by Dr. H. Lee Mason
To understand fully the Christian churches/churches
of Christ in the twentieth-century, one needs to know about the
Christian Restoration Association. Although the CRA is mentioned
in book three of this **trilogy, more information is needed and
To begin the story of the CRA we begin with the
estate of one Sidney S. Clarke. Sidney S. Clarke was a Christian
gentleman who left part of his estate to the keeping of the Richmond
Street Christian Church, Cincinnati, Ohio, for the purpose of helping
to establish new churches in "destitute places," meaning
"communities where there is no church of Christ." The
elders of the Richmond Street church immediately put the money to
good use and within a two-year period the estate helped establish
thirty congregations in Ohio, Oklahoma, Illinois, Arkansas, Virginia,
Michigan, and Iowa. Two hundred weak congregations in seven states
received assistance, with over six thousand people baptized into
News of this plan spread through the brotherhood
and people thought that more work could be done if the estate had
more money. Money began to flow to the Richmond Street church to
add to the estate, only to find that the court would not allow money
to be added to the estate. The problem was not insurmountable as
the elders of the church simply started the Clarke Fund to act independently
of the Clarke Estate. The Clarke Fund came into existence officially
on November 1, 1922, with the following men serving as a Board of
Trustees: James DeForest Murch, C.D. Saunders, Horace W. Vaile,
John O. Chappell and Edwin R. Errett. These men then chose an Advisory
Board to help them administrate the Fund; P.H. Welshimer, Mark Collis,
C.J. Sharp, Byron Cassell, and J.E. Davis.
At this point the trustees decided that a publication
was needed to tell of the on-going work of the fund. Volume I, Number
1, of The Facts was published in December, 1922. Later this publication
changed its name to The Restoration Herald.
The work grew until it became obvious that it
was too large for a local congregation to administer. It was proposed
and accepted that the Clarke Fund become a separate institution
from the local congregation with a self-perpetuating board of trustees,
support of which would be dependent upon the contributions of Christian
people. Such support would depend upon the merit of the program,
fidelity to the purpose that brought it into existence, and steadfastness
in the faith. This also brought a change in name from the Clarke
Fund to the Christian Restoration Association and from The Facts
to The Restoration Herald. This separation was effected in October,
1925. James DeForest Murch was named president, and continued as
editor of The Restoration Herald.
The Clarke Fund was established with its objective
carefully written in its constitution: "To receive and distribute
monies for the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the organization
of Churches of Christ according to the New Testament pattern, and
other church, educational, missionary and benevolent enterprises."
This was continued by the CRA.
The Cincinnati Bible Seminary
Direct Support Missions
Christian Service Camps
Christian Bible Institute
Defending the Faith
A Helping Hand to the Churches
The original intent of both the Clarke Estate
and the Clarke Fund was to help establish congregations set after
the New Testament pattern. The Christian Restoration Association
sent evangelists out from coast to coast. Some of the first CRA
evangelists were C.C. Root who went to California and helped establish
over thirty-five congregations and the Southern California Evangelistic
Association; Thomas Adams to Arizona; Edward Clutter to Colorado;
J.S. Raum who seemed to work all over the country including Georgia,
Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania;
J.B. Pickel who went to Iowa; and L.G. Tomlinson going to Ohio.
Often the plan used was to enter a community and have a protracted
meeting (what we often call revival). Before the evangelist would
leave, he would have started a new church.
For the next decade, literally scores of churches
were established and reopened in one-half to two-thirds of the United
States of America.
Because of the infidelity being espoused in the
preacher training schools, the trustees of the CRA realized that
a school was needed that would produce Bible-believing preachers
who would stand for the faith once delivered to the saints. In 1923,
two schools had begun, one in Cincinnati and one in Louisville.
It was felt that better stewardship would be shown if these two
schools could merge. In 1924, the schools merged and formed The
Cincinnati Bible Seminary. The trustees of the Clarke Fund were
the trustees of the new school. H.F. Lutz was considered the first
president of the new school, although on an interim basis. He died
that first year and James DeForest Murch became interim president
because of his position as President of the Clarke Fund.
In 1928, the CRA trustees helped set up another
board of trustees for the Bible college and helped established it
as a separate institution from the CRA. The first official president
was Ralph Records.
The time in which all of this was taking place
was a time of great change among the Christian churches/churches
of Christ. Liberals had taken over some of our great institutions.
Colleges no longer taught the inerrant Word of God. The United Christian
Missionary Society of the Disciples of Christ had embraced open-membership
and comity agreements as acceptable practices.
People loyal to Christ no longer trusted the UCMS
and sent money to the CRA. At this same time, missionaries working
under the banner of the UCMS found that they could no longer work
with those who nullified the Great Commission. Many missionaries
worked without support when cut off from the UCMS. In 1926, Leslie
Wolfe wrote the CRA stating his dilemma and need. The CRA immediately
underwrote his salary. Then petitions came from C.B. Titus in the
Union of South Africa; the Cunninghams from Tokyo, Japan; Russell
Morse from Western China; and others. These were aided, but it did
not take long to realize what a great financial task this was.
