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Abstracting the Susan Gamble -
Mike Cope Interview

By J. E. Choate

religion, articles, christianity

Susan Gamble and George Butterfield have rendered a distinct and valuable service to churches of Christ as the result of a Toronto interview in August 1995, between Susan Gamble and Mike Cope to address the editorial policy of Wineskins. The interview was published in a West Coast paper.

George Butterfield picked up on the interview and put it on the ACU Restoration Movement Biblical Studies Discussion List internet with the comment: "Susan Gamble has submitted the following article to our ftp site. But I also feel that it will be good to post it. Good job, Susan, and thanks for taking the time to not only do the interview but also send it our way."

Inadvertently, Susan Gamble supplied us with pertinent information that we could not have pried out of Mike Cope. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the liberal "change agents" sense that a formidable and competent number of conservative brethren are building an "air tight" against them.

And it is obvious that George Butterfield and Susan Gamble have gone to bat for Wineskins and its editors which is not surprising. Analyze the facts and make your own editorial calls.

Abstracting the Concrete

Susan Gamble prefaces the interview with a most revealing statement to Mike Cope: "There are few men with such controversy swirling about them as Rubel Shelly, Phillip Morrison, and Mike Cope, the trio behind Wineskins."

That Susan Gamble endorses and defends the editors against what she considers to be unfair accusations is glaringly apparent from the very first statement. What follows is obviously "cut and dried."

Keep in mind the following statement is a summation of Gamble's conclusions even before the interview gets underway. She makes her case before she states her case:

These men have been accused of plotting the church's downfall, dragging her into denominationalism They have been falsely condemned [?] for trying to bring instrumental music to the church. Tongues have gossiped about how a writer in their magazine denied the virgin birth and was later fired from a Christian university.

The "change agents" are not accused with plotting anything. They are quite open in submitting their agendas and ploys for church takeovers, e.g., Lynn Anderson's Navigating the Winds of Change. That these accusations are widely circulated throughout the churches of Christ is obviously an accurate assessment. There would be no way of knowing the extent of the pain now shaking the confidence of the "change agents" without the Gamble­Cope interview.

That the allegations are unfounded rumors and gossip just won't wash. Our brethren are doing a good job in reporting the facts which are being widely circulated in local pulpits, church bulletins, numerous lectureships, and conservative brotherhood papers. All of this is taking place at the "grass roots" level of the churches of Christ.

Adequate proof of this is readily apparent in the phrasing of Gamble's first question to Cope: "Tell us how you became a spokesman for renewal." Regardless of Cope's response, a cursory reading of the first issue (May 92) of Wineskins divulges that the editorial policy has nothing to do with renewal, but radical change. I defer to the editorial statements of the editors for their explanations and am quite content to go along with what they say.

Mike Cope, Rubel Shelly, and Phillip Morrison phrase their Wineskins Purpose Statement: "Wineskins is committed to the stimulation of bold but responsible change in the church of God." They further write: "Our background and commitment is to the church of Christ that was born of the American Restoration Movement."

There is no reference to the Pentecostal birthday of the church (A.D. 33). The contention of Douglas Foster and Richard T. Hughes that the Church of Christ began as a small exclusivistic sect in the early 19th century is evidently endorsed by Mike Cope.

And this statement - "You've been accused of running down what has been done by our parents and grandparents in the church."

Regardless of Cope's response to this, this writer would say, "Guilty as charged."

A whole article could be written about the abusive criticism which these change agents, cradled in churches of Christ, have heaped upon the churches of Christ, and the boast of how much more they now know than their parents. Liberal brethren are not known to establish churches, but to seize control from brethren who have sacrificed to build them.

Shame on you, Mike Cope, for your sophomoric ploy to pull this one off.

Another lead question was put to Mike Cope - "If you could talk directly to people who are afraid of what they have heard about you, what would you want to say to them?"

Cope responds that people are advised first to read Wineskins. I have, others have, and this is the problem: the editors do not seem to known when to dry up. Brother Cope, you are an attractive presence in the pulpit and a popular breezy writer, but you are no biblical scholar and prophet.

Another Gamble statement - "Obviously, by raising your head above the crowd, being ready to step out with a new idea, you guys have become lightning rods." (I would say court jesters, and not very amusing at that.)

The famous expression that all history since Plato is a footnote to Plato raises a question how your names, if at all, will be footnotes to the history of the Restoration Movement.

Brother Cope, you have the gall to say, after Rubel Shelly has gone up and down the land with his increasing flippant attacks of churches of Christ, that "poor Rubel" is criticized for becoming the spokesman for the saving grace of God in lieu of baptism, or anything else. You picture him as dripping with love for our heritage and the Restoration movement. What kind of a "cock and bull" story are you trying to lay on your trusting brethren?

Mike Cope says that he is surprised at the "vitriolic nature of some of the criticism." I heard Rubel Shelly attempt to make a laughingstock out of the churches of Christ during his post Easter speech to a packed audience in the Disciples of Christ building in the neighborhood of David Lipscomb University. There was lively applause and hand clapping.

I prefer to use civilized satire in focusing on an issue which brings a quick smile of recognition, no boisterous demonstrations.

Dr. Shelly has been to Calgary, and he is hooked up with Mike Bickle of the Kansas City Prophets, and he is identified with C. Peter Wagner's "Third Wave" Pentecostal movement. Could it just be that Mike Cope is so enamored with his local church popularity that he is blinded to the realities swirling about him? Ego is an awful problem for many. Remember this is how Satan thought to snare Jesus in the wilderness.

And this revealing statement put to Cope: "Some say you have not responded to your critics, and therefore they wonder if the criticisms are right."

Susan Gamble then brings up the notorious Andre Resner case. I have read the few defenses made to clear Andre Resner of saying the mother of Jesus was "a sexually questionable woman." I do not know what Resner believes based upon what he says. I regard the article as a veiled, stupid attack, intended or not, which questions the virginity of Mary. In any case, a Princeton candidate for a Ph.D., should be able to write succinct English.

A Question for Susan Gamble

Susan, why did you not address the article written by Douglas Foster who attributed the words of a Landmark Baptist preacher to David Lipscomb that forgiveness of sins comes before baptism. I heard Phillip Morrison make an admission of the error during a Wineskins luncheon at Lipscomb and promise a correction. Douglas Foster made a private admission of the mistake. Wineskins to this day has not made the correction, nor ever will.

Some have questioned the honesty of Dr. Foster. I do not, but regard the statement as a confirmation of his ignorance on the subject due to a hasty, and erroneous reading. His desire to make a case was so great to have Lipscomb subscribe to the Baptist doctrine of salvation before baptism that he failed to exercise discriminating care in getting his ducks lined up. However, I am left wondering why he omitted a part of the Baptist quote without an ellipsis. There is not the slightest doubt that this misquote of Dr. Foster is the clear editorial policy of Wineskins.


Mike Cope says, "Our reasons for the existence of Wineskins is not to get into debates." Our liberal brethren have a sixth sense of avoiding Waterloos, and crossing Rubicons. We would they mount sufficient courage to say openly what is lurking in their minds. Many large and small churches have been lured into their camps, and others are ripe for takeover.

I am deeply puzzled and filled with sorrow that our liberal brethren are destroying their own churches in much the same way as the digressive Disciples did 100 years ago. I think that many of the sheep and their shepherds do not sense the great harm being inflicted on the churches by the "change agents."

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