Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 22, 1958
NUMBER 4, PAGE 1,12-13b

Lanier Answers Woods -- IV.

Roy H. Lanier

But let us put two of your affirmations together and see what we get. The home under a board is a natural home restored; the only responsibility the church has to these homes is to supply the money they need. Therefore, the only responsibility the church has through a long period of poverty and sickness in a natural home is to provide the needed money. They have no obligation to go to see them, wait on them, nurse them, weep with them, pray with and for them; all the church needs to do is provide the money. You might be interested in what Marvin R. Vincent has to say on the meaning of episkeptesthai in James 1:27: "James strikes a downright blow here at ministry by proxy, or by mere gifts of money. Pure and undefiled religion demands personal contact with the worlds sorrow." It is his idea that this Greek verb translated "to visit" demands more than gifts of money, but according to your position the demands of the verb can be perfectly met in the natural home or the orphan home by gifts of money from the church. This was not your position in 1954, but it is your position in your review of my series.

3. Your third unscriptural position is that the church is not its own childcare agency as it is its own missionary society. In GA 1957, p. 228, you say, "It is not true that the work of exercising child-care is a work of the church, as the church. Such activity is the work of the home, and not the church!" And in GA 1957, p. 247, you say, "Were the church a childcare agency, the orphan homes would be equally unnecessary and sinful. But, while the church is its own missionary society, it is not its own child-care agency; . . ." This was in 1957 when you were answering my series. But in 1954 you said, "The early church operated a home for destitute widows." And then on the same page you said it again in those very words. Then you said, "the church, as an organization, is obligated to provide for widows." (GA 1954, p. 845) Then you argue rightly on the next page that "The scriptures are silent as to the manner in which this home was operated." But, you continue, "Since the church is charged with the care of the fatherless and widows; and since no exclusive method is designated by which the work is to be done, it follows that the elders must use their best judgement as to the proper course of procedure." Remember, it is the church as an organization which is charged with their care. What church is this? It must be a church which had elders, for you say they must decide as to the course of procedure. So it is the work of the local church as an organization, to operate a home for destitute widows and orphans. Is this work of the local church, to operate a home, under the oversight of the elders of this local church? If you say the elders cannot oversee this work, you must affirm that the local church has a work which the elders of the local church are not allowed to oversee. Now, Bro. Woods, are our brotherhood homes for aged and orphans which operate under boards the work of any local congregation? Can you truthfully say that the home at Spring Hill is operated by any church? Remember, you said the early church operated a home. Now, what church, which church, operates the home at Spring Hill? You can't say the universal church operated, for that is just not the truth. And you did not mean that the church universal operated that home for widows, for you said that elders have to decide the course of procedure and you know the universal church does not have any elders.

Next, on what do you base your statement that the church is not its own child-care society? On absolutely nothing! You just said it. Bro. Woods, I would take your word as quickly as I would take the word of any man I know on such matters. I really mean this; I have a lot of respect for your ability as a Bible student. But your word without any supporting evidence is just not enough on this point. Why can't the church be its own child-care society the same as it is its own missionary society? Paul tells us that the scriptures furnish us completely unto every good work. Caring for widows and orphans is a good work. It is the work of the church, as an organization, you said. Is the church furnished completely to its own good work, or must it look to a group of men to form a separate organization? and which the church has only the duty of financing ? There is nothing in the nature of childcare which makes it impossible for the elders to supervise. The practices of several groups of elders over the country is proof of this. I don't know how much it is worth, but we take church historians as authority in other matters of this kind. Schaff says, "The primitive churches were charitable societies, taking care of the widows and orphans, dispersing hospitality to strangers, and relieving the needs of the poor. The presbyters were the custodians, the deacons the collectors and distributers of the charitable funds." (Vol. 1, p. 499, 500) That sounds just like you in 1954, and I believe it is right.

Since there is nothing in the nature of child-care society; since Schaff says that every primitive church was a charitable society; and since you say that the early church operated a home for destitute widows, I think we may rightly conclude that the church is its own child-care society. I like that word "society" better than your word "agency" which means about the same thing. Now since we have concluded (I hope you have) that the church is its own child-care society, and since you say if this is true the orphan homes (under boards, which are the only ones I have said have no right to exist) are unnecessary and sinful, I think we are about ready to reach a scriptural conclusion.

