Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 21, 1962
NUMBER 8, PAGE 1,8-9

Voices In The Wilderness --- (No. 6)

James R. Cope

(Editor's Note: This is the concluding article in this series on the development of benevolence societies among the Churches of Christ. This material is available in tract form, and should receive widespread distribution. It will "answer the question" for people who are sincerely interested. We believe that both churches and individuals should distribute this tract as widely as possible. The tracts may be ordered from Brother Cope, Glen Arven Avenue, Temple Terrace, Florida, at the following prices: Single copy, 75 cents; 10 copies, $6.00 25 copies, 12.50; 50 copies, 22.50; 100 copies, 35.00; 200 copies, 60.00; 500 copies, 125.00.)

Chapter VI. The Reality Of Division: 1962 Restating The Issue

Before We Close This Treatise I Respectfully Solicit My Reader's Attention To A Restatement Of The Problem Which Has Caused So Much Heartache And Division Among Brethren. The Issue Is Not That Of The Duty Of Christians Or Churches To Relieve Any Person — Widow, Orphan Or Otherwise — To Whom They Have An Obligation And Are Therefore Responsible. Every Person Known To Me Believes That There Are Such Persons And Such Obligations. Furthermore, The Issue Is Not That Of The Right Of Organization — Orphan Homes, Homes For The Aged, Hospitals Or Other Benevolence Societies — To Exist Independent Of Church Control Or Support. I Know Of No Person Who Denies That Such Institutions Have A Moral And Legal Right To Exist.

What, then, is the issue? The issue in question form is this: Is there scriptural authority for churches to donate funds to human institutions of any kind?

Those who have witnessed the developments of the last decade know that if such authority were available, it could be produced in one of three ways — by precept, by apostolic example, or by necessary inference. What then has been the effect of churches supporting human institutions?

The answer is found in the gruesome and terribly realistic word division with whatever goes with it physical families, lifelong friendships, and brotherly love and fellowship have been broken. A once united and prosperous people are divided into warring camps. Sad as the situation is, it is unmistakably real, and he who would make himself believe otherwise is only deceiving himself. That hundreds, perhaps thousands, will be lost as a result of the false teaching and the unscriptural division which they have caused or aided is as certain as the Bible foretells the doom of those responsible for offenses contrary to the teaching of God's Word.

Who Is Responsible For The Troubles?

Finally, we ask, who must bear the blame for the sordid condition found in Zion at the present hour?

It should be obvious that persons claiming to "speak where the Scriptures speak" are obligated to produce the Scriptures teaching the right or duty of churches to make donations to human institutions. If they cannot produce the passages called for, they cannot escape the rightful blame for whatever division may result from pushing their unscriptural claims upon churches. If this practice falls within the realm of human judgment, they are morally obligated to show two things; (1) that there is a command of Christ to a local church to relieve the fatherless and widows and (2) that the making of a donation to a human institution specializing in orphans and/or widow care is a "method" whereby the church discharges its duty toward whatever widows and/or orphans Christ has commanded it to relieve. (It is not enough to claim that the human institution is itself a "method of the church," for everybody who thinks twice knows that the institution itself is not a "method" of any kind any more than a local church is a "method" of some kind.) If it cannot be shown that a church's making a donation to a human institution of some kind is merely a "method" whereby the local church obeys God, it necessarily follows that such procedure is not a matter of judgment at all. Rather, such action, i.e., a church's making donations to human institutions, is a positive violation of God's law and is therefore properly described as disobedience to God!

A few years ago the promoters of the human institutions insisted that church donations to them was merely an expedient, a mere matter of human judgment, one of several "methods" whereby churches of Christ might discharge their duties in caring for the needy within their ranks. Even then they were willing to divide churches rather than be denied their liberty. More recently some of the chief spokesmen for the human Institutions calling upon churches for support are saying that the churches cannot "relieve" the fatherless and widows without a "home apart from the local church. The practical import of this position is that the local church with which you are identified must make such contribution under penalty of disobeying God. In other words, you must either favor church donations to these human societies or you are bound for hell. It matters not how many orphans you may individually feed, clothe and shelter or how many widows you may visit in their affliction. Either you accept the position that churches are acting by God's order when they make donations to benevolence homes operated by members of the church of Christ or you are a rebel against the God of heaven.

As the institutional question has pressed its way to the front within recent years it has become increasingly apparent that among those carrying institutional banners many are more concerned about having their way in what they claim to be a matter of judgment than they are about the peace of God's people and the fellowship of the saints. An actual case with identities of the participants not stated illustrates the point.

