June 19, 2018

An Apology to Brother Doyle Banta

By Cecil Willis

In the May 9, 1974 issue of Truth Magazine, I wrote an article entitled "Some Disappointing Incidents." In that article I referred to the fact that Brother William E. Wallace, than editor of the Gospel Guardian, had written me telling me that he was cancelling our longstanding exchange of papers. We send Truth Magazine free to many publishers of religious journals in exchange for a free subscription to their own journals. Brother Wallace asked that we remove his name from our mailing list, and said they were cancelling my free subscription to the Gospel Guardian. Brother Wallace was "nice enough" to state that if I wished to purchase a subscription to the Gospel Guardian, they would sell it to me. So I dutifully sent in the money and still get and read the Gospel Guardian.

No other journal has refused to exchange papers with us, except the Philippine Christian published by the liberal brethren in Baguio City, Republic of the Philippines. However, so far the Baguio brethren will not even sell me copies of their paper. Yet they are now trying to make it appear that they want to have a written debate with me regarding whether the Philippine Bible College is, or is not, now scripturally run. Brother Bob Buchanan makes a big point out of the fact that he will defend it as it now is operated. Before any debate, I intend to have him repudiate the way the school previously was operated (or defend its previous practices also), and to have him to tell us what changes have been made in the operation of the Philippine Bible College, and when these changes were made. He also should tell us to what aspects of its previous manner of operation he now objects, or no longer will attempt to defend. I wish Brother Buchanan was as anxious to debate while he is in this country as he would try to make it appear when he gets back to the Philippines. His whole motive seems to be a face-saving gesture, for the benefit of the liberal Philippine brethren who think he should defend his practice, or repudiate it. I went to the Philippines in 1970 prepared to debate the liberal American "missionaries," if they were willing to debate. And 1 intend to go prepared this year to debate any one of them, if they are anxious for a debate. I leave for the Philippines on March 28. But the Philippine Christian will have to be dealt with in a later article.

Right now I want to say some things regarding my "Some Disappointing Incidents" article. I was indeed very disappointed that my friend and brother, William E. Wallace, would become so petty in our discussion of his cover-up for Edward Fudge's false teaching on the grace-fellowship issue that he would cancel my exchange subscription to the Gospel Guardian. Another disappointing incident to which I made reference in the aforementioned article was the boisterously made charge by Brother Edward Fudge in the C. E. I. store in. Athens, Alabama that we were telling "damn lies" about him.

The Third Incident

The third incident mentioned in the May 9, 1974 issue was a statement which had been attributed to Brother Doyle Banta. Brother Earl Robertson had told me that a gospel preacher had heard Brother Banta say that he "hoped that an airplane would come crashing right through the roof of my house, and he hoped it was a big one too!" After having written the article quoting what Brother Banta had been reported as saying, I called Brother Robertson and read him what I had written and asked him if I had misquoted what was said, or misrepresented it in any way. Earl said that what I said was exactly what was told him. So, I proceeded with the publication of the article.

One fact that I did not know at the time was that one gospel preacher had recited to another gospel preacher, who then repeated to Earl Robertson, the statement that was attributed to Brother Banta. Had I even known that much about the incident, most likely I would not have made any reference to the statement. Earl simply told me that "______ _____ " said that Doyle Banta had said he hoped an airplane would crash into my house. Having known Earl Robertson for twenty or more years, I knew he would not misrepresent what he was told. But there was a third gospel preacher between Brother Robertson and the brother who was said to have been present when Brother Banta made the statement. These two unnamed brethren have indicated that they do not want their names used, or if their names were used, they wanted to see what was said before this article was published. If these brethren wish to make known publicly their identity, I will leave their doing so to themselves.

Soon after the publication of the article, I began to hear reports that Brother Banta denied making the statement attributed to him. To every person who made such a report to me, I replied: "If Brother Banta will write me a letter in which he denies making the statement which I attributed to him, and will tell me what he did say, I will retract the statement, and publicly apologize to him for having falsely charged him." But after having told many people this, no word was heard from Brother Banta himself. Frankly, I thought perhaps Brother Banta had made the statement light-heartedly and in a jesting way. In my more than twenty years of limited association with Brother Banta, we have never had a single unpleasant encounter. So I could not attribute to Brother Banta any malicious intent, even if he had made the statement attributed to him.

The Nashville Meeting

In July, 1974, there was one of the so-called "Unity Forums" to be held in Nashville. I did not plan to attend, but knew that Steve Wolfgang and Ron Halbrook intended to be there. I also had heard that Brother Banta was going to be there. Thus, I asked that brethren Wolfgang and Halbrook speak to Brother Banta, and to tell him that I most gladly would retract my statement and apologize, if he would write me and deny the statement, but also tell me what he did say. However, the two brethren through whom the report had come to Earl Robertson also were in Nashville, so Steve and Ron did their best to find out just exactly what did occur. After the Nashville meeting, I was told by brethren Halbrook and Wolfgang that I was advised by Brother Robertson's informer "not to retract the report." Both Wolfgang and Halbrook verified that the brother who had supplied the information to Earl Robertson persisted in his affirmation that he was reporting what the ear-witness had said. Still I had heard nothing from Brother Banta, and upon the grounds of this examination of the testimony, I left matters as they stood.

