"Decency And Order"
The above caption is the title of an article that has been received in the Guardian office with request for review. This article appeared in The Waymarks, a bulletin published weekly by Central Church of Christ, Amarillo, Texas, for which L. R. Wilson is listed as Minister. This copy of The Waymarks is dated April 14, 1956, and the article is signed "Elders, Central Church of Christ."
The Scriptures require that orderly procedures be followed in all meetings of the church, whether in public worship, Bible study, or the meetings of the presbytery. The apostle Paul said, 'Let all things be done decently and in order' (1 Cor. 14:40). The word 'decently' as here used means properly or becomingly. The word 'order' means an arrangement or fixed succession with reference to both procedure and time. While the Scriptures give some detail as to what constitutes 'orderly' procedure, much is left to man's sense of propriety. With reference to this very matter Paul said, 'Brethren, be not children in understanding,' indicating that the Lord expects us to exercise the initiative and discernment of men and not children in establishing proper order in the proceedings of church meetings.
'And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they had believed' (Acts 14:23). Here is given in outline the procedures followed in the appointment of elders; the details that fill up the outline being left to the discernment of the participants. Again it is said, 'And we have sent with him the brother . . . who was chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace' (2 Cor. 8:18, 19). In this instance we are given an outline of the appointment of a man or men to act as representatives of a plurality of congregations engaged in a common cooperative effort.
In the passages above cited the words 'ordain' and 'chosen' both come from the original word `cheirotoneo.' Young defines this word, 'To elect by stretching out the hand.' Thayer defines it, 'To vote by stretching out the hand . . . to create or appoint by vote . . . to elect, appoint, create.' Since the Scriptures are given 'not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth,' we conclude that the right of suffrage was given to the church in matters of expediency and that on occasion voting was used in the appointment of men to serve as officers in the local congregation. — Elders, Central Church of Christ.
This article clearly puts the "Elders, Central Church of Christ," Amarillo, Texas, on record as favoring the "right of suffrage" in the church "in matters of expediency" and, also, contending "that on occasion voting was used in the appointment of men to serve as officers in the local congregation." These elders of the Central church claim Scriptural authority for their stand and even attempt to quote Thayer on the meaning of the original word translated "ordain" and "chosen" in Acts 14:23 and 2 Cor. 8:18, 19 as favoring their position in this matter.
This is the same congregation in which there has been trouble since the time Hoyt Houchen was fired by a majority of the, then, five elders, three against two. Following Houchen's departure by some time there was a wholesale resignation of elders and deacons and paid employees of the Central church, though at the time two elders were sick and unable to attend the meeting. Some of those who resigned did so under pressure and against their better judgment, but rather than have their names submitted to the vote of the congregation did so any way. Elders, deacons, preacher, song leader (lately called "music director"), secretary and janitor resigned. Then a committee of three men was selected to direct the affairs of the congregation until elders could be appointed, but none of those who had served as elders or deacons were to be reappointed in those capacities.
Ballots were passed out to the congregation, some time later, and names of men to serve as elders and deacons were written in by members of the church. Three men to serve as elders and some fifteen men to serve as deacons were selected and approved by the congregation. A short time after the elders and deacons were selected four of the deacons were elevated to be elders. Some statement was made to the effect that since the congregation had approved these four men to serve as deacons they would have no cause to object to their being made elders.
Some three months after this transaction took place three of the elders were "retired" from the "board" of elders in the Central church. The following document, which is a copy of the original mailed to the members of the "Central Church of Christ" will explain how this "retirement" took place. The letter follows:
"Amarillo, Texas November 9, 1954.
"TO THE MEMBERS OF THE CENTRAL CHURCH OF CHRIST:
"This letter is written in order to acquaint you with the circumstances surrounding the retirement of three of your elders.
"When your elders were chosen, selection was made of men who had but slight acquaintance with each other, hence could not know how closely they could work together. Being aware of this fact your elders mutually agreed at the beginning that should circumstances develop whereby they were hindered in working together, they would take the necessary steps to reconstitute the eldership so that perfect harmony could prevail and the work of the Lord prosper in Central Church.
