Scriptural Because We've Always Done It!

Earl Robertson
Birmingham, Alabama

Within the last few years, efforts have been made to set forth the age and operation of orphan homes supported by churches of Christ. The liberals have sought to prove church support of hum a n benevolent societies for the care of orphan (and some not o r p h a n) children is scriptural. But their "scriptural" proof has been a distortion of recent historical data. I have seen no effort on their part to prove that churches of Christ ever built and supported any Corporation such as Boles, Inc., Potter Orphan Home and School, and Shults-Lewis before the "Restoration." They talk only about this side of the Restoration; yet, they profess to prove their practices by the scriptures! "We've always done it," they say. By their own definition of terms, "always" only means about one hundred years!

The last such effort coming to my attention was written by W. L. Totty, of Indianapolis, Indiana. Brother Totty says:

"The first orphan home under a board of directors, and supported by churches of Christ, since the beginning of the Restoration was organized in Midway, Ky. The charter for this home, known as the Kentucky Female Orphan School, was granted by the General Assembly February 23, 1847. (The Disciples in Kentucky, p. 235.) Although the name of this institution was Kentucky Female Orphan School, it was also a home. The Disciples of Kentucky, p. 233, says, 'Inasmuch as Dr. Pinkerton was interested in the education of girls it was natural that his desire to be of help to orphan girls should take the form of a school which should be to them not only a home, but also a means of education.' (Emphasis mine W. L. T.) The burden of that statement shows that the institution was primarily a home, but that it would also be used as a means of education." (Gospel Advocate, June 18, 1964, pp. 392, 393.)

Naturally, the Christian is interested in what the New Testament says (authorizes), and not necessarily what some historian has written by human wisdom, regarding the worship and work of the church. The Christian is guided by the will of God (Col. 3:17), and not the will of man (Matt. 15:9). If it is scriptural for churches of Christ to support such corporations as the above named, then why not just give the scripture? However, since the church of the Lord is being divided over what these men are teaching, their teaching must be investigated. If what they say has been done for the past one hundred years is the infallible way (the New Testament not corroborating such, the liberals to the contrary, notwithstanding), then we are left to the task of investigating the proof offered. If this historical data, which they tell us goes back for one hundred years, has become the charter for the ship of Zion, then without much difficulty we all should be able to see and accept such. If, on the other hand, our examination of the material should reveal the fact that even in the Restoration, the days of the Campbells, Pinkerton, Stone, Johnson and others, practices were engaged in which the New Testament did not authorize, we all should easily see and accept the fact that practices of certain matters engaged in by these men did not and do not serve as scriptural examples for God's people. There is no justification before God for a practice just because men such as Campbell, Pinkerton, Stone and Johnson started it. Christ is the head over things pertaining to his church (Eph. 1: 22; Col. 1: 18).

The Kentucky Female Orphan School

This "institution was the result of a vision of Dr. L. L. Pinkerton," said Alonzo Willard Fortune, in his book, The Disciples in Kentucky, p. 231. This "vision" of Dr. Pinkerton took place in 1842 in the pulpit of the Old Round Top church in Madison County (Ibid. p. 231). He began to discuss this vision in 1845 with a man he had baptized in 1840, James Ware Parrish (Ibid. p. 232). What Pinkerton saw in this "vision" was a school for orphan girls. When the church was organized in Midway in 1844, Dr. Pinkerton moved from the New Union church in Woodford County, to work with the church in Midway.

"In connection with his work as pastor of the church Dr. Pinkerson opened a school for girls, called the Baconian Institute. This offered him an opportunity to supplement his salary and also make some contribution to the community. This school was conducted at first in the church building, but during the following summer he erected a building that not only provided schoolrooms, but also facilities for rooming and boarding a number of girls.

Inasmuch as Dr. Pinkerton was interested in the education of girls it was natural that his desire to be of help to orphan girls should take the form of a school, which should be to them not only a home, but also a means of education. He and Mr. Parrish had become close friends and associates in the work of the church, and were to become more closely united in the task of giving reality to the vision of a school in Midway for orphan girls" (Ibid. pp. 232,233).

Now, in seeing the background for the statement lifted by Totty, one cannot see what he construed it to say. He says this institution was primarily a home, and secondarily used as a means of education (the Advocate article, p. 392). Totty says, "This orphan home had the support of the leading brethren among the churches" (Emphasis mine--E. R.). Again he says, "Such unimpeachable evidence in favor of the orphan homes as this is enough to make any fair-minded person understand that the great pioneer preachers of the Restoration Movement were ardent supporters of our collective children's homes" (Ibid. p. 393). So, with the stroke of his pen he tells us this evidence is unimpeachable! That is, it is not to be called in question as regards truth, honesty, etc.; it is faultless; blameless! Without any shame whatsoever these men split churches of Christ with just this kind of "evidence" . . . authorization. These men whom brother Totty called "leading brethren," were also described by A. W. Fortune, a digressive: "It is interesting to observe that some of these men were the leaders in every forward movement in the state that we have noted. Instead of having their particular hobbies they were interested in the whole task" (The Disciples in Kentucky, p. 235. --Emphasis mine--E. R.). Indeed, these men were the leaders of such forward movements as (1) Cooperative meetings; (2) Organized cooperation; (3) Bible Society; (4) Church support of Schools; (5) American Christian Missionary Society; (6) Mechanical Instrumental Music in the worship! If at any time these forward works were (or are) opposed, you are a "crank" and have a "hobby." These men of the forward movement are the kind of men brother Totty delights in being identified with; and the works of these men are the kind of works brother Totty delights in defending, according to his Advocate article.

