A “Historic Even” in Florence, Alabama

By Edward O. Bragwell, Sr

In the religion section of the September 25, 1993 edition of the Times Daily of Florence, Alabama, the headline boldly declared a “historic event.” Just above the heading was a photograph of two men smiling and shaking hands. No, it was not Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin. It was “Stanley Clark, minister of North Wood Methodist Church, and Joe VanDyke, minister, Magnolia Church of Christ.” So what was this “historic event”? The subheading read, “Church of Christ, Methodist church hold joint meeting.”

The report’s first three paragraphs tell the story:

FLORENCE  A joint celebration of worship by Magnolia Church of Christ and North Wood United Methodist Church last Sunday night is considered a historic occasion, say ministers Joe VanDyke, church of Christ, and the Rev. Stanley Clark, Methodist.

Attendance was estimated at approximately 500 with numerous chairs added to increase the seating capacity of the pews in the sanctuary of the Methodist church.

“We’re not here tonight to say that we agree on everything there is to discuss,” VanDyke said in his sermon, “We’re here to say that there’s something greater that we share in common than anything that would divide us.”

There are brethren, I am sure, who were blind sided by this report. But those of us who have actively opposed the liberal trends among brethren for the past forty or more years have seen it coming for a long time. It was just a matter of time. As many brethren moved closer to denominationalism in their thinking, it was inevitable that such steps as this would come. Church supported human institutions, centralized working arrangements, church supported social and recreational activities were mere symptoms of a deeper problem  a general disrespect for scriptural authority and the unique nature of the Lord’s church.

I wonder how many in this area, who have been so free to stick their “anti” labels on us, will now let it be known that they are “anti” such meetings as this. Surely, there will be some. When they do, let it be known that such foolishness is nothing more than their loose attitude toward authority taken to the next level.

This meeting must have been truly a “love feast.” The report states that “VanDyke mentioned the great things as including the message of salvation, the death of Jesus on the cross, the resurrection and the commandments to love the Lord God with all our might and love our neighbor as ourselves. The lesser things include doctrine.”

In reference to Ephesians 4, he said:

It seems that Paul was telling us there are things of great importance and things of lesser importance, and if you want to talk about preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, you’ll have to put yourself in override and come over some of those differences and focus on those things that you hold in common.

It kind of sounds like he is trying to “accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative,” doesn’t it?

He states further:

The message we should take to the Shoals is “Hey, don’t look at us, don’t listen to us, but look at who lives in us and look at the unity and strength and power that can come into an individual’s life and a body of people because they say, `I love God with all my heart, soul and strength and my neighbor as myself.”‘ Those things are the sum and substance of all the otherseverything else depends on all of this .. . If religious fellowships can focus on the supreme, that which they hold highest in common, and believe in God through his son, there will be no time to notice those things that have caused differences and divisions in the past.

It seems that a good time was had by all. Half of the songs were with instrumental music and half without “in respect to the traditions of the denominations.” ” Maybe at their next “annual North Wood Methodist-Magnolia Church of Christ gathering” they can sing an invitation song and immerse half and sprinkle half of those who respond. We are told that “the service closed with the singing of `Blest Be the Tie That Binds’ and `I Love You With the Love of the Lord.”‘

It was simply “monumental,” “awesome,” and “positive” according to a young visitor from another Church of Christ in town, who is reported to have said, “This is a monumental occasion. I enjoyed it tremendously. To have a church put focus on the positive in worship to God is an awesome thing.”

Of course no religious meeting of such historic significance would be complete without some social function, so “after the meeting refreshments and fellowship were enjoyed by the two congregations.”

Now, for the benefit of any who might still be interested in what the Bible says, let me leave you with a few quotations from the Scriptures concerning love, fellow-ship, and doctrine.

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not brudensome” (1 Jn. 5:2-3, NKJ V ).

“Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He hath abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 In. 9-11).

“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11).

Guardian of Truth XXXVII, No. 22, p. 23-24
November 18, 1993