Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: An Ex Parte Council

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An Ex Parte Council

To negative a call given to any person by a town or parish, is an undoubted prerogative of a Congregational church. In this case, however, some of the friends of Mr. Brown were very indignant that the church should presume to interpose their negative. The minority of the church feeling aggrieved, the majority proposed to them to refer the whole matter to a mutual council, but the proposition was rejected.

The church, wishing for advice, then called an ex parte council, consisting of pastors and delegates from the First Church in Berwick, Me., the First Church in Exeter, and the churches in Stratham and Greenland. The council convened October 1, 1794. Before organizing, the pastors and delegates endeavored to obtain an interview with the dissenting members of the church. Failing in this, the council was organized, and having examined sundry papers containing the detail of the proceedings of the church, in the case under consideration, and having also heard the testimony of credible witnesses, they proceeded to answer several questions that had been proposed to them by the church. They gave it as their decided opinion:

1. That the proceedings of the church, as stated in said papers, relative to the affair of calling Mr. Brown to settle in the work of the gospel ministry in this town, appear to have been regular and constitutional.

2. That church members, who have withdrawn from communion and absented themselves for a number of years, ought not to be admitted to vote in the church without the explicit consent of the church.

3. That no man has a right to vote by proxy.

After answering these questions, the council proceeded to give advice agreeably to a request from the committee of the church, "for their advisement and direction to any further measure, that can be adopted, which may have a tendency to promote the interest of religion and restore peace and brotherly love in this church and town." Assuming that the church and town would not be likely to unite in the settlement of Mr. Brown, the council advised to the inviting of some candidate agreeable to both parties; but if this could not be, then for the church to propose to their dissenting brethren the calling of a mutual council to settle their differences.

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