For some reason it has become virtually impossible to get the liberal brethren to represent us correctly. Either they do no t really understand what it is to which we object, or else they simply refuse to state fairly our position.
Brother Charles J. Aebi, Managing Editor of the Bible Herald published at Parkersburg, West Virginia, is the latest one to misrepresent us. In writing on the subject of "Fellowship," he said in the November 1, 1964 issue:
". . . the Gospel Guardian-Florida College movement limits and often prohibits good works in the areas of fellowship ( get-togethers ), gospel preaching via radio and printed page, mission work and benevolence."
If Brother Aebi has not yet acquired any clearer concept of what the real issues before us are than this misrepresenting statement from his pen indicates then we must kindly, though candidly, suggest that he has no business attempting to edit anybody's paper. On the other hand, if he does recognize what the real issues before us are, then his misinformative statement would reflect upon his moral character in such a manner as to render serious doubt about his qualification to fill properly his responsible position. We would prefer to believe he wrote his article in good faith, and therefore simply fails at this time to grasp what the real issues are in the current controversies before the brotherhood.
The usage of the label "Gospel Guardian-Florida College movement" apparently is for prejudicial purposes. We may just as well label Brother Aebi and his associates as the "Gospel Advocate-David Lipscomb College 'Where There Is No Pattern' movement." Somehow we think Brother Aebi would object to such a label, with all the concomitant digressions inherent in such an ignoble appellative.
He charges that we "limit" and often "prohibit" "good works in the areas of fellowship (get-togethers) . . ." It's a good thing Brother Aebi told you what "fellowship" means, isn't it. Just from reading your Bible you never would have learned that the w o r d "fellowship" means "get-togethers," would you? It might make for interesting reading to open your Bible and read a little. Everytime you find the word "fellowship," try putting in the place of the word Brother Aebi's definition of it. Try his definition on acts 2:42; Rom. 15:26; Phil. 1:5; 4:15,16. It sounds a little strange (!), doesn't it?
In an earlier portion of his article Brother Aebi purported to tell us how the word "fellowship'' is used in the Bible. He now would do us all a great big favor if he would cite the passage or passages where the word 'fellowship" may be found in the Bible to mean "get-togethers." At least one passage, please, Brother Aebi!
A church of Christ in Little Rock, Ark. boasts of a place in its building where members may assemble for "get-togethers" that will accommodate 200 people at one time. They call this a "fellowship hall," when it should be termed a "banquet hall" or a "recreation room." We visited the meetinghouse of the Union Avenue church in Memphis, Tenn., which claims a "fellowship hall" (better named a "Cafeteria") in which 500 can be served their meals at one time. The preacher of a church in Buffalo, N. Y. told me that they had a gymnasium (a place for their "get-togethers" -- fellowship as per Brother Aebi) "that would make most small colleges envious!"
Before me is a bulletin from the Troy, N. C. church announcing another kind of "fellowship":
Attention Young People
"Only six more days before our greased pig chase! Announcements have been sent to all the congregations around and we should have a lot of visitors to help us run down our greasy pig. Some preachers too, perhaps. Don't forget to bring some old clothes. There will be a wiener roast afterwards and if we have our tent up by this Saturday, perhaps we will be able to meet after supper and sing for a while before going home. Lots of fun and Christian fellowship for all! In case of rain, it will be held on the next Saturday (The 27th)."
Notice that chasing a greasy pig is also called "Christian fellowship." Now when Aebi finds the passage in his Bible where "fellowship" means social "get-togethers," the same passage will define "fellowship" also to mean "chasing a greasy pig."
We quite freely admit that we object to putting the church of Christ into the entertainment business. We believe the Bible specifies and thus limits the mission of the church. Congregations scripturally can engage only in edification of saints, evangelism, and specified acts of benevolence (Eph. 4: 12). Individuals may arrange hamburger suppers, greasy pig chases, etc., if they so desire, but such can never be made a part of the activity of the church.
Now let Brother Aebi cite the scriptural authority for church sponsored recreation (boy scout troops, ball games, skating parties, Halloween carnivals, ping-pony, greasy pig chases etc. etc.), or else admit that he too has joined the opprobrious "Gospel Guardian-Florida College movement" which "limits and often prohibits good works in the areas of fellowship (get-togethers) . . ."
Brother Aebi's article sounds more like he has joined the ultra-liberals who are aptly and correctly classed with Brother Robert Meyers, preacher of the Riverside church of Christ in Wichita, Kansas. Brother Meyers is not so hedgy about endorsing these church sponsored "get-togethers" such as those mentioned above. In a fairly recent bulletin Brother Meyers said concerning a letter he had received:
"The first part of this letter reminds me of the old Church of Christ hostility toward what it called the 'social gospel.' Most members of this church have gotten past that stage of thought, but obviously not all have."
We must confess that we hold the "old Church of Christ" position that believes the Bible "limits" and "prohibits" churches of Christ from participating in "social gospelism." Apparently Brother Aebi is one of the "new schools" who has discarded the "old" for something virtually brand new among us -- church sponsored and financed "get-togethers" mix-labeled "fellowship meetings." But if the word "fellowship" has such a usage in the Bible, it has escaped our attention, and we would appreciate having Brother Aebi to call it to our attention.
All this playing around under the guise of "fellowship" is not done down in Tennessee or Texas either. The very kind of thing to which we object is found in "The Highlander," a bulletin of Ohio Valley College, for October 1964. Brother Aebi serves on the faculty of this school. Now notice the article:
Students Welcomed at Party
"Jug Run Jamboree" and watermelon party was sponsored by the Grand Central Church of Christ for faculty and students of OVC on registration day, Sept. 28.
