Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 5, 1968
NUMBER 18, PAGE 5-6a

More On Those "Unity Meetings"

Fanning Yater Tant

We hope you are one of those readers (we are flattered to think we have some!) who read the Guardian "from cover to cover" as it comes each week. If perchance you are not of that tribe or family, then we would like to call to your special attention four articles in this issue — by Brethren David Edwin Harrell, Dudley Ross Spears, Lewis Hale, and Roy E. Cogdill.

Brother Harrell's article speaks for itself, and should be long and thoughtfully pondered by every faithful disciple. He is by all odds in our judgment the most knowledgeable man alive when it comes to the history of the Restoration Movement. His words are not those of a neophyte in his field, but the careful and considered warnings of a recognized authority. If George Santayana's oft quoted axiom that "those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it" be a true dictum, then Harrell's "observations" about the middle-of-the-road should go a long way toward overcoming that ignorance, and avoiding a repetition of the mistakes of yesteryear.

The two articles by Spears and Hale respectively need a bit of explanation as to background. Both Spears and Hale attended the meeting held in Arlington last winter, driving down and back (from Oklahoma City to Arlington) together. Even though they had debated the current issues both publicly and privately, they remained, and are, very warm personal friends. Returning from Arlington, they determined to make a truly serious and sincere effort to improve the "climate" among brethren in Oklahoma City, and thus try to pave the way for a searching analysis of the differences existing, and at least a beginning toward resolving the problem, or problems.

These two articles from them are short speeches they made at the Oklahoma Christian College before an audience of some two or three hundred people who were attending a "workshop" at the college in mid-July. The speeches were followed by about an hour of questions and answers, during which time various members of the audience asked questions of Spears and Hale, and Spears and Hale addressed questions to each other. The articles are taken from the tapes of their initial speeches, and appear in our pages without change or correction by either man. Perhaps this will explain a bit of redundancy or dangling syntax the reader may have noticed.

It was this editor's happy privilege to be present in the audience, and to listen with the deepest interest to all that was said. Frankly, we were much impressed with the honesty, sincerity, and brotherly spirit of all. Many conservative brethren had expressed to us some apprehension about Brother Spears, and were fearful that his very obvious and strong desire for "unity" might weaken his hitherto firm stand for the truth. (Brother Spears is quite aware of the uneasiness his writings have brought to some, and can understand readily how brethren far removed from Oklahoma City and its distinctive climate — spiritual, not weather — might entertain some doubts.) But if such brethren could have seen him in the meeting we attended, they would have had their fears completely allayed, and would have been strengthened and wonderfully encouraged by his kind, patient, and humble; yet absolutely adamant and unyielding insistence on "Bible authority" for all we do in service to God. He was not arrogant, neither was he mealy-mouthed. He simply set forth clearly and without compromise what he believed to be the absolute essentials for any kind of unity in Oklahoma City — the total removal of Herald of Truth, all benevolent and evangelistic institutions, and "social gospel" promotions from the life and work of the churches. "These are the things that divide us," he said. "And these are the things that will continue to divide us until the judgment day unless they are eliminated."

We cannot speak too warmly of the spirit that prevailed. Brother Hale fully matched Brother Spears in honesty, forthrightness, and an obvious desire to try to find some way by which brethren could work and worship together without any compromise of their sincere convictions. With only one or two minor exceptions all those who spoke from the audience showed a genuine desire to try to resolve the problems. We have heard and read many comments, both pro and con, as to the Arlington meeting last winter. But if this Oklahoma Christian College meeting we attended came about as a result of the earlier gathering, then we are for more such meetings!

Let no one think for a single moment that "all the problems have been solved" or that "unity is just around the corner." Far, far from it! The unity for which we all long may never come. Indeed, we are convinced that with many churches and with many preachers it WILL NOT COME. For they have gone too far; they will not turn back. Brother Harrell's description of what happened with McGarvey, Lard, Errett and other "middle-of-the-roaders" will happen to them; they will gradually move on out into the main-stream of American denominationalism, and will become but another example of the futility of trying to compromise with error when truth and righteousness are at stake.

But, having said that, let us go on to say that there are (in our judgment, at least) a great host of honest, sincere, and truly devout individuals who CAN be salvaged from the oncoming tide of classical liberalism which is going to sweep like a typhoon through the institutional Churches of Christ. We saw many of them at the Oklahoma City meeting, some of them on the faculty and staff of that very college; we talked to them in person. We know how they feel! They are not "modernists" in the accepted religious connotation of that word. They are troubled and frightened at what they see happening in the churches they attend. There will be no "mass movement" of churches from liberal to conservative stances — but there can be (and, we believe, will be) a growing movement of individuals toward a more conservative posture. And, who knows, there may even be an occasional city or town (like Oklahoma City, maybe?) where love of God's word may be strong enough, and love of the brethren deep enough to bring the whole city to a united stand on simple Bible grounds.

It can't be done? Well, maybe not. But good brethren in Oklahoma City (on both sides, mind you) think it's worth a try!

— F. Y. T.