Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 22, 1962
NUMBER 29, PAGE 4,12-13a

A Challenge To Highland Elders

Hoyt H. Houchen

In the interest of truth, the following letter, dated February 22, 1962, was written by the elders at North Park, Abilene, Texas, and was addressed to the elders at Fifth and Highland, Abilene, Texas:

Dear Brethren:

Six years have passed since the Tant-Harper debate was conducted here in Abilene on Congregational Cooperation. We believe that much good was accomplished by the discussion in that issues were clarified and brethren were afforded an opportunity to study both sides of the question. Since that debate interest in the issue of Congregational Cooperation, along with Benevolence, has increased. We have reason to believe that brethren in several congregations here in Abilene are disturbed over these questions and would like to hear both sides discussed. We regret that division over these matters exists between you and us, however, as brethren, if we can openly discuss our differences in honorable controversy, we believe that there is yet hope for unity.

Brother Guy N. Woods and brother Roy E. Cogdill are capable and representative men and they have engaged in two discussions of these issues, one in Birmingham, Alabama, and the other recently in Newbern, Tennessee. What better place than Abilene, Texas, could these two men meet for another debate? We are proposing to you brethren, therefore, that we arrange for the debate here in Abilene at the earliest possible date. North Park is willing to endorse brother Cogdill in the proposed discussion, so we are asking you brethren at Highland if you will be willing to endorse brother Woods. If you brethren will do so, then we can proceed with the arrangements.

We have openly pleaded with you brethren on the radio to discuss with us the issues upon which we are divided. We have had no response from you. Brethren who believe that they have the truth should be willing to defend it. Truth has nothing to fear. We believe that you brethren are engaging in practices for which there is no scriptural authority; we therefore regard you as brethren in error. Are you willing to defend your practices in debate? Will you allow both sides to be heard in an open but honorable controversy here in Abilene?

We shall see who is interested in the truth. Your earliest reply will be appreciated.

Yours in Christ,

Elders, church of Christ, North Park

Highland's Reply

In reply to the above letter, the Highland elders addressed the following letter, dated March 13, 1962, to the North Park elders:

Dear Brethren:

In answer to your letter of February 22, we would like to remind you that the North Park church is the result of congregational cooperation. By such an effort your original building was given to you debt free. For years we sent a monthly contribution to the North Park church to help pay its preacher.

The issues were discussed in the Harper-Tant Debate here in Abilene. We are satisfied with the effort. Highland has grown both spiritually and numerically ever since the debate. Last Sunday we neared the 1700 mark. We feel no need for another debate. We are sorry that you are so dissatisfied. We understand that your membership has dropped drastically since you changed your position. If you feel a need for the debate, we will be happy to send you the tapes on the recent debate you mentioned in Newbern, Tennessee, between brethren Woods and Cogdill, whom you proposed in your letter.

If you publicly read or print this letter, or any part of it, please read or print it in full.

Sincerely yours,

Elders of the Highland Church of Christ

The Highland Letter

That the reply by the Highland elders is ridiculous should be apparent to anyone... A proposal for a public discussion in Abilene was made to these brethren and they have refused it. One thing is obvious by the Highland letter. The elders refuse to debate. Their excuses for not desiring to debate are preposterous and we should like to briefly examine them.

First, we are told that the building at North Park is the result of congregational cooperation. If it is implied that the building at North Park exists as a result of the kind of cooperation as is engaged in by the Herald of Truth, then the statement is false. We have evidence to the contrary. However, suppose that this is true, for sake of argument. Does this prove that the Herald of Truth is scriptural? If what they state is true, how does it prove that the Herald of Truth is authorized by the word of God? The Highland elders would do better to turn to a "thus saith the Lord" and produce just one passage that will authorize their practice. That is what they need to do. We also ask, what does their point about North Park have to do with a debate? Again we observe, even if their statement is correct, how can this be a reason for refusing to have a public discussion of the issues in Abilene? A child can see that their reference to the North Park building is irrelevant to what is proposed by the North Park letter.

Second, we are told that Highland is growing in numbers and that North Park has decreased drastically since it has change its position. When have numbers become the standard for determining the truth? The Catholics and Communists are growing numerically. Are we to suppose that because they are growing numerically, they are therefore right? If the Highland elders are implying that they have grown at Highland numerically and North Park has decreased numerically, and this as a result of the Tant-Harper debate, again they have not stated the truth. If their statement is intended to prove that decrease in attendance at North Park in the past was because North Park changed its position on the issues, then their conclusion here is also wholly an assumption — entirely without fact. It so happens that North Park is growing both spiritually and numerically. Anyway, what is proved by a numerical consideration? Again we ask, when have numbers become the standard for determining truth? Does an increase in numbers at Highland prove the Herald of Truth to be scriptural? Also, how does the reference to numbers by the Highland elders give them any reason for not defending their Herald of Truth project? Furthermore, if their consideration of numbers proves anything at all, it proves too much for them. If the Tant-Harper debate has done so much for them as they claim that it has, then they should be most anxious for another debate. According to their logic (?) another debate would put North Park out of business! They have increased; we have decreased; therefore, they refuse to have another debate. They evidently are interested in numbers; the last debate made them grow; therefore, they cannot afford to have another debate. They oppose a debate, the thing which according to them, made them grow. How absurd and ludicrous can brethren become? Are we treated to a sample here of how they attempt to justify the Herald of Truth?

Third, they assert that they are sorry that we are so dissatisfied. This has always been the excuse made by those in denominational error after our encounters with them. When we propose another debate, they are always sorry that we are so dissatisfied. The Highland elders offer the same excuse. By looking at the North Park letter, it is clear that the very opposite is true. Because we believe that good was accomplished by the Tant-Harper debate is one of the very reasons given in the North Park letter for another debate.

Honest brethren, after reading both letters, should be able to see that one letter is a frank, open, sincere appeal for a discussion of the issues upon which we are divided. The Highland reply indicates no disposition whatsoever to have these matters of such tremendous importance discussed publicly that both sides may be heard. It should be obvious to anyone that the Highland elders have shut the door to an investigation of truth. Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul, Stephen, Jude, and others were not afraid to contend. They spoke boldly and they welcomed the opportunity to encounter those whom they believed to be in error. The disposition to "contend earnestly for the faith" prompted the elders at North Park to write the letter in kindness and love, and so that honest brethren would be given an opportunity to study and learn the truth. It is indeed a sad day for the church when brethren will turn their backs upon an honest appeal to study the word of God.

To Date, the elders refuse to debate. Evidently, they are more interested in numbers than an investigation for truth. We continue to appeal to them for an open, fair, and public discussion of the issues. Will they continue to refuse our appeal? We pray that they will see their error in refusing to allow brethren here in Abilene and elsewhere to hear both sides. Are they not placing an iron curtain around the members at Highland and preventing them from hearing both sides, forcing them to hear only what they, the elders, want them to hear? Are the elders at Highland afraid to allow the members at Highland to hear the other side? Remember, truth has nothing to fear. Perhaps the members at Highland can persuade their elders to debate. Will the Highland elders endorse brother Woods, or any other man whom they may choose to debate their cause? We shall see.

— 2958 Grape Street, Abilene, Texas