Hillbilly entertainment was the highlight of the party. John "Buck" Booth was the producer. The watermelon party welcomed all the students to OVC. Cider and donuts were served in the cafeteria after the program."
This is the kind of "good works," Brother Aebi, that we believe to be absolutely no part of the mission of the blood-bought body. It very plainly is stated in the above quoted article that the Grand Central Church of Christ sponsored a party for entertainment. Maybe Brother Aebi can find for us in the Bible where "fellowship" can be defined to include a "Jug Run Jamboree" "entertainment" "Party" "sponsored by the.... church." But so far I have not found any passage showing such to be the work of the church.
Entertainment of either young or old people is not within the purview of the sanctioned works of a congregation. Such responsibility belongs either to the community or the home, but is not a duty of the blood-bought church. Christ's blood was not shed to purchase a party sponsoring body.
Brother Aebi also seeks to leave the impression that we oppose good works like "gospel preaching via radio and printed page, mission work and benevolence." Now it seems that the editor of a paper ought to know by now that we are not opposed to radio preaching, mission work and benevolence. But his assertion makes good prejudicial propaganda, doesn't it? This must really be some bunch of cranks if they oppose preaching on the radio! (It may upset Brother Aebi's story somewhat, but I shortly must leave the writing of this article so that I may go preach on the radio).
Really what we are opposed to is the doing of any work of the church, whether it is radio preaching, "mission" work, or benevolence, through any human organization. Furthermore, we oppose an eldership attempting to become "brotherhood elders" by becoming a receiving, disbursing and overseeing board for the brotherhood, as is done by the Abilene, Texas elders who receive, disburse and oversee the funds of about 1600 churches in the production of the "Herald of Truth" radio and television broadcast for the brotherhood. But these positions did not sound quite extreme or radical enough to serve Brother Aebi's purposes. So he misrepresented us to make it appear that we simply were opposed to radio preaching, "mission" work, and benevolence. We sincerely hope he did not know he misrepresented us, but one who edits a paper should by now know what the real issues are; Furthermore, if Brother Aebi unintentionally misrepresented us, he knows now that he misrepresented us and a correction and an apology would now be in order.
In talking about those of us whom the BIBLE HERALD sometimes call the "antis" (guess they by this label admit to being the "progressives" or "digressives" of the 20th century), Brother Aebi charges that these queer creatures "do often impress their peculiar opinions upon others."
Now Brother Aebi seeks to leave the impression that the liberal institutionalists never press their "opinions." While I am writing this article I am working with the Moundsville, W. Va. church which was divided by these liberal people who supposedly never press their opinions, because the elders refused to send a few dollars a month to a human institution. And already half a dozen or so of the Ohio Valley preachers have rushed id to encourage this faction who split this church over what they admit is merely an "opinion." Those who split this good church reportedly felt an urge to send $10 as a token contribution from one of their first collections to an institutional orphan home. According to a posted financial report, the older church that they split spent an average of $82.00 a month on benevolent work during the three months preceding my visit there. But since the eldership refused to bow to the "opinion" of a pro-institutional liberal minority, these people split the church. Of course these liberal institutionalists never press their "opinions!"
Another church comes to my mind that was divided because it refused to send $5.00 a month to an institution. In fact, the liberals even stated that they would stay if the congregation would send just $5.00 a month to an orphan home. In fact, my guess is they would have stayed if only $1.00 a month had been sent, or even $1.00 sent one time. But of course they would never press their "opinions! "
The difference between us and the liberals is that they freely acknowledge that they will split a church over what they themselves admit is only an "opinion." However' we do not for one moment believe that the matter of doing the work of the church through a human institution, or not doing the work of the church through a human institution, is merely, a matter of "opinion." It is a matter of faith!
If it is not a matter of faith, we ought to apologize to the Christian Church for being a party to the splitting of the church over an "opinion" when we objected to doing "mission" work through a human organization called a missionary society.
Here lately we have been hearing a lot of discussion about the unity of the church in this area, and these brethren are no more concerned about unity than we are. However, there are but two ways that the church can remain united: (1) These brethren can cease promoting these innovations which they call "opinion"; ( 2 ) Or we could cease to oppose innovations and permit churches of Christ to become a virtual Noah's ark, full of clean and unclean things.
Our consciences will not permit us to cease to object to these innovations, and apparently the innovators are determined they shall force their "opinions" into churches whether it results in a split or not. This stalemated condition does not portend very pleasant things for the Lord's church. As soon as these brethren cease to promote these digressions we will cease to oppose their injection, and peace again will reign. Are these brethren really concerned then about unity in the church? Watch their future course of action, and you will be able to see.
Brother Aebi and all others like him are in the unenviable position of making an issue out of some human institutions (such as missionary societies), while they endorse and condone other human institutions supported by the church (such as benevolent societies, and some endorse church support of colleges). But even while they occupy this sort of halfway house, they castigate those who consistently oppose any and every attempt on the part of the church to function through any human institution. It appears that such an obvious inconsistency as that characteristic of Brother Aebi and many associated with him on the BIBLE HERALD staff should make men of integrity and perception quite uncomfortable.
But this article is long enough, and after all, it is now time to go do what Brother Aebi tried to make some believe we "limit" and even "prohibit"--It is now time to go do the "good work" of "gospel preaching via radio" and I must be on my way to the station. But Brother Aebi, from now on when you feel you must speak against us, please Christ to become a virtual Noah's arks, full the truth!
Truth Magazine IX, 4: pp. 2-5