The Canton Fellowship Meeting
On April 28, 1963, an assembly called a "Fellowship Meeting" was held at the Walnut Avenue meetinghouse in Canton, Ohio. This meeting apparently was designed to try to get churches in this area to contribute to institutional orphan homes.
There were several speakers. Ronald Laughery, preacher of the Louisville, Ohio church, spoke on "The Scripturalness of helping a non-member out of the church treasury," Ted Waller of Ninth Street church in Canton spoke on "Complying with civil laws in organizing an orphan home," Bill Heinselman of Walnut Avenue spoke on, "How do orphan homes and Missionary Societies compare?", Walter Young, an elder at Walnut Avenue, spoke on "Would the individual congregation lose its autonomy by helping to support an orphan home?", and Clifton Inman of Ravenwood, West Virginia (publisher and editor of the BIBLE HERALD) summarized all these speeches. Inman also served as chairman for a question period which followed these speeches.
The specific purpose of this meeting openly was not stated. Some have wondered if these brethren intend to attempt to start an orphan home somewhere in this area, or if the meeting simply was designed to try to convince churches in this area that they should be making contributions to some human institution. The purpose of this meeting certainly was not only to convince churches they should do benevolent work. I think most churches freely attend to the relief of those for whom they have obligation. So apparently his assembly was held to convince churches that they need to be making contributions to some human institution.
Brother Rodney Block, also an elder at Walnut Avenue, made a few introductory remarks. He closed these remarks by reading Abraham's statement to Lot recorded in Gen. 13:8: "Let there be no strife... between me and thee...; for we be brethren." He emphasized that this passage needed to be remembered during the discussion to be conducted that afternoon.
The open forum session was conducted in what I considered to be a becoming manner. However, I wondered if we were not also "brethren" before the session was held. If so, should we not be treated as brethren before the open forum was held as well as during it? These Canton brethren refuse to announce the gospel meetings held by the non-institutional churches in this area. They refuse to send us an announcement regarding their meetings. They refuse to attend any meetings that we conduct, though we notify them of each such meeting. They are most reluctant to call on any of us for prayer. It seems to me that these brethren should emphasize Gen. 13:8 on occasions other than when they are trying to promote institutional support!
During the question period, the audience was permitted to direct a particular question to any of the previously mentioned fourmember panel. One question that I asked was predicated on the following statement made by brother N. B. Hardeman:
"I have always believed that a church had a right to contribute to a school or an orphanage if it so desired.... The right to contribute to one is the right to contribute to the other. Note the parallel: 1. The school is a human institution; it has a board of directors; it teaches secular branches in connection with the Bible. 2. An orphan home is a human institution; it has a board of directors; it teaches secular branches in connection with the Bible. The same principle that permits one must also permit the other. They must stand or fall together." (My emphasis--CW).
I directed my question to Brother Bill Heinselman, the preacher at Walnut Avenue. I asked: "Do you agree with Brother Hardeman's statement? Do you agree that contributions to a college and to an orphan home 'stand or fall together'? Is the right to contribute to one the right to contribute to the other?"
Be it said to Brother Heinselman's credit that he very forthrightly answered the question. I doubt that another man on the panel would have answered as directly. Brother Heinselman replied: "I do agree wholeheartedly with Brother Hardeman's statement!" He believes that a church can make contributions to a Bible College (such as Ohio Valley College) on the same basis that it can contribute to an orphan home.
I wish brethren all over the country could be made to realize that these brethren who appear to be so interested in churches contributing to orphan homes are using this only as a side-door admittance to the church treasury through which they intend to draw out money also for the colleges.
This current institutional controversy did not begin over orphan homes, as I shall attempt to show next month. It began over church contributions to colleges. Those defending the right of churches to contribute to colleges sought to do so by paralleling the college with the orphan home. This effort solved nothing. It only brought the orphan homes under more criticism.
That the church support of colleges is the real issue before us is made manifest by the following recent statement from Brother Reuel Lemmons, editor of the FIRM FOUNDATION published in Austin, Texas:
"Early in these controversies, we pointed out on this page, that we felt that the 'orphan home question' was not the real heart of the present issue. It was said here that after brethren had fought the 'orphan home issue' through, that later others would urge the 'college in the budget' issue and claim that it had been settled by the orphan home controversy. Lately the air is filled with rumors of a great campaign soon to be launched by one of the colleges to 'put the college in the budget.' Whether these rumors are true we do not propose to say. We hope they are false. Time alone will tell.
"There are, however, some significant straws in the wind. Numerous 'special occasion' speeches have advocated the idea. In some lectureship programs the panel discussions and key speeches are carefully packed with speakers who favor the college in the budget. We have heard a few of these speeches and have read the manuscripts of others. We have noted the unnatural circulation given to tracts, articles and books that advocate the idea. There is no way to disclaim the great softening up propaganda that is under way. Coming events cast their shadow before.
"We believe that thinking brethren will rebel against this liberalism. If such a campaign is launched, its launchers should be warned beforehand that their campaign will put brethren at each other's throats in almost every congregation in the land. And we have already had enough of that. It would surely be hypocritical to decry the great flood of animosity that has recently stenched the brotherhood, and at the same time be chief contributor to an even greater sea of trouble...
"Now is the time for brethren in all sections of the country to make plain their feelings to both boards and administrations of colleges, and such like, regarding the 'college in the budget' issue. It is much better to forestall the battle than to stop it once it has started."Brother Lemmons thinks churches can contribute to institutional orphans homes. I think Brother Lemmons' fears to be well founded and his prophecy to be correct. A great softening-up campaign 7s underway. The all-out assult by colleges on the church treasury cannot be far behind, even as Brother Heinselman's answer indicates.
