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
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
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
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
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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