Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 16, 1956
NUMBER 40, PAGE 2-3a

"That The Brethren May Know"

Hoyt H. Houchen, San Antonio, Texas

Brethren are entitled to know the facts.

During the last night of the recent Tant-Harper debate that Was held in Abilene, Texas, on The Herald of Truth, Brother E. R. Harper announced that he would meet Brother Tant in a repeat debate, this one to be held at the Highland church in San Antonio, Texas, subject to the approval of the Highland (San Antonio) elders. Brother Tant gave his consent, as he had already expressed his desire to meet Brother Harper on The Herald of Truth issue in any city where such discussions can be arranged.

Before the Abilene debate took place, the Highland (San Antonio) elders had committed the use of the Highland building to Brother Cecil Douthitt and whomever he would be able to debate on the issue of sponsoring church type of cooperation. Brother Douthitt has challenged Brother Roy Lanier to meet him, but so far no word has been received from Brother Lanier. Brother Douthitt tried to get Brother Harper to meet him on the issues and he approached Brother Harper on the matter even before the last session of the Abilene debate terminated, but Brother Harper refused to debate Brother Douthitt under any circumstances.

Due to the commitment which had already been made by the Highland (San Antonio) elders to Brother Douthitt before the Abilene debate, they felt that out of courtesy, consideration should be given to Brother Douthitt before offering the use of the building to Brother Tant and Brother Harper. Brother Harper ran wild with this and has told in several places and has printed in the papers that the Highland (San Antonio) elders have not endorsed Brother Tant. "That the brethren may know," we are printing the exchange of letters between the San Antonio brethren and Brother Harper.

Here is the letter of the Highland (San Antonio) elders, dated December 5, 1955:

Dear Brother Harper:

It is your understanding that in the debate at Abilene, you agreed to meet Brother Tant in a discussion here in the Highland Boulevard building, subject to our approval. Before you did this, we had already extended an invitation to Brother Cecil Douthitt to meet Brother Roy Lanier here on the issues; therefore, we must consider Brother Douthitt's negotiations first before we could extend our facilities to you and Brother Tant. We are sure that you can see that courtesy demands that we follow this procedure.

In the event that Brother Lanier refuses to meet Brother Douthitt, Brother Douthitt is most willing to meet you in a discussion, so we are of the persuasion that you should meet him and we are happy to offer our facilities to you two men for such a discussion.

We are notifying Brother Douthitt of our proposal and we are hoping that you will accept.

Faithfully yours,

Elders, Highland Church of Christ

In reply to this letter, the following was written by Brother Harper, dated December 12, 1955:

Dear Brethren:

Your letter received and I must say was most disappointing. Brother Tant challenged me both at Lufkin and here to meet him in every leading city in the nation, stating, if I remember, he knew of twenty-five or thirty churches wanting the debate. He asked that I be left to him.

Brother Douthitt had told me that you wanted a debate and that Brother Lanier wasn't going to meet him. Whether Brother Roy had refused or not I do not know. That was what Brother Douthitt told me. Since this was true and since Brother Tant kept challenging me all through the debate to meet him in such discussions, I felt certain you good brethren would not turn him down as you have done in this letter.

May I say, if you brethren refuse to endorse Brother Tant for such a discussion there, then Highland will talk further with you concerning a future debate with Brother Douthitt. You know of course what this will do to Brother Tant who so boastfully challenged me to meet him in every leading city. Our consideration of a debate with Brother Douthitt will depend entirely upon your refusal to endorse Brother Tant for such a discussion.

If Brother Tant has defended your position to the satisfaction of all, then why not endorse him as well as Brother Douthitt? Brother Douthitt's asking Brother Gus Dunn to break into the debate at the close, just before the dismissal prayer, was taken by those who heard it as evidence that he was not satisfied with the defense Brother Tant had made. If so he would have been happy for Brother Tant to meet me at your place the same as he. Could it be that Brother Douthitt feels himself greater than Brother Tant? It was Brother Tant who did the public challenging of me both here and at Lufkin. If you and Brother Douthitt are dissatisfied with Brother Tant's defense of your position then just tell us so and we shall discuss this further with you.

Yours most humbly,

E. R. Harper

The readers of this letter exchange can see that Brother Harper has misconstrued and misrepresented the contents of the letter by the Highland (San Antonio) elders. It is obvious that Brother Harper is adept it stating things that brethren do not say. Brother Harper knows that what he has told and what he has implied from his written statements are false. Why he has stooped to such tactics, the readers may decide.

In response to Brother Harper's letter of December 12, 1955, the Highland (San Antonio) elders wrote the following to Brother Harper, dated January 11, 1956:

Dear Brother Harper:

Reference is made to your letter of December 12, 1955. We regret that you were disappointed in our letter of December 5, 1955; however, we believe that we made it very clear that we had a previous commitment to Brother Douthitt before the Abilene debate in which you asked for a debate with Brother Tant here at Highland in San Antonio. It should be obvious to you or anyone else that 'our refusal to consider a debate with you and Brother Tant as the disputants at this present time is well founded on the commitment above and it is in no way an indication that we do not endorse Brother Tant. Contrary to what you have printed in the papers and have told about, we certainly do endorse Brother Tant. We further believe that you should correct the statements that you have made. We believe that the tactics that you have used in the face of plain statement of fact in our first letter to you as to why we could not have the debate between you and Brother Tant just now are wholly incompatible with the Christian profession and beneath the dignity of a gospel preacher.

Should the debate between Brother Douthitt and Brother Lanier fail to materialize, and should he fail to get you or some other opponent to meet him, then we shall be in a position to consider a debate here between you and Brother Tant.

We should like to add that not only do we endorse Brother Tant, but we are proud of the good job that he has done in both debates with you, and we also appreciate his humble attitude.

Faithfully yours,

Elders, Highland Church of Christ

Brother Harper refuses to meet anyone in debate but Brother Tant. Prior to the Lufkin debate and since then, Brother Harper has dictated the terms; he has selected his opponent, and he has chosen the place for debate. He has made himself the judge, the prosecuting attorney, and the jury. We have seen such rough-shod riding by the denominational debaters through the years, but we hardly expected it from one who claims to be a gospel preacher.

The elders here at Highland in San Antonio have written to the elders of the Grove Avenue church of this city, asking them if they will endorse Brother Lanier in a debate with Brother Douthitt. It is our understanding that Brother Lanier refuses to accept Brother Douthitt's challenge on the ground that no church in San Antonio has invited him to come. Not wishing that Brother Lanier feel isolated from any endorsement, we have given Grove Avenue church, which is sympathetic to the views of Brother Lanier, the opportunity to endorse him. At this writing we have received no word from Grove Avenue. Should Brother Douthitt fail to secure an opponent, the readers may expect a forthcoming announcement of another Tant-Harper debate, this one to be held here at Highland in San Antonio. Speaking as preacher for the Highland church and in behalf of the elders, we shall be happy to have the debate.

The above are the facts and they are given "that the brethren may know."