Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 4, 1953

Regarding The "Statement"

Richard E. Smith, Karlsruhe, Germany

It is with a sincere desire to be more clearly understood that I have set down the following comments relative to the statement of the Grove Avenue elders published in this issue. In the main this is an unfortunate set of circumstances which might not have arisen had this entire matter been handled otherwise. I feel that the fault involved is rather mutual and therefore does not exclude myself. Hoping to make things clearer to them as well as others who read their statement, I'd like to notice several things therein:

The first sentence says, "... we make this public statement concerning our request to Brother Richard E. Smith that he come home for consultation relative to the work in Karlsruhe . . ." With all kindness I'd like to point out that this first remark is very very misleading. I refer the reader to the elders first letter to me (Gospel Guardian March 19, page 8) in which was said, "For some time we have considered asking you to come home. We considered that at the end of your first two years of work there, and have considered it several times since." The rest of the letter requests that I come home within thirty days. There was no mention whatsoever of consultation in this blunt seven line letter. Being given no reason for their action I immediately sent a cable. The entire substance of the reply to this cable, their second communication, was contained in one sentence: "It is the opinion of the elders that you should return as requested in their letter of February 13th, with the understanding that there will be no obligation to send you back to Germany." No other information was given. Not a word about consultation whatsoever. On the contrary, I was given the impression that they neither wanted nor intended to send me back to Germany. Having received this blunt brief, which also contained no reason for my recall, I knew I had to act quickly or simply drop the Karlsruhe work. On the very day I received the elders' first letter I wrote them the following: "It wasn't made clear whether we were to make preparations to leave with a view to returning here soon or what. If you do have that in mind but have something you particularly want to discuss with me, would it not be perhaps better if I were to fly home immediately?" Thus the first suggestion about "consultation" came from me and not the Grove Avenue elders. In reply to my letter they finally — in their third communication — gave me their reason for wanting me to return and remarked about discussing the work. In the meantime, not knowing they had even intended to discuss anything, I had written several letters in an effort to get other support. Their statement would make it appear that I had ignored their desire for "consultation" and had "rushed into print" instead. The facts show that such was not the case at all.

As I wrote those letters to Keith Thompson in Canada, I had no intentions of "rushing into print" about anything. I felt that he knew brethren who could help. My mistake — and no one else's — was my failure to request that the letters be used by them in a private way.

In paragraph one, they quote their reason (given me): "We have learned, in a round-about way, of your position with reference to the work at Frankfurt" Then further, "Now, because we mentioned this reason, it has become the only reason in the illogical minds of some . . ." That category includes me, as it was the only reason which I was ever given, and then only after I had repeatedly requested it by cablegram and mail. Further they refer to "Brother Smith's opposition to the Frankfurt work." For the benefit of all let me mention here that the "Frank­furt work" includes four different German congregations, with which at the time, a total of at least ten evangelists were working. This generalizing makes it appear that I "oppose" all of this, which is by no means true. I dis­approve of certain aspects of a part of the work there, mainly that in connection with one congregation. How­ever, it is this attitude of refusing to consider the work in an individual congregational sense that constitutes one of the gravest dangers. In one and the same article (Gospel Broadcast, September 25, 1952) Brother Sherrod stated, "There are four German and one English congregation in Frankfurt .... The Broadway church in Lubbock sponsors the work being done in Frankfurt, and a different church in America sponsors each of the other congregations." Even though all these Frankfurt churches have separate business meetings, etc., "the work in Frankfurt" is spon­sored by Broadway! It's no wonder then that Grove Avenue is made to think of the work there as one unit, and if I oppose part, I have to oppose all of it. Such is not true.

They further state in paragraph one, "We saw Brother Smith's real intentions in certain advertisements in the Gospel Guardian early in 1953. Linking other infor­mation we had gained with this, we made our decision to call him home." I must assume that reference is made to an advertisement which appeared on the back page of the January 8th and 15th issues, under the heading A WORK­ER IN GERMANY WRITES. These advertisemests, we are told, played a major part in causing the elders to make the decision to call me home, when in actuality I NEITHER WROTE THESE ADS NOR KNEW ANYTHING ABOUT THEM UNTIL THEY WERE PUBLISHED! Yet it was in these ads that they saw MY "intentions," and without even asking me if I wrote them, made their decision on that basis that I should be removed from the Karlsruhe work. Really now, was I the one who acted rashly in seek­ing help to stay here to preach the Gospel ?

