Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 21, 1955
NUMBER 11, PAGE 1,4b-5

Highlights Of The Lufkin Debate

Roy E. Cogdill

The Fellowship Question

In the first speech he made in the Lufkin debate Brother E. R. Harper introduced the question of fellowship. He made the contention that if the Herald of Truth is a "missionary society" or parallel to it, "digressive," or "Romish" in its nature then all of us who oppose it are under obligation to disfellowship those who are promoting it and participating in it. He contends that if we are willing to fellowship them, then we should retract what we have been saying about what they are doing. He pressed this matter in most of the speeches he made in the discussion. He seemed to think that by such an argument he could intimidate some into either withdrawing their opposition to the Herald of Truth or drawing the line of fellowship against it.

He forgot, of course, or chose to ignore the fact that he, together with a good many others, have made personal accusations against many of us of a very serious nature. They have impugned our motives and vilified us almost without end. Brother Tant pointed out to him that the fellowship problem is as much his as ours. When you simply turn the thing around, if what they have been saying about us is true, we should be disfellowshipped or should have been long ago. If it isn't, then they should repent of what they have said about us being "factionists," "church-splitters," etc., and retract it. The institutional crowd has been about as bad at "name-calling" as sectarians have been to shout "Campbellite."

One of the surprises of the debate was the difference in Brother Harper's tone in speaking and writing. His articles had made brethren apprehensive concerning the debate. They felt sure that he would engage in the same tactics in the discussion that he had in all the articles he had written and that the debate would degenerate into a contest of personal vilification and wrangling. In the debate he seemed to sense the necessity of manifesting a better spirit though he relied in his efforts to defend what he is doing upon the same kind of evidence (?) that is, an effort to discredit his opposition. Perhaps he had heard that the unchristian tactics employed in the Indianapolis debate by Totty and Watson did not pay the dividends they expected. If Brother Harper was sincere in the personal feelings he expressed during the debate, he should publicly apologize for some of the things he said in his articles before the debate.

Is the premise true that when brethren disagree about some matter they are under obligation to immediately disfellowship one another? That seems to be the prevalent idea. It can readily be seen that fundamental differences can easily lead to division and disfellowship. Especially is that true when it affects practice. For instance the addition of instrumental music to the worship made it necessary for everyone to participate, submit to it, or worship elsewhere. The support of unscriptural methods and institutions out of the treasury of the church might create the necessity of refusing to contribute into the treasury of the local church for conscience sake or in order to respect what one earnestly believes to be New Testament principle. But where such is not forced upon one the question of fellowship does not immediately at least arise. For many years the brethren fought the missionary society question among themselves without the lines of fellowship being definitely drawn but when instrumental music was introduced into the worship of a congregation they either had to become a party to its usage or get out.

Brother Tant reminded Brother Harper that along this line we have the example of Paul and the Corinthian church. There are not many churches today that have much more wrong with them than the Corinthian church had in Paul's day. He called to their attention what was wrong with them and demanded in the name of Christ that they correct it. He plead with them for their own sakes that they eliminate those conditions that would condemn them but he did not summarily refuse to fellowship them and abandon them to their fate. What he would have done if they had not heeded his teaching is another question. Eventually that church would no doubt have had its candle stick removed and lost its identity as a church of the Lord had they not corrected the mistakes of which they were guilty.

Brother Tant told Brother Harper again and again that he regretted that he had introduced the question of fellowship in the debate. He stated that we had not come together to decide "who should fellowship whom." Rather we were there to study the question, recognizing that we all are fallible men, and try to learn the truth on the question under discussion in the light of God's word. The discussion was held in order that we might come to some agreement and stay together rather than widening the differences already existing. He further told Brother Harper when he insisted that the question of fellowship must be determined that he was not interested in disfellowshiping him but rather in helping him to learn the truth so that he might correct his error and be saved.

It was emphasized by Brother Tant that the question of fellowship was a very complex one for Brother Harper if he insisted on settling the matter right now. This is true because the matter cannot be simply settled between those who oppose the Herald of Truth and those who are in favor of it. The supporters of the Herald of Truth are themselves badly divided on the question of institutionalism in the church. For example, Brother Harper does not believe in congregations supporting colleges out of their treasury but many of the supporters of the Herald of Truth do believe in and practice it. He would have to change his position on that question or disfellowship Brother Brewer, I. A. Douthitt, W. L. Totty, H. A. Dixon, Freed-Hardeman College, B. C. Goodpasture and the Gospel Advocate, A. C. Pullias and David Lipscomb College, and many others such as the "Johnnie-come-lately" to the ranks of church support for schools — Sterl Watson. He would be forced to determine, if he could find out, where brethren like Guy N. Woods now stand on the school question for since they have changed on the orphan home question it is possible they have swallowed the whole institutional bait and have changed on the school question also. Many do not oppose contributing to schools out of the church treasury now. They cannot very consistently do it for they support orphan homes organized exactly like the schools are organized, that is a separate corporation under a board of directors selected from many congregations. This question of "who is going to fellowship whom" gets bigger and bigger. The line is a very curving and crooked one for what it includes today it may not include tomorrow.

