Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 5, 1951
NUMBER 47, PAGE 8-9b

Orphan Home Parallels

Robert C. Welch, Florence, Alabama

The orphan homes, as they are organized and operated in many cases, are comparable to the "Bible schools" in some ways, in others they are not. They are comparable to the missionary societies in some respects, in others they are not. It is unsound reasoning to attempt to prove that two things are comparable in all respects because they are comparable in some. It is equally unsound to deny the comparison in any respect because there is no comparison in some phases. Those who are opposed to church support of orphanages which are separate and apart from a local congregation have sometimes argued illogically that such a system was parallel to the missionary society, carrying it to the extreme of making no distinction. The advocates of such a system of charitable work have gone to the other extreme sometimes, trying to show that the two are not comparable at all because there are some respects in which they are not alike. Is the Orphan home a parallel to the missionary society in the features which make the missionary society wrong? That is the question paramount to the issue involved.

Objection is raised, to such a comparison, that the orphan home is a local institution, whereas the missionary society is a national organization. But how can such a distinction be made? The institution which has its board of directors from many communities, which accepts financial support from churches and individuals from any place it can, which takes its children from no one definite locality, certainly is just about as national as the missionary society. The only point of difference in this respect is that the orphanage is not as large an organization as the missionary society of the Christian church. But granting it to be local and the other national, is that the trouble with the society? When the missionary society was forming some thought that it would be all right if it was no larger than a state organization. That is not the feature that makes it wrong. If it is wrong in itself, it is wrong as a little organization, as much as if it were a big one. The kind of home described in this paragraph is the subject of this article.

It is argued that the missionary society makes laws for the churches and uses coercion upon them, whereas the orphan home has no such control of the churches contributing to it. It is all a matter of degree in this aspect. The church that wants to be a member of the missionary society must abide by its rules. But it belongs and contributes by its own choice. The church that wants to get on the supporting list of the orphan home does so by its own choice. When it does so it is requested by the home to set aside the fifth Sunday contribution for the home; every time the home decides to add a new building or other facilities to its property the appeal comes that it must be done for the care of the children which are there; and that it is the obligation of all the churches which had a part in getting them there to continue the support; thus they are requested to take a special collection, if they have to, to increase the amount of support. In the same subject, it is argued that churches do not maintain membership in the home, whereas they do hold membership in the society. What difference is there whether one is announced as a member or not, if he holds the same relationship? Some members of the church have been worshipping and working in a congregation for years yet saying that their membership is in another congregation.

Another argument is that the contributing churches to the home are merely cooperating, whereas the power is synchronized and centralized in the missionary society. Does cooperation demand that a new and separate organization be established? That is what is contended for in the above argument. Christian churches could likewise say that they are merely cooperating in working through the society. The churches of Galatia and Macedonia were cooperating in benevolent work but they did not build any kind of new and separate institution in order to do it. The churches in the various localities were sufficient institution for the collection, and the churches where the contribution was used was enough institution for the distribution. This is where the error lies, not alone in the question of whether or not it is cooperation or giving up of power; though there is loss of power and work on the part of churches when they decide to do their benevolent work by contributing to a human institution.

Orphan homes not under the oversight of any local congregation; Bible schools for secular, liberal arts training; and missionary societies are all parallel in that they are all human institutions. The family is a Divine institution because it is ordained of God, as such it is required to teach the truth of God and support the needy. Those three institutions first named are not provided for in the will of God. They came of human wisdom and devisings. They are human institutions, not Divine. Let the church recognize the difference between human and divine institutions.

The orphan home and the missionary society are parallel in that both are established to do the work which God has placed upon the church. One is doing benevolent work, the other is supposed to be preaching the gospel. They are not parallel in kinds of work; but are parallel in that the work of each is commanded of God to churches. The Bible school does not come in this parallel because its purpose is to give an education to children which was never the obligation of the church. A man may teach the Bible there, just as he may teach it while engaged in any legitimate business. These schools have their place if they stay in it. However, that church which expects to do its teaching through the Bible school could as easily and scripturally do its preaching through the missionary society, or do its charity work through an orphan home. Can a church endorse the work of a human institution when God has placed the responsibility for that work upon the church? None of the work commanded by God has been left to be done by a human institution. The institution has been provided for in the will of God for the doing of all his work. The New Testament shows that the church cared for the needy in its locality; and when it did not have sufficient supplies for that need, churches in other places supplied that want. That is the kind of cooperation that is needed in the benevolent work by churches, without all this organization which God has said nothing about. The New Testament shows that preachers went about preaching the gospel, and; as they went, churches sent once and again to their need. That is the kind of work and cooperation needed in preaching the gospel; without all this organization, which God has said nothing of, directing the preacher and collecting the funds of churches.

The orphan homes and missionary societies are parallel in that both ask for churches to contribute to them, letting them do the work. The Lord has nowhere provided for the support of any institution, except those named in his word. He has taught us to help the poor, but never has he taught that churches are to help a human institution. He has taught that churches are to support the preachers of the gospel, but never has he said that churches are to support a human institution. The support in both cases was given in New Testament history without these two institutions. It can still be done the same way. Let the churches not be so presumptuous as to set aside the way approved by inspiration for the ways of human devising.

The support of the missionary societies by churches is wrong because: the society is a human institution; doing the work that the church is required to do; contravening the Lord's will, by taking the contribution which is to be given by the churches to the preacher himself. The support, by churches, of a benevolent institution separate and apart from the church is parallel to the support of the missionary society, and is also wrong because: the benevolent organization is a human institution; doing the work that the church is required to do itself; contravening the Lord's will by taking contribution which is to be given by the churches to the needy themselves. Both the missionary society and the benevolent society are condemned by the same rule. Their support by churches is condemned by the same rule. Both are beyond the inspired writings in organization and practice, "Learn not to go beyond the things which are written." (1 Cor. 4:6).