Unity Graphic

Unity of the Spirit VS Unity in Diversity

Charts (Lesson One)
Historical and Biblical Fellowship

"The Right Hand of Fellowship"
(Galatians 2:9)

Fellowship In Christ
Limited By God's Holiness, Possible By Forgiveness
(1 John 1)

God Is Light.
We Must Walk in the Light To Be Sons of Light

Opposing Theories
Calvinism (Tulip)
Abuse of Grace
Abuse of Romans 14
Unity in Diversity
(Open-ended Fellowship in Sin)

Bizarre Theme For Christians To Discuss

"The Right Hand of Fellowship"
(Galatians 2:9)


Does the Bible Teach An Open-Ended Fellowship With Some Sinful Beliefs and Practices?

Does Grace Cover Sin?
Shall We Accept Sinners?
Is Doctrine Unimportant?
Receive Adulterous Marriages?
Fellowship Teachers of Error?
Is Unity in Diversity Scriptural?

"The Right Hand of Fellowship"
(Galatians 2:9)


Historical Meaning

Tolerance Toward Error
Denominational Unity
Doctrinal Looseness
Used by Ketcherside, et al
Destroyed Faith of Many
Trail of Broken Churches

Current Usage By Brethren

Suggestive of Same Ideas
Clouds The Issues
Will Lead Others Astray

(Fellowship with Error)


"Unity in Matters of Faith"
Liberty in Matters of Opinion"
"Charity in All Things"


"Liberty in Matters of Faith"
"Liberty in Matters of Opinion"
"Tolerance in all Things" (Except Toward Those Who Oppose)





Conformity Or Diversity
Carl Ketcherside, The Twisted Scriptures, p. 71-72

Some of those who mistake conformity for unity appear to be startled when they first learn that we suggest there may be unity in diversity. Actually we go much further than that. We assert that if there is any unity at all it must be unity in diversity, if it is to be enjoyed by free men. There is no other kind of unity except for slaves. Our opponents themselves are proof of this. Not one of them is a member of a congregation where every person understands each scripture alike. Each party agrees upon the factional test it has singled out and made the supreme issue. Upon every other matter the greatest latitude is permitted. Conformity does not make for better Christians, but for greater hypocrites.....

Our unity is in a person, not in our personal opinions. We are one in Christ. Ours is the unity of the Spirit. Nothing is more clearly taught in the word of God. The Spirit of God dwells in every child of God. There is but one Spirit and every one in whom the Spirit dwells is one with every other such person....

W. Carl Ketcherside

4. Fellowship is not contingent upon unanimity of opinion and has no real relation to it, although the twisted factional mentality seeks to establish such a relationship. The unity of the Spirit is based upon community, not conformity. The only unity attainable by thinking men is that of diversity. The unity of conformity must first reduce men to robots. It belongs to the wax museum and not to the temple of God. Jesus did not die for puppets nor allow himself to be murdered for manikins.

In Romans 14 we learn that there were varied opinions in the early church. These were not allowed to become the basis of rejection. "As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions" (verse 1). "One man believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables." Paul effectively spiked the creeping creedal conformity which has so often blossomed forth in all of its inglorious tendencies in modern Church of Christism. The entire chapter is a stirring apologetic for unity in diversity. It stands squarely athwart the path of every partisan journalist in our day....

(Mission Messenger: Vol. 29, No. 12; Dec. 1967)

Carl Ketcherside

The Twisted Scriptures, p. 103-104

All of the brothers I have are "brothers in error." There are no other kind. Those who think they are not are in the worst error of all. But if they were good enough for God to accept they are not too bad for me to acknowledge. They can be my brothers on the same basis they are His children, and I will not stigmatize them as causing division when they are simply victims of it like the rest of us.

Devotion, Not Doctrine
Leroy Garrett
Restoration Review, Dec. 1987

If unity is a matter of seeing the Bible eye-to-eye, then believers will never be united, for they never have and never will see the Bible alike. And if believers ever have been united, such as in the early centuries (and other times as well) when they died together for their faith, it was not because of doctrinal agreement upon the Bible but because of their common devotion to Jesus Christ.

