The front page of the September 21 issue of the Nashville Tennessean shocked many Christians in Nashville. The headline reads: "OTTER CREEK MINISTER QUITS IN 7 'TONGUES' DISPUTE." The article reported: "The minister of Otter Creek Church of Christ, in a difference with some members of the congregation over the 'gift of tongues' has resigned his pulpit .... In a letter addressed to the church's elders and released to the membership, McRay objected to participation by some church members in private religious services that included speaking in tongues." Many have been aware that such as this has existed in Nashville for several months now; this, however, is the first documented evidence of such. There are several observations about this story that merit notice.
(1) In describing the nature of these services, it is said: "The 'gift of tongues' --glossalia -- is ecstatic speech, usually unintelligible to hearers." It is ironic that these people, in trying to imitate the N. T. miracle of tongue-speaking, have gone far afield and missed it entirely. Such unintelligible babbling was unknown to the apostles! The miracle of "unknown tongues" referred to the speaking of a legitimate foreign language by an unlearned person. Furthermore, if this legitimate language could not be interpreted so as to be understood, even it was banned from the assembly (I Cor. 14:6-13, 27-28). Paul said, "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints" (I Cor. 14:33). Paul affirms that if these misdirected men and women do possess a miraculous gift, they certainly did not receive it from God.
(2) In describing the content of these private services, it is said: "During the meetings . . . there has been study of the Bible, debate on theological issues, study of the gifts of the spirit, and, occasionally, participation in the Lord's Supper." What authority do these people have for observing the Lord's Supper in a "private religious service?" This part of our worship should be observed only in the assembly (Acts 20: 7). Furthermore, is the Lord's Supper being observed on a day other than Sunday? Although the article does not definitely state such, the inference is certainly there. Moreover, why is observance of the Lord's Supper on an "occasional" basis? The apostles ate of the Lord's Supper regularly. I find myself wondering what determines when these people shall observe the Lord's Supper; this one thing I know: it is surely not the Bible!
(3) "Dr. John Robert McRay . . . said his resignation would become effective immediately." I do not understand why brother McRay desires to resign. This same preacher delivered a lesson on May 12, 1968 entitled "The Need for Unity." Some may recall that brother Foy Wallace reviewed this very sermon at the Donelson Church of Christ and was dismissed for doing so. In that lesson, John McRay was full of uncertain sounds. For example, he considered some who use mechanical music in worship as brethren. He says of one such individual: "Here was a brother in Christ.... I feel a strong kinship with these people. I feel, though I do not see eye to eye with them on every issue, they being immersed believers in Christ as the three thousand on Pentecost were, are my brethren." In speaking of unity with such people, he said, "If we are going to pattern ourselves after the first century, it is my feeling that we are going to have to allow diversity within unity .... It seems to me that if we ever hope to achieve the kind of unity we have preached across the years, we are obligated to come with some willingness to make concessions ourselves; not simply to find people who are willing to give up all their opinions and accept ours." If brother McRay really believes this, why does he wish to "break ties with Otter Creek? Do they not wear the name "Church of Christ"? Are they
not "immersed believers in Christ"? Then why doesn't he make a few "concessions" and stay with them? It seems to me that brother McRay, in 1969, is finally realizing the folly of his 1968 reasoning. Crow must taste mighty good!
(4) "The elders.., declined to take steps to end the private religious meetings .... The elders felt it would be improper for them to interfere...." These elders, like some others, are grossly ignorant of their responsibilities to the church. Paul, in speaking along this very line, said that elders should "be able by sound doctrine, both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers" (Tit. 1:9). When did it become "improper" to do this? This situation could easily be corrected if the elders had the courage to rebuke and put to shame the false teachers in their number.
(5) "Meetings had been held in the home of Dr. Ogle Hall, 3700 Benham Ave., a son of
Dr. Fred Hall, an elderBoth Dr. Fred Hall and his son declined comment, explaining it was their desire to avoid controversy and disunity in the church." This is a prime example of the shoddy reasoning used by many brethren to excuse their unwillingness to discuss differences. Evidently these two men, and the many other digressive brethren, do not realize that they have already torn the church apart with their divisive traditions. Many do not understand the true nature of New Testament unity. A church is not necessarily unified just because its members smile at each other and converse when entering the building. Paul defines true unity in Phil. 2: 2: "Fulfil ye my joy, that ye likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." Unity means like-mindedness on Bible essentials! Elaborating upon this, Paul said, "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; and that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (I Cot. 1:10). When believers in God no longer "speak the same thing," unity does not exist. Therefore, these digressive brethren need to quit their pompous piety and realize that they divided the church long ago when they brought in their innovations.
This is not being written to ridicule those in error. It is hoped, however, that these radical deviations from God's word will show some of our brethren the end result of their digression. May God use us all to check error wherever it is found!
TRUTH MAGAZINE XIV: 7, pp. 10-11
December 18, 1969