Reviewing The Mirror of a Movement (II)

"The Battle Over Benevolence"

Cecil Willis
Akron, Ohio

This is the second article reviewing Brother William S. Banowsky's new book, THE MIRROR OF A MOVEMENT. Brother Banowsky proposes to give a history of Churches of Christ, primarily from 1906 until the present, as that history is reflected through the 349 speakers a n d 7 53 speeches on the Abilene Christian College Lectureship.

In our first article we spoke concerning the admitted modernism that had been expressed on the ACC Lectureship programs. In this article we propose to deal with his chapter entitled, "The Battle Over Benevolence."

In books like Brother Banowsky's, one can find blatant admissions of charges that if some of us whom the liberals label "Antis" were to make, we would be charged with fabrications and misrepresentations. Brother Banowsky is writing, somewhat smugly, from the throes of ultra-liberalism among the Churches of Christ, as the preacher of the big and loose Broadway Church in Lubbock, Texas. Too, he is adjacent to the liberalizing influence of Abilene Christian College. So writing from such an environment, he does not feel the necessity of being overly concerned about what some of the people in rural and less liberal churches think about his historical account. So he pours out the liberal sluice just as it occurred.

Brother Banowsky states that the administrators of ACC did not feel free to let the benevolent issue be aired on their program until the broken lines of fellowship had been formed. They apparently were playing brotherhood politics and wanted to see which way the wind was blowing before they committed themselves. "As a matter of fact, the battle was virtually over and lines of practical fellowship sharply drawn before the college administrators felt they could comfortably allow the disagreement to be formalized." (p. 331).

The Social Gospel Movement

In denominationalism, around the turn of the century, a movement called "The Social Gospel" began to dominate. They emphasized that the mission of the church had to do with the here and now, and not with the next world. Salvation to Walter Rauschenbusch, a leading social gospel advocate in denominationalism, ceased to be what we ordinarily mean by salvation' and became "the voluntary socializing of the soul." (See his A THEOLOGY FOR THE SOCIAL GOSPEL, p. 96).

This modernistic influence in denominationalism occurred at just the right time to affect the thinking of members of the church, according to Brother Banowsky. He attributes the current benevolent impetus in the church to the liberalizing influences of the social gospel movement.

Brother Banowsky says, "The benevolent battle among churches of Christ, then was very definitely, if indirectly, related to the social gospel war being waged in contemporary Protestantism." (p. 328). He further states that the "basic questions" debated in the church and by the social gospel advocates were the same. "Although not directly involved with the social gospel tensions in the mainstream of national thought, some of the basic questions of the larger debate were essentially the ones at stake in the Abilene tributary: What is the extent of the church's social responsibility? (pp. 330, 331).

One of the lectureship speakers, Glenn L. Wallace, charged that there were some social gospelers among the Churches of Christ. "There are two extremes that are held by members of the church on the relationship of the church to the community. One group says that the church, being a scriptural institution, belongs to God and that there can be no connection between the Christian and the world.... Another view held by some Christians, is that the church is a service organization; a vessel of community action; that Christians are members of a semi-religious order and that a Chamber of Commerce attitude should prevail in all that is done . . ." (pp. 331, 332).

But the imprint of the social gospel was very definitely present on the Abilene podium. "Other lecturers, while agreeing that the primary purpose of the church was spiritual in nature, maintained that a prudent social consciousness could serve to fulfill eternal ends. The speeches of these men made no reference to the classical writings of the social cause in America, and their remarks were characteristically more moderate than the proposals of that movement's leaders. It is interesting, however, to notice the social gospel overtones no matter how indirect" (p. 333  My EmphasisCW). "As the social gospel reached its peak, the Abilene platform was also beginning to show greater benevolent concern" (pp. 333, 334).

