Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 4, 1955
NUMBER 13, PAGE 1,11b-13a

Highlights Of The Lufkin Debate

Roy E. Cogdill

"The Gospel Guardian Missionary Society"

One of the most ridiculous things advanced by Brother Harper in the Lufkin debate was the contention that the Gospel Guardian is a Missionary Society. He had a large chart to illustrate his contention. In fact he had a chart to illustrate everything. From all indications there has recently been a shortage of bed-sheets in Abilene. Brother Harper would literally get lost in his charts and the audience would sit patiently while he asked for time out to get them straightened out and bring on another load. They were classic for most of them resembled an "Alley Oop" cartoon." They did add some spice to the debate and helped his audience understand in some measure some of the vague contentions he was trying to make.

In his effort to parallel the Gospel Guardian company with a missionary society he committed himself as against any individual enterprise undertaking to do a work in any way religious in its nature and organized as a "non-profit" corporation under the provisions of the State of Texas statutes. It happens that recently we secured a charter under the laws of the State which allow us to engage in business as a "non-profit" corporation. We are incorporated under exactly the same statute as "our" schools, "our" orphan homes that operate under a board of directors, and all of our religious publishing houses except those who operate for profit. In organization we are exactly the same kind of corporation that they are, that is, we have the same kind of corporate existence or entity, with the same officers and by-laws. Brother Harper found himself repudiating the existence of any school thus organized to do religious work — teach the Bible. Abilene Christian College in the very city where he lives is organized under the same provision of the statutes of Texas that we are. They selected the purpose of "education" specifically provided in the statute. Brother Tant pointed this out and showed that in the same breath in which he condemns the existence of the Gospel Guardian Company he condemns Abilene Christian College. Will he disfellowship them along with us? According to his contention he is under obligation to or retract his charge against us.

That is not all. Boles Orphan Home is chartered under the same statute to do "benevolent" work as a non-profit corporation. Do they, as well as Abilene Christian College, constitute a "Missionary Society"? Will he disfellowship Boles Home because it is a missionary society? Remember that he contended in his first speech that we had called the Herald of Truth a missionary society and argued that if that is so we must disfellowship them and if we weren't willing to do that we must retract what we said about them. Well now the problem is his for he contended from another one of his charts that the "Gospel Guardian Company" is a missionary society because of the charter it has and the kind of a corporation it is. But the same thing is true of these other institutions, if it is true of us, and if it is true, then Brother Harper, if he is honest in his arguments, must disfellowship all of them or retract his charges and quit saying it. Then too, he contended, and in a recent Highland Bulletin, Brother Reese contended that the Herald of Truth is accepting contributions in order to preach the gospel on the radio and the Gospel Guardian is accepting contributions in order to preach the gospel on the printed page and therefore they are exactly alike. So they will have to disfellowship themselves if they are sincere and not just trying to deceive someone with their sophistry. Begins to look a little like a "merry-go-round" doesn't it. Of course the difference between Boles Home and the Gospel Guardian is that Boles Home is sustained by contributions from churches and the Gospel Guardian has never accepted a contribution from a church. The same difference exists between the Herald of Truth and the Gospel Guardian. Then too, the Herald of Truth is a "Church" organization and the Gospel Guardian is an individual enterprise.

Brother Reese should know that his point is not true. The implication in his contention is that the Gospel Guardian receives contributions from churches just like the Herald of Truth. That is no part of the truth. If he doesn't know it, we are putting him on notice now that it is not so. The Gospel Guardian has never accepted a contribution from a church. We challenge them to produce it or quit saying it. We call upon Brother Reese, Harper, Willeford, Nichols and all the rest to quit misrepresenting the facts in this matter. Not even the lying, deceitful trick of Otis Gatewood in getting the $5.00 check sent to Dick Smith in Germany was a contribution from a church nor did it involve a church. We do not profess to be doing the work of the church. We are a group of Christian individuals engaged in a work that is not the work of the church and we have never solicited or received a contribution from any church and shall not do so. It is inexcusable for them to continue to try to deceive with facts which they know are not true. Brethren that cannot be more honorable than that should not be trusted with a contribution from anyone for anything.

