Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 28, 1958

The Better Part Of Valor

Cecil Willis, Kansas City, Missouri

Among the Churches of Christ, there are presently about twenty benevolent organizations that provide homes for neglected, unwanted, and orphan children, and for the aged. Basically, these institutions are operated two ways. Approximately half of these organizations are under elders of a church. Included in this group would be the following: Tipton, Sunny Glen, Maude Carpenter, Church of Christ Home (Tulsa), Church of Christ Children's Home (Ontario, Calif.), Lubbock Children's Home, Gunter, and Central's home in Houston. Others of these institutions are under a board of directors. Examples of these would be Tennessee Orphan Home, Schults-Lewis, Potter, Lake Shore Estates (Tenn.), Florida Christian Estates, Christian Home and Bible School (Mt. Dora, Fla.), Childhaven, Boles, and the home at Morrilton, Ark. These are not complete lists, but are illustrations of the two types of homes among us.

Primarily defending these institutions have been such publications as the GOSPEL ADVOCATE, the FIRM FOUNDATION, and more recently, THE SPIRITUAL SWORD. The GOSPEL ADVOCATE and THE SPIRITUAL SWORD would like to have us believe that all of the defenders of any of the institutions will defend all of them. They like to brand all of the opposers of the institutions as "Antis." But the facts are that there are a good many "half-Antis" running loose too. Some of the brethren will not defend a home under elders, and some of the brethren will not defend one that is not under elders. So some of the brethren oppose about half of the institutions, and some of the brethren oppose the other half. They are "50% Antis."

Have The Minds Met?

Bro. Guy N. Woods would like to have us believe that he and the Advocate, and Bro. Ruel Lemmons and the FIRM FOUNDATION have come to an agreement. First, they had to disagree. What does the FIRM FOUNDATION think of the ADVOCATE's position? Let Bro. Lemmons, the FF editor, tell us. In speaking of the views advanced by the GOSPEL ADVOCATE writers, Bro. Lemmons says "One view holds that the church is powerless to do anything else than make a cash contribution to some agency outside the church, which agency is then responsible for carrying out the actual work of caring for the needy. We cannot accept this view. We do not believe the Bible teaches it . . . . We find it impossible to believe the doctrine that 'the church is its own gospel preaching society but it is not its own benevolent society.' " (Firm Foundation, Feb. 4, 1958).

Then Bro. Lemmons discusses another position, that held by the Gospel Guardian writers. Of it he says: "We have no u=e for the anti-orphan home theory. We do not believe the Bible teaches it. But if that theory were believed by every member of the church it might destroy every orphan home in the world, but it would not destroy the church. On the other hand, this theory, so boldly advocated in recent months (that of the GOSPEL ADVOCATE — CW). that some separate institution, outside the framework of the church, must of necessity be provided through which the church can then do its work, can very easily destroy the church (His emphasis — CW). Of the two (Gospel Guardian or GOSPEL ADVOCATE — CW), the latter is much the more dangerous."

"We repeat: this recent discovery that the church can scripturally build and maintain something that the elders of the church cannot scripturally oversee can very easily destroy the church." (FF, Feb. 4, 1958). Bro. Lemmons says that the position of the GOSPEL ADVOCATE and The Spiritual Sword that the homes must be under a board of directors, and cannot be under elders "as elders," will destroy the church! He wants no part of it.

On the other hand, the GOSPEL ADVOCATE is not more complimentary of the Firm Foundation's position. Bro. Woods says "God, in his wisdom, has assigned the responsibility of child-care to the home, and not the church" (GA, March 27, 1958).

Bro. Tom Warren and his Spiritual Sword cohorts agree with Bro. Woods and state "And even though the same men who serve as elders over a church may serve as directors over the home, in their latter capacity they serve as legal parents — not as elders." (GA, Feb. 13, 1958). Bro. Lemmons states that the homes supported by the church in the discharge of its work must be overseen by the elders of the church. What does Bro. Woods think of this? In reply to Bro. Lemmons' article quoted above, Bro. Woods says "the error that when the structure of the home fails, the church may assume and perform the functions of the HOME, is as fatal and far-reaching in its evil consequences, as the theory that the church may accept and properly perform the functions of the STATE" (Underlining mine — CW) (GA, March 27, 1958).

From these statements, we can see that there certainly needs to be a "meeting of the minds." Bro. Lemmons repudiates about ten homes because they are under a board, and says Bro. Woods' position will destroy the church. Bro. Woods repudiates about ten homes (all those under elders "as elders"), and says Bro. Lemmons' position is "error", "fatal" and as "evil" as a union of church and state. All the while there is this basic division between the two, Bro. Woods tries to "whistle in the dark" and say the "minds have met." He would like to leave the impression that the GOSPEL ADVOCATE and the FIRM FOUNDATION are agreed. He leaves the door open for Bro. Lemmons to crawl into the GOSPEL ADVOCATE camp. But Bro. Lemmons slaps Woods' hand and says 'No, thank you." Even though Bro. Woods says "We are agreed," it is reliably reported that Bro. Lemmons has since said in private conversation that there has been no meeting of the minds!

What About The Homes?