But, really, was the institution primarily a home? Was it an orphan home? Was it like Tennessee Orphan Home, Childhaven, Inc., Potter and others? Or, was it a school with facilities for rooming and boarding a number of girls? Harry Giovannoli wrote in 1930, two years before Fortune's book, "What was in the mind of Pinkerton from the beginning of his 'meditations' on the subject, and that which Parrish and Johnson and their colleagues approved, was not an 'orphanage' or an 'orphan asylum,' but a school for orphan girls equal in dignity and in its prescribed courses of study to 'any seminary or academy within the State'" (Kentucky Female Orphan Orphan School, p. 29-- Emphasis mine--E. R.). Also David L. Cleveland Director of Public Relations, Midway Junior College and Pinkerton High School (formerly Kentucky Female Orphan School), says, "It is my impression here in 1964 that this institution was intended to be primarily an educational one" (Letter, July 20, 1964--(Emphasis mine--E. R.).

Now, in the light of this testimony, is brother Totty's evidence "unimpeachable? " Are we still to accept his word without question? This is what he told us to do in the Advocate, and the Advocate is the Old Reliable, you know! According to these three quotes (taking the first one in its entirety), "The first orphan home under a board of directors, and supported by churches of Christ, since the beginning of the Restoration was" N O T organized in Midway, Ky. on February 23, 1847. The Kentucky Female Orphan School was formally opened October 3, 1849, with fourteen pupils. Section 9 of the charter provided for pay pupils to be admitted into the institution. It seems to me that if this institution at Midway were like "our collective homes" these three men quoted would have known it!

Now, if this institution at Midway, Kentucky was primarily an Orphans' home, as brother Totty contends, it seems somehow the little boy who was left alone by the death of his mother in Louisville, in 1871, could have gotten into this "home." But Fortune says, "Inasmuch as there was no institution to which he could be sent, he was received into the home of W. A. Broadhurst, the pastor of this church, and cared for by his family for several months" (The Disciples in Kentucky, p. 303). I asked brother Totty this same question in 1962 and he answered: "We would expect better than that from Brother Robertson if it were not for the fact that he is blinded by his hobby. Surely, as much as he has read about the Midway school and home he knows it was for girls only. That was certainly a sagacious question, coming from one who is supposed to be up-to-date on the history of the Kentucky Female Orphan School at Midway, Kentucky! " Well, it just so he p pens that at least one boy was an inmate there and graduated from the school in 1882!! (Kentucky Female Orphan School, pp. 92,93; The Disciples in Kentucky, p. 246). Perhaps, other boys were in this school, but did not graduate. However, one boy at least was there, and if one boy could enter then it was not for girls "only." Now if this one, Frank C. Button, could be enrolled in 1880 and stay for at least two years (and his mother taught school at this time), just why could not this poor, helpless five year old orphan boy in Louisville have been given a home there in 1871? Or did that "home" act by partiality? (1 Tim. 5:21). The reason that boy was not sent to Midway, was because the Institution at Midway was a school primarily, and on the school premises provisions were made for pupils to stay; but this boy was only five years old and not a student. There was no orphans' Home as such at this time supported by churches of Christ. "No place for him to go" should be sufficient for the wise.

The Christian Church Widows' and Orphans' Home in Louisville, of which brother Totty writes, had its incentive for beginning by the death of the mother of the little boy mentioned above. "She left a boy, who was five years old, and there was no place for him to go" (Fortune, The Disciples in Kentucky, P. 303).

Twelve years later the group who formed the board for this Widows' and Orphans' Home was given a charter. It received its first children May 21, 1884. No Widows were received until September 12, 1912.

The Home in Louisville was built and supported by men and churches who favored the Missionary Society; the school in Midway was built by men who also favored and caused to come into existence) the American Christian Missionary Society. In fact, less than two weeks after Pinkerton's Kentucky Female Orphan School officially opened, he was Chairman of the Convention that brought the A. C. M. S. into existence, in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was none other than John T. Johnson, an ardent supporter of Pinkerton's School which took money from churches, who set forth this resolution at the Convention in Cincinnati, in 1849: "Resolved, That the Missionary Society, as a means to concentrate and dispense the wealth and benevolence of the brethren of this Reformation in an effort to convert the world, is both scriptural and expedient" (The Disciples in Kentucky, p. 348). And, too, we might note that it was Alexander Campbell who was chosen to be the first President of that Society!

The first Orphan Home to come into existence, being supported by churches of Christ, who opposed the Missionary Society and Instrumental Music in the churches, was the Tennessee Orphan Home. It formally opened on Monday, September 5, 1910. Of this home brother J. C. McQuiddy wrote in the Gospel Advocate, September 15, 1910, pp. 1036, 1037, "The object a home, not a literary education. The purpose is indicated by the name. It is not to educate the children, not to teach them any denominationalism or any form of religion, but to give them a home. The children will attend the public schools of Columbia as do the children from other homes of that city."

Now, all this history doesn't prove anything to be scriptural. And, yet, we are told in no uncertain terms that the moment we oppose church support of Benevolent and Educational Societies, we are fighting an issue that is not valid! They say of our opposition: "Here it is presumptuously asserted that these men of the past generation did not understand these 'principles,' and that 'the issues' had not been 'defined.' Aside from the stupidity of such a statement, it implies too much of a compliment to the mentality of these leaders, who in comparison are pigmies in stature and neophytes in understanding" (Foy E. VIallace, Jr., Cospel Advocate, June 18, 1964, p. 391). All such tongue-lashing does not cause the true soldier to forget his only Captain, who has all authority in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18). We know our Shepherd, and he knows his sheep. His sheep will not leave him when the hireling calls, saying, "It's scriptural; our evidence is unimpeachable. Like the poor, we have had homes for the orphaned and aged with us always."

Truth Magazine IX, 3: pp. 9-12
December 1964