By Steve Wolfgang
(The previous article in this series was written by Ed Harrell, it was inadvertently attributed to brother Wolfgang who submitted it for Publication.)
Footnote Joseph Franklin and J. A. Headington, The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin (St. Louis: John Bums, Publisher, 1879). pp. 304-305.
In the autumn of 1855, a meeting was held in Kentucky, called, “A Convention of Delegates from Christian Churches of Garrard, Lincoln, Casey, Mercer, and Boyle Counties, held in Danville.” After “much discussion” a constitution was “unanimously adopted.” The constitution named the organization based upon it, “The Central (Ky.) Christian Union.” The membership was to include all the preachers in those counties, one “elder” from each church, and one representative for each one hundred members of the churches. The “Union” was to receive information concerning the condition of the churches, hear any case which might be laid before it, discipline any who should “teach things tending to the injury of the churches and the cause which we plead. ” It was “to take into consideration the subject of education, both general and ministerial,” and “consider and act upon plans for Bible distribution, missionary objects, tract distribution, Sunday schools, and upon whatever else may tend to the welfare of the cause of our Divine Master.” It was also to “Cooperate with any other association of our brotherhood, whether district or State meeting, or general convention,” to which it “may appoint delegates.”
[Mr. Franklin] filed three objections, which were a few years later brought to bear upon missionary societies:
“1. A meeting for such a purpose as this is wholly unknown to the New Testament.”
“2. This meeting calls into existence a new set of officers, wholly unknown to the New Testament.”
“3. The New Testament knows nothing of meeting annually or semi-annually, in the ‘Central Christian Union.’ This is wholly a new order of things, and throws wide the gate for all kinds of mischief.”
The comment on the “Central Christian Union” concluded with the following paragraphs, expressing sentiments which he, at least, carried to an unlimited application:
“God has constituted the church the pillar and ground of the truth, and it is the duty of the church, the whole church in every place, as the only organization having any authority from God, to act for itself and do its own business. No officer in the kingdom of God, has any authority over the churches or preachers except the officers of the individual congregations. The New Testament knows no jurisdiction of any office beyond the individual congregation, except where an evangelist is building up and establishing new congregations.
“Let the churches go into such a Central Union as these brethren have, and the first difficulty that shall arise among the leading men will infuse confusion and distraction throughout all the congregations combined in it. A general division cannot take place, while the individual, congregational, and, as we are confident, the scriptural, organization prevails. Combine the churches in an association and then let some difficulty occur among the leading men, and they will sunder the churches from one side of the country to the other.”
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 22, p. 687
November 17, 1988