One of the amusing things in this connection was the fact that when Brother Tant contended with Brother Harper that if the "Gospel Guardian" is a missionary society then the "Christian Chronicle" is also and he must condemn it, he struck close home for the majority of the stock of the Christian Chronicle is owned by the promoter of the Herald of Truth, the young, mighty, and powerful James Walters Nichols. In one of his speeches the last night of the debate Brother Harper, and I doubt if he did it of his own judgment, called upon Brother Nichols to testify, and asked that the time Brother Nichols used be not charged against him. Brother Harper seemed to think that a debater has the right to ask that his time be held for anything he wanted to do. Brother Nichols was Brother Harper's moderator, time-keeper, or chief adviser or something. When he called upon him to get up and speak to the audience, I arose in the back of the house and objected on the ground that I had been personated and my name bandied about by Brother Harper for four nights without having any chance to reply and I had as much right on the floor as Brother Nichols had. Brother Nichols thought he was in charge of the whole proceedings, I suppose, and ordered me to sit down. I told him then that I was as much at home as he was and had as much right on the floor under the circumstances and did not have to sit down. Brother Tant quieted things down by suggesting that Brother Nichols be allowed to say what he had to say and that the time not be charged to Brother Harper for when he spoke he wanted to ask Brother George Jones to make a statement and he would ask that they reciprocate and not charge the time George used against his time. I agreed to that and the debate proceeded.

When Brother Nichols took the floor he read the purpose specified in the charter of the Christian Chronicle Publishing Company which was the wording of the statute under the particular article that provides for the purposes for which corporations are to be formed. If I had been allowed to respond, it would have been easy to show that the difference in his company and ours is that his is organized for the purpose of making money, and he expects as we shall show to make a lot of it, in fact he must do so, while our company is not organized for the purpose of making money but is a non-profit organization. Of course we are not engaged in the printing business so could not be incorporated like his company is. When we had such a company we were so organized. Both are corporations under state law. Both have the same kind of organization, officers, by-laws, and corporate rights and existence. The Christian Chronicle is a stock company, ours is not. Its purpose is to make money and pay dividends to the stockholders and since it operates for profit it must pay taxes. Ours is not operated for profit and cannot pay any dividends and therefore is not subject to taxation. With the exception of the commercial printing done by the Chronicle Company, the two companies engage in exactly the same kind of business. Does the fact that he operates his company with the expectation of profit and we do not mean that his is right and ours is wrong? That is the essential difference. Brother Nichols knows less about corporations than he does about the Bible evidently.

His company is going to have to make a good deal of money if it is ever able to distribute any dividends to the "143 members of the church" who have bought stock in it. According to their financial statement last fall the assets of the company were listed at $183,266.21. Of this amount $73,000 is listed at good will alone. Deducting that amount from the assets claimed and accepting the rest at face value the worth of the corporate assets would be $110,266.21. At the time of this statement the corporation had liabilities of $104,863.02. Without the "good will" valuation the corporation actually was worth $5,403.19 if they listed the $30,720 outstanding stock among their liabilities which I do not know. On the basis of a business in this condition, Brother James Walters Nichols had an option on 73.30% of the corporation stock for which he was paying less than par value or $19,471. In order to exercise this option, for some reason, he was obligated to refinance the indebtedness of the company. As of September of last year (1954) he had promoted the refinancing of $75,128.82 on "long term loans (most of which is for 10 years at 4%." He was "trying desperately to raise" an additional $28,934.40 in order to exercise his option.

But let us look at the basis upon which this "high financing" was being sought. In the statement issued last fall are these words, "While an endeavor such as this must be considered from a financial standpoint, it must also be remembered that much of an investment in this type of work should and will be due to the tremendous amount of good that may be accomplished through the distribution of Christian literature. Because of both of these two reasons we do not hesitate to ask your immediate help." In a personal letter to a member of the church whom he had never met and whom he was writing asking for a personal loan of a tidy sum for 10 years at 4%, the request for such an accommodation was put upon this basis: "If I have ever needed help, it is now. A man does not know where to turn except to his friends. I personally believe without any question that the Chronicle can be made not only a success from greater good will it will do, but also a financial success, but I must have your help. I have discussed my plans with the elders of the church at Fifth and Highland and they are fully aware of my plans to resign. I have their blessings in this undertaking. Without hesitation, I beg your help in this matter because I know of the good that can and will be accomplished for the cause of Christ." Then in a postscript: "Realizing fully that you can make a greater return on your investment in your own business, I am asking that you make this investment in me and for Christian literature."

