Echoes From Abilene
The Abilene Christian College lectureship this year was bigger than ever. Perhaps 4,000 people heard the speakers each night, and visitors were present from all parts of the nation and out of the nation. There were two or three aspects of the lectureship that were of especial interest to some of us, and we comment on them to our readers.
We heard several good talks, but missed the one that seemed to bring the most lively discussion and received the warmest commendation of all — the talk by Brother Mack Kercheville. We are hopeful of being able to bring that lecture to readers of the Gospel Guardian; or, if not all of it, then the section that had to do particularly with the question of church cooperation in mission work. Brother Kercheville has been deeply interested for several years in the work among the Mexicans. He has preached to the Mexican brethren in El Paso, has made trips into Mexico to encourage and strengthen the loyal congregations there, and has been instrumental in getting many others interested in that field. What he had to say about church cooperation in ventures of this kind was spoken from experience as well as from a careful and earnest study of the teaching of the Bible on the subject.
The very fact that Brother Kercheville spoke so openly and so frankly on such a subject was significant. For it showed a healthy and commendable "trend" in the thinking of those who have been participating in the lectures. For the past three or four years, while the "cooperation issue" has been so hotly debated, it has been noticeable that the lecturers have generally avoided any effort to deal with the matter. Whether this has been due to the action of those directing the lectureship or has been merely the decision of the speakers, we do not know. But we do know that no special provision has been made on the programs for the discussion of controversial issues, and no such discussions have taken place.
This year, however, it was different. Not only did Brother Kercheville venture into this hitherto "forbidden" field, but so also did several of the others. We heard an excellent discussion of the "orphan home" matter by Brother James D. Willeford, in which he strongly urged Christian people to open up their homes to the neglected children of the nation. He pleaded that Christian "foster homes" were far superior to the very best of "institutional" homes, and declared that it would be a very simple matter for willing Christian people to qualify as foster parents for dependent children. Brother Logan Fox also got into the "forbidden territory" in his discussion of the missionary work and Ibaraki Christian College. He ventured into an area that has not been discussed in past lectureships when he began to tell how the Ibaraki school operates, and to emphasize that it is NOT a part of the work of the church... some of its promoters and "sponsors" in this country to the contrary notwithstanding! We thought a whole lot better of the school after his speech than we did before.
One of the most interesting talks of all to us personally was the report of Brother Carl Mitchell concerning the Italian work. He emphasized the weakness and impotence of Protestant denominationalism to meet the challenge of Catholicism in Italy, pointing out that it is squarely up to the Lord's church to meet the problem of combating the iniquitous influence of the "man of sin." He called for a courageous and uncompromising stand for the truth of the gospel, both in Italy and in America. His talk could not but stir the hearts of all who heard him and who are interested in the cause in Italy. From reports reaching us through various avenues we are much impressed with the determination of our brethren in Italy to stand for the truth over there, and to refuse to form the kind of denominational machinery through which Protestantism has been working. We believe such conviction and such courage will not go unnoticed, but will bring forth help and support front Christians all over this nation.
Symptomatic of the different atmosphere we sensed on the campus this year was the announcement made the last night of the series for the theme of next year's lectures: "Overcoming Dangerous Tendencies."
That is REALLY something to look forward to! For the Gospel Guardian has been lampooned and lambasted, harpooned and harassed lo! these many months because of our insistence that there ARE some "dangerous tendencies" among the churches today. We have been caricatured as "heresy-hunters," "accusers of the brethren," "camel-swallowers and gnat-strainers" and a few other less complimentary terms, all because we saw, or thought we saw, some "dangerous tendencies" developing in certain areas. Only a few weeks ago Brother Burton Coffman, editor of Christian Leader had this to say:
"One of the most amazing neuroses which afflicts the church today is that of trend detecting. When some spiritual neurotic is unable to oppose a given project upon the basis of its present constitution and appearance, he falls back upon the assumption that there's an evil trend in it!"
Well, maybe Brother Coffman will be able to straighten out some of the "spiritual neurotics" who arrange the ACC lectureships. They seem to think there may be some "dangerous tendencies" somewhere round about. We shall see.