Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 15, 1961
NUMBER 7, PAGE 6,10b

The Spring Creek Trial

Connie W. Adams, Newbern, Tennessee

In 1948 Earl Fly held a tent meeting near Spring Creek, Tennessee, located some unfaithful members, baptized a few and got the church started again in that community. For seven consecutive years he held gospel meetings in that place and baptized a number of people. For three years Leslie E. Sloan labored with the church and built it up a number of ways. Loyce Pearce also preached there for fifteen months. With the passing of time members moved into the community who were not satisfied with the very kind of preaching which had built the church up to its greatest strength. An undercover agitation commenced to forbid such brethren to preach there any longer. This agitation was aided and abetted by certain ones connected with Freed-Hardeman College.

In August, 1960, a business meeting was called to discuss the appointment of elders. Twenty-one men were present, although normally only 6-10 attended business meetings. It was announced at the meeting that elders were going to be appointed that night. Some present protested that members of the congregation should be given opportunity to raise scriptural objections to the names submitted, if they saw fit. It was stated that any objections to be made would be made that night. Five names were then suggested. Scriptural objections were made against four of the men. Without allowing any time to investigate the objections, it was urged that a vote be taken. Eight of the men opposed conducting the Lord's work by majority vote. These same eight were convinced that four of the five men were unqualified. The men suggested for elders voted for themselves and in that manner obtained a 10-8 majority. Three of the men present did not vote. These newly elected "elders" then announced that since they were the elders they were going to "run it." The others told them that they could not continue to work and worship with them and could not recognize them as elders. They began meeting in the same building at different hours to avoid confusion. The "elders" changed the locks on the building to keep them out, but they continued to use the building. In the course of time many things were said and done on both sides which were not right, but there was a clearly defined principle of right involved in the case. Efforts to arbitrate on the part of those opposing the "elders" were ignored. W. A. Bradfield and Flavil Nichols assisted and encouraged these "elders."

An impasse was reached in March of this year when both groups showed up for services at the same time on Sunday morning. The next day the "elders" got out a court injunction forbidding the others to use the church building. The brethren thus enjoined demurred, stating that this was a church matter and not under the jurisdiction of the court, and that they were opposed to going to law with their brethren. The judge insisted that he had a right to hear the matter and so the hearing began in Jackson, Tennessee, in Chancery Court at 9 A.M., April 28. The trial lasted until noon, May 3.

Some highly interesting things were revealed in the trial. G. K. Wallace, H. A. Dixon and W. A. Bradfield, all from Freed-Hardeman College, appeared as witnesses for the "elders" appointed in the manner before described. These, plus a few other preachers, testified that God had bound no definite procedure in the selection of elders and that whatever procedure a congregation decides on is all right and that everybody ought to abide by whatever the majority wants. G. K. Wallace said they should either do that or else "go somewhere else." They all said there was nothing wrong with voting on the matter. C. C. Arquitt said he knew "of no other way to do it" They said they would recognize these men as elders, appointed as they were, and that such a procedure was perfectly in order. Franklin T. Puckett, Earl Fly, Leslie E. Sloan, Loyce Pearce and the writer all testified to the effect that the eldership is a most serious matter and to be considered with caution. We pointed out that while God did not outline a definite procedure in selecting them, that there are principles of fairness and right involved which ought to be observed, and that whenever there was scriptural objection offered against any proposed elder, that objection should be resolved. Such was not the case at Spring Creek. Brother Puckett stated that brethren had opposed for many years "Majority rule" as being contrary to the scriptures. He made several excellent observations on the evil of majority rule. The writer pointed out that the eldership is far to sacred to be handled as a political office, that the method pursued at Spring Creek had all the earmarks of a "kangaroo court" and that he would not recognize as elders men who have elevated themselves in such a fashion. Earl Fly, Leslie E. Sloan and Loyce Pearce all made timely observations.

Perhaps the most astounding (statement made during the trial was by W. A. Bradfield. He had said that whatever method the majority in a congregation decided on would be all right. The defense attorney asked him if the majority could decide to put the names of prospective elders in a hat, shake them up, then draw out three and these would be the elders. It was obvious he did not want to say "yes. But he had gone too far to turn back, and besides, he was under oath. After some hedging and a little pressing, he said: "well if that's how they decide to do it. So, brethren, we have come to majority rule and to pulling elders out of a hat, if that is what the majority approves. And yet, some think the church is in no danger at all.

The lawyer for the "elders" kept trying to get us to agree that the procedure for selecting elders was in the same category as what color the building is painted or what kind of pews to buy. Surely, brethren are in sad shape spiritually who cannot see the difference between the manner of selecting elders and the color the building is to be painted. They are not of equal value.

The decision of the court was handed down in favor of the "elders" since they were chosen by a majority. Of course, the court is not concerned with scriptural matters, but all who love the Lord and his church ought to be. We are firmly convinced that the court of heaven did not approve of the political maneuvering which prefaced the selection of those "elders." It was a farce. There was no honor about it, nor is there any about men who will get on the witness stand and testify under oath that such a procedure was perfectly all right when they knew good and well it was not so. Thus another congregation is under the influence of the Henderson hierarchy. They must be terribly proud of what their meddling into the affairs of that congregation has produced. The brethren who have built up the work, have been the most faithful, who have repaired the building largely at their own expense, and have borne the load in the work through the years, are enjoined from using the building and must get out and start all over again. They are good, honest people and want to do the right thing. Their finances are limited. They have the respect of the people in the community while the "elders" and those with them do not. We think they are worthy of help and we are glad to recommend them. You can rest assured that those of liberal persuasion have done all they could to injure these brethren and will continue to do so.

Even from the darkest experiences there are lessons to be learned. This has presented an object lesson as to how far those leading the liberal movements among us will go They have not only embraced error in a number of practices, but now have manifested the spirit of error. It is vicious. It seeks to destroy all that gets in its way., We have listened as men said things under oath that they would have been branded as heretics for saying some years ago. Fairness and right have been trampled under foot In a quest for power. If you don't want to get walked on, then stay out of the way of the powers that be at Henderson, Nashville, Searcy, and a few other spots which might be named. But God is still on the throne and righteousness will ultimately prevail. "Stand therefore, having your loins gird about with truth."