More From Mansfield, Ohio
Brother Don Cooper, the preacher for one of the churches in Mansfield, Ohio, has published a booklet of slightly more than fifty pages dealing with the troubles in the church where he preaches. S e v e r a I months ago the church at 424 S. Main St., voted the Herald of Truth into its budget to receive a reported $20 a month.
This token contribution to the Herald of Truth resulted in division in the congregation. About fifty people left, and later about thirty-five more left to form a third congregation. In spite of the statements of both of these groups that left, to the contrary, Brother Cooper has insisted that they did not leave because of the Herald of Truth. The first group stayed four months after the Herald of Truth was put in the budget, hoping the trend could be reversed. This fact Brother Cooper has tried to use against them.
Some of these brethren have been disfellowshipped by the South Main Street church. According to Brotller Cooper, they are grossly immoral. Those of us who are "outsiders" wonder why these people became so immoral so quickly after they questioned the scripturalness of the Herald of Truth. Why would they permit such people to remain in their fellowship for many years, but they suddenly became too immoral to fellowship when they asked for the scriptural authority for the Herald of Truth?
In the booklet (a copy of a speech delivered before the S. Main St. church), Brother Cooper states, "Even some from among our own ranks have told things which were not true and are continuing to tell things which are not true." (p. 32). According to Brother Cooper, the South Main St. church even then was harboring liars in its fellowship. But if one questions the Herald of Truth, he must be marked without delay!
Brother Cooper has some things to say about me. He states that "Brother Cecil Willis must retract false statements which he wrote in Truth Magazine and ask the forgiveness of the brethren at South Main Street." My statement, to which he objects, was "At Mansfield, Ohio, recently the Herald of Truth was voted into the budget of that congregation over the protest and against the conscience of more than one third of those attending the business meeting."
Even after the publication of Brother Cooper's booklet, which someone mailed to me, a brother in Mansfield wrote: "Just a few words to let you know your statement was correct about the voting at Mansfield congregation, because Cooper failed to put in his book that two members were bluffed out from voting and two members were ruled out because he claimed they were not faithful members..."
Regarding a turbulent business meeting, Brother Cooper admits they asked two brethren to leave because they could "not have any voice in the business meeting" and that two brethren stayed, who according to their rules, did not have the right to vote. They decided to keep the preacher, on that occasion, by the rather dubious vote of 13-6 (Pg. 14). And this was after refusing to let at least four brethren who attended the business meeting vote. Looks like that preacher barely kept his job! They require a two-thirds majority vote, and he barely got it.
In the business meeting where the Herald of Truth was voted in, some were "bluffed out" of voting. These apparently also objected to the Herald of Truth, for thirty-five or so shortly thereafter left, and did not return to the South Main Street church until the Herald of Truth was removed from the budget.
Brother Cooper states: "We will go back to February 14, 1963 to a business meeting in which it was resolved that all matters both spiritual and temporal (in absence of elders, of course) would be decided by a two thirds adult vote." (p. 7). I thought we had always told the denominations that we did not decide such matters by vote.
At the October, 1949 convention in Cincinnati, the following resolution was passed: "Resolved, that a missionary society as a means to concentrate and dispense the wealth and benevolence of the brethren of this Reformation, in an effort to convert the world, is both scriptural and expedient." I don't know what the vote on this resolution was in Cincinnati, but it could pass in Mansfield by a "two-thirds adult vote!" They are going to decide "all matters both spiritual and temporal" in this fashion at Mansfield.
Actually, I have always thought that regardless of what the vote was, a thing was unscriptural until a scripture was presented for it. Sprinkling might unanimously be voted in at Mansfield, and that still would not make it right.
Frankly, I had thought the actual vote on the Herald of Truth issue at Mansfield was 13-7. Brother Cooper is now quite insistent that it was only 13-6! Now that's a big difference, isn't it? I still think it was imposed on that church over the protest and against the conscience of more than one-third of those who attended the business meeting.
If the vote had been 13-7, it would have been more than one-third voting against it. But I said it was against the conscience of "more than one-third of those attending the business meeting." If that statement is incorrect' I will retract it. There's really very little difference between a 13-7 vote and a 13-6 vote.
When the Mansfield church persisted in its contributions to the Herald of Truth, about thirty-five others left. This shows that if everyone opposed to the Herald of Truth had expressed their opposition, as they should have, there were well over one-third of the members there who opposed it. Some of these thirty-five who left told me specifically that they left because of the congregation's contributions to the Herald of Truth.
There since have been some meetings between the thirty-five who recently left, and the South Main Street church. South Main at last has agreed to take the Herald of Truth out of its budget. Until they agreed to do so, these thirty-five people would not return.
We hope these Mansfield brethren have learned that you cannot make an unscriptural thing scriptural by "a two-thirds adult vote." But if they have not learned that, they should at least have learned that the Herald of Truth is not expedient. (That has been the main argument in its defense.) An expedient helps along, and builds up a church. Has the $20 contribution monthly built up the Mansfield church, or has it torn it down?
Some semblance of peace has been restored between two of the three groups resulting from the $20 a month Herald of Truth contribution, but only when the contribution was stopped. Wouldn't it have been a lot better for the Lord's people if that $20 a month contribution to the Herald of Truth had never been started? Think of how much shame, remorse, and sin could have been averted if these brethren had gone on minding their own business and doing their own work.
The Mansfield, Ohio lesson should be one that has been sufficiently well learned that it will not have to be repeated elsewhere. Do your own work brethren, rather than turning your funds over to the protective eldership of some big church. These Mansfield brethren now had better start settling matters by the Word of God rather than by a two-thirds vote of the adult members, or they are in for more trouble.
We hope that these brethren are fully determined to stay out of such unscriptural and divisive programs as the Herald of Truth, and will now labor to undo the serious harm they have thus far permitted it to do to the Lord's Cause in that place.
Truth Magazine IX: 12, pp. 2-4