By Cecil Willis
Perhaps an apology ought to be extended to some of our readers for having so much to say about the liberal-conservative fight in the Philippines in this paper. However, many of our readers have great interest in the work there, and will be glad to receive all the information available regarding the work there. About seventy preachers are now being supported by faithful churches in the Philippines, according to my limited information.
Much of the January-February, 1972 issue of the Philippine Christian was devoted to criticisms of faithful Filipino preachers, and to charges made against some of us who have been there. The copy of the paper which I received came on April 4, 1972. 1 would have written regarding some things in the paper sooner, except that I loaned my copy to another brother and he mislaid it. Too, I must confess that the press of other duties also has hindered my reply for some time. In this article, I do not pretend to reply to everything which was said in the above mentioned issue. About fifteen pages out of the sixteen pages in that issue were devoted to a discussion of the issues, and personalities.
Twenty-five hundred copies of this paper were mailed. Many faithful churches in this country received copies. For some strange reason, though the paper is sponsored by the Inglewood, California church, many of the copies were mailed from Abilene, Texas. Apparently some effort was made to propagandize among faithful churches in this country, and to create distrust on the part of faithful churches regarding some of the men being supported there.
Holding of Property
There are some problems in the Philippines regarding holding title to property by a local congregation. It is possible that faithful brethren there have made more out of this problem than needed to be made of it. One of the reasons why Brother Cogdill and I made the trip to the Philippines in May, 1970 was to try to help conservative brethren figure out some scriptural way to own property and at the same time, comply with Philippine law.
The liberal brethren imply in their paper that there is no problem at all for a local church to hold title to property. Now the liberal brethren might have figured out some way to circumvent the problems connected with holding property, but if so, they seem unwilling to divulge the information. On May 11, 1971 1 wrote Bob Buchanan, my schoolmate at Florida College but who was then connected with Philippine Bible College at Baguio City, as follows: “. . . you seem to have the information on what has to be done in order to own property by a church there. So, I would appreciate it if you would just give me the straight information on it. I think it might entail something about like California State law necessitates, or that property could be held in trust with a suitable trust agreement between the congregation and its trustees. But if you have complete information, I would appreciate receiving it. I also think that some of the brethren thought that it was an impossible hurdle to get over, but perhaps they made too much of the problem.”
However, Brother Buchanan never offered to tell me what the solution was as to how title to property could be held in the Philippines. The very first thing Brother Cogdill and I did when we arrived in the Philippines (on our very first day there) was to bold a conference of several hours duration with a lawyer from the Security Exchange Commission, which commission has jurisdiction over such matters. After much discussion, this lawyer could not tell us immediately how to handle the problem.
In some of the places where we traveled, there were churches which had property on which to build a meeting house, but who had been delayed in doing so by the fact that they did not know how to get the property legally registered with the Securities Exchange Commission.
I had been told in 1969, “. . . the national government limits the registration of religious organizations to one single registration for all congregations of similar persuasion. Furthermore, there are in the Securities and Exchange commission listed quite a number of religious bodies called Churches of Christ and distinguished only by appellation. The liberal churches of Christ are registered as Church of Christ (17). The churches sponsored by the premillennialists are Church of Christ (Worldwide).” This information was conveyed to me by Brother Victorio Tibayan.
After a conversation with Attorney Numeriano A. Averilla, section chief of the Securities Exchange Commission, Brother Tibayan registered an organization which was named “Church of Christ (New Testament) In the Philippines, Inc.” Brother Tibayan reported that Attorney Averilla told him that by registering this corporation with the Securities Exchange Commission, “each local church may be able to acquire legal status in each community through the use of the approved papers, and can be known as Church of Christ distinguishable from the others (religious groups) by adding in the tide the name of the town or community.”
The Corporation Formed
In the January-February, 1972 issue of Philippine Christian, the liberals make extensive quotations from the charter of an organization formed by Brother Tibayan and registered with the Securities Exchange Commission. As soon as I heard of the formation of such an organization, I wrote Brother Tibayan about it. In a letter to me dated March 26, 1969, Brother Tibayan wrote me in reply: “And now concerning the Incorporation papers. As I have informed you, the first documents were filed with the S. E. C. even while we were just beginning to study the subject of congregational autonomy. Having met brother Wallace H. Little, and having been able to secure debate books, tracts and other reading materials on the subject, we were able to investigate further in the light of these helps; and our fears concerning Institutionalism and other practices that make void church independence were confirmed. Meanwhile, I have already caused the approval of said paper with our Government. . . .”
