Many of us have grown accustomed to trusting certain publications. We do so because our experience has shown that they have always told us the truth as far as we can determine. These publications that we trust may be national or local newspapers, magazines, special interest newsletters, or maybe a publication from a religious organization.
What would happen if one of these publications obtained erroneous information and printed it? Would they print a correction and let you know? Or might they forget about it and leave you in the dark?
Obviously, the significance of the mistake is important. If a publication mistakenly prints that your friend Jane had a baby boy when she really had a girl, she will forgive you if you send the wrong color outfit. But what about articles on important doctrines, Bible History, Bible teachers, etc. Could you lose a friendship or believe a false doctrine because of a mistake in your paper?
These questions really hit home when we see this happens to us personally. A religious organization wrote an article about Friends of the Brethren which contained many statements that were the opposite of the truth. The lack of desire to correct the mistake was amazing. We have withheld the organization’s name as we are not interested in attacking organizations, but we appeal to readers everywhere to check the facts of an article before they make a big decision based on it. We also ask readers to let us know of any incorrect facts in our publications so we can correct them.
Following this, we reprint the text of the letters exchanged about this article. If anyone would like to check our facts, we would be happy to send exact copies of these letters.
Dear Editor [of religious newspaper],
I was a bit mystified by your story on the Friends of the Brethren in the April 4, 1995, issue of the [name of paper withheld.]. Every Friends of the Brethren publication contains our address and phone number, yet we have never received any inquiries from anyone identifying themselves as a representative of [your paper]. This is probably why your article contained so many errors:
1. [Your paper said,] “This mailing comes from a person who left the Global Church...” I have attended with the Global Church of God for almost every Sabbath since its very first meeting. I attended with the Global Church of God last Sabbath. I do have some differences from the leadership about some scriptures, but I believe the Global Church has the trunk of the tree correct. They understand that we are to live by “every word of God” (Luke 4:4) and that it is through the sacrifice of our Savior and his power in us that we should do these good works. They understand the need for repentance from sin, baptism, faith, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. They understand the identity of modern day Israel (Is your 2-year study still continuing?) and many of the prophecies that are soon to affect our nations and the rest of the world (Gen 22:17, Gen 48-49, Ezk 37:15-28, Matt 24 & Revelation, the book). I could list many more points of agreement than of disagreement. The Global Church of God does not endorse the activities of the Friends of the Brethren, but have taken Gamaliel’s approach: “...if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it...” (Acts 5:38-39).
2. [Your paper said,] “Therefore, he has followed the example of others set in causing division and leaving our organization by causing further division and leaving that organization.” I did not leave your organization; [minister name withheld] disfellowshipped me. He agreed that I had not caused any kind of trouble for any member [of that organization], but told me that the corporate policy required that I be disfellowshipped if I planned to attend a church organization that was made up primarily of former [your] members. When Paul found some members saying “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos” (1Cor 3:4), he did not disfellowship the people that were “of Apollos,” but told all the factions to look to God rather than men. I am happy to learn that [your organization] has now changed this policy and does not automatically disfellowship people for fellowshipping with other brethren. We believe the True Church is the body of believers with the holy spirit, no matter which organization they fellowship with. We have readers that fellowship with your organization, with the Global Church of God, with many other church organizations and with unincorporated home meetings. We do not cause division by refusing literature or fellowship to someone just because they listen to other teachers. Do you?
3. [Your paper said,] “How sad this becomes as another splinter group emerges and seeks to garner a following.” If you will check our Statement of Purpose on page 4 of our April issue, you will find that we are specifically not seeking a following, that we do not call ourselves a church and that we do not attempt to control what is taught in local congregations.
4. [Your paper said,] “It is interesting to consider that all the splinter groups teach essentially the same things.” While some groups do have similar teachings, anyone who has read the Directory of Sabbath Observing Groups (Bible Sabbath Association, Fairview, OK 73737) cannot seriously believe that “all the splinter groups teach the same thing.” If you do not believe the book, you can call or write the organizations and see the diversity of teachings for yourself. Since [your organization] believes that God is working in many of the Protestant churches, and since many of your doctrines are very similar, could you be causing division by remaining separate from these well-established churches? Should not you merge with a Seventh-day Baptist or other similar group and then encourage future merging with other groups to eliminate divisions within the Body of Christ? Do you allow your members to freely attend these similar groups or do you believe you have more truth than these Protestant groups?
5. [Your paper said,] “They claim they have more truth than any other group.” Friends of the Brethren does not claim to have more truth than other similar groups. Please see paragraph 2 of our Statement of Purpose: “The only authority we have is from the Bible and the Holy Spirit (which is never in conflict with the Scriptures). We do not believe that the Eternal works exclusively or even primarily through us. We do not claim to have ‘more truth’ than anyone else.”
We hope that [your publication] is eager to maintain a reputation of accurate and truthful reporting to your readers. After all, why should people trust your publication in great spiritual matters if you have trouble getting the basic facts of a simple news story? We ask that you print a correction in [your publication]. If you need any additional information, we would be glad to supply it.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Sincerely, Norman S. Edwards
June 5, 1995 [from religious newspaper]
Thank you for your letter about the [publication name] item about Friends of the Brethren. I forwarded it to those who were directly involved in producing the piece.
[Three sentences about mutual friends omitted.]
It was nice to hear from you again.
June 12, 1995 [from Freinds of the Brethren]
Dear Editor [of same religious paper],
Thank you for your nice letter of June 5, 1995. I was glad to hear that you forwarded it to those who were directly involved in producing the April 4, 1995 article about Friends of the Brethren. I assume the people who produced the article would be the ones who would decide what kind of correction to print—if I am wrong please let me know.
Could you let me know who was responsible? I would be happy to write, fax, call or e-mail them directly—whichever they prefer. My e-mail address is 75260.1603@CompuServe.com.
I still get calls and letters about the article from members of a variety of organizations. I would prefer that [your publication] print the correction—if I made a similar mistake, I would hope that someone would give me the chance to correct it first. However, if it does not look like a correction is forthcoming in the next few weeks, I would like to print one in our own publication, Servants’ News. Our next press deadline is June 19. Please try to respond by this time.
I am faxing this letter to you for speedy delivery, I will mail a copy also.
Thank you very much for your help.
Sincerely, Norman S. Edwards
June 13, 1995 [from religious newspaper]
Fax To: Norman Edwards
Company: Friends of the Brethren
From: [religious newspaper Editor]
Hi Norman. Thanks for your fax. I have decided not to run a correction. Kind regards, [Editor].
Some people called about the erroneous article and received the correct information. But most readers probably believed it. How many other erroneous articles have been printed about more vital issues? Who is believing them?