Vol.V No.III Pg.6
May 1968

Fruit Of "Voluntary" Co-Op

Robert F. Turner

Writing PLAIN TALK while "on the road" in full-time meeting work poses many problems, not the least of which is finding "quote material" for this page. "Quotes" from church history are solicited from our readers.

The following comes from "The Disciples of Christ" by Garrison & Degrott, The Bethany Press; and is the more significant because the writers clearly favor missionary societies.

We quote from the Preview, pp.16.


"The union of these two streams (followers, in a general sense, of Stone and Campbell; rft) produced a body of from twenty to thirty thousand adherents. It was wholly without organizations of wider scope than the local congregations, which exercised complete independence.

For years the Christians had had some loose "conferences" covering small districts. These were gatherings of the ministers, or "elders", for fellowship, the exchange of reports of their churches, and the arrangement of their preaching appointments. The Reformers, as soon as they became separated from the Baptists -- by dissolving Baptist associations in which they had gained sufficient strength, and being put out of others -- began to hold even more informal and unecclesiastical gatherings for mutual encouragement, acquaintance, and edification. From such rudimentary beginnings grew "county cooperations" for the sending out of evangelists, state meetings, and in 1849 the first national convention and the organization of the American Christian Missionary Society. These organizations, voluntary and unauthoritative as they were, always disclaiming any power to control the local congregations, nevertheless contained the seeds of trouble as well as the promise of effective service; and the seeds ripened faster than the promise, for hot controversy about the legitimacy of missionary societies became a divisive issue long before the societies themselves achieved any notable results.

But geographical expansion and numerical increase did not wait upon the efficiency of the societies or the building of missionary budgets. Population was moving westward with a fluidity that is amazing, considering the difficulties of travel and transport. The Disciples were a part of that migrant host. They rode the crest of that wave of the advancing frontier which swept across woodlands and prairies and left behind it a deposit of rural homes, villages, towns, and churches."


Note: the early church in this country was "without organizations of wider scope than the local congregations." (2) Loose "conferences" and "county cooperations" (where several churches acted collectively, rft) set the stage for "the first national convention and the organization of the American Christian Missionary Society" (3) These were "voluntary and unauthoritative" organizations -- which make "our" present day inter-church projects perfectly safe, according to some very short-sighted men of today.