"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.VIII No.IV Pg.6-8
May 1946

An Answer To The Announcement Of Abilene Christian College For District Rallies For The Churches

Roy E. Cogdill

The following letter speaks for itself. This is the response of the Lufkin congregation to the appeal from Abilene Christian College for church support. If churches all over the land would be quick to voice a similar sentiment, a quick halt could be called to the present abandonment of the only defensible and scriptural position that schools like Abilene Christian College can maintain.

Dear Bro. Alexander

We are in receipt of two letters from you with reference to your money raising campaign for Abilene Christian College. This may serve as a reply to both.

In the first letter you asked that we take the matter up and decide what we could do in the way of regular help for the school. This letter was directed to the elders of the Lufkin church. We drew the conclusion from this letter, and the fact that it was so addressed, that you had in mind the church, as such, giving some regular help to Abilene Christian College. We know of no other reason why such a request would be directed to its as elders of the church. If this is what you intended, our reply is that we have already decided, and thought that the Lord's people had long ago decided that maintaining a school is an individual proposition and in no way the work of the church. Our conviction in this regard hasn't been changed by the increasing size, influence, and power of "our" schools. We are old fashioned enough down here in East Texas that we do not believe in an organization larger than the local congregation through which the Lord's work is to be done. We therefore confine our activities as a church to the business of the church and we don't believe maintaining a secular program of education is a part of that program. Therefore, we hereby notify you and those connected with you in your program that we are not in sympathy in any way with your efforts to enlist the churches to support your school.

As to the second letter to Brother Roy D. Spears, we will say first that for the above reason we do not believe you want to carry out your plan of holding a rally here for the churches of this "district." We could not co-operate in such a "rally" for the reason that we believe that the very spirit and purpose of those promoting it are not in harmony with New Testament principles. You would not want it here over our opposition.

Furthermore, we do not appreciate the tone of your letter notifying us that you and President Morris had planned to have such a rally here on August 17th. It seems to us that if the school respects the local church, instead of writing us to the effect that you had such a rally planned and hoped that we would cooperate with you in it, you would first have written and asked for the approval of the church here for such a rally. Of course, if it is your plan to hold the rally in Lufkin whether the local church cooperates with you in it or not--then we have nothing further to say for we have no control over the town as a meeting place for any kind of a gathering.

It is our conviction that the school is becoming too high-minded in its attitude toward the church. We also believe that some of you have an exaggerated idea of the importance of your program of work. It is not at all our conception that the church of the Lord would be a, failure without the schools. We still believe that the Lord's work can be done most successfully in the Lord's way through the church.

As a final word, let us say that we are not opposed to Christian individuals operating a school to teach anything that is wholesome and right. We do not believe that such efforts should be fastened upon the church, usurp the work of the church or undertake to control it. We believe an educational society in the work of the church is just as unscriptural and wrong as a missionary society. We believe in the all-sufficiency of the church just like we believe in the all-sufficiency of the scriptures.

Yours sincerely,

R,. C. Trimble, R. L. Stanaland, F. D. Thompson, M. S. Bills, Roy D. Spears, elders.

Twenty-five years ago the fight over the missionary and aid societies had not been forgotten. On every hand you could hear gospel preachers declaring that any organization larger than the local congregation to do any work of the church was unscriptural. The "digressives" were completely and thoroughly "whipped out" by that scriptural principle. The churches seemed, thoroughly committed to the principle that while congregations could cooperate in dong any scriptural work, yet that cooperation must not assume the form of an organization and must not be larger than or distinct from the local church. This we had not only found to be a, "safe and tenable" position but we had convinced ourselves that it was Bible truth. Hence for several decades we had preached, declared and affirmed in debate that church support for co-operative societies to carry on either the teaching or benevolent work of the church was anti-scriptural and therefore wrong. I heard that taught and preached daring my boyhood and as a young preacher and l grew up on such information on that subject as can be found in the Otey-Briney debate and other such sources.

When "our" schools were started, they drew heavy opposition from prominent men who had come through the battle over Missionary Societies and human organizations. Daniel Sommer became the spearhead of this opposition. Their charge was that the schools were trespassing on the work of the churches and would some day reach such proportions that they would not only be trespassing on the work of the churches but would try to assume control over the churches. Against such opposition "we" developed what "we" believed was a defensible position. We contended that the schools were "secular" institutions and that they were not owned and run by the churches but were maintained and operated by a group of Christian individuals who wanted to provide an education for their children under Christian influence and that since it is right for Christians to teach the truth anywhere and everywhere, it could not be wrong to teach the Bible in such schools. We defended them on the ground that the ownership of "our" schools and maintenance for them was on a par with "our papers." Brethren who were interested and active in such school work gladly seized upon this position and stoutly maintained it. Brethren Lipscomb, Armstrong, Boles and others fought the battle out on this ground with Brother Sommer until before his death, I understand, he acknowledged that to a great extent he had been wrong about "our schools."

