While most (although certainly not all) fundamentalists acknowledge that the universal church is composed of all believers in all places and times, on this side of eternity Independent Baptists are theoretically dedicated to staying as far away from most other Christians as possible. The fear is that if too many Christians get together, they’ll attempt to form a denominational unit and immediately set to dictating policy to individual churches, thereby grieving the consciences of members who have deep personal convictions about matters such as the correct way to pronounce “Johannine.”
Instead of having a denomination which binds churches together in matters of doctrine, fundamentalists instead have fellowships, conferences, and knitting circles wherein the members attempt dominate each other in pretty much every area except legitimate doctrinal concerns. By gum nobody is going to tell the preacher of an independent local church how orthodox his ecclesiology is but (unless he’s the son of a famous preacher or a regular contributor to conference news publication) they will spend four hours questioning him about his decision to move his services from Wednesday to Thursday. We’ll never tell you how to run your church…except for all the times we will.
As one might imagine, fundamentalist camps and conferences split, fracture, and fissure almost as frequently as the churches contained within them do. When you get that many men who fancy themselves as prophets, priests, and kings under one roof there’s bound to be trouble. But not to worry. No matter how much conflict may arise outside the gate, a pastor can always scurry back home to his personal empire where none shall say to him “what doest thou?” and where he’ll never have to justify his actions to anybody.
Autonomy means never having to say you’re sorry.