She Wanted Her Church Letter
(Editor's note: Brother Harold V. Trimble, preacher for the church at Columbus, Mississippi, recently received a letter from a Methodist pastor, saying: "Mrs. Robert Fisher, a member of the church of Christ in your city, requests me to write you for her church letter." Instead of lightly dismissing this erring sister and turning her over to the false teaching of denominationalism, brother Trimble wrote her the following letter. We believe it to be a clear statement of the issues involved when one turns from the truth to the errors of denominationalism).
Columbus, Mississippi April 20, 1950
Dear Sister Fisher:
According to Pastor S. N. Root's request I undertake a matter that is distasteful to me, and in all probability shall be displeasing to you. He requested a letter of dismissal for you, sister Fisher, and stated: "I feel sure that you are sorry to give this young lady up, but we are delighted to have her." Yes, we are sorry, and we are saddened at the thought of losing our sister. We doubt not the pastor's statement of delight in persuading you to become a Methodist.
When you heard the word of God, and believed that Jesus Christ was His blessed Son, and our redeemer, you "confessed with your mouth the Lord Jesus Christ." Upon that good confession you were "baptized into Christ." The Lord added you to His church. (Acts 2:47) No man has God's authority to compose a letter of dismissal from Christ or His church. We claim not the authority to let one either in or out, and hence, if you leave that church it will have to be by your own desire, and not by the will of God.
Do you and pastor Root not understand that you made no allegiance to an earthly head? That you have no obligations whatsoever to a denominational government? Yes! That you are not and have not been associated with a denomination? And that none of us has a command, precept, or divine example for giving a letter of dismissal such as you ask? All who left a congregation of the church of God in New Testament days invariably identified themselves with a congregation of the same people. Denominationalism was not then begotten, much less born!
The church of which you are a member is God's Kingdom. (Matt. 16:18-19, Lk. 22:19-20) Would you want a letter of dismissal from that Kingdom? In whose Kingdom would you be if you left Christ's?
In becoming a member of His church you became a part of Christ's Bride. (Rom. 7:4; II Cor. 11:2) Being married to Christ, is it your desire to sever that spiritual and sacred union despite the Divine injunction "what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder?"
"To be united with Christ is to be united with His church and, conversely, to be disconnected from the church is to be disconnected from the Christ."
Dear sister, it is altogether probable that you are in, or near, the same condition of the Laodicean church members. Being neither hot nor cold the Lord will let you out. (Rev. 3:15-16) No man on earth, or group of men, received you into the church of Christ. You were born into God's house, or family. (I Tim. 3:15) Death or disinheritance could separate you from His family here: As therefore, no one voted you into the church, none has the right to dissolve your allegiance to that Body.
If it be your heart's desire to renounce your faith in Christ, and in the church for which he died, and join the Methodist church; then we can only say we believe that you are "selling your birthright for a mess of pottage." Christ did not build the Methodist church. (Matt. 16:18) He did not fill it with His spirit. (Acts 2, and Acts 10) He has not promised to save it. (Eph. 5:22) If is not guided by His word!
To be a "Methodist," or a member of "The Methodist church," is to "go beyond that which is written," (II John 9) Would to God that not only you, our sister, but your pastor would be content with being just a "Christian!" You can "glorify God in that name," (I Pet. 4:16) and in His church. (Eph. 3:21).
If you will only pray "Thy will be done," and go to God's will, the New Testament, and find where God desires you to become a "Methodist," then I would cheerfully say: "Go ahead, and make room for me for I go with thee."
Though this letter is plain and to the point, it is written in love. Should it arouse the ire of pastor Root, I should feel more than obligated to allow him the privilege of open and honorable discussion of the differences between us.
As this decision is of such moment, and no one can make it but you, it is my sincere prayer that God will choose out any change you might make in His mercy. It is a decision between the "Methodist" church, and "the churches of Christ," a church founded by John Wesley and the one founded by Christ; a church founded in Oxford, England, instead of Jerusalem, Palestine (Isa. 2:2-4); a church founded seventeen hundred years after Christ had established His during the days of the Apostles! A decision between God's will and man's.
With the query of Elijah and the prayer of the Apostle Paul we close. "How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him." "I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me, this day, were both almost, and altogether SUCH AS I AM, except these bonds."
In Christian hope, Harold V. Trimble