Bible Colleges and Orphan Homes

Cecil Willis
Akron, Ohio

In any controversy, there is always the danger of forgetting the main issue. In the present issues before the church, most of the brethren have completely forgotten where it all started. Within the last ten years the "institutional controversy" has completely changed battle fields. This I propose to show in this article.

Though there were severe strictures made against institutions years before 1938, the heart of the present controversy began then. The GOSPEL ADVOCATE and FIRM FOUNDATION had printed clear and well-written articles against churches contributing to human institutions in the early 30's. But in 1938, at the Abilene Christian College lectureship, Bro. G. C. Brewer made a statement to the effect that the church that did not have ACC in its budget had the wrong preacher. Many brethren yet live who say they heard him say it, and will so testify. In fact, I have the written testimony of several who were there.

Bro. W. W. Otey wrote Bro. Brewer, told him how he understood what he said, and stated he hoped he had misunderstood him. Bro. Brewer replied "As to my statement at the college, you did not misunderstand me, but left off a part of my statement that I think should have been included. I said I had argued for the practice of putting colleges and orphan homes in the congregational budget, and would be willing to argue it again if argument were necessary." This position touched off a brotherhood bomb. Here was one of the most prominent men in the brotherhood advocating churches contributing to colleges.

Immediately the issue was taken up. THE BIBLE BANNER, edited by Bro. Foy E. Wallace, Jr., assisted by Cled E. Wallace, James Adams, W. Curtis Porter and others, aided by the FIRM FOUNDATION edited by Bro. G. H. P. Showalter, began a fight to keep the college out of the budgets of congregations. These men never objected to schools operated as private business enterprises. For almost ten years the battle waged hot and heavy. Largely through the efforts of THE BIBLE BANNER brethren gradually were made to see the error of Brewer's efforts.

Of course, Bro. Brewer was not the only man who thought the church had a right to contribute to a college. Bro. B. C. Goodpasture, editor of the GOSPEL ADVOCATE felt the same way, though as usual, he was quite willing for someone else to do his fighting for him. N. B. Hardeman, Ira Douthitt, W. L. Totty and a few others advocated letting the churches contribute to the colleges. Yet ten years ago preachers were few and far between who would openly advocate a church giving to a college. Truth hammered Brewer's false position until it began to disintegrate. However, I am persuaded that there were many brethren who had no conscientious objection to churches contributing to these institutions, but merely refrained from advocating it because a majority of the brethren did not concur.

Prior to 1938 there had been very little said about church supported benevolent institutions, such as orphan homes, homes for the aged, etc. However, there had been some objections voiced in both the FIRM FOUNDATION and the GOSPEL ADVOCATE. But after the "institutional brethren" took such a thorough whipping on the college question, having lost that battle, they apparently thought it best to start a new one. It was at this point that the orphan home question became prominent. And the way it became prominent was by brethren who advocated putting colleges into church budgets maintaining that church supported colleges and church supported orphan homes were parallel.

G. C. Brewer wrote a booklet called "Congregations and Colleges." On the cover he asks "Is it Scriptural for Churches to Contribute to Such Institutions as Orphan Homes and Christian Colleges? The Author says, Yes! This Booklet Contains Letters Endorsing His Position." In his booklet Bro. Brewer admits that a college is a human institution, and that the orphan home is too. (He did not live to hear Guy N. Woods deny an orphan home is a human institution.) Brewer asks "Is an orphan home the church or is it a human institution? If it is a human institution, is it right for a human institution, to do the work of the church?"

Bro. Brewer asks the above question while fretting under a challenge to defend the right of the church to do its work through a human institution (college). So he asks another question. "Will THE BIBLE BANNER and its contributors and supporters tell us whether or not it is right for churches to contribute to orphan homes?" Others added their bit in an effort to parallel colleges and orphan homes. One says "My purpose in pressing the likeness of Bible colleges and orphan homes was to establish this one fact-- if one is a human institution, the other one is... But, if it is unscriptural to support one human organization from the treasury of the Church, it is unscriptural in all such cases." He continues, "I do believe they (i.e. colleges --CW) can be supported out of the treasury if an orphan home can." The same writer further says "I still maintain and I shall continue to argue that if Christian Colleges are human institutions, so are our Orphan Homes; but you and your associates see the human element in Christian Education, but you are completely blind, it seems, to the human element in Orphan Homes." These statements were all made in the '40's in connection with the church-supported-college controversy.

Strategically, the brethren defending church-supported-colleges made a good move. They were in a death thorough on the college question. They had taken a thorough beating, and they knew it. So since we have lost this battle let's start another one, they reasoned. The brethren who objected to church-supported-colleges knew that the orphan home question was next up for discussion. In fact, they had already begun discussing it several years earlier. But since there were but few orphan homes in the early 30's (perhaps three or four), and most of the brethren knew little about them, orphan homes did not become a major issue until in the 40's. Brethren were trying to prove church-supported-colleges to be scriptural because church-supported-benevolent institutions are. But another decade of controversy has seen them fail to prove church supported benevolent instiutions to be scriptural.

