Vol.XI No.X Pg.4
December 1974

Extra-Biblical Adjuncts

Robert F. Turner

I am told that in the ACC Preacher - Elder workshop some last-generation arguments were resurrected in defense of the sponsoring church arrangement. The missionary society is an extra - Biblical organization, we were told, but the sponsoring church creates no extra - Biblical organization. I have a feeling this generation can see right through that. Government, business, and churches have pushed credulity to the saturation point by offering the same old institutional or bureaucratic mess under a new name — or as a subdivision of some highly respected branch of the establishment.

What was the missionary society in the first place? A means or medium through which a plurality of churches could function as one— in evangelistic or benevolent projects. The executive board received funds in trust and dispensed those funds for the proposed work. That was its essence; but its domination of the churches (which so many preachers parrot when condemning the society) are abuses of its intended role. Today the sponsoring church arrangement is just another means or medium through. which a plurality of churches function as one. Even abuses are alike, as one can see by the recent history of the Highland church in Abilene.

Elders of the sponsoring church occupy a Biblical role while overseeing their own flock and dispensing the funds of that flock in scriptural work. They take on an extra-Biblical role when they become the executive board which receives and dispenses funds of contributing churches for some proposed churchhood work. In this role they are the heart of an extra -Biblical organization — and the error is not erased by virtue of their continued role as local elders.

By law, the jurisdiction of our local sheriff is Burnet county. If the law is ignored, and our sheriff either takes or is given state-wide functions, do we change the facts of the case because he continues as the Burnet County sheriff? Until the law is changed, he would be guilty of extra-legal (or, more bluntly, of illegal) activity.

All attempts to find diocesan or brotherhood project elders in the scriptures have failed. Alms sent to a dependent church (needy saints, 2 Cor. 8:) is certainly not the same as funds pooled in an independent church, whose elders serve as executive board for a world-wide work; and thinking people can see that. But the blind and/or weak-hearted are being led (by prejudice and false argument toward a restructured church.

I do not mean this is a conscious goal of institutional brethren generally. Most of them would recoil at such a charge — and rightly so. I do not believe our brethren of the last century deliberately led the church into what this generation developed. But zeal without knowledge, or without a willingness to apply the basic principles of congregational independence to their inter-church plans, prepared the way for the restructured Disciples denomination. And sure as God made little green apples todays sponsoring church multi-church projects are extra-Biblical and wrong.