Almost every leader in school work among us is on record on this issue either by public utterance or in written statement. But what has happened? Almost over night--and with such unanimity that it is astounding--" Our School Brethren" have been converted on this issue and have done an about face. Whereas formerly, such men as Hardeman, Pullias, Morris, Alexander; and others now prominent among us in such work would not defend "church" support for our schools, and would state that they were not and had not asked the church as such to support "our" schools, now, openly, without apology, and without telling us any of the why or wherefore of their- conversion on the matter, boldly announce that they are convinced that it is all right to put the schools in the "budgets" of the churches. What I want to know is, what has converted all of them"? What has convinced them? They have been holding out on me. I am not convinced on the matter at all but still stand where they all formerly stood. If they have learned something "new" about this proposition they should let the rest of us in on it.

If these brethren were sincere in their defense of "our Bible schools" against "Sommerism," they have not abandoned that position just because the opposition has died down. They must have changed because of a change in conviction. I am anxious to know what brought it about. Is it possible that their increasing appetite for a greater enrollment, greater influence in the brotherhood, and therefore for more funds has been the convincing factor? Robert Alexander has become so intent on his $3,000,000 goal for Abilene Christian. College that he has convinced himself the churches should help him raise it. Twenty-five years ago you could not have persuaded him to come out in the Firm Foundation with the announcement that he was not opposed to church support for our schools. Even if he had felt that way about the matter, his better judgment and consideration for his "usefulness in the brotherhood" would have kept him from openly advocating it. It must be the power of the campaign for funds that has convinced all of them--or they were not honest with Brother Sommer.

Brethren, if we have been wrong about this matter we are due someone an apology. If the school is not an adjunct to the home, without the realm of church ownership, control and support, then we should ask Brother Sommer, the Lord, and such fellows as Carl Ketcherside to forgive us for defending them on false grounds and should take up their defense on proper grounds--whatever they are, if any.

On the other hand, if they can be defended as a church supported work, we should apologize to the digressives for being wrong in our contention against their benevolent and missionary societies. If Robert Alexander of any other man among "us" thinks he can consistently defend a society supported by the churches, the primary purpose of which is to teach the word of God at Abilene, and at the same time condemn a society supported by the churches the primary purpose of which is to teach the word of God in Canton, China, I would like to see him try.

I am aware that some "liberals" among us have felt for some time that church support for such institutions as Abilene College is all right. G. C. Brewer so declared himself several years ago and stated in connection that the Texas church that does not put Abilene Christian College in its budget has the wrong preacher. None of us was surprised at such a statement from him. He is even liberal enough to call on sectarian preachers for prayer, accept sectarian baptism, and declare that there are Christians who will be saved in denominational institutions. You wouldn't expect a man with those views to restrict himself to a scriptural position with reference to the independence and autonomy of the local church. Most of our school men disagreed with him then, or at least did not endorse his statement. Perhaps his influence over them has been stronger than we supposed and he has converted some of them to his way of thinking. Maybe he has converted them to his other viewpoints, too, and they just have not declared themselves.

Brother Robert Alexander has a peculiar slant on the autonomy of the local church. He does not hesitate to call upon them for regular support for Abilene Christian College. He has no objection to their putting the school in their budgets, in fact, where the money comes from or how they raise it is a matter of no concern to him, for on these points he has no convictions. Just so the money is raised, he is pleased. He plans "district meetings" that involve the local churches and notifies them, but he thinks the small matter of how they raise the money is of no consequence. It involves no principle of truth, hence, should be left entirely to the local church. There is not any right way or wrong way, for it is not a matter of faith but of opinion, anyway. That is the defense of the instrumental music advocates. They think it belongs in the realm of opinion, hence, should be decided by the individual for himself or at the most by the majority in the congregation, and when they have so decided no one has the right to say, Nay! Is the autonomy of the local church a matter of faith or opinion? Is it right for local churches to federate themselves or associate themselves in any work through an organization outside of and larger than the local church? Would this involve any scriptural principle and if it does, is it to be settled by the decision of the congregation? Suppose Brother Alexander inform us about how the congregation should render such a decision. Should the elders arbitrarily decide such matters and either bind or loose the conscience of some, as it is--what should be their action about the matter or is that important?

The autonomy of the congregation does not involve the right or power to decide principles of right or wrong. It involves only the independence of the congregation from every other congregation in the management of its own affairs within scriptural principles. Brother Alexander's position would render him obligated to fellowship any congregation which in its own way decided to support the Christian Endeavor Society or the United Christian Missionary Society-would he do it?

When any congregation steps beyond the boundaries of local church organization and government, it becomes sectarian as definitely as it would by introducing human innovations into the worship, or by adopting a human creed. The idea that support for an unscriptural organization can be justified by the scriptural principle of the local church governing its own affairs is ridiculous. That would mean that the church had been given the authority in its own government to abandon its government and federate itself into a larger organization and government. The idea of scriptural church organization and scriptural church government cannot be separated. Brother Alexander must either take them both or abandon them both.

Participation and support for an organization larger than the local church cannot be justified upon the ground of the independence and autonomy of the local church. The very right of the church to govern its own activities within Christian principles, restricts the activity of the local church to such work and relationships as are in keeping with that principle. It is not a question of opinion but a question of New Testament teaching and faith and vital to Christian fellowship and the identity of the church. Brother Alexander's position amounts to this; the congregation because it is autonomous has the right to decide whether or not to be autonomous. He is capable of better reasoning.