I have hoped, prayed, and acted in good faith for many, many years in trying to have a conversation with Stanton leadership. When I heard Paula in her own voice incorrectly tell the world that I failed to show up to meet her kids for an unfriendly (her words) conversation about the church, I was reminded that I had seen a copy of my email to Gary somewhere from “probably a couple decades ago.” I was close. As it turned out, I sent it on August 10, 2004, over 18 years ago as of today. I ran across the copy, and will share it below.

For the record, I still have no ill will toward Gary, Paula, or any other Stanton leader. The offer still stands to meet (hopefully on friendly terms, in the spirit of assuming good motives toward one another), either in person in Idaho, or by phone or Zoom. My number is 208-249-8893. There. I’ve made it as easy as possible to set the record straight. If I’m wrong on some factual matter, please correct me. If I’m wrong on an opinion, please present me with scriptures and sound Biblical exegesis to support it.

In the meantime, to let everyone know how long I had asked for a sincere, private dialogue with Gary prior to starting this blog, here is my email to Gary from 18 years ago.

Please note that my opinions expressed in the email may have changed a bit in the last 18 years, as they should when you continue to grow, learn, and mature in the faith. If some argue “how is that different from Stanton ‘growing’ in their doctrines over the decades,” I will say that it’s not…but I readily admit it. Stanton, on the other hand, denies that their doctrines have ever changed.

August 10, 2004

Dear Gary,

My first attempt to e-mail you bounced, but my mom got your e-mail address for me. I ran across a post of yours on the Abilene College Stone-Campbell discussion list from 1999 and wanted to respond directly to you.

I’ve wanted for years to start a dialogue with you about some of Stanton’s convictions and their perception of the “off church.” It saddens me that the Lord’s church has become a group of disparate factions, each warring with the other in a carnal mess. This may sound odd coming from one in the “off church” as you would say, but it is the truth. It is the truth in the Stanton congregations as well as many of the mainline and splinter churches.

I write this in the spirit of humility. As my mom can attest, I have never been spiteful about my past relationship with the church as some have. Perhaps that’s because I didn’t spend much time in it once I realized that it was not teaching the sole truth it claimed to have a corner on. I earnestly believe the Stanton groups have a zeal that is simply not according to knowledge, and I hope that someday the changes that have occurred in recent years will bring the fruit of a renewed interest in tossing the doctrines of fallible men and women from Stanton’s past.

I’ve been encouraged by various bits and pieces of information I’ve accidentally learned on some of Stanton’s doctrinal changes. I’ll never forget being told that the reason my wife and I didn’t understand the women’s fly issue was that we didn’t yet have the Holy Spirit. It’s fascinating to me that this errant doctrine about women’s clothing was corrected years later, and I wonder in retrospect who at that table had the Holy Spirit? I don’t mean that to be facetious, but to illustrate that all of us are imperfect in our understanding of the truth if we are truly growing. It is when our understandings don’t change that we know we are not growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Another (apparently) changed doctrine was the teaching that marital sex had to be face to face and that a marriage bed could be defiled, when the Scriptures clearly say that it is undefiled. Not to get too graphic here, but a verse about “thou shalt not lie with men as with a beast” was totally fabricated from faulty memory by a Teacher at a Stanton fellowship conversation to justify this teaching about marital sex. In fairness, the verse quotation was later realized as faulty and retracted. Again, I have wondered many timed who at that table had the Holy Spirit? I assume from reading [DC’s] Internet postings, which I ran across yesterday, that you and others have recognized the beauty and purity of sexual passion within the bounds of marriage. The Song of Solomon testifies to this God-ordained gift, but I could never have remained at Stanton for the past 12 years continuing to swallow false doctrines like these knowing they were Scripturally just plain wrong.

Yet another instance of doctrinal change in the Stanton groups is the teaching that elders had to have a good report within and without, even prior to baptism, in order to qualify. This completely flies in the face of sound doctrine and I understand that error has been corrected in the Stanton churches. I hope that other corrections to false doctrines will follow that will bring your congregations more in line with the scriptures rather than holding up the teachings and doctrines of fallible men – be they Teachers or otherwise. I hope that someday the Stanton churches can appoint elders in every city as the Scriptures instruct rather than interpret the qualifications in such a way that no human being can attain it.