However, strategically, I said they made a good move. Why so? Because there is very little emotionalism connected with a college, worth several millions of dollars, with fine buildings, largely teaching secular subjects, spending thousands of dollars on athletic contests. Where there is no emotionalism to win your battle for you, you must have scripture to do so. But having none, they, for a while, virtually have deserted this battlefield to do battle on another one. The orphan home question, they have found, is much better suited to their purposes. It is loaded with emotionalism. They can picture (as A. G. Hobbs, E. R. Harper and others do) a poor, desolate, ragged, five year old boy, digging into a garbage can for some tiny morsel of food, on a cold winter night, and this will do wonders for their case! In fact, this will even persuade some people it is right for the church to give to a human institution, even if you cannot offer any scriptural proof.

But do not be misled into thinking that the battle is all done when the orphan home question is "settled." The college question will still be right where it was left. Several preachers (young and old) are lining up with the GOSPEL ADVOCATE, who have not thought about the GOSPEL ADVOCATE'S position on church-supported-colleges. These preachers might be oh-so-loyal on the orphan home question, but unless they line up on the college question, off goes another head. These brethren should be able to see by now that none is too old or too reputable to get the editorial hatchet if he refuses to line up with the GOSPEL ADVOCATE editor. Witness Roy H. Lanier and C. D. Plum, both of whom had been on the GOSPEL ADVOCATE staff for many, many years. They had to go, because they dared not to parrot the right line on the institutional question. Witness also Bro. Earl West who almost got the hatchet too. It was such a narrow escape! Good pasture refused to print some of his material, because it was not exactly GA color. You can purchase it (a tract--"Congregational Co-Operation") from the Gospel Guardian. But Bro. West saw the handwriting on the wall, and got right. Yet he and others yet have another confession to make. To get along with the ADVOCATE, Guy N. Woods, Earl West, and others who have opposed church-supported-colleges will have to confess they were wrong there too. --How soon the GOSPEL ADVOCATE will be ready to start this new "Confessional Column" we do not know. It is going to be interesting to observe whether Guy N. Woods can forget all he has said about church-supported-colleges and line up with B. C. Good pasture, or whether Good pasture will use Woods until he is through with him, and then give him the editorial hatchet because he remained "Sommerite" on the church-supported-college question. Hang around a few years! There is yet some excitement to witness! I do not know which way it will go, but it will be interesting to observe. Tom Warren, A. G. Hobbs, E. R. Harper, etc., are in for the same treatment. Right now they smile at one another, brag on each other, and say "We are agreed!" But wait until the orphan home question is pretty well "fought out," and until the GA and her leaders are ready to re-enter the church supported-college battlefield, and watch the fur fly, unless men like West, Woods, Warren, Hobbs, and Harper, sit on their conscience. If they do not, they will have to be exposed as "Sommerites," "Antis," "Hobbyists," "Church splitters," by the GA. And She will go on her liberal way.

The church-supported-college question was quieted by a little duplicity and a shift of the issue. The colleges (most of them) announced to the brethren that they did not solicit money from churches. They did not say we do not or will not accept money from churches. It is not a matter of conviction with them; it is a matter of policy. So long as most brethren object to church-supported colleges, it is to the colleges' advantage to pacify the brethren and advocate "no solicitation of churches." But brethren, I and others, have been fooled by such duplicity. The colleges (most of them) stand right where they long had stood--perfectly ready to accept "church money" whenever brotherhood sentiment will permit them to do so. To prove this to be so, I quote from Bro. George S. Benson, President of Harding College, Searcy, Arkansas. Bro. Benson says, "Yes, I believe it is scriptural for a congregation of the church of Christ to take money from the regular Lord's Day treasury and send it to a Christian College to assist in the work such college is doing." His was a policy change; not a conviction change, as his statements have led some to believe.

In the midst of our present conflict, I think it would be well for us to remember with what this battle began. The orphan home issue was simply a side issue to the church-supported-college issue. Let us not let the GOSPEL ADVOCATE and her leading writers forget it. They are trying to prove it to be right for churches to support institutional orphans' homes in order to prove it to be right for churches to support colleges. And do not forget, that when the orphan home issue quiets down a little, or when the GA feels confident it has established it's point, that the same old church-supported college question will be staring us in the face, to be fought again. Next time we fight church-supported-colleges we may not be so successful in stopping this unscriptural and dangerous trend. At least this is the hope of the strategists of those who advocate such, in bringing up the orphan home question.

(NOTE: This article was first printed in the GOSPEL GUARDIAN nearly five years ago. It is so nearly like the one that I stated my intention last month to write that I decided to reprint it. The viewing of current issues from this historical perspective might he beneficial to some TRUTH MAGAZINE readers.)

Truth Magazine VII: 11, pp. 2-4
August 1963