"In the course of a few months there developed among your elders basic, personality differences or conflicts which made it impossible to maintain the close knit unity of spirit necessary for the prosperity of the church. In an effort to correct this condition, your elders entered into the following agreement:
"Resolution And Agreement"
"Whereas the elders of the Central Church of Christ in Amarillo, Texas, are desirous of promoting the fellowship of the saints in the bonds of peace, and whereas it is believed that the temper and tone of the board of elders will be reflected in the congregation, and that therefore the closest bonds of affection and fellowship must he maintained between fellow elders;
"NOW THEREFORE be it resolved that we, the undersigned elders of Central Church, in regular meeting on this the Seventh day of November, A. D. 1954, do mutually agree:
"That each of us will submit his name to his fellow elders for a vote of confidence; "That each of us receiving as many as three favorable votes will continue to serve on the board of elders of Central Church;
"That each of us receiving less than three favorable votes will retire from the board of elders of Central Church;
"That whether we retire from the board of elders or continue to serve as elders, we will maintain a personal attitude of affection and good will toward all and will exercise ourselves in promoting the same spirit among the members of the congregation.
"Witness our hands the seventh day of November, A. D. 1954, at Amarillo, Texas.
Ben R. Beck (Signed)
M. W. Gentry (Signed)
H. C. Brown (Signed)
H. L. O'Neal (Signed)
Ivan Tucker (Signed)
A. E. Duncan (Signed)
D. L. Shelton (Signed)
"Agreement And Acceptance"
"The above agreement was acted upon and as a result of the votes cast Brethren H. C. Brown, A. E. Duncan and M. W. Gentry retired from the board.
"It is our humble desire that this action shall not be regarded as a shirking of responsibility by anyone, nor as a reflection upon either of those who have retired or those continuing as elders. We trust that you will receive this action as a sincere effort to serve the Lord on the part of all concerned. Your prayers for peace and prosperity in Central Church are requested.
"Yours in Christ,"
Ben R. Beck (Signed)
H. L. O'Neal (Signed)
Ivan Tucker (Signed)
D. L. Shelton (Signed)"
And this in a church claiming to be the Lord's!
Believe it who can! In the first place elders who do not know any more about quoting an author than to misquote Thayer as has been done in the article "DECENCY AND ORDER" should never attempt to quote an authority on Greek. Did Brother L. R. Wilson know that these men were putting such a misquote of Thayer's Greek Lexicon in the bulletin? If so, how can it be explained that he let it pass? Here is what we are talking about. As the reader can see in the last paragraph of the article first quoted in this discussion, these words are used, "Thayer defines it, 'To vote by stretching out the hand . .. to create or appoint by vote . . . to elect, appoint, create." Now, this quotation from The Waymarks shows by the dots that some things were left out of the quotation from Thayer. Were, they left out deliberately or unwittingly? But what was left out of the quotation from Thayer?
We here give the definitions "b" and "c" down to the citation of the scripture, Acts 14:23: (This is the definition of the Greek word, "chierotoneo") "b. to create or appoint by vote: Tina, one to have charge of some office or duty, pass. 2 Cor. viii. 19, and in the spurious subscriptions in 2 Tim. iv. 23; Tit. iii.15. c. with the loss of the notion of extending the hand, to elect, appoint, create: tina, Acts xiv. 23.. ." Thus, you can see that the part left out by the elders of Central Church of Christ in the second part of the quotation, shows beyond question that the word had lost "the notion of the extending of the hand" in Acts 14:23. This would make the quotation given in the bulletin to be the exact opposite of what the elders used it to prove. How on earth can they account for this misquotation of Thayer? What kind of a letter of explanation will they send to the congregation on this point? Will they be honest enough to tell the congregation that they either knowingly or ignorantly gave the meaning to the quotation by leaving out part of it that is exactly opposite to what they intended to make it mean?
