Church History Book Review

I Saw the Church: The Life of the Church of God Told Theologically

by Merle D. Strege
Reviewed date: 2023 Feb 28
401 pages
cover art

What is this book?
It's a history of the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) movement. The book was published in 2002.

by Cole P. Dawson, Professor of History, Warner Pacific College
Strege's book tells the history of the Church of God via its doctrinal formation. This is a theological history of the movement.

Strege thanks a lot of people.

In the 1950s C. W. Naylor published "The Teachings of D. S. Warner and His Associates" identifying errors in Warner's theology and practice, and encouraging the movement to grow and change—and noting that it was doing so.

Fifty years later Gilbert W. Stafford wrote a similar critique, looking at the current variety within the movement and asking what the Church of God movement is to be.

This book tells the story of the CHOG's "thought life or theology and practices" so that, knowing the story, we can decide where to go next.

What follows is a historical study of the ideas, personalities, events, and cultural currents that have combined to shape the identity of the Church of God movement. (page x)

Practices are often more important than systematic theologies, particularly in groups (like CHOG) that reject creeds or statements of doctrine "as a test of fellowship." (Not that CHOG rejects them altogether.) Practices such as: "footwashing, holiness, divine healing, song writing, church membership, Christian unity, and the organization of the church's work."

It wasn't so much what people believe about holiness, the nature of the church, or the kingdom of God. Beliefs are important, but not finally the basis of fellowship. In the Church of God movement, what counted was doctrinal practice. (page xiii)

1. Daniel S. Warner and the Early Church of God
Warner (born June 25, 1942 in Ohio) joined the Winebrennarian Church of God, quickly distinguished himself as a minister. He married, lost a baby, lost triplets, lost his wife. Married again at age 31 to 18-year-old Sarah Keller. The holiness movement and the entire sanctification doctrine were big in the area (the American midwest) and eventually Warner joined the movement. That got him defrocked by the West Ohio Eldership of the Churches of God (Winebrennarian).

Warner started the paper that would become the Gospel Trumpet. He joined the Northern Indiana Eldership, but became convinced that sectarianism and church membership were wrong, and walked out. Crucially, Warner—not the Northern Indiana Eldership—owned the Gospel Trumpet and its assets personally, and it became the center of the Church of God movement.

A lot of holiness movement people came out of Methodism. Warner and his movement did not.

2. The Theology of D. S. Warner
Warner fused Wesleyan holiness with "the ecclesiology of the believers' church." He taught 1) entire sanctification, and 2) unity (no divisions).

Entire sanctification - Arises from a two-fold view of sin: inherited sinful natures and specific sins. So, a two-fold cure: justification "delivers" us from the consequences of our sin, sanctification cleanses us that we may live sinlessly. (Also a deliverance.) Sanctified Christians should live perfectly. This teaching was backed up by proof-texts and sketchy interpretations of the Bible.

Warner had criticism for worldly preachers and Christless sermons, dead churches, denominations—sectarianism was an evil impediment and must be resisted and torn down. Warner withdrew his membership from all Christian institutions.

Unity - Warner taught that the only requirement for membership in God's church was salvation—baptism, confirmation, catechism, etc. were extra-biblical and unbiblical. He denounced denominational organization and structures as replacing and usurping Christ's role as the head of the church. Denominational membership requirements put a barrier between people and God's church.

"the church is the visible people of God on earth" (page 25).

There is no invisible church. Salvation is the door into the church. Thus there are no unsaved people in the church. (Though there are many unsaved in sectarian congregations.) And there are no sinners in the church, because those born of God (the Spirit) do not sin.

Organization - Warner taught that the organization of God's church must be organic and Spirit-led. No voting.

Theological disagreements - Warner believed that entire sanctification would eventually produce theological unity, but fellowship and unity requires accepting those with theological disagreements. (From Warner's teaching it seems that theological disagreements are OK, but not differences in practice.)

