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THINKING like we ought to belong together — even these days

Owen Alderfer, 1985, author of Brethren Mindset
Owen Alderfer, 1985

The first General Conference of the Brethren in Christ I ever attended was led by the Moderator named Owen Alderfer. He impressed us so much that Gwen and I thought we had stumbled upon the Shangri-la of denominations. We had lived in intentional community for years and here was Owen Alderfer trying to teach mutual respect and dialogue to a group of over 500 delegates who took themselves rather seriously. Just the fact that he would trust the group to debate meaty issues was way beyond anything we had ever experienced beyond the local level.

His mentality has slowly eroded over the years until BIC meetings would have to resurrect the idea of dialogue and few delegates take themselves seriously since they have little purpose — other than experiencing the show. But I have not forgotten Dr. Alderfer. If you talk about what should form the character of a BIC church planting, you might look to his summary of his dissertation called The Brethren Mindset.

Alderfer summarized an ethos that had four overlapping assumptions:

  • Christian truth is open—ended.
  • No one holds a monopoly on truth; God’s truth, therefore, may come to us from a variety of sources.
  • A system of doctrine is qualified by trusting relationships among brethren.
  • Mutuality is necessary to the existence and development of the body.

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