Vol.V No.IV Pg.4
June 1968

Growing Pains?

Robert F. Turner

When sectarianism begins to put on fruit, and a denominational status is developing, problems multiply. These are apparent in struggling young denominations about us -- they are apparent among our own brethren.

Early signs of denominationalism are: (1) "we" and "us" and "our" begin to denote a party concept that is larger than a local church, smaller than the whole body of Christ; (2) the "brotherhood" is no longer a "hood" of "brethren" but becomes a "churchhood" in reality; (3) this "churchhood" begins to own schools, "homes", and other institutions; and (4) to act collectively in their operation (5) As these developments are taking place, a peculiar "brotherhood" (?) doctrine is being formed -- the consensus of opinion, or "great middle-ground of the majority. At this stage it is not written -- and it may have to survive by the same rules as "baptist usage" -- but it is a denominational "creed" none-the-less.

One of the first "problems" of a young and tender denomination is nomenclature -- the "words" to use. How does one speak or write of "our" work or instittantns, when in the recent past the single local church was regarded as the largest functional unit among "us"? The older members still recall our sermons on "no earthly headquarters" "elders over one flock only" etc. How does one change "Bible authority" to "Church of Christ doctrine" without arousing the ire of a few remaining old-fogies?

Another problem is "consulting the brotherhood." When the "churchhood" needs (?) to be consulted about something, how does one go about this -- until the time comes "we" can have an honest-to- goodness conference. These "area-wide" meetings help, and a well-organized series of such can "feel out" the situation, but it is still a sticky business.

And how can "brethren at large" be represented, as to doctrine or desire? Once we openly acknowledge denominational status the machinery can be set up and this problem will vanish; but how can the "brotherhood" churchhood speak, while we still claim to have "independent autonomous" congregations only? It's a real sweat.

How does the "brotherhood" churchhood own property -- such as schools, camps, orphan homes, etc? This shook the brethren of Kentucky in 1875, who thought they owned the school in Lexington, but found such was easier said than done (See Search for Ancient Order, West; Vol.2). "Progressive" brethren then found the solution in a United Society, after some years and tears. But how does a tender beginning denomination, not yet ready to acknowledge a "headquarters," handle this? Is this why the "board" arrangement is so embarrassing to some? The"alms" to-a-(sponsoring)-"church-in-need" argument is getting rather thin, brethren!!

Restructuring is a long way off -- or is it? Anyhow, "we" have enough problems for -- chief among them being to open our eyes to the existence of this young fledgling denomination, and cease to feed and encourage its growth and development.