Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 1, 1951

"The Cooperation Controversy" Reviewed -- No. 3


In our two former articles we have established these items: (1) Brother Wright has fully committed himself, along with brethren Showalter and Goodpasture, (perhaps unwittingly, yet nevertheless completely and undeniably) to the position that American elders can exercise presbyterial authority over a congregation in a foreign field. (2) There is a clear and sharp contrast between the method Paul used and the method brother Wright defends in supporting the gospel in a foreign field. (3) If the American elders of a "sponsoring church" do not act AS ELDERS in their spending of funds for other churches in the foreign work, then they are without any authority at all in the matter. They are simply a "committee" (usually self-appointed, at that) and the fact that this committee is made up of men who happen to be elders of an American church is confusing and misleading.

In this article we want to point out a couple of examples (they are typical of several that could be cited) of the very grievous and, to our way of thinking, at least, inexcusable, way in which brother Wright misrepresented the teaching and convictions of those whom he was seeking to discredit. We regret the necessity of this. Such an article as this should never have any place in Christian controversy, for the things that make it necessary should never have happened. So far as our own feelings are concerned, we would be perfectly willing to ignore all of brother Wright's misrepresentations, and to leave the matter between brother Wright and his own conscience. But more than personal feelings are involved. The cause of truth might be made to suffer. If brother Wright could convince any sizeable group in the church that those brethren who write for the Guardian are the wholly irresponsible, unreliable, capricious, and vicious men he pictures them to be, the teachings and influence of these men would be irreparably curtailed and limited. (Fortunately, there does not seem to be yet any evidence at all that brother Wright has convinced anybody that the brethren who write for the Guardian are "foolish," "absurd," "arbitrary," "inconsistent" and worthy of being listed with "other factionists" who in times past have "split the church.") But in fairness, not only to the immediate group whom brother Wright has sought to stigmatize, but to that great host of faithful brethren who have shared with the Guardian in her apprehension over certain present trends and tendencies, we feel that his misrepresentations cannot be wholly ignored.

When brother Wright sent us his first article, some eighteen months ago, we saw at once that he had completely missed the point of our writings, and that his article contained some serious misrepresentations of the Guardian's position. Because we had been friends for many years, we withheld the article from publication, and immediately wrote brother Wright pointing out his misrepresentations, and suggesting that he and the editor write a series of five articles each on the issue, giving a full, free, and careful discussion of the questions involved. So high was our regard for brother Wright, and so certain were we of his sincerity that we felt confident he would not want us to publish his article containing the errors and false charges he had made against us, but would be glad to enter into the study we suggested.

Our gesture of friendship, however, was spurned. Instead of responding as we had hoped and expected, brother Wright immediately published his article in both the Gospel Advocate and the Finn Foundation—an article which he knew misrepresented the Guardian, and whose errors had been specifically pointed out to him. In his current series of nine articles, he repeats and enlarges upon some of those former charges. It would be extremely difficult for some brethren to maintain faith in a brother's integrity under such circumstances; but we honestly believe that brother Wright is the victim of his own prejudices rather than deliberately and maliciously dishonest. His action but emphasizes for all of us the treachery of the human heart when one sets out to prove a point. Brother Wright set out to prove that the Guardian writers were "arbitrary," "absurd," "inconsistent," "palpably wrong," etc. No doubt he carefully read all our writings on the matters in question, looking for evidence to sustain his thesis. And he seized upon what seemed to him to establish his point, actually not being conscious in his own heart of the gross perversion and false light he was giving to the statements he quoted.

It will not be possible, or necessary, to refute every false charge brother Wright has made. They are repeated over and over again with monotonous insistence, as if by the very repetition of them he could sustain them. But we will point out an example or two that are typical of the way in which he has twisted and misused our statements, basing charges on them that are completely false.

"Dividing The Church"

The charge. Brother Wright has charged the Guardian with threatening to "divide the church." He has no doubt been able to foment much prejudice against us with such charges. We have heard it from various places where he has been, and from people to whom he has talked—that the Guardian is set to divide the church unless the brethren cease their missionary efforts! The charge is a vicious one. It looks bad. And one would think no brother would ever make such a charge without absolute irrefutable evidence on which to base it. But here, in brother Wright's own words, is the indictment he levels against us:

"At the 'time the Guardian declared war and threatened the brotherhood with division if sponsored cooperation mission work should not be abandoned, it seemed to me that much of its attack was 'purely arbitrary and grossly absurd'." "The Guardian now threatens to divide the church over the 'sponsoring' church method of cooperation in mission work if such method is not abandoned, —a method that eight months earlier was right'."

