The Cause Of Division
That serious differences now exist among those known as "churches of Christ" cannot be denied. Since 1909 a movement has been underway to establish various human institutions through which the church may do its God-given work. Since 1940 the number of these institutions for the care of orphans alone has quadrupled, to say nothing of educational institutions which have come into being claiming a right to church support. As these have multiplied they have become increasingly bold to demand support from the churches and to castigate and "quarantine" those churches which do not join in support of them.
Some of us have opposed these institutions claiming a connection with the church, on the simple ground that there is no scriptural authority for them. Till now, not a single scripture has been cited to show either by command, example, or necessary inference any authority for their existing in such a relationship. Yet, we who oppose them have been universally blamed with the division.
For nearly 1900 years, God's people carried on the Lord's work without such organizations. It was only when they were introduced, and particularly when they became aggressive in their fund raising, that the trouble came. The cause of the trouble should not be hard, therefore, to locate. For years we have argued logically that the instrument and missionary societies were the cause of a former division inasmuch as there was no trouble until their introduction. If that be true of the instrument and missionary societies, why is it not true of educational and benevolence societies?
Likewise, we have argued that if peace were to be had, the "instrumentalists" would have to make the concessions — after all, it was their practice under question and not ours. They agreed that our worship was scriptural; they could worship with us with a clear conscience. They were the ones who had added the questionable thing. We accused them of loving the instrument (a thing which they admitted was not essential to please God) more than they loved their brethren for they chose to push it on the churches even though it meant a rupture of fellowship.
The identical situation prevails today relative to the benevolent societies. They must agree that their societies are not essential. After all, the churches existed and did their work for centuries without them. They do admit this. One of the brethren who has been bitterest in his attacks on those of us who believe in the sufficiency of the church in benevolence was recently offered this proposition to affirm or deny:
"It is scriptural for the local congregation to relieve all those for whom it is responsible, without building and maintaining human institutions, such as Childhaven, Tipton Orphan Home, etc."
What did he say? He said, "With this I am in complete agreement." Thus, he agrees that our practice is scriptural and therefore safe. There is no question about what we are doing. The thing that is causing the division is his opinion that something else is also acceptable. We cannot compromise, for with us it is a matter of faith — we believe we would be sinning against God to do so. He can compromise, for with him it is merely a matter of opinion. He has a choice between his opinion (admittedly necessary) and fellowship with a large number of his brethren. He, like most others of his persuasion, has made his choice — he has chosen the opinion, the institution.
Of course, there are many other things involved — support of colleges from church treasuries, social and recreational programs supported by the churches, centralization of supervision over the work of several congregations, etc. There are some variations in how far various ones will go, but the thing is that all are moving in the same direction — away from the authority of the scriptures.
How it grieves me to be separated from these brethren! Many of them have been fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters to me. How I long to continue walking with them! But the road they are walking leads eventually and inevitably to Rome and I cannot walk it, even one step of the way.
— 1801 N. 27th Street, Birmingham, Alabama