White Unto Harvest
Compromise with Error
History tells us that Don Carlos Janes was one of the most zealous advocates for foreign missionary work of his day. We are told that he traveled 9,000 miles to visit various mission fields in the year 1919 alone, and that he conducted a world tour in 1920. However, our feelings towards him are tempered by the fact the brother Janes believed in premillennialism. Earl West writes of one of the results of brother Janes' work: "Clearly, then, premillenialism reached out to touch the vast mission fields over the world." (Search for the Ancient Order, Vol. 4, p. 204) This brief look into the past should cause us to be circumspect in our view of mission work in our day. This is especially so in light of the convictions some brethren today have expressed with regards to unity.
A. Glenn Jones and the Work in Germany
In the June, 1992 issue of Christianity Magazine on his "Lights in the World" page, brother Sewell Hall had an article entitled, "Lights in `Dark Places'." In it he told the story of a Christian's experience in the former communist East Germany. This story was a quote from a newsletter by brother Glenn Jones, who preaches in Kiel, Germany. Glenn's report was written after he had preached at the church where the subject of the story was a member.
"Hans Schaller and his wife, Christine, (followed by their devout family and many other believing friends) learned the truth regarding conversion and the Lord's church, and obeyed the Gospel during this difficult time.
"The Schallers had maintained contact with two evangelists in West Germany....They made Hans aware of the error of infant baptism and the related problems regarding the church as described in the New Testament. After an intensive battle within his own mind and an open confrontation with the leaders of the "Fellowship" [to which he belonged, S.H.], Hans finally accepted Christ's concept of conversion and influenced many to follow him. Thus, a church was established in the small community of Oelsnitz (Erzgebirge)."
The above story is encouraging and the man's faith commendable. However, it is what this story does not tell that is significant. The church in Oelsnitz is an institutional church. Brother Hall was not the first one to tell brother Schaller's story. A similar account appeared in the far left liberal Christian Chronicle, January, 1991. This one included the facts that one of the "two evangelists in West Germany" mentioned by Sewell who taught Hans Schaller was Reiner Kallus, one of our liberal brethren, and that brother Schaller "is now a full-time minister with the Oelsnitz church, sponsored by the Central church in Claremore, Okla."
While a number of conclusions might be drawn from the above facts this article centers on one: Glenn Jones held a meeting at a liberal church. In his report for the first quarter of 1992 he wrote of a meeting in Oelsnitz, "My lessons emphasized Christ and His revelation as the basis of truth and salvation, the topic of conversion, and the scriptural understanding of `faith and works'." Brother Jones dealt with matters other than the sins which have led to the current division among churches of Christ. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I regret having to inform brethren of the following facts:
Glenn's reports show he has been practicing open fellowship with such brethren stretching back into the 1980's, both having institutional brethren (his term) in for meetings at the church in Kiel and holding meetings for institutional churches.
In 1991, Buddy Payne visited Germany as part of a fact finding tour concerning opportunities to preach the Gospel in Eastern Europe. Glenn helped brother Payne on this part of his trip. Part of Buddy's report of this trip spoke of, "...Reiner and Karl Kallus (mentioned in the above quote from Christian Chronicle, sw) who work with the only church in East Germany at Oelsnitz (same church as mentioned in above article by brother Hall, sw). Glenn has studied with them; they are conservative in their approach to Scripture." (With All Boldness, 10/90, p. 4) One can clearly see Glenn's influence on brother Payne. These two brethren are liberals, but brother Jones calls them conservatives.
Brother Jones recently preached at the institutional church in Augsburg, Germany, as is apparent in this quote from a post an Arizona sister e-mailed me in September, 1998:
"I spoke with a very conservative preacher in the Institutional fellowship who labors there (institutional church in Augsburg, Germany, sw)....he had brother Glen Jones from the northern part of Germany come down to Augsburg and hold a meeting for them, because he is sound in doctrine and teaching. Brother Jones is in our fellowship."
Glenn was also listed in the October, 1997 issue of the Gospel Advocate among preachers laboring in Germany.
When Glenn was at Florida College he was influenced by the loose teaching on grace popularized by Edward Fudge and W. Carl Ketcherside. In the early 1990's he and I had a lengthy correspondence in which we discussed grace and fellowship. He made the usual arguments of the grace-fellowship brethren for fellowship with erring brethren from 1 John 1 and Romans 14. One can clearly see that Glenn is not just making these arguments theoretically; he is putting them into practice. Beyond all this, for many years Glenn has pushed the doctrine that the Law of Moses was never done away except for Christians when they are baptized. The end result of this teaching is a liberalizing of Christ's marriage law in Matthew 19:9. Several brethren have discussed this with Glenn, myself included.
I am confident that some churches are supporting brother Jones who are not aware of his convictions and practices on the above matters. One purpose of this article is to make such brethren aware of these facts. If anyone needs documentation of the things stated in this article he should contact me. There are some who continue their support of Glenn and are fully aware of his fellowship with liberal brethren. This brings us to our next point.
B. Sewell Hall and Glenn Jones
One reason that brother Hall would have the information on brother Jone's trip to the church in Oelsnitz is that the Embry Hills church, where Sewell preaches, has been supporting Glenn for many years. Shortly after his article telling the story of the brother in Oelsnitz I wrote Sewell to discuss Glenn's compromises with error. Sewell knows of Glenn's convictions and practice. He is aware of Glenn's teaching on the Law of Moses. However, as far as I know, Embry Hills still supports Glenn. Further, Glenn has been used as a writer for Christianity Magazine a number of times over the years in spite of Sewell's knowledge of where Glenn stands on the above issues.
