History of the Church in the Northwest
C. B. Shropshire
Upon arriving in Portland, Oregon in April of 1941 to preach the gospel in that city, I found two small congregations in the city and some eight or ten other congregations throughout the state. There were some thirty or forty members in the Central congregation (the one with which I came to work) and only a dozen or so in the other congregation, which has since ceased to exist. There were two other preachers in the State at that time, one in Grant's Pass and the other in Salem.
Soon after arriving in Oregon I learned that a "state evangelist" had been working in Oregon and Washington, being supported by the pooled resources of many of the congregations and supervised by a sponsoring church. Annual meetings were held, attended by representatives of the contributing churches, at which the work was planned for the year and financial commitments were considered for the support of the "state evangelist." All funds were sent to the sponsoring church and to be disbursed by them.
Having learned to preach through the study of the scriptures, this sort of an arrangement was something new to me (although I had heard of some sponsoring churches in Texas). I began to ask some questions about New Testament authority for such an arrangement. Other preachers came into the area and at least one who had preceded me, along with some brethren in the area who had not affiliated with the "conference," began to arouse the thinking of brethren relative to the scripturalness of the program. As a result, the program was soon abandoned.
I readily admit that at that time I did not see all of the ramifications of the sponsoring church movement, and was not always consistent, either with the fight I was making against the Northwest program, or with the scriptures. However, some of us who were engaged in that struggle have upon our search of the New Testament, confirmed our convictions that such an arrangement was without divine authority. Others who fought valiantly in that battle have since succumbed to the modernistic philosophy that "We do many things without divine authority, so, we may have sponsoring churches without divine authority."
At present there are some sixty congregations each, in Oregon and Washington, with about one-third of them holding to the New Testament pattern, while the remainder are drifting quite rapidly into institutionalism and a universal brotherhood organization. Among a great many of the congregations who support and promote institutionalism and diocesan elders, there are those who still believe in congregational autonomy and New Testament authority, but are in such a minority they are at a very great disadvantage in trying to teach and practice New Testament Christianity.
In many instances brethren have been forced to give up the struggle of trying to preserve the identity of the congregation where they were worshipping and establish new congregations according to New Testament teaching.
There are now some forty congregations in Oregon and Washington that are endeavoring to worship and serve God according to His will, and while the struggles are at times discouraging, yet it is my conviction that much ground has been gained toward restoring New Testament practice in the area.
I am not too well acquainted with the situation in Idaho, but according to my knowledge there are but few, if any congregations in that state which have not succumbed to the liberal and modernistic philosophy of substituting the wisdom of men for the wisdom and will of God respecting the work and organization of the church. I am sure there are some among the brethren who still hold to the New Testament as their only rule of faith and practice, but I know of no congregation in that state that contends earnestly for the faith, once delivered to the saints. Perhaps some brethren in Idaho, who may chance to read this, will come forward with further information.
There are some four or five congregations in Nevada that still are endeavoring to work and worship according to New Testament Doctrine, but most of the churches there have also-departed from the faith.
It would be delightful for me to write that this frontier was one of solidarity, based upon the conviction that the brethren in this area were all willing to work together according to the pattern of sound words, but since apostasy has reared its ugly head throughout the world, those of us in the great Northwest have not escaped its vicious grasp upon the souls of the brethren.
On the bright side of picture, there are now working in the Northwest some of the most able and faithful gospel preachers that it has ever been my privilege to know. Most of the congregations where they are preaching are growing and I am convinced there are grounds on which to believe we have somewhat stemmed the tide of institutionalism among the brethren and with the conviction and courage that is characteristic of many of the brethren in this area, blessed by the providence of God, we shall see many victories for truth and righteousness in the future.
(NOTE: We have at least two groups in Alaska, Fairbanks and Anchorage. Jim Puterbaugh moved to Anchorage to work recently. Also there are faithful churches in Canada at Calgary, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat. No doubt there are others we have not heard of yet. E. L. F.)
TRUTH MAGAZINE X: 2, pp. 2-3 November 1965