Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 5, 1963

The Sponsoring Church

Robert C. Welch

The sponsoring church system of universalizing or denominationalizing churches of Christ has ceased to be a question among churches which have taken the liberal view with respect to other things pertaining to the church, such as recreation and entertainment as features of the work and worship of the church, and human institutions through which the churches perform their work. They neither question it nor perhaps do they preach in defense of their practice any more than the Christian Church preaches in defense of her missionary society. Both the missionary society and the sponsoring church are born of human wisdom and begotten by the ambition to have a universal church or denomination in order to be as big as "other denominations."

In the city where I now live one of the congregations is the sponsor of a Bible Chair at the state college. Other churches contribute to this church or to this Chair, one church bulletin said the contribution was made to the Chair. This Bible Chair is a branch of Harding College, at least it accredits the courses. The state college here accepts these transferred credits from Harding for the student. Many questions arise, but it is doubtful if they ever occur to those who are involved in the complicated tangle. Is the student being taught by the sponsoring church or the contributing church or by Harding College? The relationship of the churches with Harding College is not quite clear. Is the sponsoring church working through Harding College or is Harding working through the sponsoring church, or are they two bodies merely co-operating in edifying the student? Whose work is it; that of the sponsoring church, the contributing church, Harding College or the state college? What does the contributing church support; the student, the director, the sponsoring church, the Bible Chair, Harding College or the state college? The state college is the only one of the participants who comes out unequivocally on the matter. It declares that it can have no connection with the church or its Chair or with direct teaching of Bible courses, but that it will accept credits transferred from an accredited college.

This system is no more complicated than the majority of the sponsoring church arrangements. Occasionally one catches a glimpse of one sponsoring church sending contributions to the sponsoring church of another program and the latter reciprocating. Do these sponsoring churches sponsor each other? They are taking contributions from other churches and from each other in order to spend on each other. Frequently one observes the hint of jealousy between sponsoring churches. One of them appears to think that the other is encroaching on its patented idea, its program or its field of revenue.

Does the dog wag the tail or does the tail wag the dog? Does the sponsoring church control and operate the thing sponsored or does the thing sponsored merely use the sponsor as an endorsement? Do the contributing churches exercise any control of that to which they contribute or does the sponsoring church tell them what to do, or is the whole system controlled by some master project? In the case of Herald of Truth the sponsoring church claims Herald of Truth as part of her work. Yet, Herald of Truth was in existence before the present sponsor had any relationship with it. Did Highland buy Herald of Truth, did the sponsor accept the organization as a gift, or did Highland sell out to Herald of Truth? Highland or Herald of Truth, whichever claims to be the master at the moment, sometimes claims that the organization is the work of the contributing churches, sometimes intimates that it belongs to the brotherhood at large, and sometimes claims that it is Highland's own. Of one thing there is no doubt; the organization called Herald of Truth dominates Highland church and all the others who have subscribed to the sponsoring church system, standing as the primary example for all the political machinery for successful operations of a similar nature among the churches.

The organization has taught the churches to claim that they have lost none of their autonomy for the reason that it is voluntary subscription. In Old Testament times a man could volunteer as a slave. When he did he was as much a slave as if he had been captured by force. In the New Testament the law is for the free man to seek not to become bound. Let them use all the argument they can and will, the facts are still plainly and forcefully evident that the churches are bound under heavy political pressure to the sponsoring church systems to which they have subscribed. Very soon the member churches will be so enmeshed and spiritually indifferent that they will cease claim to independency and autonomy. They have the Christian Church as an immediate example.

No scriptures have been quoted or cited. None was intended. This was written to show the folly, the ludicrous silliness of the schemes of men, even of my brethren, when they forget the complete authority of Christ and the complete sufficiency of the Scriptures and the church. None of this sponsoring church system is even remotely hinted at in the Scriptures. All of it is outside the realm of divine authority and approval; hence all of it is condemned by the Lord in the Scriptures. The time has gone to speak of these things as if we are drifting. They have drifted. The denomination has formed. And it has drawn the circle to exclude all who do not acquiesce in the denominational creed, systems and programs. If you do not believe it, just try opposing their system and practices and see that you are considered a despised outcast.

— 1932 S. Weller, Springfield, Mo.