Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 9, 1956
NUMBER 14, PAGE 8-9a

"We Be Brethren"

Leslie Diestelkamp, Brookfield, Illinois

In the June 28th issue of the Gospel Guardian, Brother Roy Key, who is my neighbor (we live about five miles apart) here in metropolitan Chicago, made a fervent appeal for fellowship among brethren who differ. With much of the article I am in complete agreement, and certainly it is shameful when brethren indulge in name-calling, branding, and belittling, and when lines of fellowship are quickly and rashly drawn.

However, Brother Key's article includes some discussion of his own case here in Chicago-land, and the plea he makes reflects the thinking of many in this area who seem to imply that nothing should ever be made a test of fellowship. Though he did not so state in this article, he and others who follow him in this area have stoutly affirmed that no line of fellowship can be drawn unless it be for immorality. Thus, while he taught doctrines that actually deny the truth about man's salvation, Brother Key sought fellowship with the various Christians of the area. Those who endorse and uphold him have been seriously offended, not just because we opposed what he teaches, but because we would not extend fellowship to him.

Yes, "We be brethren." All who have been added to the Lord's church are my brethren. However, some of them conduct themselves in such a way as to forbid fellowship. Romans 16:17, 2 Thessalonians 3:6, and 2 John 10 teach us to "mark," "withdraw" and "receive not" certain ones. If a man teaches a false doctrine, I am obligated by scripture to withhold any fellowship from him that would become, in any sense, an endorsement of his teachings.

Can We Fellowship Brother Key?

Brother Key has said, repeatedly, in print and orally, that baptism is not essential to salvation. He stoutly denies that instrumental music in worship should be a test of fellowship. He advocates that brethren extend fellowship to preachers who have left the church and are now preaching for denominations. In recent months Brother Key has appealed for fellowship by stating that baptism is essential and that he now, and always has, taught that it is for remission of sins. Yet he refuses to repudiate his former statements. He, and those who uphold him, usually contend that he has just been misunderstood. But notice the following quotations:

Question (by Billy Boyd, April 30, 1954): "Can a man obey the command to be baptized in any other way than being immersed?"

Answer: "He can obey the spirit of that command, I think." (Key)

Q. "And what is the spirit of that command?"

A. "The spirit of that command is to undergo in his own life the death, burial and resurrection — the death and burial of the old man, and the resurrection of the new."

Q. "And a man can do that without being buried in water?"

A. "That is true."

Upon the same occasion another querist asked Brother Key: "Does an alien sinner receive the remission of sins by obeying the spirit of baptism without literal immersion in water?" To this he replied: "He might — unless one believes there are no extenuating circumstances at all."

The above quotations are not exceptions. Such exceptions are plentiful in his writings. To say that we misunderstand is like saying that we only misunderstand the child who insists that two plus two equal five.

Recent Changes

Two or three years ago Brother Key was widely accepted in this area, and those who concurred with him predominated in many congregations in this vicinity. However, brethren fought valiantly in a "crusade" against errors and the majority of the churches were awakened to the danger. As a result, a year ago only about two congregations would actually fellowship Brother Key — possibly three. But it begins to look like the pendulum is swinging back again. It used to be a joke (though it was never funny) that almost every preacher who came to Chicago to oppose liberalism was overwhelmed by it. We are made to wonder if history may be about to repeat itself, for now three or four of the men who have been brought into the area by churches that seemed to want to reform, are now not only fellowshipping Brother Key, but they are religiously urging that others do so.

Has He Changed?

Some urge that Brother Key has changed. If so, he should be the one to declare it! So far he stoutly denies it. Though he does say, in one breath that he teaches baptism for remission of sins, in the next breath he denies that his former statements are wrong. All of this raises another question: "Should we fellowship him in order to help bring about a change?"

Paul's words to the church in Corinth (I. Cor. 5) would answer the above question with an emphatic "No." In fact Paul's words taught the very opposite — he taught that fellowship should be withdrawn for two reasons: (1) For the purity of the body of Christ; (2) And for the salvation of the offender.

In view of these facts, and though there is no personal differences between us, I believe we do great harm to the church and to Brother Key when we extend fellowship while he refuses to renounce teaching that denies the truth which will make man free from sin. We do not mistreat nor abuse Brother Key by refusing to fellowship him while he conducts himself thus. Rather, those who do offer fellowship, and thus, to some degree, at least, give endorsement, not only do great wrong to him, but they jeopardize the unity and purity of the body of Christ.

We Have Tried

Some may be quick to say, "Why don't you go to Brother Key and try to help him?" Many, many Christians have warned, reproved, rebuked, begged, pleaded and prayed, but to no avail. Hours and hours have been consumed in talks and in writing and a number have even traveled long distances to appeal to him. Likewise we have warned others of the dangers to the church (when he is fellowshipped) and we have pleaded for a united front in opposing error here in this great metropolitan area. And, as was true two years ago, so today there are stalwart men standing firm for truth. Our great concern today, though, is that the offensive doctrines which Brother Key advocated are being given a cloak of respectability by men of distinction and by congregations of repute. Such is not in harmony with God's way of restoration, and such tactics, though motivated by kindly and sincere intentions, will lead only to the disgrace and shame of the cause of Christ.

Brother Key is a brilliant man, and could be a powerful influence for good in the church of our Lord. Conversely, while he continues thus, his influence will certainly be very hurtful, and those who sustain him must share responsibility for whatever damage is done. We beg that every sectarian doctrine be repudiated (not whitewashed), that all theological ambiguity be eliminated, and that, in the proclamation of the whole truth, we go forward together, upholding all that is right and opposing all that is wrong, to the best of our abilities.