The OBF at Forty

The Ohio Bible Fellowship recently passed its fortieth anniversary. At our spring meeting, we recognized that milestone by looking back at where we came from and looking ahead toward the coming years.

As part of the “look back,” we were privileged to listen to four men who were among the thirteen founders of the OBF in January, 1968. These men— Graydon Cox, Roger Bixler, George Bailey, and John Ashbrook —shared memories of the OBF’s founding, testimonies of their appreciation of the fellowship, and challenges to those of us who follow them. Here are their testimonies as transcribed from audio recordings.

Graydon Cox
At my ordination council, Mel Seguine said “If the IFCA ever goes bad, it will be due to the giving up of the position by the second generation men–men who have not sweated, who have not tasted the blood, the dust, who have not suffered the pain of the initial separation from apostasy.” I think we all recognized that the IFCA suffered exactly that. And as a result of that the OBF was formed.

Harry Ironside once said, “One of the things the church must do in order to maintain its position as a voice for God is to proclaim not only the truth but to warn against error.” There are those today who would like to change things so that we do not stand in the pulpit and expound the truth.

Man does not want to hear the truth, and that comes from his nature. He does not want anybody—including God—telling him what to do and forbidding him from doing the things he ought not to do. Today’s attitude is “You can be assured of certain things but nothing is certain.”

Men, we have a fight ahead of us, and the younger generation is going to have to carry that flag because we old guys are soon going to fade out of the picture. The fact is, we are going to have to contend for the faith—hopefully not being contentious in the process—but contending for the faith once for all delivered that is true and certain. May that be the life of the Ohio Bible Fellowship.

Roger Bixler
I am grateful for the privilege of being a part of the OBF. I remember well those days of struggle as we tried to encourage the IFCA to stand and keep on standing; we received some words of commendation, but most were words of accusation.

There are many things I could say about what has transpired over the course of the years. One of the things that has really blessed my heart is the fact that regardless of who we are, regardless of what size fellowship we had, when we came to OBF meetings we were all on level ground. There was no kowtowing, bowing down to, worshiping at the feet of, the shrine of someone else. We were men of like-precious faith. We believed the historic truths of God’s Word and we stood for that. That is one of the blessings I have enjoyed so much in our fellowships, pastors’ conferences, and the camping program. I think that as we gather together, it doesn’t make that much difference if you had ten the Sunday before, a hundred, or five hundred. It makes no difference; we come and we have level ground here and we’re treated such.

What we have been able to do has been only by the grace of God and solely that. We have liberty of not always agreeing with one another in certain areas, but we agree on the truths of God’s Word, we agree on the fundamentals of the faith.

I simply want to tell you I appreciate you men, I love you men, I count you as brethren—we stood shoulder to shoulder in the battle for the truth. Our efforts are worth whatever cost we have paid because we have a worthy Savior, because the work is God-honoring and Scripturally-based. We must continue this stand by his grace and for his glory in the years to come.

George Bailey
I came out of the Evangelical United Brethren Church in 1965. I was saved and ordained through the ministry of Frank Hamblen at Calvary Bible Church in Lima, OH. Let me tell you one little story about the denomination. We had a “Five Nights For God” event where pastors exchanged pulpits. We would have morning meetings to talk about the previous night’s meetings. The man in charge was talking about prayer. He mentioned how men of the past like Luther and Wesley would spend hours in prayer, yet the other pastors present were mocking and making fun, saying “Get those men off the street; it’d be a good thing.”

The first IFCA Ohio Regional meeting I attended after I came out of the denomination was like a breath of fresh air; it was wonderful. Here were men who loved the Lord, they loved his Word, and you could tell it.

Something else that’s wonderful about this fellowship is that we are all on equal ground, whether you’re pastor of a larger church or not. I’ve never heard someone say, “How many did you have in Sunday School?” I’ve been around meetings of another group and there was a lot of things like that. Even the “little guys” are accepted and involved in the work of the fellowship.

If I had one challenge it would be this: there have been times when resolutions bothered me or preaching on separation has maybe been a little stronger than I am. And yet, you know, it didn’t kill me, it didn’t bother me enough to get out and leave. What it did do was encourage me to be stronger. And so, I would hope that the fellowship would not get weary in well doing on this point, because we cannot survive as the Lord’s church without the doctrine of separation. We can’t survive on that alone—there has to be evangelism, preaching the whole counsel of God, and edifying people; but we can’t survive as Christ’s church without the doctrine of separation. So God help us, to keep on keeping on.