I think this organization was first formed in 1966. Brother Tibayan then sought to change the nature of the organization, and to make it simply an independent organization intended to provide legal advice to any church which requested information. In the above quoted March 26, 1969 letter, he told of his effort in that direction. Then he added: “As of now, I have advised the brethren not to make use of the approved papers because of the question of scripturalness.”
The liberals try to make it appear that all of us, including Tibayan, Agduma, other faithful preachers in the Philippines, and even us American preachers who have been there approve of such an organization. Brother Agduma, more than once, has repudiated the organization. As early as 1969 Brother Tibayan said, “I have advised the brethren not to make use of the approved papers because of the question of scripturalness,” yet the liberals still try to leave the impression that we endorse such an organization.
My Position on the Organization
Late in 1968 Brother Tibayan sent me the Articles of Incorporation of this organization, and asked my opinion regarding it. Keep in mind that Brother Tibayan had been gradually studying his way out of one error after another. He was first in the Christian Church. Then he was f or a while associated with the premillennial churches. Then he left premillennialism and worked with the liberal churches. On August 2, 1968, Brother Tibayan wrote me: “Brother Willis, you do me great honor in proposing to correspond with me. After reading this debate you had with Brother Inman, I was amazed with the way you carried the discussion. I can with candor say that you know more of his side than he about yours. Yours with Inman was the second debate I have read. The other was the Woods-Cogdill Debate. In these two, my faith concerning the present issues is confirmed.” I had asked a question concerning how many churches he knew about that were opposing the sponsoring church concept in the Philippines. He replied, “Concerning the churches here in connection with the present controversies, I know of only 6 congregations here in Luzon whom I can readily point to as really striving to follow after the Bible pattern as close as possible. . . . These do not include those that are in Mindanao…. Recently I have heard . . . that there are in Mindanao about 10 preachers who are also vehemently opposed to the principles of Liberalism. I hope to be in contact with them later. “
In a letter dated September 10, 1968, Brother Tibayan sent me for the first time a copy of the incorporation papers under question. He said: “Another enclosure is a copy of the Constitution and By-Laws I made and presented to the brethren. This had been duly approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission … this was made during the state of my formative thinking concerning Institutionalism. Furthermore, I was quite in a hurry (3 days) to finish the document in view of the property question which had arisen in Olongapo But I am submitting this to you for your comments (at your convenience) which I will surely consider for guidance in the changes that I plan to make and to discuss with the brethren.”
I cite these quotations in order to show that Brother Tibayan admitted then that he was just making his way out of the maze of liberalism. Incidentally, attention might also be called to the number of faithful preachers and churches then reported in the Philippines, and compare that with present conditions. The liberals would like to have brethren believe that those abominable “antis” are making no progress there. Through the efforts of men like Agduma and Tibayan, there are about two hundred churches and well over 120 preachers who now stand opposed to the liberal position.
However, I was going to show that I opposed the organization formed by Brother Tibayan from the first. The liberals act like we have not yet repudiated that organization formed several years ago by Brother Tibayan. In a letter to Tibayan dated December 31, 1968, 1 said: “You asked my opinion about the By-Laws drawn up for the Church of Christ (New Testament) in the Philippines, Inc. I do not know what prompted the formation of this body, but I think it should cease to exist, if I understand it correctly. There are local churches in the Philippines, but there is no body known as the Church of Christ (New Testament) in the Philippines, Inc. You mention in Article IV that Local church membership in this corporation is voluntary . . . and in Article IV, See. 2, you speak of member church or churches. . . . Thus I conclude that the organization is a federation of congregations. This sounds like a denominational convention to me. I think you probably sought to defend the autonomy of each congregation, but in so doing, in my opinion, you formed an unauthorized body.
