Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 28, 1971
NUMBER 36, PAGE 3-4a

"As Others See Us"


"Oh wad some power the giftie gie us,

To see oursels as others see us!

It wad frae monie a blunder free us,

An' foolish notion."

It was Robert Burns (To A Louse) who penned this bit of rare wisdom. And nowhere does it apply with greater force than in the realm of religion. For instance, Leroy Garrett recently printed the following excerpt from a letter written to him by "an editor of a leading Disciples publication." He was commenting on the respective positions of (a) the liberal Disciples of Christ (represented by the U.C.M.S.) (b) the conservative Disciples of Christ (represented by the North American Convention), and (c) the Churches of Christ (represented by a sort of "no-name" arrangement such as Herald of Truth, etc.) Here is what he said:

"As a church historian, I would have to say that all three groups are on the way toward a closer structure. You (Churches of Christ) are where we were at the turn of the century, and the North American is where we were in 1917. I am amazed that a hundred congregations would send their money to one single congregation and let its elders operate a missionary program. That's a kind of structure Disciples couldn't effect! I read in Firm Foundation an invitation from Highland Park (Abilene?) (he means Fifth and Highland - F.Y.T.) to congregations all over the country to send its elders money to help support 100-plus missionaries serving under the congregation. In line with your last sentence, if that is "being scriptural," then I have no fear that the Lord will accept our United Christian Missionary Society and the North American's Brazil Christian Mission."

That is the quotation, and here is Brother Garrett's comment: "When I am reminded of such inconsistencies of ours as vehemently opposing missionary organizations, conventions, and seminaries when we have the same things with different names, it disturbs me only moderately, for inconsistency isn't all that bad. It may be our only way of growing and getting by with it! What really disturbs me is that we reject as full blood brothers men like the editor who wrote the above. This good man and thousands like him cannot enter into our pulpits, speak at our lectureships, or teach in our schools because they are "there" where they have societies and conventions while we are "here" where we clandestinely have the same things, though maybe not as well structured and effective. The Lord may bear with us in the games we play with each other, but it is something else when we carry them so far as to reject those he has claimed as his own. Jesus may care little about the likes of Herald of Truth or the UCMS, but he may well declare a day of reckoning for those of us who use such things in drawing lines of fellowship on each other." (Restoration Review, November, 1970.)

One big problem (maybe the biggest) in all the hassle that we have had over sponsoring churches and institutionalism has been the inability, or unwillingness, of so many of our brethren to recognize these "arrangements" an incipient missionary societies. They have cried to high heaven that these are not "missionary societies" and have doggedly plowed ahead, turning the same deaf ear to the anguished cries of thousands of their own brethren who say they are "missionary societies" that they turn to the astonished exclamations from those who openly accept the societies!

Fifteen years ago Dr. A. T. DeGrott of Texas Christian University declared that the Churches of Christ were rapidly moving toward an acceptance of the principle of the Missionary Society, and he lauded this as a worthy and hopeful development, pointing toward eventual reunion of the Churches of Christ and the Disciples. He cited the Herald of Truth as a prime example of the kind of "society" he saw developing. It is a strange (and disheartening) thing that so many of our ablest gospel preachers simply cannot see (or will not acknowledge) this truth. It is so obvious to others! Why is it hidden from these good men? Thousands of heart-sick Christians these last twenty years have been echoing Bobbie Burns' prayer, "Oh wad some power the giftie gie us, To see oursels as others see us!" The truth, so clear, so obvious, so easily apparent to s many thousands (both in the Churches of Christ and in the denominational world) is hidden from the eyes of our brethren.

Perhaps we ought to go back a hundred years or more and start all over again. This editor, for one, is perfectly willing to re-study the whole problem of the organized society. Maybe the unity for which we all pray lies in the direction of a re-study. If our fathers were wrong in their opposition to the societies, then let us have the courage and simple honesty to say so — and seek unity on the basis of such an admission. If our fathers were right in their opposition, then let us not give "lip service" to their position while "clandestinely" (Garrett's word) doing the very thing they fought so bitterly! We believe the facts are admitted by all of us: "sponsoring church" cooperatives are arrangements in which scores (or hundreds, or thousands) of congregations turn their funds over to one congregation so that the elders of that congregation may have the oversight of some venture in which all are participating. Is this, or is it not, a "missionary society?" Is this arrangement scriptural, or is it not scriptural? And if this arrangement is scriptural, then on what basis (if any) are the general missionary societies to be opposed?

We agree with DeGrott, with Garrett, and with the unnamed "editor of a leading Disciples publication" whom Garrett quotes. We truly believe we do have "missionary societies" among the Churches of Christ. But we must never, never, Oh never! call them what they are.

— F. Y. T.