Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 30, 1951

There Is A Difference

Some weeks ago we published an article by brother G. K. Wallace entitled, "The Church At Work," in which the position was advanced that the care of orphan children comes within the scope of the mission God has laid upon the church, and that whatever the church does in carrying out that part of its mission must be done by the church. Brother Wallace showed that it was possible for the church, as the church, to do everything God wants it to do. There is therefore no justification in any way, or authority of any sort, for some outside benevolent institution or organization (such as some of the brethren are now promoting) to take over this work of the church. The elders of the congregation constitute the only "board of benevolence" God knows anything about. Those elders have the right to make whatever provision may be necessary to do any benevolent work God has laid upon the church—whether it be the care of orphan children, the support of widows that are widows indeed, or the ministering to the "poor saints."

We felt that this position was so eminently scriptural and unassailable that we gave editorial endorsement to it, declaring it to be, in our judgment, "solidly based on scriptural foundations."

Shortly after the article appeared we had an inquiry from brother Bryan Vinson in Dallas, Texas, posing some pertinent questions and asking for "Some Additional Information." We sent the article to brother Wallace for his response, and are glad to publish in this issue both the article from brother Vinson and another from brother Wallace.


We appreciate the questions brother Vinson asks.

They are on the subject, and are asked in a spirit of inquiry and honest search for the truth. Brother Wallace answers some of them, but certainly not all. If others of our readers want to send in articles dealing with these questions brother Vinson raised, we will be happy to publish such as we can find space for. But there are one or two matters which brother Wallace did not touch on, and concerning which we would like to make a few observations. It may be that in future articles we will discuss some of the basic problems in this whole matter of church benevolence; but right now we want to clarify a matter and set forth a clear-cut distinction in a question asked by brother Vinson in these words:

"Thus far I am unable to reconcile the opposition the Guardian has registered to the centralized program in missionary work where one congregation has solicited, received, controlled, and disbursed funds from many congregations with their endorsement of the same procedure in the realm of benevolent endeavors."

Do we have any other reader in addition to brother Vinson who is confused over this question? If so, let it be distinctly understood once and for all that the Guardian has not opposed, and never will oppose, the idea of one congregation "soliciting, receiving, controlling, and disbursing funds from other congregations" when such funds are solicited, received, controlled, and disbursed by that congregation in meeting an emergency in its own field. That's exactly what the Jerusalem church did. But we have opposed, and shall continue to oppose, one congregation "soliciting, receiving, controlling, and disbursing funds from other congregations" in a field to which all the congregations are equally related and for which they bear an equal responsibility before the Lord.

The Difference

In the one instance (the one we endorse) the work is done in a place where the receiving brethren are elders; in the arrangement we oppose the work is done in a distant land where the brethren who control the money are not elders. In the one instance the elders receiving and spending the money are meeting an emergency in their own work; in the other they are acting as agent for a number of other congregations in doing a work which is not peculiarly their own, but to which all contributing congregations are equally related. In the one instance the receiving elders have complete control, jurisdiction, and oversight in every respect; in the other they can exercise such control, jurisdiction, and oversight only at the expense of the other contributing congregations.

For the first instance we have a clear parallel or precedent in scripture; for the other we have no parallel in scripture, no precedent, and no precept. The Jerusalem elders received, controlled, and spent money contributed to them by many congregations. The money thus far received became, in fact, the money of the Jerusalem church; every single dollar (or drachma) of it was spent by the Jerusalem elders as their judgment dictated in meeting the emergency; they had complete and unquestioned authority of every detail. It was their work, their responsibility, their emergency. It would have been a violation of their congregational rights for some other church to have tried to step in and take the oversight and exercise control of the funds they had received. But in the "centralized program in missionary work" which, as brother Vinson says, the Guardian has opposed, we find one eldership acting as the agency through which a number of congregations do their work; the work being done is no more the work of the "sponsoring" church than it is of the contributing churches. We have, in effect, an embryonic missionary society, in which the controlling churches seek to delegate their responsibility and their authority along with their funds, in fashion very similar to that in which churches turn over to a society all the responsibility and authority they themselves ought to carry in evangelistic work.

The Guardian has sought to make clear the distinction between a church doing its own work in its own community and being helped by other churches to do so on the one hand, and a church acting as agent for hundreds of other churches in doing their work in a land that is foreign to them all, on the other hand. Our efforts in this direction have met with varying success. Many Bible students see the distinction at once and easily; there are a few others who seem wholly unable to recognize any difference or distinction at all. They have become considerably exercised over the very idea of any such distinction existing; and have declared in "poignant" phrases that the Guardian is "palpably wrong," "Grossly absurd," "purely arbitrary," and that her course is one of "consummate folly" because she opposes "precisely the same kind of cooperation for one field that it endorses for another." One restrained and gentle critic is certain that this qualifies the Guardian to a front seat along with what he calls "other factionists."

The Guardian most certainly DOES oppose the "kind of cooperation" in a foreign field that is perfectly right and scriptural in a local community. That hits the nail squarely on the head, and we are agreeable to letting the whole question rest right on that point. In the "kind of cooperation" we endorse (Jerusalem is our example) the people receiving the benevolence were subject to the elders; if preaching was done and baptisms followed, the people baptized became members of the Jerusalem church, and continued under the scriptural oversight of the Jerusalem elders. It was Jerusalem's "program," first, last, and all the way. Do the people baptized in Germany become members of some American "sponsoring" congregation? Are they subject to American elders? Are they under the oversight and supervision of an American eldership? Is no congregational line or border to be recognized? Are the American elders to exercise oversight in Germany in "precisely the same kind" of fashion they do in America? Let it be labeled "consummate folly, gross absurdity, and pure arbitrariness" from now till doom's-day but we see a difference between elders exercising authority in their own community and those same elders exercising that same authority in "another field!"

Concerning Orphan Homes

We did endorse, and do endorse, the principle set forth in brother Wallace's articles, i.e.: the eldership of the congregation is the only organization God has for doing any work he has laid upon the church to do. Whatever "home" the elders of a church may provide for caring for those orphan children who are their charge can rightly be regarded as nothing more nor less than "the church at work."

Our endorsement of that principle, however, does not mean, nor can it be taken to mean, that we endorse every abuse that may be made of the principle in practice. For instance, we very seriously question the right of an eldership to deliberately plan, promote, and undertake any work on a permanent basis which they know in advance will be far, far beyond the ability of their congregation ever to sustain or carry on. That looks too much like an instance of an eldership deliberately planning a permanent program which will make them continually dependent (an object of charity) on other churches. Such permanent dependency is as bad for a congregation as it is for an individual. And it is clearly as wrong for a church as it is for an individual to plan and provide for a permanently dependent status. That is an abuse of the principle. The principle is right; the abuse of it is wrong.

— F. Y. T.


Albert Sweet, 890 N. Bonham, San Benito, Texas: "August 19, 1951, will bring to a close almost three years of very pleasant work with the congregation here. We will be moving to Duncan, Oklahoma, to work with the Eastside congregation. Here in San Benito, this week, we have had a very fine lady restored from the First Christian Church who had formerly been a member of the church."