Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 4, 1953
NUMBER 5, PAGE 6,14a

Statement From Grove Avenue Elders

Elders, Church Of Christ, 119 Grove Avenue, San Antonio, Texas

April 23, 1953 It is with much reluctance that we make this public statement concerning our request to Brother Richard E. Smith that he come home for consultation relative to the work in Karlsruhe, Germany, which we have supported since June, 1950, with the help of others. We believe each congregation can and should handle its own affairs, and wanting to spare Brother Smith and the work in Germany, we thought it best to sit down with him and discuss the work personally. But since Brother Smith, with the help of others, has hindered this course and has thrown the matter to the four winds by rushing into print regarding a responsibility which we consider our own, we are forced to make a clarifying statement. Too, many have written us for the straight of the matter, because they sensed that the whole story was not told publicly, which is true in this instance.

We would like to urge brethren everywhere to know whereof they speak before they make utterances of judgment.

1. Was Grove Avenue under the control of others in this action? In one of our personal letters to Brother Smith (which was printed in the Gospel Guardian of March 19, 1953), we gave as a reason for calling Brother Smith home his position with reference to the work in Frankfurt: "We have learned, in a round-about way, of your position with reference to the work at Frankfurt. We support that work also, and now find ourselves supporting a work which you oppose, thus, in effect, placing us in the position of opposing a portion of our own work." Now, because we mentioned this reason, it has become the only reason in the illogical minds of some and we are accused of being under the influence of "centralized control." It does not occur to our critics that we have convictions in this matter ourselves. According to them, the only possible course, because we support the work at Frankfurt, is to come under the Broadway church in Lubbock. The Broadway (Lubbock) elders did not know of our request for the return of Brother Smith until after we had made the request, and at no time have the elders of Broadway complained to the elders at Grove Avenue about Brother Smith's opposition to the Frankfurt work. We have learned since requesting Brother Smith to come home that the elders of Broadway had information which we would have welcomed earlier, but which they did not send to us. We saw Brother Smith's real intentions in certain advertisements in the Gospel Guardian early in 1953. Linking other information we had gained with this, we made our decision to call him home for a discussion of his work. Since the elders of the Broadway (Lubbock) church were neither considered nor consulted in making our decision, it is evident that we are not under their influence.

2. Brother Smith promised to keep the elders fully informed of every phase of his work in Germany before he left for that field. That was one of the conditions of our accepting him and supporting him. He had not kept us fully informed. He wrote others on some points which were bothering him, but even then he did not reveal all of his changes. When he wrote us he used general terms, such as "doubt," and when in particular, he would smooth out the problem. The following is an example of this: In "Letter from Germany - No. 1," Gospel Guardian, Brother Smith states that he wrote the elders about his having "locked horns with Gatewood" over the matter of the number of congregations in Germany and the premillennial group Brother Smith had been trying to instruct and set right. The letter to which he is referring was written under date of January 28, 1953. He says in this letter that "there's no serious problem involved in these matters. I just thought that it would be wise to inform you as much as possible, in the event that criticism might reach you from other sources." We, too, thought no serious problem was involved, but in the same Guardian letter Brother Smith states that the fact that he "had locked horns with Gatewood over the number of churches in Germany and the premillennial question apparently was too much for the Grove Avenue elders, for their only reaction seems to be to get me out of here as soon as possible." The fact is, because of Brother Smith's statement "there's no serious problem involved in these matters," this letter was casually filed in the church office as a matter of routine and without so much as a discussion of it by the elders, nor were any comments made on it. We did not care how many discussions Brother Smith had with Brother Gatewood, but we do object to the methods he has used in putting us off guard as to his real convictions and activities. Though he did not let us know that he was committing himself to battle with the straw man, "centralized control," or that he was getting ready to cause a scene on other points, we began to sense that Brother Smith should come home for consultation.

Brother Smith said in the March 19 Gospel Guardian: "Oddly enough, I haven't yet written the elders about my opposition to Gatewood seminary and the centralization over here." Yes, indeed, that is odd, in view of his faithful promise to keep the elders fully informed. Why did not Brother Smith inform us? "Oddly enough" he kept us in the dark.

