Vol.I No.XII Pg.6
December 1964

Attitudes Divide Brethren

Robert F. Turner

Following taken from Biography of W. W. Otey, a well-documented book by Cecil Willis; which traces history of the church of Christ from 1860-1960.

With the ending of the war a new era arose for the churches. New attitudes arose. A new civil war soon was in prospect --- one within the churches. "When reconstruction was completed and Virginia was readmitted to the Union in 1870, the great pioneer period of the Disciples had ended." The older pioneers, for the most part, had gone on. "Second and third generation Disciples quickly came to occupy positions of influence." These were men who enjoyed the fruits of other men's labors. They realized not at what price they enjoyed their heritage. Among these younger brethren--

"there was less bitterness toward the denominations; a growing feeling existed that little could be accomplished by following the venerable practice of pointing out from the pulpit the errors of the sectarians. The reliance on itinerant evangelists, the principle ministerial provisions 'down to the days of the beloved and lamented Abell (died 1874),' was unacceptable to the younger brethren; resident full-time 'pastors' became the order of the day." (Quotations from H.J. Darst, "Ante-Bellum Virginia Disciples" publ. 1959. rft)

Darst further stated, "These changes in belief, practice and attitude which occurred in the several decades immediately following the War resulted in the Disciples rapidly losing much of the distinctive character which they had possessed during the ante-bellum years..." ***** However, there were some of the brethren who were unwilling to discard, without a fight, these "distinctive" characteristics upon which the churches in the area had been built. This conservatism on the one hand and liberalism on the other, resulted in an inevitable tension between the preachers and members in various churches. *****

A. W. Fortune ("The Disciples in Kentucky" publ. 1932. rft) portrayed these divided sentiments thusly:

"There were two different interpretations of the church which inevitably came in conflict. There were those who believed the church should move on with the world and adapt the spirit of the New Testament to conditions that were ever changing. They held that, when not forbidden by the New Testament they were free to adapt their program to changing needs. On the other hand, there were those who believed the pattern of the church was fixed for all time, and the fact that certain things were not sanctioned was sufficient reason for rejecting them. The men on both sides were equally honest, but they had a different approach to these issues that were raised."

This quotation fairly summarized the difference between brethren shortly after the Civil War and is yet descriptive of the differences between the Churches of Christ and the Christian Church.


Learn From History, Or Repeat It.