What is the BRF Doing?

October, 1969
Volume 4, Number 4

The Brethren Revival Fellowship came into being more than ten years ago at the Ocean Grove Annual Conference in 1959. It has been rather loosely organized. The men on the committee are all busy with preaching responsibilities. As a result, the Fellowship has not functioned with utmost efficiency. All the work connected with the operation of the organization is done by volunteers. There is no paid staff. The members of the committee are not paid for their time, work, and mileage involved in planning the annual meeting and in printing the quarterly literature.

The people who support the BRF are concerned about directions the Church of the Brethren has been taking. The Fellowship is composed of people who are not willing to bow their knees to Baal, and to support the trend toward socialism, humanism, and political activism within the Church. There are still a number of congregations and many individuals across the Brotherhood who are keeping the flame of biblical faith shining, despite all the restraining influences that come from the more liberal establishment.

It has often been said that the BRF movement is trying to split the Church. The fact is, the membership of the Church of the Brethren is already divided. People are heartbroken over the preaching they hear in some of our churches, and deeply disturbed about the directions our leadership is taking. Some are leaving the denomination. The Brethren are being split, not so much by the conservatives who urge that we contend for the biblical faith, as by the liberals who insist on moving the denomination off its biblical foundations. The BRF has continually said that an effective witness can be borne within the denomination, and that splitting only adds to the problems. The BRF is for the Church. It is for the Bible. It is for the principles of Anabaptism. It is for the salvation wrought out on Calvary by the shedding of Christ’s blood. We do not seek a divided Church, but we do seek to worship in a Church (and have our offspring worship in a Church) that uses the New Testament as its rule of faith and practice.

In this issue of the Witness, the reader will find information telling what the BRF is doing in its attempt to witness for the truth within the Church of the Brethren.


What Is The BRF Doing?

by Harold S. Martin

A number of people have heard about the annual BRF meeting (geographically rotated into differing Districts from year to year), and many others have read issues of the BRF Witness. This year’s annual meeting was held at the Indian Creek Church of the Brethren, northwest of Philadelphia, Pa., on August 9. During the question-and-answer period at the August 9 meeting, the point was made that many folks hear about the BRF, but have no idea what the BRF is doing. It was suggested then that an issue of the BRF Witness be devoted to giving more details about some of BRF’s activities. The paragraphs that follow are an attempt to carry out this suggestion.

1. The BRF is focusing attention upon the authority of the Scriptures.

The real issue of our concern, is not the National and World Council of Churches, not the unified budget, not the increasing involvement in economic and political matters – the real issue at stake is the integrity and the authority of the Bible as the Word of God. The reason some of our leaders are passing unfavorable quips about our traditions, minimizing the distinctive doctrines which have been a part of our Anabaptist heritage, and in some cases rejecting the basic tenets of the Christian faith – is because these Brethren can no longer say with D. L. Miller, “The Brethren hold the Bible to be the inspired and infallible Word of God, and accept the New Testament as their rule of faith and practice.” They are saying instead, “We may ask the Bible any question we wish, and doubt it where we must, because it was written by fallible men . . . ” Church of the Brethren Leader, page 31, July, 1959.

The Brethren Revival Fellowship is distributing about five thousand copies of its publication, the BRF Witness, each quarter. In this way we are hoping to sound the alarm about unscriptural trends, to proclaim Scriptural truths, and to discuss vital issues. Quantities of the Witness now go to representatives in 175 congregations across the Brotherhood, and many others receive individual copies. If you have not been receiving the BRF Witness, write us for copies of this literature. One issue deals with the trustworthiness of the Bible; another, with the National Council of Churches; another, with civil disobedience; another, with the Bible teaching on nonresistance; etc. We believe that it is important that our people know both sides of the issues which confront the church today. We are getting only one side in most of our official literature. The BRF literature is a much-needed corrective. We are seeking to get the Messenger (at least on occasion) to feature an article representing the stance of the BRF.

2. The BRF is bolstering the morale of individuals who are discouraged.

Very frankly, we don’t have much hope for renewal within the denomination as a whole, but there are in individuals within the denomination who need to be encouraged to be steadfast. The BRF is a kind of center to which some Church of the Brethren members are coming for help. We constantly receive letters from persons who are discouraged. Some are trying to make a witness for Christ in the midst of a liberal congregation. Others are pastors, weary of the mail they constantly receive from headquarters that shows a preoccupation with this world and its ills, without a corresponding concern for the souls of sinners who desperately need the Saviour. Still other letters come from young people, who find that the teaching of evolution, the loose attitude on civil disobedience, and the promotion of folk-rock music and other “far-out” methods of communication have become very repulsive.

