Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 23, 1961
NUMBER 41, PAGE 1,12-14a

The Evolution Of Institutional Defenses

Cecil Willis, Akron, Ohio

It has been very interesting to observe the evolution of the defense of the various promotional activities among us. The advocates of these things indicate they have never come up with a defense that even satisfies themselves, since every few months a new approach is in vogue. At first, the institutions were defended as only "methods," and were said not to be separate organizations from the church at all. Brother Guy N. Woods was one of the first to discard this line of defense, after having learned in the Woods - Porter Debate in Indianapolis that he did not fare so well with it. Something better had to be improvised. So at Paragould, Arkansas, in the second Woods - Porter Debate, he dropped his first line of defense, and took up another — this one being entirely new to him — the "restored home" argument. G. K. Wallace, in the recent Holt - Wallace Debate, demonstrated that he thought little of the "restored home" argument, as he made no mention of it at all. Instead, he still likes and depends on what Woods has already learned will not work — the "It's just a method" argument. The "total-situation — constituent element" argument, so popular only a short time ago, now appears to be as dead as a dodo. At least it has appeared in no recent defense of institutions that has come to my attention. This argument which Guy N. Woods repeatedly called the best argument he had seen in 25 years of debating and in 100 debates has now been carefully wrapped in grave cloths by institutional defenders, and laid gently to rest in the tomb of oblivion.

One never knows just where he will find the institutional defenders next. They keep searching here and there, trying this and that, in their effort to present a plausible defense for these organizations they are determined to keep whether they are defensible or not. But thus far they have come up with nothing stable enough to stand the assault of more than one or two barrages of truth. Each time they find it necessary to retreat, and to build an entirely new fortress, so complete is the demolition of their arguments when exposed to truth.

As these brethren dash here and there, making first one defense and then another one entirely different, they often leave some of their cohorts holding the (empty) bag Some of them seemingly have a dampened finger in the air to detect which way the wind is blowing before they commit themselves to one position or another. Frequently, after they think they have discovered which way brotherhood opinion is moving, they commit themselves, only to find that Behold! They have gone another direction." Such are the conditions about which we wish to speak.

Maude Carpenter Children's Home of Wichita, Kansas was founded to be operated as some brethren then thought it should be — i.e., under the elders of a church. There then appeared to be too much opposition to homes under boards. So Maude Carpenter Children's Home was organized to be operated under the elders of the Riverside church in Wichita, Kansas. In the Gospel Guardian, May 24, 1951, brother G. K. Wallace, then preacher at Riverside, has the following remarks to make in commending the organizational arrangement of the MCCH.

"Most of my brethren admit, however, that it (i.e., the care of orphans — CW) is a work of the church. If it is a work of the church, we wonder why the church cannot do this work without forming an organization to take over the work of the elders. The Children's Home in Wichita, Kansas, is operated by the Riverside church. We have no organization except the church

"The elders of the Riverside church, by virtue of their being elders, are directors of the Children's Home without any further designating or recording. When a man is appointed an elder of the Riverside church in Wichita, Kansas, he becomes a bishop of all that God wants his church to do.

"For congregations to cooperate, it is not necessary to take a member of each congregation to set up a board separate and apart from the church through which to operate.... Caring for orphans is a work of the church, and since it is, it should be done by the church.


"Since it is admitted that children may be cared for by New Testament churches, why is it necessary to have any thing other than the church to do it?

"In order to do this (care for orphans — CW) they (churches) do not have to go out and form some organization that God never heard of." (My emphasis — CW).

In a later article, Gospel Guardian, Aug. 30, 1951, brother G. K. Wallace says further:

"I do wish that brethren would not set up some organization that God did not authorize to do the work of the church. If it is the work of the church, let the church do it. If it is not the work of the church, let the church stay out of it. The care of orphans and widows is the work of the church, so let the church do it. The church would do it too, if the preachers would not get out and start an organization unknown to the Bible and beg churches to turn their work over to a human organization. There is no discussion today about the church supporting an orphan home out of the church treasury. The discussion is about the kind of a home being supported. If it is the work of the church being done by the church and under the direction of God's elders, no one objects to supporting it out of the treasury. If some organization has taken over the work of the church you cannot blame good elders for objecting. Let the church b e the church."

It is very plain to all who read these statements from brother Wallace that the Maude Carpenter Children's Home was then operated under the oversight of the elders of the Riverside church. If instead of overseeing the home as elders, they comprise a board over the home, then brother Wallace maintains no church should contribute to it; it is an organization about which God knows nothing, an organization unknown to the Bible, and to which good elders should object. He opposes, as parallel to the United Christian Missionary Society, any home under a board. If it is a work of the church, elders of the church should oversee the work, Wallace says.

