Brother Lemmons' "Clear Cut Statement"
Elsewhere in this issue of the Guardian Brother Reuel Lemmons has an article captioned "Accommodating Brother Kelley" in which he proposes to answer a little criticism we made in his direction about his vagueness in the matter of church cooperation and in which he gives us a "clear cut statement," he says, of where he stands on church cooperation. Brother Lemmons seems a little "miffed" at being the subject of the criticism we offered. The criticism wasn't an attempt to simply "find fault with brethren" as he says in his second paragraph. That's the trouble with some of the brethren — you can't ask them a simple question relative to some of the issues confronting us without them getting all in a huff and imagining that someone is trying to "line them up," or "find fault" with them. And insofar as what he read being a "classic example of the loose writing — upon the subject of church cooperation," he may be right. We won't argue that point — he has a right to his opinion. But this "loose writing" that Brother Lemmons says is "filling some of the papers" doesn't leave one to wonder where the writers stand or what they believe. And if it takes "loose writing" for one to be understood as to what he believes or where he stands then we would suggest that Brother Lemmons "loosen up" a little. His "clear cut statement" is still just as vague in this respect as the editorial which we first criticized. This suggestion doesn't intend to interfere with Brother Lemmons' "autonomy."
He tells us he hasn't "lined up" with anyone on the question of church cooperation but immediately "advises" Brother E. R. Harper to "clip and save" for future battles — but he hasn't "lined up" with anyone. He should know that Brother Harper can't prove his point by "clipping and saving" and referring to what brethren have said, it will take the word of God to do that. Brother Harper may need some help but that kind of "advice" isn't it.
But here is his "clear cut statement": "The principle of New Testament cooperation is: New Testament churches (congregations) can cooperate. That's exactly where I stand." As George Goble says, "Now isn't that nice." That reminds me of a talk I had with a Methodist preacher one time on the question of the Lord's Supper. He wouldn't be pinned down; he simply said the "New Testament teaches Christians to partake of the Lord's Supper and that's where I stand and that's what we do, period." Brother Lemmons said, "I hope this removes any 'vagueness' or 'fog' the brother feels is there." He knows it doesn't, but he is hoping just what that Methodist preacher was hoping — that he will be left alone. I don't imagine he will be. He cites Acts, chapter 15 as his example of church cooperation and recommends a careful study of this chapter by brethren doing their own "individual thinking." This is where the apostles and elders at Jerusalem send instruction to Antioch and settle a dispute up there about circumcision. That's the kind of cooperation he believes in. Does our brother propose that the church at Abilene or Lubbock or some place else take upon itself to settle all the differences of the brethren at some other place? From what he says you can't be sure just what he means. Again we suggest that he "loosen up" a little. But if one thousand plus churches can do their radio preaching through a single eldership why can't that many churches look to a single eldership to settle all their differences? Maybe that is what he means.
In closing he says "brethren ought to be able to look at this cooperation question without having to look through money colored glasses, or project colored glasses either." Maybe brethren ought to be able to do this, but who created the "money colored" and "project colored" glasses that brethren are wearing around today anyway? The word of God certainly did not. To some Texas oil men and maybe even some Texas preachers one million five hundred thousand dollars a year may not sound like very much money, or one thousand churches working through a single eldership may not sound like many churches. But to a boy in the southwest Louisiana cane breaks where you can count the churches on your fingers, that's a lot of money and a lot of churches.
Now in closing our part of this little exchange we remind our readers again: Brother Lemmons talked about the "abuses" of the principle of church cooperation but he still hasn't told us what they are. He said some of the brethren were using the "abuses" to fight against cooperation itself. What are the abuses Brother Lemmons? You said "New Testament churches can cooperate," that's fine. Don't be like that Methodist preacher and say "that's it, period." Tell us about them and the ones guilty of the abuse. Clear up the "fog" and the "vagueness" for us. "Tell us plainly."