Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 16, 1951
NUMBER 15, PAGE 4-5a

After One Hundred Years

A hundred years ago the gospel of Christ was sweeping like a tidal wave through the frightened and demoralized ranks of denominationalism. Under the mighty preaching of the Campbell's, Scott, Stone, Smith, Johnston, the Creaths, and Fanning, along with other spiritual giants, the forces of error were being relentlessly driven from the field. Never since the days of the apostles had it seemed so likely that pure and primitive Christianity would drive out entrenched tradition and human dogma, letting the simplicity of the gospel shine in all its splendor into the hearts of earnest men. There was no great organization, no combining of forces, no planned and regimented marshalling of men and resources. Rather, the battle was being won by churches and individuals, acting entirely independently of one another; yet working with such a common purpose that the impact of their cumulative teaching was well night irresistible.

Then The "Cooperation" Bug Bit.

In 1849 the American Christian Society was formed in Cincinnati. Its founders envisaged for it no official character; it was designed and planned to exercise no authority over the churches, but on the contrary was carefully organized so as to safeguard the autonomy and independence of the local churches. Every precaution was taken that thoughtful, earnest men could take. The autocracy of denominational hierarchies was too vivid in the minds of these men; many of them had but lately left the ranks of sectarianism. There would be no ecclesiasticism among the Lord's disciples! They were united, and determined on that point. All they wanted was to have a simple "cooperation," a "method," a "plan," by which the churches could unite their strength and combine their efforts. Of course there was no New Testament pattern, precept, or precedent for such a "cooperation," but that item was not considered important. The brethren knew what they were doing—or so they said.

One Century Later

One hundred years passed by. And in 1949 that one simple, non-authoritative, mass-meeting "cooperation" had grown into a bewildering, totalitarian, ruthless ecclesiasticism, having not one but no less than SIXTEEN national, authoritative organizations, each of them exercising an authority and a power which it was "professional death" for the average Disciples of Christ preacher to question or oppose!

And that isn't the whole story. Each of these SIXTEEN national organizations is divided and subdivided into bureaus, boards, agencies, commissions, foundations, and councils almost without number. As an example, selected more or less at random, the Board of Unified Promotion (one of the sixteen national organizations) has under its direct authority and control five national societies, thirty-six state societies, and ten colleges and foundations. Another of the sixteen national organizations is the United Christian Missionary Society, which is divided into four major departments, as follows:

The Division of Home Missions, with 29 separate bureaus.

The Division of General Administration, with 8 boards.

The Division of Foreign Missions, with 11 commissions.

The Division of Christian Education, having 25 agencies.

The full roster of the sixteen national organizations (listed on page 181 of the 1949 Year Book) is as follows:

International Convention of Disciples of Christ United Christian Missionary Society Pension Fund of Disciples of Christ Board of Higher Education of Disciples of Christ National Benevolent Association Association For the Promotion of Christian Unity National Association of State Secretaries National Evangelistic Association Christian Foundation European Evangelistic Society National City Christian Church Corporation Disciples of Christ Historical Society Brazil Christian Mission Southeastern Christian Assembly, Inc.

Unified Promotion If each of these national organizations has the bureaucracy and sub-organization that is apparent in the two we noted, that means that there are probably some four or five hundred societies, agencies, councils, foundations, commissions, boards, and bureaus now exercising ecclesiastical authority among the Disciples of Christ! They even have a "National Committee To Select Prayer Meeting Topics" each week for all of the Disciples' churches in the nation! Another Commission has charge of "Chaplaincy Endorsements" for the denomination; another is appointed to do a "Restudy of the Disciples of Christ," while still another is designated as a "Commission on Budgets and Promotional Relationships."

Warning For Christians

The Disciples of Christ, when they abandoned the simplicity of the New Testament pattern a hundred years ago, began to create for themselves a Frankenstein monster. Once started, there was no way to stop it. The denomination has had bitter and frightful battles within its own ranks as alarmed men have tried to stop or slow down the mushrooming, snowballing momentum of the rush toward totalitarian, authoritative ecclesiasticism. All in vain. The mighty juggernaut rolls on. Those who oppose it are brushed aside with contemptuous indifference.

Let faithful Christians take warning. Once "Institutionalism" begins to roll, there is no stopping place. The beginning seems innocent enough. It was certainly innocuous looking when it began a hundred years ago. Even some of the most careful Bible students who ever lived were not at first apprehensive of it—witness Benjamin Franklin and David Lipscomb. But once the principle of an organization separate and apart from the church to do the work of the church has been accepted, the direction of the movement is inevitable, and its final culmination is certain.

Some of the brethren in our day are making titanic efforts to get the churches to work through Benevolent Boards, separate and apart from the churches, to care for orphan children. Good men, who ought to know better, declare they are as willing to defend that practice as they would be to defend baptism against a Methodist preacher! Let the Disciples of Christ denomination be a horrible example . . . Beware! Beware!

— F. Y. T.