In addition to this, The Home Journal, published by Maude Carpenter Children's Home, states on each issue, "Supervised and directed by Elders of Riverside Church of Christ, Wichita, Kansas."

But when Guy N. Woods, Tom Warren, et al, began their "restored home" argument, they took the position that the homes under boards were the only ones that were right. The homes under elders were overseen by men who were elders, but their oversight of the home was not as elders, these brethren asserted. Of course it mattered not to these brethren if they flatly contradicted the claims of the elders overseeing these homes. Woods, Warren and others were continually embarrassed by the homes that continued to insist they were overseen by elders as elders. The elders of the Broadway church in Lubbock stated for brother Woods to use in the Indianapolis Woods-Porter Debate that they oversaw the home just as they oversaw the Bible classes of the Broadway church. (See page 286 of Woods - Porter Debate) This sounded good with Woods' "method" argument which he was then making, but it would not work at all with his "restored home" argument which he later made. If the Broadway elders could not oversee the home "as elders" (as Woods declares), and if they sustained the same relationship to the home as to the Bible classes (as they declared), then either they oversaw the home as elders or they oversaw the Bible classes "not as elders!" In their effort to help brother Woods in Indianapolis, these elders got both Woods and themselves in trouble.

After Woods' switch to the "restored home" argument, for a long time the homes under elders just kept quiet. They could not tell for a while whether the Firm Foundation position of endorsing only homes under elders as elders, and opposing homes under boards, or the Gospel Advocate position of endorsing only homes under boards and opposing homes under elders as elders would come out with the greater number of supporters. The homes under elders could not decide which way they were going until they could tell which way the majority of the brethren were going. Woods and company were afraid to press these homes under elders lest they state they were overseen by elders as elders, and Woods and company would have been compelled to oppose them, thus causing themselves to be branded "50% Antis," since they then would oppose approximately half the homes. The homes did not care to commit themselves further just at that time. So they let Woods and Co. restate their position as being under a board (if this would bring Gospel Advocate support), and they let the Firm Foundation continue to quote their old statements about being under elders as elders (if this would bring Firm Foundation support). The homes had everything working their way for a while. During this time they completely refused to state whether they were over the homes as elders or as a board. For a good while I tried to get the elders of the Riverside church to state whether they oversaw Maude Carpenter Home as elders or as a board. These letters were addressed to them, not one of which was answered.

December 18, 1957

Elders of Riverside Church of Christ Box 844

Wichita, Kansas

Dear Brethren,

Recently we have been studying in our Men's Class some of the matters of such wide-spread discussion among members of the church. In this class I made the statement that some of the homes are conducted under the oversight of elders, and others under a board of directors other than the elders.

Brother Guy N. Woods in the Gospel Advocate and in some of his debates has mentioned that the homes which have elders as a board of directors are not under the oversight of elders as elders. He says that a man may be an elder AND a member of the board of directors, but that one is not serving in the capacity of an elder when he serves as a member of the board of directors.

If you would, I would like to have the answer to the following question: Do you consider the Maude Carpenter Home to be under the oversight of the elders of the Riverside church, or do you think that you serve in a capacity other than elders when you serve as the board of directors of the home? I only want to know if Bro. Woods correctly represented you brethren when he says elders do not oversee the home as elders. Your reply would be appreciated.

Your brother in Christ, No answer came to this letter, so on June 2, 1958, I wrote the following letter.

Dear Brethren,

I am very sorry to hear of the recent death of Bro. W. D. Rhodes, though I never knew him personally. Those who sorrow at his passing have my sympathy.

On Dec. 18, 1957 I wrote a letter to you in which I asked one question, but as yet I have received no reply. I ask the question once more hoping you will see fit to answer it. The question as previously worded is "DO YOU CONSIDER THE MAUDE CARPENTER HOME TO BE UNDER THE OVERSIGHT OF THE ELDERS OF THE RIVERSIDE CHURCH, OR DO YOU THINK THAT YOU SERVE IN A CAPACITY OTHER THAN ELDERS WHEN YOU SERVE AS THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE HOME?" My reason for asking the question is that some have represented the work that you discharge as overseers to be an additional work to that of elders. It has been compared to an elder who ALSO served as a member of the board of directors of a college.

The HOME JOURNAL masthead indicates that you oversee the home AS ELDERS. Would you please address a letter to me clearly answering the above question that those of us in this area might clearly know whether your oversight is performed AS ELDERS or as another work in addition to your work as elders? There is considerable interest in this area on this precise point.

Your reply as soon as convenient would be greatly appreciated.

Your brother in Christ, Nearly six months passed and still no reply. So on Nov. 12, 1958, I wrote again.