3. Challenges and Emergent Practices
Lack of leadership and organization opened the movement to being overrun by disaffected churchgoers with wildly differing reasons and theologies, even preachers who were anti-second-work-of-grace (that is, against the doctrine of entire sanctification.) This led to two crises.

First Crisis: Annapolis crisis
A meeting was overrun with angry people who didn't like their churches but were committed neither to holiness nor unity.

Second crisis
The first crisis led to the second. Sarah Warner (D. S. Warner's wife), Stockwell, and Rice tried and failed to wrest control of the Gospel Trumpet company from Warner. Sarah then left Warner, divorced him, denounced "come-outism," probably (the author Strege surmises) arguing for a more traditional holiness doctrine and practice. Likely this is because Sarah, who came from a strong holiness family, saw the chaos of the Annapolis meeting and hoped to redirect the movement back to a traditional holiness movement.

The effect was to solidify D. S. Warner's position as the leader of the movement.

Later, Warner forced Fisher to sell his position in the Gospel Trumpet company to E. E. Byrum after Fisher divorced his wife for another woman. Byrum became editor of the Gospel Trumper when Warner died in 1895.

E. E. Byrum used his position as editor of the Gospel Trumpet and his control of the camp meeting to discipline and disfellowship advocates of Zinzendorism, the teaching that justification and sanctification happen simultaneously.

Entire sanctification doctrine led to competitiveness in holy living. It developed into big lists of forbidden things: tobacco, alcohol, coffee, tea, theaters, novels, jewelry, adornment, and neckties. C. E. Orr led the anti-necktie group. Eventually Byrum wrote an editorial calling Orr heretical and schismatic. Orr was chastened and the matter was effectively settled.

Church discipline by editorial
W. G. Schell was a prominent minister and a possible candidate to succeed Warner, but nevertheless he lost out to Byrum (who owned the Gospel Trumpet company.) Schelle advocated heterodox doctrines, in particular the belief that Warner's ideas were influenced by the Winebrenner churches and did not spring unmediated from the Bible. Byrum used the bully pulpit of the Gospel Trumpet to kick Schell out.

No formal structures, no formal route to bring charges of heresy; just Byrum using his pen. Byrum seems quicker to ban people than Warner was. Warner taught that ministers should agree on doctrine and theology, but did not tend to enforce it as Byrum did.

Singing, songs, and hymn-writing were important to the early movement.

4. Laying the Foundations of a Church
D. S. Warner was a visionary, Enoch E. Byrum was a manager. Byrum emphasized divine healing, and spent his time as a healer after resigning editorship in 1916.

CHOG doctrine => Christ's sacrifice makes us perfect, even covering our bodies. We are perfected, no longer fallen, thus we expect good health. This was limited to healing => there was no expectation or interest in other miraculous works.

Byrum believed that Christ's atonement purchased the possibility of physical as well as spiritual wholeness (page 70)
no functional or material difference existed between the first Christian century and the twentieth (page 71)

The three marks of a restored church were: salvation, sanctification, and divine healing.

Byrum was anti-medicine and anti-physician. Trusting medicine was failing to trust God. Failure to be healed was a moral failing, except in a few cases where God revealed it would be a "sickness unto death." The movement was generally anti-vaccine, but submitted to the government if the government insisted.

No organization, no structure, just face-to-face meetings of people. Only the Gospel Trumpet kept things together.

"I saw the church." => the come-outers would say this is why they came out of their denominational churches, not some theological or doctrinal reason.

Camp meetings and missionary homes
Camp meetings were crucial, since face-to-face meetings and relationships were how things got done. Smaller camp meetings were the primary fellowship. Missionary homes (communal living and evangelizing) modeled on the Gospel Trumpet house became the means of instruction, apprenticeship, internship, and leadership development.

The first committee
The 1909 camp meeting created the Missionary Committee, the first organizing body. Byrum and others saw the inefficiency of the flying messenger model and promoted this step. Byrum was on the committee.