Brother Heinselman's reply to my question was an obvious embarrassment to Brother Clifton Inman. In fact, the pressure of Brother Heinselman's reply made Brother Inman feel obligated publicly to state that he did not agree with Brother Heinselman's statement that church contributions to orphan homes and colleges stand or fall together.
Now it just so happens that I agree with that part of Brother Hardeman's statement too! I think that church contributions to colleges and to orphan homes do stand or fall together. I think Brother Hardeman correctly draws a parallel. However, Brother Heinselman and I yet hold radically different positions. He thinks that church contributions to colleges and to orphan homes stand together; I think that church contributions to colleges and to orphans homes fall together. Brother Heinselman and I are both consistent on this point, though I think him to be consistently wrong. But Brother Inman is very inconsistent. He wants to maintain the right of the church to contribute to one institution (an institutional orphan home) and to oppose its right to contribute to another human institution (a Bible College). This is sheer inconsistency, and it appears that Brother Inman should recognize it as such.
I believe a school (or an orphan home) has a right to exist and to be operated as a private business enterprise. I believe the Bible may be taught in such a school. But I do not believe that a church can make a contribution to such a school. On this position Brother Clifton Inman and I are in agreement. The only difference between us is that I strongly oppose both the teaching and the practice of church contributions to such schools, while in recent years he fraternizes with and endorses those who teach and practice the church support of schools.
One can see how passively Brother Inman, who then was on the Board of Trustees of Ohio Valley College, oppose church support to colleges by reading the following statement from him:
"We do not feel that Ohio Valley College has any business trying to dictate the policies of other colleges. We feel that we and they are working toward the same goals. Though our philosophy of obtaining support may vary from them, we are not intending to start any crusade against those schools, but shall give them our prayers and blessings." GOSPEL ADVOCATE, June 11, 1959.
As for myself, I cannot bid a man God's blessing in the doing of that which I sincerely believe to be sinful. Somehow, Brother Clifton Inman thinks he can do so.
Yet I would be a little encouraged if Brother Inman had more influence in the brotherhood. At least he says he is opposed to church support of colleges. But I happen to know that men like Rex Turner, Gus Nichols G. K. Wallace, Don Gardner, N. B. Hardeman, Athens Clay Pullias, Willard Collins, George Benson, Ira North, Norvel Young, B. C. Goodpasture and W. L. Totty, all of whom think churches can contribute to both colleges and orphan homes, have more influence than has Brother Inman. Furthermore, I know these men do not mind pressing' the church-support-of-colleges issue to the| disruption of the peace and harmony of the church. They will crush a man like Clifton Inman if he gets in their way, and Brother Inman ought to know that by now. The manner in which Roy Lanier, C. D. Plum and Fred Dennis were discarded by the Gospel Advocate brethren ought to show brethren what will happen to others who attempt to stand in the way of "progress." Brethren like Clifton Inman need to know they eventually must accept the church support of colleges or be blackballed by those who think the church support of colleges an orphan homes stand or fall together.
When I oppose the church support of colleges and maintain that a Bible college can exist only as a private enterprise sup-l ported by individuals, I am labeled by some as a "Sommerite." Regarding this position a protege of Brother Heinselman said: "That is exactly the position of the late Dani Sommer.... If that teaching in 1907 was Sommerism, why won't the same teaching in 1953 be Sommerism?" I read this statement at the Canton meeting. Since Brother In. man and I agree that it is sinful for a church to contribute to a college (though he gives his "prayers and blessings" to those colleges that accept these contributions), and since am called a "Sommerite" because of my position, I asked Brother Heinselman another question: "Is Brother Clifton Inman a Sommerite?"
Brother Heinselman arose to answer my question. I think he would forthrightly have answered "Yes", as he did to my first question. But Brother Inman, the moderator, was not going to risk an answer on that question. He, therefore, would not permit Brother Heinselman to answer. This much is obvious: If opposition to church support of college
is "Sommerism" (which it is not--Sommer opposed the existence of Bible colleges and if Brother Inman and I both support of colleges, then we both must be called "Sommerites."
I cannot understand how Brother Inman and Brother Heinselman get along so well. I strongly oppose churches supporting colleges, and am ostracized by some for doing so. For instance, Brother Heinselman strongly opposes me. Brother Inman says he very strongly opposes the church support of colleges, and yet he and Brother Heinselman are steadfast friends. Either Brother Inman is not very strong in his opposition, or else
Brother Heinselman is very inconsistent in his treatment of us. Why treat me one way and Brother Inman another way, if we hold identical positions? I preach what Brother Inman says he believes to be the truth on this issue and he does not fellowship me. Brother Heinselman preaches what Brother Inman believes to be erroneous and sinful, yet he fellowships him. Figure that out if you can!
Brother, do not be deluded. The fellows now making such a rush to get you to contribute to institutional orphan homes simply are trying to get you set-up to contribute later to a college. They think they stand or fall together. They think if they can get you to "fall" for one, you will have to "fall" for the other in order to be consistent. And they are right.
The only scriptural thing to do is to keep the church disentangled from the institutions of men. The church can make no contributions to human institutions, whether they be Missionary Societies, Sunday School Societies, Bible Colleges, Hospitals or Orphan Homes. The church is fully capable of doing everything God wanted it to do. And if it is not sufficient, then God failed in His greatest work! Who can believe it?
Truth Magazine VII: 10, pp. 2-5