Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 15, 1958
NUMBER 3, PAGE 7a,10b

A Visit To McAlester, Oklahoma

Wm. E. Wallace, Fort Smith, Arkansas

"What are they fighting about this time?" "That's a feuding bunch of people." "The Cambellites at 2nd and Washington are at it again." Such are the statements of folks in southeastern Oklahoma reflecting a stormy, turbulent history of a congregation beset almost constantly with crises. McAlester has been known all over the country for its troubles and it has certainly had far more than its share of uproar. But things are looking better now.

Two years ago a group pulled loose from the old embattled 2nd and Washington congregation. Left behind was a background of conflict, factious activity and heartache. Court trials, carnal weapons, personality battles and other things, had sickened many faithful and loyal Christians. Some in the past had solved the problem personally, by moving to other localities, others drifted along, some left the faith.

In the summer of 1956 a new congregation was formed by a group which had withdrawn from 2nd and Washington. It was a small group, but one with a righteous cause and a zealous, pioneer spirit. Ridicule, pressure tactics and false charges discouraged some from going with the new group. Others with tongues in their cheeks remained with the old church because of tradition and family ties, and many desired the old 2nd and Washington church for diverse reasons.

The split, as are most divisions, was a bitter one, but it has proven to be a wise one. The new congregation, Southside, meeting at 9th and Kiowa, has a new building, small but sufficient, with grounds and opportunity for growth. Raford Petty came to the new group resolving to stay until the congregation was well established and in a new building. That work has been accomplished and Brother Petty is still on the job. Paul Earnhart, Earl Dale, Arnold Johnson, E. E. Sturgeon, Ward Hogland, Reavis Petty and Jimmy Sisco are some of the preachers who have helped in various ways with the new congregation.

Feeling in both groups toward each other is keen and sharp, the issues confronting the brotherhood figure prominently in their attitudes, and peaceful relations seem too far in the future to be realized in this generation. Yet, Southside is ever open to righteous steps for better relations. One thing now stands out to the chagrin of some — Southside is in McAlester to stay.

I remember boyhood days in McAlester when my Dad did some work in the city. In April I preached for Southside in a meeting and I was cordially received by oldtimers in both congregations. Recollections were indulged in with pleasure. R. M.Alexander, the new preacher for the old 2nd and Washington church, and an old time friend of the family, received me with warm hospitality. Brother Alexander seems to have brought peace, of a sort, to the old group. We talked freely and frankly of local and brotherhood problems. Brother Alexander has done some writing about the McAlester situation in the Firm Foundation and he misrepresented the affair and missed the real issues as I found them. He misrepresents the position of Southside, its preacher, and Park Hill in Ft. Smith which willingly, cheerfully and scripturally cooperates with Southside. In my talks with Brother Alexander I received the impression that he has not fathomed the real issues before the brotherhood. There are many men of his calibre who seem to have missed the major points — and I like to think that their misrepresentations come from ignorance rather than from deliberate dishonesty.

Loyalty to truth has a fresh start in McAlester and Southside stands as an example of the many citadels of faith being established across the country in opposition to the trends of liberalism. On the other side, 2nd and Washington in McAlester stands as a fair example of liberal trends. There is the lowering of moral standards to allow society participation disallowed by most brethren a few years back. There is the removing of restrictive attitudes toward denominational activity. One can easily detect a weakening of faith in the distinctive traits and characteristics of that old Jerusalem faith. Second and Washington is an example of those congregations which have preachers who align themselves to or associate with ministerial associations, laying aside the safeguards of II John 10-11. The "downtown church" concept has a lot to do with the liberalism in McAlester. The preaching of special sermons on special days like Easter, the toleration of evil marriage relations and "such like," the desecration of the Lord's church in social interests, participation in free masonry and other religious causes is encouraged in one way or another — these are marks of the liberal trends.

There is the attempt on the part of these larger "mother" churches to align area congregations around them as satellites, and on some occasions elders will go as a pressure group to some small congregation. Neophyte part-time preachers, under guiding counsel of the "mother" church eldership go out to win the confidence of congregations and reduce them to mere satellite status. Meddling, and/or cut-throat activities are used in more than one place.

Our time is a season of distress. But we take courage in seeing congregations like Southside in McAlester take a stand for the truth, and efficiently oppose the sort of things liberalism is producing.