Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 23, 1962
NUMBER 16, PAGE 2,10a

"Antioch's Church Of Christ Congregation"

Jerry F. Bassett

The circumstances necessitating the writing of this article are indeed regrettable, making the task itself an unpleasant one for the writer. However, when those who profess to be followers of Christ cast reproach upon His cause in perverting the truth and misrepresenting the church to the community, the responsibility falls upon those who would strive to keep his commands to give reply.

In the Antioch Daily Ledger of June 15, 1062, there appeared an article announcing a plan of the congregation meeting at 16th and A streets to construct a new building and giving a brief history of the congregation. Following is an excerpt from that article:

"Antioch's Church of Christ congregation has helped establish branches of the faith in nearby communities and has done its part in furthering the church in Italy, Ethiopia, and Australia.

"The church also supports 'The Herald of Truth, a nation-wide radio and television gospel program originating in Abilene, Texas.

"The Church of Christ also aids in the care of the homeless aged and young through establishing homes on the order of the Sierra Children's Home near Vacaville."

It is true that newspaper men sometimes misrepresent preachers and churches, but there is in this article a statement which in one respect reflects the truth whether it originated with the reporter or with the congregation. The statement in point is that which the 16th and A Street congregation is called "Antioch's Church of Christ congregation." To be sure the statement is erroneous in its use of the name of Christ since that congregation long ago fell in love with denominational innovations in the work and organization of the church and is now knowingly and impenitently committing spiritual adultery with these things. In so doing it has mocked its vows of marriage to Christ and so has lost its right to be known as a church of Christ. The point, however, at which the statement applies with deadly accuracy is in the organizational concept it expresses, a "Church of Christ congregation." In the New Testament, local churches are called "churches of Christ" (Roman 16:16), which would make one of them in its location the church of Christ. Thus, local churches in the New Testament are not merely organizational units composing the universal church, rather each in its local identity is THE CHURCH. (1 Corinthians 1:2) (The universal church is composed of individual Christians, not organizational units or congregations. — Heb. 12:22-23) In contrast to this the congregation at 16th and A streets is a "Church of Christ congregation," that is, merely an organizational unit of a larger universal organization; in this case falsely called "Church of Christ." This is precisely the organizational set up employed by the Roman Catholic Church in which Catholic churches all over the world are merely organizational units of an overall, universal organization known as the Roman Catholic Church through which the activities of these local churches are channeled. That this organizational structure is actually possessed by the 16th and A congregation is admitted by them in their boast of supporting the Herald of Truth. The Herald of Truth is a nation-wide radio and television program, which, according to their own claims, is under the oversight of the elders of the Highland Avenue congregation in Abilene, Texas, and is a work in which other churches are invited to "cooperate" by supplying the operating funds. Now, since the Highland elders oversee this work, it follows that to the extent that the contributing congregations cooperate in it they submit to the oversight of those elders. This organizational arrangement constitutes a surrender of autonomy by the contributing churches, and an usurpation of authority by the overseeing elders. (1 Peter 5:1-2) The Herald of Truth is then an overall, universal organization (though yet small in scale) through which its organizational units (the contributing congregations) channel their funds to preach the gospel. "Antioch's Church of Christ congregation," which is actually a "Herald of Truth congregation," needs to apologize to the Roman Catholic hierarchy for claiming to oppose its organizational error while at the same time hypocritically engaging in it.

The newspaper article further stated that "The Church of Christ also aids in the care of the homeless aged and young through establishing homes on the order of The Sierra Children's Home...." This statement obviously comes from the 16th and A congregation since it is known that it supports the Sierra Children's Home. What these digressives also need to make known is the Bible passage that authorizes "The Church of Christ" to establish institutional orphan's homes. Not too long ago this same congregation ran an advertisement in which it claimed to be governed by the Bible and It alone. All right, you folks at 16th and A, WHERE IS THE BIBLE PASSAGE THAT GOVERNS THE ' CHURCH OF CHRIST" IN THE BUILDING OF HUMAN INSTITUTIONS THROUGH WHICH CONGREGATIONS MAY WORK? These digressives are going to have to surrender one of two things: either their claim to following the Bible or else their human institutions. I pray it will be the latter, but if past performance is a guide to future behavior such will not be the case.

To be sure, this apostate body calling itself by the Church of Christ may establish and function through human institutions but the churches of Christ mentioned in the New Testament never did, nor is there one shred of authority for them to have done so either, then or now. In benevolence the individual Christian is charged with the responsibility of helping whomever he can as opportunity and ability exist. (James 1:27; 2:13-17; Gal. 6:10) In the same sphere of work churches of Christ are charged to care for needy saints and do it through no organization other than the local church. (Acts 6:1-8; 11:27-30; 1 Cor. 16:1-4; etc.) It is plain to see that what this digressive body calling itself the Church of Christ is doing and what churches of Christ did, and are authorized to do, are two very different things.

Perhaps Jesse Stephens who preaches at 16th and A, or the elders there, will step forth to defend their teaching and practice. The church now meeting at 616 Tregallas Road in Antioch is composed of brethren who were forced to leave 16th and A when the elders there would not give Bible authority for their teaching and practice, and because those same elders threatened withdrawal of fellowship from any member who dared study the issues either publicly or privately. Perhaps by this time those elders have found the Bible authority and/or the honor to attempt a defense of their course. As for Jesse Stephens, there is little chance that he will do anything about this matter that is either scriptural or honorable. This is not intended to be harsh, it is simply a statement of fact. It has been but a short time since Stephens persuaded the elders where he preached at 10th and Washington in Eugene, Oregon, to place the support of the Herald of Truth in that congregation's budget. He did so over the conscientious pleas of certain brethren to first prove the scripturalness of such a program. When the proof was not forthcoming, and when support of the Herald of Truth was nonetheless assumed, these brethren were forced to either violate their consciences or leave 10th and Washington. They chose the latter course and now compose part of the membership of a faithful church in Eugene. Stephens was directly responsible' for splitting the church at 10th and Washington in Eugene. He used the elders there as a lever to force in his digressive idol and then hid behind them to keep from having to defend it. He may deny this if he wishes, but there are too many creditable witnesses to the truth of this statement for such a denial to be successful with honest brethren. In this his character was as cowardly as his teaching was false and there is no reason to believe that he will be otherwise in this present matter. If this opinion is wrong, Stephens can prove it by stepping out into the open to meet the issue. If he does so, I will be happy to apologize for wrongly predicting his action and equally as happy to meet him on the issue.

Perhaps there are those at 16th and A who are weary of having their faith in Christ measured by their love for devices of human wisdom such as Sierra Children's Home, Herald of Truth, etc. If so, I express to you a most sincere invitation to study the Bible on these questions at any time or place that can be arranged. The Bible contains God's answers to all of our questions. Let us therefore be quick to study and accept what it teaches. — 320 Miner Avenue, Antioch, California