"Straws In The Wind"
In the Christian Standard, Feb. 14, 1942, James De Forest Murch had an article under the above caption. There is an adage that says: "Straws show which way the wind blows." In his article Brother Murch pitched up fifteen "straws," and the last one of them blew right smack into the digressive swamps. The Bible Banner has contended from the beginning that that would the inevitable result of the "Murch-Witty Unity Meetings." Now Brother Murch has proven beyond a reasonable doubt, by his straws, that the Bible Banner was absolutely right in its predictions. I think therefore he should take the Banner off the "lunatic fringe of his religious journalism," and put it next to the Christian Standard in this matter, because the Banner knew as well as the Standard did what the fruit of the "Murch-Witty Unity Meetings" would be. Before running Brother Murch's straws through the thresher again, I would like to make one change. He speaks of "non-instrument churches and ministers." Since the "instrument" is not the only bone of contention that constitutes the "middle wall of partition" between the "churches of Christ" and "Disciples of Christ," I would like to change Brother Murch's "non-instrument" to non-conviction "churches and ministers." I also want to commend Brother Murch for the arrangement of his, and Witty's pictures, that accompanied his article. He put Witty's picture at the top of the page, suggesting that he represents the foam in the "Murch-Witty Unity Meetings," and his picture at the bottom representing the current sweeping all the fruit into the digressive camps. Read Brother Murch's somewhat gloating, but not surprising introduction.
Progress toward unity is evident in the relations of "Churches of Christ" and "Disciples of Christ."
The "middle wall of partition" is being broken down slowly but surely. The spirit of Christ is beginning to have its way in the hearts of hundreds. Something has been started in our annual "Unity Meetings" which will go on and on until wide areas in both groups have been brought into blessed fellowship.
We have no accurate method of measuring progress, but there are many "straws in the wind" which give us definite signs of it. I want to set down some which have come to my personal attention in the past year:
I think Brother Murch has correctly diagnosed the case of those who regularly attend the "Unity Meetings." As already stated, the Bible Banner has contended from the beginning that they would gradually soften and mix with the general pulp, of the digressive brand. It is not embarrassing to me to admit what I already knew. Substituting non-conviction "churches and ministers" for Brother Murch's "non-instrument" churches and ministers, the "middle wall of partition," separating those who attend the "Unity Meetings," becomes a very thin affair, almost transparent, and when it is completely removed, about all the Church of Christ will have lost will be a few bench warmers. Not much to worry about. We will now look at Brother Murch's straws.
Straw One. The Church of Christ at Horse Cave, Ky., although excluding the use of instrumental music in worship, is now in full fellowship with our churches in Kentucky. The same thing is true of a dozen or more "non-instrument" churches in this state. Word of similar developments has come from Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Straw Two. Occasional union meetings of ministers of both groups are being held in Louisville, Ky.
Horse Cave, Ky., is where Brother S. H. Hall held a meeting a few years ago, and Brother Spaulding, the local preacher, had the denominational preachers leading prayers in the meeting, and all Brother Hall did about it, was to deny it, after he, left Horse Cave. It may be that "The Church of Christ at Horse Cave," was in such full fellowship with the denominations, that Brother Hall could not tell one from the other. In this event, what Brother Murch calls "our churches in Kentucky" have nothing on the denominations, in their "full fellowship," with the Horse Cave Church. I am sure this is also true with the unnamed places, in "Pennsylvania and Virginia." Since Brother Cecil Douthitt lives in Louisville, Ky., I will let him have "Straw Two;" but I feel sure he is in a third group of which Brother Murch makes no mention.
Straw Three. Several of our congregations in Southern California are sending financial support to the orphans' Home at Ontario. Offerings from "non-instrument" brethren have been received by several of our benevolent institutions. The doors of these homes are now open to the unfortunate of both groups.
