They Are Doing It Already
Last week we wrote an editorial pointing out that when elders of a church include in the church's budget certain items to which they know a respectable proportion of the membership of the congregation is conscientiously opposed (the opposition being a matter of faith and conscience, not merely of judgment or opinion), those elders are forcing a division within the congregation. They are compelling good brethren (1) either to violate their conscience and contribute money to support that which they sincerely believe to be wrong, or (2) to withhold all contributions, and thus violate the scripture, or (3) to leave that congregation and go elsewhere to worship.
We suggested that godly elders would want to avoid this sort of thing, and we proposed that all those individuals who wanted to support such things as the orphan homes and homes for the aged (and we might have added such projects as Herald of Truth, the Christian colleges and the Red Cross) do so on an individual basis, and NOT take any funds from the church treasury for such projects. In that way all faithful members of the congregation who believe it wrong for the church's funds to be used for these projects could continue to worship in peace and harmony, contributing with a clear conscience into the regular treasury of the church; while those who have a particular interest in some orphan home, home for the aged, or Christian college, could send their contribution directly to that institution without involving the treasury of the entire congregation.
And now less than a week after writing the previous editorial (and even before its publication) we have learned that there are a number of congregations who have for some time been following a course somewhat similar to the very thing we proposed! Taking cognizance of the very serious opposition on the part of some members to contribution from the treasury to such projects, elders of more than one congregation have publicly announced that no part of the regular Sunday contributions will go to these places. but that provisions will be made for those who particularly want to contribute to these institutions to do so. Some churches are taking up a "special contribution" on one Sunday each month after their regular contribution has been taken. It is emphasized that this "special contribution" is going to some particular work — orphan home, Herald of Truth, or some such project — and the regular funds of the church will not be involved. Other congregations have placed a box in the vestibule, clearly marked and labeled as "Contributions To The Orphan Home," and all who desire to do so may drop their contributions in this box. All the money in the box goes to the orphan home selected, and none of the money from the regular treasury goes.
We are quite aware of the clever remark some will make on this that it is just the "difference between passing the hat to the congregation and passing the congregation by the hat," but we believe there is a difference. When the "hat is passed to the congregation" every member there is obligated by the word of God to give "as God hath prospered him." But when the "congregation is passed by the hat" nobody is under any obligation to give except as his own conscience shall dictate. No man can refrain from that first contribution without violating God's law; but there is no violation in refraining from the second contribution. If money is appropriated by the elders from the first contribution to what some faithful Christians consider a subversive and unauthorized (by God's word) project, they cannot in good conscience continue to give. But all money given through the box in the vestibule, clearly marked "For The Orphan Home" will be given by those who do no violence to either conscience or conviction in their giving.
The Gospel Guardian is concerned, deeply concerned, over the present tensions which are developing among all the churches. We want to do everything within our power to work for PEACE, harmony, and unity on a "thus saith the Lord." We believe the above proposal will go a long way toward resolving a problem which has already split many congregations in the land, and is causing bitterness between brethren in hundreds of congregations. That there are objectionable features to it we freely concede; it is admittedly a "compromise" proposal. But it will at least allow brethren from both sides of this question to worship together.
And Is Not This Better Than Division?
Whether the arrangement would increase or diminish contributions to the orphan homes we cannot venture to predict. In some churches it would probably increase; in some others it might diminish. But in all of them it would relieve tension and promote peace.
We respectfully call upon Brother Gayle Oler, Brother Guy N. Woods, Brother Goodpasture, Brother G. K. Wallace, Brother Reuel Lemmons, and other prominent promoters of the orphan homes among us, as well as all the "sponsoring elderships" over such projects, to give serious and prayerful study to this suggestion; and use whatever influence they may have in encouraging churches to adopt it .. . . while the question is being studied!
Last month we sent out the "Special Number" of the Gospel Guardian, pleading for UNITY among God's people. We have followed that up now with this definite, simple, concrete proposal of a practical and very obvious way of fostering and encouraging such unity. More such proposals will be offered in the weeks to follow. We ask you to look for them. "Let us pray that peace may everywhere abound."
— F. Y. T.