Merie always taught that a church that changes is a church in error, because truth never changes. I obviously don’t appeal to her for authority, but I do agree. But this just goes to show that we are all brothers in error, brother. Every single one of us. Anyone who thinks otherwise thinks too highly of himself and is ready for a fall. Any church that thinks 1 Ti. 3:15 protects them from error is deluded by the teachings of men. The Revelation warnings to the churches of Asia show how quickly churches can deteriorate.

One more word about Merie Weiss, whom I always respected as a child and a young man. Perhaps I respect her a little less now as an adult, now that I understand the depth of her misunderstandings and applications of Scripture, but I have no ill will toward her or her followers. I hope and trust that God will be as gracious to her as I will need Him to be with me when I meet Him.

What has become apparent to me is that she unknowingly got caught up in the zeitgeist, or spirit of her times. That era was an era fraught with schism, debate, friction, and faction. One was held to be the most spiritual that (sic) could debate the most convincingly and draw away the most followers. That they did, and that, brother, is far from the spirit of meekness and unity we Christians are to have in Christ. I don’t attribute ill intentions to her at all. By the grace of God we must all keep our pride in check in our Christian walk, and most of us fail repeatedly. I don’t know her heart, but I presume her heart was for the Lord. My point is that the social current in the churches of Christ at the time was as far off in the direction of schism as some modern churches are today in the direction of ecumenicalism.

But I digress. I’ll start by offering a short answer to your question posted on the message board about baptism. Your post was as follows:

Dear Don….Thanks very much for responding to my post of 2/22/99. Please bear with me as I am a novice to this forum. As I perused your response, I could’nt agree with you more of how serious a matter this is and would be for many souls. I suppose that using my example of “coming out” of Mormonism was not the best illustration to use in a discussion of this type. Especially with so many foundational and doctrinal errors to be found in the Mormon dilemma. As sincere, and earnest, and honest as an “LDS” can be, it does not annul in any sense of the word the plank they are walking. After all if “the blind lead the blind then both will fall into the ditch”.

My real question then surrounds the example you originally gave that prompted my inquiry. “A Baptist couple who believed that when they were baptized they were being baptized for the  forgiveness of their sins”, and you would agree, I believe, to accept them into the fellowship of the one most holy faith. Please correct me if I am wrong on this take. I know that AC [Alexander  Campbell] did this, and I have no answer to counter what he did except that I would say the the (sic) church that had fled into the wilderness” by the grace of God for protection and survival was now coming out of the pea soup fog it had been in and now was in the “twilight” of understanding.

And then the light shined more brightly for all to see the profoundness of the restoration which I love. I truly believe the soil of souls like Campbell, Stone, Scott, etc. were fertile territory for the glory of God to work and once again the glorious church of Christ had emerged from her long  sabbatical in the wilderness. I guess I’m wandering and many in this list will take me to task on what I’ve stated so far, so I’ll pull the plug at this point.

So, my question is: how can someone be baptized (immersed for the forgiveness of sins) and allegedly get to the precious blood of Christ for remission of sins if they have not come to the body of Christ (church of Christ,as you well know) where that blood is to be found. Please excuse my poor example in the following: If you have the blood type I need in your physical body (and you alone) I have to come to your body for what I need and want. No other body will give me what I want but yours. So be it with the body of Christ which is the church. That’s where his blood is to be found. A “believing ” denominationalist and non-denominationalist is not what Jesus had in mind when he said “I will build my church.” All N.T. examples show that conversions were in the church that Christ established. What we have today and for hundreds and hundreds of years is an abomination to God. Am I being too severe?

In my case: when I was baptized (by immersion for the forgiveness of sins) by the Mormon “elders”, I believed I was being forgiven for my sins…not that I was becoming added to the Mormon faith, even tho that comes with the territory. Just the same way when I was immersed in the church of Christ I did’nt realize (know and understand) I was being added to the church even tho I’m sure I was taught that I was. I wanted to be set free from my sins; and was, but in the body of Christ where his blood is to be found.

I’ll cease and desist my ramblings at this time even tho there are other points to make at a later time. But this is what I teach and this is what I believe. I too, believe this to be a serious matter as it is the genesis for every obedient child of God, and “if the foundations be destroyed how can the
rightious build?”

