Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 18, 1959

Indianapolis, Indiana


It was the editor's happy privilege recently to be in a meeting with the fine Belmont Avenue congregation in Indianapolis, Indiana. This was the second time with them, the first having been in 1954. The third is scheduled for 1963. There are a number of faithful congregations in Indianapolis and the immediate area which are standing firmly for the truth, all of which supported the meeting in goodly numbers. In fact, we had visitors from practically every congregation in the city, even including some from Garfield Heights, the place where W. L. Totty has preached for so long a time. So far as we could discover Brother Totty's church is still far in advance even of the "institutional" churches in that part of the country, for thus far this is the only congregation which has come out flatly and frankly in defense of the church's making contributions to secular colleges. At least, we heard of no others willing yet to take so bold a stand. Garfield Heights, of course, has taken this position for a number of years.

The cause looks optimistic in Indianapolis. There are a few congregations in the area which still contribute to various institutions such as the orphan homes and the Herald of Truth cooperative, but most of them are working along quietly, and even in these churches there are many members who do not favor such contributions.

It was the editor's good fortune during the meeting to stay in the home of Brother Ronnie Milton, as faithful and as promising a young gospel preacher as we have met in many a year.

This Matter Of Fellowship

Many brethren have been doing some serious, soul-searching study on the question of "fellowship" the past three or four years. As a break within the ranks of the disciples looms even closer and more likely, brethren have desperately sought some way to avoid the tragedy; and have sought for a scriptural answer to the threat. Here is the analysis suggested to us by Brother Arthur W. Atkinson of Columbus, Ohio:

1. In problems which do NOT affect the work and worship of the congregation, but which can be resolved on the basis of an individual's own conscience, fellowship is not broken. The War Question and Masonry are classic examples. While both of these problems have created great tension and intense feelings among brethren, congregations generally have not divided over them. Brethren who could NOT conscientiously bear arms, for example, have not disfellowshipped the brethren in uniform; nor have the service men drawn the line against the conscientious objectors. Each man could hold his own convictions, with all the strength of his soul, and could leave his brother free to differ. There was nothing here to affect the work or worship of the congregation.

2. In problems which DO affect either the worship or the work of the congregation, wide differences can exist as long as neither side presses and enforces a practice which violates another's conscience. For example, all through the years there have undoubtedly been many individuals worshipping in non-instrument congregations who themselves were sincerely convinced that instrumental music was permissible — but they did not press the matter and insist on introducing the instrument. The congregations have not divided; the instrumental music brethren could worship with their non-instrument brethren without violating their conscience, and did so. Had they forced an instrument in, division would have resulted — as it did in hundreds of congregations. Indeed, wherever division did come over the instrument, it came as a result of the instrumental music brethren forcing their practice in ruthless disregard of the conscience of their non-instrument brethren. For this reason it has long been recognized that the absolute responsibility for the division rests squarely on the shoulders of those who forced the issue.

3. As congregations all over the land agonizingly appraise the current picture, the same inexorable factors prevail. Wherever brethren FORCE a practice which violates the conscience of their brethren, those who advocate the practice must accept the responsibility for the division. In every congregation in the land today where brethren who conscientiously oppose the Herald of Truth and institutional homes are COMPELLED to support such by their weekly contributions, this question has the ingredients for division. In some congregations division will result; in others brethren will stultify their conscience and go along with a practice which they sincerely believe to be sinful. In a few congregations (we believe their number is increasing) the elders (who themselves believed in these institutions and cooperatives) have been wise enough and godly enough NOT to force support of such things on brethren who would violate their conscience by supporting them, and have told all who want to support the institutions to do so privately and individually — but that the congregation, as such, would make no contribution to those things which some believe to be wrong. These congregations will NOT divide; many others, where a less wise course is followed, almost certainly will.

We are quite aware that the logic of the above has often been applied to the "one-cup" and the "Bible school" issues; and it is urged that, upon this basis, those who insist on individual cups and Bible classes must bear the responsibility for the division. There are factors here, however, which alter the situation somewhat. We hope to discuss these in another article shortly.

Meanwhile, we would welcome other articles on these problems. It is high time for brethren to think SERIOUSLY and PRAYERFULLY about this matter.

-F. Y. T.