Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 18, 1954
NUMBER 44, PAGE 1,11b-12

Ambush At Abilene

James W. Adams, Beaumont, Texas

Abilene, Texas, not Abilene, Kansas. In the days when venturesome Texans went "up the trail" with Longhorn cattle to the railroad at Abilene, Kansas, the words, "Abilene" and "ambush" were almost synonymous. The bones of many a Texas cowboy moulder in Abilene's "Boot Hill" because of an assassin's bullet fired from some dark passageway along its brawling streets. Those days are gone forever, but even in such lawless times, the man who shot from ambush was universally scorned as a man without honor and without courage. One would suppose that if courage and honor are anywhere to be found in our day, they would characterize men who fight the "good fight of faith." Yet, Brother Yater Tant and I have recently been the intended victims, figuratively speaking, of an "ambush at Abilene."

History Of The Present Controversy

All readers of the Gospel Guardian are familiar with the history of the present controversial discussion of "The Herald of Truth," but let us briefly review the facts. Brother Glenn Wallace, the preacher for the College Church in Abilene, Texas, published an article in a number of the papers of the brethren calling in question certain aspects of "The Herald of Truth" and its work. This article was carried by the Gospel Guardian. It was noticed briefly by Brother Tant editorially. Almost immediately, the Gospel Guardian received from Brother Logan Buchanan of Dallas, Texas, an article of ten pages in heated defense of "The Herald of Truth." Brother Buchanan was advised that his article would be published, but with a review. I was asked by the editor of the Gospel Guardian to review Brother Buchanan's article and present the other side of the question with a general discussion of the situation. Six articles were prepared and published. When the fourth article of the series of six had appeared, Brother Buchanan prepared and presented for publication another article of 12 pages. Before it and my rejoinder had time to appear, Brother Buchanan sent in three more articles with the urgent request that they be published before the lectureship at Abilene Christian College. What the college lectureship had to do with the matter I can hardly see unless our brother views it as a "convention" where church and doctrinal differences are settled by the conclave of brethren who gather there. The college certainly does not so regard it. In the meantime, Brother Tant had visited Abilene and had published some material regarding the situation there. In the Gospel Guardian, March 4, 1954, Brother Tant ably surveys matters related to this aspect of our discussion. By the time the lectureship was in progress at Abilene, Brother E. R. Harper, preacher for the Highland Church in Abilene, had submitted two articles to the Gospel Guardian for publication in which he charges both Brother Tant and me with falsifying. During this period just described there was also published in the Gospel Guardian a detailed explanation from the elders of the Highland Church. This brings us to the lectureship at Abilene and "The Ambush."

The elders of Highland Church, Brother E. R. Harper, and the "ambush." All of the material submitted by these brethren has been or will be published in the Gospel Guardian. It is the policy of the paper to allow a discussion of both sides of all issues with which it deals. With this fact, our brethren at Abilene and Dallas are perfectly familiar. Instead, however, of allowing this to suffice, our brethren have brought out a booklet entitled, "That the Brethren May Know," in which answers are made to Gospel Guardian articles and personal attacks are made upon the veracity of its writers. Both Brother Tant and I are more than once charged with being falsifiers. The booklet in question constitutes an attack from "ambush." This booklet was circulated freely at the Abilene Christian College lectureship, but may it be said to the credit of the college that it was done without the consent of her administrative officers and in direct conflict with their expressed sentiments regarding its circulation there. The matter has become a source of embarrassment to the school and constitutes a perversion of the true object of the lectureship.

Neither Brother Tant nor I can possibly have access to all those who have and will receive the booklet, hence will have no opportunity to make answer to the serious charge of lying which is made against us in the document nor will we have opportunity to defend our writings against the attacks therein made. Brother Harper and the elders of Highland Church are well aware of this fact. This is the basic reason always for such tactics in controversy. Brother Harper wrote threatening us. He said that we would be "sorry" that we dared to oppose "The Herald of Truth." This was the only warning we had of the impending "ambush." May I kindly but sorrowfully suggest that these brethren have acted without honor and without courage in their procedure. They have taken advantage of the columns of the Gospel Guardian through her "open door" policy, then have with careful planning and timing attacked personally the writers of the Gospel Guardian in a medium to which they do not have access. In addition to this, Brother Harper has hidden himself behind the cover provided by the Gospel Advocate to snipe at us from "ambush." It is clear that Brother Harper by means of self-dramatization seeks to turn this whole discussion into a personal fight upon matters of little consequence and thus obscure the real issues involved. We shall not gratify his desire.

