Vol.VI No.X Pg.6
December 1969

Co-Op Ambiguity

Robert F. Turner

We continue quotation of article by Jesse P. Sewell, from CHRISTIAN LEADER, Apr. 15, 1941. See last issue of Plain Talk for first installment.


One congregation may cooperate with another congregation in any worship or service permissible to a congregation, and each congregation remain complete and independent within itself. The congregation doing the thing makes its own decisions, determines its own procedure, and on the basis of these, invites and accepts the cooperation of one or more other congregations. These other congregations remain complete and free under Christ to determine for themselves, to cooperate or not to cooperate, solely and entirely on their own understanding of and attitude toward the thing in which they are invited to cooperate.

wo congregations may not, on the basis of the doctrine declared in this paper, cooperate together in planning, deciding or determining anything. Cooperation together thus, means studying, planning and deciding together. in joint consideration. with reference to any given act or procedure. This cannot be done except as the two or more congregations, as units or through delegates, get together and jointly consider and decide the matter in hand. This cannot be done without each congregation forfeit its completeness and independence.

In joint or mutual consideration and decision there is of necessity a forfeiture of individual completeness and independence. When two men jointly consider and decide any proposition neither of them does it independently. When two congregations or more jointly or mutually decide or determine any course of procedure for the entire number (two or more) neither of them does it independently. Two or more congregations, cooperating in this way together in anything, great or small, to any extent, clearly violate the doctrine of congregational completeness and independence under Christ.

Bro. Sewell made the same ambiguous use of cooperate that is common today; but he recognized a distinction within the bounds of this word that is rarely seen by current liberals. Independent action and collective action are NOT COMPATIBLE. Being willing to enter into city-wide or area-wide planning sessions, or to support and execute the results of such, doesnt change the fact that congregational completeness and independence under Christ has been sacrificed. Such willingness is a willingness to do wrongly.

Whoever first applied cooperate to the assistance of a church in need (2 Cor. 8: etc.) confused a lot of people. The term is too broad — which explains the seeming contradictions in bro. Sewells article.

No collective action of churches is involved when one sends alms to a dependent church; and this is in no wise comparable to churchhood projects like Herald of Truth , however planned and executed.