Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 18, 1968
NUMBER 49, PAGE 3,5b-6a

A Sign In The Right Direction

Reuel Lemmons — (Firm Foundation, Feb. 20, 1968)

We believe that the body of Christ is essentially and constitutionally one. The prayer for unity that Jesus prayed, which is recorded in John 17, was no idle utterance. The deep longing and fervent concern of the Savior should be shared by every Christian who has any interest at all in pleasing the Lord.

Every rift between believers — every wound in the body of Christ — is a disgrace and cause of concern with all who want to go to heaven. The unity of believers is of such importance that it should be maintained at almost any cost. Surely those who break the bonds of fellowship on any other than the most serious grounds will not be held blameless. Certainly there are grounds upon which fellowship must be severed. Those whose doctrinal teachings are of such nature as to reflect upon the deity of Jesus, those who sow discord among brethren, and those who live immoral lives must be withdrawn from. However, the most of the disfellowshipping that we are acquainted with has not come about upon these scriptural grounds. Most of it has been over matters of opinion and differences of interpretation of scripture. We hold that these are not valid grounds for disfellowship.

For some time some of us have been greatly concerned with the growing separation between brethren over "the issues" of the day — co-operation, orphan homes, etc. It has been difficult to understand the thinking and writing of brethren who seem almost boastfully to pronounce a complete split, and who seem to glory in the thought that they have effected a complete breach of fellowship and have thus become father to a sect. We are of the opinion that this feeling is not shared by a great majority of brethren who object to various projects and arrangements among us. While they definitely do not agree with some of us on how to accomplish certain ends, they just as definitely do not want to see any further division between us and are willing to go to any reasonable lengths to narrow the gap rather than widen it.

Acting upon the conviction that this is true, and that the breaking of communication between groups of brethren is responsible for their drift into separate camps rather than any doctrinal difference big enough to demand separation, Brother Norman Starling of San Marcos, and this editor arranged a meeting at Buchanan Dam, Texas, late in the fall of 1967 to which were invited six good men from each side of these issues. We ate together, slept together, and studied together for three days and most of three nights. So much good was accomplished, and so much of the fellowship for which we all longed was evident that it was decided that the meeting should be repeated on a larger and more formal scale.

Accordingly a team of 13 men from each side and as it developed — from all sides of several issues — was carefully chosen; each team being selected by those who generally held the same views on both sides regarding church cooperation, homes, etc.; and these 26 men spent four days, beginning January 29th at a Christian camp near Arlington, Texas, in an intense re-examination of the questions over which dissension has arisen. This meeting was held in a sincere and conscientious effort on the part of all to find grounds if at all possible upon which to heal the breach that has developed. The group which are generally opposed to certain arrangements among us was composed of Roy Cogdill, Frank Puckett, Harry Pickup, James Adams, Bryan Vinson, Dudley Spears, Stanley Lovett, W. L. Wharton, Floyd Thompson, Clinton Hamilton, Melvin Curry, Robert Turner, and Harold Fite. Our own group was comprised of Gus Nichols, Roy Lanier, Jimmy Allen, Eldred Stevens, Lewis Hale, Buster Dobbs, Hulen Jackson, Bill Humble, J. D. Thomas, Johnny Ramsey, Hardeman Nichols, Allen Highers and myself, Norman Starling served as general chairman.

Others present, we believe, will bear us out in saying that the group went a long, long way toward himself. No man spoke for any other than himself. Every man spoke his heart; he made his arguments boldly and pointedly. The appeal of both groups was to the scriptures. The finest of Christian spirit prevailed. A deep appreciation of every man present tor every other person present was apparent. The meeting closed with the universal belief that it had done much good and that others like it ought by all means to be held. During the discussions it was brought out that there were several serious differences of opinion among the individual members of both teams, yet these differences did not reduce the members of the team to disfellowship. It was pointed out that if they could tolerate among themselves their differences without disfellowship, and we could tolerate among ourselves our differences without disfellowship, then the two groups ought to be able to tolerate each other without disfellowship. We believe it was evident to all that there is still so much difficulty in understanding what the Bible teaches on these issues, the matter is definitely not so clear cut as to disrupt fellowship. Fellowship cannot be broken so long as the principles are still so completely up in the air.

The entire meeting was tape recorded and plans are being perfected to publish all the principal speeches in a book. It was the unanimous opinion of the group that the book would do great good if widely circulated, and its publication was undertaken on the sole ground that it would help to unify brethren. The cost of the book is not known yet, but pre-publication orders may be sent to the Firm Foundation or to James Adams at Lufkin. We are thankful for the kind and Christian spirit that prevailed, and for the atmosphere of love and consideration shown. We pretty well healed in a single week the breach between ourselves and we would to God that our example would become the course of action for all our brethren.

Since the Restoration began there have been numerous splits within the church. None of them have ever been healed. All have gone further and further in the wrong direction. We believe that this meeting proved that a breach can be healed. There is a lot of work yet to be done, and both sides must consider the possibility of having to shift ground toward each other to effect unity, but our week together proved that it can be done. There are still differences among us, and possibly there always will be but we believe that both groups found these differences to be of such nature that a breach of fellowship over them is not necessary. At least this meeting was a step in the right direction.