(Article 1)

"Press him and press him hard on the division he has intimated ... "

(Article 4)

The truth. Brother Wright based all his charges of threatening division on one paragraph in our editorial of April 20, 1950. Here is the paragraph:

"As the discussion develops, and as the dangers of the present situation are pointed out, we believe there will be a general awakening among the churches as to what is happening. And it is our earnest hope that all the churches will work together in heading off and preventing any hurtful development, and in spreading the gospel in every nation under heaven. But if our hope proves vain, and if willful and determined men arise who are set on leading the church into apostasy, let no one mistake our desire for peace for softness. The battle for the defense of New Testament Christianity' will be waged without restraint. If there is to be no other way for the church than the agony of a new digression and division, then our course is set; we shall not be moved. God being our helper, we have no choice."

And THAT, believe it or not, is our "threat" to divide the church! That is the "war" we declared; that is the "battle without restraint" we were set to wage. Brother Wright surely has the ability to understand the words in that paragraph. He knows it contains no threat at all to divide the church UNLESS "willful and determined men arise who are set on leading the church into apostasy." And in that case we will continue to preach the truth. We honestly believe that if it were not for the blind prejudice which guides him, Cecil N. Wright would subscribe one hundred percent to the sentiment expressed in that paragraph! Is there any Christian on earth who would NOT subscribe to it? Is there a single gospel preacher who is reading these lines, a single elder in any "sponsoring" church, a single Christian anywhere who would NOT subscribe to the declaration set forth above? Yet, wherever he has been, brother Wright has spread the word that the Gospel Guardian is "threatening to divide the church"! We have heard it from numerous ones, who have quoted brother Wright for their authority when we pinned them down as to where they got the idea. We leave our readers to judge of this matter with this one word: We do not think brother Wright was conscious of any perversion or misuse of our quotation. He is so completely warped in his prejudiced antagonism to the Guardian that he is incapable of realizing any perversion at all in his use of the quotation—as a matter of fact, he did not quote from the paragraph, only picked out a few words here and there and wove them into a sentence of his own, declaring that we had "threatened" the church with division.

Endorsing—then Condemning

The charge. Repeatedly throughout the series of articles brother Wright charges the Gospel Guardian with having "changed" her position relative to "sponsoring" churches. He states this so often, and with so many variations, that one gets the impression of utter unreliability and caprice and instability characterizing the paper. Here are some (not all) of brother Wright's charges of a "change" in us:

"The stand of the Guardian then (August 18, 1949), as expressed by its editor, was that either of the above mentioned methods is right—namely (1) "whether money is sent directly to the man on the field" or (2) "is sent to some 'sponsoring' church." But as of April 20, 1950, boom! boom! Things have changed; war is declared; and an all-out offensive is launched! Against what? Against one of the above 'right' methods of cooperation! The 'sponsoring' church method has suddenly become wrong. It is a 'new digression' and 'apostasy' and must be battled against 'without restraint'... There you have it! The Guardian now threatens to divide the church over the 'sponsoring' church method of cooperating in mission work if such method is not abandoned—a method that eight months earlier was 'right'."

(Article 1)

"The preceding article emphasized the fact that though, on April 20, 1950, the Gospel Guardian launched a war 'without restrainst' against the `sponsoring' church method of cooperation in mission work, and charged that it is a 'new digression and apostasy,' it had only eight months earlier declared it to be `right'."

(Article 2)

"So the 'sponsoring' church method was both 'prominent' and 'right' in 1949. It was not something 'new' and 'digressive' and 'apostate' until late in 1950."

(Article 2)

"It has been shown by copious documentation that even the Guardian itself taught it as 'right' only eight months before it began to denounce it as `digression' and 'apostasy'."

(Article 3)

"The exploration for the 'sudden and great disturbance' now shaking the church has some parallels with the above. It is being caused by an editor (who has changed) and his staff waging a battle 'without restraint' through their paper, the Gospel Guardian."

(Article 3)

"Not only is it well to understand that the above discussed method is scriptural, but it is proper that we be reminded that the Guardian editor endorsed it as 'right' as late as August 18, 1949 . . . But by April 20, 1950, participation in such a 'sponsored' arrangement was 'digressive' and `apostasy,' and since then he has taken a leading part in a 'wide-spread and serious disturbance' of the church in a fight waged 'without restraint' by the Guardian against such a method of cooperation in mission work."

(Article 3)

"The Gospel Guardian committed itself to battle `without restraint' against the sponsoring church method of cooperation in mission work being generally practiced by the churches, branding it as a 'new digression' and 'apostasy,' though only eight months earlier it had pronounced it as `right'."