I anxiously await the kindness of your reply. I sometimes feel somewhat inferior to the intelligentsia and academia that I read from the list. But let’s face it, our real work is with the common man of the streets because we know that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called. Please do not take this as a reflection of you being “in after the flesh.” It’s just a point form a young (50 years of age) but old fashioned preacher.

Best Regards,
Gary Preman

First, as Merie always taught, wrong premises produce wrong conclusions. The premise that I believe the Stanton churches (for lack of a better term) have wrong in this regard is that we are being baptized into a single outward body of Christ. This can’t be further from the truth. We are baptized into Christ’s one spiritual body, whose members may assemble together outwardly in disparate parts of the world or country and never know of each other. It pains me that the scriptures have been wrested out of their original meaning and context to say things that were never intended by the authors or by God.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, the Word of God is the seed of the kingdom and doesn’t need you or I to plant it for it to be effective. If we truly believe that by the Word of the Lord, the heavens were made, then surely we can agree that His Word is able to lead a sinner to repent and seek baptism to have his sins washed away. The Stanton congregations believe they hold “the seed” of truth in perpetuity according to 1 Ti. 3:15. But again, the scriptures are wrested to mean something entirely foreign to Paul. If this passage meant that the outward body of Christ would always be the pillar and ground of the truth, then the Roman apostasy would not be an apostasy. I have always been scared to death of the implication that the May meetings are for arriving at unity and truth. The May Meeting is so reminiscent of the Roman apostasy with the councils. I truly marvel at how soon the Stanton churches have been led down a course that history has already played out once before. It’s end has not been pretty.

Matthew 13:23 – But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Luke 8:11 – Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.

1 Peter 1:23 – Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

We are born again, not of corruptible seed that is produced and defended by men and assemblies of believers, but by incorruptible seed that can’t be changed no matter what our opinions are. We are born again by the Word of God, not the preacher or the local assembly of believers preaching it. If anyone receives this seed from any source and responds as the Jews in Acts 2 did, who am I to discount the work of that incorruptible seed and insist that it has to be planted by my hands before it is truly effective? This is very unsound doctrine.

Third, I wanted to respond to your query about your previous baptism as a Mormon. I find analogies about the blood and accessing the blood “type” through the body to be interesting philosophies of men, but not scriptural per se. An analogy can only go as far as its author intended in explaining a particular position. Who was the author of this analogy? Certainly not the Holy Spirit. It is troubling that so many of Stanton’s teachings have been erected upon philosophical speculations of men, rather than upon sola scriptura, or scripture alone.

But to return to the Mormon baptism issue, this is not really an issue. Mormons don’t believe or confess that Jesus came as God in the flesh. If you start with the familiar “hear, believe, repent, confess, be baptized” scheme, the Mormon baptism breaks down at the “confess” part. Theoretically could someone have a correct understanding of the good news and of regeneration and for the sake of “getting it done” resort to a Mormon to baptize them? I suppose it is theoretically possible. But I would presume that it’s probably never happened and is not likely to.

I similarly think it is unlikely that most of the baptisms done by the denominational world are valid in that they are rarely, if ever, done for the remission of sins. But remember, we are not being baptized into a denomination, but into the Lord’s body, a spiritual body that includes both the faithful who are alive and those who are already departed to be with our Savior. So it is possible that someone, through personal study, can gain a perfect understanding of their need to respond to the gospel as the Jews in Acts 2 did, but an imperfect understanding of what it means to assemble with the saints. In this case, I do believe a person baptized by another group has their sins purged by the washing of water by the Word. They are added to the Lord’s called out, even if they have not recognized the need for meeting with a local body of believers yet. They will lack the sustenance they need if they don’t learn this real fast—hence the parable of the seed that fell on the various types of ground.

This is by no means exhaustive, and I would enjoy a further exchange on this or other subjects of your interest. I hope I did at least a cursory job of addressing your questions on what some of us in the “off church” (to use Stanton’s term) believe regarding baptism. I wish you well, and hope that someday we can meet in the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace.

Another question I would love to discuss with you is the name of the church. [DC’s] website mentions that a name change is next in the perceived apostasy that she thinks is taking place in the Stanton churches. Does Stanton still teach that “Church of Christ” is the only acceptable name for the Lord’s church? I think the scriptures clearly teach otherwise. In fact, it is impossible to find a proper name for the Lord’s church anywhere in the Bible. But that is a subject for another time.

Humbly, in Christian love, and in Him,

Kevin Harper

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