The first list
In 1906 the first list of ministers was compiled, ostensibly to help ministers qualify for reduced railroad rates offered to ministers. In 1914 the list marked "colored" ministers with a symbol.

To fund operations the Gospel Trumpet company began selling merch. Posters, mottos, cards, inspirational religious items, etc. This was to make money and to encourage holiness and piety in the home.

The question facing the growing CHOG movement
How does a new movement survive if it rejects both institutionalism and creeds? First, doctrinal practices take on great importance. Later (in the 1910s) the CHOG movement chose to create some institutions and structure.

5. Apocalyptic Identity
Frederick G. Smith, the third editor of the Gospel Trumpet, wrote The Revelation Explained in 1908. The Church of God employed a church-historical hermeneutic: apocalyptic symbols show "the future history of the church." This differs from Dispensationalism which teaches that the apocalyptic symbols show the "sweep of world history at the end of time." D. S. Warner adopted the church-historical framework of Uriah Smith. W. G. Schell systematized it and divided history into four great ages (dispensations, if you will, but not Dispensationalism's dispensations.)

  1. Morning Light: Christ to AD 270
  2. Babylon the Great, the Papal Dark Age: 270 - 1530 (a period of 1260 years)
  3. Protestant Age (half-light): 1530 - 1880
  4. Evening Light: 1880 and beyond

Features of this apocalyptic doctrine were: a belief that Roman Catholicism was still just pagan Rome in disguise, and was represented by the beast and the Mother of Harlots. Protestantism—that is, Lutheranism and the Reformed churches—is the two-horned beast. The true church will emerge from Protestantism. The CHOG movement took an 1879 treaty between England and Turkey that allowed Jews to return to the holy land as a sign that the end was near. The CHOG movement read current events to be fulfillment of end times prophecies, but those prophecies were presumed to be about church events, not world politics.

In 1893 Schell published The Biblical Trace of the Church.

1903, Warner and Riggle: The Cleansing of the Sanctuary, used typology, particularly of the Old Testament temple, to prove CHOG doctrine (salvation + sanctification) and its exclusive claim to be the only true church. Consequently, CHOG movement saw all other churches as false and refused all ecumenical cooperation, for 30 years.

In 1914 F. G. Smith published What the Bible Teaches, where he took the church-historical hermeneutic, plus a view that parts of Daniel, Revelation, and Zechariah were prophetic (not apocalyptic) and decoded that prophecy to produce detailed timelines and large charts giving a visual representation of the past and future history of the church as revealed in the scripture.

In summary: D. S. Warner was a visionary, Byrum was an organizer and stabilizer, and F. G. Smith was an unchallenged authority on interpreting Scripture, who used Scripture (particularly Revelation) to prove that CHOG was the only true church.

the saints alone saw the scriptural truth that Babylonian blindness obscured for all others. (page 109)

6. Contended Practices
Early come-outers were about 50% Methodist-related, then United Brethren, Mennonites, and about 11% former Winebrennarians. They all believed denominational churches were false, and rejected them. But they brought many practices into the CHOG movement. E.g., footwashing. Some practices were controversial and did not take root.

Byrum was pacifist but not stridently against military service. Opposition to war was rooted in holy living and an aversion to killing or taking a life. But patriotism and obedience to government was acceptable on Romans 13 grounds. Dual citizenship in God's church and the state was not in any way similar to submitting to denominationalism or Babylon.

Speaking in tongues
The early Pentecostal movement made inroads into the CHOG movement. Warner disliked and rebuked disorder, but wrote positively about speaking in tongues. J. W. Byers taught that tongues are a special gift, but is not for everyone, and that tongues are "intelligible speech" only, even if that speech is in an unknown language. Speaking in tongues was understood to be often (but not exclusively) for evangelistic purposes, to reach and preach the gospel to foreigners.

Jenni Carpenter Rutty: "unknown tongues" did not mean the ecstatic utterances and "incomprehensible chatter".

