Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 17, 1954

Brother Harper's "Apology"


For a number of months various gospel preachers, writing, through the Gospel Guardian, in personal letters, and in face-to-face conversations have been trying to get Brother E. R. Harper, Brother Logan Buchanan, and other supporters of "Herald of Truth" to write some articles on "What Is Wrong With the Missionary Society?". Thus far, in spite of many promises, no articles on that subject have been forthcoming. It was the hope of many that once these good brethren got down to a serious and sincere study of that question they would be forced to recognize that the basic and fundamental objection to the missionary society (the concept of the "church universal" acting through a single agency) applied with irrestible logic to the "Herald of Truth" arrangement.

Finally, in an effort to draw a parallel too plain for anybody, to miss the point, Brother Wallace sent to this office a letter from an imaginary, fictional "Church of Christ" in "Digressive, Liberal County, Texas." This letter set forth a plea and a plan that had "Digressive" stamped in its every feature; even a novice in the church could not fail to recognize that what was here proposed violated the scriptures. It was no doubt Brother Wallace's hope that some readers would be able to see dangerous points of similarity between the program outlined by the "Digressive" church and the work being promoted by our brethren at Fifth and Highland in Abilene.

Entertaining that same hope, this editor published the letter from Brother Wallace exactly as it was received, using the editorial blue pencil not at all.

Well, the article scored a bull's eye! For Brother Harper, reading the letter from the fictional "Digressive Church of Christ" not only saw similarity to Fifth and Highland and the "Herald of Truth"; he saw identity! He thought he was actually reading about his own home congregation, so close and accurate was the parallel, and was looking in a mirror. His present "apology" for this editor, which we carry in this issue, was his reaction to that letter. That our readers may have the original Wallace letter for purposes of comparison and study, we republish it in this issue.

We decline to be drawn into a discussion with Brother Harper on a level of personalities. We could hardly be hypocritical enough to make the "apology" he writes for us; nor could we be so completely bereft of integrity as to give voice to the untruths he has us repeating in that "apology." Instead of a discussion involving personal reflections, we'd much rather see Brother Harper undertake to give some Bible authority for the "church universal" working under a single eldership. That is the idea set forth in the plea of the "Digressive Church of Christ" in the letter under consideration. Does Brother Harper believe such to be wrong? If so, can he not see that this is exactly what Fifth and Highland congregation is doing?

If our brother has no desire to try to defend "Herald of Truth" front the scriptures, then we plead with him to try to get this program back on the basis in which it was originally planned and presented — the basis on which this editor conceived it to be more than two years ago when he approved it and sought to encourage it. That was the plan as outlined to us by Brother James Walter Nichols in which he proposed to try to interest as many congregations in the south as he could to become individually responsible for broadcasting the gospel over specific stations in the north and northwest. Brother Nichols (and Brother Willeford) planned to preach the sermons, record them on tape, and then make these recordings available to the various congregations who were willing to buy time over stations in the north and northwest. Brother Nichols' idea in coming to Abilene (so we were led to believe) was solely that he might have access to the Abilene Christian College Chorus to furnish the musical portion of the recorded programs.... NOT to help Fifth and Highland do HER work!

That was the plan as we understood Brother Nichols' presentation of it. That was the plan we approved....and would still approve. Such a plan would have no "super" congregation overseeing, directing, and "sponsoring" a work it proudly calls "OUR WORK" and spending the funds of over a thousand other congregations. On the contrary, each eldership would make its own contract for time; maintain control of its own funds; spend its own money; and there would be no "centralized eldership" acting as agent for all the churches. It was our understanding that Brother Nichols had assurance from the Mutual Network that any congregation willing to buy time for one of the "Herald of Truth" programs could get it at considerable discount.

When, however, whole reams of publicity material began to flood our office, it became quickly apparent that we had either not understood the nature of the proposed work (in spite of the two-hour effort of Brother Nichols to explain it to us), or else some vital changes had been made in the original plan. We decided then not to publicize the releases we continued to receive. Present memory is that we published only one — the first — of these releases after it became apparent the set-up was different from what we had understood it to be.

We share completely in the high regard Brother Harper has for the past record of Highland Church. And we have a very special spot in our heart for that congregation for the last visit this editor ever had with his father, J. D. Tant. Highland Church made that visit possible. It was a gesture of thoughtfulness which shall never be forgotten. When Brother Harper says that Highland's preachers "have been among the number of those, from the beginning, who have fought hardest against digression, denominationalism, and worldliness in the church," we certainly have no disposition at all to disagree.

But it might interest Brother Harper to know that at least one of those former preachers of Highland (we speak of Homer Hailey) is now thoroughly convinced that "Herald of Truth" is without scriptural authority. At least, this is the word given to us by those who heard him speak against it at the Florida Christian College lectures last winter. We are told that Brother Hailey spoke clearly, and with a conviction that could not be doubted when he spoke about the "Herald of Truth" and warned against any such departure from the New Testament pattern. Does Brother Harper think Homer Hailey was trying to "ruin" Fifth and Highland Church? Such an accusation is too puerile for comment. It probably should not even be dignified by a notice. Far from trying to "ruin" a great congregation, those of us who love that fine church are doing our utmost to "save" her. God grant that the efforts shall not be in vain!

— F.Y.T.