have just returned home from the Dallas meeting held July 12-14, 1990, for the purpose of working toward unity among brethren in Christ. Several hundred were in attendance, the majority being preachers. The public discussions embraced twenty-five hours of talk by fifty speakers. The studies were held on neutral ground at the Double Tree Hotel. With some minor exceptions, an excellent spirit and attitude was present among speakers and non-speakers alike.
Many terms were used to distinguish the positions of the speakers, viz-cooperative, non-cooperative, conservative, liberal, anti, pros, cons, institutional, non-institutional, my side, your side, etc.
The institutional vs. non-institutional terms were used widely, and yet both sides throughout the discussions were arguing for the institutional church concept! It seemed that all viewed Christ's body to be an institution differing only perhaps in degree. Christ was notably absent in the speeches while "churchanity" (Church of Christ-ism) abounded.
The brethren who referred to themselves as "non-institutional" but who perhaps are more institutional than those they referred to as "Institutional", contended throughout the three days for the "local church institution". Almost all of their speeches concerned the work, worship, and organization of this institution. Two tables of printed papers (magazines) and tracts contained their thinking. Since most of my active life in Christ's body has been in association with these men, I know the writers well. I have written for their papers. Personal experiences with many have been enjoyed. I remember well the peace and harmony we had where I lived until I was approximately 25 years old. Then certain activities began to be advocated and these brethren began to respond in sermon and writing. In 19561 joined them in this endeavor preaching my first sermon in that year. I had previously written against such.
One of the papers distributed at the Dallas meeting was the July 5, 1990 issue of Guardian of Truth. It was composed of reprints of earlier writings of prominent men who opposed the cooperative works of the 1950-60 period. Some of these writers are now dead. All of the writings were directed to the local church institution that these men and many others have created. It is only when this concept has been eliminated that we can have the unity we prayed for so many times in Dallas.
We must remember or learn that our relationship to God and Christ is not found in an institution of any kind, but rather in the blood-bought family. Jesus neither created nor died for an institution (regardless of what it is called), but for a relationship existing directly between himself and his followers. Such topics as those presented on "Congregational vs. Individual Activities," "Work of the Congregation", "Cooperation of Congregations", and "Congregations and Institutions" show clearly our confused thoughts on what Jesus purchased with his precious blood. He only purchased you, me, and all other immersed believers, and never an institution of any kind.
The pages of The Examiner have been filled since its beginning with article after article explaining these points. I do not need to re-write concerning such, but would urge you, my dear reader, to re-read these lessons and see how easily and quickly divisions would be eliminated if adherence to their principles was practiced.
Some other observations about the Dallas meeting for what they are worth:
1. The difference in attitude of the older and younger preachers. The older ones on both sides admitted to many mistakes in understanding and judgmental actions. The younger ones were so positive and adamant. It reminded me of forty years ago when I knew all the answers. Now, however, I'm not sure I even understood the questions?
2. Two of the "non-institutional" preachers made marvelous and moving speeches concerning unity, association, and fellowship; yet they scarcely spoke to me, whom they had known for 20-35 years, because of questions I have raised.
3. The fact that 90+% of the basis of the division in the first place is over expediencies-- how to do the work of evangelism and benevolence. All agree it must be done. Division is perhaps the most condemned sin in the N.T., and division over expediency (human opinion, judgment) is, without a doubt, sin.
4. The tremendous amount of money spent to bring all these brethren together to discuss these problems (which are based on erroneous concepts) would have supported several evangelists or indigents for many months.
5. Someone toward the end of the program asked me what I thought of the meeting. I replied that Charles Holt (who was present) could settle this whole thing, in principle, in 15 minutes if they would give him the podium. Needless to say, no offer was made.
6. The inconsistency (hypocrisy?) of the affair found the brethren of one side would eat with, call on for prayer, sing with, and otherwise fellowship those on the other side at the hotel, but would not do so (or would not be allowed) back home in their "church buildings". Someone commented to me about how wonderful the fellowship was in these studies. My reply was to just wait until they all get home. It would all cease then!
7. The fact that we could listen with such intensity and interest to a speaker in the hotel, but would not drive a dozen blocks to hear him in a church building owned by our opposers.
My prayer, "Oh God, help us to open our eyes to the simple way of our Lord, unshackled from any institutional concept of any kind; let us serve you as a Christian and not as a church member, and let us all realize that we are not divided about matters of faith (what you have said), but by matters of expediency (where we must use human reasoning and judgment). In your Son's lovely name, Amen." -Tychicus