Meanwhile, those running the various homes sit back and quiver in fear. They are afraid they will somehow' be forced to state how they are operated. They are afraid to answer a pointed question. If you think this is untrue, write them a letter. If you can get an unequivocal answer. I will be glad to retract my statement. However, I would like to share your information, when you receive it. The homes under a board other than elders are a little more sure of themselves, for they feel confident the GOSPEL ADVOCATE can carry more weight than the Firm Foundation. Those under elders are the ones in jeopardy. Presently they have the support of both the FIRM FOUNDATION and the GOSPEL ADVOCATE. But how could the

GOSPEL ADVOCATE and The Spiritual Sword with any profession of honesty endorse and support a home under elders when they maintain they should not be under elders? They justify themselves by saying that the elders are not serving "as elders" when they oversee the home. Their oversight of the home is a work in addition to their work as an elder, we are told.

Having heard this long enough, I addressed letters to two of the homes under elders. Though I received no reply from either, I will only report on those letters addressed to the Maude Carpenter Home in Wichita, Kansas. In every issue of The Home Journal, "Official Publication of The Maude Carpenter Children's Home, Inc." we are told that the home is "Supervised and Directed by Elders of Riverside Church of Christ." Surely there is no ambiguity in this statement. Yet Brethren Woods and Warren tell themselves that these brethren did not correctly represent their relationship to the home.

Recently Bro. W. D. Rhodes, Superintendent of Maude Carpenter Home died. His wife reports his death, and the choosing of his successor in the FIRM FOUNDATION July 1, 1958. She says "After being asked by the elders of the church who oversee this home (Emphasis mine — CW) to step into this spot vacated so suddenly, he (Bro. Joe Black — CW) has consented to give his services in addition to acting as minister for the church." Sis. Rhodes says the home is overseen by the elders. Still Brethren Warren and Woods say they do not oversee it as elders.

So I addressed a letter to the Elders of the Riverside Church of Christ ,Wichita, Kansas, December 18, 1957. One paragraph reads, "If you would, I would like to have your answer to the following question. Do you consider the Maude Carpenter Home to be under the oversight of the elders of the Riverside church, or do you think that you serve in a capacity other than elders when you serve as the board of directors of the home? I only want to know if Bro. Woods correctly represented you brethren when he says elders do not oversee the homes as elders. Your reply would be appreciated." Six months passed and I received not even the courtesy of a reply.

So on June 2, 1958 I wrote again, and asked the same question. In addition to the question I said "My reason for asking the question is that some have represented the work that you discharge as overseers to be an additional work to that of elders. It has been compared to an elder who ALSO served as a member of the board of directors of a college.

"The Home Journal masthead indicates that you oversee the home AS ELDERS. Would you please address a letter to me clearly answering the above question that those of us in this area might clearly know whether your oversight is performed AS ELDERS or as another work in addition to your work as elders. There is considerable interest in this area on this precise point. Your reply as soon as convenient would be greatly appreciated."

About two months have passed now, and still not a word. These brethren have decided it would be the better part of valor to say nothing. If they plainly stated "Yes, we are over the home as elders," away would go the support of the GOSPEL ADVOCATE and The Spiritual Sword. If they said "No, we are not over the home as elders, but as a board of directors," away would go the support of the Firm Foundation. The home does not want the question answered because of financial reasons. The papers do not want it answered because they would then be forced to say they oppose such a home, and that would make them "Anti-papers." If the home says nothing, the money continues to come in from both sides, and the papers can each define the relationship of the elders to the home in such a way that they can condone the home. Let several of us address similarly worded questions to the homes under elders, and see who will be brave enough to give a categorical answer. Either way the answer will prove very interesting! But it will be financially unprofitable, so they refuse to answer. If some of you brethren who are serving over one of the homes overseen by elders wish to answer this question, it would be greatly appreciated, and would help clear the picture considerably.

Before Bro. Woods took his present position of stating that a home must not be under elders 'as elders," he made some interesting statements. And do not be misled into thinking he has always held his present position. In 1939 he said:

"This work (i.e. care of needy — CW) should be done by and through the church, with its elders having the oversight thereof, and not through boards and conclaves unknown to the New Testament. In this connection it is a pleasure to commend to the brotherhood Tipton Orphans Home, Tipton, Oklahoma. The work there is entirely scriptural, being managed and conducted by the elders of the church in Tipton, Oklahoma, aided by funds sent to them by elders of other congregations round about. We here and now declare our protest against any other method or arrangement for accomplishing this work." — 1939.

In 1939 the only way to do the work was under an eldership. In 1958 the only way to do the work is not under an eldership, but under a board. One can readily see a change of position between 1939 and 1958, but one can also see the GOSPEL ADVOCATE, as represented by Guy N. Woods, has changed its position since 1956. In the Indianapolis Debate, Bro. Woods read a statement from the elders of the home at Lubbock showing the home is under elders as elders. They said "The children's home of Lubbock is not incorporated, but is under the direct supervision of the elders of the Broadway Church of Christ, as is the regular Sunday morning Bible classes, the Texas Tech Bible Chair, and other work carried on by this congregation" (Emphasis mine — CW). Woods-Porter Debate, p. 286, This home is under the elders in the same way that the Bible classes are, these elders say. Now, Brethren Woods and Warren, are the Bible classes under the elders "as elders?" Is the oversight of the classes a work in addition to their work as elders? The Broadway elders say they oversee both alike. Now, brethren, will you be honest and forthright enough to tell us whether you endorse this home under elders as elders? Or will you endorse the church's Bible classes under elders "not as elders?"

It might just be that the brethren overseeing orphan homes "as elders" or "not as elders" will be joined by some "writin" brethren of the GOSPEL ADVOCATE-SPIRITUAL SWORD stripe in believing that silence is the better part of valor. We shall see!