A Commendable Resignation
By Don Martin
Most have made judgments and formed alliances regarding which they later regretted. Some associations are wrong within themselves and others may begin innocently enough and then evolve into matters from which the faithful Christian should distance himself. Unless Donnie Rader has changed positions on marriage, divorce, and marriage to another, he and I are in doctrinal agreement. Regarding privately funded societies for the purpose of providing individual Christians the means to collectively do the work God assigned to his collectivity, the local church, Donnie and I probably hold antithetical views (I believe such entities as the Guardian of Truth Foundation as it now functions is without biblical authority). Having provided this brief preface, allow me to now focus on the paramount thrust of this writing.
Mike Willis announced this week (week of October 2, 2005) that Donnie Rader has resigned from the board of the Guardian of Truth Foundation and from being a staff writer for Truth Magazine (the severance took place September 10, 2005, I understand). Since I do not have access to Donnie’s resignation, I must rely on Mike Willis’ explanation and reason for Rader’s resignation. In an email to the staff writers of Truth Magazine, Mike announced Donnie’s resignation as follows:
“At our recent board meeting, brother Donnie Rader resigned from the Board of the Guardian of Truth Foundation and as a staff writer for the paper. It is with great sadness that I inform you of his decision.”
It is ironic that what constitutes “sadness” to Mike Willis is a cause of rejoicing for a number of brethren. I have, frankly, been very disappointed with Donnie Rader allowing himself to form such a bond and working fellowship with men such as Mike Willis who holds and teaches multiple causes for divorce and Ron Halbrook who teaches that in certain circumstances post, after-the-fact divorce is allowed.
Mike thus described the attendant emotions at Donnie’s resignation announcement:
“The reading of his letter evoked tearful responses from several of the board members inasmuch as we have a deep and abiding love for one another.”
I continue to be very concerned, saddened, and even shocked at the importance, devotion, and love some brethren attached to their foundations and privately supported orders. I have had a number of conversations and debates through the years with proponents of privately supported missionary society orders, etc. who would tolerate one running down the Lord’s church, but if one negative word is said about their order, they became livid. I persist in affirming that such entities are not only unscriptural, but they also offer opportunity for brotherhood politics, boundary disputes, and special cliques and fraternal associations. However, I do not think Donnie had a particular problem with the structure and function of the Guardian of Truth Foundation. I could be wrong regarding this statement and I hope that I am.
Mike offers more explicit explanation in the subsequent statement:
“Both Donnie and the rest of us Board members are doing our best to respect the consciences of each other as we wrestle with various positions which brethren hold about the role of civil government in divorce or ‘mental divorce’ (how this position is described depends upon who is describing it, and I am not trying to enter the argument by this description). Donnie has a conscience with which he must live and we respect his right and responsibility to abide by the dictates of his conscience. At the same time, others on the Board have a different conscience and they too are striving to live by their respective consciences. Sometimes brotherly separation is the only way for God-fearing brethren to continue their respective works with mutual love and respect, just as Paul and Barnabas separated in Acts 15.”
The differences over MDR to which Mike alludes are not simply technical and inconsequential, tedious nuance variations on an esoteric level. Brother Rader, according to his good book, “Divorce and Remarriage” believes that there is only one cause for divorce (the fornication of the guilty mate) and that the innocent mate can be put away and not allowed a second, subsequent marriage to another (Matt. 5: 32, 19: 9). Other board and staff members embrace and teach positions that according to Rader eventuate in adultery. Hence, the differences between Rader and Mike Willis, Ron Halbrook and some others is not only what we call doctrinal but they also involve moral issues. All brethren can unite on Jesus’ teaching that divorce for fornication is the only allowed cause and that biblical putting away must be done before the termination and dissolution of the marriage and not as post divorce action. Remember while Jesus does not approve of unscriptural divorcement, he does recognize the act (Matt. 5: 32, 19: 9).
Mike stated in his final remarks regarding Donnie’s resignation:
“He will submit articles for publication in Truth Magazine from time to time, we will continue to publish his workbooks and perhaps some more in the future, and no doubt he will be asked to participate in our lecture programs from time to time. We parted on Friday, September 10, 2005 with such respect for each other and we both expect that respect to continue.”
In the forty years that I have been preaching the gospel, I have been amazed at the spirit of unity-in-diversity among us. It seems that the only ones with whom some brethren have serious problems are the ones who insist on consistency of teaching, application, and association. Make no mistake, I commend Donnie Rader’s conviction in resigning his position as both board member and staff writer due to differences on MDR. I would, though, that Donnie also felt the compunction of conscience to apply his conviction to fellowship in general. I would also that brother Rader would come to realize and accept God’s arrangement for the collectivity work of preaching the gospel and edifying the saved, working in and through the local church, under the oversight of God appointed overseers (I Tim. 3: 15).
Perhaps Donnie’s example, at least in part, will cause other good men such as Connie Adams to think about his close affiliation and association with men such as Mike Willis, Ron Halbrook, and others who hold different views on MDR. I have been in the past and hope that I remain friends of Connie and Donnie. However, I feel compelled to express my thoughts on these matters and urge consistency of conduct. I do not agree with the growing sentiment being expressed by some associated with the Guardian of Truth Foundation that regarding such matters as being discussed, we can agree in principle, differ in application, and remain in unhampered fellowship.
In closing, Bill Cavender put it best when he wrote in reply to Mike’s herein quoted email:
“I received your e-mail of September 12 regarding Donnie Rader’s resignation from Truth Magazine, both as a board member and as a staff writer. I’m glad you wrote and expressed yourself. I expect your letter to raise more questions and generate more discussion than it answers and was intended. Already I have been informed by a brother and his wife that “Donnie resigned from Truth Magazine because that paper and most of those brethren are teaching error, and he doesn’t go along with them!...”
This is not a matter of Donnie’s conscience or anyone else’s conscience. To me, this not a conscience, Romans 14, matter. It is a matter of Donnie’s teachings, errors, and conduct regarding this so-called “mental divorce” hobby and opinion(s) which he espouses, opinions which are divisive and hurtful, and destructive to the truth of the gospel and the unity of the brethren. It is a matter of Donnie’s duplicity and hypocrisy. This is a “fellowship issue” with Donnie.....”
Bill considers Donnie Rader a teacher of error, divisive, hurtful, destructive to the truth and unity of the brethren! I have known Bill for many years and I have always appreciated and admired his straightforwardness, even now. Bill is right, if Bill is correct on MDR, then Donnie Rader is a detriment to the cause of truth. However, allow me to inject the following: How can Bill Cavender work so closely with men such as Mike Willis, unless Bill also believes and teaches multiple causes for divorce? This is another problem with man-made orders and foundations such as the Guardian of Truth, they place brethren with serious and divergent views together with little if any structure and restrictions. Moreover, to some this is the real advantage of such orders, “We are not a local church; therefore, we can do as we please!”