For brethren to try to make voting out of what was done by Paul and Barnabas as recorded in Acts 14:23 reminds one of those who try to get the use of instrumental music out of psallo, because it originally meant "to pluck off," "to pull," "to cause to vibrate," etc. After making practically the above statement, Brother E. A. Elam, lamented gospel preacher and writer, says in a tract on "Majority Rule Is Not Scriptural," "They overlooked the fact that Thayer says: 'in the New Testament, to sing a hymn, to celebrate the praise of God in song." (Emphasis by E. A. Elam.) He continues, "And let us remember that among the best Greek scholars in the world were the ones who made the Revised Version, of the New Testament, and they say, 'appoint' in all the passages where the word is used. Another form of this word, `prochierotoneoo," means, 'chosen before,' and this was done by the Lord (Acts 10:41.) Another word of this group means God 'appointed' Paul (Acts 22:14), and appeared unto to him to 'appoint' him. (Acts 26: 16.) The Lord did not vote on Paul as against some other man; but He 'appointed' him.
"What if some man, anxious to carry his point, does find some lexicon which translates the word 'voting by stretching forth the hand?' We have here that which Thayer says about the loss of that notion and above all, the scholarship of both the Authorized and Revised Version to the contrary." (Page 23).
Paul and Barnabas "ordained," or "appointed for them, elders in every church, and Paul and Barnabas did not vote on those elders by stretching out the hand, or any other way." (Ibid., page 22).
Brother Elam was not ignorant of Thayer's citing 2 Cor. 8:19 either. He mentions the fact and then says, "But the revised Version here says 'Appointed by the churches' to do a certain thing." Then, he quotes what Thayer has to say about the loss of the notion of extending the hand, etc.
So, from this study, what comes of the appeal to scripture and the conclusion of the "Elders, Central Church of Christ"? "Since the Scriptures are given 'not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth,' we conclude that the right of suffrage was given to the church in matters of expediency" indeed! Then, what is the need of elders? If "matters of expediency" are to be settled by the church exercising its "right of suffrage", what, in heaven's name, do they need with elders? The deciding of "matters of expediency" is the only realm where elders can operate; they certainly have no right at all to settle matters of doctrine — the New Testament does that! So, if we have all matters of doctrine settled by the New Testament, and all "matters of expediency" settled by congregational vote, why have "a board of elders" at all? So, the "Elders, Central Church of Christ," should "retire" as they "retired" the other three by majority vote of the elders, by the vote of the congregation!
The document 'TO THE MEMBERS OF THE CENTRAL CHURCH OF CHRIST" is a disgrace to the Cause of our Lord. The idea of men being selected as elders of a church "who had but slight acquaintance with each other, hence could not know how closely they could work with each other." And the men who were voted out, who did not realize that they were being voted out, so did not vote for themselves, hence did not get "three favorable votes," were two of the original elders put in as such at the first election: H. C. Brown and A. E. Duncan.
Voting is wrong in the church of the Lord for many reasons, but one of the plainest and simplest arguments against it is, that voting creates division. If one votes one way and another votes another that is division, and such is sinful according to the New Testament. Frankly, such actions by a group claiming to be "the board of elders" of a church is a travesty on New Testament Christianity, and shows to what degree of apostasy men have gone who refuse to take the plain statements of the New Testament.
No wonder the Central church in Amarillo is torn asunder and the Cause of Christ is disgraced and that before the eyes of the world, when they have resorted to the lowest form of politics and trickery in matters that should be settled by unanimous agreement, and that should be done in the most solemn manner and in oneness and unity. The truth of the matter is that one of the men serving as elders in the Central church believes that there should be a "ruling elder" in the church like, he says, they had in the Jewish synagogue; and since he came to "power" he is ruling it that way. When any one does not agree with him he will go out. He wants to be and is going to, be that "ruling elder" he argues for after the synagogue pattern. And this is a part of the trouble in the Central Church in Amarillo, Texas. This action is a pattern of what is happening in far too many places today and shows the disregard for New Testament authority in matters of religion in churches of Christ. Brother David Lipscomb well said, "A church in which majorities rule is not a church of Christ.. In His church His law rules, and the elders see that it is carried out" (Queries and Answers By Lipscomb, page 274).