“If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.”
—I Timothy 6:3-5
Perhaps it is time to wipe the dust off the sacred old tomes of history, and take a long hard look at why there is a publication called the Apostolic Standard.
In February of 1968, this paper came into existence amidst a virtual explosion of preaching, teaching, and expostulating—and the battle cry of the day was “let the preacher preach his God-given, Bible-backed, anointed and inspired message!”
In a time when to preach or write against the established conventions of the orthodox, mainstream Pentecostal movement was considered heresy, there were some men who stood fearlessly, shoulder to shoulder, and back to back, and fought for a cause that to them was as sacred and dear as life itself. “Politics” was the dirty word of the day. And as might be expected, any movement that becomes intoxicated with the heady wine of politics rabidly resists any efforts to cure it.
Thus, the battle was joined. And out of the din of mingled voices and the anguished shouts and cries of many hurting men, there was heard a clear note, and a certain sound, mustering God-fearing men to march to its beat, and to fight under its accompanying banner: the Apostolic Standard … the brain-child of Elder Murray E. Burr, then of Port Arthur, Texas. Along with him stood such men as Elder Robert C. Cavaness, Shelbyville, Indiana; Elder Carl Ballestero, South Bend, Indiana; Elder C. W. Shew, Fort Worth, Texas; Elder W. A. Cranford, Sulphur, Louisiana; Elder Verbal Bean, Houston, Texas; Elder Paul Jordan, Indianapolis, Indiana; and Elder B. A. Spell, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
These were men to whom the pall of political chicanery was unutterably loathsome. They had watched as a political machine set aside Bible-based preaching in favor of popular, trendy oratory. They saw men get caught up in the false notion that “gain is godliness”—or bigger is better, if you please.
And marching with a unified front, under the banner of the Apostolic Standard, these and other like-minded men came together in August of 1968 to form the Apostolic Ministers Fellowship, which is now popularly known as the Apostolic Churches International, Inc.
Mind you, these men did not preach nor did they believe that membership in any particular organization was inherently evil; nor did they attempt to bribe, coerce, or otherwise browbeat men into joining their fellowship.
These were men who were held together by a common cause: a mutual love of true Apostolic teachings and hatred of politics and all the false doctrines that it engenders.
Many men have come and gone since those bygone days of yesteryear. Some left that probably should have stayed; and some stayed that no doubt should have left.
The startling irony of it all is that we yet observe all the makings of the very same symptoms that we attempted to abandon, lo these many years ago. There are men that will stand and loudly declare their hatred of the “XYZ” organization—all the while harboring the very attitude and sentiment that the old warriors so zealously endeavored to exorcise from our fellowship.
Of what benefit is it to loudly declaim the evils of the “XYZ” while harboring men that are low-down, conniving scoundrels, who will secretly slip into town and steal the heart and affections of people in another man’s congregation? How courageous is it to only denounce the problems of others, while never quite focusing on our own problems long enough to make a difference?
Sin is sin, and evil is evil, regardless of your religious or political affiliation, or lack thereof. To cry publicly for an open pulpit while secretly pressuring men to preach your way is an abominable outrage against all that is decent and holy. These “mouths” must be stopped! There is no place in the Apostolic Ministers Fellowship—nor among any true Holiness-minded people—for party-line politics. May Almighty God deliver us from double-minded, two-faced, double-tongued con men!
We must be just as zealous for what is right as we are zealous against what is wrong. A lack of parity in this regard demonstrates a serious emotional imbalance. Our definitions of right and wrong cannot fluctuate so drastically that we become a mere caricature of a church, as others have. We cannot hold multiple standards and expect to be regarded with any kind of respect by others who look our way.
We must not abandon ethics in our dealings with certain men just because they don’t have a large congregation, or because they have not attained a certain financial status. How can a pastor expect to maintain any discernible degree of credibility when he assiduously asserts the absolute necessity of submission to pastoral authority in his home church, while at the same time giving refuge and fellowship to those who have openly rebelled against the pastor in another (equally Apostolic) church? The cardinal rule of politics: It pays to have friends in high places.
If, after all these years, we can do no better than “politics as usual,” someone needs to go back and apologize to our founding fathers. These Champions of the Faith fought and gave their lives for something they considered precious; do we not consider it precious enough to preserve it inviolate?
We do not need mindless zombies who simply spew out what they have heard some other mindless zombie say. Nor do we need carbon-copy, cookie-cutter office-seekers, who are so anxious to curry favor they will say or do anything—without regard to whether or not it is right or wrong. We desperately need men who know why they preach what they preach, and who, when they preach, preach with conviction—not with mean-spirited, bitter words that do nothing but gender strife.
It is a shame that men stand up in conference pulpits with obvious antagonism and open hostility against others, and say harsh things because they have a certain image to preserve. What a great disservice we render to those great men who pioneered this fellowship! What would Elder Verbal Bean have to say about such antics? Would he even deign to come around?
We become an embarrassment to the word “Apostolic” if we will allow anyone and anything to come under the umbrella of our fellowship without subjecting them to close and intense scrutiny. Nothing will destroy the purity of a fellowship quicker than simply trying to build quantity without regard to quality.
If we are not careful, we will become what we claim to despise in others. We must not become our own worst enemy. Politics always has been and always will be the enemy of God-fearing men. What a colossal tragedy it would be if while we were caught up in the hype of preaching against the “XYZ,” its politics were to overtake us. It doesn’t matter if you are bitten by a little poisonous snake or squeezed to death by a big one: either way you die.
Any gutless wonder can get up and blast away at three puny little letters; but it takes real grit and true courage to take the time to clearly define the problem, determine how to solve it, and then fight to prevent its recurrence.
Our teachers taught politics to be the stamp of spiritual harlotry. When men are caught up in the spirit of politics, they will sell out their message just to be able to belong to the right group. Such men desecrate the office of the ministry. They go from back-scratching to back-stabbing, depending who is and who is not around.
While it is understood that anything man makes is intrinsically flawed, we must carefully guard our freedom and our fellowship. To turn our heads when trouble comes simply because it involves someone with rank or prestige admits of cowardice and folly—and it smells of politics!
Any fellowship is only as strong as the men who are in it. Bylaws mean nothing unless they are followed and enforced. And while it is agreed that the least organization is the best, without order there is chaos; and where chaos is, God is not.
The Apostolic Ministers Fellowship does not need politics. If we cannot divest ourselves of the odor, then maybe we had better start looking for the skunk.
Maybe it is time for another revolution.
Rev. Tim D. Cormier
Reprinted from the February, 2000 issue of the Apostolic Standard.
(C) Copyright held by Tim D. Cormier. This document may not be reproduced in whole or in part, except for personal use, without the express written permission of the author.