(Article 4)

"When the Gospel Guardian on April 20, 1950, committed itself to battle 'without restraint' against the sponsoring church method of cooperation in a foreign mission work, and branded it as a 'new digression' and 'apostasy,' it declared and launched war against what it itself had editorially approved as 'right' only eight months previous."

(Article 5)

"This review has thus far disclosed the following outstanding facts: (1) That the sponsoring church method of cooperation in mission work, which has been under attack 'without restraint' by the Guardian since April 20, 1950, was editorially approved as scriptural by the Guardian as late as only eight months before."

(Article 6)

"The sponsoring church method of cooperation in mission work which the Gospel Guardian has charged with being a 'new digression' and 'apostasy' and has fought 'without restraint' since April 20, 1951, was actually approved by the Guardian editorially only eight months before that time!'

(Article 7)

"The Guardian itself also editorially endorsed it (sponsored cooperation in foreign work) as scriptural only eight months before it charged it with being a 'new digression' and 'apostasy' and began its fight 'without restraint' against it on. April 20, 1950."

(Article 8)

The truth. These are only a few of the many times in his series brother Wright repeated that charge. It was perhaps the one accusation that he made more often than any. If one gets a slight impression of repetition in the above quotations, one is not mistaken. Saying a thing once was a quality possessed by William Shakespeare which brother Wright seems not to have. But what is the TRUTH in the matter?

Every single one of those quotations above is based on one brief statement we made in our comment on an exchange between brother Luther Blackmon and brother G. K. Wallace. Brother Blackmon suggested that the proper way for a foreign worker to be supported was for the churches supporting him to send their money directly to him in the foreign field. (June 23, 1949) Brother G. K. Wallace wrote the editor a private letter, pointing out the dangers that might arise if some good "promoter" came along and fleeced the churches out of huge sums of money. To which we wrote in the "Overflow" of August 18, 1949:

"We recognize the weight of brother Wallace's observation. And we would certainly urge the churches to send to no man unless you have absolute knowledge of the man and his need. That it is right, however, to send directly to the man in the field as per Blackmon's suggestion is very evident from the practice of the Philippian church sending directly to Paul rather than to Antioch—his 'sponsoring' congregation. That it is also right to send help to a needy field to be used under the direction of the elders of a church is clear from Acts 11:30. Due care must be exercised in either case—whether the money is sent directly to the man on the field or is sent to some 'sponsoring' church."

And THAT is the basis of brother Wright's monotonously repeated charge that we had declared the "sponsoring" church method of cooperation in foreign mission work "right" and "scriptural" only eight months before we began to wage war against it! Does anyone think the above paragraph gives endorsement to brother Wright's "sponsoring" church method of foreign mission work? If so, read it again, and note the following:

Two methods of sending money to a work are discussed: (1) sending it to the man in the field, and (2) sending it to a "sponsoring" church. We gave an example of each: (1) the Philippian church sent to Paul, and (2) the brethren in Antioch sent to a "sponsoring" church. (Acts 11:30) We said that in either case "due care must be exercised." It should be remembered that those who think like brother Wright does had for some time been contending that Antioch was Paul's "sponsoring" church. We acknowledged their contentions in this respect by calling it such, putting the word "sponsoring" in quotation marks to show that it was so used. Then we gave a scriptural example of a TRUE "sponsoring" church—a Judean church receiving money from Antioch and "sponsoring" a relief program among its own members! And as far as brother Wright was concerned that meant we approved the "sponsoring" church as right and scriptural!!! Well, we did approve, and do approve, and gave him the example of the kind of "sponsoring" church we thought was right —a Judean church receiving money from others and spending that money in her own community in relieving her own needy. But brother Wright ignored our example, and had us forthwith endorsing HIS kind of "sponsoring" church. And then later, when we began to point out some of the dangers, he explodes into his charges and accusations and indictments that we have changed, changed, CHANGED!!

These two examples are sufficient to point out the subtle and clever way in which our statements were perverted and misrepresented, and the false light in which we were placed by the misrepresentations. The Wright articles are filled with numerous such instances. We shall not attempt to refute them all, but perhaps will point out a few additional misrepresentations in our final article next week—enough so that honest and sincere Christians, who are humbly desirous of knowing and obeying the truth, will not be misled and deceived by brother Wright's wild charges. And although some may think we ourselves are stupid for still crediting brother Wright with sincerity and integrity, we do so credit him. He is the victim of his own prejudices, the unhappy sufferer from his own warped and twisted determination to discredit the Guardian. So extreme has he become in his blind partisanship that it is seemingly impossible for him to recognize either the facts or the issue in this present "cooperation controversy." Let us all hope that the affliction will not be as permanent as it is virulent. For brother Wright has ability, and he should have many happy, useful years in the cause which all of us love.

— F.Y.T.