By Dorris V. Rader
In recent years this spirit of ecumenism has broken loose among some in the “restoration movement” and they have proclaimed a new movement known as “The Fellowship of The Concerned Ones.” There is a definite and undeniable affinity between the denominational ecumenical movement and this new movement. This is virtually admitted by Carl Ketcherside in the Mission Messenger, July 1967. “We are wholly sympathetic to ‘the call of renewal’ as voiced by our religious neighbors in ecumenical circles. We congratulate and commend them for their recognition that our present state is abnormal and for their concern, which prompts them to want to do something tangible to remedy it. What they have said and written has affected a great many of us who would not like to credit them for an impact upon our thinking, but they have dragged and pulled some of us into the twentieth century quite against our wills.” (p. 98) In addition to Ketcherside, some of the other leaders in the movement include Leroy Garrett, Robert Myers, and Roy Key. These men, with others, are constantly in “unity forums” with Disciples of Christ, Christian Churches and churches of Christ. Others are included – but these are given special attention. We are certainly not opposed to discussing matters with others with the idea of eliciting truth, and upholding it. And if this were the real nature of such gatherings, it would make our hearts glad. But as evidence of the compromise characteristic of such meetings, I quote from an article by Ketcherside concerning a meeting of -top-level men in the churches of Christ” and a prominent leader in the Christian church. He says, “It was agreed that these leaders in the non-instrumental ranks would tone down their factional approach in their articles and broadcasts, eliminating such material as would intensify tensions between the two groups. No mention of the meeting ever leaked out to orthodox journals but the effect has been seen from coast to coast.” (Mission Messenger, Nov. 1969). (Emp. mine DVR) He went on to point out that “a front-rank man in the Bible department at Abilene Christian College recently said that if the instrument was being introduced now, the brethren who oppose it would look at it a long time before they would divide over it . . .” He further said that the brethren who oppose the instrument agreed to work for a lessening of tension on the mission field where the question is Dot an issue. They also disclaimed any intention of becoming involved in public partisan debate over the matter. You will notice that the opposers of such unscriptural practices were the ones doing the compromising. It cannot be whitewashed and make it anything but compromise. This is in keeping with the fact that Ketcherside does not believe that division was caused by bringing in the instrument or the missionary society. It was simply a “lack of love” that caused it! So, if one places ham on the Lord’s Table, he does not cause division, but the “lack of love” on the part of the poor old opposer!
It is admitted by Ketcherside that it is a new movement. “The ‘Fellowship of the Concerned Ones’ is growing. The factional defenders of partisan orthodoxy are frightened . . . A New Movement is gathering force . . . a twentieth century restoration movement-linked by kinship to the restoration movement of long ago and yet destined to meet realistically the needs of our contemporary era.” (Mission Messenger, Apr. 1965). Before looking into some of the basic tenets of the movement, a brief look at an historical development should prove interesting.
Back in the early fifties Garrett and Ketcherside were leading the anti-located preacher hobby. It was argued that the “gospel” is only “seed” by which the unsaved are begotten and it cannot and must not be preached to the church. “Doctrine,” it was alleged, is food for the child of God. Hence, a strong and definite distinction was suggested. The first chapter of Romans alone disproves his contention that the gospel cannot be preached unto the church. Paul wrote the letter “unto all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints.” (v. 7) Then, more than a dozen times in the following verses, the pronouns “ye” and “your” appear. Then, Paul declares, “I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.” (v. 15) Paul was ready to preach the Gospel to those Ketcherside said it could not be preached to. Then, to the Corinthians Paul said: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel (1 Cor. 15: 1). The distinction he sees between “gospel” and “doctrine” is a distinction which does not exist. This can be seen from a statement in first Timothy. Paul talks about things “contrary to sound doctrine; According to the gospel of the blessed God . . .” (1 Tim. 1: 10-11). And in first Timothy six, we find that the words of our Lord Jesus Christ are simply the “doctrine” of Christ. (1 Tim. 6:3)
My point in mentioning the above is simply to show that this false distinction forms the basis (in part) for their willingness to fellowship just about anybody, regardless of “doctrinal” difference. With them “doctrine” is optional. It may be discussed, but never allowed to disrupt fellowship. Hence, this accounts for the willingness to fellowship the users of instruments of music in worship, those who use missionary societies, the Premillennialists, and anything else so long as one does not deny that 1, Jesus is Lord.” By his own admission, Ketcberside will fellowship “every person who has been immersed upon the basis of his sincere faith in Jesus Christ as God’s Son and his Lord.” (Defender Vol. II, No. 11, Jan. 26, 1909) He will fellowship, therefore, any such person currently in the “Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, or some other religious organization.” (Mission Messenger, Feb., 1960, Pg. 3-9) Perhaps this is what one preacher called “great fellowship.” Maybe he thought it is great because it is almost without any limits. It seems that with him the only factor breaking the “great fellowship” would be for an individual or congregation to reach the point of denying the Bible to be the Word of God. Let us now look at some of the positions embraced in the movement. And remember that these are positions being advocated in literature circulated among the churches in Tullahoma and the area. Sometimes it is subtly concealed but nevertheless it is there.
