Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 22, 1951

Institutions, Or Christian Homes?

Roy E. Cogdill

Brother Gayle Oler in the Boles Home News of July 10, 1951, has an article headed "On One Point We All Agree" that has some interesting things in it about which we have a few observations to offer.

Brother Oler says in his first paragraph, "The proper place for a child is with his Christian mother and father." This states what everyone of any intelligence knows. God ordained the home and knew what He was doing. A divine arrangement cannot be improved upon. There is just a little hint in the statement that we are wondering if brother Oler meant to leave. He may not have intended it, I don't know, but if so, then I challenge the implication. Did he mean to say that if the father and mother do not happen to be Christians, then it would be best to have the child in some institution like Boles Home where he could be taught Christianity? Does brother Oler believe that if a child's parents are not Christian and they should be willing to relinquish that child to the church to provide for and train, that it would be a good thing to encourage them to do so, and that the church should hold itself ready to take over the responsibility? This idea is equivalent to the fascistic idea of the children becoming the charge of the state in order to be taught the proper theory of politics. Does brother Oler believe that God intended for Christianity to be extended by taking children away from their fathers and mothers who are not Christians and rearing them in some institutions run by Christians in order to teach them Christianity? I am not charging such but only inquiring if he meant the inference which can easily be drawn from what he has said.

In paragraph two brother Oler admits that for a child to be adopted into a Christian home and reared by foster parents would be the next thing to being reared in its own home by its own parents, and therefore better than being reared in an institutional home of any kind. We are certainly agreed on that point and I am glad to hear him make the admission. I have been under the impression, perhaps mistakenly so since this admission has come from him, that he was of the opinion and had actually said that Boles Home is the best place on earth to rear a dependent child. I am glad to know that he does not think so. I sin wondering if he would make another admission. If a family of children were left dependent, whether orphans or not, and it became the obligation of the church to provide for them, would it be better for the elders of the congregation to provide a place for them to live and sustenance for them and engage a good Christian couple to be with them and care for them in their own community or would it be better to send them to such an institution as Boles Home? Would not such a provision right where the church is located be better for the children because they are known there, and for the church because its influence would be left there, and for individual members of the church because of the responsibility for such children resting directly upon them rather than being passed on to someone else? Would not the church come nearer actually to bearing its responsibility in such an arrangement than it possibly could by sending the children off to some institution, where the church would be expected to only make a taken contribution toward the care of the children and would not have the direct responsibility of looking after them at all?

If brother Oler is willing to follow us in the conclusion that such an arrangement would be very far better for everyone concerned, then why not urge the churches to care for such children right in their own community? Isn't it true that if all dependent children who could possibly be adopted into Christian homes were adopted, and if all the congregations throughout the country that have dependent children for whom they should care would do so right in their own community, there would be very little reason for the existence of such an institution as Boles Home at all?

In the third paragraph of his article brother Oler implies that in the case of a family of several children it would be better to leave the children together and rear them in an institution even though they could all be adopted into Christian homes by being separated. In order to reach such a conclusion as that he must first conclude that the association of the children with each other at any age is a greater need than proper care for each of them by foster parents in a home. I wonder if he really believes that. I don't. If his admission in paragraph two is correct that "the next best thing left for the child is adoption into a good Christian home where it can have foster or adoptive parents," then he contends that the best thing for one or all of the children must be sacrificed in the interest of keeping them together as a family although they may be small enough that they cannot exercise any care for one another or contribute in any way to each other's well being. This is sentiment outweighing judgment.