  1. Tongues is a gift of Spirit—but not the only sign or gift
  2. Tongues is not "ecstatic utterances"
  3. "Unknown" means unknown to the speaker, not "universally unknown". I.e., it is a real language of some sort.

F. G. Smith distinguished between the private unintelligible gift of tongues, and public tongues in intelligible languages. He denied tongues as the sign of baptism of the Holy Spirit—those signs were sanctification and Holiness.

There was much criticism of the Azusa movement, but there were allowances for different opinions. Generally, the CHOG was anti-Azusa, cautiously open to tongues, but mostly it wasn't practiced.

7. Institutional Revolution
E. E. Byrum had too much power as the editor of the Gospel Trumpet, and he was forced out in 1916. (Replace by F. G. Smith.) In 1917 the camp meeting was organized into a legal entity, the General Ministerial Assembly. The Assembly got to vote on nominees for membership on the board of the Gospel Trumpet Company. So the ministers now had some power and influence over the Gospel Trumpet.

Organization was happening at other levels too. In 1927 Russell Byrum wrote "Problems of the Local Church" and addressed how to organize and run a congregation. In 1911 D. O. Teasley published "How to Conduct a Sunday School". These moves were significant in the CHOG movement that stridently opposed all organization and institutions, and saw these efforts as an influence of Babylon.

In the face of this opposition, F. G. Smith editorialized about the difference between divine government and the "business arrangement" of organizing and running things. The business must never usurp the divine authority. I.e., it's acceptable to organize the logistics but not the spiritual leadership, spiritual guidance, which is straight from God directly into each individual soul.

In 1917 the Gospel Trumpet company abandoned the communal family system and started paying wages.

Boards and agencies were created as needed. In 1920, the Board of Church Extension and Home Missions. In 1923, the Board of Religious Education and Sunday Schools. These boards did not have any institutional authority over congregations or ministers.

Increasing segregationist tendencies led to the abandonment of the early integrated camp meetings. By 1917 the Black CHOG had its own National Association and General Ministerial Assembly. It was still the same movement, but operated largely independently.

Anderson College
A school was started in Anderson, which would become Anderson College and later Anderson University. Russell Byrum, who worked at the Gospel Trumpet company, went to work at Anderson College full time. There was a power struggle between Anderson College and the Gospel Trumpet company for influence over the CHOG movement.

Standard literature resolution
In 1925 Russell Byrum published his systematic theology book Christian Theology. It was less apocalyptic than earlier works of F. G. Smith, etc., and included a lot less talk of Babylon and "harlot" and used more academic theological terminology. Byrum came out against comeoutism and for a more ecumenical approach, in opposition to F. G. Smith and historic CHOG teaching. In response, Smith and other conservatives tried to get a "standard literature resolution" passed that would relegate anything post-1924 to secondary status. (That is, elevating F. G. Smith's work and conveniently not including Russell Byrum's 1925 book.) The resolution failed.

Heresy trial
At camp meeting in 1929 Russell Bryrum was called to a hearing, essentially a heresy trial, and charges were brought against him for his teaching. F. G. Smith was the force behind this. Russell Byrum was acquitted.

Russell Byrum leaves the ministry, F. G. Smith forced out
The result of this doctrinal dispute was that Anderson faculty were made to sign doctrinal statements. Russell Byrum resigned and left the ministry rather than sign, and the CHOG movement lost one of its best theological minds. Also, Morrison (the President of Anderson) realized F. G. Smith had too much power at the Gospel Trumpet company, so Morrison forced him out in 1930.

8. A Spiritual Kingdom

  • E. E. Byrum was recognized as an authority on divine healing.
  • F. G. Smith was recognized as an authority on the doctrine of the church.
  • H. M. Riggle was recognized as an authority on the doctrine of the kingdom of God.

Two of Riggle's influential books were The Cleansing of the Sanctuary and The Kingdom of God and the One Thousand Years' Reign.

The Millennium
The CHOG movement coincided with waning postmillennialism and rising premillennial dispensationalism. CHOG was amillennial. No literal kingdom. Christ's kingdom already exists. That kingdom is spiritual, not temporal. According to Riggle: "Entering the kingdom and getting saved is the same thing."

