Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 7, 1954
NUMBER 22, PAGE 8-10a

"Caring For Homeless Children"

Charles A. Holt, Franklin, Tennessee

The above is the title of an article in the May 13 issue of the Gospel Advocate. The article was over two pages long and was written by Brother M. Norvel Young, of the Broadway Church in Lubbock, Texas. The article is written in Brother Young's usual sentimental style and in the main is an appeal to sympathy and sentiment. However, there are some things in it that I want to note.

He starts the article with this statement: "Of the fifty million children under seventeen in our nation, there are approximately two million children who do not have the privilege of having their natural parents." Having thus prepared us with this appeal to our emotions, Brother Young says: "This is a matter of special concern to members of the church of our Lord, because it was the church of Christ and Christians in the first century who had compassion upon orphans and widows in their affliction." Now Brother Young assumes some points. First, he assumes that this is a matter of special concern to members of the Lord's church. Just why should it be a matter of such "special concern"? Is it the obligation of the members of the Lord's church to look after these two million children? If Brother Young was as able to thus appeal to scriptures for support as he can appeal to sentiment, he could easily establish his point. Let Brother Young answer.

Second, Brother Young assumes that it "was the church of Christ . . . . in the first century that had compassion upon widows and orphans in their affliction." He either intentionally or inadvertently seeks to leave the impression that the church of Christ in the first century looked after ALL the widows and orphans; hence, the church of Christ should do so today! Where is the proof of such an assertion?

I should like to ask Brother Young a few questions and I sincerely hope that the will answer. The Gospel Guardian will be happy to carry his reply. (1) Where is the scripture authorizing the church to take care of all the orphans and widows in the world? (2) Do you believe that the church of Christ is responsible for the care of these two million children of whom you speak? (3) If not all the two million, for what percent are we responsible? Be specific and give us "book, chapter and verse. (4) Does this responsibility belong to the church in its universal sense; that is, the whole brotherhood as such, or does it belong to the churches as local congregations? How can we tell which? (5) If the responsibility belongs to the church universally, through what organization shall we operate to fulfill it? (6) If the responsibility rests upon local congregations, how can each congregation tell where her responsibility in this begins and ends? (7) Is the Lord's church under obligation to supply the physical needs of any that are not "her own"? If so, give us the authority — authority for the church carrying on a work of benevolence among "outsiders" or aliens. (8) Upon what scriptural basis did the Broadway Church determine it to be her responsibility to be an "orphan home operator" for West Texas? (9) Is Broadway responsible for the care of all the orphans in West Texas? Are not all the other congregations equally responsible? (10) By what authority do the Broadway elders set themselves up as the agency through which the churches of that area shall do this work? I sincerely hope that Brother Young will pay his respects to these questions. I ask them in the interest of truth.

Brother Young quotes Jesus as saying, "Suffer little children to come unto me," and would seek to give the impression that Jesus was feeding and clothing them. From such he, would conclude that Jesus is saying, "Take care of all the orphans in the world." Also, to him, this is proof positive that it is scripturally right for some big church to build an orphan home (with money they have begged, "publicized" and "pressurized" out of others) to take care of all the orphans, with the other churches working through this church in doing such. These passages justify no such practice and they do not touch any point at issue. Two of the main questions at issue are: (1) Are the churches of Christ obligated to care for all the orphans in the world; and (2) if so, through what organization shall it be done?

Brother Young says a lot about having compassion on the poor and the needy. Ht shows that Jesus set the example of being concerned with such. All of this is well and good, and no doubt needed, but the conclusion does not follow that all the poor and the needy are the responsibility of the church, and therefore, we should build big, brotherhood orphan homes, "widow homes," hospitals or "poor houses." It does not follow that the churches are to organize some human institution, some central organization through which all the churches may work in looking after such matters.

