Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 7, 1962
NUMBER 6, PAGE 1,10-12a

Voices In The Wilderness --- (No. 4)

James R. Cope

Chapter IV. General Conditions: 1906 — 1935 Lipscomb's Observations In 1907

The U. S. Census Bureau conducted a religious census in 1906. Later the Director of the Census wrote David Lipscomb in an effort to clarify certain conflicting reports received in his office regarding listings of preachers and churches. Under date of June 22, 1907, Lipscomb replied and on July 18, 1907, Lipscomb printed his reply on page 457 of the Gospel Advocate. He called attention to the "Declaration and Address" of Thomas Campbell in which he had said, "Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent." Among the extracts quoted by Lipscomb are these: "Nothing ought to be received into the faith or worship of the church, or made a term of communion among Christians, that is not as old as the New Testament" and that men should follow "after the example of the primitive church as exhibited in the New Testament, without any additions whatsoever of human opinions or the inventions of men." Lipscomb continued as follows:

"These show the keynote of the movement ... and the Christians or Disciples increased rapidly and the churches multiplied. As they increased in number and wealth, many desired to become popular also, and sought to adopt the very human inventions that in the beginning of the movement had been opposed — a general organization of the churches under a missionary society with a moneyed membership, and the adoption of instrumental music in the worship. This is a subversion of the fundamental principles on which the churches were based.

"Division of sentiment on these and the principle of fidelity to the Scriptures Involved in them produce division among the disciples. The policy of the churches being purely congregational, the influences work slowly and the division comes gradually. The parties are distinguished as they call themselves 'conservatives' and 'progressive,' as they call each other 'antis' and 'digressives.'

"In many places the differences have not as yet resulted in separation. There are some in the conservative churches in sympathy with the progressives, who worship and work with the conservatives because they have no other church facilities. The reverse of this is also true. Many of the conservatives are to appropriate the name 'churches of Christ' to distinguish themselves from 'Christian or Disciples' Churches.' But the latter in all their publications and the proceedings of their conventions call themselves 'churches of Christ' — moved, possibly, by the desire to head off the effort of the other party to appropriate the name as distinctive.

"The progressives, through their society organizations, gather and publish statistics that make a show. But they claim not over half of the churches — in all about twelve thousand — as working with them. They claim, and it is probably true, that a number who do not object to their methods fail through indifference to work with them. In a number of churches a few members work with the progressives, a larger number refuse to do so. Yet the church in which only a few members act with the society is counted as one of them. So in Tennessee, where the churches generally oppose all innovations upon the primitive order, they report in their statistics about five hundred and fifty churches and fifty thousand members. I have a list of about eight hundred churches in the State, with thirty-five of the ninety-six counties unreported. These thirty-five counties are sparsely populated mountain counties, with not many churches, still there are near nine hundred churches in the State. The number of members would be a guess. Of these churches about one hundred work with the progressives.

5. In 1907 in Tennessee these "antis" were "purely congregational and independent in their policy and work" having "no general meetings or organizations of any kind."

"While the progressives oppose and refuse to have conservative preachers preach in their houses and to their congregations, and seek to divide and break up the churches they cannot control, and gain possession of their property, yet, for the sake of denominational show, they publish in their yearbooks all the members, preachers, and churches of the conservatives as one with themselves. It is just to say, too, that the conservatives discourage the churches having a progressive preacher to preach for them, as calculated to lead them from fidelity to the Word of God and to introduce discord and division among them: but they never publish their preachers or churches as one with them, as the list of preachers you have shows.

"With this statement, much of which you may think needless, I answer:

"1. There is a distinct people taking the Word of God as their only and sufficient rule of faith, calling their churches 'churches of Christ,' or 'churches of God,' distinct and separate in name, work, and rule of faith from all other bodies or peoples.

"2. They are purely congregational and independent in their policy and work, so have no general meetings or organizations of any kind.

"3. Their aim is to unite all professed Christians 'in the sole purpose of promoting simple, evangelical Christianity as God reveals it in the Scriptures, free from all human opinions and inventions of men.'

"4. Owing to these differences still at work among the churches, there is more or less demoralization in many churches as to how they stand and what their numbers are. I know of no way to obtain the statistics desired other than to get the addresses of the different churches and address a circular asking the number of each church."


Some of the Lipscomb statement does not pertain to the problem before us, but all of it should prove interesting. Among other things it helps explain why so many American churches using instrumental music and supporting missionary societies are called "Churches of Christ." This nomenclature is especially evident in the North and West. From the foregoing observations, particularly the one by Lipscomb, we draw the following conclusions as descriptive of conditions among the greater portion of churches identified as "Churches of Christ" in the 1906 Census:

1. There were approximately six thousand churches rejecting missionary societies and instrumental music in 1907.

2. These 6,000 churches were identified as "antis" by the "digressives."

3, In 1907 Tennessee churches "generally opposed all innovations upon the primitive order."