But the crucial aspect of his rejection of millennialist eschatologies centered in the movement's conviction that the Kingdom was a present spiritual reign. Premillennialists believed in the temporal reign of Christ. Against this view, Riggle and other Church of God writers insisted that the Kingdom was located within the hearts and minds of believers. p171

So according to Church of God teaching, the church is the kingdom of God.

Though opposed to millennialism, Riggle was not averse to ages, or dispensations. He conceived of three dispensations.

  1. Dispensation of patriarchs
  2. Mosaic dispensation of law
  3. Christian dispensations
    1. Morning light
    2. Apostasy (Catholic)
    3. Partial light (Protestantism)
    4. Evening light (restoration of the church)

There was an expectation of the imminent return of Christ, but no tribulation. The Kingdom is present, now! CHOG church-historical reading of Scripture saw the events of prophecy as 1) about the church, and 2) already fulfilled. In contrast, millennialists see the prophecies as about 1) world events, and 2) in the future.

Max R. Gaulke wrote similarly to Riggle, but he did not equate the church with the Kingdom, but thought that church was to proclaim the kingdom.

Gaulke and others were less concerned about church-historic exegesis or dispensationalism. They ignored it, mostly.

9. Challenging the Apocalyptic Identity
George Tasker, missionary to India, challenged CHOG and F. G. Smith over two issues:

  1. Growing denominationalizing of CHOG, e.g., a strong organized Mission Board
  2. Lack of Christian unity. Tasker saw other Christians (Protestants) as fellow believers to work with and cooperate with, vs. F. G. Smith and CHOG's focus on Babylon and comeoutism.

Tasker said that comeoutism misses the point. It is Christ to whom we belong, not the church. He recognized that many who did not come out were genuine believers.

The pushback from F. G. Smith and others was strong. The Missionary Board (chaired by F. G. Smith) fired Tasker in 1924. In 1929 E. A. Reardon preached at camp meeting about cooperating with other Christian groups and warned against a growing sectarianism in CHOG. He was voted off all his committees.

Then in 1930 Anderson College president Morrison engineered F. G. Smith's exit from the Gospel Trumpet company. The GT board did not re-elect Smith. In 1934 Smith and others tried to force out Morrison and change the curriculum of Anderson College back to Smith's apocalyptic version. Morrison won, by only 13 votes out of more than 700.

So it was a close-run thing, but F. G. Smith lost. The Gospel Trumpet company's power over the movement decreased, Anderson College's influence increased. The new ecumenical spirit won out over the historic comeoutism.

10. The Triumph of History
Charles Ewing Brown was the 4th editor of the Gospel Trumpet company. Otto F. Linn, a professor at Anderson and later Pacific Bible College, introduced the historical-critical method of Bible study. His commentary on Revelation was radically different from traditional CHOG teaching and was not published in the Gospel Trumpet as his other commentaries were. In book form it was only printed by the commercial wing of the Gospel Trumpet company, the Commercial Services Company of Anderson. The publication board would never have approved it to be published under the official imprint.

Linn's new ideas
Linn used the ASV, not the KJV. He used the historical-critical method, not the church-historical method. He saw Revelation as prophecy to the early church, not predictions for future church or world events. (So, preterist.) Linn rejected the numerology of F. G. Smith and others, like the 1260 years. Linn rejected the idea that Revelation is a chronology or a code. Indeed, he rejected the whole hermeneutic of F. G. Smith as wrong.

In 1931 C. E. Brown published A New Approach to Christian Unity. He brought an understanding of the history of Christendom and a call to real unity, but not by arguing over theology or comeoutism. Mainly, Brown forced the CHOG movement to understand church history and CHOG's place in it.

Brown believed in spiritual democracy, not the leader principle, and he lived that out by distributing power that was previously concentrated in the editor's role. E.g., he relinquished control of the ministerial lists and credentialing.