Brother Banta's Letter

But reports continued to come to me stating that Brother Banta denied making the statement, and I continued to say, "Well, tell him to tell me what he did say then." I could conceive no possibility of how Doyle Banta talking about me, and an airplane crashing through the roof of my house, could all be fabricated out of nothing, unless someone involved was a deliberate prevaricator. And I had no reason to believe that either of the two preachers who had supplied the report deliberately would lie about the matter. I felt that Brother Banta must have said something, and that it must not have been that he wished God's blessings to be upon me! An airplane crashing through the roof of my house somehow was connected with something Brother Banta was reported to have said.

Finally, I wrote Brother Banta myself and told him that I had no desire to misrepresent him in any way, and that if I had done so, I wished publicly to retract the misrepresentation of him, and publicly to apologize for falsely charging him. On January 15, 1975 Brother Banta wrote me as follows: "I categorically deny that I ever said 'I wished an airplane would crash into the house of Cecil Willis.' I never even thought such a thing in my life, therefore, I never said it jokingly or seriously. I believe I am due an apology from you in Truth Magazine immediately. Brotherly, (Signed) Doyle Banta.") Brother Banta's statement therefore hereby is accepted in full, just as he made it. I therefore make this public apology to Brother Banta for having passed on a report falsely attributed to him, and also ask his complete forgiveness for having committed this wrong against him. Regardless of what others may have done in regard to this matter, I did wrong in repeating a false charge against Brother Banta. So my apology to Brother Banta is made without reservation, and I ask his forgiveness.

How Come the Mix-up?

In my own partial exoneration I must state, however, that my misrepresentation was inadvertent. I would not, for the world, knowingly have misrepresented Brother Banta. I still would be glad to know if he said nothing detrimental to me on the occasion referred to. If he did not, I cannot fathom how such a tale could get started. You may note that in Brother Banta's letter, he neither told me what he did say, nor denied making some kind of derogatory statement. But I have no solid ground upon which to charge that Brother Banta made any derogatory statement regarding me on the occasion referred to. A complete denial by him of having made any derogatory statement would have helped to clarify the matter.

Upon receiving Brother Banta's letter, I immediately called the brother who was supposed to have heard Brother Banta make such a statement. I asked him if he could shed any enlightenment upon how such a report could have gotten started. He said that the preacher who quoted him got the facts mixed-up. I asked him if he would have this brother who supposedly got the facts mixed-up to write me a letter stating that he got the facts mixed-up. I told this alleged ear-witness that I wanted the matter corrected, if Brother Banta had been misrepresented. But I did not intend to plead guilty of deliberate prevarication. This brother whom we will just call "ear-witness" told me that the brother who got the facts mixed-up, he felt sure, would write me a statement admitting he got the facts mixed-up. But when the "statement" came, the brother who supposedly got his facts mixed-up said he had no "statement" to make, and that if I was going to make any reference to him by name, he wanted to see the statement before it was printed. So the origination of the mixed-up facts still is unknown.

However, after quite a lengthy long distance telephone discussion, this brother whom I before called "ear-witness" said he had "this bad habit." He said he was always saying things like, "It would be good enough for him if a dump truck ran over him," or "He should be hit by a freight-train." Brother "ear-witness" said that perhaps he should try to break himself of the habit of making such remarks. I readily agreed that he should break such a habit. I must, however, add that he did not state that included in "this bad habit" of his was the practice of ever wishing that an airplane might come crashing through the roof of anyone's house. He did say that he had a prepared statement that he was ready to release in regard to the incident, if the occasion ever made the release of such a statement necessary.


Now, brethren, you know as much about the matter as I do. I repeated a statement which Brother Banta denies ever having made, and I have asked his forgiveness for my part in the matter. However, just who injected this "airplane crashing through my roof" bit to the story, I do not know. If brother "ear-witness" sees fit to release his prepared statement, perhaps his "statement" might shed some light upon this matter. Somebody certainly got some facts mixed-up, and I quoted these mixed-up facts. I want my part in this matter to be correctly and forever settled. Thus I have publicly confessed to Brother Banta that I wronged him, and publicly asked his forgiveness. If there is anything more that he thinks I should do about the matter, I hope he will immediately convey to me his wishes in regard to any further correction he thinks I should make.

Meanwhile, I shall continue to wonder how Doyle Banta's name got mixed-up with an airplane crashing through the roof of my house, and by whom was Brother Banta connected to this airplane crash bit. Quite obviously, all the facts in this matter have not, as yet, been made public.

Elsewhere in this issue you will see a relating statement from Steve Wolfgang and Ron Halbrook. In a letter dated March 8, 1975, Brother Hallbrook said, "It will be fine with Steve and me if you should decide to run our `report' in toto as a separate article-from which you could quote or to which you could easily make references as needed. In fact, Steve says he prefers you run the whole thing as an article and it will be fine with me if you do. He and I both feel we had our own responsibility to do what we could in the matter, contrary to the feelings of some that we had no business in it. Anyway, you use or don't use, print in toto, quote from, summarize, etc. or whatever as you see fit. If our effort has been any help in any way, we will be glad."

So ends this matter, so far as I am concerned.

Truth Magazine XIX: 21, pp. 323-325
April 3, 1975