Then — But What About Now?
On the front page of this issue of the Gospel Guardian we publish an article which was written by Foy E. Wallace, Jr., in 1931 and published as an editorial in the Gospel Advocate, which Brother Wallace was then editing. Eight years later, when Brother B. C. Goodpasture became editor of the Gospel Advocate, he regarded the article so highly that he republished it, and added his own stamp of approval to it in a footnote.
This article was recently called to our attention by some gospel preachers who asked that we publish it, and make the inquiry as to whether this article still reflects the "present sentiments" of the Advocate's editor. For they have become convinced that the whole trend of that journal's policy these past few years has been slanted toward encouraging, promoting, and defending the very thing Brother Wallace warned against.
For example, consider this quotation from the article:
"The missionary society usurps the functions of the church. And when an individual does the same thing the missionary society does — namely, independently receives and disburses missionary funds for the churches — that individual usurps the functions of the church. On the same principle, if the elders of one congregation solicit the funds of other congregations for general distributions, then the elders of one congregation usurp the functions of the congregations whose funds they receive and disburse. It is the same principle as if a society or individual should do so."
Those were the "sentiments" of the Advocate's editor in 1939. What are his "sentiments" now on this matter? — F.Y.T.
That Henderson Meeting
In the July 2 issue of Gospel Advocate Earl West has a most interesting and significant story of an effort made in 1910 by certain brethren in West Tennessee to promote a sort of cooperative plan for the support of an evangelist in West Tennessee. The controversy aroused by the plan was hot; and some rather sharp exchanges took place between brethren who were for and those who were against the scheme.
In brief, the plan proposed at Henderson was nothing more nor less than our present "sponsoring church" plan by which many congregations send their money to one eldership which is to "oversee" a work which all of them support. This was the plan that was tried out in Texas following the Civil War, and which finally developed into the Texas Christian Missionary Society in 1886.
When the aged David Lipscomb saw brethren in West Tennessee following the same fatal path, he took exception to their course, and issued a rather blunt warning against it...the same kind of warning, both in words and in spirit, which has appeared again and again these last few years on the pages of the Gospel Guardian. The Henderson "sponsoring church" (they didn't call it that, but that's what it was) soon played out; and the matter rested for a full generation, only to be revived and revitalized in new form within the past ten years.
But that Henderson meeting was of interest. We have here a letter from one of the men who was present in that meeting, one of the few who is left to tell the tale, Brother C. D. Crouch of Dyess, Arkansas. He writes:
"Brother Tant, I have been thinking a good deal of late about some things of history — recent history — and have considered writing you to look up the matters in the back files of the Gospel Advocate. In this week's issue of the Gospel Advocate, Earl West has reproduced these matters that have been so much on my mind. I wish you would reproduce West's articles in the Guardian. They will certainly show that the present management and editorial policy of the Gospel Advocate are not the same as in 1910.
"I was at that Henderson meeting. G. Dallas Smith was not so dumb that he could not accurately report what was done. It was determined to send out an evangelist in West Tennessee. The Henderson church was to be the "agency"; other churches were to cooperate. The setup was exactly what we have today in Union Avenue church, Broadway church, and others. David Lipscomb said that was wrong. Today, there are a few preachers who argue that it is right.
"J. D. Tant was at the Henderson meeting in 1910. I met him there for the first time. David Lipscomb's note in the Advocate was discussed at the meeting. Dallas Smith proposed that a vote be taken to see how many preachers present endorsed the meeting. J. D. Tant blocked that move. He said he had written David Lipscomb, endorsing his "note of warning," and that this meeting, as a body, could not take any action at all. That was a part of the very thing Lipscomb had warned against."
Three and forty years have passed since those days. And the problem is here again, insidious, difficult, and divisive. It is the old, old problem of "church cooperation." So far as we can judge of present editorial policies and attitudes, the Gospel Guardian is almost alone in her advocacy of the Lipscomb plea and warning. We have sought, inadequately and poorly perhaps, but nevertheless sincerely, to sound the same warning in our day that Lipscomb penned when the situation started to develop in his day. Lipscomb's great influence, his stature as a giant in the scriptures, and the immense respect he commanded among all faithful Christians was enough to turn the tide. The West Tennessee "sponsoring church" plan died aborning.
But another day has come; new leaders have come to the front; new plans and new ideas have been proposed. And there has been no Lipscomb on the scene! Indeed, many feel with Brother Crouch that Lipscomb's own paper has been as responsible as any influence anywhere in promoting and encouraging and furthering these destructive schemes. But whether that be true or not, it certainly is true that the problem is here, the same problem faced by Lipscomb and other faithful men in 1910. And it calls for the most heart-searching and honest kind of dealing. With the whole future of the church in our generation at stake, it is no time for petty politics or personal bickerings.
It is our plan shortly to reproduce the whole series of articles which Brother Earl West has written dealing with the history of these "cooperative" movements. It should cause all who read to take a new look at the matter; and with the perspective of a new background, perhaps see things in a clearer light. Let us earnestly pray that such may be the case.
— F. Y. T.