May I repeat? The SS is an organization (orderly arrangement) within the church. The orphan home under elders is an organization (orderly arrangement) within. The orphan home under a board is an autonomous organization outside the framework of the church. The SS is the church at work. The orphan home under elders is the church at work. The orphan home under a board is not any church at work; it is a board at work being financed by churches. Would you endorse a SS under such an arrangement? No, I'm not doing what you warned us against doing in 1954. I don't care what type of organization you have so long as it is autonomous to the same degree the orphan home organization under a board is autonomous. In 1954 you classed both the SS and homes under boards as "functional organizations," and that means the same thing as orderly arrangements within the framework of the church. Now you want to take the orphan home out of the framework of the church, while I feel sure you will demand that the SS stay within the framework of the church and under the supervision of the elders. You are inconsistent and wrong!!

Some Necessary Distinctions

I had a lot more material and some diagrams I hoped to use, but this is already too long. I want to make some distinctions which I think are necessary in order to make my position clear. You have said that York College is an institution composed of people banded together in a corporate body outside the framework of the church to do a work of the church — teaching the Bible — which the Lord expects his church to do. I have already denied that Y. C. is doing a work which the Lord expects his church to do. Bro. Woods, would you affirm that as a proposition in debate? Would you affirm that all our colleges are doing a work which the Lord expects his church to do? I simply do not believe that you would affirm that proposition for the simple reason that you do not believe it. You know there is an overlapping of the work of the church and the home and that it is the purpose of the colleges to furnish the home an agency through which to accomplish its purpose in its children. I believe that people may band themselves together, in corporations if they wish, to reach the gospel orally or through publications, along with other activities, so long as they get pay for services rendered. But they have no right to band themselves together in any organization but the church of our Lord to teach the gospel without charge. When they do such, they become a second autonomous organization existing for that purpose and they are taking glory and honor from the first, the church of our Lord. So I believe that men may band themselves together, in corporations if they wish, for the purpose of serving widows, aged and orphans, so long as they get pay for services rendered. But they have no scriptural right to band themselves together in a second autonomous organization to care for the destitute without fees for services rendered. Paul says that destitute people are to be cared for by relatives if such they have, that the church be not burdened, that it may relieve those who have no individuals to care for them. So this class which is wholly dependent upon the church are the people for whom I contend that the church is obligated to operate a home. And if the church operates a home, the operation of that home is under the supervision of the elders just like the SS operated by the church is under the supervision of the elders. If a home for aged or orphans is operated by a group of men incorporated for that business, receiving fees for services rendered, the church may buy the services of that home just like it may buy the services of a hotel or a hospital. Why ten cannot the church buy services of a missionary society? Simply because that society exists solely for doing what and only what the church exists to do; it is a second autonomous organization in the missionary field. So the home for aged or orphans under a board, which exists solely for the purpose of providing for that class of dependents who have no relatives to care for them and is the special burden of the church, is a second autonomous organization in the field of benevolence and has no right to exist. The church can no more buy its services than it can scripturally buy the services of the missionary society.

Well, Lanier, what would you do with all these homeless children in these homes under boards? Would you turn them out in the streets to become criminals? I think surely, Bro. Woods, you would not accuse me of such a desire, much less such action. I would simply seek churches with strong elderships which would be willing to assume the responsibility of overseeing these homes. A mighty little thing to be raising a fuss about? That is what the Methodist says when I urge him to be baptized instead of being sprinkled, and with as good reason.

I have written long and there has been some repetition, but I hope it has not burdened you beyond your ability to hear. There is much more I would like to say if we were face to face. I'll be happy to hear from you. I believe you one time wrote that "Devotion to truth is its one defense; and one cannot honorably remain silent where it is in issue." (GA 1954, p. 808) I felt truth was "in issue" when I asked Bro. Goodpasture to allow me to state my views in the Gospel Advocate. When he refused, I thought I could not honorably remain silent. I do not now, blame him for choosing to stay with the ancient policy of that publication rather than allow me to write something contrary to it. And I feel that neither you nor he should blame me for stating why I left my position on the Staff, nor should either of you blame me for my devotion to what I feel is truth, which makes it impossible for me to remain silent and feel that I have done honorably.

But what has been written has been written and can never be unwrit. I pray that the Lord may use what I have written for the accomplishment of good. If I have written what should never have been written, I pray the Lord will forgive me and, that you will be as charitable as possible in your attitude, but as hard as nails on me if by so doing you can make me see the truth.

Carbon copies of this letter are few, so I wish you would let Bro. Goodpasture read this one mailed to you. If you wish to take the time to reply to this, I will be happy to study what you have to say. If I do not have the truth, I want it; and I had rather get it from you and Bro. Goodpasture than any other men I know.

Best wishes to you and yours.

Sincerely and fraternally, Roy H. Lanier