“Furthermore, you could be charged with formulating a creed in your statements in the By-Laws. The organization which you have formed is larger than a local church (in that it consists of member churches) and is smaller than the church universal. But we can only read in the Bible about local churches and the church universal. Hence, I conclude that the body formed is an unauthorized body, and should cease to exist. “
It was at this point, chronologically, that Brother Tibayan sought to change the nature of the organization he had formed. Thus in his March 26, 1969, letter he made the above quoted comment: “And now concerning the Incorporation paper. As I have informed you, the first documents were filed with the S. E. C. even while we were just beginning to study the subject about congregational autonomy . . . Meanwhile, I have already caused the approval of said papers with our Government. I therefore sought to make some changes in the whole document with the intent that anything unscriptural be done away with, seeking at the same time to save it. This is why I sought your advice.”
Brother Tibayan proceeded to explain the changes that had been made in the organization. “The modified version is with you and you can see that I have tried to show at length that this body is a separate and distinct entity from any of the local church. We are not trying to activate the Church Universal, and if anything in it does, it should be deleted. And in the light of your comment, this can be made non-functional whether in spiritual or temporal matters. Our only desire is that after its registration with the Government it may be able to lend juridical personality to any local church which may make use of the fact of its being registered. Each local congregation, then, through its own accord, may seek recognition for juridical personality in their own local places that they may be able to establish ownership of properties, get permits for local meetings, apply for their ministers authorization to solemnize marriages, etc. By using the approved papers of this Corporation, each local church may apply for recognition in their own community as Pasay Church of Christ, etc., and this corporation as far as functional activities (spiritual or temporal) are concerned, ceases to exist … As of now, I have advised the brethren not to make use of the approved papers because of the question of scripturalness. If nothing can be done to make these documents scriptural, then I shall withdraw them personally from the S. E.
Having received a copy of the proposed modified organization, I wrote Brother Tibayan on February 27, 1969, and prior to the above quoted letter as follows:
“Your letter of February 4th, including the modified Articles of Incorporation were just received. I do not understand your national laws, and thus do not understand what precipitated the formation of the Church of Christ (New Testament) in the Philippines, Inc. Explain to me why you think you need such an organization.
“We, in this country, have tried to show again and again that the largest functional unit in the Bible is a congregation; the smallest functional unit in the Bible is a congregation; the only functional unit in the New Testament is a congregation. God did not devise any way that local congregations can be tied together. There is no officer in the Bible who is appointed to oversee anything other than a congregation.
“Our objection to Christian Church universal-church organizations (such as the United Christian Missionary Society, or the North American Convention of Christian Churches) has been precisely on the basis of their seeking to activate through a single agency the church universal. Our recent controversy in this country, involving sponsoring churches and the Herald of Truth, has been over the fact that a multitude of churches are tied together and are attempting to function through one central agency.
“In your organization, you are not speaking of a single church of Christ. You are forming an organization for the churches of Christ in the Philippines. This, in my judgment, is clearly unscriptural. It may be that you are trying to improvise some way to circumvent some local law that is cumbersome, but the organization you have formed is not the solution. I do not see how you would differentiate between the organization you have formed and the missionary society except that you say you will function in physical rather than spiritual matters. You refer to member churches of the Church of Christ (New Testament) in the Philippines, Inc.
“In the last document you sent, some improvement is made. It sounds to me that what you propose, from your last document, is a legal aid organization which operates on a non-profit basis, and which offers services to churches. I would not object to such a non-profit organization which offers its legal services to churches, with or without charge. The objectionable thing then would be its name. If it is to be a private organization, and not organically tied to the churches, why use the name Church of Christ (New Testament) in the Philippines, Inc.? If it is a private organization, why connect the church with it at all? If it is a church-organization connecting all the churches of Christ together, it is an unscriptural organization.
“My recommendation would be to make it a private non-profit organization, and keep the church completely apart from it, both organically and in name. Then I think no objection could be leveled against it. You could call it a Legal Aid Association, and then provide for churches whatever advice they solicit.
“But as I now understand it, you have formed a super-organization for the churches in the Philippines. It could be likened unto the missionary society, or to denominational headquarters, except you have limited the sphere of your activity, on your own volition. If you can authorize yourself to act in behalf of all the churches, (arid to assess them, as” your. original charter indicated), you could of your own volition expand the area of your authority.
I am trying not to be a hyper-critic. But you asked my appraisal of your organization, and I am trying to give it. Frankly, Brother Tibayan, even the institutional, liberals of our country would be appalled at the organization you have formed. It is difficult for me to understand how one who could write so perceptively as you have written on the sponsoring church and centralized control issues could then form an organization of this sort.
