Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 18, 1963

A Review Of The Sutton-Woods Debate

Thomas G. O'neal

On the nights of May 29 through June 1, 1962, in the meeting house of the Paris Avenue church of Christ, Peoria, Illinois, brother Carrol R. Sutton met in debate brother Guy Napoleon Woods. The question of discussion was the right of churches of Christ to build and maintain benevolent organizations.

At the request of brother Sutton, I promised him to write a review of the debate, which I purposed to do before now. There are several reasons why this review did not appear before now. One was to see what those brethren who stand with brother Woods might have to say in the Gospel Advocate and to answer any false charges that they might have made. To my knowledge none of them had a review of the debate published in that journal. Another reason was some pressing matters locally that needed attention. Still another was procrastination. To brother Sutton I apologize in being so long in getting this short review written.

Guy N. Woods opened the debate with his usual speech in which he sang his old familiar song that the church is not the home and the home is not the church. Proceeding in his speech, he sang the song that the family is a divine institution but is destroyed and the restored home is the result of brethren to replace what originally existed.

One of the things that was absent with significance was the opaque projector that Woods carries with him to his debates. In its absence, Woods had to draw little diagrams on the black board to try and get over his points. It was the conjecture of brethren present for the debate that Woods was really confident that he could take care of Carrol Sutton without his projector and thus didn't bring it. It appeared that Woods thought that Sutton was such a young man, that he wouldn't have any trouble answering anything that Sutton might say, thus he came to Peoria unprepared. Brother Woods has been in some mighty hot water in debates he has had with brethren W. Curtis Porter, Roy E. Cogdill and A. C. Grider. But Guy Napoleon Woods will long remember the tub of hot water he had to sit in when he encountered Carrol Sutton! This was not because it was Carrol Sutton, but because a young man not half as old as Woods took the Word of God and so ably used it to the defeat of Napoleon.

Brother Sutton had a number of excellent charts which he used to expose the false arguments, positions, and quibbles of brother Woods. These he used to pinpoint the issue and to make his points crystal clear Brother Woods either chose to ignore them or to make some passing comment about them and declare that the chart was answered.

Also, brother Sutton had copied on two large charts some statements that Woods had made in the past and placed them on the wall before the audience where they could be seen during the entirety of the debate. These two charts worried Woods no little. On another large chart, brother Sutton had listed several of Woods' changes and contradictions which he pointed out with emphasis to the audience. This chart had its effect also, especially since Woods claims he has never changed on these matters.

Brethren Sutton and Woods agreed before the debate to ask as many as five written questions. These were to be answered in writing and presented before the sessions of the discussion started. Brother Woods would read part of the answer to a question that brother Sutton had written and then declare that he had read all he (Sutton) had written. Also, he would accuse brother Sutton of not answering his questions, when he had a copy of brother Sutton's written answers in his hand at the very time he was standing before the audience and telling them brother Sutton hadn't answered his question.

One of the questions that Woods asked from the platform was, "since brother Sutton says it is unscriptural for churches of Christ to support these benevolent organizations (which Woods called a home), what do you suggest that we do with the children in these homes, brother Sutton, shoot them or drown them?"

That brother Woods was feeling the pressure of Truth as presented by brother Sutton during this debate, all who attended would be forced to admit if they stated the truth. In one of brother Sutton's speeches, he was doing such a masterful job in exposing the errors of brother Woods that either brother Woods or his moderator, W. L. Totty, interrupted brother Sutton over thirty times in one twenty-minute speech!

Brother Woods contended that a church could not hold property without having trustees to hold the property in trust. When brother Sutton showed that the church in both Vinemont, Alabama, and Washington, Illinois, were holding property without having trustees, brother Woods then changed his song to "a church could not sell property without trustees."

Many other things could be said about this debate. But if the reader is interested in a detailed account of it, I suggest that you secure a copy of the tape recording of the debate from either brother Sutton or myself.

Brother Woods will long remember Peoria, Illinois, and Carrol Sutton. Surely it must have been embarrassing to him to meet his "Waterloo" at the hands of one young in years like Carrol Sutton.

Brother Alfin Holt moderated for brother Sutton and did a good job.

— Jasper, Alabama