Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 31, 1951

Let The Reader Decide

W. W. Otey, Belle Plaine, Kansas

Much has been written, pro and con, in regard to the "sponsored" programs proposed and being carried on in foreign lands. Because of the unrelated matters introduced, many readers are doubtless confused in regard to the real issues involved. No one has opposed preaching the gospel anywhere on earth. No one has opposed the churches supporting such preaching of the gospel. It has been said that I have been misled, misinformed; the implication was made that I have misrepresented a certain church, and have drawn pictures without any supporting evidence.

The church in question is Union Avenue Church, Memphis, Tennessee.

All I know about what that church is doing, or proposing to do, I have learned from the publications which the elders of that congregation themselves have sent forth. It seems to me the fairest and best way is simply to give specific quotations from their own publications; and then let the readers decide for themselves whether the setup of the Union Avenue elders is a "central agency," and whether the work proposed and being carried on by them is in truth the work the Lord assigned to the church as such. The publications from which the following information and quotations are taken are The Voice of Opportunity from Japan and the monthly statements of receipts and disbursements, all of which are issued over the signature of the elders of Union Avenue Church. From these publications we gain the following facts:

1. Union Avenue elders selected a representative, E. W. McMillan, and sent him to Japan to make a survey.

2. Brother McMillan made the survey, returned, and made a report to Union Avenue.

3. Large numbers of copies of this report were printed and sent to many churches and individuals.

4. Union Avenue sent their representative to many churches, advertising the work proposed and the program planned.

5. Contributions were urgently solicited and thousands of dollars have been received and disbursed by Union Avenue.

6. Itemized receipts and disbursements are made and mailed out each month. I here give the report for December,1950. In the full report for that month 72 separate contributions are listed:

Total For December $ 2,676.40

Grand Total 83,984.53 FINANCIAL STATEMENT Receipts through December 31, 1949 69,534.70 Disbursements to date:

Real estate—school site and buildings 24,700.00 Support for orphans 2,600.00 Printing press 2,000.00 Hitachi church building 1,650.00 New Testaments and other books 220.46 General mission fund 12,993.00 Interest, transfer of funds, etc. 149.01 Salary, traveling expense, postage, equipment, etc. 24,712.36 Total disbursements 69,224.83 Balance on hand December 31, 1949 309.87 $69.534.70 COMMENTS The New Testament clearly teaches that the elders are overseers of the local congregation. They are to watch, rule, and feed the flock — the church. Now what relation does this immense work, as itemized above, bear to their duties and obligations as shepherds over the local congregation, their scriptural limitation? There is not the least kinship between the work of overseeing the local congregation and the work they are doing in advertising, soliciting, receiving, and disbursing the money from a large number of churches, and supervising in a general way a program carried on in a foreign land. In this work they are not acting in their capacity as elders over the Union Avenue Church.

They are a centralized agency, through which a large number of churches are functioning, performing every function performed by the District Missionary Societies in Virginia (and I suppose in other states also) sixty years ago. As yet the "board" is made up of the Union Avenue elders. Inasmuch as they are functioning, not as elders of the local congregation, but in a different capacity, pray will some one tell us what difference there would be if the board of managers were selected from several congregations rather than from one? I think I am not given to making unguarded statements, but I here challenge any man to show the least fundamental difference between the work performed by Union Avenue elders and the work performed by the societies in their early days. I attended some of the meetings of these societies when they adhered so closely to the New Testament model that few suspected the danger. Only a few of us living then have lived long enough to see all these societies merged into the ecclesiasticism of the Disciples' Church, called the United Society.

Yes, we are told that churches and individuals can send direct to the workers in the field. And this privilege was granted by the Missionary Societies years ago. The whole program in its beginning was voluntary.

The Union Avenue elders have supported a special representative, solicited, received, and disbursed funds from many churches. Up till December 31, 1950, the amount handled was $69,524.87. If, then, they are not acting in the capacity of a centralized agency for a large number of churches, will brother James D. Bales, and others, please come forward and tell us just what would be such an agency?

(In our next article we will deal more specifically with the actual program of work being done.)