The Future of the Patriarchate
NCW 30, February 1996
Q. Am I right in thinking that the whole patriarchal system which existed in the old Church will disappear in the new? Isn't the old paternalistic system an affront to the dignity of Christians? Are we not all equal?
The Church of God in all dispensations and in every covenant has been, and will be, patriarchal. The word "patriarch" literally means a "father", one who has responsibility for the teaching of those immature in the faith until they themselves reach maturity.
Every single Christian is a "guardian" of every other Christian, and thus are equal, but some are fathers or patriarchs in the Church. Paul said: "Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Jesus Christ I became your father [patriarch] through the Gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church [colony]" (1 Cor.4:15-17, NIV; cp. Phil.2:22).
He also said: "You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father [patriarch] deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory" (1 Thes.2:11-12, NIV).
This is what a Patriarch is in the New Covenant Church of God. The Church has many "fathers" or "patriarchs". Every elder, pastor, bishop and apostle is a "father" or "patriarch" and those whom they serve are their sons and daughters. Similarly there are "mothers" or "matriarchs" in the Church. This is quite natural and completely in harmony with God's design. The three presiding apostles are called "Patriarchs" by title, for this is what they are -- fathers with the overall watch-care of the Church. There are, similarly, three "Matriarchs" or "mothers".
The whole of life is "paternalistic". We start as sons and daughters in both the flesh and the spirit and mature into fathers and mothers. It is natural and beautiful and we have absolutely no intention of abandoning it because of modern liberal ideas about inter-personal relationships. God has ordained a patriarchal Church and so it will always be. The new "patriarchal" Church will be a little different from the old one, however, in several important respects as the centralised rôle of the Patriarchate becomes more decentralised in favour of the rôle of local "patriarchs" or pastors. This is in keeping with the new "adult" phase of the Church we are about to enter into.
The old Church was also very much governed by one Patriarch or "father" as there were few mature in the faith. Now that several have grown in maturity and the Patriarchate is staffed by those who have passed through the fires of affliction and have had -- or are having -- the dross of worldliness burned out of them, so the government of the Church is increasingly one of mutual consent as collectively the mind and will of the Lord is sought. Though absent from the first Church it was always the Church's goal. Today it is, we are delighted to say, being realised, and it is very much the hall-mark of the new Church. Our ultimate goal is that this government by consent will extend into the rest of the apostles' quorum as these brethren are admitted into it. But it will only be after they have been tested by fire.
This page was created on 8 May 1998
Last updated on 8 May 1998
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