Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 22, 1954
NUMBER 49, PAGE 8-9a

Centralization In Germany

Max Watson, Palmyra, Pennsylvania

(Editor's Note: This article should have appeared in the same issue with the chart "Centralization In Germany" which was published in the March 18 number. We ask you to refer back to that chart in reading Brother Watson's article.)

Following the publication of articles critical of conditions in Germany last Spring, the Broadway Church, Lubbock, Texas, issued "A Report On Efforts To Aid the Work In Germany" that was published in a number of the papers. This report stated: "However, since unfounded accusations have recently been made, it seems expedient that this further statement be made at this time." Further on the article stated: "To further correct certain false impressions and statements that have been circulated, we will state that we do not have the oversight of the work in Germany, nor of the workers in Germany!"

It should be evident to all that the ones responsible for the "unfounded accusations, false impressions and statements" do not agree with the Broadway statement. Likewise, the Broadway brethren are confident that they have stated the truth. Both sides have stated their cases in various papers (although I regret that only Broadway's side was given by most of these) and I do not have any basically new information to present, but since most of the material was presented by those not living in Germany, I have felt the need to present the viewpoint of another that has been in that field. I drew up the accompanying diagram while I was still in Germany, but the writing of this article was delayed by our departure from Germany, visiting and getting settled in the States, etc.

"There are usually two sides to most questions." With that viewpoint in mind, I want to consider the Broadway statements mentioned above. I am sure that they sincerely did and do think that "unfounded accusations" were made. Will they and those who read these lines give me the same consideration? If they do, we will have gone a long way toward mutual understanding and better feeling regardless of the differences. Their "Report" includes many points wherein I object, but at this time I want to deal only with one of these — Does Broadway have the oversight of the work in Germany and the workers in Germany?

In order to back up my contentions and to show why I believe so strongly in the affirmative, I present the chart and my comments. It covers the period September, 1952 - September, 1953 which is out of date in certain cases but the program and principles involved remain unchanged. I use the '51 - '53 period because it was during this time that we and the Dick Smith's took a definite stand against this set-up and we were asked to return to the States. During this period things "came to a head" although I had been in Germany the three previous years and my wife had been there a year or more. We have been with "the work in Germany" almost "from the ground up." I spent a year during which I sustained a position of direct responsibility to Broadway. These facts should serve as credentials for speaking on this subject as well as to show that we have not always been in the "objective case." We admit that we previously approved and supported many of the activities that we now oppose.

The chart is self-explanatory in part, but I want to add comments and substantiate my arrangements of the "chain of command." I might as well be frank to admit that I do not expect my views to change those of the Broadway elders, although they may help to bring some of those in Germany around to a new conception. Someone on another foreign field helped me to see the reality of centralization. I don't expect to influence those at Broadway because there is too great a gulf between us. This is largely due to a difference in philosophy. They seem to have the church universal ("church German," "church American") philosophy whereas I have a purely "church congregational" attitude. What I consider to be unscriptural oversight they consider scriptural "cooperation" and so on.

The placement of any individual or church on the chart does not have anything to do with that individual's or church's character, sincerity or integrity so far as I am concerned. I personally know most of the ones involved, some rather closely. Still we differ. But let us have a healthy exchange of ideas. If I am successful in getting others to view the Germany situation as I do, I will be glad, but I still plead for a continued study and evaluation of these and other issues before the church in our times.

"Funds from American Congregations" — At the top of the chart. Ever since the beginning of their effort in Germany, Broadway has asked through the papers, the mails and personal presentation for funds to carry out certain plans in Germany. A sum of $120,000.00 was raised during one tour for buildings alone and no doubt large amounts have come in for specified and non-specified parts of the Broadway plan that have not been made public. The elders at Broadway naturally have charge of their own and contributed funds; therefore I certainly believe that Broadway does have the oversight of the work in Germany, at least so far as the handling of funds for a huge portion of the Germany program. That's not all.