4. In 1907 out of 900 churches in Tennessee, 800 of them were "opposed to all innovations upon the primitive order."

6. In 1907, in Tennessee where 800 out of 900 churches were "antis" — "opposed to all innovations upon the primitive order" — not one of these 800 churches was building or maintaining any kind of benevolence "society" or "home" — orphan or old folks — outside its own congregational organization, because these 800 churches were "purely congregational and independent" having "no organization of any kind."

7. In 1907, Tennessee did not have within its borders the Tennessee Orphan Home or any other similar organization independent of church control but dependent upon church support, for Tennessee Orphan Home was not chartered till 1909. None will say that Tennessee Orphan Home is "no organization of any kind," and everybody knows that it has never been controlled by any church which is "purely congregational and independent."

8. If any of the 800 Tennessee churches "opposed to all innovations upon the primitive order" or any of the 6,000 churches scattered abroad which the "progressives . . . claimed not as working with them" were making donations to any "orphan home" or "benevolence society" in 1907, it would appear that somebody would have recorded this practice by at least one of them! Again, I do not affirm that one or more of these Tennessee "anti-missionary society" churches were not thus using their money. I say that I have seen no evidence to this effect, much less anything to indicate such as a "general" practice among the churches "generally opposed to all innovations upon the primitive order."

Tennessee Orphan Home Report: 1911

As pointed out earlier, the Tennessee Orphan Home was chartered in September, 1909, and became operative in October, 1910. In the Gospel Advocate, November 9, 1911, pp. 1302-1304, there appears "Tennessee Orphan's Home Report for Third Quarter" by W. T. Boaz, Superintendent. This report reflects gifts of various kinds and amounts to the institution by individuals and churches. In spite of "help appeals" through the Advocate from the Home's beginning there were only twenty-six Tennessee churches supporting the institution at the time of this report.

Using David Lipscomb's figure of 800 "loyal churches" in Tennessee four years previous (1907), this means that only 34 per cent of Tennessee churches were involved in this activity in 1911. Twenty-five years later a prominent preacher and Advocate writer who urged churches to contribute to both schools and orphanages was to sound a realistic note about the reluctance of churches to support these institutions. In 1935 this man said that churches "everywhere" would not "do the work suggested" until they were "convinced . . . that it is right for churches as such to contribute to these institutions." Please notice how slowly the churches learned what some editors and preachers would have us to believe they have "always" done!

The G. C. Brewer Articles Of 1935

In 1933 G. C. Brewer wrote a series of articles on "organizations" in the Gospel Advocate. He discussed the right of schools and orphan homes to exist and advocated church support of them. While some interest was observed at that time the movement advocated by Brewer received little enthusiasm or support by churches for either orphan homes or schools.

That relatively few congregations were being motivated; to donate the Lord's money to human institutions of any kind and that none felt this more keenly than G. C. Brewer as late as 1935 is reflected in one of a series of articles on "The Budget System of Finance" which he wrote in that year. In the Gospel Advocate of August 1, 1935, pp. 722, 730, Brewer made a strong appeal for churches to adopt this system. He called attention to the practice of churches at Memphis, Tennessee, and at Cleburne and Sherman, Texas, while he had labored with them. He said that both the Texas churches had placed Abilene Christian College in the budget for $1,000 per year and had also budgeted two orphan homes at his instigation. He continued as follows:

"Just think what the several hundred churches in Middle Tennessee could do for David Lipscomb College if they could get a few of them to systematize their work, to utilize their resources, and to place the school in the budgets for a definite amount . . . There are enough congregations within a radius of one hundred miles of Nashville to pay David Lipscomb College out of debt, to equip and endow it within ten years if they would only do it. After that it should be self-supporting."

After concluding his 1935 appeal for D. L. C. to be put in the church budgets, he wrote in the closing paragraph the words which reflect that Tennessee churches which "generally opposed all innovations upon the primitive order" in 1907 were still "generally opposing all innovations upon the primitive order" in 1935. They were not "generally" giving from their treasuries to D. L. C., Tennessee Orphan Home, and other human organizations as late as 1935 — forty-four years after D. L. C. began, twenty-six years after Tennessee Orphan Home began and nineteen centuries after the church of Christ began — the church which twenty-eight years before "opposed all innovations upon the primitive order." He tells why the Lord's churches were not supporting these human institutions — orphan homes and all — twenty-five years ago!! Observe carefully his reasons. This is what he said:

In The Gospel Advocate, August 1, 1935, G. C. Brewer Concluded An Article As Follows:

". . Before the churches everywhere will do the work suggested in this article they are going to have to be convinced on the following points: (1) that the budget system is scriptural; (2) that it is right to have Christian colleges and orphan homes; (3) that it is right for churches as such to contribute to these institutions. The members as a whole would very readily take hold of work of this kind with a little instruction from their elders, but there is where the trouble lies. The elders are either not convinced on these things or else they do not know how to set out such a program. The whole trouble lies with the elders. Give the churches proper leadership and they will do a hundred times more than they are doing

... When we have found that (the budget system) to be scriptural, then what is placed in the budget will be left entirely with the local eldership. The congregations may work on the budget system and not support either schools or orphan homes unless they so desire. Personally, I think we should support both schools and homes, and I have so expressed myself in the Gospel Advocate."


If G. C. Brewer pictured the situation accurately in 1935 — twenty-five years ago when there were only about a half dozen independent "Christian" orphan homes in America supported by church donations — upon whom is the reflection for the elders' not being "convinced"? Upon himself? Had he been preaching this doctrine for the thirty-five years of his preaching career prior to 1935? (Brewer began preaching about 1900.) Was brother Brewer preaching this doctrine of church donations to human institutions when David Lipscomb said in 1907 that the Tennessee churches "generally opposed all innovations upon the primitive order"? Was he preaching it when the first orphan home to be supported by churches of Christ was chartered two years later? Again I ask: upon whom is the unfavorable reflection for churches or their elders not being "convinced" that it "is right for the churches as such to contribute to these institutions"? Who was to blame? Were the Gospel Advocate and the Nashville Bible School pushing church support of schools and orphan homes then as they are now? If so, where is the evidence? Had David Lipscomb, E. G. Sewell, M. C. Kurfees, F. B. Srygley, F. W. Smith, H. Leo Boles, and other notable preachers in Tennessee where in 1907 the churches "generally opposed all innovations upon the primitive order" failed the elders and churches of their day in teaching them their duty along these lines? Was this what H. Leo Boles, who first became president of D. L. C. in 1912, was saying in Sermon Outlines, edited and published in 1949 by B. C. Goodpasture, when he said that the "mission of the church" is "not to raise money for defraying expenses of human institutions"? If all the opposition to church donations to human institutions is born "of the last ten years," where are the evidences that all these stalwarts of the faith were derelict in their duty of "convincing" elders "that it is right for churches as such to contribute to these institutions" prior to 1935? G. C. Brewer said that neither the churches nor their elders were "convinced" that these things should be done in 1935. If so, is it true, can it possibly be true, that churches of Christ "have always supported" orphan homes or any other human institutions?

In his series on "Organizations" in 1933 brother Brewer cited various instances where Alexander Campbell solicited and received church donations for Bethany College in 1853 and following years. Campbell was also serving as president of the American Christian Missionary Society while so doing, it should be recalled. In the same series he mentioned that E. A. Elam had carried repeated requests for help for the Nashville Bible School on the Advocate front page during 1907, 1908, and 1909 with the School receiving a few church donations which Elam commended and David Lipscomb sanctioned. This I do not deny but I also remember two remarkable statements of David Lipscomb — one about Alexander Campbell's support of the missionary society in the face of earlier opposition and the other about Tennessee churches in 1907. About Campbell he had written in 1884 that in working with the Society "he violated his own principles," and about the Tennessee churches in 1907 he had written that they "generally are opposed to all innovations upon the primitive order" and that they have "no organizations of any kind."

If Lipscomb was such an ardent advocate of church donations to schools and orphan homes while he "opposed all innovations upon the ancient order," why were all the older brethren who were serving as elders in the hundreds of Tennessee churches in 1935 so ignorant and "unconvinced" on church donations to schools and orphan homes while at the same time so thoroughly "convinced" that churches should not support missionary societies? Hundreds of them had known David Lipscomb personally, multitudes had heard him preach since they were children and other hundreds had studied Bible under him at the Nashville Bible School in addition to having read regularly his writings in the Gospel Advocate. Were the Advocate of that day and the school which now wears David Lipscomb's name not instructing their readers and pupils that churches should donate funds to schools and orphan homes while they should not donate to missionary societies? Again I ask: if elders and churches were not "convinced" by 1935 that churches should support these institutions, who had failed in their responsibility of "preaching the word"? Was this a part of the "primitive order" the "restorationists" sought to "restore"? If so, where may we read about it in the primitive gospel found in the New Testament?

Perhaps the answer to most of the foregoing questions can be found in the answer to another question which we here present: Is opposition to church support of orphan homes and other human institutions of recent origin?

— Glen Arven Avenue, Temple Terrace, Florida