Paragraph two: "He has not kept us fully informed." By the way of comment I offer a quote from a letter that Grove Avenue's co-sponsor and co-overseeing church wrote two years ago: ". . . we suggest that in the future any differences arising among the workers, that they try td be adjusted at that particular place and if needs be, refer to the Frankfurt brethren for assistance, rather than let such grievances come back to the sponsors." In addition I'll give the following quote from a preacher newly returned from Germany then (1951) who was requested by a Grove Avenue elder to write me: "These things can get the brethren here very disturbed — and even more so because they cannot really know all the facts — and then by the time they are good and upset here, the problem has ironed itself out over there." I agree with this brother, they can­not know all the facts, and on that basis can hardly be expected to oversee that which they can't understand. At any rate, we were admonished from various sources, to keep problems to ourselves. More about this later.

I admit that I was wrong in thinking that my letter telling them about my discussions with Brother Gatewood (about his misleading reporting) had been the cause of my recall. Regarding their remarks about Lubbock's connection with all this, let me say the following: I never did state that Grove Avenue was asked by Lubbock to recall me, or that they had worked together in the matter.

But I believed then and do now that there is a system of indirect control coming out of Broadway that makes it difficult to stay in Germany if you do not agree with or approve of methods and systems in use. With respect to my discussion with Brother Gatewood regarding his reporting, the fact still remains that "there is no serious problem involved in these matters" as I stated in my letter.

The serious problems are connected with entirely different matters. At the close of this same paragraph it is stated, "he kept us in the dark." As comment I submit the following three quotes, all from letters written to one of the Grove Avenue elders over the past two years:

May 1, 1951 — "As you may know, Lubbock sends a certain amount of money to Munich each month to be used as general expense finances. They also made a specific request that all newspaper articles we wished to write be channeled through Lubbock in that they might feed them to the papers, keep a harmony of statistics, etc. I may be silly but I couldn't conscientiously go along with this idea so I just haven't written any articles. Viewing this thing from this side of the Atlantic I am convinced that Lubbock has entirely too much oversight of the whole scheme of work over here. Consequently, I couldn't further this idea. I appreciate .. . . what they are doing to further the cause over here. But I don't appreciate and I sincerely fear what may develop from the methods they seem to be using."

I merely wish to point out that this was written fully two years ago. This next one was written two weeks later.

May 14, 1951 — "Most of this distribution of responsibility in the German work has been brought about by the severe criticism of Lubbock's "centralized control and oversight." Frankly, I think the criticism has brought good results...

I'm grateful for all the good work that has been brought about by the church in Lubbock's efforts. However, as I have said to you before, I rather fear some of the things that have been done."

This next quote is from a letter written to the same elder about a year ago.

May 15, 1952 — "To put it simply: there are things going on over here that are wrong, definitely so. Anti-biblical things... However, just because I disagree with brethren and disapprove of some of the things they do, that doesn't stop me from cooperating and loving them. In the very church - where they are doing the most of what I disapprove of, I have preached four times and have been told that they want me to come again. Many of them know how I feel too. That should show that I don't believe in a criticism of hate that hurts and destroys. I can't conscientiously support the school, for one thing, and I wouldn't feel right with myself if I hadn't told you so. If you brethren support it that's your affair and not mine. I love what they're trying to do but can't go along with the way they're doing it."

Does that sound like a two-faced deceiver keeping someone "in the dark"? I feel that my language was plain enough to enlighten anyone. Remember, some of these things I wrote two years ago. The main reason for my recall seems to be my opposition to the seminary in Frankfurt concerning which I clearly wrote my "position" a year ago.

Paragraph three. "I haven't written the elders." As a group, I had not. To individuals in the congregation, an elder and a preacher, I had expressed myself quite frankly. I made no request that these men keep my remarks a secret. I left it up to them to pass on the information if they thought it best. Was this deceitful? Let's also remember that at one time I was fully behind the school and thought it was good and right. Over the course of the past three years I changed my convictions on this as well as other things. This came after studying the matter and seeing "centralization" in operation. During the course of changing my convictions, I gradually began to see things. As they quote me in paragraph three: "I seek no sponsoring church. I've been convinced of the wrong in that for some time but was at a loss to know what to do about it." There was a time when I began to objectively consider the "sponsoring church" question. The more I considered it the more difficult it became to assure myself that it was right. Just exactly when I changed my mind, I don't know. For one thing I didn't want to change my mind. I had already caused Grove Avenue worry because I didn't approve of certain things at Munich and came to Karlsruhe instead. So, I rationalized. Grove Avenue was sending about eighty percent of our support and the remainder came from others through them. I convinced myself that GA was merely acting as an agent in forwarding that part and really didn't exercise control over the other churches. And she didn't. At least not until they abruptly decided to cease our support and with that cut off these others without their being able to do anything about it. I realize that such rationalizing was not commendable. As I stated, I really didn't quite know what to do about it, so I convinced myself that it wasn't so bad in my case and let it go at that. I was preaching constantly, people were obeying the Gospel, the church was growing, and I decided to let well enough alone for the time being. Is this so hard to understand?

