The "Christian Chronicle" Letter

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

On another page in published a letter this issue you will find from Brother Harold Straughn, Editor of the CHRISTIAN CHRONICLE, a weekly religious newspaper published by our brethren in Austin, Texas. Brother Straughn requested that we publish his letter.

It originally had been my intention to publish his letter without comment. But some events that have transpired since the letter came have changed my mind, and make me feel that these comments are now both in order and are needed. Brother Straughn admits, "We have established a boycott, unintentional but nonetheless effective, of all news among churches whose convictions on these issues differ from ours." This statement did not reveal any "news" to most of us. We knew there had been a "boycott" in effect; even"quarantine" employed, over what these brethren are pleased to call "expediencies." Even if these unscriptural actions were expediencies (which they can never be so long as they are unauthorized items), these brethren have been in error in creating a "boycott" of their brethren over an "expediency."

Frankly, it is quite difficult for me to believe that this "boycott" has been "unintentional." In fact, I do not see how any boycott could be "unintentional." These brethren have not inadvertently overlooked us. They have deliberately ignored us. How could one unintentionally omit from the paper he edits all news items from brethren with whom he differs?

Brother Straughn states that this "boycott" of sound churches in their news reporting "has led to the inference on the part of many CHRONICLE readers, I am afraid, that no evangelistic or benevolent work of any kind is going on among such congregations." It is a fact that we have been seriously misrepresented and maligned. Actually, some studied efforts have been made to leave the impression that we are a bunch of "do-nothing" brethren.

I am glad to note that Brother Straughn and his associates now recognize that they have not been reporting all the news, and are determined to rectify the matter. Their stated intention now to do differently would be an occasion of rejoicing and about it I would say nothing more, except that this action on their part might be optimistically misrepresented, in view of certain recent happenings. So a few more observations on this point are in order.

It is not my judgment that the CHRISTIAN CHRONICLE is changing directions except that they are becoming progressively more liberal! They certainly are not reversing their field and be-inning to return toward the truth on the institutional question. They continue to promote every kind of digression that brethren can invent. I make these observations lest anyone think because I have published this letter from Brother Straughn that I think the CHRISTIAN CHRONICLE is on the way to reformation. On the contrary, I think they are trying to make the paper a successful and profitable business venture. In order to do this, they need the news and the patronage of every person they can get. This they apparently are seeking by this latest overture.

The letter from Brother Straughn is published in TRUTH MAGAZINE so that any brother who wants to send in a news item will know that it will no longer find its way into "file 13." I am not even recommending that you send news reports to the CHRONICLE, or to any other paper. You can decide whether to do so or not to do so yourself. I simply felt we should inform you of this letter from Brother Straughn.

Personally I do not care to have my news reports to appear in the CHRONICLE. That paper stands for so much that I oppose that I am not interested in having my name to appear in it, or in promoting it in any way. I wish I sincerely could believe that a chancre for the better is underway. But I have no such illusion. These brethren instead are getting progressively more liberal. The CHRONICLE has gathered about it nearly every young modernist (if he has a Ph.D.) in the brotherhood. The new commentary that the CHRONICLE is promoting is being written by several who are modernistic "young princes" (as Leroy Garrett calls them).

On February 23, 1968 the CHRONICLE carried a leading story that was headlined, "Following 'Breakthrough' Meeting Cooperation Controversy May End." The so-called "Breakthrough" meeting referred to was a meeting of 27 brethren, from both sides of the institutional controversy, which was held in Arlington, Texas the week of January 29th, 1968. But in order for the cooperation controversy to end, either the liberals have to cease promoting what we verily believe to be innovations, or we have to cease to oppose them. I see no evidence that they have indicated they will cease to promote such, and I see no reason why we should cease to oppose what we sincerely believe to be unscriptural and digressive. It appears to me that Brother Straughn has "stars in his eyes" about this meeting, like a few brethren who are among us also have. Brother Straughn is wishfully thinking that we are ready to capitulate.

