Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 1, 1956
NUMBER 42, PAGE 1,9b

The Porter-Woods Debate

Hoyt H. Houchen, San Antonio, Texas

A number of us were privileged to attend the debate held in Indianapolis, Indiana, January 3-7, 1956, between Brother W. Curtis Porter and Brother Guy N. Woods. Brother Woods was endorsed by the Garfield Heights church of that city, and Brother Porter was endorsed by the Belmont church of the same city. Due to larger facilities for accommodating the audiences, the debate was held in the Garfield Heights building. Visitors, including many preachers and elders were present, and it is estimated that between 600 and 700 people attended each session of the debate. The first two nights Brother Woods affirmed the proposition that it is in harmony with the scriptures for churches to build and maintain benevolent organizations such as Boles Home, Tipton Home, and others, to care for the needy. The last two nights Brother Porter affirmed the negative of that proposition. Each speaker spoke in turn for twenty minutes each night, each disputant delivering three twenty minute speeches each night of the four nights discussion.

Brother Woods pointed out in his first affirmative address that the New Testament obligates us to care for the widows and the orphans and he cited such passages as James 1:27 and 1 Timothy 5:16. Brother Porter made it clear in his reply that the issue is not whether the needy are to be cared for, but the proposition obligates Brother Woods to prove that churches can build and maintain benevolent organizations to do that work.

In the outset of the debate, Brother Woods stated that he had met Brother Leroy Garrett out in California and that Brother Garrett had made the same arguments that Brother Porter uses in opposing church support of benevolent institutions. Throughout the debate Brother Woods attempted to identify Brother Porter with Brother Garrett, and he frequently mentioned that opposition to church support of these benevolent organizations was the teaching of Brother Daniel Sommer. He followed the same pattern that he had used in his Gospel Advocate articles by branding those who oppose the church support of human institutions as Sommerites. But Brother Woods quickly found himself in a most embarrassing situation. Brother Woods was asked by Brother Porter if he had anything in common with Brother Garrett and Brother Woods audibly denied that he did. Brother Porter pressed him and asked him if he did not have something in common with Brother Garrett and Brother Woods emphatically denied from his chair that he did. Brother Porter then pointed out to Brother Woods that Brother Garrett opposes the Missionary Society and he asked Brother Woods if he did not also oppose it. Brother Woods felt the impact of the blow and in his predicament he spoke out that he does not have as much in common with Brother Garrett as does Brother Porter. So with Brother Woods he had nothing in common with Brother Garrett and then he did have something in common with him; he didn't and then he did. The audience was amused and any open-minded person could see that if opposing something that Brother Garrett or Brother Sommer opposes makes one a Garrettite or a Sommerite then that would make Brother Woods one too because he also opposes the Missionary Society just as Brother Sommer did and Brother Garrett does.

But as to Brother Woods making frequent references to the teaching of Brother Sommer, we are reminded that a preacher once said about a Baptist debater's references to Alexander Campbell that such are (1) prejudicial, (2) he is unable to prove his proposition, and (3) he seeks to fill in his time. Who was the preacher who said it? It was none other than Brother Guy N. Woods himself! Listen to Brother Woods in his debate with A. U. Nunnery, Missionary Baptist, on page 219 of that debate: "Mr. Nunnery's references to Alexander Campbell are prejudicial. He knows and you know that we have sought to prove nothing by Campbell or any other uninspired man. Unable to prove that salvation is not before and without water baptism, he seeks to fill in his time by references to Campbell." Those are the words of Brother Guy N. Woods in his debate with A. U. Nunnery. Does not Brother Woods know that Brother Porter sought to prove nothing by Brother Daniel Sommer or any other uninspired man? Could it be that Brother Woods made references to Brother Sommer for (1) prejudicial reasons, (2) because he could not sustain his proposition, and (3) because he was seeking to fill in his time? Brother Woods indicted himself!

Brother Woods modestly (?) told the audience over and over again how many debates that he has had with the anti-class brethren. He attempted to parallel Brother Porter's opposition to the church support of benevolent organizations to the opposition by brethren to Bible classes. He tried desperately to place Brother Porter in the same boat. Brother Woods contended that the benevolent institutions are only systematic arrangements for caring for the needy. He maintained that Brother Porter and his brethren favor the disorganized care of the needy. But Brother Woods found himself in hot water again. Brother Porter asked Brother Woods if he would favor making a corporate body out of our Bible class arrangement. Would Brother Woods favor the placing of our Bible classes in each church under a President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer? Brother Woods refused to answer this question and others and Brother Porter, using an expression that was introduced into the debate by Brother Woods, reminded the audience that Brother Woods was "as dumb as an oyster." If opposition to the church support of benevolent organizations is to favor the disorganized care of the needy, then Brother Woods disavowed his contention with the anti-class brethren in his twenty debates with them, that Bible classes are only systematic arrangements. If care of the needy is not organized until we have chartered institutions through which to do that work, and that is the position taken by Brother Woods, then we do not have organized Bible teaching until we form our Bible class arrangements into corporate bodies. Brother Porter pressed the point that Brother Woods will be in trouble when he meets the anti-class brethren because he does not have a corporate body through which to teach. What will the anti-class brethren do with Brother Woods now? It will be interesting to see.

Brother Porter pointed out that the benevolent organizations being supported by churches are not mere systematic arrangements of the church doing its work, but they are separate organizations from the church; they are not methods, but rather these organizations themselves employ methods, and they are parallel to the Missionary Society. If these organizations can be built and maintained through which the needy can be eared for, then the Missionary Society can be provided through which to preach the gospel. If one is right, then so is the other. Brother Porter showed that they are parallel.

Brother Woods modestly (?) predicted that Brother Porter would never again debate the benevolent issue. He modestly (?) told the audience about the many debates that he has had, how long he has been debating, and how weak he thought that Brother Porter's efforts were. We would have never known had not Brother Woods told us! His modest (?) prediction about Brother Porter proved embarrassing to him even before the last night session of the debate closed, for the audience was informed that the Caprock church in Lubbock, Texas, will endorse Brother Porter in a repeat debate with Brother Woods there. Brother Porter is ready and willing. Is there some church in Lubbock or in the surrounding area that will endorse Brother Woods? There are scores of churches that will endorse Brother Porter. Future debates between Brother Porter and Brother Woods will depend upon whether there are churches that will endorse Brother Woods. We shall see. (More to follow.)