There are many homes that could assume an obligation of rearing one child or two children that could not take five or six children. If the margin of difference in being reared in a good Christian home by foster parents and being reared in an institution is so small that it would be justifiable to keep children together in an institution rather than adopt them into separate homes, then there isn't enough difference between the institutional home and the adoptive home to sneeze at. Maybe this explains the attitude of most of these homes and brother Oler's attitude in particular toward helping to adopt children into Christian homes. It is a well known fact that many fine Christian families have asked for children and many more have asked the help of such institutional men as brother Oler in finding a child for adoption and have received the curt reply, "we are not running an adoptive agency." Some have even written for help in getting one of the children which they say they have on the waiting list of such institutions and are unable to take and have been curtly refused help in such cases if any reply at all was received. Testimony of that kind is heard from almost every section of the country. Do you suppose that such a child, one without brothers and sisters, is never found or never gets on the waiting list? Do these institutions always take them just by families? Are all of the calls they have to take dependent children cases of several in the family? Don't they ever get a call to take just one dependent child? Do they never find a case where one child or two could be adopted into some Christian family? It appears unreasonable to a ridiculous degree that an institution which receives hundreds of calls to take dependent children and has hundreds of such children on their waiting list asking for admission, would never have an opportunity to help a good Christian couple at least find a child which they could adopt. If that is better than life in an institutional home, it appears they would have some opportunity along that line to do good.

The Case From Lufkin

Brother Oler seems to think that his reference to the Lufkin case in his article should be particularly embarrassing to me as well as brother Blackmon. If it were not for what they think they can prove by Lufkin these days our opposition would not be able to take up much space with what they write. Their idea seems to be if we can find something at Lufkin with which to embarrass those who are opposing us, we will have our case solved. That is false reasoning. If everything is wrong at Lufkin and if brother Blackmon and I are very red in our embarrassment, that still will not solve the problem of the institutional orphan home in the minds of a lot of good, honest brethren who are disturbed about it very seriously. Brother Oler is going to have to do something other than pursue such a course as that to settle some of these issues. I do not happen to be one of these wise individuals who has always known so much that it has never been necessary for me to modify my views. I know of a certain renowned elder in a big Texas church who publicly stated on a certain occasion that he had changed very few of his views in fifty-seven years. If that is true it only means that he is still wrong in a lot of them. Honesty will demand a change as a man grows older and learns more.

There are some things which brother Oler could have told about the Lufkin case that he didn't tell and others that perhaps he doesn't know about. He probably doesn't even know that I urged the elders of the Lufkin church that they try to make some arrangement to provide a housekeeper for this family of children so the father could make a living for them and keep them together in his own home. I didn't even have my way in the matter. The father wanted them placed in a home and said he was willing to help support them as fully as possible. I don't know whether he has done so or not. What I had to do with the matter was as an agent of the father instead of the church. I think brother Oler knew that. Maybe that was even a mistake, I am not certain that it wasn't. This case would however justify the institutional home only on the basis of last resort from any point of view and certainly not the one to be preferred. Is that the basis upon which such institution exist? Is brother Oler willing to admit it?

Brother Oler's article puts the whole operation upon this basis: the best thing to do if possible is leave them in their own home; if that is not possible, then adopt them out into homes; if that is not possible then he wants some "journalistic authorities" to tell him what to do with them. Well, I am not a "journalistic authority" but I am asking the institutional authorities, what would be wrong with the church caring for them in their own community? If that would be right and good, if it is the thing that should be done, then why not try to get them to do it? That would leave the work of the church to be done by the church, and in a place where it can not only be done by the church but can be supervised by those who are responsible for its oversight. It would eliminate completely the alternative of building a big human institution controlled by a "board of directors" to do the work of the church.

The whole tenor of brother Oler's article is to this effect: yes, we are all agreed that there is a better way of doing it, but since the brethren are not doing it as it should be done, institutions like Boles Home are therefore necessary. That is a mighty sorry and weak defense of such work. Surely it needs a better one than that if it is to stand. Take a look at this parallel to his contention. The best way to evangelize the world with the Gospel of Christ is for the congregations to support preachers and send them out to preach the Gospel, but since the churches are not doing their duty in this respect, then the missionary society becomes necessary if the world is ever to be evangelized.

Brethren, are we willing to go along with all of the conclusions to such a contention? If a better defense than that cannot be found the work has no scriptural basis and should be abandoned.