Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 28, 1951

Religious Papers And Divided Churches

(Editor's Note: It isn't often that the Gospel Advocate carries an article from the pen of its editor unless there is some personal interest in some incident about which he wishes to "needle' someone. In the June 14th issue, however, there is a reprint on the editorial page of an article which he wrote in 1933 which is about the best thing we have ever seen from his pen. The editorial so accurately states the position and attitude of the Gospel Guardian that we reprint it with our commendation and endorsement.)

1. The Scriptures teach that God's people should be one. "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!' (Psalm 133:1) Again: "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.' (1 Cor. 1:10) In the shadow of the cross Jesus prayed that his people might all be one. (John 17:21)

2. The Scriptures condemn those who sow discord among brethren. The Lord "hates,' and regards as an "abomination,' him "that soweth discord among brethren.' (Prov. 6:19) The divider of churches is without the bounds of Christian fellowship. "Brethren mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them." (Rom. 16:17) A recognition of the odium and condemnation pronounced upon the sower of discord is largely responsible for the disposition among factionists to disclaim any part in church disturbances. But the fact remains that every effect must have an adequate cause. Disturbances in churches are not exceptions.

3. It is the duty of religious papers to do and teach the truth on all Scriptural matters. It follows, therefore, that the religious paper cannot evade its responsibility to stand for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth with reference to divisions, factions, and those who cause them.

4. How is the responsibility for division to be determined?

(a) In case of a faction leaving a divided church, the presumption of right rests with those who remain with the eldership at the place of worship prior to the division. The burden of proof rests with those who leave. The elders are the divinely constituted overseers of the church. If the disruption comes through an appeal to "popular vote' in the congregation, that fact within itself attaches blame to those who resort to it, inasmuch as it is a practice hostile to New Testament usage. However, it should be borne in mind that the elders are men and that they are not infallible. This fact is illustrated in the cases of churches that are dying for lack of leadership, of churches where there are elders on both sides of divisions, and in those instances where elders step beyond their scriptural authority to intermeddle with the affairs of other congregations.

(b) If the leader in a given faction has caused disturbances where he has previously been, that may justly lend support to the suspicion that he is the source of the trouble under consideration.

(c) If, after division has taken place, one side displays the spirit of peacemakers while the other manifests that of belligerent factionists, it is reasonable to conclude that the latter rather than the former was responsible for the discord.

(d) Again, the consuming desire and frantic rush for outside endorsement of one's course in case of disunion indicate a conscience ill at ease, a conscience which is likely disturbed by a hidden sense of guilt. Innocence needs no vindication other than itself.

5. It is the duty of a religious paper to "mark' and "avoid' them that cause divisions. In doing this, the paper does not pose as a regulator of the churches, but as a teacher of the truth. The paper owes it to itself, to the churches, and to the truth to see to it that the churches are not imposed on and torn to factions by those who sow discord.

6. When possible, churches should settle their own troubles among themselves. As a rule, outside interference serves only to intensify and complicate disturbances.