Mr. Joe Black, Superintendent Maude Carpenter Children's Home Wichita, Kansas

Dear Bro. Black,

The other day Bro. J. Paul DuBois was over at my house and we were discussing the fact that orphan homes are operated in two different ways: i.e. (1) Under a board; (2) Under local elders.

Having read the newspaper (religious) reports prepared by Bro. G. K. Wallace at the time the home there was founded and receiving THE HOME JOURNAL in which it is stated that the home is "Supervised and Directed by Elders of Riverside Church of Christ,". I was of the impression that the home there was operated in the second of the two above mentioned ways. Bro. DuBois said that I was not correct. He said he had a letter from you in which you stated to him that the men who oversee the home there do so not as elders. He said the fact that the board of directors are elders of the Riverside church does not indicate they are doing the work of elders when they oversee the home. Would you please tell me whether these men are now serving as elders when they oversee the home? If not, when did they cease to do so? Bro. G. K. Wallace said they were.

Too, I might mention that Bro. DuBois thought the statement on the paper "Supervised and Directed by....etc." was misleading and should be corrected. If he correctly understood what you said, I too think the statement on the masthead of your paper is misleading and should be corrected.

Would you please inform me just exactly what the elders at Riverside consider to be their relationship to Maude Carpenter Children's Home. It will be deeply appreciated.

Brotherly, I do not see anything so badly wrong in the spirit of my letters that one should refuse to answer the questions asked. So it appears obvious, at least to me, that the reason why the letters were not answered was because they did not want the answer known at that time.

However, it soon became obvious to the homes that Woods and the Gospel Advocate were more vigorously going to press their position than were Reuel Lemmons and the Firm Foundation. As this began to be done, the homes under the boards got bolder, and the homes under elders began to migrate slowly to the Gospel Advocate position. For example, it began to be rumored that the Maude Carpenter officials were saying in private that their position was going to be that of the Gospel Advocate. In accepting the Gospel Advocate POSITION, IT WOULD BE NECESSARY FOR MAUDE CARPENTER CHILDREN'S HOME TO DENY AND RETRACT WHAT G. K. WALLACE SAID IN 1951. But if so doing would bring in more dollars, they did not mind leaving Wallace out on a limb holding an empty bag. Few of the homes have officially adopted the Gospel Advocate position as yet. However, Maude Carpenter Home has In the Sept., 1960 issue of THE HOME JOURNAL an article is published "Elders Are Not Over the Home" written by L. L. Gieger. This very definitely commits the Board over MCCH to the position that the elders at Riverside do not serve as elders in their oversight of the work done. However, in accepting the Gospel Advocate position, these brethren lacked the manliness also to repudiate officially what G. K. Wallace said concerning their position in 1951. You can now expect other homes under elders "as elders" to take the same journey just completed by the Riverside elders, but they will do so in short and slow steps, so as to leave the impression, if possible that they stand today right where they always have stood!

Now, what about other sponsoring church arrangements? Many of us have contended all along that when elders tried to oversee the work of many churches (as was done in the various Orphan Homes, Herald of Truth, and other sponsoring-church setups), they ceased to function as elders. Now the brethren involved in the Orphan Homes have begun to admit the charge. They admit they serve as a board, and not as elders. If this is true in benevolent work of the sponsoring-church type, why would it not also be true in evangelistic work of the sponsoring-church type? Elders are over only a single flock, and over the work of only a single flock. (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-5) It has correctly been charged that when the Highland elders oversee the Herald of Truth (a work financed by over 1,000 churches, with Highland church contributing only about of 1% of the funds spent), these men who serve as elders of the Highland church have overstepped the congregational bounds of elder's authority. If so (and who can successfully deny it?), and if the Bible speaks of elders overseeing only the work of a single congregation (and it does), then the Highland elders in their oversight of the Herald of Truth do not serve merely as elders. The work of elders in the Bible is never defined or described so as to embrace the type of work done by the overseers of the Herald of Truth. But if they do not oversee the Herald of Truth as elders (and this they cannot do, because of Biblically imposed limitations of elder's authority), they must serve in some capacity other than that of elders. If their service is rendered in some capacity other than that of elders, they should forthrightly admit their position. If they do not serve as elders, they are a mere board overseeing the work of the church in evangelism. And what more is the Missionary Society???

But if brethren are now confessing they oversee works of benevolence in capacities other than those of elders (which Maude Carpenter Children's Home directors have just done), why do not the board of directors of the Herald of Truth admit they also serve as a board of directors, and not as elders? I feel sure that most everybody, including themselves, already know it. But perhaps when they feel brotherhood sentiment will tolerate such a confession, it will be forthcoming, just as has been that of the now self-confessed "board of directors" of the Maude Carpenter Children's Home at Wichita, Kansas.