The Facts Speak For Themselves
In this issue of the Guardian our readers will find an article from Brother Richard E. Smith headed, "A Clarification." Along with it is another "Statement of the Grove Avenue Elders." We invite your careful reading of both statements. Then we urge you to re-read the statement by Brother Smith and carefully examine it to see if you can find in it what the "Grove Avenue Elders" try to make it mean.
In the first statement we carried in the Guardian from these brethren at Grove Avenue — date of June 4, 1953 — they displayed a spirit that evidenced no charity toward Brother Smith or anyone else. Their statement was full of innuendo, and insinuation, along with inferences and implications of deceit, dishonesty, insincerity, and dishonorable character and conduct upon the part of Brother Smith. It gave evidence of everything but measured judgment and the Christian spirit. Sadly enough this runs true to form with "institutional minded" brethren. When you oppose their "idols" they become vindictive and spiteful. That was our comment on their statement then. We have no reason to withdraw such criticism.
In their last statement we see no change of this attitude. We are entirely willing to leave all personal matters between Brother Smith and these brethren to be settled between them, as they should be, but when it comes to the issues which concern the Cause of Christ and the Truth of God, they cannot settle them for any of us. It seems perfectly clear to us that under duress, pressure, and anxiety to do the right thing and go his full length to be sure that he is not wrong, Brother Smith has "leaned over backward" in his "clarification" to satisfy these brethren. Too often it is a temptation in trying to placate angry brethren and "settle" things to acknowledge something which we have not actually done. That, of course, is always a mistake. We hope Brother Smith has not accepted too much of the blame for whatever misunderstanding arose. It should be said to his credit also that in spite of the rough treatment he has received because of the change of conviction, he stands steadfastly against "sponsoring churches," "centralized oversight and control" and "church of Christ seminaries." There are the issues of divine Truth so vital today. On these he states specifically that he has not given any ground whatever. Matters of judgment must be settled with the individual. Each one must act on his own judgment. But on issues of divine truth there is no compromise to be made under any circumstances. What does Brother Smith's statement say? Brother Smith has conceded:
1. That he should have returned upon being asked to do so by the Grove Avenue elders and terminated his relationship with them in an orderly manner before seeking any other support.
2. That he should have written the elders of Grove Avenue even before he did do so concerning his "change of convictions" about their relationship and method of carrying on the work in Germany.
3. That though he felt that Grove Avenue had left him stranded when their check for regular support was held up for three weeks, he now is convinced that they did not intend to leave him so.
4. That the tone of his letters to Brother Keith Thompson which he asked him to send on to Brother Tant and myself seeking support that he might stay with his work, was too severe and that he made a mistake in failing to request that these letters not be published.
5. That he is now convinced that Broadway in Lubbock and Grove Avenue church in San Antonio did not act together and thus that "centralized control" was not exercised by Broadway in his recall.
6. That Broadway church in Lubbock has not south [sic] to control or direct his work at Karlsruhe at any time.
That analyzes his "clarification" as best I can understand what he had in mind. But it is amazing when you turn to read again the statement of the Grove Avenue elders and carefully note what they give him credit for saying.
The Grove Avenue statement claims in either direct fashion or by inference and insinuation that:
1. Brother Smith has apologized to them for many other statements that wire printed in the Guardian.
2. "Brother Smith's statement clearly refutes the charge of centralized control in his recall. We knew and he so states that no such control existed."
3. Brother Smith has cleared up the matter of his support and of his being "stranded."
We want to examine these claims and then we will pay our attention to some other things implied in their statement. It is subtle and veiled in its insinuations and will bear the closest scrutiny.
According to the way we have numbered their claims concerning Brother Smith's statement, let us consider them. (1) Brother Smith has apologized to them for many other statements that were printed in the Guardian. Suppose we give that statement full credit for honesty, it is still manifestly unfair. Brother Smith's statement must speak for itself. That is the reason he wrote it and that is the reason we are printing it, so our readers can have it for themselves and see what he did "apologize" for. You cannot find such a blanket apology in the statement. We challenge the Grove Avenue elders to point it out, We deny as far as the statement is concerned that any such blanket apology was made and until Brother Smith incorporates it in his statement there is no evidence that such was intended at all. This is a cheap trick common in such situations. It is like the effort that some crook makes to extend the terms of a written contract or agreement. It cannot be done by oral testimony. Whatever correction there is in Brother Smith's statement must stand upon the wording of that statement and when he wants another apology made for something else, he can make it. They have absolutely no right to extend his statement to cover things that it does not contain. As to other statements published in the Guardian, we will accept full responsibility for them as we always do and when any of them are shown to be false, we will correct them as we always have. We stated in the article published on June 4, "We did not undertake to represent the facts. We allowed the letters to speak for themselves as to facts in the ease," and they still do. We have not been able to find any admission in Brother Smith's statement that he misrepresented any facts... He admits that he was wrong in his judgment about a thing or two. Such an admission would come rather gracefully from these Grove Avenue elders; in fact, according to our view of the matter, they could go much stronger than admit errors in judgment.
