Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 22, 1956

Bedlam In Bakersfield

F. Y. T.

Brother A. G. Hobbs of Fort Worth, Texas, is trying to secure as many "eye-witness" accounts as he can of cases in which the digressive brethren introduced an organ into the worship, and "took over" the property of faithful Christians. The generation who witnessed these "stealings" is rapidly passing away, and 'Brother Hobbs is trying to get a collection of first-hand accounts of these tragic happenings before it is too late.

Out in Bakersfield, California, a few weeks ago there evidently occurred a present-day replica of what must have been the story in hundreds of congregations fifty to seventy years ago. Brother Randy Dickson, preacher for the East Bakersfield congregation, gives the story elsewhere in this issue. It seems a preacher for another church in (Bakersfield organized a mob of formidable proportions, spear-headed by three withdrawn from members of East Bakersfield, and led a "blitzkrieg" against the congregation as she had assembled for worship. This is an old, old story to scores of aged Christians who will read this page. It happened all over Texas within the memory of many now living. Scores must still be among us who were actually eye-witnesses of these things, and some of whom were ejected from the church buildings which their own money and labor had helped to provide. Once digression had seized upon the hearts of the people, all principles of fairness, decency, and honor seemed to desert them. By sheer weight of numbers and aggressive violence, they stole thousands of dollars worth of church property from faithful brethren.

One of the cardinal beliefs of the "digressives" was that the congregation is to be ruled by "majority vote" of the members. It was by this false and heretical notion that they managed to take over properties.

It is of more than passing interest to see that the idea of "majority rule" is again the plea of the new hobbyists in Bakersfield. This writer sat in the courtroom for five days last July and heard Brother C. E. Franklin, Brother J. D. Bothwell, and others who are pushing the "institutional" and "sponsoring church" hobbies out there, declare under oath that the Bible teaches that no decision of an eldership is binding upon a congregation until "the bulk of the congregation" has agreed to it. They tried to sustain this false idea by the introduction of "authoritative" writings of the brethren — and among their "authorities" cited the writings of brethren who had taken the lead in promoting the Christian Church idea of majority rule! We received the distinct impression that Brethren Franklin and Bothwell actually did not know that this "majority rule" question had been one of the crucial issues over which the division with the digressives had come sixty years ago; and did not realize that they were now trying to uphold the very position which faithful preachers had battled so valiantly against in those tragic days of the past. The testimony of Rothwell and Franklin — is a matter of court record. They evoked smiles from the court auditors when they warily shied away from the words "majority rule", and substituted the euphemism "the bulk of the congregation" in its place. This indicated rather clearly that they had at least some awareness that they were advocating a practice which "the bulk of faithful congregations" had long since repudiated.

We question the wisdom of the East Bakersfield elders in surrendering their church property to a mob. They are on the ground, however, and perhaps there are reasons why they believe the cause of truth has more to gain by this course than by standing by the court's decision that they were to remain in control of the property. Perhaps there are sincere brethren even in the churches controlled by the hobbyists who will be appalled by the violence of their leaders, and will be shocked into a realization of what is happening. Indeed, in a letter to the editor, Brother Dickson indicates that such is indeed taking place.

Is this Bakersfield incident to set a precedent for our "sponsoring church" brethren? Are we to anticipate that now all over the nation they will resort to the "majority rule" tactics, and by sheer violence and storm rob faithful congregations of their buildings? We hope not! Even though the Bakersfield extremists defended majority rule in the court, actually they were unwilling to abide by it in the congregation! For by far "the bulk of the congregation" (probably 90 percent of the membership) stood solidly with the elders in their action. But the ten percent were vocal, violent, and vicious; and by recruiting like-minded people from many other congregations (people who are passionately dedicated to the institutions), plus a motley assortment of friends and relatives (not members of the church of Christ at all), they cowed and intimidated the faithful brethren. They believe in the rule by "the bulk of the congregation" — as long as the "bulk" is on their side; when it is otherwise, the rule is by pressure and violence.

We are sure faithful brethren everywhere will deplore and condemn this sort of action. It is not only unchristian and immoral, but illegal as well. Not only were the laws of God violated; but the law of the land, as expressed in the judgment of the court, was ruthlessly trampled underfoot. Those who are familiar with the history of the digressions of sixty years ago will feel like they are reading a chapter out of the past. But surely all will pray that this will be an isolated case, and that it does not set the pattern for any such action in other communities. And when Bakersfield has cooled down, no doubt many of those who participated in the theft of the property from the East Bakersfield congregation will repent of what they have done.