Why I Left Institutionalism
By Dan Huddleston
I have told hundreds from the pulpit in the USA, South Africa, and Zambia why I left the liberal folks. I hope and pray that hundreds more will read this article, not just to know why I left institutionalism, but to know how far the average liberal has gone into apostasy. I do not know many Christian Church preachers and members that I have met over the years, but they have all said the same thing. They say that the only difference between us and them is the instrument. We know that this is not true and that there are many differences. Too many times we have preached against the instrument, which is sinful to use in worship, as if it is the problem when actually it is only a symptom of the problem. The problem is that of authority.
To make a long story shorter, that is what I discovered about the institutional question. All my life I had been taught that the only difference between institutional and non-institutional brethren was the matter of how to use the church treasury, and that this difference was only a matter of opinion. During the years I grew up, did secular work and fill-in preaching, and even during my studies in a preaching school, I was insulated from the truth as the issues were presented in a very one-sided way, if and when they were presented. Great effort was extended by many of the liberals to avoid the issues. Even in preaching school, the issues were not explored. In debate classes, we debated the one cup and no Bible class issues but not the institutional issues. I was asking myself and classmates why there was no real attempt to answer these questions.
After school, my first full-time work was in Colorado. There I met Jim White who again stirred my mind on the issues. He arranged for me to meet the preacher of a faithful congregation in Ft. Collins. Gary and his wife had an adopted child. I had been told that “antis” did not practice what they preached, and that one could not be found who had adopted a child or taken in a foster child. Now I know the truth and I know dozens and dozens of brethren among conservative congregations who have adopted children or taken in foster children. Not a one of them do it for show, and I do not know of an “orphan hater” among any of the hundreds of brethren that I have met.
An opportunity came for me to go to Zambia, Africa. There was an opening at a “Christian” secondary school and Bible college. I could teach during the week and preach on weekends and school holidays. Someone asked if a board or an eldership would have my oversight. I thought it was an eldership but it turned out to be a board. This put more questions in my mind. As I prepared to leave the U.S.A., I attended a series of lectures which also included a debate on the general benevolence questions between Jack Holt and Mac Deaver. Mac was a very dear friend of mine and I wanted to hear his answers. It was clear to everyone present that Mac did not answer Jack's arguments. This put more questions in my mind, but, alas, I was off to save the lost in darkest Africa and this through a church supported institution!
Our first day witnessed a baptism in the mighty Zambezi River. After I preached the following Sunday, a Zambian preacher approached me with a big smile. He stated that he had not heard preaching from the Bible like that in years. As our conversation went along, he asked me if some of the Americans sent there in recent months were Christians. What a shock! I soon found out what he meant and was told this by several other Zambian preachers. I found so much false doctrine and immorality coming from the liberals there that it would take several articles to discuss it. I do want to write about some of these as they are important for you to know. I documented over two dozen false doctrines coming from them besides those involved in institutionalism. Brethren, it is not just the issue of institutionalism that divides us from the liberals today! Once Bible authority is not needed for one thing, then it opens the door for wholesale apostasy.
In Zambia and the U.S.A. as well, I have found the liberals teaching that instrumental music in worship and choirs in the worship are OK. Many are having fellowship with the Christian Church and many are saying that there are Christians in the various denominations. I know a liberal, American preacher in Zimbabwe who receives funds from the Disciples of Christ, the Christian Church, and from liberal Churches of Christ. I received a letter and cassette tape from Don DeWelt of the Christian Church through a slip up in their mailing department. DeWelt was soliciting funds from Christian Churches to be sent to a big sponsoring church among the liberals. That church was White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ, home also of the White’s Ferry Road School of Preaching in West Monroe, Louisiana. The funds were going to a food project in Ethiopia.
I have also found many of the liberals teaching Calvinistic doctrines, direct operation of the Holy Spirit, demon possession and exorcism, polygamy, and false doctrines on marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Premillennialism is showing its ugly head again. Some are “shaking in the denominations.” One elder and preacher with the liberals in Zambia “shook in” an entire Pilgrim Wesleyan Church. These people baptize three times from a misinterpretation of “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” He laughingly told them that he would accept their first baptism and throw the other two out. Many are teaching theistic evolution, that miraculous spiritual gifts are on going today, that everything a Christian does is worship, that Christians are under grace only and not under any law, witnessing and testifying, anointing and laying on of hands, and a host of other false doctrines. Some of them even teach that Jesus sinned by breaking the Sabbath. How absurd! These things really woke me up and made me begin to think.
How we ended up in Buna, Texas, is beyond me, but here we found someone who had been through these issues and who had fought many battles, someone who could tell us “the rest of the story.” Ray Votaw was in the Buna area due to the illness and death of his youngest daughter. We began a quick and in-depth study of the issues since Ray had to leave soon for South Africa. He told me to apply the principles for establishing biblical authority which I had already been taught, and to study these things to see if there is any authority for them. When Ray called me a liberal, I was shocked. I had always thought I was conservative, and some liberals had called me a “neo-anti.”
The questions that had built up in my mind for the past few years were now answered. We could see that it was not a matter of opinion, but a matter of faith. There is no authority for general benevolence. There is no authority for the church to establish, to fund from the treasury, and to pool funds from several churches to run institutions such as hospitals, orphan homes, old folks’ homes, unwed mother’ homes, etc. There is no authority for the sponsoring church with its pooling of funds from other churches and its centralization of power. There is no authority for one church to make decisions for another church, nor for them to hold the deed to the property of another church. There is no authority for church kitchens, church gymnasiums, church funded camps, church funded ball teams, or for any church sponsored or church funded recreation or entertainment.
As soon as we knew the truth, we knew that we must accept it, repent, teach, and defend the truth even though we would be branded as “antis,” and even though we would lose many or all of our old friends. We have been branded "anti,” and we have lost all our old preacher and elder friends. None of them has even called or written us. Two of the families did leave the liberals where I stood up and preached the truth on the issues. Of course, I was promptly fired and given less than two weeks to get out of the preacher's house. I was not even given the money that was due me much less any kind of severance, but it was worth it all to have the truth and to have salvation.
This is not the end of the story. It is only the beginning. We never thought that we would make so many new and wonderful friends. We are the happiest we have ever been, and we do not regret for one moment having left the awful clutches of liberalism. My prayer is that this article will encourage faithful brethren, and that it will stimulate my liberal “friends” to study, learn the truth, and give up their error before it is too late. I am ready and willing to study these issues that divide the church with anyone. I also stand ready to defend the truth in public debate which is more than 99 percent of the liberal folks are willing to do. They have forgotten long ago such verses as 1 Peter 4:11; 3:15; Philippians 1:17; and Jude 3. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32).