"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.VI No.II Pg.8-9
September 1943

Progress Of The Unity Movement

W. Curtis Porter

Before me lies the second issue of "The Christian Unity Quarterly" of which Claude F. Witty, of the Church of Christ, and James DeForest Murch, of the Christian Church, are joint-editors. This quarterly tells of the plans and progress of the Unity Movement, perhaps more accurately and more unfavorably known as the Murch-Witty Movement. This movement began in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1936. The leaders of the movement are the present editors of this quarterly. It had as its purpose the uniting of the conservative element in the Christian Churches with the Churches of Christ. Since it has been launched four National Unity Meetings have been held and much has been said about it in religious papers, in bulletins and in various ways. But what progress has been made toward the accomplishment of the purpose for which it was begun. Perhaps we can find out something about it if we read some of the statements made in this quarterly. But from all outward appearances that I have seen, it seems that the Christian Church has been the victor in all of these efforts and that unity is no nearer than when the movement first began, except where members of Churches of Christ have moved closer to the position held by the Christian Church. Vital differences exist between the two bodies of people. These differences destroyed the fellowship in the first place. And the only Scriptural way for unity is for these differences to be removed. But so far there has been no removal of unauthorized practices from the work and worship of the Christian Church.

Time For Action

Let Brother Witty tell us something of the progress made. On page 36 of the quarterly he says:

"Enough time has been spent in preliminary work. What we need is action."

I believe he is on the right road here. It does seem to me that enough time has been spent in preliminary work. This admits that all the work done thus far has been preliminary, and I should think that seven years of preliminary work, with four National Meetings included in the preliminaries, ought to be enough for any such movement. So the time has come for action, thinks Brother Witty. And I think so too. And I verily believe the time is ripe for action on the part of the leaders of the movement. James DeForest Murch and Claude F. Witty have been working for seven years in preliminary work, and they themselves are no closer together than when they started. Have these two mighty leaders of the movement reached an agreement on unity yet? Are they united? I would just like to have them tell us. What did Murch give up that brought them closer together? And what did Witty surrender? In fact, has either of them given up anything? Are they not still divided? Well, if the two leaders can't get together in seven years of work, how do they expect to merge the two bodies of people. Yes, it is time for action; and Murch and Witty are the men to begin. Let them get together and then tell us about it.

With Or Without

To give you some idea about what the Christian Church preachers think about it, read this from the pen of J. F. Bellville of Elmira, N. Y. He says:

"In my beginning ministry in Alabama I served on a circuit of two churches that had organs and three that did not, and I had no trouble; I could do the same again. If your heart is as my heart, give me your hand."

Well, my heart is not as his heart, and I cannot extend my hand to him. On this ground the Christian Church is willing to unite. If you are willing to work with the organ or without it, they are ready to accept you. But many of them have always claimed that you can worship God acceptably without the instrument as well as with it. So if I give them my hand on this proposition, they are surrendering nothing. To me the instrument is an addition to the worship of the Lord, as revealed in Eph. 5:19, and we are not left to do as we please about it. But I wonder what Brother Witty will say to this fellow.

Brother Witty, is your heart as his heart, and did you extend to him your hand? Brother Witty claims to represent a brotherhood movement, and many in the brother hood have been demanding for a long time that he tell us what he will do with the instrument question, but as far as I have seen his statements, I do not recall any answer that he has made to the demand. So I am insisting that Brother Witty tell us if he can do as this New York Christian Church preacher--preach for churches both with and without the organs. The brethren have a right to know about it, if he expects them to follow him in this movement. So let him break his silence about it and give us the information.

Leave It To The Majority

This is the solution given by O. P. Spiegel of Montgomery, Alabama. He says:

"Personally I believe that every subject not specifically laid down in the New Testament should be left to the majority in each local congregation and then all should

stand together-- location of churches, style of architecture, cost, round or shaped notes, aids in any and every way to worship, individual communion cups-- and I pledge to work with the majority in any congregation of which I am a member whether it is according to my ideas or not."

