We Can Fellowship the Methodists on Those Conditions
O. C. Birdwell, Jr.
While I preached for the Vivion Road Church in Kansas City, Missouri, an area preacher approached me with the request that we work together in unity and have fellowship between the two congregations. He wanted such fellowship to include the announcement of meetings and general encouragement through attendance and other available means. His condition for fellowship was that we not oppose what they did or taught. Whether we did or did not engage in such practice and teaching was a matter of indifference to him. All he wanted was no opposition from us.
This preacher asked me not to oppose church contributions to human institutions, sponsoring church arrangements, church sponsored and paid for recreation, and other similar practices that go along with the "social gospel" movement. He suggested that if I continued to voice opposition they would have no fellowship whatsoever with us and would continue to ignore us in general to the extent that they would not even regard us as brethren. Everywhere I have been since I moved from Kansas City, the advocates of tile above mentioned practices have expressed the same sentiment about fellowship.
As kindly as I knew how to speak, my answer was, "We can fellowship the Methodists and almost any other denominational church on those conditions. They do not care if we do not practice sprinkling for baptism. They do not care if we do not use a mechanical instrument of music in our worship. All they ask is that we not oppose what they practice and teach."
Lately, I have heard some talk and read some writing that seems to indicate that those of us who oppose institutionalism and the many associated practices are not kind and mannerly, and if we would change and so act the "liberals" would welcome us with open arms and together we could fight modernism.
There are several things wrong with this type thinking. First, the inference seems to be that unkindness and ugliness on the part of those called "conservatives" was the reason for the division to begin with. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In general, the debates, articles, and sermons by my brethren on the subject of "liberalism" have been and still are sincere scriptural efforts to present the truth on the work of the church and persuade men to obey it. To infer that unkindness on our part is the cause of the lack of fellowship seen today is to slander a great majority of the faithful gospel preachers and Christians who have for the past twenty years stood in the heat of the battle for truth. I reject any such position.
Second, if there has been any indication from these brethren that they have had a change of heart and would like to have fellowship with us while we teach truth that will condemn their practice, I have not seen it. Neither have I seen any indication that they are willing to change their practice. In fact, with the exception of some rural and small town churches, the movement is farther and farther away from the truth; not toward truth. This does not mean that we should not continue to have discussions with these people and use every means to persuade them to accept the truth. It does mean that they will not accept our fellowship as long as we oppose their unscriptural schemes. And sincere men cannot remain silent.
Third, the idea that we cannot effectively oppose modernism unless we are in fellowship with the "liberals" is not sound thinking. I have no argument with the truth anyone teaches. I do not oppose their opposition to modernism. They are right on this subject. But I cannot have fellowship with them just because they are right on modernism! Many religionists called "Evangelicals" actively and, as far as I know, effectively oppose modernism. But while they oppose modernism they embrace part or all the false doctrines of Calvin, Roberts, Graham, and many others who represent almost the entire range of denominationalism. Because they embrace these false doctrines I cannot stand in their line of battle against modernism. Surely one can see that we can effectively oppose the sin they also oppose without standing with them and remaining silent about the sin they condone.
Our obligation is to oppose, with the full force of the Word, modernism, along with all the other "isms" that are wrong. We cannot silence our teaching on the scriptural work of the church in order to have fellowship with our "liberal" brethren in the opposition to modernism. If they will cease their unscriptural promotions and stand with us and preach Christ to a lost world wonderful. But fellowship and unity on any basis other than truth must be rejected.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XIV: 3, pp. 11-12
November 20, 1969