August 15, 2018

Toronto’s Local Missionary Society

By Tom Bunting

I do not wish to force myself into the affairs of another. However spiritual matters and the souls of men a r e the concern of every Christian. The article that appeared in the Gospel Herald, July 1964, was very dangerous to the cause of Christ in Canada. We have always been and shall always be interested in the wonderful country to our north. The time we recently spent there in serving God and the church of the Lord at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario is cherished dearly. It is with sorrow that we observe such a departing from the faith.

The beginning of the article ("The Gate-wood Meeting") seems innocent enough. The first paragraph is written implying nothing more than an example of simple cooperation of churches in Toronto, Canada. We do not raise our voice in objection to the announced purpose of this meeting to preach the gospel. Nor do we object to the original purpose of the Missionary Society to preach the gospel. But we do oppose the Missionary Society as an organization through which the churches do their gospel preaching. The organization established by God and His Son Jesus Christ is sufficient for these things.

But as one continues to read the article it soon becomes very apparent that this is not a simple example of New Testament cooperation of churches of Christ. The author states, "Elders of the church in Toronto met with serious and interested men and officers of the church to plan for the second annual Training-For-Service workshop and lectureship." Now, this group of men assembled was not a local church (the only organization in the New Testament) but an assembly of men from many congregations. What does this body do? They "form a committee of men from each congregation and ask to study the idea and bring back recommendations for success." (Emphasis mine--T. B.) The question then arises bring back to whom? To the local church? No. Bring back to the conference at its next assembly, at the next meeting, to decide on what to do. According to this article this is how they (the body of men) decided on the meeting place and the speaker that was to come. A committee of men larger than and outside of the organization of the local congregation made these decisions. Just as the missionary society is made up of messengers or delegates from each congregation, so this committee made up of members from several congregations selected both the man and the place to preach the gospel.

Then the article is not too clear at this point, but some way or other there was another committee selected. This committee was called the Promotion Committee, later the name was changed to the Planning and Finance Committee. This committee was responsible to the elders of the church in Toronto. The implication is that they were responsible, not to one eldership, but to all the elders in Toronto. (If it is to but one eldership, then it still violates the same scripture.) Since this committee as a group are not all members of a single congregation, we have elders overseeing a work other than the flock of God among them as instructed in I Pet. 5:1-5. Now listen to this: "The Promotion Committee  was formed and empowered (to give authority to -- T. B.) to appoint other committees to organize and carry out the work." By the authority of this committee four other committees were formed; "Advertising and Publicity, Attendance, Program and Follow-up to cover all phases of the effort . . ." This is a perfect example of ecclesiastical hierarchy.

Not only do they exercise the oversight of this work but plan "to cover all phases of the effort from the beginning to far beyond the end of the meeting itself." (Emphasis mine --T. B.)

The article states, "By far the most ambitious undertaking by the church in Toronto in many years." Yes, it is a very ambitious undertaking but it is also a most unscriptural undertaking by the church. I do not oppose scriptural cooperation but I do object to institutionalism and ultra-organizationalism. The only ecclesiastical organization known in the New Testament is the local congregation. "Let us examine ourselves to see whether we be in the faith."

Truth Magazine VIII: 12, pp. 12-13
September 1964