(2) Brother Smith's statement clearly refutes the charge of "centralized control" in his recall. We knew and he so states that no such "control" existed.
This is about the worst distortion of facts concerning Brother Smith's statement that these Grove Avenue elders make. We positively deny that any such claim is warranted by Brother Smith's statement at all. What does he say? Look at it again:
"I have also already stated that I am convinced that Grove Avenue and the Broadway (Lubbock) church did not act together and thus 'centralized control' was not exercised by Broadway in my recall."
He does not concede that Grove Avenue did not exercise "centralized control" in his recall as well as otherwise. He does not concede that Broadway does not exercise "centralized control" in matters outside of his "recall." He does not refute — clearly or otherwise — the charge of "centralized control" even in his recall as they state that he does. He makes no statement that even by the wildest construction can be understood to mean that "no such" control "existed." In fact, every thing that Brother Smith has said evidences that he does think such "centralized control" is very much a reality.
Grove Avenue would leave the impression that Lubbock is the only church that could practice "centralized control." They need to see that though they are not as big in their "operations" as Broadway, they are every bit as guilty of exercising such control over all the funds that are "centralized" in them and put under their "control." They "recalled" Brother Smith for all the churches that were contributing to his support and chances are that these churches were not even consulted about the matter, though it would not have made such an arrangement scriptural if they had been. I am ready to affirm that Grove Avenue church is guilty of "centralized control" not only over the work of Dick Smith but over the work of a congregation which he established in Germany (Karslruhe) and that they are still exercising such control and that it is unscriptural. They are not the mighty promoters that Broadway elders are but they are just as guilty as far as they go.
They have asserted their control not only over the church building which they helped to provide — probably without even the consent of the other church or churches that helped provide the money — but they are treating the seventeen souls of the congregation which Brother Smith and Brother Watson have established in Karlsruhe as though they were chattels because they supported — only partially — the Gospel when it was preached unto them. These disciples at Karlsruhe do not know the elders at Grove Avenue. They have been taught and converted by Brother Smith and Brother Watson, yet because these Grove Avenue elders consider the work there as "their work" they must bid Smith and Watson goodbye and submit to whosoever Grove Avenue elders want to send them and be taught whatever he wants to teach, whether it is in harmony with the word of the Lord or not; and it is almost certain that it will not be. What kind of Christianity is this and where is the scriptural principle for such "control" found in the word of God? It has not been produced though we have called and called for it. It will not be produced because it does not exist.
(3) Brother Smith has cleared up the matter of his own support and of "being stranded."
What has been cleared up is the fact that they withheld his support for three weeks and allowed him to get completely without funds in a foreign land until he submitted to their call to come home. If he had not written them that he was coming home, would they have sent the check they were holding up anyway? If so, why were they holding it up? No they did not "leave him stranded" but the reason they didn't was because he agreed to do what they demanded of him! That is high-handed, autocratic control.
Brother Smith may be convinced that he should have submitted to their "request" to come home within "thirty" days without giving any consideration to staying on, but he hasn't convinced us that he should have done so. If it were possible to stay, this writer doubts seriously if he should have returned at all at this time. His relationship with Grove Avenue could certainly have been terminated without such a long trip and such a break in his work at Karlsruhe.
We are sure also that Brother Smith is following his best judgment in turning the work at Karlsruhe over to these Grove Avenue elders in order to keep from disturbing the brethren at Karlsruhe, but we are not so sure that such is not complete abandonment on his part to what he says he is convinced is wrong. All he can do is exercise his best judgment in the matter. We do not question his right to do that at any time — but our right to disagree with even his judgment is also unquestionable. Such a disregard of scriptural principles as these Grove Avenue elders have shown and the autocratic control they seek to exercise may lead to the complete destruction of these very people at Karlsruhe whom he has helped to save. I personally would dispute their right to such control as to "send another man" in Brother Smith's stead, and I would be slow in abandoning them to what the man that goes will teach.
The facts in this matter of being "stranded" look rather compelling as to the conclusion that Brother Smith reached that such was the case. Let us look at them:
1. In a letter from Grove Avenue elders dated February 13, Brother Smith was notified: "Dear Brother Smith: For some time we have considered asking you to come home. We considered this at the end of your first two years work there, and have considered it several times since. We consider the present to be a good time, and therefore ask you that you advise us by return air mail the earliest date which you can leave there, preferably within the next thirty days. Upon receipt of your reply, we will arrange promptly for the necessary transportation for you and your family,"
2. In response to an inquiring cablegram from Brother Smith the following information arrived on the morning of February 23: "It is the opinion of the elders that you should return as requested in their letter of February 13, with the understanding that there will be no obligation to send you back to Germany."