Once more, later in the chapter, Brother Banowsky relates the controversy over benevolence and other social programs in the Churches of Christ to the social gospel controversy raging in contemporary Protestantism. "It is also significant that the controversy concerning the benevolent mission of the churchso much a part of the social gospel turbulence in American's mainstream was also the most bitter brotherhood controversy to be aired at Abilene. The overtones of the social gospel movement endowed the more sequestered conflict with a flavor of national relevancy. There is ample evidence that the Lectureship was the brotherhood's most forceful and continuing voice urging a broader conception of the church's social responsibility" (pp. 341, 342).

If the Abilene Lectureship not only was the "Mirror of a Movement" but also was merely a reflection of sectarian social gospelism, is it any wonder that the "prudent social consciousness" of the brethren should begin to take on a "broader conception of the church's social responsibility?"

The Orphan Home Controversy

Right in the middle of this controversy that ensued from the social gospel emphasis was the orphan home controversy. Walter Rauschenbusch's A THEOLOGY FOR THE SOCIAL GOSPEL appeared in 1917. Under a sub-heading, "A First Home for Orphans," Brother Banowsky reports a speech by W. L. Swinney who called himself a "visionary in which was reported "the activities the first orphans' home which the church had established in Texas." There had, however, been one started shortly before in Tennessee. But these are the first orphans' homes, as we now know them, among the Churches of Christ. Both were the outgrowth of the social gospel emphasis in sectarianism.

The Appeal for Orphan Homes

The "visionary dreamer," W. L. Swinney, made his appeal to the practice of sectarians to stir up sympathy for his recently started orphan home (which later became known as the Tipton Orphan Home). He argued: "The Presbyterians have a home at Albany; the Methodists have one at Waco; the Baptists one in Dallas, and perhaps the largest one in the South; the Catholics have several in Texas alone.... But where is the home that we can point to as a great home and say, 'this is our home for children."' (p. 334). According to this "visionary dreamer," it would be a tragedy and a disgrace for the Lord's church to let the sectarians, who admitted they had begun preaching the social gospel, have something we did not have. He wanted the church to be like the religious nations around about it.

Orphan Home Turns Children Away

We sometimes today hear pitiful and reprimanding cries against the terrible "Antis" who would stop their ears to the need of an orphan child. Some of the liberals would have you believe that those of us who oppose the Lord's church becoming a mere financial subsidizer of human institutions would turn a child away from the door. I have never done so, nor do I know any brother who shares my conviction who ever has done so. Even as I write these lines I am working with one of these "unmerciful Antis" who is trying frantically to move two little deserted girls from another state into his home to share what he has with himself and the rest of his family.

But the orphan homes have turned children away in just the way the institutional advocates would have you believe we would do. The Potter Orphan Home at Bowling Green, Kentucky turned away such a child deserted on its front doorstep because it was too young. In substance, the Orphan Home said: "Now go your way. Make out the best you can for the next three years. And if you are still alive three years from now, come back and let us practice 'pure and undefiled religion' on you!"

Brother Swinney said that he had done the same sort of thing. He said: "Week after week, children come to our door and with weak and feeble hands knock for admittance, and I turn them away because 'there is no room,' and with tear-stained faces I see them go back into the night of cheerless world." (p. 334). Have you ever done such a heartless thing? Had Brother Swinney literally ever done such a thing? Or was he just making a tear-jerking speech to try to create sympathy for his institution he was trying to palm off on the churches, but that he could not find in his Bible? If he had literally done this, how on earth could he live with his conscience? But let's hear no more of those heartless "Antis" who would turn a child away, when the liberals admit they have done so. Who could send a weeping child away into the night simply because "there is no room?" I surely could not!

Objections to "A First Home for Orphans"

Some of the misinformed brethren of today would have you believe that opposition to institutional orphan homes arose only recently. If they are not misinformed, they are deliberate misinformers (a nicer word than "Liars"). We hear today: "We have always contributed to orphan homes and we never had any objection to it until about fifteen years ago." If you have said that, you do not know your history. If you have heard someone else say that, he did not know his history, or deliberately was trying to deceive you.