Here is the sort of appeal and the manner of reasoning so often used by our "institutional-minded" brethren today. Listen to Brother Young: "Let us get back to the Bible in this (by giving more to help those in need, CAH) practice. Let us go back to the teachings of Christ and take the lead in showing compassion for those in need, just as the early churches of Christ demonstrated their love for their fellow man to the whole world in their charity . . . . We cannot shift the church's responsibility to the state or to some denomination such as the Roman Catholic Church." Thus does our good brother appeal in behalf of our brotherhood benevolent institution. We are to take "the lead," so says Brother Young, in showing compassion on those in need. We must not let the denominations outdo us! We must rise up and take care of these two million children! Let's show the sectarians how to do it. We can win all the world to the Lord by our generosity!

Brother Young says, "We cannot shift the church's responsibility to the state or to some denomination." Just what is the church's responsibility toward these two million neglected children? How may we determine the extent of our responsibility in this? Just who is it that would want or even desire to "shift the church's responsibility" in this work to the state or to some denomination? No one who loves the Lord would seek to do this. There are some of us, however, that are striving to keep well-meaning brethren from "shifting" to the church certain responsibilities that do not belong to her. There are many who seem bent on binding upon the church obligations that "the Head" has not assigned to the church. This is as much an error as to try to "shift" to the state or the denominations the church's responsibility. We should not err in either respect. The responsibility of the church is fully set forth by "the Head" in His word. Hence, the thing Brother Young should do is show where "the Head" has authorized the church in any sense to look after all the orphans in the world. Brother Young implies that the church has the responsibility of looking after all these two million children, and unless we provide for them the church is trying to shift her responsibility. I should like to read from Brother Young a clear-cut statement defining the "church's responsibility." Will he favor us with such information?

Brother Young says, "Let Christ's church, the kingdom of God, the undenominational body of Christ, restore the Bible emphasis upon helping the needy in the name of Jesus." Thus does he give forth his idea of how the needy should be helped. It is to be done by "Christ's church, the kingdom of God, the undenominational body." This implies that in its universal aspect, as a whole brotherhood, as the kingdom of God, the church is to look after the needy. This is the old unscriptural concept of universal church action, the same basic idea that gave rise to the Missionary Society. If the church universally is charged with this responsibility, then there must be some organization through which the church is to operate universally. Since there is no organization given in the New Testament for universal church action, then we are at liberty to formulate such, or else turn the work over in part or in whole to some local eldership; thus making of them a society or organization for universal church action. With this reasoning the Missionary Society was born. With this same reasoning the brotherhood institutions of our day have been born and perpetuated. Does Brother Young really believe that it is scriptural for the church to act in a universal capacity through some central group, whether a Board of Directors or some local eldership? Upon this principle the supporters of the Missionary Society launched their organization. They thought that "Christ's church, the kingdom of God" in its universal concept was charged with the responsibility of preaching the gospel to .the whole world. Since there was no divinely-given organization for such universal church action, they formed one. Through it all churches could work and cooperate to meet this responsibility. Thus the beginning of that apostasy from the divine order. They did not believe that local congregations working as independent units, carrying on their work to the extent of their ability could do the job. Some larger, super-organization was needed. There needed to be a combination of efforts, a cooperation of churches through some central group, thereby concerting and combining their actions.

The same unscriptural concept characterizes those who build and support the brotherhood institutions today. I defy Brother Young to show the difference in this principle as it is seen in the orphan home of which the Broadway elders are "supervisors," and the Missionary Society. Will he do it? We shall see.

Brother Young sets forth three ways in which the church can meet her "responsibility" toward these two million children. First, he suggests that they can be taken into our homes on a foster-home basis. Second, that we adopt them. He says he wants to encourage the use of these two methods. He recognizes that these two are the best two ways to care for dependent children. Throughout the brotherhood there are dozens of couples that are anxious to secure children under either of these arrangements. In fact, every orphan home among "us" could be emptied within six months by these two methods. Yes, there are plenty of people willing to take as many as three or four children at once. Yet the Broadway church is gathering up all the children possible (that fit their rules of entrance) to put in their institution. There isn't a child in any orphan home among "us" for which a permanent or foster home could not be found. These orphan homes screen the children they receive very carefully. They do not take any afflicted or mentally retarded children either! There are enough Christian homes in Lubbock that would take all the children in Broadway's newest institution, and give them a real home and Christian love. Surely there are that many real Christians in Lubbock who are ready to practice "pure religion" as taught in the New Testament.