Both of these communications were received by him before the letters were written to Keith Thompson, and before they were published in the Guardian. The inference from them is pretty strong that the relationship was being terminated in thirty days time. I would have so concluded and think that any other reasonable person would have done likewise. But couple with them the fact that when the time came, following these letters, for his regular monthly check for the next month (March) to arrive it did not come. Add to that also the fact that in their services on March 29th, ten full days after the check should have been mailed, these elders announced in their services and printed in their bulletin the fact that they had discontinued his support — :
Grove Avenue — March 29, 1953 ANNOUNCEMENT
"At the morning service the elders announced the discontinuance of the support of Brother Dick Smith in Germany, with an explanation of the circumstances pertaining thereto.
"Arrangements are being made for the support of another worker in Germany, and these plans will be presented to the congregation as soon as they are completed."
On March 29, when the above notice appeared in the Grove Avenue bulletin, they had not mailed the check that ordinarily went out about the 20th of each month. According to their own admission the check was not even mailed until the second week in April. It was almost a full month late and was not mailed at all until they received word that Brother Smith intended to come home.
Why did they hold the check up? Why not send it on time as usual? Even if it was pay in advance, it was held up much beyond its customary time. Before it was sent, the announcement was made that they had discontinued their support. They had not talked to Brother Smith. All of these facts dove tail together with the thirty days notice they gave him requesting his return. What other conclusion was he to draw? What does he have to apologize for in the conclusion that he had been summarily cut off? Would not you or I or anyone else have drawn the same conclusion?
Why did they make their announcement of the discontinuance of their support while holding up the check and before Brother Smith came home and they could talk to him? The fact is that the announcement in their services and in their bulletin closely followed the publication of his letters in the Gospel Guardian on March 19. If these letters had not been sent on to us and published, Brother Smith would probably have received his check on time and would not have come so near going hungry. The check was withheld for two reasons. One was the uncertainty of his return. If he had not come back the check or his transportation would never have been sent. That seems pretty certain. Then in a spirit of vindictiveness because he had communicated with "The Guardian" and stated his case through these pages, they summarily announced before he could even get home that they would not support him any further.
This is not the only evidence of vindictiveness that these brethren at Grove Avenue have shown. Their first statement was vindictive. In addition to that, they have circulated an eleven page letter, we understand, making some pretty serious charges against Brother Smith. This letter was written before the last session he had with them and before this statement was agreed upon. Their long letter was mailed out to churches with the evident intention of creating the impression that he was unworthy of being supported. They would like to cut him off and make it impossible for him to return to Germany at all. Their measured judgment is that he needs to remain in America for several years and work under, and closely with elders. We believe he would profit much from such oversight." The insinuation of this statement is a reflection upon Brother Smith. It indicates that he does not know how to work with elders, that he does not understand his place, and that he needs the discipline of such "oversight." Who are these elders that would exercise such valuable oversight? Are they infallible? What authority do they have except to do the will of the Lord? We would suggest that these elders of Grove Avenue need to sit at the feet of some Gospel preacher who is neither afraid or ashamed to teach them the truth and show them the limitations of their "authority" in the Lord.
In next to the last paragraph of their statement the lowest insinuation of their whole statement is made. They make a request of Brother Smith that he "belong to no one but the Lord, be committed to the advancement of His Gospel and the exaltation of His church, and to keep himself free from any faction with some hobby or selfish interest to serve." They have definitely demonstrated to me that they are not interested in Brother Smith doing good as a preacher of the Gospel. They have done about everything they can to destroy him and his chance to do good as such by their letters and their "statements." The reason is that he will not bow down to their "factious" and "hobbyistic" practice of "Centralized Control" for which there is not one iota of scriptural authority. If he would bow before them as "elders" and let them prescribe what he can preach, invent their own ways of doing the Lords' work without any regard to authority, and serve their "selfish interests," they would continue to "sponsor and promote him." But because he has conscientious convictions of his own, they virtually disfellowship him, run him out of a work he has built "with his own hands" in Karlsruhe, and try to prevent him from receiving any support at all that he might carry on his work in preaching the Gospel to dying souls in Germany. Tell me that such is the spirit of Christ and I will tell you that it is the best demonstration of Pharisaism I know of.
When will these brethren and many others like them either find scriptural authority and defend what they are doing or quit pretending to "speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where it is silent"?