EDITORIAL -- The "Herald of Truth" Missionary Society

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

Since its beginning in 1952 many brethren have sought to show that the Herald of Truth was just a missionary society wearing a new dress. The yearly budget of the Herald of Truth, a brotherhood operation overseen by the Highland Avenue elders in Abilene, Texas, now exceeds $2,000,000. During the first 50 years of its existence, the missionary society received and disbursed a total of only $860,500 (Benjamin L. Smith, writing in The Reformation of the Nineteenth Century, edited by J. H. Garrison, p. 347).

When we challenge the centralization of funds and control as exemplied by the Herald of Truth, the defenders of sponsoring-churchism respond, "But look how much good it has done. It has already resulted in the baptism of 25,000." I affirm that the Herald of Truth has damaged the Cause of Christ ten times as much as all the "good" it is claimed to have done. However, this "look how much good it has done" argument is but another way of saying, "The end justifies the means."

Now if that be a valid argument, we need to cease our opposition to the missionary society. Smith, in the work cited above, said: "So far as can be discovered, the whole number of baptisms reported by the A.C.M. S. and State Societies is 283,805.... It is safe to say that nearly one-half of our present churches have been organized by the Missionary Societies." It does appear that if 25,000 baptisms would make the sponsoring church system scriptural (though no scripture has been or can be cited for it), then 283,000 baptisms ought also to suffice for scriptural authority for the missionary society.

But both the missionary society and the sponsoring church have ripped asunder the Body of Christ because neither is scriptural, and both depend upon pragmatism and sophistry for their defense. The Herald of Truth devotees have responded, "But the missionary society coerced churches to give and exercised ecclesiastical control over the contributing churches, and the Herald of Truth does neither."

However, the missionary society also denied it pressured churches or exercised any kind of control over the contributing churches. Smith said, "The fears of ecclesiasticism which were entertained at the first have vanished. The missionary organizations have steadfastly adhered to their own business. . . In no case have they sought to have dominion over the faith or discipline of the churches...." (p. 349).

Both the society advocates and the sponsoring church defenders cry "Not Guilty." And I would just as soon believe one as the other. Not only are the missionary society and the sponsoring churches parallel in the arguments their friends use to justify them, but they are likewise parallel in affirming their innocence, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

August 26, 1971