Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 16, 1964

"Reorganization --- By Disciples Of Christ"

Don Brown

In a recent article appearing in the Los Angeles Times, titled, "Reorganization Studied by Disciples of Christ," the proposed restructuring of the Christian Churches," (Disciples of Christ), is discussed. The author, Mr. Dan L. Thrapp, of the Times, writes,

"The discussion focuses on plans for 'restructuring' the 2-million-member communion, which is actually not a denomination, although many want it to be.

"Although the terms of "restructure' are not spelled out yet, it would, in effect, make the local church a more responsible member of a formal denomination.

"It thus would mean establishment of some sort of a churchwide organization. It would enable the Disciples to act as a denomination in matters calling for such action."

A hundred years ago, the Christian Church was dogmatic in its affirmation that it was not a denomination, that it was not part of Protestantism. But we are now made aware that a great change has taken place. And we ask, "Why?" In the article by Mr. Thrapp, some characteristics of this change in thinking are noted. After having mentioned the "Fierce independence," (autonomy, D.C.B.), of the churches of the frontier, he states,

"As the Disciples movement grew and spread it became more and more necessary for churches to band into associations to carry out some necessary work, the training of ministers, carrying on of a missionary program, and so on."

Yes, the idea of "cooperating in brotherhood projects" was coming into full bloom. No longer were the individual churches to be solely responsible to God for doing their work in saving souls, but a number of churches, together, were now cooperating in the work of "training of ministers, carrying on of a missionary program," and kindred projects.

The organizing of the various congregations into one large functioning body, (the activating of the "church universal") was the desire of the Disciples Church just prior to the formation of the American Christian Missionary Society in 1849. In Homer Haley's "Attitudes And Consequences," (Old Paths Book Club, Rosemead, Calif., 1952), pp. 138 & 139, Alexander Campbell is quoted, as he wrote in 1938,

"We want cooperation. Some of our brethren are afraid of its power; others complain if its inefficiency. Still we go for cooperation; but it is the cooperation of Christians' not even a cooperation of churches; for in this sense of cooperation, Christ has but one church. We go for the cooperation of all the members of that one church in whatever communities they may happen to be dispersed...."

And indeed it was cooperation that he got. For, in 1849, he was selected to be the first president of the newly formed American Christian Missionary Society: an organization through which all churches could cooperate to the end of preaching the gospel. No scriptural authority could be given for such an arrangement, for such was nonexistent. The Scriptures were found to be mute concerning any arrangement whereby a number of churches could cooperate to do any work that God had given each individual church to do.

There ensued, then, a great controversy among the New Testament churches of that day. The "liberals" advocating the federation of churches, and the "conservatives" demanding scriptural authority for such.

Mr. Thrapp, in his newspaper article, writes of the "opposition" to this "cooperative" spirit, and notes,

"Yet some cooperative work was done with financial support secured through appealing to the churches and a corporate spirit began to grow."

Dr. John Paul Pack, of the Wilshire Christian Church in Los Angeles, continued the thought,

"At the top, people were forced to face the fact that we are a church, (a denomination, D.C.B.), whether we like it or not and whether we legally consider ourselves one or not. They know that we must act and be responsible as a church."

The remainder of Thrapp's article emphasizes the change that has taken place in the Christian Church by quoting a number of church leaders, who also agree as to the need of "officially" being recognized as a denomination.

Well, why have I gone to the trouble of outlining this phase of the history of this denomination? Simply this: There are those of the Lord's church today who would strip it of its identity; who would do exactly as the Christian church, and activate the "church universal," (bind congregations together in mutual projects); who would make the history of the Lord's church today parallel that of the Christian Church of a hundred years ago, to make of it a denomination.

God gave to each church the responsibility of preaching the gospel (Eph. 3:10), of edifying itself (Eph. 4:16), and of caring for needy saints (Rom. 15:25-27). Though we may search the New Testament through, yet will we not find authorization or direction how that we might activate the "church universal"; how such a federation of churches could, and would function; nor how such a federation might be administered.

The trail to digression has been clearly blazed by the Christian Church. Beginning with a cooperative spirit, "with financial support secured through appealing to the churches," the "progress" was rapid and unmistakably in the direction of denominationalism. Christ speaks of two trails, or "ways," in Matt. 7:13 14. On which are we travelling?

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