Lest we forget that the earliest church, which we may think of as united amidst substantial diversity, had no New Testament Scriptures upon which to unite. If the little band of saints in Philippi were of "the same mind in the Lord," as the apostle's letter to them would indicate, it was not because they had read the New Testament and agreed upon its contents, for the writings that make up that portion of the Bible were not yet determined and some were not yet written. So, it was something else (or Someone else) beside doctrinal conformity to a book that united them, and so, when Paul wrote to them he could refer not only to the fellowship of the Spirit but also to their abundant joy in Jesus Christ.

Freedom, Not Doctrinal Agreement

Free in Christ, Ch. 10, By Cecil Hook

In promoting and defending our doctrinal positions, we preachers have made many denunciations of false teachers whom we identified as persons who teach error. While we have admitted that no one teaches total error, we have declared that any point of error is sufficient to pervert the word of God and to make its proponent a false teacher...

Such branding has a solid, fundamental ring to it until one inquires a bit more deeply. The denouncer implies that he himself is in error on no point! He is right on everything; hence, he is no false teacher. Others teach some error, so they are false teachers. How blind and bigoted one can become!....

In Romans 14 and 15, Paul taught the saints to love and respect each other and to live in harmony even though they had some differing convictions....

Those who have gained freedom in Christ are free to accept brothers who bear the fruit of the Spirit even though they are not in total doctrinal agreement.

"Shall We Continue In Sin?"
(Romans 6:1)

"My purpose is not to pursue an endless battle with anyone. To the contrary, I believe Christians can disagree on the "must separate" contention regarding divorce and remarriage, and other like matters, without the scriptural necessity of division. Faithful Christians have done so for many decades until recent efforts by some brethren to alienate and separate themselves from those with whom they disagree on divorce and remarriage. However, they continue to extend fellowship to other with whom they disagree on the moral issue of whether or not it is ever proper for a Christian to take human life. They do so because one's conviction and conduct in the matter affects the individual's relationship to God rather than congregational fellowship with one another. If they are right in this course, and I am right about divorce and remarriage falling under the same principles, division is scripturally unnecessary and therefore abominable to God (Prov. 6:16-19)."

(Jerry Bassett, response to Joe Price's review of his article, "Which, Godly Peace or Sinful Division," Jan.3, 1998 )

"Ed Harrell"

"Reality compels us to acknowledge that, to some degree, restoration has always taken place within a framework of unity in diversity. The integrity of the plea to restore New Testament Christianity requires a reasonable explanation for the choices we make."

"The Bound of Christian Unity (3)" CM, April 1989, p. 102

"It is obvious that Christians sometimes disagree about scriptural instruction, even in matters of considerable moral and doctrinal import..." "However, our toleration of diversity is carefully restricted by the Bible."

"The Bound of Christian Unity (4)" CM, April 1989, p. 134

"Ed Harrell"

"On what basis do we establish the bounds of Christian unity? That is the crucial question that lies before us. Are individual fellowship and congregational unity based on total agreement? Historical reality denies that unanimity existed in New Testament congregations or that it exists today. Is there, then, a scriptural basis for maintaining unity when brethren disagree? If so, what are the limits of the concept of unity in diversity?" (Emph. mine, tr)

"The Bound of Christian Unity (2)" CM, March 1989, p. 6

Ed Harrell - Tied to Romans 14

"Within certain limits, God grants to Christians the right to a private conscience in matters of 'faith.' I believe that right is discussed in Romans 14. However, whether or not one accepts my exegesis of that passage, honest minds must acknowledge the reality of a past and present Christian world that tolerates contradictory teachings and practices on important moral and doctrinal questions."

"The Bounds of Christian Unity (16), May, 1990, p. 134

"..it would be less than honest to argue that scriptural local churches always exist without imperfections and, indeed, without some diversity of belief. At least two chapters written by the apostle Paul, Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 10 speak in detail of the proper approach to disagreement."

