Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing (epiphany) of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Titus 2:13
Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.
Question: Who may call, and arrange for, general Gatherings among the Epiphany brethren who are no longer associated with the Laymen’s Home Missionary Movement?
Answer: Some have suggested: (1) it should be a former Pilgrim of the LHMM, and others (2) it should be a local ecclesia.
As to suggestion (1), no references in the Truth writings give a former Pilgrim of the LHMM the authority to call a general Gathering. The only two individuals who have ever called general Conventions were Bros. Russell and Johnson, acting as the Parousia and Epiphany Messengers respectively. Even Bro. Jolly, the leader of the Great Company and the Youthful Worthies, only called general Conventions for business purposes, as the Executive Trustee of the LHMM. Furthermore, it would pose practical problems. It seems unreasonable to assume that our brethren in other countries, who have no Pilgrims among them, would need to rely upon one of the two former American LHMM Pilgrims to call for, and arrange, their general Gatherings.
Let us consider suggestion (2), by first considering the objection that it would be against the Truth arrangements – that local ecclesias are restricted to calling only local gatherings. We agree, when we were associated with the LHMM, it would have been against the arrangements for a local ecclesia to call, and arrange for, a general Convention/Gathering. But we now find ourselves under different conditions. We are no longer associated with the LHMM and its Executive Trustee. There would also be practical problems involved if our local ecclesias are restricted to calling only local gatherings. If that were the case, our only recourse would be to hold a series of local gatherings around the country, taking care to limit the geographical scope. Smaller gatherings spread over such a large country may not be feasible, and would likely be expensive for the host ecclesia. And since invitations to local-only gatherings would be limited, the net result would be that fewer would attend, thus enforcing geographic isolation of individuals who either do not have a local class or are quite a distance from a class.
Our Lord said, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” Following that principle, we would say that the arrangements were made for the brethren, not the brethren for the arrangements. And the meetings were made for the brethren, not the brethren for the meetings. It seems evident that we must adapt the arrangements to the changed conditions, and use the spirit of a sound mind regarding our general Gatherings. Please consider the following reference from Volume 6, p. 312, paragraph 1, under the heading Character of the Meetings (italics ours):
“We remark, first of all, that on this subject, as on others, the Lord's people are left without cast-iron laws and regulations—left free to adapt themselves to the changing conditions of time and country, left free in the exercise of the spirit of a sound mind, left free to seek the wisdom that cometh from above, and to manifest the degree of their attainment of the Lord's character-likeness under the discipline of the Law of Love. That Law of Love will be sure to urge modesty as respects all innovations or changes from the customs of the early Church; it will be sure to hesitate to make radical changes except as it shall discern their necessity, and even then will seek to keep close within the spirit of every admonition and instruction and practice of the early Church.”
The above considerations seem to point to the fact that the local ecclesias are in harmony with truth, righteousness and holiness in the calling, and arranging for, our general Gatherings.