- Nazarene fellowship
The Nazarene fellowship was an offshoot from Christadelphians from 1873–1881, led by Edward Turney (1820–1879) of Nottingham and David Handley (1822–1886) of Maldon. They were sometimes called Renunciationists and their teaching called "free life" and "clean flesh".
- For background see Christadelphians#History_and_development Christadelphians, History and development.
In 1871, the year of the death of John Thomas in America, Robert Roberts was editor of The Christadelphian magazine in Birmingham, England. Perhaps second only in prominence to Roberts was a Nottingham businessman, Edward Turney. Turney was a prominent Christadelphian speaker at "fraternal gatherings", and editor of The Christadelphian Lamp (later renamed The Christian lamp).
The "Renunciationist controversy" began with the teaching of David Handley who first raised the idea that Christ was born with a "free life" - meaning that had he not submitted to his Father's will and death on the cross, he would still have been granted immortality, but renounced this of his own choice. Turney came to support and promote Handley's view in his magazine, then on Thursday 28 August 1873 as guest lecturer for the Birmingham Ecclesia, which met at Temperance Hall, Temple Street, Birmingham, forcefully taught these views at the large influential Birmingham Ecclesia. In response Roberts and the other "Arranging Brethren" of Temperance Hall called together the general membership of the Birmingham Ecclesia and invited them to declare their rejection of Turney and Handley's teachings. Turney's views were roundly rejected but not everyone at Birmingham was happy with the way in which it was done. Andrew Wilson comments that:
- "By this action, Roberts established a precedent for dealing with doctrinal dissidence ... However, stirring deep in the sensitivities of Roberts's brethren was the impression that this type of action was altogether too summary and abrupt amongst a congregation of brethren. In 1885, many Christadelphians reacted to a repetition of Roberts's conduct of 1873 by forming an entirely new sub-sect, known as the 'Suffolk Street fellowship'." 
Edward Turney's main writings were “The Sacrifice of Christ" and "The Two Sons of God". Robert Roberts' response to Turney is found in the booklet The Slain Lamb.
The fallout for Christadelphians was not significant outside Nottingham and Maldon. In October 1873 shortly after Turney had left Roberts was able to declare that 'With the exception of Nottingham, Maldon and Plymouth it [Renunciationism] has failed to establish a footing anywhere." However Turney had been a very active preacher, and in 1872 more conversions to Christadelphian belief (as baptisms) were recorded in Nottingham as a result of Turney's preaching than in Birmingham where Roberts was based. After 1873 the number of baptisms in Nottingham dropped off sharply, as the small remaining ecclesia carried on led by younger brethren such as Henry Sulley - who had only been baptised 2 years prior to the 1873 split. The Christadelphian ecclesia in Nottingham did not regain momentum until the death of Turney five years later (1879) and the return of many, not all who had left during 1879-1882. A. Wilson notes that during the period between 1864-1885 "Apart from the Inspiration Controversy, which came to a head in 1885, no other schism appears from official figures to have influenced the Christadelphian movement so much as the 'Clean Flesh' heresy". And yet by 1881 the Nazarene Fellowship schism was effectively extinct. In Nottingham, Maldon and Plymouth, of the 200 who had left most returned within the next few years.
Maldon had been a very active preaching ecclesia, and most of the baptisms prior to 1873 which occurred at Maldon had been as a result of David Handley's preaching. Yet David Handley had taken a less forceful role than Turney in the 1873 events. Following Turney's death in 1879, in March 1881 Handley, along with his brother Charles Handley, and Henry Howell, visited the London Ecclesia of John J. Andrew to indicate a change of position and to ask London to recommend Maldon Ecclesia's refellowship to the brotherhood - which the London Ecclesia did. A month later, unusually for Christadelphians, but at Handley's own request, Handley travelled again to London Ecclesia, and asked to be rebaptised, though the other members of Maldon rejoined the group without this action.
In the 1930s Fred J. Pearce, a Christadelphian miner from South Wales, took up Turney's cause. He was "disfellowshipped" from his "ecclesia", but communicated his thoughts through the Nazarene Fellowship Circular Letter to a mainly Christadelphian readership.
In the 1949 another Christadelphian, Ernest Brady, came to support Turney's teaching and a debate was held in Netherton, West Midlands, between Brady and Fred Barling, a well known Christadelphian writer. Brady also separated from the main Christadelphian body and following the death of Fred J. Pearce took up editorship of the Nazarene Circular Letter. Brady wrote extensively in opposition to traditional Christadelphian teachings on the atonement, "sin-in-the-flesh", God-manifestation, mortal resurrection, judgment and baptism, and he produced a large number of booklets dealing with these and other controversies. In his Thinking It Over (Birmingham, 1963) Brady claimed from his discussions with other Christadelphians on a private basis that "a large proportion of Christadelphians" were in agreement with [some] Nazarene views. This claim may well be true given that many well-known Christadelphian speakers have publicly written on the atonement implicitly taking issue with some of the terms of reference of both Turney and Roberts in the original 1873 controversy. For example James Norris, Harry Whittaker, John Launchbury, and so on, but such writers stay actively within the main Christadelphian body. Ernest Brady's works include Doctored Christadelphianism (1974) and The Gospel that is Never Preached (nd).
