Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Masters Seminary Journal
Volume: TMSJ 17:1 (Spring 2006)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

Chad Owen Brand and R. Stanton Norman, eds. Perspectives on Church Government: Five Views of Church Polity. Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2004. xiii + 353 pp. $19.99 (paper). Reviewed by Dennis M. Swanson, Seminary Librarian.

The issue of church polity is perhaps one of the most divisive issues in local churches in America. Churches have split over the issue of “elder rule” versus some form of congregational rule. Churches in episcopal systems have seen their congregations locked out of church facilities by denominational leaders who did not like the actions of a particular local congregation. In presbyterian systems, local congregations have had local church-discipline decisions with biblical warrant reversed by synod and general assembly courts.

Congregations and their leaders wonder what is the “biblical” form of church government, how should they be organized, and how should decisions be made. This is a foundational issue for a local church that seeks to conduct its affairs in a manner that pleases God.

Historically, several forms of church polity have developed, and many variations and nuances exist within those forms. A local church struggling with its own organization or a new assembly wondering how to “get off on the right foot” is often left with a “blithering array of competing models, all of which lay claim to biblical authenticity” (22) and are defended by respected evangelical leaders, pastors, and theologians. One work that escapes the “blithering” category is this “five-view” work. Five options of polity are presented clearly, forthrightly, and in a generally irenic manner. Five respected evangelical leaders present their case for local church polity. They and the positions they affirm are as follows:

  • Daniel Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, defends “The Single Elder-Led Church: The Bible’s Witness to a Congregational/Single-Elder-Led Polity,” (25–86).
  • Robert L. Reymond, Professor of Theology at Knox Theological Seminary, defends the “Presbytery-Led Church: Presbyterian Church Government,” 87–156).
  • James Leo Garrett, Jr., Professor of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, defends the “Congregation-Led Church: Congregational Polity,” 157–208).
  • Paul F. M. Zahl, Dean and President of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, defends “The Bishop-Led Church: The Episcopal or Anglican Polity Affirmed, Weighed, and Defended” (209–54).
  • James R. White, Director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, defends the “Plural Elder-Led Church: Sufficient as Established— The Plurality of Elders as Christ’s Ordained Means of Church Govern...
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