Brother Buchanan tries a "pot shot." Brother Buchanan is not a subscriber to the Gospel Guardian. He holds it in contempt. He does his best to keep the members of the congregation he serves from reading it, especially the elders and deacons. He says that each time he receives it he has to go outside and ''spit" (his very word) before he can read it. Actually, the only copies he has seen recently are the complimentary copies which he requested. Despite these facts, he feels perfectly at liberty to submit about 30 pages of material for publication in the Gospel Guardian with the promise of more to follow. Recently, Brother Tant received articles from our brother charging Tant and Adams with being propagators of "victims falsehoods" concerning the Abilene situation. Brother Tant discusses his handling of this matter in his editorial n the March 4th issue of the Gospel Guardian. You will note that Brother Buchanan urged that his articles not be published in the Gospel Guardian in view of his own lack of information concerning the subject matter. Yet, Brother Buchanan knew at that very moment one of these articles was being put into the booklet of the Highland Church for general distribution at the lectureship and following it. Did he recall his article? No, he allowed it to go into the booklet. Will he now repudiate it? We shall see. He did not want it in the Gospel Guardian where it could be exposed to the light of facts but was willing for it to be published in a booklet where we would have no opportunity to reply. It appears that in this controversy we are dealing with men who have a most poorly developed sense of that which is honorable.

"That The Brethren May Know"

Brother Tant's editorial of March 4th already alluded to takes care of almost all of the charges made in this booklet, but several things need some discussion:

(1) Brother James Walter Nichols and the Christian Chronicle. This matter has been mentioned in an article from my pen in the March 4th issue, but I should like to remark further that our brother may not be part owner as of now of that company, but is doing his best to become one. He has a contract according to his own statement to buy some seventeen percent of the stock and certain other brethren are turning heaven and earth to buy up the stock for a few cents on the dollar. Big business! He says, "The Christian Chronicle does not do the printing for the Highland Church radio program." Note the present tense "does not." Has it ever done any, Brother Nichols? What about the ABC Printing Company, did it ever do any of its printing and were you part owner of this company? Has Beacon Press or publications ever had any of the printing? The situation at the Chronicle building where Brother Nichols spends so much of his time is so confused by the many companies, printing and otherwise, which operate there from (many of which Brother Nichols is involved in) it is a wonder that worse reports have not been forthcoming than those that are current all over the country.

(2) Time Magazine Article. Brother Harper says that the implications of my statement concerning an article in one of the magazines (meaning Time) are false. What are those implications, Brother Harper? Are they necessary implications or simply your own inferences and unnecessary deductions? The fact Is that they are simply the inferences of brethren Harper and Nichols. My statement concerning the article in Time Magazine is fundamentally correct. Brother Nichols presents a letter from the writer of the article, a Mr. Willard C. Rappleye, Jr.; in which and by means of which the attempt is made to prove that I falsified, that the gentleman in question had never met or talked with me concerning "The Herald of Truth." Mr. Rappleye does not positively say he did not meet or talk with me, but he puts it so strongly as to create strong suspicion in that direction. There is no issue between me and Mr. Rappleye. I suspect that he is a very capable writer and he is certainly affable and personable. He is not a party to these matters except indirectly. He is not a member of the Lord's church, and it is distasteful to me that he should thus be brought into a discussion of matters pertaining to the church of the Lord. For the record's sake and to preserve my reputation for honesty, I shall have to remind him that he has met me. He did talk with me on at least three occasions. He did discuss his Time article on "The Herald of Truth" with me, and at length. The place was Mount Vernon, Texas. We both were making our headquarters at a small tourist court owned and operated by one of the brethren. I was engaged in a meeting with the local church. Mr. Rappleye was covering the formal opening of Lowrey's Store with the view to writing an article about the matter. He and I were introduced by the owner of the tourist court. Mr. Rappleye learned that I was an evangelist of the church of Christ and voluntarily told one about his article on "The Herald of Truth." Though opposed even then to "The Herald of Truth," I said nothing of this to the gentleman. Why should I? I asked him no questions concerning "The Herald of Truth." His information was purely voluntary. Since he cannot even remember me, how could he be expected to remember what he said? However, I neither said nor implied that he told me that "he was told what to write." I did not even imply that "he was told what to write." My conclusion from talking with him and from reading his article itself was and is that he knows little indeed concerning the New Testament church. The "obnoxious" matter to which reference was made he could learn only from the brethren of "The Herald of Truth." From Mr. Rappleye's point of view, his article was highly complimentary. From the point of view of an informed member of the Lord's church it was "obnoxious." I have no criticism to make of Mr. Rappleye's writing Brother Nichols as he did except to say that he should be more careful and less emphatic since his memory is so poor. Brother Nichols' use of the letter (to brand me as a liar) in a medium through which I cannot reply is as obnoxious as the publicity he has been so busy obtaining the past few years.

