By Ron Halbrook
In a visit with brother Guy N. Woods at his Gospel Advocate office in Nashville, TN on 1 March 1980, I talked with him about reprinting his speech at the 1939 Abilene Christian College lectures. We discussed several matters and I promised to send copies of appeals from colleges, asking for church support since he claimed not to have seen any. When I sent them, I enclosed a letter dated 21 March 1980 asking him three questions to clarify whether I properly understood some points in our conversation. No response ever came. I wrote 18 March 1981 explaining I had secured the speech for publication and repeating the three questions. My questions and his answers dated 8 April appear below. His answer to question two means that the church cannot donate money to a college for secular education but can donate to an orphanage which runs a school. Actually, there is no Bible authority for the church to donate its money to any human institution for any reason. I sent him some bulletins and asked a few other questions 17 April but never got an answer. Those actions were repeated 24 June with the same result.
Woods’ 1939 speech appeared in the Guardian of Truth of 5 May 1983 along with my comments in the “Ephraim’s Idols” column (pp. 268-70, 277-79). I sent him a copy the next day and asked about the following matter:
Since your sermon protests any other arrangement than an orphanage under an eldership, out of historical interest I would like to know when and how you determined that orphanages like Tennessee Orphan Home (not under an eldership) were scriptural and worthy of church contributions. Who convinced you, when, and by what arguments?
I also noted “with extreme disappointment the spread of a recreational craze among churches by building Family Life Centers-otherwise known as gymnasiums,” and noted “with genuine sorrow that this matter is not being directly addressed in the Gospel Advocate.” I had offered in the 17 April 1981 letter to get him space in the Guardian of Truth to address this matter if he would print the same article in the Gospel Advocate. He sent “An Open Letter to Ron Halbrook and the Editor of ‘The Guardian of Truth. . . dated 18 May 1983, but it was limited to comments on the 1939 speech. Woods has said nothing about the others matters I have pled with him to address. Expecting to hear nothing more from him, we go ahead and print what we have on hand.
The “Open Letter” claims that my publication of his speech is “the first time in four decades those who believe as you do on the orphan home issue have been permitted to see what I actually said in context.” Woods says the problem is that his commendation of the Tipton Orphans Home has been uniformly suppressed to create a “gross misinterpretation. ” Actually, different parts of the speech have been quoted from time to time, including the part about Tipton at times (see for instance, Tom O’Neal, “Reading After Brother Woods,” Searching The Scriptures, June 1983, pp. 412-14). Woods is himself misrepresenting the facts here and is impugning the motives of brethren.
What really bothers Woods is that when brethren have included the Tipton remark, with its protest against churches supporting orphanages which are under boards but not under elderships, brethren often have pointed out that Woods later changed and promoted what he once protested. He also changed from opposing to approving church donations to colleges with Bible departments which “train young men to be gospel preachers.” No one has quoted Woods as though he opposed all orphanages, or opposed colleges supported by individual funds. Woods has changed on which orphanages churches may support and on whether colleges should receive church funds to train preachers.
The 1939 speech clearly enunciates some great principles of truth. With some of them he was inconsistent then and he has compromised most all of them in the years since then. Brethren will continue to quote these classic statements, even at the expense of pricking brother Woods’ conscience. The course he has followed and its consequences teach a powerful lesson on the danger of compromise and inconsistency. Let us not gloat, but weep, “considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).
Questions by Halbrook (18 March 1981)
1. Is it scriptural for churches of Christ to contribute from their treasuries to Christian colleges for their work, if it is designated for programs of education in the ministry of gospel preaching (such as Bible departments)? I understood from our discussion that you would say yes. Is this correct?
2. Is it scriptural for churches of Christ to contribute from their treasuries to Christian colleges for their work designed to educate young people in standard liberal arts programs? I understood you would say no. Is this correct?
3. Did I understand you to say it is unscriptural for churches to provide from the treasury recreational facilities and programs to the congregation at large, i.e., to all families whether indigent or not, but that it might incidentally supply some such service to the indigent in the normal course of supplying their need?
