Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 23, 1955
NUMBER 8, PAGE 10-11

The Proposed Indianapolis Debate

W. L. Totty, Indianapolis, Indiana

In the April 21, 1955, issue of the Gospel Guardian, Brother Yater Tant had an editorial concerning a proposed debate between the Belmont Avenue and Garfield Heights churches, of Indianapolis, in which he made several incorrect statements. I do not impugn Brother Tant's integrity, however, because I am confident that his statements are based upon false impressions which he received from Jack Holt.

Negotiations for another debate between these two congregations came about because in Brother Jack Holt's church bulletin of February 2, 1955, under the heading "A Modern Elymas," he had a slanderous article about me. He had obtained a mailing list of the Garfield Heights members and, without the knowledge of the elders, exercised his "evangelistic authority" and sent the article to the members, urging them to "rise up against their 'ecclesiastical boss' and investigate for themselves"; thus attempting to cause a revolt and division in the Garfield Heights congregation. In his article he said, "Even so does brother Totty work night and day to keep the members at Garfield from hearing the other side of the Indianapolis story." Thereupon, I called Brother Holt and informed him that we were willing for the people to hear the truth on any subject and asked him if he would open the doors of the Belmont Avenue church for a debate. Brother Holt himself suggested the subject; namely, that each congregation would affirm its position relative to Potter and Tennessee Orphan Homes. Be it remembered that Brother Holt suggested the issue for debate himself and included nothing but the orphan home question.

Brother Tant is also incorrect in his statement that "Garfield Heights selected Brother Guy N. Woods to represent them." Garfield Heights was not given any consideration in the selecting of its representative. Brother Holt said it was Guy Woods or nobody, and chided me by saying that Brother Woods would not represent us on that issue. We were glad, however, to endorse Brother Woods for the debate. We do not think a better man could be found than Brother Woods. But the statement that we selected him is incorrect.

When contacted, Brother Woods immediately replied with a special delivery air mail letter saying that he would be glad to debate the issue; and I passed the word on to Brother Holt. After about fifteen days, having received no word from Brother Holt, I called him and asked if he had gotten a man to represent them; whereupon, he went into a rage, said that he had not, and forbade me to ring his telephone any more. When to his disappointment Brother Woods agreed to represent the Garfield Heights church, Brother Holt started casting around for a way to get out of the debate and yet to save his face; so he tried to evade the former agreement and include other issues. I have unimpeachable evidence in my files from Brother Holt to the effect that this statement is correct.

Brother Tant's statement that the "Belmont Avenue congregation and the Garfield Heights congregation, both of Indianapolis, Indiana, have agreed to have another debate discussing the same issues which were considered in the Totty-Watson-Holt debate last fall" is partly correct and partly false. As before mentioned, we agreed to have a debate; but we did not agree to debate the same issues as were debated last fall. Brother Tant further said, "Since the two congregations had already agreed to debate all three issues, it was not thought wise by Belmont brethren to limit the debate to one phase of the problems now disturbing the church." I do not know where Brother Tant got his information; but the man does not live under heaven who can show any agreement between the two congregations to debate "all three issues." We accepted Brother Jack Holt's own proposition; but when he saw he was caught in a trap, he attempted to get out by backing out on his former agreement. We are not responsible for the embarrassment it causes Brother Holt and the Belmont Avenue church, since it was Brother Holt's suggestion.

Brother Woods did not refuse to represent Garfield Heights on any issue. We have never asked him to represent us on any issue except the orphan home, and we do not intend to until they live up to their agreement. Brother Jack Holt knows that as well as anybody, for in a letter dated March 21, 1955, I said, "We have never asked Guy Woods to represent anything except the orphan home question."

Brother Tant made another egregious mistake when he said, "Brother Totty further states that Brother Woods agrees with Garfield Heights' position on church support of colleges." It would be highly interesting to see Brother Tant try to produce the statement where I ever said that. As a matter of fact, I have never asked Brother Woods whether he agrees with my position on "church support of colleges." And Brother Jack Holt knows that, for I wrote to him, March 21, 1955, and said, "I haven't asked Brother Woods whether he agreed with me on the college question or not." However, if Brother Woods does not agree with our position on the Bible college, it will be no more embarrassing to us than it is to the Guardian brethren when they disagree on almost every subject. I doubt if even the most radical of them will agree with what Charles Holt preached in the Indianapolis debate. In fact, Brother Holt himself denies now that he ever held some of the positions that he took during that debate. (By the way, cheek up on the teaching of Charles Holt in the debate book.)