Unity among brethren is not impossible. But it is impossible when the price for it is the sacrifice of our convictions. Unless these objectionable items are no longer to be promoted and put into the church budget (and I have seen no evidence that this is about to happen), the only way we could have peace on the "Cooperation Controversy" would be for us to capitulate, for us to shut up and let them do whatever they want to do, whether it is scriptural or not. For us to do so would necessitate the abandoning of our convictions.

The CHRISTIAN CHRONICLE was guilty of what I would call irresponsibly naive reporting when it appraised the meeting held in Arlington, Texas recently. The CHRONICLE reported, "Half the men representing the so-called 'anti -cooperation' side testified that at least some method of benevolent activity could be carried on by a congregation." I do not know of one single brother whom the CHRONICLE would call "anti-cooperation" who does not believe that at least some method of benevolent activity could be carried on by a congregation." I doubt that Brother Straughn could name even one "anti-cooperation" brother anywhere who does not believe that "at least some method of benevolent activity could be carried on by a congregation." Yet he implied that half of the brethren present (lid not believe the congregation could employ any method to do benevolent work. Our whole contention in benevolence has been that the congregation should do whatever benevolent work God has assigned it to do.

Our position was again misrepresented when Brother Straughn said, "The division, roughly stated, separated those who opposed benevolence except by individuals from those who held that congregations also have this responsibility." If this report is typical of the proposed new brand of CHRISTIAN CHRONICLE reporting, I know I do not want one of their reporters to get hold of a news item from me. There is no telling what he would make of it.

One just wonders where Brother Straughn has been the last twenty years. He must have so effectively applied his "boycott" that not only were we shut out of the CHRONICLE, he must not even have read what we have said. The division in the brotherhood today very definitely is not between "those who opposed benevolence except by individuals" and "those who held that congregations also have this responsibility." I have not run into one single individual among the "anti-cooperation" brethren who "opposed benevolence except by individuals." Yet this is how we are caricatured in this recent CHRISTIAN CHRONICLE article.

It is true that there has been some discussion about to whom the congregation has benevolent responsibility. It is true that we are opposed to any work of the church being done through a human institution. But our opposition is not, and never has been, to benevolent work being done by the church. In fact, that is precisely what we contend should be done. Paul in I Tim. 5:16 taught emphatically that the church should "relieve" those for whom it is responsible. We both teach and practice that.

Thus I charge that the CHRISTIAN CHRONICLE has been irresponsibly naive in attempting to report what we believe. If they truly want to eliminate the "boycott" which they say they have effectively imposed, why don't they let some of us state what we believe through the pages of the CHRISTIAN CHRONICLE? Brother Straughn certainly has not stated it. Such a clear statement probably would do much to help to eliminate the misunderstandings that exist between us today.

I think it very likely is true that our problem in the church today has been compounded by a lack of communication. In some instances, all we know respectively about each other is what our enemies are saying about us. It appears rather obvious that Brother Straughn does not have the slightest inkling of what the basic issues are in the anti-cooperation controversy." If he does have, his erroneous statement of what the differences are becomes all the more irresponsible. His statement then becomes a deliberate misrepresentation - and that is worse than a "boycott."

But I appreciate the fact that the CHRONICLE is now willing to read what we say. I have been reading every paper of any consequence put out by the liberals nearly as long as I have been preaching - at least as long as I could Afford the subscription price. Apparently many of the liberal brethren have read nothing that we have published, for they seem to have gotten no concept of what the basic issues of the controversy are.

We are having a clash in the church today. There is no question about that. Some are promoting schemes and projects that others are opposing. I happen to be among those opposed to sponsoring church arrangements and to church work being done through human institutions. The "Cooperation Controversy May End" when either the institutional promoters cease to promote, or when those of us who are conscientiously opposed cease to oppose. I see no evidence right now that either is about to happen. These brethren maintain that their promotions are simply expediencies that are not mandatory. It appears to me that they could forego the promotion of these non-essentials that peace might be attained, if they are as interested in peace as they profess to be. But I cannot cease to oppose what I sincerely believe to be a violation of New Testament teaching. To do otherwise would be to violate my conscience, which I trust that even these brethren would not advise or ask me to do.

May 1968