Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 19, 1953
NUMBER 45, PAGE 4,5b

Now, Can You See It?


Scores of faithful brethren have seen it coming for seven or eight years. Even as far back as the time Jimmie Lovell proposed his "holding churches," warnings were sounded against the "centralized control and oversight" inherent in such schemes.

For three years or more the Gospel Guardian has been warning against the inevitable development that would come out of this kind of cooperation. And readers of the papers among us know what happened: we were described with every kind of epithet and uncomplimentary term that inventive minds could devise.

But events have happened now that even the blindest cannot fail to see. We ask you to give a careful reading to each of the following articles in this issue:

(1) Brother Cogdill's article on the front page

(2) Keith Thompson's letter to the editor, published under the caption "Centralized Control In Germany"

(3) Letter from Germany, No. 1

(4) Letter From Germany, No. 2

(5) Letter From Broadway Elders.

What Has Happened

To clarify the picture a bit, we briefly summarize the story: For some months brethren Dick Smith and Max Watson have (along with some of the German evangelists) questioned both the wisdom and the scripturalness of some of the work being done by Brother Gatewood and his associates. There have been lengthy discussions of these matters, but the discussions have apparently been productive of no change in the matters to which objection was voiced.

Finally, as you can see from reading the letters we publish in this issue, the Grove Avenue congregation in San Antonio has decided to re-call Brother Smith to the United States with the idea of removing a disturbing element from the scene. We think it highly significant that the brethren at Grove Avenue:

(1) Express no dissatisfaction with the work Brother Smith has done in Karlsruhe

(2) Are apparently completely satisfied with his doctrinal soundness

(3) Urge no objection to his life or character.

Apparently the ONLY reason for his recall is that he has crossed swords with Brother Otis Gatewood! And, as Brother Smith says in one of his letters, that is the unforgivable sin! Karlsruhe is seventy-five miles from Frankfurt; there is no reason at all why there should be any connection between the two works. But the long arm of "centralized control" has reached out. If one does not go along harmoniously and quietly with everything being done at Frankfurt, then one must perforce be no longer acceptable to the "sponsoring" churches.

The Past

All of this points up and emphasizes the warnings that have been sounded on these pages over and over and over again. When a "sponsoring" church receives money from many other churches, it feels that the money thus contributed for the work is ITS responsibility; and that the "sponsoring" church is to have the control and direction of all activities supported out of those funds. Two years ago at the Florida Christian College lectures brethren pleaded with Brother Gatewood for more than an hour to reveal who controlled the funds he was collecting. He never gave any satisfactory answer, and many in the audience felt that he actually did not know. Brother Pat Hardeman summed it all up by saying, "Either Brother Gatewood does not know who controls the thousands of dollars he is collecting, and that is bad; or he does know, and will not tell — and that is worse!" But now it comes out that there has been no question or uncertainty at all as to who was in control — the elders of the Broadway congregation. They worked at first through two committees; but last September consolidated these two committees into one committee, and sent word to various workers in Germany asking them to "cooperate" with this committee.

The failure to "cooperate" as requested would simply mean that the one not cooperating would not be eligible to receive support from the funds being administered by Broadway. Not only so, but every other congregation under the influence of the group in control would have to fall in line. Even Grove Avenue in San Antonio and St. Elmo in Chattanooga, Tennessee, have desired the men they were "sponsoring" to line up and "cooperate" with Lubbock's plan for directing the German work.

The Future

As to the future, no one knows what may happen. It is conceivable that brethren Smith and Watson will he compelled to abandon their fine work in Germany and return to the States. Under the providence of God that might even work out better than for them to remain in Germany. For once back in this country they could travel over the nation and tell exactly what has happened, and let brethren know at first hand what is developing in Germany. Perhaps they can be useful to the cause of Christ by awakening the churches to the dangers inherent in the "centralized control" arrangement.

On the other hand, it is possible that many faithful churches over the nation will rally to their support, and will see that they are permitted to remain in Germany and continue their work. We would like very much to see that happen. They do not want to return; they are only now ready to begin showing real results from the many long months they have spent in learning the language and equipping themselves for effective work. Surely there can be found congregations that will be sympathetic toward what they are trying to do, and will respond generously to their need! It is even possible that some of the churches which have been contributing THROUGH Grove Avenue and St. Elmo — will now want to send direct to them, and enable them to remain in Germany.

But one thing is certain to come out of this unhappy experience: many thoughtful and sincere brethren are bound to get a new perspective on the problem of "centralized control and oversight." And some of those who never could "see" it before will have their eyes opened now to the thing we have warned against.

Let one thing be added to this: we do not question, nor have we ever questioned, the motives and sincere desire of our Broadway brethren and Brother Gatewood to do what was right. We have questioned, and do question, both their judgment and their understanding of the scriptures on the matter of church cooperation. And we believe the current developments are but an extension and inevitable consequence of the pattern which we have seen developing for several years. Other, and perhaps even more positive indications will follow in the months ahead unless some changes are made.

— F. Y. T.