Brother Tant said, "Brother Woods seems to desire to debate certain other issues in addition to the ones the two churches have agreed on." Again let me say that the two churches have not agreed on any "ones." The two churches only agreed on one, and that one was suggested by Brother Holt; and I can prove this by Brother bolt's own words. The "other issues" which Brother Tant mentioned are: whether or not Cornelius received the baptism of the Holy Spirit; whether or not an elder must be a married man; and the war question. Brother Tant said, "So far as we are concerned these issues should not now enter into the discussions." It is refreshing to know that at least one Guardian man can see that. That is the very point that we were trying to get Jack Holt to see when they were mentioned. He refused to live up to his agreement unless we would bring in all the side issues and debate them. We attempted to get him to see the fallacy of such an idea by bringing in the issues that exist among the Guardian brethren. Brother Tant was able to see that, and I hope he may have some influence over Brother Holt and get him to see it. The orphan home question, and it alone, was the issue which the two churches agreed to debate. And we agree with Brother Tant that there is no need of trying to bring in other issues until we finish this one. Of course, we know that Brother Holt did not want to debate any issue. He would not have agreed the first time had he not thought Brother Woods would refuse. That is the reason he said it would have to be Woods or nobody.

Notwithstanding the fact that in the April 7 issue of the Gospel Guardian Brother Tant said, "The Belmont brethren were so highly gratified at the results of the Totty-Watson-Holt discussion of last fall, that they felt another such discussion in Indianapolis might well give a permanent solution to the problem in that city," we of Indianapolis know better. We know the debate last fall was not gratifying to the Belmont congregation, because some members of the Belmont congregation left and came to the Garfield Heights church saying that they could not go along with Holt's position. Soon after the debate, it was rumored that an element in the Belmont congregation was going to "throw Brother Holt out when they got the power." Maybe that was gratifying to the congregation, but what about Holt? Unless losing some of your members and your job were gratifying, I am sure that Brother Holt was not "highly gratified" over the results of the debate. He might produce a statement from some of the members to the effect that they wanted him to stay, but that will not prove by any means that there were not many who were after his scalp.

Brother Tant said, "Belmont Avenue selected Roy E. Cogdill. When announcement was made of Belmont Avenue's selection, Brother Woods declined to enter the discussion if he had to meet Cogdill." That is the first that we had heard that Belmont Avenue had selected Roy E. Cogdill. Brother Holt first said that they would probably select Yater Tant or Roy E. Cogdill. Some of us don't believe that Yater Tant or Roy Cogdill either one agreed to represent Belmont Avenue in the debate. We don't believe that Brother Holt can produce a letter from either one of them, postmarked prior to their selection of Brother Porter, stating that they would meet Guy N. Woods here in the debate. Maybe they did, but we don't believe it, and we will have to see the letter before we will be convinced. Furthermore, Brother Woods did not "decline" to meet Roy E. Cogdill. He only suggested that they get Brother Tant or Brother Cecil Douthitt, since both of these men had been writing recently on the subject. If Jack Holt had the right to say that they would meet Woods and only Woods, surely Brother Woods had the right to make that suggestion.

However, I wrote to Brother Holt on February 23, 1955, and said, "Brother Holt, right here I guarantee you that we will meet any man whom you will put up, whether it be Cogdill, Wallace, Tant, Charles Holt, or anybody else on earth whom you endorse. We will take the same liberty you take and select our own man." Brother Holt had said in a letter to me dated February 21, 1955, "If Belmont deems a certain man as capable of representing the scriptural position — which is her position — on these issues who are you to question her judgment?" We only asked that he give us the same consideration which he took. That he refused to do and said it must be Woods or nobody. In other words, he assumed the authority to choose the man on both sides. At that date, they had not selected a man, because he said in that letter that they had in mind either "Roy E. Cogdill, W. Curtis Porter, Foy E. Wallace, Cecil Douthitt and Charles Holt." Now, why should Brother Holt and Brother Tant raise such an issue over Cogdill and yet try to hold the Garfield Heights church to one man and only one man?

In Brother Tant's editorial of April 7 he said, "Brother Woods declined on the ground that Cogdill was 'not a representative man'.". Neither Brother Woods nor I at any time said Brother Cogdill was not a representative man. Brother Holt contended that they would not meet Sterl Watson or me again because he said we were not "representative men." I asked him how he determined who was a representative man. I argued that no man can represent the church in a universal sense; that he only represents the congregation which endorses him and that this church certainly endorses Sterl Watson and me; therefore, we were representative men. But Brother Holt did not consent to that. He argued that it had to be a sort of inter-congregational endorsement. On that basis, I wrote to him and said we do not consider Roy E. Cogdill a "representative man." I assumed that Brother Holt would understand the use of quotation marks. Maybe I assumed too much. I meant that Roy Cogdill was not a representative in the sense that Brother Holt contended that a man must be a representative. Sterl Watson and I are 'representative men" in the same sense which Roy Cogdill is; that is, we each represent a congregation; but not the universal church. I am sorry that Brother Holt did not understand the meaning of quotation marks.

When the Belmont Avenue congregation is willing to live up to its agreement, we will have the debate with Brother Woods; then if it is not satisfied, we will debate any issue over which we differ. We will meet any man in the wide world whom the Belmont Avenue congregation chooses to represent them on the Bible college, orphan home, and congregational cooperation issues. But first let them keep their agreement to debate the orphan home issue. They backed out in their agreement to affirm their position in the debate last fall, but we are holding them to their agreement this time. So whether or not we have the debate depends entirely on Brother Holt and the Belmont Avenue congregation's willingness to honor their agreement.