Brother Banowsky, in his book, purports to give an accurate history. And he could not cover, if he had been disposed to do so, the early and continuous objections to the church support of institutional orphan homes.

These objections to "A First Home for Orphans" came immediately upon the announcement of the formation of such an institutional appendage to the Lord's church. Banowsky admits: " . . . many of Swinney's contemporaries considered his proposal for a 'benevolent institution,' separate and apart from the church, yet established to fulfill the mission of the church, totally unaccepta61e. The Lectureship objection to such an arrangement appears to have been quite substantial during the 1920's" (p. 336 My EmphasisCW). Who can pretend to be informed and honest and now declare that objections to institutions separate and apart from the church (like Potter Orphan Home, Schults-Lewis Home, Childhaven, Tennessee Orphan Home, the newly formed Ohio MidWestern Children's Home) and other "Scores of homes for homeless children" (p. 340), only originated fifteen or so years ago? Brother Banowsky admits that the objection on the part of "many" was "quite substantial during the 1920's" when the "First Home for Orphans" were being established.

In fact, Brother Banowsky even delineates these early arguments against the institutional orphan homes. Incidentally, they are the same arguments we are yet using against them today, because they were good and valid arguments back then and are therefore good and valid arguments today. W. D. Black, a 1925 Abilene speaker, said of the church: "It is the only charitable institution known to the Bible." (p. 336).

Foy E. Wallace, Sr., in 1926 "opposed the establishment of an orphan's home" (p. 336) with the following argument: "The church also has a benevolent mission in the world.... No group in the church should create funds apart from the church and operate through an arrangement of their own in doing the work of the church. Our benevolences should be done through the church, giving glory to Christ." (p. 336). These are precisely our present arguments: Whatever benevolent work is assigned to the church must be done through the church.

Orphan Homes Parallel to the Missionary Society

Brother Banowsky said that G. F. Mickey, as early as 1927, charged that a church supported orphan home, under a board of directors (like Potter, Schults-Lewis, Midwestern, etc.), is parallel to doing evangelistic work through a missionary society. Banowsky reports: "In 1927, G. F. Mickey likened the establishment of an orphans' home to the organization of a missionary society. Speaking of the evangelistic and benevolent procedures of the church in his day, Mickey stated: 'In their service to others, these workers preach the gospel at home, and abroad, without organized missionary societies, and take care of the needy without establishing benevolent institutions."' (p. 336). Does this sound like "We have always done it through such institutions, and no one ever objected until about fifteen years ago?"

But that is what you hear some of our preaching, writing, and debating brethren saying now. Isn't it?

Banowsky says that brethren reacted differently to the missionary society issue than they did to the benevolent institution question. "Churches of Christ had solidly opposed the missionary society because they regarded the local congregation to be God's organism for evangelism. They contended, virtually without exception, that the Bible contained not only the command to preach the gospel to the entire world but the institutional pattern for meeting the command as well. The question of benevolent activity, however, evoked a different reaction." (p. 340). Banowsky correctly reports, " . . . the New Testament pattern made no provision for extra congregational organization . . ." (p. 58). Does not the New Testament contain "the institutional pattern" for benevolence as well as for evangelism? Is not the congregation as capable of doing the benevolent work God assigned it as it is of doing the evangelistic work God assigned it?

Speaking concerning those who opposed human institutions doing the church's work in benevolence as well as in evangelism, Banowsky says: "In a position at least mechanically consistent with the missionary stand, they vehemently opposed the establishment of any benevolent home. They contended the church was also designed to be its own benevolent society and that no institutional home could be scripturally founded and supported" (p. 341My Emphasis CW). If this argument is "mechanically consistent" with the argument against Missionary societies, what then is wrong with it? Really, there is nothing wrong with it, but Brother Banowsky thinks he can see a difference.