Paragraph four and their remarks about my request to extend our support for several months: Let it be known here that the last check I accepted from Grove Avenue as personal support was sent me toward the end of February of this year. My request that they support us a brief period longer was motivated by my desire to "shift over" in such a way as to spare the Karlsruhe church all this, which I knew that they, as babes in Christ, couldn't understand. Let it be further said that TO THIS DAY the Karlsruhe church as such does not know of my firm disapproval of the Frankfurt seminary and the huge building there, or of this present distress with Grove Avenue. Why? Because I have been preaching CHRIST in Karlsruhe, not "hobbies." I have confided in the few men of the church out of necessity, and that's all. Why should I burden the saints at Karlsruhe with the Frankfurt problems? Or why should I try to dim their gratitude and love for brethren in America who have supported me for almost three years in my labors in Germany?

Paragraph four (b). Here they remark that I seem to have realized suddenly that I wasn't under the oversight of elders 5,000 miles away, saying "So far as we know this light was not revealed to Brother Smith until he was requested to come home." Frankly, there's more truth to that statement than fiction. I had given this matter some thought before, but not much. Why ? For the simple reason that up until the time I was ordered home, they had exercised practically no oversight whatsoever of me or my work. I felt that I had enough work to do and problems to contend with without creating a problem that didn't exist," so I put the matter out of my mind.

Paragraph four (c). Regarding "wishy-washy" etc. I sincerely regret this disrespectful harsh language. Even though it was not misleading, it did show a bad spirit on my part. True, I did have more confidence in the brethren at one time. You never know how people are going to react to a problem till one appears. Unfortunately for me, I didn't find out until I had been in Germany for some time. I was quite disappointed.

Four (d). I don't fully comprehend what's being driven at in this paragraph but I will try to clarify some things. I wrote a preacher at Grove Avenue for the same reason I wrote one of the elders, because I knew both of them better than anyone else. I was seeking help and advice. If they had passed my letters immediately to the elders it would have been alright with me. I meant to leave that up to them. As I have already said, I had been urged from several quarters to keep problems over here as much as possible, without bothering the brethren at home.

Then toward the close, ". . . when the critical view is based on a matter of judgment." Whitewashing the situation by trying to make it a matter of opinion is begging the question. It must first be proved that it is entirely a "matter of judgment" whether or not we establish a preacher-seminary known as "College of the Church of Christ" for Germany or any land. I maintain that the name, the scope, the aim and the function of this institution are not only without scriptural precedent but diametrically opposed to some of the most basic principles of the New Testament.

"The "hobbyist" charge is yet to be proved. The Karlsruhe church would be the witnesses to call in here. Some of them don't even know the Frankfurt seminary exists and most of them have no idea how I feel about it. I think I can safely say that I have preached nothing at Karlsruhe that the Grove Avenue elders wouldn't thoroughly commend.

At the close they say, "The building in Karlsruhe is ours, with St. Elmo . . ." First, we'll mention that the building in Karlsruhe still belongs to the same man who owned it before we came to the city. Two of its four stories are rented by the German railroad, and one by a press agency. The ground floor has been rented for our work, the total rent being paid five years in advance. Grove Avenue and St. Elmo each paid 22.5 percent of this total or $675 apiece. As I use part of the space for an apartment I agreed to pay monthly rent over the five year period, which amounts to 55 percent of the total or $1650. Thus my obligation is two and one-half times that of either of the two above churches. But suppose we were to grant that these rented rooms were theirs, what then? Does that give them the right to exercise authority over the church, the members of the body at that place? Can they send a man to teach and lead them regardless of the wishes of the Karlsruhe congregation? Does 1 Peter 5:1-3 give them the right to rule over two churches? These things deserve thoughtful consideration.

At this writing I am enroute to the U.S.A. to arrange for future support as well as to clear up some of these things with the Grove Avenue brethren in personal discussion with them. I have had a part in beginning a work in Karlsruhe and I don't intend to leave it undone. The Lord willing, I shall return there as soon as possible. Meanwhile it would be well for Grove Avenue's "other worker" — whoever he is — to consider the following: You are neither awaited nor wanted in Karlsruhe. Till now, the peace of the church and the work there has remained relatively undisturbed. If trouble comes, you will be the one who brings it. If you do come, it will be as a trouble maker and a factionist, because until you arrive, the work there will go on just as it has in the past.

To all others may I say, this could happen to you. Please don't wait too late to study these questions. I did. Yet don't be satisfied with criticizing, but show by DOING, by helping to carry the Gospel to all parts of the world. That's the only effective way to show your convictions. As an afterthought I'd like to recommend to the reader a series of articles by Earl West in the Gospel Advocate on Congregational Cooperation, as well as an article by S. F. Timmerman entitled WHOMSOEVER YE SHALL APPROVE. Should anyone not have access to either I'll be glad to send him a copy.