Ernest Brady managed to attract the support of a very small number of former Christadelphians, and his and Turney's publications are hosted on the Nazarene Fellowship website, which also circulates The Nazarene Circular Letter - for which Russell Gregory has written editorials on Understanding the sacrifice of Christ  and other topics defending Turney's teachings.
The original Nottingham and Maldon congregations of the Nazarene Fellowship died out after the death of Turney and the return to the Christadelphians of David Handley. The group does not currently have any active meetings.
Although the original congregation of Edward Turney in Nottingham did have a written statement of faith the Nazarene Fellowship website today states that it has no constitution, creed or statement of faith outside the pages of the Bible and that it has reached its present understanding by reading and discussion of Scripture and study of any and every variety of opinion, past and present.
The following beliefs are held in common with all Christadelphians:
- That God is the creator and designer of the universe, and that He cares about the welfare of humankind.
- That God gave the Old Testament Scriptures to the Israelites through Moses and the Prophets and the New Testament Scriptures to the Gentiles through Jesus Christ and His Apostles.
- That the Bible is the only source of knowledge of God’s will and purpose with the earth; of the Gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ.
- That Jesus will return to set up His Kingdom on the earth to rule the world from Jerusalem.
- That Jesus is the Messiah and Saviour; miraculously conceived and born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem; He grew up in Nazareth, and at age 30 He began His ministry of preaching and healing.
- That He was executed by crucifixion by the highest religious authority, the Sanhedrin; and the highest civil authority, the Roman governor representing the Emperor. After the crucifixion He remained in the tomb until the third day when He was raised to eternal life in an incorruptible body.
- That Jesus did not exist before His conception and birth, nor that He became God incarnate nor that He is the second person of the Trinity. They reject the doctrine of the Trinity, which they believe was fabricated in the third century AD, and adopted by the Roman Catholic Church in the fourth century by a narrow margin of votes.
- That God's word existed in the beginning, then in the Apostle John's time God's Word was incarnate in the Jewish man Jesus, and the world beheld His glory. Though He was God's only-begotten Son, He did not have divine nature, but normal human nature during His earthly ministry.
- That baptism must be by total immersion following a belief in Jesus, and a desire to make a commitment to Him and His teachings. Baptism is a public declaration that one accepts Jesus as their Saviour and as they go down into the water, it is a sign that they die to their old worldly way of life, and emerge from the water to a new life in Jesus.
- That the committed Christian should be involved in prayer, Bible study, righteous living, and witnessing wherever possible; always ready to give a reason for the hope within them.
- They do not concur with the popular theological concepts of immortal souls that after death go to a paradise in heaven beyond the skies; that there is a fiery hell where sinners will suffer eternal torment; or that baptism is valid by sprinkling or pouring on babies or young children or unbelievers.
The following contains some points which are different from mainstream Christadelphian views:
- That the death of Jesus was a voluntary substitution for Adam and therefore for Adam’s descendants. They believe Jesus voluntarily paid the penalty of inflicted death which passed upon Adam for eating the forbidden fruit, but which God remitted so that Adam could live out his life. This penalty/debt, in due time, would be paid by God's sinless Son. The Nazarene fellowship does not believe that Jesus’ death was a punishment inflicted on Him by God so that we might be forgiven: and they reject what the Christadelphian teaching that Jesus' death was necessary for His own salvation.
- ^ It needs clarification whether the appellation "Renunciationism" occurred simply because other Christadelphians believed Turney and Handley had renounced Christadelphian teachings concerning the nature of man and the nature of Jesus Christ, or whether this meaning was inferred later.
- ^ Collyer, Islip Robert Roberts 1948 p78-81
- ^ Bryan R. Wilson Sects and Society 1961 p242-243 "Fraternal" 1872
- ^ Genusa S. Clean Flesh 2009 pdf, citing The Christadelphian 1872
- ^ "The Christadelphian", 1873, p. 525
- ^ Wilson, A. The History of the Christadelphians 1864-1885 Shalom Publications 1997 p.144
- ^ Turney The Sacrifice of Christ transcribed from a lecture delivered on Thursday 28 August 1873 in the Temperance Hall, Birmingham condensed version by Russell Gregory
- ^ Wilson p. 345
- ^ Wilson B Sects and Society Page 243.
- ^ The Christadelphian, May 1881, p. 237
- ^ Norris J.B. Christ died for our sins Aletheia
- ^ Whittaker H.A. Bible Studies Biblia
- ^ Launchbury J. Principles of Salvation
- ^ Gregory R. Understanding the sacrifice of Christ
- ^ The last reference to an active member of the original Nazarene Fellowship in The Christadelphian Magazine appears to be before World War I. http://www.thechristadelphian.com
- ^ There is no recorded meeting place for any congregation in UK in UK church listings and no member of "Nazarene Fellowship" recorded in the 2001 Australian Census
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