Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 11, 1958

"Open Membership"

R. L. Morrison, Globe, Arizona

In the May 31, 1958 issue of the "Christian Standard", an article by C. H. Phillips reveals some interesting information. Mr. Phillips is president of the Puget Sound College of the Bible, Seattle, Washington. He says he wrote in "an effort to find a solution to a difficult and troublesome problem among those pleading for the maintenance of the New Testament order. That problem is named in the title of his article "Open Membership".

The answer to his problem is simple, a complete turning to the New Testament in practice and teaching, but there are several statements in his article that are rather interesting in view of the condition of the New Testament church today. Of course, Mr. Phillips was writing about a condition that exists in the Christian church, but we should remember that those who brought that institution into existence departed from the truth when they came to think more of the society and the organ than the revealed will of God. That same lack of respect for that same revealed will is the condition that now exists in the New Testament church. And it will bring the same result now it brought before unless.... but let us notice some of his statements.

Quoting: "That the practice of admitting folk from various churches into congregations of the Restoration Movement without requiring immersion commends itself to those of a broad and kindly spirit is frankly admitted." These people at one time wanted only the society and the organ. To get and keep them the scriptures were disregarded. Now the command to be baptized is ignored. That broad and kindly spirit which demanded the innovations, now finds itself unable to distinguish between the organization it created and the other denominations. (It cannot do what some brethren today say they can do.) Is this the same 'broad and kindly' spirit that today is demanding the modern innovations in the New Testament church? If so, and it has not already lead to open membership, how long until it does?

But we quote Mr. Phillips again. "That there are those who are torn between absolute loyalty to `the way' and leniency toward their denominational friends is undoubtedly at the root of the difficulty." This sounds suspiciously like some of our marching brethren with their social gospel and glorified pep-talks, doesn't it?

Quoting again: "It is these who have intensified the problem by attempting a compromise in the matter. They have not advocated that the congregation with which they are affiliated shall definitely discard the necessity of immersion in order to membership. They have attempted to bridge the gulf by extending the privilege of "associate membership" to the unimmersed, undoubtedly trusting that this gesture will eventually lead the "associate" into full membership by way of immersion."

Later in the article he says: "A new and embarrassing relationship is established — 'associate membership'."

Mr. Phillips then proceeds to show the error of this practice, even referring to a few passages of scripture to refute it. But he seems not to realize that the Road of Digression has few (if any) turning places; and that the practice of "associate membership" will no the repudiated. The "gulf has been bridged" and the bridge will stand. The same broad and kindly spirit that built it, will keep it there. It has kept the society and the organ. "Associate membership will remain also. And why not? He says that "associate members" are: Welcome at all gatherings; addressed as brother; made to feel in public and privately that he is one of us; is extended the fellowship of the communion; and is called upon to vote in the regular business meetings. I suspect that his contribution is acceptable also, so what remains? Why be immersed? No, I predict that the bridge over the waters of baptism, "associate membership" will remain in the Christian church.

Now I await the first report in one of 'our' papers of the restoration of an 'associate member' of the Christian church? How soon will it appear or have I already overlooked it?