He cannot fellowship Gayle Oler and Boles Orphan Home and at the same time fellowship Brother G. K. Wallace for they do not agree on the Orphan Home question. Brother Wallace believes only in orphan homes under an eldership and Brother Oler believes now only in orphan homes under a board of directors.

But that isn't all, for the Herald of Truth crowd cannot fellowship each other. They are divided, as their articles show, on the question of whether such a work as the Herald of Truth must be the work of the congregation receiving the funds for it or can be the work of the church universal done through one church. Brother Harper has himself argued both ways on it and therefore hasn't always been in fellowship with himself. That is terrible.

But that isn't all. The brethren have never been united on the question of Christians going to war for their country. That has always been an issue. Does it demand disfellowshiping one another unless we can agree? Brother Harper must decide this matter. Surely the institutional question alone isn't the place to draw the line.

Then too, there is the matter of whether or not an elder must be a married man and have children of his own. Brethren have always been divided on this too. There has always been a difference among brethren along this line. Is it a question upon which disfellowshiping must be done? If so we had better get busy and draw the line for it has always existed and we are running late.

Brother E. C. Fuqua and L. R. Wilson and others teach that if a man is living in adultery before he becomes a Christian and then obeys the Gospel that he can go right ahead living with his wife, who wasn't his wife until he was baptized. Many violently disagree with them on the idea that a man can repent of an adulterous relationship and continue to live in it. Must the line of fellowship be drawn on this? I tell you this fellowship matter gets complicated. Unless Brother Harper is willing for the Gospel Advocate to tell him where to draw the line of fellowship he is apt to get mighty confused. Of course, if he draws it where Goodpasture and the Gospel Advocate wants it drawn, it will exclude all of us whom they do not like and that will solve the problem but he had better get the list for it varies from season to season according to whether or not they can use you.

Why are those who oppose the Herald of Truth as an unscriptural arrangement under any more obligation to draw the line of fellowship than its supporters are on these other questions where there is a difference? What is the old saying, "what is sauce for the goose is salad dressing for the gander"? That thing works both ways and it is complicated. Are Brother Harper and the Herald of Truth supporters willing to make support for the Herald of Truth a test of fellowship? If so, and they are the ones pushing this fellowship question as we will show in a later article, do they believe supporting the Herald of Truth essential to salvation? Are they willing to take the position that the Herald of Truth arrangement is essential to the Great Commission and its fulfillment? A. C. Pullias thinks support for David Lipscomb College is essential to the Great Commission and its fulfillment and said so publicly. If he has ever retracted it, I haven't heard of it. He ordered me through a friend to not come back on the campus because I disagreed with him. If Brother Harper goes that far I won't go to hear the Abilene debate, if it ever comes off, and I am sorry. First he won't debate me, now he won't fellowship me, and by then he won't even let me come to Abilene. That hurts my feelings. I have known all along what others are just now finding out — that I am not a "representative man" but I think they should have some respect at least for my feelings.

Brother Harper bandied my name about quite a bit during the Lufkin debate as it has been elsewhere and wouldn't agree to give me an opportunity to say anything in return. As the matter now stands with him and others, I am about the most mis-represented unrepresentative man I know. Whether they fellowship me or not is not the principal point of concern with me and should not be with anyone else. What is right and what is the truth? Those are the questions and they can't decide those issues for you in Abilene and Nashville. Even the decision of the elders isn't sufficient on those questions. Better study the Word of God for yourself and find out what God has said about it. That is all that is important.

On this fellowship question though there is one thing they had better keep in mind. That little "five percent estimate" made at Lubbock is surely wrong. Something near 400 Gospel preachers attended the Lufkin debate first and last and they were tremendously surprised to learn that of that number a great percentage came to the debate opposed to the Herald of Truth. There is more opposition than they think and the line will exclude many upon whom they have not counted. Better think it over brethren before you let the "Gospel Advocate Institutional Headquarters" crowd you and stampede you into this "quarantine" movement.