Remember that no one (so far as I know) contends that the Broadway overseers have the same oversight over the congregations in Germany that they do over the Lubbock church but we do contend that they do have centralized oversight over the German churches in various ways.

"Titles to Land, Buildings, and Rental Contracts" — This lists most of the property legally owned, rented or leased solely by the "Corporation, Elders Broadway Church of Christ, Lubbock, Texas." Do you agree with me that it is hard to see how Broadway could own so much property of so many different congregations and still claim to have no oversight thereover? I know that it is argued that this is the only way or the best way to handle the ownership of property in post-war Germany. I do not agree. I may be wrong, but even if there were no other way that would not justify the action.

"Frankfurt Congregations" — This designation is substantiated by the Broadway "Report" itself. "The Broadway Church has accepted a special obligation of helping the four congregations in Frankfurt until they are able to carry on their own work and become self-supporting. A different church in America has assumed a similar obligation in regard to each of the other congregations in Germany. A list of the other German congregations and the American church that sponsors it follows" ... There you have their own admission that they have the oversight (sponsorship) of the four different congregations in Frankfurt.

"Committee" — This body is mentioned in a letter from Broadway dated September 4, 1952 to all American workers in Germany. This letter was made public in the Gospel Guardian, March 19 and June 11. It is the basis for the rest of the diagram excepting the block "English Speaking Congregation." It is the most complete proof in black and white coming from Broadway that she does have the oversight over the work in Germany and the workers! What else could the letter mean? If Broadway did not occupy a position of general oversight in Germany, why was the letter even sent to the various individuals in Germany, supported financially by other churches? Notice their statement:

"However there are some parts of the work being done in Germany that we do consider to be our responsibility, being the work of this church together with the cooperation of others that are helping supply the money."

The "English Speaking Congregation" is shown to the right of the Committee because of the relationship that two of the brethren sustained to each group. It also shows one of the ways in which there was inter-congregational control. Notice just above (on chart) that the same men were evangelists with other congregations and one of them occupied that position in two other different congregations! How obvious does centralization have to get before more brethren will admit it?

"The School" or "Bible Training School" is further proof of the over-all oversight out of Broadway. The school is directly under the "committee" or some individual under Broadway so that makes these school facilities open to the other German congregations, subject to the plans or oversight, if you please, of Broadway. The same thing is true concerning the other items — "Office" (considered by many to be the "Headquarters" of the church in Germany), "Radio," "Two Tents" and "Publications." These categories are set up in accordance with Broadway's "church Germany" philosophy and are not purely a part of the Westend, Frankfurt Church in that city. These items are not congregational or even city-wide in scope, but they were intended to function on an all-Germany basis, with the erection of the large school-office building in Frankfurt for that purpose.

Besides being a part of a centralized scheme for Germany, I believe the school is also contrary to other Biblical principles. I have always been under the impression that sectarian seminaries (not liberal arts colleges, mind you) have been ruled out along with the `Reverend," "Pastor," "Clergy-Laity," etc. Who would uphold the establishment of a "Church of Christ Seminary" in the State of Maine (mission field) to train the evangelists and other leaders in the churches in that State? I cannot see any difference in the theoretical case for Maine and the actual case for the "mission field" of Germany, in Frankfurt.

Other instances of centralized control in Germany could be given, but I have given some of the most pertinent and obvious ones to my way of thinking. Will not all agree that I have proven that the Broadway elders do sustain a position in connection with all the congregations and workers in Germany that no other one church holds? Yet the Broadway "Report" states unconditionally that they "do not have the oversight of the work in Germany, nor of the workers in Germany." I cannot agree but I can see how Broadway can be perfectly honest in that statement. Here is the reason: The conditions I have pictured do exist in Germany and to me they mean oversight — centralization. Broadway does not see it that way. "Centralization in Germany" may be both "true and false" — according to the viewpoint of different sides! Let us contend earnestly for our convictions. Study both sides and make up your own conclusion. I welcome comments pro or con. Send me any questions you may have regarding these things.

Max Watson 122 W. Main (Rear) Palmyra, Pennsylvania