John Ashbrook
I came to Ohio after seminary about 1951, and after going to Bible Community Church in 1952 I joined the IFCA’s Ohio Regional, and I found the Ohio Regional to be a cluster of strong, separatist men. Second Corinthians 6 was second nature to everyone: “Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord.” Militancy is something that is learned in the battle, and those men had gained their militancy coming out of apostasy.

The IFCA to me was a very happy place in those early days of my ministry. It was oriented to a separatist stand. Most of the original men had come out of denominations, and they had learned their militancy there, and they were militant for the gospel as a result of that. We always went to the national IFCA conventions and came home stirred for taking a stand in our individual communities and really refreshed spiritually. We had great fellowship in those days.

In 1959, the national IFCA convention was held at Calvary Bible Church in Columbus. It was a tremendous time. I happened to be on a panel on discussing separation at that convention. I was just a young kid then. But as a result of being on that panel I was elected to a position on the executive committee for a three year term. At the same time we elected a new president, Clarence Didden, from eastern Pennsylvania. Mr. Didden presented a new thing to us. He said, “We have always been separatists and we want to remain separatist. I’m a separatist, but we have talked too much about it. We ought to be more silent about it.” I didn’t realize at that time, but that pressure to remain more silent was coming from Dallas Theological Seminary.

There were a lot of Dallas graduates who wanted an independent place to hold credentials, but were offended by the separatist stand of the IFCA and the militancy of the Voice magazine. It must have been 1962 that the National Executive Committee (NEC)—I had just gone off at that time, so I have no responsibility in the matter—voted to remove the militant material from the Voice. The Voice magazine, the official organ, had always been very militant. It had a column, “The Voice of Apostasy” that my father edited. It has “The Acts of the Apostates” that William McCarrell edited. It always had a story of a church that had just left the denomination and why it had left. It always had a Scriptural argument for separation. It was a militant publication. The NEC voted to remove that militant material from the Voice. That stirred us into action in the Ohio Regional. We felt that was wrong; we felt that made the Voice what it was, and we wrote a resolution asking the NEC to restore that material to the Voice.

Militancy is always on the decline. Look over our mission boards, our schools, the militancy of their founding compared to their position today, and you will find that militancy is almost in universal decline. You young men are going to face that; there are battles ahead that you are going to have to face, even though you might not know what they are.

One of the things I notice about new evangelicalism and other new movements is a complete absence of dispensational truth, and the fact that in the end time we’re headed toward perilous times. What is happening in our decaying culture is not something that should direct our actions. In all our church planting and in everything we do we should recognize where we’re heading and the time in which we’re living and that we’re not heading into utopia.

Years ago when we were in the IFCA, the National Secretary was Mel Seguine and he came to one of our Ohio Regional meetings as a speaker and his subject for the meeting was “Will We Always Have To Fight?” The answer to that is “yes.” A number of us older militants are going to spring off of Mount Pisgah and wave goodbye to you one of these days, and whether you’re going to be militant in the battle is going to depend on you, not on us. If you’re still here, militancy is going to be needed. It’s always going to be needed, because the world, the flesh, and the Devil are always going to be against it.

Learning From History
One of the challenges fundamentalists face today is an ignorance of their history. Understanding the circumstances and reasons of one’s place in history provides insight and direction for the present. The background and situation that birthed the Ohio Bible Fellowship is set forth in the following statement that was signed by the founding members of the OBF.

OHIO REGIONAL STATEMENT OF REASONS FOR WITHDRAWAL FROM THE INDEPENDENT FUNDAMENTAL CHURCHES OF AMERICA

We believe that the Independent Fundamental Churches of America was brought into the kingdom for such a time as this to maintain and herald a clear-cut position of separation from apostasy and unscriptural alliances. The pastors and churches of the Ohio Regional have always endeavored to maintain that position. However, during recent years there has been a concentrated effort by some men in places of leadership and influence to “change the image of the Independent Fundamental Churches of America.” Some of these men evidently have themselves changed their personal positions over the years.

In keeping with our purpose as a Regional, some of our men individually and our Regional corporately have sought to alert the National organization to the dangers of compromise, only to face adamant rejection of such counsel. For example, the Ohio Regional sought to strengthen the historic position of the movement by a unanimous resolution presented to the National Convention meeting in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1963, only to be informed by the National Resolutions Committee Chairman that, by order of the National Executive Committee, our Regional resolution was not to be brought to the Convention floor.