"The parameters of Fellowship" CM, March/April, 1997, p. 20.

Ed Harrell - "Restrictions"

Fellowship Some Sins - But Not All
Carl Ketcherside - Leroy Garrett

When avowing that we can fellowship "some sinful beliefs and practices" each teacher recognizes the need to limit which sins are acceptable.

Carl Ketcherside allows fellowship if:

  1. No Denial of Deity of Christ
  2. No Moral Turpitude
  3. Not Factional

Leroy Garrett allows fellowship if:

  1. No Denial of Deity of Christ

This is tolerant of all doctrinal error, many moral sins; includes fellowship with all denominations as "brethren."

Fellowship Some Sins - But Not All
Don Patton

When avowing that we can fellowship "some sinful beliefs and practices" each teacher recognizes the need to limit which sins are acceptable.

Don Patton limits those to:

  1. Brethren
  2. Individual, not congregation
  3. Each be "fully assured in own mind"
  4. Exclude "moral issues" (due to man's innate moral nature -- but --)

Apply these arbitrary rules to:





Error on Divorce


(Don Patton has advocated fellowship with some of these sins.)

Fellowship Some Sins - But Not All
Ed Harrell

When avowing that we can fellowship "some sinful beliefs and practices" each teacher recognizes the need to limit which sins are acceptable.

Ed Harrell allows fellowship if:

  1. Not Factional
  2. Not Immoral
  3. No Clear Violations of truth
    (Ed says some are unclear)
  4. Dishonest -- but --

Apply these arbitrary rules to:

Oral Roberts




Error on Divorce


(Ed Harrell has defended fellowship with Hailey in his error on divorce.)

Fellowship Some Sins - But Not All
Bob Owen

When avowing that we can fellowship "some sinful beliefs and practices" each teacher recognizes the need to limit which sins are acceptable.

Bob Owen limits sins to those:

  1. That do not shame the group
  2. Not Disruptive to Group (local church)
  3. Individual, Not collective Action
  4. Local Autonomy Decides which sins to receive -- But --

Apply these arbitrary rules to:







(Do not charge Bob Owen with fellowshipping these - his doctrine would not exclude them.)

"But the Weak Brother Thinks It Is Sin"

"Now the fellow who thought it could be a sin to eat those meats had to look at the other fellow and think he was sinning. Had to. In Rome, the fellow who thought it was a sin to eat any kind of meat would have to sin if you ate a piece of meat. And yet Paul taught them that they should accept each other."

"We Differ, Can We Fellowship," Concord, NC 2/19/95


Here is the crux of our differences!

Romans 14 used to permit, demand fellowship with those in practices they believe to be sinful!

Does Romans 14 Teach Us To Receive A Brother Whom We Believe to Be in Sin?

"Now some brethren have taken this passage and they have said, "Well, you see, there's really nothing wrong with the meat." And that's true. You and I know that because of what the Lord says here. And they have concluded that the only time that the principles of Romans 14 could be applied today would be when we are dealing with something that is innocent within itself. The terminology that is commonly used is, "When it is a matter of indifference." Or when it is a matter of opinion. Let me remind you. That man at Rome did not think it was a matter of opinion. He thought it was a matter of God's law. And that his conscience was violated if he ate the meat. He did it unto the Lord.

"Now, some have said, "But, oh, but look at verse 4 it says that the Lord hath already (or verse 3) that God hath already received him." And they imply from that that's Paul telling him that it is an innocent act. Not in this context. That's saying, "Who are you to judge that man? The Lord received him, he's the Lord's servant, the Lord is going to do the judging," and the next verse explains that. The next verse, verse 4 says, "Who art thou that judgest the servant of another? To his own lord he standeth or falleth." That statement in verse 3 is not saying that the act is innocent so whatever the man does is still alright. What it is saying in verse three is, "The Lord accepted him into his family. It's up to the Lord to do the judging of him. And you're not to be put in the position that you're his judge." God's going to do that.