“I am sure that there are some local legal problems you are trying to avert, but I think you have, by this organization, compounded your problems. Please consider another alternative . . .
“Many of us in this country are greatly interested in the work in that place. The possibility of there being 20 or so faithful preachers there thrills me. But the brethren of this country, whom I think I know reasonably well, would be as opposed to an organization of churches named Church of Christ (New Testament) in the Philippines, Inc. as they would be to the Herald of Truth or to the missionary society.
“God did not provide any arrangement by which all the churches in an area or the world can be tied together. If God had wanted such an organization, surely He could have and would have supplied it.
“I wish it were possible for me to talk with you face to face at length about this matter. I feel sure you will jeopardize the consistency of your stand against the liberal brethren there with this new organization. Please let me hear from you again about this matter, as I am very interested in what you do about it. . . . “
A liberal preacher that worked in the Manila area of the Philippines, Ray Bryan, wrote me about the organization formed by Tibayan. In a letter dated February 27, 1971, he asked: “Why is the arrangement that is presently being used by those of us here to comply with the requirements of the Philippine government considered to be wrong, and yet those that you support can form a super organization to include all congregations, in the nation and not be wrong? Why is it that we are digressive and they are faithful brethren?”
In my reply to Brother Bryan, dated March 11, 1971, I said: “Thank you for sending me the copy of the arrangement that Tibayan was attempting to set up to avoid any problem regarding the holding of property. He modified the proposal several times. I told him when I first saw what he proposed that I disapproved of it. He sent other papers seeking to avoid the perversion of congregational government. But his proposals, all that I saw, violated the same scriptural principles that you brethren violate in the sponsoring church and the church support of human institutions. He finally sought to set up some organization whose sole function would be to attempt to provide legal advice, and that only at the invitation of a church who sought legal advice.”
A Guided Tour
The Philippine Christian editor said: “It seems that Willis and Cogdill were smoke screened and blindly given the tourists guided trip throughout the Philippines by those who wanted them to see only selected sights and hear from certain people. This likely was done by some of those who call themselves conservatives in order to keep their support from America flowing. After all, these Filipino preachers think the money is better in their pocket than in the American churches bank accounts. It would not do to allow these two American church leaders to discover these so-called conservatives had created a very liberal denominational body and registered it with the Securities and Exchange Commission. So, blind them with a vague sort of lawyer, talk about how hard it is; and how unfair the government is. And it worked. So the gullible Americans swallowed it, book, line and sinker. (Philippine Christian, Jan-Feb., 1972, pp. 11, 12) The editor then called upon us to “publicly repudiate the organization” which Brother Tibayan had formed.
Douglas LeCroy, the liberal editor, made a big point out of the fact that I confused the island of Mindoro with Luzon, and said Truth Magazine does not therefore tell the truth. The Philippine Christian claims to be “christian.” Is it “christian” to indict the motives of more than a hundred preachers, and to charge they are only preaching for money? I have for several months been trying to get any one of the liberal American missionaries in the Philippines to tell us how much they make. After all, they live in the same economy the Filipino preachers live in.
Furthermore, Brother LeCroy misrepresented (and that is not “christian”) the report that we were given a “guided tour.” The fact of the matter is, the Filipino brethren nearly ran us to death, and still we could not go to all the congregations they wanted us to visit. There was not one single place where we wanted to visit where anyone showed any inclination to prevent us visiting.
And it should be perfectly obvious that the Filipino brethren made no attempt to hide from us the fact that an organization had bee n formed by Brother Tibayan, since we had been in correspondence regarding it for many months before we went there. Again the Philippine Christian is not “christian.” Nor should there be any question about whether we have 11 repudiated” the formation of the “Church of Christ (New Testament) in the Philippines, Inc.” I have quoted letters at great length in order to make a part of the public record the fact that I never approved such an organization.
Many years ago in this country some brethren formed an organization which they later decided was unscriptural. So, on June 28, 1804 Barton W. Stone and some others associated with him wrote The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery. I suggest if it has not already been done, that a last will and testament be written for the “Church of Christ (New Testament in the Philippines, Inc.” It deserves to die, though it has never been functional.
There are several other errors that merit correction in the January-February, 1972 Philippine Christian, but this article already is much too long.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 46, pp. 3-8
September 28, 1972