Brother Young suggests this as the third way to meet the responsibility:

"Then there is the third way of caring for children in children's homes such as we have recently established in Lubbock because there are many thousands of children that cannot be adopted due to their situation and the laws of the state . . . . It is being done as the church at work. The elders of Broadway Church, fifteen of them, are. serving as supervisors. There is no separate organization or charter and it is operated by the church. A number of other congregations are helping to take care of these children."

This is the method nearest and dearest to Brother Young's heart. This is the method most praised by unthinking brethren. There are men among us who can start such a movement and it will, with proper publicity and support, catch like wild-fire. Men of ability can go out and raise funds for such by "sweet-talk," "pressurizing," publicizing and begging people out of their homes, farms, oil leases, savings and such like, to put over their big enterprises. No group of men in the church have been more successful at this than the Broadway elders. In response to the sentimental appeal and publicity, many good-hearted Christians have handed over to these "brotherhood operators" their entire fortunes.

Brother Young says of the home they have started, "It is being done as the church at work. The elders of the Broadway Church . . . . are serving as supervisors." The Children's Home of Lubbock is "the church at work." Just what does this statement mean? Does it refer only to the Broadway Church at work in this way? If so, it is certainly a false statement, for this home is not the work of the Broadway Church alone. It is the work of many churches as they finance such a program under the "supervisors" — the Broadway elders. Are the children now in the home the responsibility of Broadway alone? Or, can it be that these children are the responsibility of all the churches in that area (just how big an area?)?

It is reported that the Broadway elders refused to give the home a definite name identifying it with the Broadway Church or the churches of Christ. They are reported to have said in effect that such would hurt their efforts to get the business men in that area to support it, and too, they wanted everyone in Lubbock to feel that it belonged to all. Is this correct, Brother Young? Is it anywhere near correct? Does the Children's Home of Lubbock (which is the proper name) belong to the Broadway Church, to the whole brotherhood of churches of Christ with the Broadway elders acting as "supervisors," or the society through which all churches are to work in caring for these orphans; or does the Home belong to all of Lubbock — the town?.

Brother Young says that these fifteen elders act as "supervisors," and this is the correct word, for they certainly cannot act in their official capacity of elders and direct a work for many churches. Now the question is for whom are they "supervisors" of this project. Are they the self-appointed "supervisors" for themselves? Are they the "supervisors" for the Broadway Church alone; "supervisors" for all the contributing churches (and let someone show any obligation that these elders sustain toward Broadway that they do not sustain to every contributing church as far as the Home is concerned!); or "supervisors" for the town of Lubbock? Can they and do they act in their official capacity of elders as they supervise this institution?

"There is no separate organization," so says Brother Young. What is the orphan home if it is not a separate organization? Just because a local eldership composes the "supervisors" doesn't keep this from being a separate organization. If the Broadway elders, all fifteen of them, were the directors of the Missionary Society, would this keep it from being a separate organization and thereby, make it scriptural? There is the organization of fifteen men as "supervisors" of an institution through which many churches are operating to care for some orphans!

Brother Young sums up like this: "It is not a question of one method or the other, but a question of using all of them. Even then we shall fall short of taking care of many children that need care." He is wrong here — very much so. No one that I know questions the right of the first two methods set forth, but about the third there is a lot of question! Where is the authority for such a set-up as the Children's Home of Lubbock as a work of churches of Christ in any sense? If Brother Young will only give the authority for such there will cease to be any question about it. In so doing he can help calm the "troubled waters" in the Lord's body regarding such matters and also really make some progress getting "the kingdom of God" to assume its responsibility in caring for these two million orphans. Let us hope that Brother Young will do this.