Bob Owen, "Local Congregational Fellowship," TT, March 28, 1996

Note What Bob Owen contends:

Fellowship With Teachers of Error on Adulterous Marriage Issue Defended

"I'm talking tonight about fellowship... in the context of a series of discussions on the marriage question." (Bob Owen, Temple Terrace, FL, 9/2/93)

Specifically about Homer Hailey:

"I agree with those people who are critical of him on the Bible teaching with regard to divorce and remarriage, but I differ with them on their interpretation of the fellowship issue." (Bob Owen, Concord, NC, 2/19/95)

We may differ on "dozens of issues, involving both doctrinal and moral questions, without any breach of fellowship," including "the remarriage of divorced persons." (Earl Kimbrough, "How Shall We Treat Brethren With Whom We Disagree?", 1993, pp. 4, 6-7)

Unity In Diversity
(Fellowship with Error)

Are We Agreed on:

If Not, Tell Us Plainly!

If So, End the Controversy Now!


Unity In Diversity



Authorized Liberties

Sinful Beliefs, Practices, Fellowship with Error


Doctrinal Error
Moral Sins
Adulterous Marriages

Romans 14
1 Corinthians 8:8
1 Corinthians 8:9
1 Corinthians 10:23

Ephesians 5:11
2 John 9-11
Romans 1:32; 16:17
1 Corinthians 1:10-13

Romans 14:1

"Don't Receive"
2 John 9-11

Watch Out!
Don't Switch Terms!

Bob Owen & Rubel Shelly

Same Exegesis - Different Application

Bob Owen

Rubel Shelly

Romans 14 "receive"

Romans 14 "receive"

Not Indifferent Matters

Not Indifferent Matters

Doctrinal Differences

Doctrinal Differences

Limited Application

Broad Application

Do We Practice The Same Thing On Fellowship?

It is often stated that we practice in fact what we accuse others of doing, "Receiving into fellowship those we believe to be wrong in sinful doctrine." Not True !

The Difference Is Vital



Romans 14

1 Thessalonians 5:14; Jude 22;
Matthew 18


"Have no fellowship"
Ephesians 5:11

Pure, Clean, Good

Sinful, Violation of God's will

God accepts both - (Practitioner, Non-practitioner)

God does not accept
2 Corinthians 6:14-18

Continue in Practice

Cannot Continue
Romans 6:1, 15

Keep "faith" to Self

Preach The Faith
Galatians 1:23

Do Not Contend

Jude 3

No Time Limit

Time Limit
Matthew 18

Continue In Fellowship

Withdraw Fellowship
2 Thessalonians 3:8

"Every Congregation Has Doctrinal Differences"
(Does This Authorize On-Going Fellowship with Sin? How Is This Solved?)

Members: Include Weak, Babes, Rebels

Romans 14
Authorized Liberties

Ephesians 4
Bring to Maturity or Repentance

"Receive One Another"

"Bring to Perfection"

"Do Not Dispute"

Bring to Unity of the Faith

"Do Not Judge"

Save from Winds of Doctrines

Set No Time Limits

Allow Time to Grow: 1 Thessalonians 5:14

Do Not Contend

Contend: Jude 3

Allow Difference to Continue

Bring to Repentance: Acts 8

Be Fully Assured in Own Mind

Have No Fellowship: Ephesians 5:11

God Receives

God Does Not Receive: 1 John 1:5

No Limit to Fellowship

Limit to Fellowship: 2 Thessalonians 3:6

Institutional Brethren Denied New Hermeneutic
At First of Controversy
(How Authority is Determined)

"With much of brother Codgill's speech I am in complete agreement. In fact, I should say that the first half of it was largely a waste of time. No one calls in question these matters which he discussed regarding the authority of the scriptures..." "On this matter, we are agreed." (Cogdill-Woods debate, p. 26)

In fact, a new hermeneutic was being developed. Cogdill saw that and exposed it. He was criticized for accusing brethren falsely. Events have proven Brother Cogdill to be correct.

