to the 1956 Biennial Conference in Melbourne[15]. The Victorian and NSW Committees condensed the suggestions into what is commonly referred to as ‘the 1958 Unity Basis’, which was forwarded to all Australian ecclesias for endorsement, together with reports on the work, and an appeal letter[16]. The doctrinal issues that had been at the core of the Australian division of 50 years were outlined, and the Scriptural teachings about them summarized, namely:

  • alienation
  • the metonymical use of “sin” in Scripture
  • sin in the flesh
  • the relationship of the Lord to his own death

The NSW and Victorian Unity Committees jointly wrote to ex-Central ecclesias committing reunified Australian ecclesias to the doctrines of the BASF and the commandments of Christ, coupled with a pledge to withdraw fellowship from persons who continued to teach or behave in a manner contrary to that basis[17]. The approach was rejected[18]. The pivotal role of the ‘fellowship clauses’ in the Unity Basis was emphasized by the Chairman of the NSW Unity Committee[19], indicating it was their unanimous view that fellowship clauses a) and b) were fundamental to the success of the reunion. The NSW Committee (1958) wrote advising the NZ ecclesias that ecclesias agreeing to the “Unity Basis” committed to live up to their pledges to withdraw fellowship from persons persisting with erroneous beliefs.[20]

In 1958 The Christadelphian recorded inclusion of the reconciled Australian ecclesias into the Central Fellowship[21].

The Unity Committees continued assisting ecclesias with their concerns or difficulties until the Unity Basis was firmly established amongst the reunited Australian ecclesias.

Although the Committees were keen to obtain reunion, they emphasized it must be based on a common basis of fellowship respected and treasured by all parties. In their dealings they manifested a patient, brotherly spirit that openly addressed concerns of brethren and ecclesias. Concerns mainly involved small, isolated communities, some of whom it became necessary to stand aside from. Phraseology of some ex-Central brethren showing similarity in part to that used earlier by Brother JJ Andrew also disturbed some brethren.

Materials Referred to in Compiling this Summary

[1] “A Time to Heal”– The Christadelphian, December 1940.

[2] “On the Nature of Man and the Sacrifice of Christ”– The Christadelphian, May 1939.

[3] Detroit Conference Report – October 4,5. A Circular to all Berean and Central Ecclesias in the USA and Canada. Detroit Conference Report – 4,5 October 1947.

[4] Report of Re-union Between Berean and Central Ecclesias, Jersey City, USA, 20 September, 1952, The Christadelphian, December 1952.

[5] Inter-ecclesial Responsibility, The Christadelphian, July 1945, p80

[6] Fellowship – The Christadelphian, November 1950, p3–328.

[7] Fellowship – The Christadelphian, December 1950, p362–363.

[8] Final Report of Combined Committee, Reconciliation Conference, Melbourne,November 1951 – issued 16 September 1952.

[9] Excerpt of Letter from Sydney (Regent Hall Ecclesia) to Petersham Ecclesia (27 June 1946) – reproduced in The Christadelphian Shield, May 1952, p94.

[10] Letter from Central Standing Committee to Bro Carter – reprinted in The Christadelphian Shield, May 1951, p92–94.

[11] “Report on Reunion Prospects” – issued by Melbourne Christadelphian Ecclesia, January 1955. Circular Letter issued by the Horticultural Hall Ecclesia, Melbourne.

[12] The Christadelphian – April, May 1958, Intelligence from Melbourne and Northcote.

[13] “The Position of the Concord West Christadelphian Ecclesia regarding Proposed Reunion of Ecclesias”, March 1952.

[14] “An Open Letter on Reunion”, March 1956, Concord West Ecclesia.

[15] “Report to Ecclesias on Reunion in Australia”– Burwood Christadelphian Ecclesia, August, 1959.

[16] “A Letter on Unity”, reproduced in Christadelphian Unity in Australia – The Accepted Basis, The Australian Central Standing Committee, Sydney, 1963, p8–12.

[17] “A Report of Progress Towards Unity, issued by the Unity Committee of NSW, Unity in Australia and New Zealand”, 14 October, 1957, reproduced in Christadelphian Unity in Australia – The Accepted Basis, The Central Standing Committee, Sydney, 1963, p15,16.

[18] “A Report of Progress Towards Unity –Issued by the Unity Committees of NSW and Victoria” – undated, but probably 1958.

[19] “Reunion in Australia Reviewed” – Concord West Ecclesia, 1965.

[20] Bro G Darke – “Statement to Inter-ecclesial Unity Gathering”, Ashfield (Sydney), 20,21 November 1971.

[21] NSW Christadelphian Unity Committee – A Report on Unity to the Brotherhood in New Zealand, undated, but probably 1958.