Vol.VII No.III Pg.6
May 1970

Canadian Co-Op, 1843

Robert F. Turner

For 20 years or more we have tried to warn brethren of this generation that when cooperation becomes collective action of a plurality of churches, it violates congregational independence, and is the historic way to denominational organization. Most of our examples have been taken from the history of brethren in this country. We were not surprised, however, to find that the same movement took place in Canada.

Note the following quotes from History of the Disciples of Christ in Canada Since 1830 by Reuben Butchart; pub. 1949.

The method of working together in Christian effort beyond the bounds of the local church has immemorially been known as the co-operation. It was a method, not an entity. But, in time, the brethren learned they could safely delegate power to persons to act for the body. Thus the idea of an organization became a fact, perhaps in 1846. As men saw that the move was in harmony with other advances of mankind confidence was raised. That adverse criticism should hamper progress by so humane a method is something to marvel at. Liberty has been sorely won, in religion as in State.

The writer could offer no harmony with the scriptures, but felt it accorded with humane methods and advances of mankind. Acknowledging opposition, he attempts to escape by ridicule. He writes, as do some today, as though the opposition asks for specific authority for everything to be done in religion; then has the gall to say they beg the question. He says, One hidden cause for hesitation lay in the realm of expedients for the propagation of the gospel message. With the concept of a church and its fundamental beliefs and practices clearly and prophetically outlined in the New Testament, grew apparently, in some minds, as an afterthought, the idea that nothing but what was used, mentioned, or approved in the Book should constitute any part of Christian endeavor, either within or without the church. This attitude to disciplined minds, plainly begs the question: It is clearly uncritical and unsound.

But our liberal brethren are far to brilliant to be held in check by divine authority. In Canada, as in the U. S. A., The practical awoke in them as they threw off some of the chains of fear. Two churches would co-operate, practically always their method. Soon a group joined in, and their proceedings justified the step, because the laborers sent forth returned and told the church just what they had done. Thus the Church was honored; but still (in the words of the gospel) some believed not. Yet, the parent co-operation, the Eramosa-Erin Co-operation, the Niagara one, the Georgian Bay co-operation, the Prince Edward County co-operation came to productive life. By the year 1843 a provincial co-operation was in being, in a manner in which the majority apparently agreed. (Chapter 7, Pp. 77-f.)

Today brethren are co-operating themselves into the same organizational trap. History foretells the fate of those who blindly repeat it.