The subsequent conduct of the national leadership of the Independent Fundamental Churches of America has demonstrated that leadership’s activity in the realm of power politics. The leadership has consistently circumvented Convention resolutions in matters of separation, disregarded earnest appeals to strengthen the VOICE magazine in areas relating to our Independent Fundamental Churches of America distinctives, and in the 1967 Cicero Convention, flatly rejected a unanimous recommendation from the Council of Regional Presidents in order to effect a pre-determined course of action.

It appears that there is an increasing affinity for the position of the National Association of Evangelicals. Those who resist this trend and endeavor to restore the historic separatist position of the Independent Fundamental Churches of America are accused of “secondary separation” and are looked upon with disfavor.

When in the course of such events it becomes evident that those who hold to the historic position of the movement are neither regarded nor heeded, it seems advisable to us as a Regional that we withdraw from the Independent Fundamental Churches Of America, severing all organizational ties thereto. Let it be clearly understood that our love for the brethren abides unquenched, that our agreement with the Statement of Faith of the Independent Fundamental Churches of America remains unchanged and that our unswerving allegiance to the historic separatist position and character of the Independent Fundamental Churches of America stands as our reason for withdrawal. Our desire to be faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ and obedient to the Word of God leaves us no other recourse.

Signed: Graydon Cox, Carl Petters, Frank Hamblen, George Bailey, Fred Parkell, Clyde Broadbelt, Carl Witt, Roger Bixler, John E. Ashbrook, Charles A. Distler, C. D. Mathews, Arthur H. Evans, Wm. E. Ashbrook.

A Renewed Commitment
In recognition of the fortieth anniversary of the Ohio Bible Fellowship, this was viewed as an opportune time to renew our commitment to the purposes and characteristics of our fellowship. The following statement expresses our renewed commitment for the years ahead.

STATEMENT OF THE OHIO BIBLE FELLOWSHIP AT ITS FORTIETH ANNIVERSARY

The Ohio Bible Fellowship was formed in January of 1968 as the result of a chain of events between the Independent Fundamental Churches of America and the Ohio Regional of the Independent Fundamental Churches of America. This chain of events centered on the departure of the Independent Fundamental Churches of America from its original purpose and position of maintaining and heralding a clear-cut stand against apostasy and unscriptural alliances.

Our purpose as a fellowship of like-minded brethren and churches is to promote the preaching of the whole counsel of God for the salvation of sinners and the edification of the saints; to give a clear warning of current dangers; and to provide a means for rich fellowship and encouragement for Christian brethren.

For the fulfillment of these ends, our fellowship is based on our statement of faith and doctrine as set forth in our constitution. Furthermore, our fellowship is committed to the preamble of our constitution that sets forth the necessity of clear-cut separation from apostasy and compromise in order to be faithful to the Lord and effective in our ministries.

In the years since our inception, we have witnessed more widespread and subtle deviations from the faith. A weakened commitment to the whole counsel of God and separation from unbelief and compromise has sadly spread to other ministries and organizations that once clearly stood for the faith. We are convinced that the need for a fellowship such as ours at this hour is even greater than at its origin.

History testifies that organizations similar to ours have changed in their purpose and character after their initial decades of existence. Specifically, such change results when subsequent generations of members are not as committed to the consistent practice of personal and ecclesiastical separation.

Therefore, on this fortieth anniversary of the founding of the Ohio Bible Fellowship, we do hereby declare and affirm our commitment to our separatist heritage and purpose. We are committed to strengthening our doctrinal and separatist position through our conferences, publications, and attendant ministries. We will continue to give clear warnings about the increasingly subtle and prevalent deviations from biblical truth. We are committed to encouraging each other in our respective ministries. We will faithfully provide authoritative biblical preaching to meet the needs of the lost and believers. We will do everything we can to encourage others to take and maintain these same positions.

While we have thus resolved ourselves, we recognize that apart from the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we can do nothing. We pray that He will help us accomplish these ends by His grace and for His glory until He returns.

Signed: John E. Ashbrook, Graydon Cox, Roger Bixler, George Bailey, Marvin C. Gassman, Peter J. Foxx, Jay Lobach, Robert S. Mazzie, David A. Layton, Mark Perry, Daniel A. Greenfield, Jerry A. Edinger, John S. Howard, Paul S. Hamilton, Kent J. Hobi, Kenneth H. Perry, Paul Martin, Ralph H. Flynn.

The Ohio Bible Fellowship—April 11, 2008

The Ohio Bible Fellowship—April 11, 2008

June 2008

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The OBF Visitor is the official publication of the Ohio Bible Fellowship. Feature articles from past issues of the Visitor are made available here for your use. You may read, distribute, and use this material as long as you do so in its entirety and without modification. All articles © The Ohio Bible Fellowship.

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