It isn't hard to tell where this fellow stands. He classes instruments of music-- which he calls aids to worship-- in a class with communion cups, round or shaped notes, and the architecture of a building. He throws all of these together and declares the matter should be determined by the wishes of the majority of the congregation. It is an easy matter to show that musical instruments cannot be classed with the things with which he puts them, but I am not arguing that question now. I am just looking to see how the Unity Movement is progressing. And if what this digressive preacher says about it is any evidence, the movement can be consummated quickly if those identified with Churches of Christ will cease their opposition to such "aids to worship" and let the majority in the congregation settle the matter. Is that what it is coming to? Has Brother Witty been working with them for seven years in "preliminary work" and yet has not made them to understand that in order to have unity such unauthorized "aids to worship," which caused the division in the first place, will have to be given up? Or can it be possible that Brother Witty intends to meet them on their grounds? Is he willing for the majority in each congregation to settle the question? He ought to tell us something about this that we may know which way the Unity Movement moves.

The Digressives Have Something

In a foot-note, or at least in a small paragraph at the bottom of the page, the following report occurs in the Unity Quarterly:

"George Roberts, preaching for the 'organ' church at Willisburg, Ky., has revived a non-organ church out that way; had a wonderful meeting with somewhere around 60

renewals, and baptisms, and has a special meeting of some kind set for June. Says he likes the organ, but doesn't want one in that church,-- showing once more something among the 'digressives' that the radicals don't know anything about."

I don't know who put this report in the paper, but it had to pass the inspection of the editors, one of which is Claude F. Witty. So it passed into the quarterly with his endorsement - and the very wording of it shows it to be an editorial report. Thus Brother Witty gives his endorsement to the idea that "the digressives have something that the radicals don't know anything about." The "digressives" are those who have digressed from the truth and have added mechanical instruments to their worship. And I suppose the "radicals" are those who are opposed to such. And this digressive, organ-grinding preacher, likes the organ but doesn't want one in the church he has revived near Willisburg, KY. That is, he doesn't want one now, for the majority would probably be opposed to it. But if later the majority became in favor of it, of course, the preacher who likes the organ would want one even there. Until then, however, he can worship with it or without it. So he has something the radicals don't know anything about. And it seemed to be something that suited Brother Witty, for he raised no editorial objection to it in this connection nor elsewhere in his quarterly. I am glad that I am not that broad-minded, that I know nothing about a thing of that kind, for I want to please my Lord. I am not concerned about the majority in this case and would not surrender my convictions in the matter, nor the truth of God, if the majority on the other side were ever so great. But what will Brother Witty do about it? Does he know anything about this sort of broad-mindness that "the radicals know nothing about?"

Three Realms Of Religious Activity

And now we will hear again from Brother Witty. He delivers himself after the following fashion:

"If I understand the matter, God has placed before his church three realms. The realm of faith, the realm of expediency, and the realm of vain worship. In the realm of

faith every issue must be settled by a direct command, by an approved example or by a necessary inference of the New Testament Scriptures. Man has no choice in the matter. It is God's part to say and man's part to obey. In the realm of expediency it is different. Man, governed by the law of love and guided by sound judgment, must make the decision. In the realm of vain worship a true Christian dare not go. No man or church has a right to force any one to accept a commandment of man as a doctrine of God."

He thinks our troubles have been brought about because men have confused these realms. And I think so too. But to which of these realms does the musical instrument belong? There is no command, no example, nor necessary inference from the New Testament in its favor. It cannot belong to the realm of faith. I believe--and thousands of my brethren also--that it belongs to the realm of vain worship, and that not even the majority in any congregation has the right to bind it on us. The digressives think it belongs to the realm of expediency--as song books, communion cups, church buildings, and such like. Now, Brother Witty, in what realm do you place it? Do you regard it as belonging to the realm of expediency and that it can be used or left off as we please and as the majority decides? Or do you regard it as a part of the doctrine and commandments of men that belongs to the realm of vain worship? Can you and James DeForest Murch, as leaders of the Unity Movement, get together and decide which realm it must be assigned to. As soon as you have reached your decision, let us know, we will begin to think the movement has made some progress. Until then I can see no evidence of progress except a movement toward compromising the truth of God with the doctrine of men.