Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 6, 1970
NUMBER 12, PAGE 32-33

Concerning Unity Meetings

Allen R. Sommer


The first I recollect was at Butler University, Indianapolis, one night. Daniel Sommer had been notified by Dean Kershner and invited me to accompany him. There must have been eight or ten other men in that room. Elmer L. Jorgenson was there. All I recall of the program was that we stood, holding hands, in a circle, and each offered a prayer. Jorgenson brought us home in his auto.

The next appointment was the Central Y. M. C. A., Indianapolis. I was not present, but one who was told me that Edwin Errett, editor of The Christian Standard, said: "There sits Daniel Sommer who has convinced us of the evil of the Missionary Society; and we may live to acknowledge he is right in regard to instrumental music in the worship." Errett died a couple of years later.

The next one I recall was in the Barton Hotel, Indianapolis. George Klingman delivered quite a speech attempting to unify the action of a tuning fork, a pitch pipe and an organ in worship. Edward Ames, a prominent figure in the "far left" Christian Century cult, spoke to Kling-man; pointing to Daniel Sommer and to me; he said: "We know where these Sommer's stand, but we can't figure you out." I was sitting next to Ames and he turned to me and asked: "What do you think of it?" I said: "Your car brings you to the meeting house door, but you don't take it inside with you. So the pitch pipe and tuning fork bring us to the hymns and stops there." Ames reached into his pocket, and fished out some money and said: "Send your Review paper to me."

The next I remember was arranged by Witty and Minch, to be held at Englewood Christian Church, Indianapolis. It was three or four days and largely attended. A. M. Morris, Daniel Sommer and Leo Boles are the only speakers I now recall by name. Leo distinguished himself and almost extinguished everyone else) when he stretched his -45 minute speech' to an hour and 45 minutes! Time were a deal of speeches allowed from the audience and the issues (regarding use of instrumental music in the worship and aid of human societies in the work of the church) were freely discussed back-and-forth. Once when I thought the assembly was getting unruly Don Carlos Janes arose and said: "Brethren, let us pray, and that did it. Another speaker from the floor was clear cut to a fine point. That night Daniel Sommer, reflecting, said to me: "Watch that young fellow." It was W. L. Totty. . . J. E. Alexander (pastor of Irvington Church of Christ) challenged the entire Christian Church fraternity to public discussion of the organ and society questions. Otto Trinkle, pastor at Englewood, suggested the next meeting be held at Irvington Church of Christ. That church backed away. And yes, Witty and Murch also spoke. Murch has written himself into prominence in the instrument-and-society wing of the "brotherhood." In his ponderous volume titled "Christians Only" he noted the 1889 mass meeting at Sand Creek, Illinois, where Daniel Sommer "harangued" (Murch said) five thousand or more listeners. (It was there the first public notice of the vital differences was made evident.) Mural also mentioned Sommer's further "tirades" regarding actions of the innovators. He carefully avoided mention of the Christian Standard's invention of the personal smear "Sommerism," but took time and space to print J. C. McQuiddy's use of that smear in Gospel Advocate. (Earl West, another brotherhood historian, catalogues Sommer as "truculent.") Nor did Murch mention that in 1892 David Lipscomb defended Daniel Sommer's stand against the organatics, and in the same Gospel Advocate. (I am mystified as to the right application of Murch's "Christians Only.")

Out West of Indianapolis, in a little settlement known as North Salem, years ago, an organ was brought into the meeting house of the church of Christ under cover of darkness. Then began talk of throwing it out the door, whereupon one elder swelled up to this reply: "You'll take that organ out over my dead body." (That sort of speech and the consequent behavior of the "organatics" has convinced me they prefer the organ to my presence.) Yet at that same North Salem a member of the church thought so much of Daniel Sommer that he named his son Daniel Sommer Robinson, who later, despite that handicap, became president of Butler University. And one Lord's day morning, speaking in the Seventh Christian Church across the street from the Sommer homestead, he informed his audience, when he had finished, that he was going across the street to visit his name-sake who was in ills last illness.

By the way, the personal smear "Sommerism" invented by Missionary Society advocates, was later picked up and gleefully used by the Education Society advocates. Cled Wallace said G. C. Goodpasture used the smear, "Sommerism" like the Baptists use the smear "Campbellites" — because neither could meet the real argument.

Some years ago, wife and I dropped down to Madison, Indiana, for a weekend. Sunday morning as we were going out for breakfast we requested the hotel clerk to locate the nearest Church of Christ. On our return he informed us there was no such church there, but that a Christian Church was in walking distance, and that Alexander Campbell once visited there. It was an old brick structure, but commodious inside and we were received cordially. Wife was escorted to a Ladies' class and the preacher took charge of me. He inquired of our church relations and we took our seat in the auditorium. From then on the organ presided! While people came in, the organ played; while the robed choir filed in, the organ played. While the preacher prayed, the organ played; while the Communion was in order, the organ played; it also played during the contribution of money; but it was silent during the sermon and some announcements. Then the preacher called on me for "dismissal," and the organ softly accompanied me; bet at the "Amen" the choir shouted, "Ah-ah-men!" and the organ crashed like a thunder clap! (And continued playing until all had filed out!)

The latest "unity attempt" I have attended was put up for exhibit here in Indianapolis last May. We were only privileged to attend three sessions (heard six speeches). It was a cowardly fiasco! The "differences" were not to be discussed, so W. L. Totty refused to take part in the program. One man talked about "unity and peace," and J. E. Poer countered from the floor, "first pure, then peaceable." David Bobo spoke of the "fear" pervading "the Disciple movement" and made light of those who are satisfied with the revealed Word. One from the floor inquired "if his silence about the innovators was due to fear." Carl Ketcherside was billed to speak on "The Relation of Young People to the Restoration Movement." He regaled us with tales of his experiences with the "hippies," but forgot to tell how he explained the Restoration Movement to them. . . Earl West made a distinctive and welcome contribution to the affair by pointing out who was responsible for the innovations that divide us, also dangers of brotherhood rule by schools and papers. He impressed us as believing the Book as written.

Regarding Ketcherside further, as I have seen him through the years, coming and going, winding around, I am reminded of the old patriarch's "compliment" regarding his son Reuben:"unstable as water." Carl is the whirling dervish of our "brotherhood."

Regarding brethren who prefer the organ in their sanctuaries rather than our presence, I am reminded of the admonition of the prophet Hosea: Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone!"

Reflecting further on our "unity" mockeries I am reminded of this poem by Sam Foss. . .

The Disputants

They met and they talked where the crossroads meet:

Four men from the four winds come;

And they talked of the horse, for they loved the theme, And never a man was dumb.

And the man from the North loved the strength of the horse, And the man from the East his pace,

And the man from the South loved the speed of the horse, The man from the West his grace.

So these four men from the four winds come, Each paused a space in his course,

And smiled in the face of his fellowman, And lovingly talked of his horse.

Then each man parted and went his way As their different courses ran;

And each man journeyed, with peace in his heart And loving his fellowman.

They met next year where the crossroads meet —

Four men from the four winds come;

And it chanced as they met that they talked of God, And never a man was dumb.

One imaged God in the shape of man:

A spirit, did one insist;

One said that Nature itself was God;

One said that He didn't exist.

But they lashed each other with tongues that stung, That smote as with a rod;

Each glared in the face of his fellowman, And wrathfully talked of God.

Then each man parted and went his way, As their different courses ran;

And each man journeyed with wrath in his heart, And hating his fellowman!

— and all because they prefer an unauthorized humanism in the worship rather than our presence. Rev. 18:21, 22 comes near recording the only instrumental music in church worship.