Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 25, 1968
NUMBER 12, PAGE 9-10

That Arlington Meeting

Jerry F. Bassett

Last January a group of twenty six preachers, thirteen on each side of the current controversy in the work and organization of the church, and a moderator met at Arlington, Texas to discuss their differences. The meeting was not open to other brethren, but the speeches presented there are to be published sometimes in the future.

I am sure that the thirteen brethren who participated in opposition to the digressive practices among brethren did so sincerely desiring to uphold the truth. Some of them are known to me personally and I have had the pleasure of hearing them preach. The rest of the thirteen I know by reputation and through their excellent writings. I hold them all in the highest regard as brethren in one family, children of one Holy Father.

Surely, men who differ are to be commended for their willingness to meet in frank discussion. In fact it is deplorable that those who have promoted the many unauthorized projects among the churches have been unwilling for so long to do so. For that matter, I do not know now of many churches favoring these projects that have as yet opened their pulpits or classes to a two-sided discussion of these problems. Consequently, the thought of such a meeting as described above is bound to ignite a spark of optimism in the hearts of most brethren.

What, then, could be wrong about this meeting? What objection could anyone possibly raise?

Before the spark of optimism grows into an inferno of gullibility let us answer these questions. Actually, there are several things implied by statements made concerning this meeting that cause me to wonder. But there is one thing about which there is no doubt and that is the fact that it was held in such circumstances as to allow the liberals to make propaganda hay. According to them the conservative brethren went to Arlington and finally woke up to the fact that their objections have been lodged over nothing more than matters of opinion, and that they are ready to return to the fold. One of them is willing to take these now awakened brethren back if they will just confess their sin of opposing the use of the Lord's money to support human institutions! Notice a few quotations.

First, from The Christian Chronicle under the caption, "Cooperation Controversy May End," it is declared that "Half the men representing the so-called 'Anti-cooperation' side testified that at least some method of benevolent activity could be carried on by a congregation ... The division, roughly stated, separated those who opposed benevolence except by individuals from those who held that congregations also have this responsibility." Any of the "Anti-cooperation" participants of the Arlington meeting want to accept this as an accurate statement of the facts? I strongly doubt it. The issue is not, and never has been, cooperation between churches, but only of church organization. Further, no brother, to my knowledge, has ever taken the position that the church has no responsibility in benevolence. The writers of The Christian Chronicle are in a position to know that and are therefore inexcusable in their misrepresentation.

Second, Reuel Lemmons, one of the participants in the meeting, and editor of The Firm Foundation had this to say in a recent editorial. "Surely those who break the bonds of fellowship on any other than the most serious grounds will not be held blameless. Certainly there are grounds upon which fellowship must be severed. Those whose doctrinal teachings are of such nature as to reflect upon the deity of Jesus, those who sow discord among brethren, and those who live immoral lives must be withdrawn from. However, the most of the disfellowshipping that we are acquainted with has not come about upon these scriptural grounds. Most of it has been OVER MATTERS OF OPINION AND DIFFERENCES OF INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE. (Capitals mine for emphasis, J.F.B.) We hold that these are not valid grounds for disfellowship." (Incidentally, I wonder if Brother Lemmons would extend fellowship to a man whose "interpretation of the scripture" led him to deny the essentiality of baptism?) But Lemmons continues, "During the discussions it was brought out that there were several serious differences of opinion among the individual members of both teams, yet these differences did not reduce the members of the team to disfellowship. It was pointed out that if they could tolerate among themselves their differences without disfellowship, and we could tolerate among ourselves our differences without disfellowship then the two groups ought to be able to tolerate each other without disfellowship ... We pretty well healed in a single week the breach between ourselves, and we would to God that our example would become the course of action for all our brethren." Does this not declare that the participants in the meeting discovered that the controversy is all actually over matters of mere opinion and is therefore too inconsequential to affect fellowship between brethren? And do my brethren concur with this appraisal of the affair given by a man who took part in it? If not let us hear a denial of it. (Perhaps by the time this article is printed such denial will already have been forthcoming. I sincerely hope so.)

Third, we hear from Gayle Oler, editor of the Boles Home News "Every person of good will longs and prays for the day when those who went out from us and divided the brotherhood over their opinions and fancies about church cooperation and the care of the fatherless will come back home ... But we must not let our longing hopes for this unity overshadow Bible teaching as to what constitutes restoration and the conditions upon which fellowship may be obtained and extended. When the prodigal son, who had wasted his substance with riotous living, finally came to himself and returned home, the first thing he said when he got home was "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight!" Any of my brethren who, according to Oler, have split the church by opposing church support of his human institution, want to come back to his fold by confessing this to be a sin?

Brethren, the point is that there are thousands of untaught people in the churches all over the land who have never heard both sides of this issue. From the beginning they have been led to believe that it is all just bickering over matters of opinion. And now comes The Christian Chronicle, The Firm Foundation, and especially Boles Home News which is sent free by the bundle to churches everywhere solidifying these misrepresentations. Further, what these papers say is made the more impressive by the participation of thirteen well known "Anti-cooperation" men who, to the untaught, take on the aspect of official representatives of all who share their convictions.

And who of the brethren that went to Arlington is going to set the record straight? And equally important, how? Is anyone so naive as to think he will receive equal space in any of the journals which have carried this propaganda? We all know better.

Certainly there can be no legitimate objection to brethren gathering to discuss differences, either publicly or privately. But if they come together privately with the intention of publishing a verbatim account for the personal evaluation by the individual reader would it not be good to have a previous agreement that no other report, nor any expression of opinion, by any participant be forthcoming before publication? Would this not avoid misrepresentations at least until the actual facts are also available with which to combat them?

To be sure, hindsight is always clearer than foresight, but perhaps this experience will serve as a lesson in dealing with men whose conduct has proven their love for human wisdom to be greater than their love for God's wisdom. Perhaps what is now hindsight this time can be very useful foresight next time.

— B.B. Route Box 191, Cottage Grove, Oregon 97424