Thus it is easily seen that much of Brother Nichols promotional schemes for the "Christian Chronicle" published by the "Chronicle Publishing Company" of Abilene, Texas, was put upon a religious basis. Or would he deny that the "good that may be accomplished through the distribution of Christian literature" is religious in its nature. He was begging for help as an "investment in me and for Christian literature." But he argues and so does Brother Harper that they do not have a company religious in its purpose. The fact is that they do have such a company and solicit accommodations on that basis that they likely would not be able to obtain on any other than because they are "trying to do a good work." We suggest to Brother Nichols that with his viewpoint and his promotional power that he should just put the "Chronicle" under the eldership at Highland and he could promote his publishing schemes like he did his radio schemes. After all why shouldn't he do it? It is a "good work." I am satisfied they would be honored to "accept the responsibility" as they did in the case of the Herald of Truth. Then he could solicit contributions from churches and that seems to be his most fruitful field. He may be doing that now for all we know.

But the end is not yet. Brother Nichols now is in the process of promoting the brethren into buying $50,000 of preferred stock his company is offering for sale. Concerning this stock he states: "This stock is not callable by the corporation unless it is sold, inherited, or assigned to someone who is not a member of the church of Christ. It can, however, be sold at any time to anyone whom its owner chooses as long as that party is a member of the church of Christ. The value of the stock will increase as the value of the corporation increases." Well the value of the corporation has a long way to go if its affairs are still in the same condition as they were last fall. It is not stated whether or not this $50,000 will go to retire some of the previous obligations of the company or be expended in some further promotion. If the brethren can be found who are willing, this young man will do big things, provided enough finance is furnished. He is not only a big man in the church but evidently has unbounded confidence in himself as a wizard of finance. He should get into the manipulations of Wall Street where his talents could be appreciated. Of course he would have a little more difficulty giving his promotions a religious background and flavor. His stock selling scheme is put upon that basis also. Hear him: "Remember, you will be doing two things at once with your investment: Helping do a good work, and getting a good return on your money at the same time." There it is brethren — a double barreled shot — sure to hit something if it isn't anything but a snag. This is the young man who thinks his "corporation" is right because it operates for profit and is not a religious corporation. To be honest he ought to leave out of his appeals for finance the religious aspect of the business.

What does all of this have to do with the Herald of Truth? Exactly nothing! But it was the only course the debate could take because they had no scriptural argument. Brother Tant showed that the difference between the Herald of Truth and the Gospel Guardian is that the Herald of Truth is a "church" organization like the missionary society. They are both exclusively church organizations. They do the work of the church and exist by contributions from the church. The only difference is that one of them is under an eldership and the other isn't and all that you would have to do with the Missionary Society to make it scriptural according to their argument is to place it under an eldership at least in appearance.

The Gospel Guardian does not do church work. We are engaged as an individual enterprise in doing a work which is not within the scope of the work of the Lord's church. More than that we do not, have never, and will never accept any contributions whatever from any church.

A chart was distributed among the audience to illustrate this point as Brother Tant explained it. It pointed out that there are five relationships in the Christian life all of which involve Christian duty. They are economic, social, political, domestic and spiritual. The institutions in which these relationships are enjoyed are one's business, community, government, home, and church. The Herald of Truth and the Missionary Society are both institutions operating in the realm of the spiritual or as church institutions. The only difference between them is one of them is under an eldership and the other is not. The Gospel Guardian is an individual enterprise operating in the realm of individual business. Brother Harper in his remaining speeches did not mention the chart or make any reply to it. He chose wisely to ignore it. Here is one of the fundamental difficulties in the whole "institutional" question in the church today. Brethren do not recognize the difference between an individual relationship and endeavor and the work of the church.

Let it not be forgotten though that E. R. Harper and the Herald of Truth promoters and managers are on record that the "Gospel Guardian" is a missionary society and must be disfellowshipped. They are pushing the matter of bringing division to a reality. They have seemingly made up their minds to get rid of their opposition by "quarantine" measures. By their own arguments in the Lufkin debate they have committed themselves and unless they retract it they make opposition to the Herald of Truth, especially if it is through the Gospel Guardian, a test of fellowship. This is not true of them alone but is also true of every church they can influence and every preacher they can intimidate and control. We shall see it at work in another article.