In furtherance of spiritual democracy, Brown helped end the system of interlocking directorates that had allowed a handful of leaders to control the entire movement.

Legitimizing others
Brown's writings "replaced apocalyptic language with historical reference." (p218) This shared history with other Christians led to a decline in talking about "apostasy" and Babylon. Comeoutism was in decline, and there was a rising legitimization of denominations as containing other true believers.

The church of God first became tolerant of believers in denominational Christianity and then embraced them even as many in the constituency stopped thrashing Babylong. p219

Linn and Brown moved CHOG from an apocalyptic identity to a historic identity, which understood the movement within the historic stream of Christianity.

11. Experience, Part 1, "Liberalism"
The movement's early emphasis was on experience and the leading of the Holy Spirit and less on rational theology. E.g., Wickersham writes that the Bible is inspired—not the words or the thoughts, but the writers. The writers were inspired by God, formulated thoughts, and wrote them in human language. There was a general rejection in CHOG of verbal inspiration and its associated Fundamentalist views.

Experience shaped doctrine. The lack of divine healing in the highly visible case of two young girls who died, and of Charles Wesley Naylor (who was injured and suffered for years) lead to a new understanding of divine healing. Also, modern medicines and antibiotics proved their effectiveness. Doctors and healthcare became normalized, and by 1950 the movement (which had previously viewed anyone seeking medical care as demonstrating a lack of faith) was sending out medical missionaries.

CHOG leaders began getting graduate degrees in theology. A dozen or so people at first, most of whom went to Oberlin Seminary. This had a liberalizing effect on the movement. (It's important to note that at this point, liberal Christianity was completely orthodox.)

John W. V. Smith, a professor at Anderson and a historian of CHOG, championed a "new understanding of Christian unity": an ecumenical unity. Gene Newberry, professor of systematic theology and ethics at Anderson, re-cast holiness as something added, not the absence of sins. "Holiness turns more on the presence of love than the absence of sin." He gave students wide reading in many traditions, not just CHOG. Consequently, graduates of Anderson often didn't know or understand the particular distinctives of CHOG doctrine.

This liberalism was still conservative, but it rejected comeoutism and embraced ecumenicism, and supported liberal social movements like civil rights and women's rights. There was an openness to ideas beyond the early CHOG "standard literature". The liberalizing turn meant the CHOG movement was definitely not Fundamentalist or Evangelical, but it was overall still conservative.

12. Doctors of the Church
The church-historical hermeneutic was abandoned, and students at Anderson College and Pacific Bible College were taught historical-critical methods of Bible study. Four professors guided thought in the movement. All were Pietists (but maybe would not claim the term), pro-ecumenical, anti-comeouter, liberal theologians, and orthodox.

Earl Martin, professor at Anderson
Pietist, liberal, theologian, writer, produced much Sunday school material, emphasized the experience of God over head knowledge, explored various ideas and theories of the atonement and of inspiration, while still staying orthodox.

Adam Miller, professor at Anderson
Explored the human side of biblical authorship, positing written sources for Synoptic gospels, and a long shared authorship with Mosaic influence for the Pentateauch. Had Pietist ideas, such as emphasis on personal experience with God, and teaching that Revelation is "God's self-disclosure." He had praise for Linn's, not F. G. Smith's, interpretation of Revelation. He was not a comeouter.

A. F. Gray, professor at Pacific Bible College
Published Christian Theology in 1944. Taught that the inspiration of Scripture meant that it was the men, not the words, that were inspired—like the way a pastor's sermon is inspired, but in greater degree. He taught that the church is all Christians, even those in denominational churches.

Otto Linn, professor at Anderson and Pacific Bible College
Linn's work is covered in chapter 10.

13. The Watchmen on the Wall
I. K. Dawson suggested a "state evangelist" role to help struggling churches. Elver Adcock supported leadership reforms like Dawson's. Earl Slacum, a CHOG traditionalist, was alarmed at new developments in Anderson: the loss of historical moorings to foundational CHOG doctrine, influences of liberal outside ideas (particularly premillennialism). He objected to new ideas.

