The Ecumenical Cloud Gathers

By Robert C. Welch

Readers of religious papers among the brotherhood are aware of the fact that some of the leading lights among the churches which have espoused the union of church and human institutions have also been having some meetings with the conservative wing of the Christian Church. These meetings seem to have been for the purpose of discussing possibilities of, and hindrances to, union. These brethren seem to envision the universal church being composed of all of those groups which they catalog in the “Restoration Movement.” Question: Are people, who formerly went in the direction of restoration but have now turned back, still in a restoration movement? If so, then this writer does not know the difference between forward and backward. But the ecumenicalism which pervades the denominational field is growing in the attitudes and actions, expressed and manifested, of many brethren today.

You will perhaps remember that the editor of the Firm Foundation was in some of those “Restoration” meetings. This tendency is a growing thing. Its ecumenical yearning will not stay limited to those whom they call “Restoration” groups. It soon reaches out to all sorts of sects, movements and social groupings. If you think I am “judging motives,” as one of my good brethren recently charged me, read the following revealing item from the pen of the Firm Foundation editor (January 18, 1972, issue) :

“We feel that there are some areas in which we can, and should, cooperate with religious and even secular groups. We cooperate with law enforcement officers, with P.T.A.s, and with groups opposing the use of alcohol. We can lock arms with religious groups on moral issues, census taking, attempts to strengthen the home, respect for government, sharing of radio time or a joint religious directory in the Sunday paper. In fact, we can cooperate with anyone in the forwarding of any truth. But we cannot compromise with anyone.”

That theory which he has expressed will permit the churches to cooperate with the denominations in a joint evangelistic campaign just so long as it is left to each group to teach the respondent who has chosen that group the plan of salvation as each sees it. The theory places the church on a par with the denomination. The theory actually makes the church a denomination among denominations. It suggests union, with each participating member group retaining its own peculiar characteristics; in that way there is no “compromise with anyone.”

There was the time only a few years ago when brethren in general found it repulsive that a preacher here and there would join the ministerial association of his town. Now, of course he made it clear that he was not compromising anything! (?). But that is precisely the kind of thing which our ecumenical editor is advocating. “Lock arms with religious groups”? When the churches were making their greatest strides of steadfast growth, they locked horns with the religious groups. And we ought not to allow the teachings of such men as Reuel Lemmons lead us to forget it. If we accomplish anything for the Lord we are going to have to “Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate” (2 Cor. 6:17).

In a recent article (Truth Magazine, March 9, 1972) I called attention to a meeting designed by A. C. C. for discussion of differences of more recent origin than those involved with the Christian Church. Brother Lemmons thought it good that no tape recordings of the meetings were being permitted. I suggested the possibility of, some who were engaged in the discussions being afraid to have what they said on permanent record. Brother James Adams suggested that I was judging motives. Actually I did not think it necessary to document my reason for such a suggestion. But Brother Adams has given us the proof of my suggestion. He tells us that Brother Thomas “said there were men of exceedingly unorthodox views who were sensitive about their presentations being tape recorded . . . in deference to their feelings and to induce them to appear and speak, it was considered advisable to ban tape recorders from the meeting” (Truth Magazine, March 9, 1972). Now that is just what I was suggesting all along. It still is “disconcerting” to me that brethren will agree to go into the lions den operating on the lions rules; it is downright dangerous; no impugning of or judging the motives of my brethren; but from a sense of concern for them, I expressed my observations.

For many years the proponents of premillennialism among brethren were not willing to have their views tested in the open. They averred that they did not preach on it from the pulpit, and most did not wish to engage in public debate. They wanted to do their work in private. It is now clear that some of the proponents of “exceedingly Unorthodox” views of today want to do their work under the cloak of privacy or at least, of limited publicity.

There is a difference in a discussion with no arrangements made for publicizing it, and in planning that it cannot be publicized. Certainly, this writer has engaged in many discussions with no publicity given them, but he does not intend willingly to walk into a trap where he agrees that a discussion of public doctrinal differences cannot be made public. Once again, I neither impugned nor judged the motives of my brethren who were engaged in these discussions; I did express concern and warning. Brother Adams documentation of the reason for the rule against recording the meetings is appreciated by me, for it shows the very thing I questioned.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 25, pp. 5-6
April 27, 1972