Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity

Don't Point With A Crooked Finger

Jerry F. Bassett, Willits, California

Much has been said in accusation of those who through bulletins and various journals are waging strong opposition to the myriad of brotherhood projects currently being promoted. The accusation in general goes like this: "Those who oppose the sponsoring church, brotherhood orphan homes, and other similarly organized works charge the violation of congregational autonomy, but no one is more guilty of this violation than they are when they mail their bulletins and journals to other congregations and their members in opposing these projects." Needless to say, this accusation is the product of the promoters and close friends of the projects under fire, as well as those, who gullible and otherwise, claim to be in the "middle of the road." (Middle of the road appears to mean, "Will not be a friend of God if it means offending Satan.")

In giving reply let it first be said that this accusation is only a dodge designed to divert attention from the issues in question. If it were conceded that the sending of literature by a congregation to other congregations or their members is a violation of congregational autonomy, it still would not be proof that the Herald of Truth and similar projects do not breach the autonomy of the participating churches. The accusation is not an answer to the arguments made against the brotherhood projects, and when brethren attempt to use it as such it only casts reflection upon the motives of those thus guilty and weakens their position in the eyes of those who are seeking scriptural truths in the heat of the current controversy.

Second, the accusation is unjust and unfounded. By what scriptural principle is it wrong for a congregation acting within the bounds of its own ability and opportunity to teach the truth on any subject, by any legitimate means, to anyone whether a member of the church or not? If it is wrong for a congregation to mail literature to other congregations and their members, then by what stretch of the imagination is it right for a congregation to plan a gospel meeting and invite members of other congregations to attend as visitors? It appears that those who lodge this accusation are not actually so concerned over the autonomy of local congregations (most of the congregations with which they are identified have already surrendered the planning and oversight of their work to a sponsoring eldership and/or a benevolent society) but over the fact that they cannot answer the arguments of the literature being sent. At least no objection has ever been heard from these brethren when the promoters of the centralized projects flood congregations and homes with their tracts, papers, bulletins, and advertisements.

Third, the accusation ignores the facts of the case. If the problems of the work and organization of the church which now beset us were confined within the framework of local congregations there would be no need or occasion to discuss them beyond that point. If the churches promoting the schemes for centralization had confined their promoting to their own membership there would be no need to discuss it on a brotherhood-wide basis. But, then, you cannot have a big, centralized, brotherhood-wide project unless you promote it on a brotherhood-wide basis, and, as the Alaskan said to the Texan, "If it isn't the biggest, it can't possibly be the best." At least this seems to be the reasoning of some.

Not a week passes that does not find several letters delivered to the church's mail box badgering the brethren to scrape up a "million for Manhattan," or make a pledge to the Herald of Truth, or round up all the local youth and send them off to a church encampment to be molded into Christians. Of course, as far as the promoters of these and many other projects are concerned, this bombardment of the churches is perfectly all right. However, when churches begin to mail out literature questioning these things which they conscientiously consider to be unscriptural and divisive to the body of Christ, then such means of communication suddenly becomes a violation of congregational autonomy! Who can believe it who is not blinded to the truth by the love of human innovation?