3. "Oddly enough, I haven't written the elders" and "no doubt they would really wonder if they knew I had been opposing for many months." (Guardian, March 19, 1953) This hardly seems an honorable way to conduct one's self toward those who had confidence in him and had supported him liberally in all of the directions he had given to the elders. When Brother Smith was requested to return he rushed into print with misrepresentations.

We had heard not one word from any source on the following attitude until it came out in the Guardian: "I seek no 'sponsoring' church. I've been convinced of the wrong in that for some time but was at a loss to know what to do about it." Does that sound like a man of conviction and straightforward dealing? Why did he not tell us? Why did he not follow his conviction? Where was his conscience in all this? He continued to accept our checks, even to the present. As long as the money was coming Brother Smith seemed satisfied to withhold his views. But as soon as he is called home he becomes critical of the elders at Grove Avenue.

4. "Oddly enough" paragraphs.

(a) The revelations that Brother Smith seemed to have had when he was asked to come home are noteworthy. He seems to have realized suddenly that he should tell the world his convictions on "sponsoring" churches, yet in his "Letter from Germany - No. 1" he says "A year ago they wrote saying they had agreed to extend our support for another year. That year won't be up for about three months. I'm going to try and get them to keep us here that long so I'll at least have time to secure support elsewhere." Oddly enough, our continued support would violate his changed convictions, yet he was willing to, and did, solicit it.

(b) Brother Smith also seems to have realized suddenly that he was not under the oversight of elders 5,000 miles away. He says, "Counsel and help I'll always welcome, but I am convinced that their job is to oversee the flock among them." So far as we know this light was not revealed to Brother Smith until he was requested to come home. There had been no intimation of it to the elders, or to anyone else with whom we are acquainted, prior to the publication of his letters in the Guardian. We are old fashioned enough to believe that he should show himself subject to the elders who have the oversight of him and his work.

(c) Oddly enough, it is also notable how he had previously felt that "we are in competent hands now" — that is, the hands of "spiritual, capable elders," only to have it suddenly revealed to him, when he was asked to come home by these elders, how "soft and wishy-washy when it comes to basic scriptural truth" they were — how without "conviction" they were and how they "throw up their hands and run at the sight of a problem."

(d) Oddly enough, Brother Smith states in "Letter from Germany - No. 2" that he didn't know where the Grove Avenue elders got their information about him opposing some of the work supported by Grove Avenue, etc. He says "I haven't tried to keep it a secret," and then states that he had corresponded in detail about the problem with the preacher at Grove Avenue since last November. Yet in a letter to one of the elders, under date of March 19, 1953, (oddly enough, March 19) he says, "I realized that you were supporting the school and because of that I tried desperately to get myself straightened out on the matter because I knew I'd have to get myself straightened out. I didn't want to say anything to you until I'd thoroughly discussed the matter with the brethren here as well as with" the preacher at Grove Avenue. The "preacher at Grove Avenue" respected Brother Smith's correspondence as personal and private, yet Brother Smith maintains that it constituted notice to the elders. (If the preacher had told some of the elders about it, that would not have been Brother Smith's intended course.)

The publisher and the editor of the Gospel Guardian, without consulting Grove Avenue, urged the readers of the Guardian to come to Brother Smith's rescue. "It is even possible that some of the churches which have been contributing THROUGH Grove Avenue and St. Elmo — will now want to send direct to them, and enable them to remain in Germany." Yes, take the matter out of the hands of the elders who are responsible for this work and let the control agency in Lufkin direct churches to send to the support of Brother Smith in Karlsruhe! "Now, can you see it?" "Centralized Control A Reality" via Lufkin.

We are interested in the success of the work in Karlsruhe, as well as in other points in Germany, and we have plans for supporting another worker. We are not interested, however, in supporting a preacher in Germany, or anywhere else, who would maintain a critical view, to the point of opposition, regarding other work we are doing in that field, when the critical view is based on a matter of judgment. The building in Karlsruhe is ours, with St. Elmo, and for our part we are not willing for hobbyist to use it.