Acceptance of Denominationalism (1)

By Mike Willis

I started saving a clipping or two the other day in which brethren were working hand-in-hand with denominationalists. Before a month passed, the number of clippings which I .had set aside for comment in “Quips and Quotes” had outgrown the column: Hence, I would like to relate some of these instances to our readers through this column.

The Lord’s people have been opposed to denominationalism ever since denominationalism began. The Bible condemns denominationalism. The wearing of human names is directly contrary to 1 Cor. 1:10-13; the baptism of denominationalism is generally performed on the wrong subject for the wrong purpose and by the wrong action; the doctrines of denominationalism are in conflict with each other; the organization of denominations is contrary to the simple organization of the New Testament church; the worship of denominations violates the pattern of New Testament worship in respect to virtually every act of worship. Hence, brethren have been seeking to get men to depart from denominationalism and become simple New Testament Christians. Literally thousands have heard and accepted the plea to become a Christian without becoming a part of any human denomination.

It is sad to notice with the passing of the years that those who have accepted the liberal position with reference to church supported recreation, church support of human institutions .(colleges, benevolent organizations, etc.), and the sponsoring church arrangement have gradually begun to accept denominationalism. That you might not think that I speak falsehoods, consider the following items of evidence:

Item 1: From the bulletin of the Eastland church of Christ (700 Gallatin Road, Nashville, Tennessee 37206), the following item was reproduced and reviewed by its editor Howard See: “Gallatin Church of Christ will hold a four day series of gospel meetings, beginning Sunday, with Wayne Smith, minister of Southland Christian Church, Lexington, Ky., as the speaker.”

From this announcement in this local newspaper, one could almost get the impression that the local Church of Christ and Christian Church were in complete fellowship with one another.

Item 2: The Mid-America Evangelism Workshop which was held in Indianapolis June 7-9 featured Marvin Phillips as one of its speakers. The bulletin published by the Shelbyville Road Church of Christ where W.L. Totty preaches reported that Brother Phillips “spoke on the 5th annual Canton Christian Conference, March, 1977, and the tapes clearly show he was in fellowship with them. He was telling them how they could grow, rather than pointing out their departure from the truth.” Another speaker for this workshop is Alan Bryan. Regarding him, the author stated, “He organized no less than a missionary society in Florence, Alabama, January, 1977.”

From the looks of the bulletin presently being edited by W.L. Totty, one could get the impression that he has turned “anti.” You do remember W.L. Totty, don’t you? He was the fiery debater employed by the liberals to do warfare against us “anti’s.” But liberalism has gone to seed and its harvest is not attractive to Brother Totty. He just wanted a little liberalism. Unfortunately, he is learning that there is no such thing as a little liberalism.

Item 3: A friend of mine mailed me a clipping from his local paper in Trenton, Florida. The article was entitled, “Old Fashioned Work Day At Ebenezer Baptist Church.” The article read as follows: “On Saturday, February 3rd, First Baptist Church of Trenton called an old fashion work day at Ebenezer Baptist Church, along with Pine Grove, Bronson Baptist, Sardi’s Baptist and Trenton Church of Christ, Priscilla Baptist and many more friends.” The article contained a picture showing these men,including those from the Church of Christ, erecting a Baptist Church building.

How much preaching do you suppose is being done from the pulpit of the Trenton Church of Christ in which denominationalism is being condemned? If its members are involved in erecting a denominational building, I seriously doubt that they are supporting a man to teach them that the doctrines of the Baptist Church are sinful.

Item 4: The Greggton Guide (4/22/79), the bulletin published by the Greggton Church in Longview, Texas (4400 W. Marshall Ave.), criticized the following activity of liberals in their area. The article was taken from the daily newspaper and reproduced in the bulletin. It was entitled “Good Friday Service Planned By Alliance.” The article read as follows:

The Longview Ministerial Alliance is planning a special Good Friday service in the First Methodist Church, 400 North Fredonia.

The noon service on April 13, will have six participants and the Rev. Bob Parrots, pastor, will introduce the program.

Larry Hall, minister of the Pine Tree Church of Christ will speak. Rev. Kenneth Mann, president of the alliance, will give the invocation.

Music will be under the direction of Dale Thomas of the Gladewater Church of Christ. Associate Minister Roy White of the Pine Tree Church of Christ will read scripture from 1 Corinthians 15 . . .

I would certainly be delighted to have those involved in these activities to explain to me how sinful it is for churches to observe holy days not authorized in the scriptures. I would also like to hear these men tell me whether or not they were in an equal yoke with these denominational preachers when involved in this ministerial alliance.

Item 5: This item comes to us via Contending For The Faith (April 1979), the periodical edited by Ira Y. Rice, Jr. which has been fighting the more liberal among the liberals for several years. This issue of the magazine reproduced the following from the Abilene Reporter-News (March 10, 1979):

Lynn Anderson, minister of Highland Church of Christ, will lead a “Church Growth Seminar” from 8 to 10 p.m. Wednesday at Elmwood West United Methodist Church, 1302 S. Pioneer.

Pastors, church leaders and Council of Ministries members from Brookhollow Christian Church, Grace Lutheran Church, St. James Methodist Church, Westminister Presbyterian Church and Elmwood West Methodist Church will participate in the seminar.

All other interested persons are invited to attend.

Have you wondered why the programs on Herald of Truth have had little doctrinal content lately? I suggest to you that those leading the Herald of Truth missionary society are no longer convinced that denominationalism is sinful; they see no difference in the Church of Christ and denominations. Hence, these programs have become so watered down that they do little, if any, distinctive teaching.

Item 6: The editor of Gospel Advocate was among those who were promoting the erection of an ecumenical interchurch center in Nashville, Tennessee. He finally resigned from participating in this but not because of doctrinal convictions. If I remember correctly, he cited his work load as forcing him to resign from participation in this. Yet, the very fact that he could work hand-in-hand with denominationalists shows us something about his doctrinal convictions.

I cannot list this last item without referring to North’s recent editorial in the Gospel Advocate (May 10, 1979) entitled “Our ‘Anti-Co-operation’ Brethren Should Come Back Home.” In this article, North implied that the “anti’s” were drying up on the vine and that those who are left should return to the old doctrines from which they had departed. Brother North, do you really believe what you wrote? Do you expect me to believe that those of the previous generation believed that it was right to pussyfoot with denominationalists as you brethren are doing today? Do you expect me to believe that those of the previous generation thought that it was right for churches to build facilities for and sponsor recreational events as you brethren are doing? Do you expect me to believe that those of a previous generation believed that it was right for churches to support colleges and orphans home from their congregational treasury? I do not think that you believe that yourself.

Even if a few isolated cases of this could be cited, that would not prove that doing these things was right or wrong. Grace us with an exegesis of the passages that authorize the church’s involvement in the activities in which you believe they may be involved. When we become convinced that the scriptures authorize these practices then we will be engaged in doing them; until then, we shall not. Until you can produce book, chapter, and verse demonstrating that the New Testament authorizes these practices, you resemble the prodigal son chiding his father telling him to come home!


The move to consider the Lord’s church a human denomination is gaining momentum among the liberals. Next week, I shall consider some of the conclusions which must be accepted once a person admits that denominationalism is right. One thing is obvious from these items of interest cited above: there are growing numbers of brethren who regard denominationalism as scriptural inasmuch as they have quit fighting it and begun working to support it.

Truth Magazine XXIII: 30, pp. 483-485
August 2, 1979