Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 31, 1967


"Hanged By Mistake"

This article is being written in the delightfully cool climate of San Francisco Bay on a day in late summer - and it seems almost unbelievable that a short week ago we were wandering around the barren mounds of earth in Boothill Cemetery under the scorching desert sun at Tombstone, Arizona. But here we are; and there we were. We doubt not that many of the epitaphs in Boothill are of fairly late origin, and were produced with a canny eye to the tourist trade. But some of them had the ring of authenticity and the raw humor so typical of the violent West. We still admire the subtle wit of the man who composed the final tribute for poor Lester Moore, whose ancient and weathered marker carried this legend: "Here lies Lester Moore; Four slugs from a 44; No less no more."

But our sympathy goes out to that unfortunate soul whose bones are returning to the desert soil, and whose lonely marker informs all who chance to read it that Harry Clanton was "Hanged by Mistake." Who hanged him, what the mistake was, why it was made - all this is left to the conjecture of any one who cares to take the time to meditate on the tragedy. All we are told of that woeful day is that this poor wretch was "hanged by mistake." Somebody goofed. But by the time the mistake was discovered to be such, poor Harry had danced his jig of death on the desert air, his sightless eyes popping from his head, and his elongated neck tightly encased in the strangling rope.

All of which has been turning over and over in our thoughts as we have contemplated how the Lord's church in many communities has suffered, and is suffering, the same fate as poor Harry. For the total destruction of New Testament Christianity, the metamorphosing of the Lord's church into a modern denomination in city after city has come about "by mistake." It was not the design nor the intention of those who have consummated the tragedy that any such thing should happen. On the contrary, they were so enraptured by their vision of "doing greater things for God" that their eyes were completely blinded to the consequences of their action. Does anyone really and truly believe, for example, that James Willeford, James Walter Nichols and the Highland elders of Abilene, Texas, actually had it in mind to create a super denominational organization fifteen years ago when they launched their "Herald of Truth" project? It is highly unlikely that a single one of them, even in his wildest flights of fancy, would ever have dreamed that by 1967 their monstrosity would have split churches from one end of the nation to another, and would be organized with an "Administrator, or Chairman of Radio and Television Committee" (W. F. Cawyer), a "Follow-Up Administrator" (L. Arnold Watson), five "Field or Staff Representatives" (Bryan Howell, Dale Smith, Lyle Dalzell, Mr. Henderson and L.A. Pipkin) and 286 "Key" or "Special Workers" in practically every state in the Union. Mr. Henderson, for example, has charge of the solicitors in Oklahoma (15), Mississippi (3), Arkansas (5), and Kansas (6). Bryan Howell has oversight of the "Key Workers" in New Mexico (3), Arizona (3) and Colorado (1). Lyle Dalzell is in charge of the solicitors in Texas (86) and Louisiana (1). Dale Smith is over the solicitors in Ohio (8) Kentucky (4) West Virginia (1), Illinois (9), Indiana (18) and Michigan (6).

Obviously the vast majority of these men are NOT members of Highland Church. But they are all pledged to hold promotion rallies and meetings in the interest of the Herald of Truth and make periodic reports back to headquarters in Abilene. It is the plan of the management of the program to solicit support from EVERY congregation in the United States. "Pep rallies" are held at Abilene from time to time, and a veritable flood of promotional literature goes in a steady stream to congregations all over the land.

And this is all the "exclusive work" of a single New Testament congregation?

That's what they tell us!

But if this is NOT an inter-congregational organization, just what would it take to make one? Seriously, the point is not even debatable.

But back to hard-luck Harry and his sad epitaph, "Hanged by Mistake." We think the same might form a fitting foot-note to the death of the great church at Fifth and Highland - her death as a New Testament congregation. It was not designed; it was not intended. But it has happened. And as of right now the chances that this once faithful church will return to her first love are about as remote as that poor Harry Clanton will kick the rocks off his barren grave in Boothill Cemetery and walk the dusty streets of Tombstone once again.

"Hanged by Mistake," was Harry; ditto with Highland.

-F. Y. T.