A Meeting with the Highland Elders
Larry Ray Hafley
0n January 10, 1973, I met with twelve of the elders of the Highland church of Christ, Abilene, Texas. The Highland church is internationally known as the sponsor of the Herald of Truth. The meeting occurred in one of the conference rooms of the Highland church's building. In addition to the Highland elders and myself, Brother Thomas Christy and his daughter were present. Brother Christy promotes and made the meeting possible.
Facts About the Meeting
My participation in the meeting came about only incidentally and accidentally. Brother Christy originally sought a meeting involving Brother Earl Robertson. Later, when Brother Robertson could not attend, lie urged a meeting with Brother Cecil Willis and the Highland elders. When neither of these men were able to attend the meeting in January, it fell my lot to go. Brother Willis and I were in Abilene, but Cecil became suddenly ill and underwent emergency abdominal surgery at about the very hour of the meeting. Each man present represented himself. I was not a spokesman for Brother Willis. I was not a spokesman for any One other than myself. The Highland elder s manifested a spirit of kindness, brotherliness, and sincerity. They openly prayed for Brother Willis and expressed genuine concern for his welfare. I cite this to show the tone of the meeting. It was free from any hint of ugliness or bitterness.
Content Of The Meeting
One of the Highland elders, Brother Wade, opened the meeting with a few brief but excellent remarks. he expressed concern for the salvation of souls. He said the Herald of Truth was (1) not operated to give them (Highland elders) glory, (2) not conducted to alienate and divide brethren, but to preach the gospel and save souls. he said if they could be convinced from the Scriptures that Herald of Truth was unscriptural, they would cease it immediately because, as he said. heaven is too great to miss when many of us are so near life's end.
Brother Wade then asked Brother Christy to initiate the discussion. Brother Christy made an impassioned plea for peace, love and unity. He reprimanded the Highland elders for a number of their methods and procedures, and he also chastized the strong and plain language of those who oppose Herald of Truth. He particularly named Brother Willis and made reference to his "wicked pen" and "acid tongue". He especially indicted Truth Magazine as being too strong ill its opposition to error of any kind. His remarks were not addressed to the issues involved with the sponsoring church arrangement, thus, in my judgment; much of what he said was irrelevant. To correct the inexpedient abuses of Herald of Truth as Brother Christ sees them. or to terminate plain reproof and rebuke as Brother Christy views it, will not in and of itself bring together those who are separated by divergent attitudes toward Bible authority.
I did not concur with Brother Christy's evaluation of Brother Willis or Truth Magazine. Neither did I agree with his charges against Herald of Truth's operating procedures, but this is not the place to enter into a defense of sideline matters, so I shall restrain myself from further comment.
My Part In The Meeting
When Brother Christy concluded, Brother Wade recognized me and I was given time to address them. After making some introductory amenities and replying to sonic of Brother Christy's charges and evaluations, which I felt, were either pointless or false. I proceeded to express what I believe to be scriptural objections to projects such as are typified by the Highland church and Herald of Truth.
I cited the need for scriptural authority. I reviewed the independent and autonomous nature of local churches and outlined the New Testament pat tern of congregational cooperation. With the use of a chalkboard, I diagrammed the intercongregational church activity exemplified by Highland and attempted to show how Herald of Truth violates the New Testament mold with respect to the work and organization of churches of Christ.
Some of the Highland elders responded briefly to my remarks and questioned me concerning the conclusions reached. Shortly after my statement, however, it was necessary, due to the time element, to end the meeting. Prayer was offered, and the meeting which took somewhat more than an hour and a half was concluded.
Reaction To The Meeting
This is not a time for extreme reaction. Highland is not on the verge of discontinuing Herald of Truth. I am not ready to cease militant opposition to it and the issues requisite thereto. A series of discussions or debates designed to investigate the subject of congregational organization and cooperation in general or Herald of Truth in particular are not about to take place all over the country. (I would to God they were, but they are not.) I certain frail, human creatures have simply prayed and studied together. No grandiose or negative illusions precipitated this simple meeting and none should devolve from it.
No plans were made for any future meeting. I expressed my personal desire to take part anywhere, anytime in a similar atmosphere with the Highland elders or anyone else. It is my prayer that such can be arranged. Several changes might make any future meeting more profitable, but it is not best to elaborate on that aspect until such time as other meetings are agreed upon. I am sending a copy of this assessment to the Highland elders. If they are favorably disposed to meet again, perhaps we can negotiate around their heavy schedule and again consider our scriptural differences.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 17, pp.9-11