1. It is advocated that there are Christians in all denominations. Listen to Leroy Garrett: “The Church of Christ consists of all those who lovingly obey him in all things according to their understanding, which assumes that they will be baptized believers who are spirit-fillea. These saints of God are scattered throughout the Christian world, belonging to all sort-, of sects and denominations. They are Christians, not because of their affiliation with any particular sect, but because of their relationship to Christ Jesus.” (Restoration Review, Sept. 1964) Garrett says: “If the man who truly loves Jesus happens to be a Baptist, I love him no less than a ‘church of Christ’ member that truly loves Jesus. They are both my brothers in the same way and to the same degree. I have no half brothers in Christ.” (Restoration Review, Dec. 1964) Ketcherside declared that “God’s sheep are a scattered flock, and not yet a gathered one. Some of them are caught in strange sectarian thickets. . .” (Mission Messenger, May, 1963) Further he said, “As an illustration of what we mean, we mention our personal conviction that there may be children of God scattered among the various sects today. Since all children of God are born of the same father whom we claim, we recognize them as our brethren, regardless of the mistakes in reasoning of which they are now guilty.” (Mission Messenger, Feb., 1958, pg. 12) Thus it follows that Ketcherside and those who think as he does, believe that one may choose to “serve God” in a denominational body unknown to God’s Word, and remain in fellowship with God. (See 1 John 1:7.) If one can do this, all can do it! Is our state or condition with the Lord an unconditional matter? Jesus said, “If ye continue in my word then ye are my disciples indeed.” (John 8:31) Thus, even if a person has obeyed the truth, then later goes into denominationalism, the issue is, can lie remain there and continue in fellowship with God? (1 John 1:7; John 8:31)
2. It is argued that there is no unity except “in diversity, ” none in conformity. “We assert that if there is any unity at all, it must be unity in diversity … there is no other kind of unity.” (Mission Messenger, July, 1965) What do they mean by diversity and conformity? Do they mean that unity cannot be had in conformity to human traditions? We would agree! Do they mean that we need not have conformity to or adhere strictly to the Bible in order to have unity? Then, we disagree! That this is precisely what they do mean is seen in the following statement. “What do we envision in the united church? … The Baptist church would not have to close shop, though being ‘Baptists’ would come to mean less and less to them. The Methodist church would probably continue worshiping at the Methodist church, and the Presbyterian and Lutherans would not necessary discard all marks that distinguish them from others. The Christian church and the church of Christ would not be expected to join each other. . . . not at the outset at least. But all these groups could still be as one body in the holy bond of Christian brotherhood. despite external differences and even annoying disagreements. The big difference would be that they would accept each other as brothers and treat each other as children of God in the same heavenly family . . . They would drop creedal barriers, having fellowship on the Lordship of Christ and nothing else. ” (Restoration Review, May, 1964-Emp. mine, DVR) Ketcherside said He can be in a sect without being sectarian. We urge no one to come into anything except those who are out of Christ Jesus. We invite DO one to come into anything except those who are not in the one body. Let us stay where God has called us in that one body and be a part of the concerned ones.” (Mission Messenger, Nov. 1964) (Emp. mine-DVR) Ketcherside is urging the “scattered sheep” to stay caught in those “strange sectarian thickets” and just be a part of the “concerned ones.” Ketcherside admits what we already knew, namely, he has been greatly influenced by the leaders in the protestant