Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 1, 1967

Denominational Status For "Churches Of Christ" Achieved


Brent Lewis

It has long been the observation of the editorship and contributors of this journal that the liberal movement in the Church of Christ was well on its way to securing status as a denomination among other denominations. It appears to this writer that this has, in effect, already been achieved. One has merely to witness the recent article by Leroy Garrett reprinted in the Gospel Guardian, Vol. 18, No. 44 (March 16, 1967) indicating the "New Look (denominationalizing, BL) In the Church of Christ," to find indications of this. Or, read the tract, "Emergence of the 'Church of Christ' Denomination," by David Edwin Harrell, Jr. (also available from the Gospel Guardian.)

Now comes an article in Christianity Today (Vol. XI, No. 12, March 17, 1967, p. 44) about the liberal movement of the "church of Christ." Christianity Today is a "conservative" Protestant or denominational magazine. It seems that they had a reporter to cover the Abilene Christian College lectureship in Abilene, Texas, held in February of this year. It has this to say about the lectureship:

Partly because there is no hierarchy whatever and no denominational conventions, the annual lectureships at the churches' twenty colleges have gained significance. The Abilene lectureship, the famous, draws together members as diverse as conservative Reuel Lemmons and arch-conservative-turned-liberal Carl Ketcherside. Lemmons is editor of Firm Foundation in Austin, Texas, and Ketcherside is editor of Mission Messenger in St. Louis. They wield great power, since the churches' journals, though themselves independent, are the only tangible factors holding the movement together.

The article is entitled, "Reviewing The Restoration at Abilene." A description of the "Church of Christ" was given the reporter (Marquita Moss) by an ACC professor. "'When you talk about the Churches of Christ, what you describe depends on where you are,' said Dr. Abraham Malherbe, an ACC Bible professor educated at Harvard Divinity School. 'It is a pluralistic group, really.'"

Reuel Lemmons was there as the "conservative:" Lemmons, who states his convictions in nineteenth-century language and distributes them throughout the "brotherhood" in his monthly journal, fears that "a small number of well-educated men have imbibed the liberal ideas of Protestantism" and that "they are in some positions of influence among us... Especially are they attracting the young mind of the church."

Carl Ketcherside represented the "liberals" and, among other things, "he concluded that the movement divided 'when we ceased to love one another... and not over the issues. "'

The article states, "Another editor, Leroy Garrett, professor of Philosophy at Texas Women's University, holds similar views. His journal, Restoration Review, has become the organ of expression for 'a brighter-minded younger set, with Ph. D's more often than not,' he claims."

Dr. John C. Stevens, assistant president of ACC, explained this new, denominational Church of Christ:

The complexion of the church is changing, he declared. "So many people in the congregation are well educated and efficient in business, they are requiring the same of the church." He sees the church becoming more concerned with problems of community welfare -- breaking down racial barriers; establishing community centers, homes for unwed mothers, and orphan-care centers; and placing greater emphasis upon mission methods.

The article continues:

One of the churches' most successful community-welfare projects is a community center called "The House of the Carpenter" in Boston's South End. Supported by the Brookline Church of Christ, the workers are primarily graduate students at Harvard, MIT, Boston University, and Boston College. This inner-city project has drawn several hundred poverty-stricken children into annual summer camps, craft classes, remedial school classes, Bible studies, and a generally expanded world,

Currently, the most popular method of sending new people to an area lightly populated with Church of Christ members is what is known as an Exodus movement. An entire community of believers moves to an area rather than relying on an individual missionary.

What does this group at Abilene predict for the future?

The next area of innovation, predicts a young missionary from Perth, Australia, will be in learning how to apply the old doctrines to a rapidly changing world. "Our fathers learned how to apply these Scriptures, and it worked," said Ron Durham. 'We've grown fast. But the world is changing, and old methods and approaches to applying those scriptures don't work."

So, there it is -- the new "Church of Christ." It is being led by a brighter-minded younger set with Ph. D's in Divinity from places like Harvard Divinity School and others. As the congregations attract well-educated, efficient businessmen, this is what they expect of the "Church."

Above all, it must be "up-to-date," whether it is scriptural or not. It must be on a par with other denominations. And it involves being recognized by a denominational publication, like Christianity Today.

To justify departures from the old paths we simply learn how to "apply" the old doctrines to a rapidly changing world. "Old methods and approaches" just don't work.

Brethren, can you not see that this modern denomination is a departure from the faith? It is another apostasy of the Lord's people. "A Modern Church For A Changing World" is an old, old story, brethren -but it is not The Old, Old Story!

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