The following are portions of a few of the many letters we have received:

From a pastor: “Please send 25 copies of the BRF Witness, Vol. 4, No. 1. I thank the Lord that there is such a group as the BRF in existence. It seems like so many Brethren are not interested in holding up the Scriptures. I am in complete harmony with your views, and I sometimes feel like I am almost walking alone, yet the Lord is near. “(Ohio)

From a laymen: “At our District Meeting, I picked up your BRF Witness and brought it back to my home church. We enjoyed it so much that we would like to be put on your mailing list, please. It was such a comfort to know that there are some Brethren who have their eyes open and are taking a stand against the church’s directions.” (West Virginia)

From a young person: “I am presently enrolled in (a Church of the Brethren College), and am taking a course entitled Brethren History and Thought. The class has been divided into four committees, and I am chairman of the committee which is to study the goals, objectives, and methods of the BRF … please send copies of past BRF Witnesses which are available” (Kansas)

From a pastor: “I am interested in being on your mailing list if you are willing to send your mailings to me. I disagree with your interpretations, but appreciate your spirit and would like to know the thinking of your group.” (Pennsylvania)

From a pastor: “We are a conservative congregation and are looking for such a pastor. Do you know of anyone available to (suggest); if so, we would be glad to hear from you.” (Illinois)

From a young person: “I have served in BVS and a number of years at Bethany Brethren Hospital in Chicago as a nurse. I am presently enrolled (in a Church of the Brethren College). Presently I am in turmoil about the liberal views of our professors . . . . in Christian Ethics we are studying situation ethics and the new morality … our professor says we must not be black or white but gray in our thinking … the professor asked for a vote of how many (out of the class of 36) were in agreement with [Joseph] Fletcher’s beliefs (in favor of the new morality) and every one but three of us raised our hands. The other two (beside my vote) are against Fletcher (not because he teaches the new-morality), but because he is too religious! ” (Pennsylvania)

From a young person: “I first heard about your organization in a Messenger news article earlier this year. I am in fullest sympathy with your goals. Our pastor is liberal but the majority of the congregation is not. Not all youth are the rebellious, hippie type … our church leaders say the Church has to adapt to youth, but they are talking about the unregenerate youth and not about those who personally know the Lord Jesus Christ …. I will be glad to serve as a BRF agent in our congregation . . I am a 16-year-old youth and am looking forward to hearing from you and pray God’s blessingon your important work.” (Pennsylvania)

These have been excerpts from letters received by the BRF. Each letter directed to us is answered as quickly as possible. We try to give answers that are helpful and encouraging. Many times we can enclose literature that helps meet a particular need. We welcome letters of inquiry, comment, and constructive criticism.

3. The BRF at its annual meeting has taken some specific actions.

The Church of the Brethren Yearbook reveals that during the last five years our U. S. membership dropped by 14,300 members, and during the last four years our average Sunday morning attendance dropped by 12,316 persons. The fact that the attendance (and not only the membership figures) is rapidly dropping, indicates that the loss is not due primarily to the fact that some congregations are dropping names of inactive members. More than 12,000 people who had been active and attending services four years ago, are no longer there. Any business organization faced with such a record would realize that something was very radically wrong, and would take steps to correct it.

The BRF believes that unless something can be done quickly within the next few years, the records will be showing even greater losses. We believe that the decline in membership and attendance is largely due to the following factors:

1. The authority of the Word of God is often set aside
2. Our affiliation with the National Council of Churches
3. The dangers seen in the mania for ecumenism
4. Our literature often is filled with liberal teachings
5. The emphasis on social action instead of the redeeming work of Christ
6. Our far-out methods used in relation to youth ministries

Many churches, families, and individuals are becoming more and more restless. It is getting harder to convince many Brethren that they should not withdraw from the denomination. There is a growing feeling that the exodus from the Church will become more drastic if denominational leaders do not abandon their liberal policies, and get back to the primary mission of the church. In order to try and bring about a needed corrective, the BRF at its August 9 annual meeting voted strongly to take the following steps:

1. To prepare a concise booklet, which would include a brief description of at least the following: the fundamental doctrines of the faith; the ordinances of the church; a biblical position on current issues; a rebuke of worldliness and immodesty; etc.

2. To ask Annual Conference Central Committee to give the BRF one evening service in which to present a program on evangelism. The BRF would secure the speaker, plan the worship, and ask for post-evening sessions to discuss the evening services.

3. To petition the Church of the Brethren General Board to provide spiritual ministries in keeping with the evangelical faith, which could be supported by those who cannot conscientiously support the total Brotherhood program. We believe that these ministries must be financed by funds apart from the unified budget, and that they should be approved by a BRF-appointed committee.

It will interest readers to know that as of this date (September 15, 1969), we have had a response to item 2 above. The Annual Conference Central Committee considered the request and states that it cannot grant to the BRF the responsibility for developing a part of the Conference program on its own.

It is hoped that what has just been written will accomplish its purpose to better inform people about what the BRF is doing. And keep in mind that our aims and purposes and activities do not grow out of a mere nostalgia for the past. We know very well that time cannot be turned back. But we are nostalgic for a renewed realization that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is relevant for the needs of every age, and that by the power of the Holy Spirit, it can bring about a marvelous change in men and nations today, just as it did in the first A.D. century. May every Christ-loving believer shine as a light in the present darkness. God has called us to “stand fast” in the faith, not to run away from problems. Who will bear testimony in the local churches, if those who know Jesus personally, up and leave? Christ calls us not necessarily to cozy fellowship with like-minded people, but to be lights in the midst of darkness.