Slacum's specific complaints were that pastors were preaching against CHOG doctrines, the lack of prayer meetings, no foot washing, ministers were going to movies, and no sermons on sanctification.

In 1944 Slacum preached "Watchmen on the Wall" calling the Dawson plan evil, calling it an Anderson take-over, and accusing Anderson of becoming a movement headquarters, with agencies, with interlocking board memberships—an old boys' club. The disagreement lead to lots of personal attacks on Anderson folks. An investigation cleared Anderson of any wrongdoing and called on Slacum to repent, but he thought it was a coverup.

Slacum had support, due to disaffection with the direction of CHOG, but he was never in the majority. In 1946 he left CHOG, causing a schism. Meanwhile, the CHOG did reform. A Committee studied and recommended some changes, which were implemented, with the result that Anderson's power and control was limited. In 1951 Slacum was done with schism, noting that the schismatic Watchman organization created more structures in five years than even the CHOG had. Slacum sought a return, and was re-credentialed in 1953.

C. E. Brown in 1954 published "When Souls Awaken: An Interpretation of Radical Christianity" as a defense of change. He argued against idolizing the early CHOG leaders, and against the practices of performance holiness. He contrasted the early CHOG model of the "leader principle" with the newer practice of "spiritual democracy."

14. Entering the Mainstream
The post-WWII economic boom and growing spiritualism lead to an influx of wealth, new construction, and an influx of mainstream middle class values into the CHOG. A pension fund (voluntary, of course) was set up for ministers. There was more wealth, less exclusive and more ecumenical thought, more planned and organized worship, more culturally and community-based standards of behavior and dress.

The Gospel Trumpet allowed RSV Bible quotes, not just KJV, to the consternation of traditionalists. A waning of comeoutism and more cooperation and ecumenical endeavors. Less emphasis on divine healing, more penicillin and doctors. By 1960 divine healing was barely mentioned. Still prohibitionist on alcohol, but caffeine was now acceptable. Novels and movies gained acceptance. Mixed bathing was allowed. The commitment to pacifism eroded, and there was a growing concern for social justice and civil rights.

The CHOG created a Commission on Social Concerns to improve race relations. The church fed the hungry and sheltered orphans. New hymn books contained traditional Protestant hymns and dropped some classic CHOG songs.

The new Fundamentalist movement was not appealing to the Church of God movement for several reasons.

  • Fundamentalism is premillennial and dispensationalist. CHOG is amillennial and apocalyptic. Also, historical-critical exegesis (for the more progressive CHOG faction) disagrees with the Fundamentalist view of Revelation.
  • Fundamentalism requires adherence to a set of doctrines, setting up a gatekeeper, a barrier to Christian unity.
  • Fundamentalism was politically conservative, contrary to CHOG values that aligned with working class and the marginalized.

The distinctly Evangelical institutions and colleges were still young and developing, so CHOG ecumenical cooperation looked elsewhere, to mainstream Protestantism.

My note: I find this interesting, because Evangelicalism has a long history stretching back hundreds of years, and Fundamentalism is a newer movement. This book seems to peg Evangelicalism as a newer movement that arose out of Fundamentalism, instead of the other way around. I can only presume this is looking at a particular strain of Evangelicalism that started (roughly) with Billy Graham in the 1950s. I make this aside because it's important to me to recognize that Fundamentalism is an aberrant offshoot of Evangelicalism, and because I believe Evangelicalism (for all its faults) is the best and truest form of Christianity. And I mean pure Evangelicalism, that is neither Fundamentalist (which degenerates into legalism) nor liberal (which these days means heterodox at best and often straight-up heretical.) That, uh, concludes my rant. I'll step off the soapbox now.

