By Edward O. Bragwell, Sr.
When bright and congenial brethren use their influence as preachers and writers to teach “destructive heresies,” they must be unmasked. Passive nonparticipation in their error is not enough – they must be exposed (cf. Eph. 5:11 -NKJV). Preachers of the word with ability and opportunity must be willing to reprove and rebuke them, or not claim to be preachers after the New Testament order (see 2 Tim. 4:24).
When faithful brethren expose such men for what they are then they must get ready to take the heat. Yes, you read it right, I said, “expose such men. ” Let us not work with the fantasy that we can separate the heresy from the heretic. Brethren, error does not float around in the air. It is embodied in men. Because these men often have a great personal influence with a goodly number of brethren (both strong and weak), it is necessary to both expose their heresy and them as heretics. When this happens one often hears “weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth” from them; and, because of their personal influence, from those influenced by them. Likewise, one hears from those critics, who say they oppose the heresy, but prefer that the heretic be left alone – at least publicly.
A few years ago, some bright young preacher/writers, with the encouragement of a few older ones, became rather outspoken with their perversions of grace and fellowship. They openly encouraged fellowship with almost any one who had been baptized for the remission of sins – regardless of what doctrinal error they might teach or practice. The potential influence of these men was great. They were bright. They were somewhat scholarly. They were masters at subterfuge.
“Since we all are weak without perfect knowledge and have need of grace, what right do we have to exclude our erring brethren from fellowship?,” became the subtle ploy. Again, “We all disagree on some things with those whom we fellowship, why not fellowship those who disagree with us on institutions, instrumental music, etc.?” They often would word their positions in such a way as to plant the ideas they wanted planted, but at the same time leaving themselves an “out” when confronted. They were forever being “misunderstood” and “misrepresented.”
Gradually the circle of fellowship was widened by these men, until hardly anyone one could be excluded. Their influence among “conservative” brethren was enhanced by their background. Some had gone to a school known for its conservative influence. They preached for and freely associated with conservative brethren. In a case or two, they inherited a family name that was widely known to stand firm on “the issues” that divided churches in the 1950s and 1960s.
The nature and consequences of their positions needed to be exposed and their influence over brethren curbed. When men are in a position to strongly influence many brethren, it is not enough to merely answer their positions without reference to the persons involved — one must do anything that is honorable and right to curb their influence by exposing them for what they are — dangerous teachers who need to be avoided by brethren. It is not a pleasant task. It is not likely to cause brethren to stand up in thunderous applause. When Paul exposed Alexander the coppersmith, all forsook him — only the Lord stood with him (2 Tim. 4:14-16).
This paper carried many excellent articles, before this writer was directly associated with it, exposing the “grace-fellowship” perversion, linking it to men who were pushing it. It was pointed out that the views of these men would logically lead to an open practice of the things that these men were urging that we tolerate. Keep in mind, that, at the time, these brethren were saying that they did not personally believe nor practice what “brothers in other fellowships” were doing – but still we ought to extend the “right hand of fellowship” to them.
While many believed that this paper did the brethren a great service in exposing these men, there were others who were “turned off” by it. Some viewed the writers in this paper as too harsh in exposing the unholy consequences of the “grace-fellowship” heresy. They seemed to think that the projected consequences of the “grace-fellowship” thinking was more imaginative than substantive. Some, over-reacting to the necessarily negative tone in exposing such error, developed a philosophy of preaching and journalism that produced a new breed of anti’s — anti-negative.
Perhaps enough time has passed to assess the consequences of the attitudes of those who urged a wide fellowship. Were they able to keep themselves from the practices of those they were urging more tolerance toward? Or, did they ultimately openly advocate and practice doctrines of those that once they were only willing to fellowship without direct personal participation?
We will now look at four of these men. Their names will be familiar to those who have been reading this paper for the past 15 or 20 years. We shall see where they are now. This is no effort to say “we told you so,” but a effort to get brethren to be a bit more cautious before we become “turned off” by brethren of knowledge and experience who are trying to warn us of where certain trends and movements may lead. Also, we want to encourage others to speak out early when they detect subtle departures from the truth of the gospel. If these men had not been exposed and their influence curbed, there is no telling how many brethren they would have carried down with them.
On June 28, 1987, Mark Nitz, placed membership with the Gateway church of Christ “currently meeting it: Withrow High School Auditorium, 2488 Madison Road, Cincinnati, OH” according to the bulletin from that church dated Sunday July 5, 1987. Three days earlier Mark’s wife, Lynn, had been baptized by them.
What is the “Gateway church of Christ”? It is a church under the influence of the Boston-Crossroads movement. A report on the front of the bulletin from a John Moorhead makes this quite clear. Gateway is supporting Moorhead in South Africa. Moorhead mentions his connection with Boston. He freely spurts out their jargon. He says, “I started leading the teen ministry as well as working with ________ (my discipling partner) on one of the college campuses.” Again, “He came to my Teen Bible Talk on Saturday night . . . ” (Emphasis mine, EOB). Also, the bulletin carried a list of “Dates to Remember” which included “Boston World Mission’s Seminar, Aug. 27-30.”