Brother Sam Witty, a brother of Brother Claud Witty, Brother Murch's protg, founded, and I suppose still runs the orphan's home at Ontario, California. Naturally, the digressives would feel kindly toward "the home" because of blood relationship, if for no other. In fact I thought "the doors of these homes" were open to all the "unfortunate," or as many as "the home" could care for.
Straw Four. Pulpits have been opened to brethren of opposing views on "instruments" at many points in Florida, Kansas, Ohio, Michigan, California, Illinois, Kentucky and other states.
This "straw" shows that the fault of the "Murch-Witty Unity Meetings" is ripening rather fast, and the sooner Murch's group gets it gathered the better it will be for "the Churches of Christ."
Straw Five. Evangelistic meetings have been held on an exchange basis at several points. Notable among these were the Lappin-Jorgenson meetings, the Friend-Murdock meetings and the Rutherford-Crowder meetings.
Jorgenson, Friend, and Rutherford belong to the Dr. Wood, and Frank Mullins brand of premillennialists, who sat on the platform with J. Frank Norris, in the Fort Worth debate, and gave all their influence against Foy E. Wallace in his defense of the truth. So Brother Murch you have nothing on the Baptists, that will fellowship those fellows.
Straw Six. Our Board of Church Erection and our Pension Board have made it a policy to consider applications from "non-instrument" churches and ministers. Quite a number have taken advantage of this expanded service without in any way stultifying their convictions.
There have always been, and I suppose always will be, some in the church who have no convictions about whom or what they milk. So if Brother Murch's "group" is not careful they may get some leeches out of "the Churches of Christ." I don't charge you anything for this suggestion, Brother Murch.
Straw Seven. Sunday schools in each group are using literature prepared by publishing houses of the other group. The Standard Publishing Company is enjoying a fine fellowship in meeting the demand for this wider service and has, during the past year, employed the writings of "Church of Christ" brethren in its lesson quarterlies.
I believe this straw has let a black cat "out of the bag." What does Brother Murch mean by "publishing houses"? Does he mean that other "publishing houses," besides the Boll and Jorgenson publishing house, are selling "The Standard Publishing Company's" literature to churches and that too, without their knowledge? If this exchange of literature is going on with "our" Publishing Houses, it must be solely from a monetary consideration, because surely they do not believe the "Standard Publishing House" has writers better qualified to prepare the literature for "our churches? If so, I think the churches should make the choice for themselves. If the digressives can furnish the literature for our churches, what would be wrong in them furnishing the preachers for our meetings? I would think more of "the Jorgenson-Lappin, the Friend-Murdock, and the Rutherford-Crowder meetings," exchanged in the open, than I would of his secret juggling of literature used in "our" churches. If it is done, Our "Publishing Houses" are of age, let them answer, guilty, or not guilty.
Straw Eight. "Churches of Christ" are making wide use of books written by our brethren, such as Tomlison's "Churches of Today" and Johnson's "The Great Controversy." We included a number of "Church of Christ brethren among the contributors to "600 Doctrinal Illustrations," and intend to make further use of their talents as opportunity affords.
There is nothing out of the ordinary about this "straw," because any student will read anything that he thinks will add to his information. I have no scruples even in reading Brother Murch's writings, because he is a pretty good prognosticator when it comes to the course "our" weak-kneed brethren will pursue. He will also tell us about the antics of "our" kicking, and expostulating brethren in the "Unity Meetings."
Straw Nine was just an advertisement of E. L. Jorgenson's songbook, and it might hurt the sale of the book to advertise it in Murch's "lunatic fringe of religious journalism."
Straw Ten. There have been a number of ministerial changes—men crossing the "middle wall of partition" both ways, Some of these changes have been out of conviction following a study of the historic controversial issues. In certain cases they have been accompanied by bitterness and recrimination, not to say nothing about unfortunate rifts in congregations affected. There have been other changes, under very happy circumstances, in the interests of peace and unity. By the former instances, one may be led to doubt the advisability of continuing to promote a movement which calls to mind an almost-forgotten division and opens the gate to possible controversy. However, these infusions of new blood into both groups may, in the end, have a salutary effect.