Church A was at peace. Fatherless children were fed, clothed, sheltered and otherwise cared for by members of Church A who assumed individual responsibility for them. In spite of this action by various Church A members, several other members felt that entire Church A should make donations to Childcare, Inc., an orphan home, located in the same state. What did those insisting on church donations to Childcare, Inc., do? Did they send their personal donations to the orphan home and thus permit the church to live in peace and unity? No, they chose to divide the body of Christ instead. They elected to leave Church A and form Church B for the express purpose of being able as a congregation to support some orphan "home — not an orphan, mind you, but an orphan "home." They were not supporting Childcare, Inc., even as individuals before leaving Church A and forming Church B, though they could have done this without disturbing or dividing Church A. While a part of Church A, some held out what they would have contributed on Lord's day had Church A been donating to Childcare., Inc. Immediately after forming Church B they cast their money into Church B treasury and sent it to Childcare, Inc.

Who believes that these people were really concerned about suffering children? If they were, why did they not send their money as individuals to Childcare, Inc., or to the children themselves while still members of Church A? Who believes that they were really as concerned about the welfare of orphans, the peace of Church A and the fellowship of brethren as they were concerned about espousing the "Cause" of church support of human institutions? No fellowship now exists between persons composing Church A and Church B. Church support of Childcare, Inc., was and remains the dividing wedge.

We insist that those who have pushed these human institutions upon the churches are responsible for the division resulting from the pushing. Apart from churches, the institutions have as much right to exist and operate as does any other private business enterprise whether individual or corporate. Their right to exist, however, is not the issue. The issue is their right to draw support from churches. The fact that they are operated by Christians does not change the fact that they are of human origin and therefore unworthy of support by the divine body, the church. The fact that they are constituted of a group of Christians, independent of churches in structure and function and who volunteer their services to supervise the activities of others who are paid employees of the voluntary body politic, does not change the fact that they still constitute a body for which Christ did not die which He did not sanctify with His blood, of which He is not head and over which, therefore, He exercises no control whatever. The fact that they may engage in a work of charity and do good in the realm of relieving human misery does not change the gruesome reality of sorrow, heartache and division they have caused by injecting themselves into the divine body. None of their legitimate claims of respectability according to human standards entitles them to church support and therefore to divine approval according to divine standards.

Peace prevailed before these human institutions began sucking the churches. War prevails not over the institutions' right to exist apart from the churches; but war prevails because, while organically apart from the churches, these institutions attach themselves to the churches for succor and support. War will cease and peace will prevail only when the divine body rids itself of these human parasites. Remove the cause of war and war will cease.


I have sometimes been asked if I believe that an orphan "home" constituted as a human board to direct activities under it has a right to exist. Certainly I do! Frequently I have been reported as being "anti-orphan home" and in many instances "anti-orphan." As I read the record of the struggle between those who opposed missionary societies related to churches and the society promoters, I can well understand that many persons either willfully or ignorantly misrepresent one's true views.

I am not now nor have I ever knowingly spoken one word against the right of any individual or group establishing whatever arrangement of and by themselves might enable that person or group of persons to feed, clothe, shelter and nurse fatherless children for whom they are responsible. I do not understand that this or any other group has a right to impose what they have decided was their responsibility upon other individuals, much less upon the church or my Lord, "for each man shall bear his own burden." (Gal. 6:5.) In 1909 five men in Tennessee constituted themselves by law "a body politic and corporate by the name and style of The Tennessee Orphan Home" for "the education and support of orphan children regardless of sect, creed, or denomination." That they had both the moral and legal right to do this I believe. When they thus acted, however, they had no moral or legal right to expect someone else to shoulder the responsibility they had deliberately and afore-thoughtedly assumed for themselves any more than I have a right to expect or request somebody else to assume responsibility for my three children. Again, "each man shall bear his own burden" (Gal. 6:5.) If these five men, having assumed the responsibility mentioned, had later fallen upon hard times and had themselves become actual objects of charity to the point that they could not "provide for their own they would have then been proper objects of charity from their brethren in Christ, not because of their children but because of their own need. "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2.) The fact that fifteen men may now be legal successors of the five original incorporators does not change the principle Involved. When any group of men assumes the role of a parent, they thereby assume the moral responsibility of a parent. Until and unless they personally become objects of charity, they have no scriptural right to expect somebody else to do in their stead what they have morally and legally committed themselves to do for the children whose education and support they have assumed.

It was not until this group of men and their successors, calling themselves a "home," and others of like nature began appealing to churches for donations to do what they originally constituted themselves to do that brethren began to be disturbed and churches began to have serious trouble. When these self-appointed parents cease doing the very thing causing the trouble, the trouble will cease. When they cease calling upon churches for funds to educate and support their own self-selected children and when local churches begin "relieving" whatever objects of charity are theirs through the ministers God has placed in the churches for this very purpose, then and not until then will all strife cease among churches over the benevolence society question.

As enterprises independent of the church, benevolence societies ("homes") have a right to exist When these or similar enterprises begin looking to and calling upon churches of Christ for support and when churches respond, both "homes" and churches have assumed a role for which there is no divine religious authority.

"For we walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Cor. 5:7.) — Glen Arven Avenue, Temple Terrace, Florida