Answers by Woods (8 April 1981)
I am very pleased to answer your questions, and you have my permission to publish them provided you will do so in full.
1. It is scriptural for churches to use money from their treasuries to provide for the teaching of the Scriptures whether in the Bible departments of Christian colleges, in Bible Schools on Sunday morning, or in gospel meetings.
2. I do not believe that it is a part of the work of the church to provide secular education, as such, merely to provide “a Christian atmosphere” for the teaching of young men and women; this responsibility I believe to be the proper function of the home. However, when the home is no more and its needs fall upon the church in providing for the “fatherless,” these needs include education, and may be provided. I refer specifically to the needs of fatherless children in homes supported by the church.
3. This is answered in the above.
An Open Letter To Ron Halbrook And The Editor Of The Guardian Of Truth
My thanks to you for publishing, in full, my speech delivered many years ago at the Abilene Christian College Lectureship, entitled “Christianity In A Changing World.”
Portions of this speech have been wrested from context and published time and again in bulletins, books, and church papers in consequence of which in no instance known to me before the publication of this speech by you have I been correctly represented. On the assumption that men who claim to be Christians will not deliberately convey a totally false impression, I once protested such perversions but long since desisted because in every instance my protestations were disregarded. For the first time in four decades those who believe as you do on the orphan home issue have been permitted to see what I actually said in context.
The intent of this suppression was to make it appear that I formerly opposed orphan homes and I was quoted as follows:
This writer has ever been unable to appreciate the logic of those who affect to see grave danger in Missionary Societies but scruple not to form a similar organization for the purpose of caring for orphans and teaching young men to be gospel preachers.
Obviously it was not my purpose to oppose Christian education in schools established for that purpose because this speech was made on the campus of a Christian College. Is it not remarkable that after I had clearly identified the type of organizations opposed, the statement, “In this connection it is a pleasure to commend to the brotherhood Tipton Orphans Home, Tipton, Oklahoma” appears. For forty years, those opposed to orphanages have quoted the foregoing statement, while suppressing this one, to show that I once opposed orphan homes? Ah, what great crimes are committed in the name of religion. Brother Halbrook says I have “complained” about this. Does not such gross misrepresentation deserve at least a complaint? And, should it be necessary to complain in order to get the simple truth told?
After commending Tipton orphan home, I also said, “The work is entirely scriptural, being managed and conducted by the elders of the church in Tipton, Oklahoma, aided by funds sent to them by the elders of other congregations round about. We here and now declare our protest against any other method or arrangement for accomplishing this work.” In every debate I conducted, and there were many of them, so far as my memory extends, the Tipton orphan home was specifically mentioned among those I defended. Were I to debate the question this week, I would gladly include it among those I believe to be scriptural. I did not then, nor do I now believe that the “elders” are over the home as elders; it is no more possible to put elders over the home as elders, than it is to put parents over the church, as parents. As the Tipton home paper puts it, the elders of the Tipton church are the trustees of the Tipton Orphan Home. That I believe then and so believe now.
Let the following facts in summary be noted: (1) 1 believed in and endorsed an orphan home when the speech was made; (2) 1 declared my support of churches contributing from their treasuries funds to support the home; (3) 1 endorsed the idea of “elders of other congregations” sending money to the elders of another church, thus cooperating with them. These continue to be, as they always have been, my views in the matter.
Finally, I also said, “Brethren have not scrupled to form organizations in the church to do work the church itself was designed to do.” I believe such action to be as wrong today as I did when these words were uttered more than forty years ago. As a matter of fact, a “blurb” in my editorial published in the Gospel Advocate of May 1983 reads: “No human organization, however worthy its aims, respectable its membership or imposing its properties, can substitute for the church of our Lord. ” It is not the work of the church to provide recreation, discipline and secular education for children. Orphan homes which perform these services are doing the work which God assigned to the home and are, therefore, homes, not churches, and thus are not doing “the work the church itself was designed to do.”
Again, my sincere thanks to brother Halbrook and the editor of Guardian of Truth for publishing the speech in full.
Guy N. Woods
P.O. Box 150
Nashville, TN 37202
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 17, pp. 525-526
September 5, 1985