While Brother Murch is nursing about the possible results of "these infusions of new blood into both groups," I want to give him and Brother Witty a couple of transfusions of blood from two pioneer editors. I will use Moses E. Lard's pen for the first injection. "Now in the light of the foregoing principles what defense can be urged for the introduction into some of our congregations of instrumental music? The answer which thunders into my ear from every page of the New Testament is, none. Did Christ ever appoint it? Did the apostles ever sanction it? Or did any one of the primitive churches ever use it? Never. In what light then must we view him who attempts to introduce it into the churches of Christ of the present day? I answer, as an insulter of the authority of Christ, and as a defiant and impious innovator on the simplicity and purity of the ancient worship." Lard's Quarterly, Volume 1, page 331. On page 333, Lard says: Thus these organ-grinding churches will in the lapse of time be broken down, or wholly apostatize, and the sooner they are in fragments the better for the cause of Christ. I have no sympathy with them, no fellowship for them, and so help me God never intend knowingly to put my foot into one of them." The Christian standard is now publishing a sermon preached by Z. T: Sweeney nearly twenty three years ago, "Should
Churches of Christ Receive Unimmersed Into Formal Fellowship?" This sermon would have never been preached and certainly would not now be published in the standard, if Lard's prediction had not come true, that many of the digressive churches have apostatized—gone into the open membership business. Murch and Witty are trying desperately to refill their ranks with the weaklings from the Churches of Christ. And they are getting their toboggan machinery pretty well oiled, judging from Murch's "Straws." But I must go on with my transfusions. I will use W. K. Pendleton's pen for my next injection. "It has been said, that nothing is so absurd but that some one will be found foolish enough to embrace it. It would seem especially true, in matters of religion. This folly of elevating organ-grinding and accompaniments in the place of apostolic worship, illustrates it. Who could have thought that with the Bible in their hand, the American people could ever have drifted into such idolatry." (Millennial Harbinger 1868, page 41). It would certainly be disastrous to the "Murch-Witty Unity Meetings" to inject any of this pioneer blood into them. So they are using what they call "new blood." In justice to the memory of the pioneers, I appeal to Murch and Witty to call the blood they are fusing "Quisling" blood.
Straw Eleven. The International Convention Commission on Restudy has recognized the fundamental unity existing between the "Churches of Christ" and "Disciples of Christ," and has given time to addresses and discussions on the subject. As a result of these meetings, Claud F. Witty has been invited to speak at Butler University, Minnesota Bible University,, the Michigan State Ministers' Meeting and before other important groups. All of which has contributed to better understanding and increased interest in the unity movement.
It is not surprising that "The International Convention Commission on Restudy," (whatever that is) has selected Claud F. Witty for these speaking engagements. However, I think common honesty and fairness would demand that Witty at least get a statement from "the churches of Christ" in Detroit saying he is to represent them in this Chautauqua circus. I know Brother Witty is jokingly called "the Bishop of Detroit," but it seems to me that it is about time "the churches of Christ" were curbing the activities of "the Bishop," if he is to represent them before the brotherhood.
Straw Twelve. Friction between the two groups in the mountains of eastern Kentucky led to a correspondence between J. W. West, of the Mountain States Evangelizing Association, and Fred L. Rowe, editor of The Christian Ledger. It was mutually understood that there could be no compromise of convictions, but it was agreed that congregations should respect each other's legal rights and treat each other with common Christian courtesy. A tour of the Big Sandy country by these men has done much toward the solution of problems which threatened to destroy the elemental Christian faith of whole communities.