Some Brethren Deny A New Hermeneutic
In the Use of Romans 14

"...Campbell changed in his latter life from believing that nothing was to be allowed that was not authorized, to believing that what is not forbidden is permitted. That is a new hermeneutic. It is not a new hermeneutic because it involves a different interpretation of scripture. To interpret a passage differently does not mean that I have subtlety tried to broaden the boundaries of intended purpose of Christ. May I be plain? I interpret Romans 14 as dealing with matters of belief.

"I think it is a bad argument which has been common in the past to say that the strong man believed and the weak man had an opinion and he must give up his opinion. I believe that's a weak argument. But I could be mistaken in that. I'm very well aware that I am not infallible about interpretation. But if I am mistaken about that interpretation, I am not trying to make broader the uses of the Bible than the Bible itself intended. But there are some who are trying to do that. C.C. Morrison cloistered a phrase, or rather he concocted a phrase, in which he said "Liberty in Christ, freedom in fellowship." That is a different hermeneutic. It is not a different hermeneutic to interpret a passage differently.

(Harry Pickup, Jr. , Lexington, KY, July 14, 1998)

It Is a New Hermeneutic to Use Romans 14
to Fellowship Sinful Doctrines and Practices

All these Admit to a New Hermeneutic, But:

Harrell, Owen, Pickup, etc. Use Same Exegesis, Same Arguments, But Deny New Hermeneutic (The Application is Different).

Biblical Hermeneutics
"Fellowship With Sin"

Bible Teaching About Sin:

No Fellowship With Sin

Efforts for Fellowship With Sin:

This is a New Hermeneutic Among Brethren

Tolerance of Error
Roy Codgill

"Tolerance in the realm of human opinion and judgment is one thing, but to tolerate evil (Eph. 5:11) or error (II Cor. 6:14-18) is another. Paul refused to give way to false brethren so that the truth of the Gospel might continue with the Galatians (Gal. 2:4-5). Jude exhorts that we are to 'contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints' (Jude verse 3)."

GG, "Fellowship (III), Aug. 11, 1966, Vol. 18, No. 14, p. 209

Fellowship With Those Who Teach False Doctrine
Roy Codgill

"In the Roman letter, chapter 16, verses 17 and 18, Paul wrote this by the Holy Spirit, 'Now I beseech you brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.' This teaches not only that those who teach false doctrines cannot have fellowship with God but also that those who fellowship them in their false teaching are also alienated from God. False teachers are to be 'marked' or branded and avoided - not fellowshipped.

"On the same matter John wrote, 'Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds' (II John verses 9-11). When I give encouragement to the man who teaches contrary to the doctrine of Christ, I become a partaker with him in his evil works. It is evil works to teach error and it is likewise evil works to support, sustain, encourage, or in any manner have fellowship with a teacher of error.

"If God condemns a man who goes contrary to His Word, how is it possible for me to encourage and fellowship him when he does so and still have favor and fellowship with God? The fact is that it is impossible to do so. The idea, then, that I can be big hearted, tolerant, broad minded, and sweet dispositioned enough to put my arms around the teacher of error and fellowship him in his error, and at the same time have fellowship with God, is false completely. There is no compromise to make in matters of faith, if we are to stand with God and be recognized by him.

"Sometimes it becomes hard for us to refuse friends of long standing that go off after error and accept the doctrines and commandments of men rather than abiding in the doctrine of Christ. We allow our sympathy, affection, or esteem to get the better of us and we refuse to draw the line of fellowship, when truth has been violated and error is being taught. But when we do, we cannot have the approval of God and walk with Him."

GG, "Fellowship (IV), Vol. 18, No. 15, p. 225, 226

Unity In Diversity
(Fellowship with Error)

What is the Ultimate End?

The Bible Tells Us

History Tells Us

Will Today Be Any Different?


e-mail this author at tmr1@flash.net

Return to Watchman Front Page

return to February 1999 index