Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 22, 1960

Here And There

Conway Skinner, Mayo, Florida

Here and there I constantly hear brethren say that the present opposition to institutionalism is a new thing; that for years none opposed such organizations. I happened to recently be reading again in a sermon book entitled "The Certified Gospel," by brother Foy E. Wallace, Jr., and in it I came across the following: "In summing up the immediate dangers around the church, we should name the following things:

1. The Marked Tendency Toward Institutionalism..

"Today any man or group of men can start any institution they please to start, put it in a benevolent basket, label it "Your Baby," and place it on the doorstep of the church with the appeal "Please, take care of it"! That is taxation without representation. Again, I say, the delegate system of the digressives is better than that, for in that case there would be a voice in what is started.

"The church is about to become the unwitting and unwilling victim of institutionalism, and institutionalism is about to become a racket. Where is the scriptural precept or precedent for scouring the country for orphans, transporting them from sections far and wide to an institution that was not created by reason of orphans in that particular community, but which a promoter created by searching for orphans?

"Am I taking care of orphans? I am not. But I am against the institutional racket. It is the duty of the church to care for their dependents — and they should provide the means of doing so under their own supervision. If individuals wish to operate hospitals, inns, homes or schools, it is their right to do so but the church cannot operate institutions. If the church can do its benevolent work through a board of directors, why not its missionary work through a board of directors? If one is a society, why not the other? There is therefore no such thing as "our institutions," if by "our" you mean the church.

"Institutionalism was the tap-root of digression. It has always been the fatal blow to congregational independence. It destroys the individuality of both the congregation and the Christian as Nazism and Fascism destroy the individuality of their citizens in Germany and Italy. Back of institutionalism is party pride. People say: "Your church does not have any great institutions; it is not missionary and benevolent." We would say: "0 yes it does!" and "yes we are!" And we come to love the institutions more than the church. Schools, for instance — and this is the test: Criticize the church, and it brings no rise from these devotees of certain institutions; but criticize their school and they will have a fit, and your name thereafter, henceforth and forever is a hiss. But, brother, the college is not the church nor can the church own and operate it. It is private and secular and belongs to the man or group of men to whom it belongs. It is an adjunct of the home, not of the church; auxiliary to the family, not to the congregation; parents and interested individuals, not churches, should sponsor and support them.

"Recently in a popular American magazine, the publisher, said: 'Because of my frank and sympathetic criticism of labor, publications devoted to union interests have declared I am an enemy of unions. This statement is false, absolutely! But I believe in Americanism to the nth degree. That means, if a worker wants to join a union he should have that right; but if he desires to depend on his own efforts and does not want to join a union, he should have that privilege.'

"With equal force the words of this publisher can be applied to the present criticisms. Because we have criticized the course and conduct in the teaching and the practices of certain schools, we are branded as an enemy of the schools. With the same vehemence of Liberty's publisher we say: 'This statement is false, absolutely'! We merely insist that the schools stay in their place, keep the hands off the church, cease trying to control preachers and form dominating influences in churches. The church must be kept independent and free."

The above information is taken from the sermon' entitled WHAT THE CHURCH MUST DO TO BE SAVED, under point III — SOME IMMEDIATE DANGERS, on pp. 155-156. The sermons contained in this book were given in the long ago, year of 1937, to the brethren of the 6th Street church in Port Arthur, Texas.

My hat is off to brother Wallace, and to all others who continue to oppose (as many have always done) the "marked tendency toward institutionalism."