I would like to introduce myself. My name is Mervyn Schmidt. I live in Mildura, Victoria, Australia, along with my wife Elizabeth. We have two sons, Kendall 24 yrs who lives in Mildura also, and Leighton 27 yrs who lives in Perth, Western Australia.
I have been B&R in the fellowship and have been an active member for over 49 years…I think it is about time I posted my exit letter…This letter was given to each family in the meeting of which I was elder and to the overseer in the state of Victoria.
PO Box 182
12 January 1999
My dear friends,
I do not find it easy to write this letter as I know this may come as a shock to many. I have nothing personal against anyone, nor have I been offended by anyone in the fellowship in which I have met for many years; especially my friends in Australia and other parts of the world.
There are issues which have been of great concern to me for 40 years which I can only touch on briefly. The Summer of 1997 letter which was compiled by some concerned American friends, expresses these concerns in detail. There are certainly many people throughout the world who share these views.
My three major concerns are as follows:
1: The origins of the “Testimony” fellowship: I have known all my life that this fellowship began with William Irvine in 1897. My father Otto Schmidt personally knew William Irvine and was asked by him to go into the work about 1911. Therefore the origins were never a problem for me. However, I can understand the shock that this revelation could have to someone who has never been aware of this fact, believing there was a direct link to Christ and the Apostles and early Christians. This belief is incorrect.
2: The exclusive nature of the fellowship: The belief that this group is the only right way is of great concern to me. I do not believe that any group of people or church has any right to claim a monopoly on salvation. This limits the boundless loving kindness, mercy and grace of our God, manifest to us in the sacrifice of Jesus our Saviour and our Redeemer on the cross of Calvary. I do not wish to be guilty of judging another soul for whom Christ has died. I quote Luke 6:37 “Judge not that ye be not judged. Condemn not and you will not be condemned. Forgive and ye will be forgiven.”
There are many within this group who believe our fellowship to be the only right way to salvation. I am aware of a number of workers who have expressed this view in the past twelve months, including Bruce Smith. At 2nd Williams convention in WA he stated that if he had any doubts about this being the only way, he would not be preaching, and those who didn’t accept the exclusiveness of the group should do something about it. Evan Jones expressed similar thoughts at Merbein, Victoria, in 1988.
For many years now I have believed that Jesus alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life and the only name under heaven whereby men can be saved. (Acts 4:12) No group of people can claim to be the “only right way” as this is something that Jesus only can claim. He alone can say:
“I am THE Way”
“I am the Bread of Life”
“I am the Light of the world”
“I am the True Vine”
“I am the Door of the sheep fold”
“I am the Good Shepherd and the good shepherd gives His life for the sheep”
3: The question “What is salvation?” I am concerned that when those within the fellowship are asked what their concept of salvation is, they answer “The 2 X 2 ministry and the church in the home.” I ask the question “What about Jesus? What about His sacrifice on Calvary as our Kinsman/Redeemer? To me the gospel (or good news) is that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. And hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. For He hath made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor 5: 19-21.
This is what it means to be saved by grace through faith and not by works of righteousness which we have done. Ephesians 2: 8-10. For salvation is a gift, we cannot earn it! What can we add to the completeness of salvation which God has given to us in Christ? For our own righteousness is as filthy rags in God’s sight. Paul was concerned that the Galatian Christians were adding to the gospel of the grace of Christ. Galatians 1:6. Some were saying that they could not be saved unless they were circumcised and kept the law of Moses. Paul’s reply to them was that they were frustrating the grace of God, for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Galatians 2:21. If ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. Galatians 5:2.
Christ is become of no effect unto you whosoever of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace. Galatians 5:4. I believe we are in danger of the same error as the Galatians (legalism). I see the doctrine of receiving salvation only through a 2 X 2 ministry as an “add-on” to the Gospel of Grace.
I realise that having these thought puts me out of line with what is taught in our fellowship. I had hoped there may have been change, eg. a move away from the exclusive nature of our fellowship. I believe this is unlikely in the near future, so I must withdraw from the fellowship. I have no hard feelings or bitterness against anyone in the fellowship. My concerns are with the error of the basic teachings of William Irvine.
I no longer believe there is any justification for his interpretation of Matthew 10 as a prerequisite method necessary for preaching the gospel.
I would like to add that my love for Jesus is as strong as it has ever been. Please don’t confuse the fact of my leaving the fellowship in any way with the loss of my faith in my Saviour and Redeemer.
If anyone is concerned and would like further explanation regarding this letter, I would welcome your interest, and can be contacted on 03 50253296.
With Christian love.