ecumenism. Hear him: “What they (religious neighbors in the ecumenical circles DVR) have said and written has affected a great many of us who would not like to credit them for an impact upon our thinking, but they have dragged and pulled some of us into the twentieth century quite against our wills.” (Mission Messenger, July, 1967) told you that there is an undeniable affinity between this movement and the larger denominational ecumenism. There is the admission. This “unity in diversity” was borrowed from them! It is a phrase of the ones who use “good words and fair speeches” and deceive the hearts of the simple. (Rom. 16:17-18) Any position, which allows for many bodies must necessarily allow for many faiths, and many Lords. (Eph. 4:4-6) Paul admonished that there be no divisions among you, and to be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Cor. 1:10). The denominational leaders have long argued for “unity in diversity” and Brother Ketcherside admits being influenced by them.
3. It is argued that we cannot understand the Bible alike. Faithful brethren have met this and refuted it all along from denominational preachers. Now, Robert Myers has said, “Any honest and perceptive person knows that through every century since the book was written men with equal sincerity and wisdom have been unable to understand some of its crucial issues alike … Perhaps it is time to take a long, hard look at the problem of interpretation. We may want to overhaul our position . . . Unity in diversity is possible, the unity of conformity never has been and never will be . . . It isn’t that God’s revelation speaks with two voices; it is simply that man’s interpretive power is affected by many factors and that one hardly ever finds two men on earth who are anywhere near alike” (Restoration Review, Apr., 1964) Thus, like the denominations, they are ready to excuse every presumptuous sin on the basis of man’s interpretive powers being affected. Suppose the man who denies the virgin birth, miracles, and the deity of Jesus argues that these are merely matters of interpretation, and that his views should not be allowed to keep him out of fellowship with them. Would these men be so “unloving” as to “sit on the judgment seat” and exclude him from fellowship? Do not count on it. They cannot do so and maintain any degree of consistency with the position. For, after all, if we cannot understand the Bible alike, how can they be sure their “interpretation” of such matters is correct? The Bible directs us to “be not unwise but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Eph. 5: 17) If two people both understand what the Lord’s will is, they will be alike. God commands its all to “speak as the oracles of God,” (1 Pet. 4: 11) a thing we cannot do unless we can understand the oracles of God. We are admonished to “walk by the same rule,” and to “mind the same thing.” (Phil. 3:161 The very same passages we have always used to answer the denominational contention on this point are sufficient to answer these men who admittedly have been influenced by the denominational leaders.
4. We are told that the Bible is not a pattern or blueprint. One writer challenged the idea that there is a pattern for anything-in Christianity. He thinks such would be “legalism.” Leroy Garrett said, “When we take all the New Testament Scriptures … we can be sure about a few matters regarding the work, worship, and government of the ecclesia. (emp. mine. DVR) . . , This dos not mean, however that the Scriptures provide its with ‘a minute and detailed pattern’ for the church. For the most part the guidelines are in a few broad areas which seem to restrict the areas in which we might move instead of precisely defining them.” (Restoration Review, May, 1964) (Emp. mine DVR). Of course, if the Bible is not a pattern or blueprint, there can be no violation of any pattern. (See Heb. 8:5) Like other modernists, they regard the Bible as simply setting up a few (powerfully few at that) general guidelines and they are so broad and flexible its to allow for just about anything.
