Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 29, 1961
NUMBER 9, PAGE 3,10b

Ketcherside's Ecumenical Movement

R. L. Burns, Grand Prairie, Texas

Recently, while in St. Louis, brother Irvin Himmel and I visited brother W. Carl Ketcherside and talked with him for a good part of one afternoon. I had heard of some charges he had made and I wanted, in fairness to myself and him, to get this information first hand. In the Mission Messenger, May, 1961, he wrote: "This article contains a restatement in simple language of our desire and aim.... For several years we have devoted a major part of this paper to a plea for unity among those who acknowledge Jesus of Nazareth to be the Son of God....In view of this it would seem that any effort to lead the world to Christ which ignores the problem of disunity among the believers is doomed to failure....The world will be won for Christ when all who believe are one in Christ. It was a realization of this great fact that caused us to transfer this little journal from a party organ or mouth piece into a crusader for peace and unity. In thus altering our status, we incurred the wrath of our brethren who feel we have deserted and betrayed them....They regard that segment of the disciple brotherhood of which we are members as the kingdom of heaven. None outside it are children of God, as they view it"

It was this that made me want to talk to brother Ketcherside. It has been the observation of many that the man who apparently stands against everything will soon be falling for everything. Brother Leroy Garrett, heralded by some a few years ago as "the Alexander Campbell of the 20th Century," has deserted his fanatical hobbies and companions for the "Christian Church," where he now teaches in one of their sectarian schools. He began his move from one extreme to the other by pleading for brethren to recognize that Christians are to be found in many denominations and we must "love our brethren" and not create division among them.

Brother Ketcherside very graciously received us and talked freely about his new-found "faith." Unlike brother Woods, and many others who have changed, he admits that he has and that he at one time gave his influence to the "Sommer Movement." Almost all of the time was spent in asking questions which he willingly answered. The liberalism that now characterizes him is nearly unbelievable, in contrast to his former position. He stated that God has many sheep scattered among the Methodists, Baptists, etc., and that many who have never been baptized are our "brethren in prospect." Perhaps 15 times he said that "they are my brethren and I love them" of the "26 factions of the church of Christ," Christian Church and others, some of whom are in the Methodist Church, etc. In MM, May, 1961, he said, "(Brethren who oppose us) regard that segment of the disciple brotherhood of which we are members as the Kingdom of Heaven.... Now I no longer concur in that reasoning. I think that the sheep of God are scattered over the sectarian hills." He seems to envision himself as resuming the work "begun" by Campbell of "gathering the people of God out of the Babylon of denominationalism" and speaks frequently of "restoring the restoration" (whatever that is) and "getting back to the work of Campbell." I would point out that any man should be regarded as dangerous who sees himself as a man of destiny, with a mission peculiar to himself.

His whole movement is characterized by a de-emphasizing of doctrine, and stressing his peculiar notion of "love." He says, "I am driven by a deep yearning to help lead them to a better future, not by denying that they are brethren, but by loving them as brethren." Again he has said, "The point at issue with me is not so much whether instrumental music is worship of God or the devil....What concerns me primarily as of the present is whether those who use it are brethren. If they are and I refuse to regard them as brethren, or if I do not love them as such, then I am of the devil regardless of where instrumental music originated." We have heard the slogan, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Without going beyond the limits of charity, the Ketcherside movement had about lost its punch and had fizzled, and since he was riding a fading horse in a fast race, it seems to me, he was forced to change horses.

But the thing which most impressed me was the great movement which Ketcherside sees for unity en masse among the "26 factions of the church of Christ segment" of the restoration with the conservative element of the Christian Church. While he believes the mechanical instrument in "incorporated worship" is wrong, he hesitates not to speak to these Christian Churches that use it, without speaking against it unless invited to do so or questioned about it.

He does not even recommend its absence from the assembly, though to his credit he does not sing with it himself. He stated that he could indefinitely worship, except for singing, with the instrument group. He maintains the same attitude toward premillennial churches and was recently with them in Louisville. In his paper he reports numerous meetings with the sectarian churches under the banner of "fellowships."

Brother Ketcherside stated that we would be surprised to know just who and how many are interested in helping this movement. He alleges that a number of faculty members of Pepperdine College are interested in giving their support to him, and says many others from Pepperdine would, too, if they believed the brethren would react favorably. At any rate, he states that he is to speak at Pepperdine soon. In his May MM, he states "Negotiations are under way to conduct meetings in California open to members of all factions growing out of the disciple brotherhood and dealing with the questions of restoration and fellowship." We have no doubt that many liberal brethren will be attracted to this newly espoused sectarian-worn idea of his, since they simply want to play down doctrine and relegate everything to the realm of opinion.

It may be of some worth to note that he has disavowed the name "church of Christ, as it is now used, saying it is sectarian. The group with which he worships in St. Louis is known as the "Oak Hill Chapel." In MM, February, 1961, he reports that brethren in Formosa have "established new chapels for Christ." It seems strange that it is sectarian to wear the name "church of Christ," one of many designations found in the scriptures, but scriptural to wear the title "chapel of Christ," a designation not found in the Bible. But, then Ketcherside's whole philosophy is that it is not wrong to be wrong, but only wrong to condemn those who are.

My purpose has not been here so much to "debate" the issues of brother Ketcherside' "faith," as to advise brethren of it. I would offer this caution to those who may be so foolish as to think Ketcherside's movement is worthy of serious consideration. This will no doubt result in the formation of another denomination, rather than remove existing denominations. It is not new, only newly embraced by some and given new life. The way to unity is not by negotiations or arrangements of men, like those in which Ketcherside is now engaging, but it is the fruit of the preached word. (Galatians 5:22) If we will preach Christ, opinionated dictations and disregard for authority will have no place in our lives. If we preach plainly enough, the question of whom we will "fellowship" will very nearly take care of itself. When we completely rely on the sufficiency of the scriptures it will provide us with the answers we need, to cope with the problems of the 20th Century or any other. The way to unity is only through obedience to truth. See John 8:32; Philippians 2:1-8; Ephesians 4:1-6; 1 Corinthians 1:10; John 17:20, 21.