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[Also] in the Rending of Our Brotherhood a Century Ago—Did You Know?

November 4 2007 at 1:42 PM
John Waddey  (no login)
from IP address

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf of John Waddey
Sent: Saturday, November 03, 2007 4:55 PM
Subject: [fortify_your_faith] A Lesson to Fortify Your Faith - 11/3/07

    Christian Greetings to all our readers:

    Today we review a subject that played a major role in the break in
    fellowship that occurred back in the opening years of the 20th
    century. Since we are prone to forget the mistakes of the past, it is
    important that we remind ourselves lest we repeat the mistake in our
    day. Please share this with others.

    —John Waddey



      One of the major factors in the rending of our brotherhood a century ago was the American Christian Missionary Society. Today, most members of the church have no idea what is under consideration when the term "missionary society" is used. Worse still, most of the men now preaching have no understanding of how it came to pass and why our brethren rejected it. Because of this lack of knowledge, we are vulnerable to those who would like to create similar organizations today.

      Most of those who supported the missionary society in the early days did so thinking they were promoting the evangelism of the world. But men like Alexander Campbell, David S. Burnett, W. K. Pendleton and Isaac Errett understood that they were laying the foundation for a broader brotherhood organization. They reasoned that the church universal could not act without organization and cooperation of all its member churches. Burnett had already organized a brotherhood Bible Society and Tract Society. Once the missionary society was viable, in quick succession they organized a Benevolence Society, A society to provide for aged ministers and a society to assist churches in building houses of worship. They had a Sunday School Society and a Ladies' Aid Society. Missionary Societies were organized in each state and efforts were made to involve every congregation in them.

      The men responsible for creating the Missionary Society and promoting it did not begin by finding a scriptural foundation for it. Rather they created what they wanted and when challenged, they sought for some way to justify it. Resorting to expediency as the basis for the organization, they argued that there was no law against it. This same argument was used for each new innovation they desired to have.

      W. K Pendleton acknowledged this saying, "We fall back upon the combined wisdom and piety of the church, and adopt by general consent, a human expedient" (Millennian Harbinger, Vol. 37, Nov. 1866, p. 505).

      In earlier days they had viewed the silence of the Scripture on such things as reason to reject them. But their love for the society they had created caused them to reject that biblical position and argue that if the Bible did not condemn a thing, they were free to do it.

      The question of the Missionary Society wracked the brotherhood from 1849 until the division was finally realized in 1906.

      • The heart of the debate was not about mission work. All agreed it was the duty of the church to preach the gospel to the lost.

      • It was not about cooperation in preaching the gospel. All believed that two or more churches could cooperate in doing a good work beyond the capacity of a single congregation.

      • It was about people who were convinced the congregations of the church were incapable of doing the work of evangelizing the world.

      • It as about people who believed they could create a better organization for doing His business than God himself had done.

      • It was an attempt to imitate the missionary organizations of various denominational churches.

      • It was the creation of men who believed that the many congregations of the brotherhood needed a national organization to handle, not just missions, but every phase of church life. They wanted to organize the churches by locality, state, region and nationally. They wanted power to regulate fund-raising, ministerial appointments and retirement, etc.

      Our brethren rejected the missionary society, primarily because there was no scriptural authority for such an organization. They believed the church was fully capable of doing the work Christ had commissioned her to do.

      They foresaw that such an organization could become an oppressive master over the churches and thus rejected it. Their fears came true. The Disciples of Christ denomination is now governed and controlled by such an organization that steadily evolved from the Missionary Society.

      Never forget that the church of Christ is thoroughly capable of doing any task that God has given her. Let her do those jobs and may the glory by to her and her Lord.


      John Waddey

    ___________________________________ — Learn about Christianity as it was practiced by the apostles and Christians of the first century. — Addressing the changes being advocated in the Lord's church and to examine them in light of Scripture.


John Waddey, Editor
Christianity: Then and Now


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