Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 30, 1969

Wells Of Fellowship Poisoned

Wm. E. Wallace

If what I have written spurs some brethren to box my ears a little, I will not feel hurt or "out of sorts" with them.

Due to the excesses and extremes of Ketchersidian libertinism, brethren are wary of any divergence from an adamant attitude on fellowship. Carl Ketcherside, Leroy Garrett and their ilk have poisoned the wells of fellowship and brethren cannot drink for fear of contamination. The Carl Ketcherside-Leroy Garrett-Robert Myers licentiousness, as regards fellowship, is naturally repulsive to any who hold strong convictions on innovations.

Whatever we write about fellowshipping liberals will be viewed with some alarm. This is an healthy and a natural concern for keeping the faith. I personally appreciate the alarm and I think I understand it. I claim to share in the concern for keeping the faith.

It appears some are worried over our articles which suggested some sort of fellowship with liberals is acceptable. We appreciate all the comments, letters and responses which have come our way that have been prompted by what we have written. We are advised to state exactly and precisely what we have in mind regarding fellowship with liberals.

What we have in mind is what conservative brethren have generally practiced or believed.

When a person comes from a "Christian Church" association we require of him a confession as regards his past sinful church relationship, and we often insist that he be re-baptized. Folks from liberal churches are not generally required to make such a confession and certainly we do not insist that they be re-immersed.

There are several churches in the "conservative" brotherhood which have liberal members in good standing who personally contribute to liberal projects. Yet we would hardly consider folks who contribute to "Christian Church" societies, or who endorse instrumental music in worship, as being in good standing with us, though they may regularly attend our services.

We quite freely call liberals brethren, but it is not fashionable to call Christian church people "brother" or "sister." We enter into fellowship with liberal brethren in such events as the Arlington and Leakey, Texas meetings hopeful of good results. But we do not do so with Christian Church folks because the issues involved with them are of greater import and impact, and a meeting with them offers little hope of good results.

We occasionally sing and pray and study with liberal brethren in church assemblies, but we do not do so with "digressives." We announce a debate between liberal James D. Bales and an atheist in our church bulletins, but we would not likely do so if Bales were of the Christian Church.

We freely purchase and use tracts and Bible class literature of liberal brethren because they are suitable to our needs, but we are quite cautious, at least more cautious, about using anything of this sort put out under Christian Church auspices.

I suggest the reason for all this is that we feel a closer community affinity with our liberal brethren than we do with the Christian Church people, and rightly so. The Christian Church digression has developed into a separate community relationship altogether. The historical circumstances are such that two different fellowships or communities have developed--"Churches of Christ" vs. "Christian Church."

The liberal defections of our time have not yet resulted in "another body." We are still one body, shaken though we may be. The historical and present day situation involved in our current divisions have not reached the proportions represented by the forming of the Christian Church denomination.

While the modernists among churches of Christ may indeed be moving toward the formation of a "Church of Christ denomination," or perhaps toward union with the "Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)," many of our liberal brethren will not go along with them. I believe we ought to at least maintain the kind of fellowship now experienced with liberal brethren as they attempt to hold the line against modernism. I believe further that we should explore the possibilities of a more involved fellowship with them, if such fellowship can be experienced without compromise of the truth we continue to defend.

The time has come for an assessment, or at least a second look, at our positions on fellowship. We are not consistent, and I suspect that there is much confusion, lack of information, or misapplication of biblical facts. Perhaps the word association would be a more practical term for our relations, with liberal brethren. We might consider at what point association becomes fellowship.

If what I have written will result in an in-depth study of the New Testament teaching on fellowship, much good will be seen. If what I have written spurs some brethren to box my ears a little, I will not feel hurt or "out of sorts" with them.

The immediate end in view of the policy I suggest, is a communication with liberals in which the false image they have of us is corrected. The long range view involved is a reversal of trends wherein liberal brethren who are not modernists come to realize that they have more in common with "anti-ism" than they do with modernism, and further, come to realize the projects themselves are not worth the divisive results which they create.