After preaching and serving as a deacon for a while in an institutional church in Bowling Green, Ohio, Bruce Edwards left and became identified with a charismatic church in that city. I have a copy of a letter (12/12/85) in my possession from a former elder of the church were Edwards preached and served as deacon verifying this fact. The group was once called “Charis Community Church,” but now is known as “Bowling Green Covenant Church.” I have a copy of the charismatic group’s “A Statement of Faith.” It states that “The Senior Pastor and founder of the church is Rev. Joseph R. McAuliffe. . . The church is also served by Rev. James P. Barth, who is senior coordinator of the campus ministry -Fellowship of Christian Students, and by Rev. Peter F. Manto, who is the chief-administrator of the church’s educational program.”
Some interesting statements from their “A Statement of Faith”:
We believe that there is a progress aspect to God’s revelation: that there are areas of truth that are taught in Scripture, but which we do not fully understand until the Holy Spirit further illuminates them. We believe that in every generation God gives the Church, leaders under whose care, direction, and authority the truth is understood, interpreted, and applied.
He (God the Holy Spirit) grants revelation to men and women, enables them to understand and obey the truth, and illuminates and quickens God’s word in them. . . . He bestows upon them the spiritual gifts by which they serve God in and through the Church.
This faith is a gift of God and is preceded by the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.
Each individual is given supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit to be used to strengthen and extend the Church.
We believe that Jesus Christ will personally return to earth in power and glory. He will come to fully establish the government of God upon the earth and to judge the living and the dead, rewarding the righteous and punishing the wicked.
Those two simple steps: (1) to repent of your sin, and (2) to believe in Christ’s death and resurrection, bring the gift of salvation to you. These are the most important steps you will ever take.
There are other statements that show the denominational and charismatic nature of that church. These should suffice to show just how far this one has gone from where he once stood.
Edward Fudge And Vance Drum
In a recent issue of Restoration Review, under the heading, “I Saw Jesus’ Prayer for Unity Answered, ” Edward Fudge describes a visit to “the Eastharn Unit, Texas Department of Corrections” where his “long-time friend Vance Drum” is “now Protestant chaplain.”
Ed says he was accompanied by his “friend Randy Frame, news writer at Christianity Today.”
It is now approaching 9:00 a.m. Sunday school is over and we are gathered in the Chapel of Hope. Vance’s Sunday morning service borrows the best forms from across the Christian spectrum. We begin with invigorating praise choruses – “Pentecostal, ” if you please. . . Vance has graciously invited me to give the message from the Scriptures, and I talk concerning the prayer Jesus gave as a model for disciples in Matthew 6. . . . We reflect on the blessings we enjoy today in his kingdom, by his power and to his glory: daily bread, forgiveness of sins, deliverance from evil. And we anticipate the ultimate fulfillment of this prayer in that time on earth, just as in heaven, God’s name will be perfectly hallowed, his kingdom fully come, his will always be done.
This is a special day for Vance for still another reason. He is to be ordained this afternoon into the ministry of The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), having preached previously for Churches of Christ.
Vance’s ordination service included the reading of Scripture and special music by brothers and sisters from the Baptist, Bible and Episcopal churches, and a black minister from the Church of God in Christ. At the laying on of hands, Vance kneels, the elders of the host congregation, the First Christian Church of Crockett, surround him. The presiding minister then invites the elders and clergy of other denominations present to join the circle. “We believe in the oneness of Christ’s Church,” he says. Though a small assembly, it is representative of the Christians in this small east Texas town. Along with Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Bible, Episcopal and Catholic representatives, I am thrilled to join the circle as an elder in the Church of Christ. I bring to Vance’s continuing ministry the prayers and best wishes of all those of his former association who see this as a continuing step in his pilgrimage to heaven, rather than as a mark of his final departure from the faith.
We repeat together the symbol of our common faith, the Apostles Creed. “I believe in one holy, catholic church.” Or, as Thomas Campbell would put it, “The Church of Christ is essentially and constitutionally one.” I have no doubt that Jesus takes pleasure is this as well. “That they all may be one,” he had prayed. We are making slow progress – not by organizational amalgamation but by individual recognition of other members of the one family which is in heaven and on earth. We still have much to learn. But there is also much for which we can give thanks.
Now we take the Communion – again a visible symbol of the one, universal Body of Christ. It is a glorious day. I have seen Jesus’ prayer for unity answered today. It was beautiful to behold (all emphasis mine, EOB).
Ed says, “We are making slow progress.” I would like to think that the reason the pace has been kept to “slow progress” is the fact that some men withstood their critics and exposed these men for what they really were a few years ago.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 1, pp. 16-18
January 7, 1988