How do you handle principled disagreement between elders?
- Clear, then firm. The clearer a matter is in Scripture, the firmer you hold your ground when disagreement arises. If the argument is over the deity of Christ, the Trinity, the inerrancy of Scripture, justification by faith alone, or any other crucial doctrine, hold your ground no matter what anyone says.
- Less clear, then cautious. On the other hand, recognize that you may have convictions about certain things that are less clear in Scripture and less central to the Christian faith. Tread more lightly in these areas.
- Humility and respect. When the issue arises, argue your position clearly yet humbly. State your conviction and the biblical reasons why you hold it. Then listen respectfully as the disagreeing brother makes his case.
- Support the elders. If the elders as a whole don’t agree with your position, submit to them joyfully. When non-elders ask about the issue, be sure to say nothing that would undermine the non-elder’s confidence in the elders. At times, this may require you not to publicly state your opinion. At other times, it may be okay to articulate your disagreement, so long as you are also able to speak in a way that increases the non-elder’s confidence in the elders. Safeguard the unity of the eldership as much as possible.
- Again, humility. Finally, realize that the church can get along just fine without you. After all, Christ promised to build his church (Matt. 16:18). So if you’ve got opinions, know which of them to hold lightly.
(This material has been adapted from the article “Disagreements and Differences Among Elders: An Interview with Matt Schmucker”)