(3) Brother Harper's delusions. Our brother seems to don with alacrity the black robe of pseudo-martyrdom. He labors under the delusion that someone is bent on his destruction, or that of Highland Church. Such foolishness is too absurd to be entertained seriously. No reasonable person could reach such a conclusion from ought that has been written by anyone. The martyr's robe sets with uneasy grace upon the broad shoulders of an ex-fighter like Brother Harper. I liked him better when he was taking all comers and asking no quarter.

It has been my sincere desire to write with dignity and Christian courtesy in this discussion. From all over the nation letters have come from representative men (men not Guardian "boys") commending heartily both the matter and spirit of my articles so I feel that I succeeded in my desire. Our Abilene brethren seem unhappy that the discussion has not become nasty, bitter, and personal. We regret to disappoint them, but we are still in fine humor and determined to discuss issues, not personalities. Why not try answering our arguments, brethren, and see how you do? Your shots from "ambush" missed the target. Your booklet will injure none but you.

(4) Guardian changed too much. Brother Harper thinks that the brethren have no confidence in the Gospel Guardian because its writers have changed too much. If he will specify my changes, I shall consider them. What are they, Brother Harper? In my case, and I can only speak for myself, I categorically deny the allegation and call upon Brother Harper for proof.

(5) Brother Harper's "you boys." Our brother refers to us time and again as "you boys." In connections with his other remarks about us, the implication of immaturity and instability is inescapable. Would Brother Harper appreciate our referring to him in such manner as to suggest encroaching senility and emotional irresponsibility? I think not, and I shall not so refer to him. Brother Harper, I am not a boy. I have almost attained my two score years, am married, have three children (one almost grown), and feel little like a boy. I am not a boy in the church for I have been a member of the body of Christ for over 27 years. I am not a boy preacher for I have been trying to preach after my unglamorous fashion for twenty years. Brother Harper does not use the term affectionately because he thinks we are purveyors of "vicious falsehoods." The only sense in which he could possibly have employed the expression is a derogatory one. If Brother Harper cannot find it in his heart to call us "brethren," we feel sad but would not think of insisting that he thus stultify his conscience. He manifestly does not consider us "gentlemen," so we shall respectfully request that he call us "men." Inasmuch as there are all kinds of men, he can probably use this term without violating his conscience or antagonizing his attitude toward us.


Our readers will observe that these brethren have made no serious effort to grapple with the issue that exists. They have dealt only with certain superficial aspects and by products of the real issue. I am perfectly willing for my articles to stand or fall on their own merits. I has e only the kindest of feelings toward these brethren who have dealt so unethically with us in our present discussion. May the Lord help them to see their error. The threat that I will be "sorry" moves me not. Shooting at my back is destructive of my faith and confidence in some of my brethren but it frightens me not. Like the poet Henley

"In the fell touch of circumstances

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance,

My head is bloody but unbowed."