He says that some pretended to find "one crucial difference between the benevolent and evangelistic commands of the scriptures. Unlike the evangelistic mission, the silence of the scriptures regarding patterns or methods had left congregations free to exercise expediency and judgment in discharging the benevolent obligations facing the church." (p. 341). The Christian Church had maintained all along that there was no pattern in evangelism. Therefore they concluded that the church was free to build a human institution called a missionary society. But Brother Banowsky stated that there was an "institutional pattern" for evangelism (see p. 340), and that institutional pattern is the congregation. Similarly, there is an "institutional pattern" for benevolence, and that institutional pattern likewise is the congregation. The congregation is the only institution that God has put here to discharge the church's obligation in either evangelism or benevolence.

In Brother Banowsky's labored effort to show a difference between evangelism and benevolence in so far as the institution authorized to do it is concerned, he makes himself most vulnerable to the Christian Church's strongest argument. They have maintained all along "the silence of the scriptures regarding patterns or methods had left congregations free" to build human institutions to do the church's evangelistic work. Banowsky argues that "the silence of the scriptures regarding patterns or methods had left congregations free" to form benevolent institutions. Who can see a hair's difference in the argument of the Christian Church on this point and in the argument of the institutional brethren?

You will note that Banowsky says the orphan home advocates found authority for their institutions in "the silence of the scriptures . . . " (p. 341). It is especially significant that it was also in "the silence of the scriptures" that J. B. Briney in the 1908 Otey-Briney debate found authority for both the missionary society and mechanical instruments of music. Briney argued:

"I allege that where the Scriptures require this to be done, and are silent in regard to the method by which it is done, this silence authorizes these men . . . to meet in the name of the Master, and under the commandment to go, inaugurate such a work and carry it on; and whenever you have that, you have a missionary society" (OTEY-BRINEY DEBATE, p. 169).

Briney further argues: " . . . I find this thing (i. e. the missionary societyCW) authorized by the silence of the Scriptures . . ." (p. 174). The Methodists long have sought refuge for their sprinkling of babies in "the silence of the scriptures." Brother Banowsky and those with him put themselves in rather strange company when they argue that "the silence of the scriptures" authorizes anything. We long have propounded that "where the Bible speaks, we speak; and where the Bible is silent, we are silent."

Homes Must Be Under Elders

Brother Banowsky informs us that there have been some brethren through the years who have maintained that the benevolent work of the church must be under the oversight of the elders of the church. Among those who so contended, he quotes Guy N. Woods and Glenn L. Wallace.

Guy N. Woods now declares that an orphan home must be under a board of directors, and denies that he ever held any different position. But historian Banowsky begs to differ with Brother Woods, as does every other person who has read Woods' earlier statements. Banowsky states "Lectureship opposition to the right of the church to establish orphans' homes was beginning to subside by the 1930's." (p. 336).

I thought, from what the modern liberal debaters tell us, that there was no opposition to "subside" way back then? And that no opposition arose until fifteen years after "the

1930's." But those who so contend are just misinformed and have to array their unqualified testimony against that of historian Banowsky and actual documents themselves.

"Some speakers contended that a home for children or the aged could be scripturally established only as the project of a local congregation (My EmphasisCW), with the eldership of the congregation serving as the home's board of trustees. In 1939, Guy N. Woods warned of the 'tendency toward institutionalism.' His language seems to make clear his 1939 position . . ." (p. 337). In Banowskyrs quotation of Woods' 1939 position, he omits some things that Woods said in an apparent effort to lessen the pain for his friend Woods who hates to admit he has changed his position. We will italicize the omitted portions from Woods speech in order that you might see how Banowsky tries to soften the blow on Woods, even while he yet shows that Woods' 1939 position is different from his 1966 position. Now for Woods' lengthy quote:

" 1. THE TENDENCY TOWARD Institutionalism. The ship of Zion has floundered more than once on the sandbar of institutionalism. The tendency to organize is a characteristic of the age. On the theory that the end justifies the means, brethren have not scrupled to form organizations in the church to do the work the church itself was designed to do. All such organizations usurp the work of the church, and are unnecessary and sinful. The veteran John S. Sweeney well said, 'Christians do not need to spend time and means organizing and fostering such societies. The church of God is spiritual house enough for us to live in, temple enough for us to worship in, vineyard enough for us to work in, husbandry enough for us to tend, building enough for us to work on, army enough for us to march, drill and fight in. People who are contending, as they say, f or primitive Christianity, for New Testament Christianity, should stand for the church of the New Testament, and leave others to spend their time and money on human societies, if they cannot be persuaded to do better.' This writer has ever been unable to appreciate the logic of those who affect to see grave danger in Missionary Societies, but scruple not to form a similar organization for the purpose of caring for orphans and teaching young men to be gospel preachers. Of course it is right for the church to care for the 'fatherless and widows in their affliction,' but this work should be done by and through the church, with the elders having the oversight thereof, and not through boards and conclaves unknown to the New Testament. In this connection it is a pleasure to commend to the brotherhood Tiptons Orphan Home, Tipton, Oklahoma. The work there is entirely scriptural, aided by funds sent to them by the elders of other congregations round about. We here and now declare our protest against any other method or arrangement for accomplishing this work." (ACC LECTURES, 1939, quoted by Banowsky, p. 337).

Woods now declares that the homes must be under a board of directors "separate and apart from the church." (See p. 336). These homes, according to Guy N. Woods of 1966, must be under "boards and conclaves unknown to the New Testament." Of course, fellows like Guy N. Woods never change! But Banowsky says they do! Maybe instances like this are why some brethren used to write Guy N. Woods' name "Guy-inWoods."

Banowsky quotes others who agreed with Woods' 1939 position. "In his 1953 address, 'The Church and the Community,' Glenn L. Wallace appeared to agree with Wood's approval of the Tipton arrangement as contrasted with the organizational features of other homes." (p. 337). Wallace said:

"James teaches that orphan children should be cared for by Christians (Jas. 1:27). This work cannot be handed to benevolent organizations that have no connection with the elders of a local church. The church cannot have any organic connection with worldly institutions who claim to do what the church is commanded to do. Our relationship to such orders is clear." (p. 337).

Split Among Institutionalists

Woods' 1939 speech and Wallace's 1953 address represent the current position of the FIRM FOUNDATION and most brethren West of the Mississippi River. Few, if any, of the benevolent institutions West of the Mississippi River are under boards of directors (Cf. Tipton Home, Maude Carpenter Home, Lubbock Children's Home, etc.) On the other hand, nearly all of the institutions East of the Mississippi are under boards of directors (Potter, Schults-Lewis, Childhaven, Mid-Western, etc. are examples).

The GOSPEL ADVOCATE maintains that these homes must be under a board of directors separate and apart from the elders of the church, while the FIRM FOUNDATION is equally insistent that the orphans home and homes for the aged must not be under such institutional boards. It is obvious to any discerning person that the GOSPEL ADVOCATE and the FIRM FOUNDATION each disapprove about half of the homes in operation, if they would be candid enough to speak specifically about all of them. But try to get either of them to name the homes they disapprove, and you have attempted the impossible. If they stated their disapproval of any home, they would then be called an "Anti" or an "Orphan Hater" or some other less complimentary epithet.

Meanwhile, with this smoldering difference in the camp of the institutional defenders, they outwardly appear to get along just wonderfully, while each thinks the other advocates exclusively that which is sinful. Explain it if you can! Even while this condition exists, these brethren have the audacity to chide us with some minor disagreements they think they detect among those of us who oppose both board of director type homes, and sponsoring church type benevolence.