A brother close to Sewell who worships at Embry Hills once told me that it was "different over here" (in Europe) with reference to the issues of centralization in that brethren have not divided over them. First, the church where I labor sent out a bulletin in German for a couple years. One contained an article entitled "The Silence of the Scriptures" in which I showed the error of centralization as commonly practiced among institutional brethren. I received a letter from the largest church which received it asking me not to send its members our bulletin anymore and was informed by Glenn that my name was "mud" among such brethren as a result. A German institutional preacher once helped a church made up of Americans get rid of me when I opposed the common liberal practices of institutionalism and church social meals. One reason why it's "different" over here might be that teaching the truth on these matters is not tolerated! Secondly, if a preacher like Glenn can be supported in Germany, why can he not be supported in the U.S.? Why would it be "different?"
C. The Context of the Things We Report Herein
This article is being written at a time when the concept of doctrinal unity-in-diversity has been discussed among brethren for almost 10 years. This discussion was occasioned by a 17 part series in Christianity Magazine by brother Ed Harrell, one of the magazine's 5 editors of whom brother Hall is also one. In the midst of this series, Ed wrote:
"Neither can one argue that the passage simply proves that we
can disagree about indifferent matters....The issue in Romans 14 is
precisely the establishment of the right of brethren to differ in
matters of `faith.' It gives sanction to private conscience: `Hast
thou faith? have it to thyself before God' (verse 22).
"The teaching in Romans 14, then, speaks to the practical circumstance in which we find ourselves. Good men disagree..."
"...All of God's instructions are equally important (though, as we shall see in subsequent articles, all may not be equally clear) -- whether dealing with the identity of the church, the Christian and war, the behavior of women in the assembly or marriage and divorce. Disobedience is disobedience, and sin is sin. So, the statement that I make when I work together with a brother with whom I disagree is that, despite our disagreement, `to his own master he standeth or falleth' (verse 4) " (April, 1989, p. 6)
"It is obvious that Christians sometimes disagree about scriptural instruction, even in matters of considerable moral and doctrinal import. In spite of these disagreements, we work and worship together, leaving many matters of individual judgment in the hands of God. That behavior, uniformly practiced throughout the history of Christianity is, I believe, the issue addressed in Romans 14." (May, 1989, p. 6, all emphasis mine)
The clear results of applying this teaching is unity-in-doctrinal-diversity or, in other terms, compromise with error. While the arguments have, in some cases, shifted in the interim years from Romans 14 (e.g., brethren have appealed to what the church has always practiced, as in the above quote from brother Harrell, or they have appealed to church autonomy saying that it gives a local church the right to hire or receive erring brethren, or that one cannot warn another church about a false teacher because of church autonomy), the emphasis on this kind of unity has not changed.
I frankly do not know where brother Hall stands with regards to brother Harrell's teaching. I know of no writing or preaching by him which is for or against what Ed wrote. He must not have believed Ed's series to contain any dangerous error since he never rebuked or exposed it (Galatians 2:11-14; Ephesians 5:11). It is clear that he is condoning the kind of unity to which Ed's articles would logically lead. (I know Ed and know for a fact that he would not fellowship institutionalism.) In addition to this, while I am sure that Sewell would oppose unity with many errors we might mention, it is hard to see how he could do so and be consistent. Also, it should be noted that Sewell's support of Glenn has continued in spite of the preaching and writing of brethren in reaction to brother Harrell's teaching. Such brethren have shown the error of this concept many times over. It is not the purpose of this article to discuss these matters further. However, in light of the current context of the matters brought forth herein, some questions are in order. Does institutionalism fit into Romans 14? Does local church autonomy allow a church to practice institutionalism or fellowship therewith? Would brother Hall invite a preacher from a sponsoring church to hold a meeting at Embry Hills? Have we been wrong to oppose institutionalism as a soul-threatening error?
With regard to brother Jones, for whatever reason, it was after brother Harrell's series on unity that Glenn first argued to me that Romans 14 is talking about false doctrine. This took place when we were discussing his open fellowship with institutional brethren. In light of this, if he does not believe
My reasons for bringing this out at this time are as follows. I tried discussing these matters with Glenn in the early 1990's and he stopped the discussion. I started talking to Sewell in May of 1991 about the current problems of unity with error and have gotten nowhere. I have both spoken to him face-to-face and written him letters and e-mail. I have begged and pleaded (literally) with him for him to reconsider both his actions and where his influence is. While Sewell has always been kind to me, he has shown no willingness to act like there even is any problem with regards to fellowship with error, especially the kind of fellowship detailed herein. Further, there has been a general reluctance on the part of all the brethren associated with brother Hall, both the editors of Christianity Magazine and those who have taught things similar to what brother Harrell has taught, to discuss the issue of unity-in-doctrinal-diversity and the various false arguments that have been used to advance it. Beyond these things, one cannot help but fear for the future of mission work here in Europe and other places should brother Jones' example of how to deal with institutional brethren influence others to follow. Because of our long relationship I am confident that Sewell knows that I love and respect him. He is a good man and has done much good. I regret both the necessity of writing this article and that some worthy man in the mission field may be questioned as a result of it.
Note: I sent Sewell a copy of this article well in advance of its publication with an offer for him to respond. He declined my offer saying that he would defend the faith but has no desire to defend himself. (This makes my article look like a personal attack on brother Hall.) I pointed out to him that it was not him that I was writing about but his practice. I gave him the example of Paul's actions with Peter in Galatians 2:11ff, noted that it was Peter's practice that caused Paul to say what he did, and that Paul was not attacking Peter.
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