5. It is denied that the New Testament churches were alike in doctrine and practice and hence the unity of the apostolic church is denied. Listen to Garrett: “Another characteristic of the true, apostolic church, we are told, is its unity; therefore, the divisiveness apparent in ‘modern denominationalism’ rules out all denominations as the true church of Christ. I am surprised … that my brethren keep making this kind of argument, puerile and naive as it is. First, the primitive churches were anything but united, if that means they were alike in doctrine and practice, or even if it means that they got along well with each other . . .” (Restoration Review Sept., 1964) Wonder how this can be reconciled with the fact that the Bible pictures the multitude in Jerusalem as being of “one mind and of one soul,” (Acts 4:32) and that Paul preached the same thing in every church. (1 Cor. 4: 17) It cannot be shown that the apostolic churches were anything like the denominational picture today. There simply were no denominations in existence. Let him find such in the Bible, and then he will have something to go on. But they have already ruled out the Bible as being any pattern anyway!
6. The “Movement of the Concerned Ones” is s saturated with the theory of the Holy Spirit operating other than through the word of God. It is reported (Gospel Guardian, Vol. 20, No. 4) that in the Dallas Unity Meeting of 1967, Ketcherside in response to questions said that lie did not believe the Holy Spirit would reveal anything in addition to the written word; but that the Holy Spirit does ‘illuminate or reveal to one’s heart the meaning of the scriptures. Myers says we cannot understand the scriptures alike, and Ketcherside says the Holy Spirit reveals the meaning to us. If these men are right, the Holy Spirit is doing a fair job of contradicting himself and confusing everyone. Garrett asserts and implies the presence of the Spirit in the same sense as in Paul and Elijah. “Does God speak to men directly and immediately in our day? … Men no longer believe in God’s living presence. God once did this or that, but he does so no longer. Religion must have been vital and exciting to Elijah or Paul, for the Spirit of God was a living reality in their lives. All lie does these days is through the cold print of a book. Get full of that book and you get full of the Spirit! This is a view all too common. We may be disbelievers without realizing it … If we look to the Bible and to the Lord for answers to the crucial problems facing our world, then we must believe that ‘Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever!’ (Restoration Review. Nov. 1964 Emp. mine DVR).
Gospel preachers have met and answered these assertions from denominational preachers much longer than any of us has lived. Oral Roberts could do as good a job arguing his miraculous healing today. There is a growing number who have been influenced by this type of teaching, who is claiming a direct guidance of the Holy Spirit. Some claim Holy Spirit Baptism and speaking in tongues. In the Word of God what is attributed to the influence of the Holy Spirit today such as guiding, instructing, leading, comforting, sanctifying and dwelling in us, etc. is also attributed to the Word, which the Holy Spirit gave us. This is not to argue that the Holy Spirit is a book, or cold print or just a word. He is a person. It is simply to affirm that He operates through the word, which is the “sword of the Spirit.” (Eph. 6: 10, Compare also Col. 3:16 with Eph. 5:18) If one has no difficulty seeing that Christ, a person in the Godhead, dwells in us by faith, he should have no difficulty seeing that the third person of the Godhead can dwell in us in like fashion. (see Eph. 3:17). For an excellent refutation of this “Pentecostal Holiness Movement” in the church, consult the book by Foy E. Wallace, Jr., The Mission And Medium Of The Holy Spirit. Any of the debates with denominational preachers of the past on the direct operation of the Holy Spirit will be of assistance.
The restoration plea of the pioneers and the faithful down through the years has been designed to bring men and women out of denominationalism and away from the dogmas of men. The “Fellowship of the Concerned Ones” runs in the other direction. It encourages them to remain where they are regardless of “doctrinal” matters, and presumptuous practices, which render worship as vain.
If our standing for a “thus saith the Lord” makes us “keepers of orthodoxy,” may our tribe increase ten thousand times ten thousand! Our fervent prayer is that our brethren, who have been sitting quiet while these views were propagated, will rise up with the Sword of the Spirit and stand as defenders of the Faith. This movement will not stop! It will continue to progress among people who forsake “the pattern” and follow human wisdom. No doubt it will eventually become blended into the larger and more general denominational ecumenical movement from whence the seeds were borrowed. It definitely has an appeal as all sin does. But you do not have to be swept into the tide of its digression. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 41, pp. 8-12
August 23, 1973