This straw shows some rather unusual activities upon the part of the editor of "The Christian Ledger." One is caused to wonder why J. W. West and Fred L. Rowe did not make this journey forty years ago, when the "Christian Churches" were stealing or taking all the property they could get from "the Churches of Christ." The digressives were not concerned about any body's "legal rights" then. J. W. West and Fred L. Rowe were both old enough to travel in those days, yet they did nothing about the "legal rights" of the churches. The unfortunate implication of their present journeys, is that "both groups" have not been respecting the "legal rights" of each other. Whereas the digressives have been the only culprits in this matter. So I am wondering what Brother Rowe had to say to "his, group" about the legal rights of others. Their special mission seems to have been to get "the Churches of Christ"
to stack arms, and fraternize with the Progressives (?) I wonder if "J. W. West and Fred L. Rowe" would object to reading a few lines from J. W. McGarvey? Here they are. The loudest call that comes from heaven to the men of this generation is for warfare, stern, relentless, merciless, exterminating, against everything not expressly or by necessary implication authorized in the New Testament. Such is my unwavering conviction; and my only regret is, that I cannot fight this fight as it should be fought." (Millennial Harbinger 1868, page 219) Brethren, these are my sentiments to a nicety, and I thought they would have been Brother Rowe's too. When Alexander Campbell was an old man, and had grown long gray whiskers, some one said something about his whiskers, and he replied that he had hung out the "white flag." I am wondering if Brother Rowe is growing whiskers.
Straw Thirteen. There have been numerous moves on the part of preachers to establish neighborly contacts between both groups in a given community. In many cases these efforts have been rudely spurned, but there are literally scores of instances in which there have been favorable reactions. As an example, one of our Kansas ministers was holding a series of evangelistic meetings. The young preacher of the neighboring "conservative" church attended one night. He seemed pleased with the message, and on later occasion was present with several of his people. At the close of the meetings he invited our minister to have lunch with him. During the conversation he expressed himself as follows: "I am in hearty agreement with your gospel messages. You preach the same gospel I preach. I see no reason why we cannot fellowship with one another on that ground. I am opposed to the use of instrumental music in the worship, but I feel that it should not be made a test of fellowship. I am greatly interested in the unity movement, and will do all in my power to promote it locally." A most happy relationship now exists between the churches in this Kansas City.
This straw might be worth something to the church, if we could find out what Bible College (?) this young Kansas preacher was the product of. "By their fruits ye shall know them."
Straw Fourteen. The recent nation-wide poll of ministers of the "Disciples of Christ," through the columns of the Christian-Evangelist and the Christian Standard, revealed a growing interest in unity. The hundreds of ministers participating were unanimous in their desire that the annual meetings continue along the same lines upon which they were initiated.
The "Murch-Witty Unity Meetings" ought to get these two groups together without much trouble. "The Christian Evangelist" is just a little ahead of the "Christian Standard," and they are both going in the same direction—away from the truth.
Straw Fifteen. An encouraging independence of thought and action regarding unity is developing among the younger ministers of the "Churches of Christ." The present center of opposition is among the older men who occupy places of prominence in the pulpit and the press of the brotherhood. A small coterie of not more than a hundred self-appointed men exercise a power over the rank and file of the ministers which is comparable to the power of the bishops in the Methodist churches.
Brother Murch is a good whistler; but his is the whistle of a man going through a graveyard at night. Since "the declaration of independence," written by the brilliant "young minister," is minus his "John Hancock," I shall not insert Brother Murch's "excerpt" from it in this paper. I would suggest however that Brother Murch, and the `young minister," both "restudy" 1 Cor. 3:18, and 2 Tim. 4:1-5. By the way, Brother Murch, I never did hear what you said about meeting Foy E. Wallace, Jr., in an oral debate. Or did you say? If you will meet Wallace on the use of "missionary societies" and "instrumental accompaniments," in the work and worship of the church, I feel
sure he will "tread" or "beat" much more grain out of your straws than I can get by running them through the thresher the Bible Banner. I am not asking you for a "yes" or "no answer; but I do hope you will answer so "the most capable and successful young ministers" among us can understand what you say. If that astute young minister who wrote you could hear the discussion he might rewrite "the declaration of independence" without "restudy." I thank you in advance for your candid answer.