"Understandest thou what thou readest?" (Acts 8:30) -- What Saith the Scripture?
James W. Adams
What is your view of the "Preacher's Workshop" which was conducted at Abilene Christian College last January and which will be repeated in January 1972?
This question has been asked many times by many people since last January; hence I feel that an answer to it is justified. Too, some things have been written about it which does not fairly represent the matter.
Most of us are aware of the intense interest currently manifested in the religious world, Roman Catholic, Protestant, and otherwise, with reference to the subject of it unity." The gross materialism, militant skepticism, and permissive liberality of our time threaten the very existence of all of the bodies of "Christendom." This grave threat has underlined the tragedy of religious division and the challenging need for unity of professed believers in Christ.
As a result of this situation, the "ecumenical movement" has been conceived and nurtured among many. Too, there have arisen numerous rapprochements to unity among religious bodies more or less closely related to one another historically and doctrinally. With these movements, there has come a renewed interest in religious dialogue and debate in a climate of objective study as contrasted with partisan confrontation of days gone by. Let it he acknowledged that many of these movements have been projected on the bases of wrong principles, hence are of highly questionable value both pragmatically and doctrinally. Others are possessed of varying degrees of merit and prospects for success.
The Abilene Workshop
In January of 1971, during the college break between semesters, Abilene Christian College made its facilities available for a gathering of preachers from all over the United States for what they chose to call a "Preacher's Workshop." The college dormitories and cafeteria provided housing and food for a very nominal charge to some six or seven hundred preachers. The College Church whose building is adjacent to the campus of the college provided -their auditorium as the meeting and discussion arena for the program of studies. Three days of intensive study of highly controversial issues was engaged in by those present.
Preachers representative of practically every group of people with any sort of historical connection with the so-called "Restoration Movement" were present. They ranged in points of view all the way from the Non-Bible-Class Brethren to preachers of the conservative Christian Churches. Each person came as an individual representing none but himself with any delegated responsibility or authority from any person, group, or institution with which he might otherwise be connected.
The Part Abilene Christian College Played in the Matter
Some have written articles (a very small number) in which the college has been unfairly criticized with reference to this affair. It has been insinuated, if not openly said, that the college gave its endorsement to certain points of view expressed by certain speakers present simply because it provided the opportunity for these men to be beard. Any article or private statement by anyone to this effect is completely incorrect. The college did not identify itself in any sense with any point of view represented by the men who spoke on this program. It is true that several who spoke were from the faculty of the college, but they presented a variety of views and at no time represented that which they said as constituting the "official" view of the college as such. They spoke as did all others their personal convictions without regard to their official or even semi-official connection with Abilene Christian College.
I, personally, wish to commend Abilene Christian College for providing the opportunity and the facilities for the meeting. The meeting provided the opportunity for a free and open discussion of the matters which divide us on the part of those (the preachers) who do about ninety per cent of the public teaching of the word of God among professed churches of Christ. To me, this is a healthy manifestation of intellectual honesty and sincere concern as opposed to sectarian bias and partisan bigotry.
Harry Pickup Jr. and I were invited to deliver two of the major presentations. Brother Pickup spoke on "The Social Responsibilities of the Church" and I on "Human Organizations." On these subjects, most of the people connected with Abilene Christian College differ radically from us. Despite this fact, we were treated with absolute fairness and impeccable courtesy. During my three days' stay on the campus, I received as kind and considerate treatment as I have ever received anywhere, at any time, or place. I do not recall an unkind thing that was said to me, or done.
In delivering my material, I was granted perfect liberty. No unfair advantage was taken, nor was I at any time asked to compromise any conviction. The only qualifying condition imposed was that we behave as Christians and gentlemen and refrain from making personal attacks upon any. It was desired by those planning the affair that it be a completely objective study of the issues discussed from a scriptural point of view.
The 1972 Workshop
Another "workshop" will be conducted in January 1972 along the same line. It is my understanding that Brethren Edwin Harrell and Eugene (Gene) Frost from among conservatives will speak on "The Social Gospel" and "Marriage" respectively. Conservative brethren should attend. We had about thirty there last year. There should be a hundred this year. Let us demonstrate our willingness to meet and study. The effects could well be extremely important. At least, this is one man's conviction (mine).
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 5, pp. 5-6