Greetings from Alaska
Although Alaska is one of the fifty states of our union, it is still to many folks a place to dream and wonder about rather than to visit. Yet, to a growing number, Alaska is a very realistic and enjoyable place not only to visit but also as a place to live. To the young and old who still have a taste of the old American frontier spirit, Alaska is the place to go.
This brings us to the object of this article. We want you who may be interested in coming to Alaska to know something about the Lord's church in this state. This information may or may not encourage you to come, but at least you will profit from the information if you already have plans to come.
A casual survey of the state reveals that the condition of the church is much like it is in most of the other states. It certainly has had its problems. There are probably more than twenty groups from Juneau to Fairbanks that are laying claim to being a church of Christ. Among these groups, lines of fellowship have been drawn.
There is a good representation of those that believe in the instrument of music and yet are in many other ways quite conservative. They continue to teach and tell their people that we who oppose the use of the instrument are radical and are binding our opinion where we have no right to do so. Yet ' they have failed to produce the scriptural authority to verify their man-made doctrine. We have pleaded with these folks for an open and forth-right study of these dividing factors. Only God can judge their reasons for not accepting such opportunities.
The largest segments of churches of Christ represent our brethren who are traveling down the more recent path of apostasy. They are those who are advocating and practicing that the church can work through human institutions and sponsoring churches. They likewise have the church providing physical fellowship (camps, fellowship, dinners and the like) for their members. Many of these brethren seem to resent being associated with the groups in Abilene and other centralized places of institutional influence. They claim that they are not "caught up in institutionalism." And yet, they have (though they are not now, due to finances or some other expedient reasons) supported and promoted the Herald of Truth Radio and Television Program. And it is probably the largest institution, involving the most highly organized sponsoring church of all time. They openly acknowledge that they believe that such arrangements are scriptural. And yet, they like the instrumental groups have failed to present the scriptures that tell of a sponsoring church.
The leaders of these groups have as in most other places represented us as being radical and antis, and insist that we be avoided. We are told that we are making manmade rules and are thus binding our opinions upon others. It is not strange at all that this is exactly what the instrumental brethren have been telling us for years. We have and will continue to plead with these brethren for an open and forthright study of these dividing factors. Possibly a change of attitude and a ray of hope can be seen in that two of the preachers here in Anchorage that advocate the above mentioned items have agreed to a private study with brother Jim Roberts and me.
Now briefly, we shall acquaint you with those congregations that are pleading for the "old paths" and stand opposed to the above innovations. There is a congregation of this nature in the Fairbanks area that has existed since 1961. Much of the work and progress of this church has been with people in the military. And of course, most of these people have moved. But their loss has been the gain of other congregations in the lower 48 states. At present, Brother Glen Burt from Texas is working with those brethren with the help of a church in Fort Worth, Texas. They have a radio program five days a week. And with their determination to produce fruit in the Lord's kingdom, growth is surely going to be witnessed.
A church meets in the house of brother Jim Roberts at Hope, Alaska. Brother Roberts, as you may recall, has written. a series of articles for this publication on the institutional problems. He has preached at various places in the state and about a year ago he preached in a meeting with the church here in Anchorage. Brother Roberts co edits along with myself a publication called Prove All Things that we send to members of the church in Alaska. We deal mainly with those points that have created division.
And we maintain an open policy as to allowing both sides of an issue to be fairly represented. Thus far our institutional brethren have chosen to remain silent!
Then there is the congregation here in Anchorage, with which I am working. This congregation has existed since 1965. This past January we completed and moved into a new building. In the three years of existence we have grown from an attendance of 40 to an average of 80. Our record attendance for any one service is 107. We have been able to work with people in the military and thus we experience a continuous rotation. This affords us with many varied opportunities. The congregation has developed a strong nucleus of permanent type residents of Anchorage.
We are not suggesting that these three congregations are perfect. Such thinking would be silly. But these congregations do advocate that they are standing for the Truth and that they will defend their stand publicly or privately. Realizing that we are not perfect, has caused us to develop the policy of allowing our pulpits to be open to any sensible acting person to present those Biblical views in which he believes we are lacking! This is the difference that really exists. Others are not interested in hearing or studying the views of those that differ from them. If such a statement is wrong, I shall be glad to retract it as soon as they demonstrate that such is not the truth. There may be those in Alaska that do not stand under this condemnation that I do not know about. If such be the c4saj- I offer you my apology for overlooking you, and invite you to make yourself knowing that we might be of encouragement one to the other.
Now, why, put this article in the Truth Magazine? The reason for this is that there will be many moving to Alaska this year. We ask you who have read this article to make this information available to anyone who may be among those moving here. Many military folks will be transferred our way this spring. They need to have this information. The congregations at Fairbanks and the one here in Anchorage have their addresses in the directory in the back of this publication. We shall be most grateful to you if you will pass this information on to anyone that you know who may be moving our way. Or if you have friends or relatives that you would like for us to contact, we shall be happy to hear from you.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XII: 9, pp. 5-6