Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 6, 1954

The "Seat Of Sommerism"--Astir

Jack L. Holt, Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis, Indiana, is often referred to as the "seat of Sommerism." It was and is the home of many of the Sommers, and it remains the base of their operations. The mischievous doctrines of the Sommers still linger and are rank in many sections of Indiana. As few years ago the voices of the Sommers reverberated in many pulpits of the land, and their wresting of the scriptures brought death, decay, and stagnation to congregations throughout the state. The Sommers were silenced, and their doctrines exposed by the blazing guns of gospel opposition. For quite some time it has been quiet in the "seat of Sommer-ism." But once again it is astir. This time, as in days gone by, Bible colleges, and kindred issues are the stirring paddle. However, the issue now is: Is it scriptural for churches to support from their treasuries Bible colleges? But let's begin at the beginning.

Brother Roy Cogdill had originally been scheduled to hold the spring meeting at the Belmont Avenue church of Christ. The advertising for the meeting had been printed and distributed. The meeting was to begin March 21. On Thursday afternoon, March 18, Brother Tant called and told me that due to a car accident Brother Cogdill would be unable to come. Brother Charles Holt was then contacted, and he agreed to substitute for Brother Cogdill.

For quite some time prior to the meeting it had been announced that Brother Cogdill would speak at a special service Sunday afternoon, March 28, on, the subject, "Institutionalism." The announcement was carried in many of the church bulletins in this section. Accordingly, much interest was manifested in the service.

Brother W. L. Totty, minister of the Garfield Heights church of Christ, seemed to be very interested and wrote an article about the same in his church bulletin. The article was entitled, "Is It Scriptural." Brother Totty, who believes it is scriptural for churches to support from their treasuries orphan homes and colleges, writes at length about Brother Cogdill, and expresses his indignation at, and opposition to, the special service. The title of the sermon for the occasion was to him a "thorn in the flesh," and he diligently sought to remove the same. Like Elihu of old, he was full of words and could not contain himself. He wrote:

"Institutionalism is a very flexible term and could include just about anything or everything. It is an old Sommerite term that has been kicked about for more than half a century and has been used by that group to designate schools and orphan homes. But Brother Cogdill has broadened the scope and he uses it to include not only orphan homes and Bible colleges, but the Herald of Truth radio and television programs and the missionary program in Germany, Italy, Japan, etc., especially the work in Germany and Italy."

It is to be noticed that Brother Totty does not miss the opportunity to compare those who oppose human institutions with the Sommerites. In fact, he makes us worse than them.

A Challenge Issued

Brother Totty then writes:

The Garfield Heights congregation maintains that it is scriptural to support orphan homes from the church treasuries, and it contributes to two orphan homes monthly. We have always proposed to back up any teaching or practice of this congregation; therefore, we extend to Brother Cogdill, Brother Jack Holt, and the Belmont Congregation an invitation to meet us in public debate on the orphan home question. We will affirm that church support of orphan homes, such as Potter and Tennessee Orphan homes is scriptural. Will they affirm that church support of Potter Home, and Tennessee Orphan Home violates the teaching of the New Testament? Church support of orphan homes is the issue."

A few comments upon the foregoing quotation are in order. First, let it be distinctly understood that Brother Totty and the Garfield Heights Church are the challengers for this discussion. Perhaps I should say the instigators and the challengers. Further, the issue is made plain. It is not what an individual can or may do, but what churches can scripturally do. Church support is the issue.

The facts also show that the Garfield Heights Church went to great pains to make their challenge known. A copy of the bulletin in which the challenge was made was sent by first class mail to the Belmont Avenue Church. This is the first time the Belmont Church has received a copy of the Garfield bulletin, since I have been with them. It is evident that the Garfield Heights Church is the aggressor.

A Challenge Accepted

After receiving the Garfield bulletin, a meeting of the men of the Belmont Church was held, (the Belmont Church does not have elders at present), and Brother Totty's article and challenge was read to them. A decision was made to accept the challenge of the Garfield Church. Brother Charles Holt was endorsed by the Belmont Church to represent them in the debate. He agreed to do so.

Set For The Defense Of The Gospel

While it is my personal conviction that it is sometimes unwise to debate these issues, the Belmont Church, and myself, are nevertheless, willing to "give an answer to every man that asketh, a reason for the hope that is in us yet with meekness and fear." Since Brother Totty and the Garfield Church have issued the challenge to debate, we believe it is right and well pleasing in the sight of God to accept the challenge and contend earnestly for the faith.

Propositions Signed And Sent

Being ready to give an answer and having been challenged to do so, we, as is usually the prerogative of the challenged, drew up propositions for debate which we believe cover the points at issue. These propositions were signed by Brother Charles Holt and sent to Brother Totty by special delivery mail. The propositions were mailed Friday afternoon, March 26.

Sunday Afternoon, March 28 On this date, at the appointed hour, Brother Charles Holt delivered a sermon on the subject, "Institutionalism," as had been originally scheduled. Following the sermon I read to the audience the challenge issued by Brother Totty. I then read our letter of acceptance to him, the propositions for debate, and also an agreement that would govern the conduct of the disputants during the same.

Brother Totty, who was in the audience, then arose and asked permission to speak. The permission was granted. Brother Totty stated that he had not yet received the written propositions that we had sent him due to the fact that he had been out of town, but after hearing them read he understood fully what was in them. Brother Totty then made an unqualified acceptance of the propositions. Further, he accepted the condition that the debate be held in the Garfield Heights church building. He also accepted Brother Charles Holt as the opponent. This acceptance speech was heard by above two hundred brethren at once.

A Substitute Debater?

Brother Totty, I am sure, acted as spokesman for the Garfield Church. He accepted all of the propositions, Brother Charles Holt as an opponent and gave permission to use the Garfield building, but there it seems that Brother Totty's authority (?) ended. He wouldn't say who would represent the Garfield Church in the debate. He said the elders would decide that.

Latest Developments

In a conversation with Brother Totty, Tuesday afternoon, March 30, Brother Totty said that he had contacted Brother G. C. Brewer relative to the proposed debate. He said that Brother Brewer had accepted the propositions and had agreed to debate the same. Brother Totty then said the Garfield elders would select either himself or Brother Brewer to represent them in the debate. At this writing, they haven't reached a decision; at least I haven't been notified of such.

Time Of Proposed Debate

Due to the heavy schedules on the part of all concerned it was mutually agreed not to hold the debate until sometime in September or October of this year. A definite date will be set and announced later.

Our Hearts Desire

A debate on these issues, conducted in a fair and honorable way cannot help but do good, and it will surely redound to the honor and praise of God. For a debate of this kind the Belmont Avenue Church and myself earnestly and fervently hope and pray. In the debate let the guiding rule be the motto of Daniel Webster, "I war with principles, not with men." May this sentiment characterize us all as we discuss the things concerning the Kingdom of God.