By Robert L. McDonald
Far too many members among conservative congregations have cultivated an attitude that the battle for truth over liberalism has run its course. There is the thought that we should direct most of our attention to building local churches to a place of acceptability in the world. For the past twenty years there has been a decline in teaching the distinction between liberal and conservative attitudes toward truth. The institutional issues of years past have been pushed to the point of little importance. Two generations have increased the number of brethren who know little or nothing about the apostasy that scourged congregations throughout the United States during the period 1950-1970. With the lines of fellowship firmly drawn, conservative brethren gradually turned their attention to other matters. A new variety of preachers, knowing little of the controversies of forty years ago, choose to preach on subjects not so controversial. This new spirit of teaching has conditioned churches to become suitable for a gradual softening of an attitude toward truth. Briefly, this is in part what happened to a church in Texas.
Fifty-four years ago, Oscar Rossum and J.G. Glazierland and their families formed a new congregation (Rollins Addition Church of Christ) in Longview, Texas. This was while there were no kitchens in the buildings. There was no fraternizing with the denominations. Efforts by churches of Christ in those days were to do Bible things in Bible ways. Times were hard since the depression had taken its toll. These faithful brethren pressed on to build a congregation to the glory of God.
This congregation of black brethren grew in number and reached a financial ability to construct a brick building, a brick house for their preacher, and able to support their work without any outside help. The brethren at Rollins Addition were proud of what had been accomplished.
In 1964, L.W. Walters began his work of preaching at the Rollins Addition church. His relationship with this congregation continued for twenty-eight years until poor health demanded that he retire. He still lives at Longview.
L.W. Walters met Leon Odom in the early 1980s. This acquaintance led to a friendship that enabled Odom to show him the destructiveness of liberalism within churches of Christ. Odom’s teaching resulted in Walters making his stand to expose liberalism to the best of his ability.
In 1987, a terrible situation was uncovered at Rollins Addition. Some brethren had stolen thousands of dollars from the treasury of the church. Two of the elders, acknowledged they were involved in the crime. One of them repaid $2,000 of the $4,000 he had taken with an assurance that $2,000 more would be repaid. To this date there has been no repayment of the balance that was stolen.
On August 9, 1992 L.W. Walters had to resign from his work as local preacher due to poor health. He recommended that Clifford Sheffield of Dallas be invited to labor with the Rollins Addition congregation after his retirement. (The congregation had an attendance of more than a hundred at Walter’s retirement.) Sheffield is sound in the faith, with a strong conviction for truth, and involved in gospel meeting work in many quarters. He began his work with the Rollins Addition congregation in January, 1993.
Within two months after Sheffield began his work, a liberal element in the church began an active campaign against him. Further opposition came from liberal preachers in the Longview area. Other liberal members from Longview moved to “place membership” with the church. As their number increased harassment of Sheffield and any of the brethren who stood with him, became intense.
Robert McDonald, preacher for the Greggton congregation in Longview, taught a series of Bible studies (with an emphasis to expose liberalism) at the Rollins Addition church. Some liberal preachers from the immediate area were in the audience. Most of them remained silent during these studies with only two of them asking questions, or making comment. It became obvious that the underlying situation at Rollins Addition church was the invasion of extreme liberalism among many, and a spirit of racism was manifest with the adherents extremely vocal.
The racists told Clifford Sheffield that they did not want any “white man” to teach at Rollins Addition. These liberals were adamantly opposed to the studies by McDonald. The large number of liberal-minded members posed a problem to the growth and development of the church.
There were signs that a large amount of money was still being stolen from the weekly contribution of the church. A local certified public accountant audited the records of the church with his professional opinion that thousands of dollars had been withheld for more than ten years. With the crime uncovered, and the identity of the guilty within the congregation exposed, the liberal members called a “rump meeting” to send a letter to the bank with instructions to change the signature cards that would enable them to withdraw the funds from the church account. By removing the names of the conservative brethren, and replacing the names of some liberal men, the scheme to withdraw funds were enacted. When the bank officials were informed of the unauthorized action of these men, they froze the account until the difficulties could be resolved. The frozen account is estimated to be about $30,000. In June, 1993, the situation had reached the point of no chance for a proper relationship with the two factions within the congregation. The liberals (some were not even members of the Rollins Addition church) outnumbered the conservative brethren in a show of strength to wrest control of to congregation. Working on numerical strength, the liberals ignored the conservative brethren in the affairs of the church. To have control of future funds of the church, a new account was established with another bank.
Since June of 1993, liberal preachers have been enlisted to the liberal churches of Longview. Some members, who feigned to be conservative, cast their lot with the liberal element. The Rollins Addition, congregation is lost to the influence of liberalism as she moves into complete apostasy.
The brethren who have stood for the truth are few, and have had to leave a congregation with whom they worshipped for many years. Their faith has been tried in spiritual battle for the right. This was hard for them to do. However, they would not compromise for a moment. Their determination is to remain faithful to our Lord in word and in deed. Their aim is to give God Almighty glory with their effort to form the Southeast Church of Christ in Longview.
If any of the readers want to contact these brethren, he may address his letter to Southeast Church of Christ, P.O. Box 12750, Longview, TX 75607. Your encouragement during these trying times would comfort them.
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 7, p. 14
April 7, 1994