The trustees of the CRA wrote to nine of our larger
congregations in America with the idea that they would assume the
living-link support for these missionaries. The Indianola Church
of Christ, Columbus, Ohio responded, as did the First Christian
Church of Canton, Ohio; the West Side Christian Church, Springfield,
Illinois; and the Dodge City, Kansas congregation. This began the
movement of the "direct support" way of financing missions.
From now on each individual congregation was able to take charge
of the stewardship entrusted them and wholesome relationships developed
between missionary and congregation.
In 1926, it was decided that there needed to be
some way to influence more young men into the full-time vocational
Christian ministry. At that time we had just a few Christian services
camps and some of them were run by single congregations. The trustees
began an effort to have a series of Christian Youth Conferences
around the country. That first year there were twelve camps in twelve
states, and the next year fourteen camps in fourteen states. These
were not the first camps, but by this means a nation wide impetus
was given to the Christian camping movement of today. It is unfortunate
that many of those leading camps today have gotten far afield from
the original intent. To compare the curriculum of those early camps
with the curriculum in many camps of today is to compare a steak
dinner to a picture of a steak dinner. They may look the same, but
there is no real comparison and the latter is void of nourishment.
The CRA continues to be a "Helping Hand to
the Churches." Today it has money that has been left in its
keeping to administer in agreement with the terms of those who have
left the funds. Some money is available for small loans to help
young and struggling congregations get established and perhaps enter
a building program. The Recycled Riches program is another lending
fund that uses missions money to help congregations. A cotton baron
in Texas named A.D. Milroy left funds to be used for evangelism.
This fund is used to help support preachers in newer congregations.
In the 1960's, Pearl Willis covered the country
training elders and deacons with his Elders and Deacons Clinic,
and helping preachers through the Advanced Ministers Seminars. Complete
figures were not kept, but over 6,000 men were trained the first
year of these clinics.
Leadership training has continued through the
terms of all of the directors of the CRA and is still a part of
the present program.
Another part of leadership training has been through
the Christian Bible Institute of the CRA. In 1966, the CRA assumed
the oversight of the CBI, which was a correspondence school for
men and women desiring to further their training in Christian work,
but unable to attend a Bible college full-time. Trustee Milton Dills
directed the program until 1978. Norval Campbell was in charge of
the CBI from 1979 to 1996. Paul Pratt served with CBI from 1996 to
2002. Ron Henderson has been the director/professor since May of
In the 1950's, director Robert E. Elmore was sued
for libel by Disciples of Christ leadership. This trial made a national
issue of the liberalism of the Disciples of Christ leadership. Elmore
and the CRA won this important case.
In the 1960's, under the capable leadership of
director Harvey C. Bream, Jr., the CRA provided expert counsel to
hundreds of congregations who sought to maintain their local autonomy
as the Disciples sought to establish themselves as a bonafide denomination
through their infamous "Restructure" action taken by that
For two decades, through the legal expertise of
attorney Luther D. Burrus, of Louisville, Kentucky who was a CRA
trustee; the expert testimony of the scholarly Dr. Lewis A. Foster
of the Cincinnati Bible Seminary, also a CRA trustee; and Harvey
C. Bream Jr., trustee and Director of the CRA, and editor of the
Restoration Herald, independent congregations won a rash of legal
battles in which these congregations were the defendants.
The CRA has published the Restoration Herald for
over seventy-five years. This monthly periodical has proven to be
a valuable asset to the people of the Restoration Movement congregations.
It has chosen by design to publish the whole counsel of God without
compromise. Over the years it has taken stands that have not always
been popular but have been true to the Word. It has often spoken
where no other publication would speak. This publication reaches
around the world and is currently being sent to forty-four foreign
Eight men have served as editor of the Restoration
Herald and director of the CRA: James DeForest Murch, Leon Myers,
Robert E. Elmore, Harvey C. Bream Jr., James Greenwood, H. Sherwood
Evans, Thomas Thurman, and H. Lee Mason.
The CRA has also published soul-winning tracts,
doctrinal booklets, and a variety of educational books and other
materials, including books such as the one you are currently reading.
The history of the CRA is one of helping the churches.
When there was a need, the CRA tried to meet that need. It has never
sought to be a controlling body, but a serving body. The only authority
it has is speaking where the Bible speaks. The CRA depends upon
the faithful support of the brethren in the churches. It realizes
that its support is contingent upon its faithfulness to the purpose
of its organization, the merit of the program, and its steadfastness
in the faith.
Today the CRA still follows the original purpose
of those who brought her into existence. That purpose is expressed
in the pages of the Restoration Herald each month on its masthead
where the words of Nehemiah 2:18 are printed: "Let us rise
up and build."
May that continue to be our motto until Jesus
returns. " Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. "
** This material has been taken from the CRA
book, The Church-- A Trilogy.