Intolerant Attack of the
Broader Fellowship Crowd
Feature editor's note: This writer recently returned from an preaching effort in the Philippines [see report below]. Brother Osborne's article is timely, showing as it does the significance of current issues among brethren in the U.S. to faithful brethren in other countries and to efforts to take the gospel to the lost of the world.
For several years, the South Livingston church of Christ has supported brother Domie Jacob in his work of preaching the gospel in the Philippines. We have been thankful for his faithfulness to the truth and have admired his diligent and effective work in service to the Master. Having just returned from a brief stay with brother Domie, I would like the members of this congregation to know a little more about the faith, diligence and effectiveness of this dear brother.
Brother Jacob lives in Cordon which is located near the center of Luzon, the main northern island in the Philippines. He preaches at four congregations each Lord's day. The trip each week requires him to be on very rough roads through the mountains and into remote areas. His transportation is a pickup truck that has long passed its prime. The tires were totally bald when we visited. His radio program does much good throughout that area. In each church we visited in that area, I met people who had come out of error due to the program. Domie also writes excellent material in his native dialect and in English to help reach the lost and edify the saints. The hardships he bears on a daily basis to preach the truth would be hard for many brethren in our country to even imagine.
It saddens me to tell you that another hardship was brought to bear upon our brother Domie by a church in this country which canceled its support and ridiculed him because of his stand for truth. Brother Jacob wrote an extensive article on the history of the church noting various apostasies throughout history. Near the end of that article, he noted the error on "Unity-in-Diversity" promoted by Ed Harrell in Christianity Magazine and the failure of the other editors (Dee Bowman, Paul Earnhart, Sewell Hall and Brent Lewis) to rebuke the error taught by Ed Harrell. Every word that brother Domie wrote was true and the facts were documented. However, his stand has caused him to lose support greatly needed in his work and to be the object of personal aspersions.
When the elders of the Douglass Hills church in Middletown, Kentucky read brother Jacobs article, they said they would "expect" Domie to write "a retraction for publication" because their preacher, Paul Earnhart, was named in the article. (The elders of the South Livingston congregation have a copy of the 10/20/02 letter from the Douglass Hills elders to brother Jacob as well as the related correspondence since it directly relates to the work of a brother we are supporting from the treasury here.) Though brother Jacob did not know Paul Earnhart was the preacher at Douglass Hills and had no intent of raising a point of conflict, Domie found himself faced with a dilemma. If he retracted words of truth to satisfy a supporter, his actions would amount to a compromise with error. If he maintained the truth as stated and documented, he knew the much needed support would probably end. What was he to do?
On November 6, 2002, brother Jacob responded to the letter from the elders at Douglass Hills which he had received only two days previously. He kindly assured them that he had not intended to offend them or to stir any conflict with them. However, Domie reiterated and further documented his statement that Paul Earnhart had shown tolerance for the "Unity-in-Diversity" approach to fellowship advanced by Christianity Magazine by failing to rebuke Ed Harrell's erroneous teaching and continuing to "receive" him in violation of 2 John 9-11. Brethren, the measure of a man is often seen when he is called upon to stand regardless of the cost. Brother Jacob took his stand for truth!
The consequence for taking his stand came while Ron Halbrook and I were in the Philippines. We extended our trip by several days to go visit with brother Domie and encourage him. Older Filipino brethren in particular find it very difficult to openly disagree with American brethren. In fact, Filipino brethren often look up to their American brethren as "hero" figures who are beyond questioning. American brethren must be careful not to take advantage of such cultural situations, but encourage our Filipino brethren to recognize their equal place and responsibility in the kingdom of God (Acts 10:34-35; Rom. 2:11; 10:12; Gal. 2:6; Eph. 6:9). There is no place in the kingdom of God for us to act with condescension, but we must esteem our brethren above ourselves (Phil. 2:2-4; Rom. 12:10-16).
That ideal for conduct towards our brethren stands in sharp contrast to the treatment received by brother Domie. Though he had clearly documented and proven the truthfulness of his statements, the elders of the Douglass Hills church did not answer a single point he made. Instead, one of the elders, Larry Coffey, wrote on behalf of the eldership the following in a half-page letter dated 11/26/02 to brother Jacob: "Evidently you don't understand English, or worse you don't want to understand." The truth is that Domie writes detailed reports in English and his wife taught English for many years. It saddens me that any brother in Christ would say such to an humble and honest servant of God like Domie. It alarms me that the undertones of xenophobia and judgment of motives would be raised by anyone in such a situation. It totally shocks me that such would be said by a man who serves as an elder among God's people! When brethren document error in our midst, they should not be attacked as the enemy. Their honest warnings should cause faithful brethren to heed the loving warning and return to the truth (Eph. 4:14-16; 2 Tim. 2:24-26; 4:2-5; Gal. 4:16). It might also be noted that brother Coffey is a member of the board at Florida College which has shown a similar reaction to proven and documented error tolerated there. While shouting the need for love, the actions of such brethren have been far from loving in conflicts with others concerning doctrinal differences. It is not enough to merely claim that we love our brethren. The biblical love mandated by our Lord demands, "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth" (1 Jn. 3:18).
After impugning brother Jacob's intelligence or his honesty, the letter delivered the consequence exacted upon him. It said,
Though brother Domie received the letter on December 11 after cashing the check of support on December 2 and paying the radio station for the program time, these brethren expected him to return the money despite it having already been spent in preaching the gospel. Having visited in the Jacob family's home, I find it inconceivable that relatively wealthy brethren would seek to require a man of far lesser means to return support funds already used in the Lord's work so that they can punish him for daring to speak the truth! Make no mistake about it -- that is exactly what has happened in this case. These brethren did not try to answer the points made by brother Domie. They merely cut him off! They did not practice long-suffering in an effort to resolve the differences. They merely cut him off! They did not treat brother Jacob as an honest and honorable brother who has sacrificed more than most can imagine to preach the gospel under very difficult circumstances. They merely cut him off! Though brother Domie offered to discuss the matter, they promptly cut him off!
The pattern of brethren seeking to justify and tolerate a broader fellowship, then acting to sever fellowship quickly from brethren upholding the truth is not a new phenomenon. Institutional brethren did it with the "yellow tag of quarantine" in the 1950's. Much the same was done in New Testament times (3 Jn. 10). The familiar pattern is being seen again today. The same brethren who are willing to tolerate those who teach error on fellowship, divorce and remarriage, the creation account or other doctrinal subjects are not willing to discuss and forbear with those who teach and document the truth. While faithful brethren seek to leave the door open for further study and discussion, those claiming greater tolerance show themselves to be the ones who have drawn the line of fellowship excluding faithful brethren. Sad, but predictable.