15. Discordant Voices of Unity
Black ministers pushed for real integration, saying it was necessary for Christian unity.

In 1925 a third of CHOG ministers were women, By 1985 only 2% were women. Some important women were Elsie Eigermeier, whose Bible Storybook is one of the best-selling CHOG books of all time. Nora Siens Hunter ran the Women's Missionary Society. E. Marie Strong was a professor of New Testament studies at Anderson and taught the historical-critical method of Bible interpretation. Lillie McCutcheon was a preacher whose apocalyptic, anti-Catholic sermons used the church-historical framework, making her a champion of the old guard. There were calls for more women in leadership. Holiness and unity are incompatible with practices of sexism and racism.

The "Columbus Caucus" of moderate left-of-center pastors published "Colloquium" from 1969 to 1980. Meanwhile the "Pastors Fellowship" ("Bible-believing, conservative, and evangelical") published "The Reformation Witness" from 1973. The conservatives hearkened back to Riggle and F. G. Smith, and their biggest voice was Lillie McCutcheon. Her 1964 book The Symbols Speak is an apocalyptic and stridently anti-Catholic and anti-Protestant view of Revelation.

"Crossroads" published in 1979 focused attention on the liberal drift of Anderson College regarding "abortion, feminism, Equal Rights Amendment, homosexuality, and biblical inerrancy."

1980 Open Letter to Anderson
In 1980 Leroy Oesch wrote an open letter to Anderson alleging "liberalism" at Anderson. In particular he pointed to a sociology course on sexuality, a lack of the presumption of biblical inerrancy, and a lack of holiness. The 1980 camp meeting was fractious. The fallout was that Anderson removed Norris, the professor of the sexuality course, but would not affirm inerrancy (that was never a CHOG teaching) nor would it require professors to sign doctrinal statements (creeds being anti-CHOG.) The critics lost, but even so, Anderson tacked a little more conservative and Evangelical. John W. V. Smith identified this as a conflict between "conservative evangelicals" and the "social gospelers." Should the church save souls or fix the world? CHOG still contended for Christian unity.

In summary: there were gains and more black representation in leadership, but not so much change for women and Hispanics. There was a conservative backlash to liberalism at Anderson, but CHOG held to its doctrines and anti-creedal practices. Anderson moved toward Evangelicalism, but not back to apocalyptic and church-historical exegesis. New social problems led to new struggles in practicing real Christian unity.

16. Experience, Part 2, The Therapeutic Church
CHOG reliance on experience as a guide opened the church to reshaping itself to the new therapeutic culture, by 1) being a therapeutic church, and 2) using consumer-oriented church growth strategies.

A new concept of pastor-counselor replaced pastor-evangelist and pastor-administrator. CHOG reliance on experience made it susceptible to this therapeutic movement. R. Eugene Sterner wrote "God's Caring People" (1981) which viewed the church as a loving, caring fellowship that brings healing to broken, lonely people. Sterner had more of a disease model of sin. He taught "salvation as a healing experience and the church as the redemptive fellowship instrumental in that healing." (p364). In this model the church is a healing refuge, not an apocalyptic remnant.

Growth strategies
CHOG could mirror the cultural language to reach people and grow the church. Entertainment-style worship music came into the church. Old hymns were dropped. Gospel music and praise choruses replaced them. By the 1980s the hymnal had to mark "heritage hymns" with a special symbol so people would know what they were.

The loss of CHOG heritage meant many churches and members were just Protestants. No more understanding of comeoutism—now people looked for warm, caring fellowships. Thus it was up to the individual to determine if his needs were being met by the congregation. CHOG was becoming a loose fellowship of congregations with no real commitment to historic CHOG doctrine.

Where to go now? CHOG is not cohesive. It lacks a center. CHOG reorganization is interesting, but may not get results. A proposal to hold camp meetings at other locations besides Anderson was not adopted. [Aside: Maybe not in 2002 but it has now. The 2023 meeting (which is now biennial) is in Tampa, Florida.] The 1980 debate at camp meeting was scarring and traumatic, so now there is no debate and the General Assembly is a procedural formality.

So…what next?

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