Brother Banowsky writes that by 1962 Churches of Christ "were steadily progressing toward more extensive programs of benevolent activity." (p. 340). "Scores of homes for homeless children had been founded . . . homes for widows and aged had been established across the brotherhood. Service centers and rescue missions (More sectarian terminologyCW) had been organized in several large metropolitan areas. In Lubbock, Texas, a home for tin-wed mothers had been established with a nation-wide scope of service to families of the church." (p. 340). " . . . Hope was also expressed that the church might one day provide more elaborate benefits such as medical and hospital services for the sick and needy." (p. 339).

In fact, by 1962 a movement was even already underway to start some Church of Christ hospitals, to go with all the other social-gospel-instigated programs. John Allen Hudson had argued on the 1935 Abilene Lecture program for hospitals:

"One would reason lamely who would argue it is alright to have orphans' homes, the widows' colony I mentioned, the clinical service, and the girls' home in Nashville, who then would object to the founding of a hospital that should be maintained on exactly the same basis as other fields of work not specifically mentioned as the exact program of the New Testament church. In other words, one would have the right to object to the maintaining of a college whose business it is to care for the minds and ideals of boys and girls, or to the founding of a hospital on exactly the same basis. The clinic is but a forerunner of an effort at hospitalization perhaps in the churches of Christ. I am looking for the day, even in my life, when the churches of Christ will have some hospitals scattered over the land here and there." (p. 340).

In the complete absence of any scriptural authority for a "Church of Christ Hospital," Brother Hudson could have cited the same authority that W. L. Swinney had used a few years before to get started "the first orphans' home which the church had established in Texas...." Hudson, like Swinney, could have argued: "The Presbyterians have one at Albany; the Methodists have one at Waco; the Baptists one at Dallas; the Catholics have several in Texas alone . . . But where is the hospital that we can point to as a great hospital and say 'this is our hospital for the sick and infirm?"

Brother Hudson, who died in 1962, just did not live long enough to see the emerging of "Church of Christ Hospitals" as the Churches of Christ have steadily progressed "toward more extensive programs of benevolent activity" as they followed the sectarian, modernistic, social gospel theory.

Today Churches of Christ are maintaining medical clinics in Japan and Tanganyika. A "clinic" (the early name for a hospital) is in the planning and early development stage in Nigeria. For several years rumors of one being planned for the Dallas-Fort Worth area have been heard. We even have a "Church of Christ Veterinarian" who is operating a "clinic" for the "Cows for Korea." Oh, but ours has been a steadily expanding social program!


But this article on "The Battle Over Benevolence" is already much too long. Your forbearance in reading this far is much appreciated. In an article to follow we want to study Banowsky's chapter, "Evangelism and the Cooperation Controversy."

Books like Banowsky's THE MIRROR OF A MOVEMENT and J. D. Thomas' WE BE BRETHREN admit too much for some of our less liberal brethren. Yet these less liberal brethren still want to hob-knob with these digressives and to fight the "Antis." Maybe the reading and reviewing of books like these might awaken some of the fence-straddling pseudo-conservatives who are yet "studying" the issues.

As someone has said, these brethren instead of "Standing on the promises" are "sitting on the premises." But these fence-straddlers are sound, and if you do not believe it, you just ask them! My brother, you are going to have to decide whether you are going to endorse or oppose such modernism as the social-gospel-oriented programs now being palmed off on the Churches of Christ by men like J. D. Thomas and William Banowsky, by institutions like Abilene Christian College and David Lipscomb College, and by papers like the GOSPEL ADVOCATE and the FIRM FOUNDATION, and by our own near-by BIBLE HERALD of Parkersburg, West Virginia and GOSPEL HERALD of Beamsville_ Ontario in Canada. Where will you stand?

(If you would like to purchase a copy of THE MIRROR OF A MOVEMENT that you might personally verify these digressive occurrences and damaging admissions, send your order to TRUTH MAGAZINE BOOK STORE, Box 7245, Akron, Ohio 44306. Price is $4.50. The reading of a few ultraliberal books like this might do more to awaken some than all the articles the rest of us may write.)

TRUTH MAGAZINE X: 4, pp. 2-8 January 1966