A Man, A Mission, and A Message
James W. Adams
San Augustine, Texas
The "Unity-fellowship Cult" of which Brother W. Carl Ketcherside is the father has a propaganda medium called, Mission Messenger. The Mission Messenger has been around for a long time and is appropriately named. It has always had a mission and a message. Today it is connected with a man, a mission, and a message as it has ever been, but its mission and message are not the same, and the man has undergone some marvelous changes during the passing years-to which fact Brother Ketcherside is ever willing to give his testimony. Recently, I heard him give his testimony to an audience of six hundred preachers in most dramatic fashion.
Among other unusual qualities which our erring brother possesses is a gift for showmanship, and he never fails to exploit it to its fullest extent. In this respect, be reminds me of a Shakespearan ham actor who is unable to decide whether to play a Hamlet to the murderer of his father, or to forsake his tragedian ambitions and play a Sancho Panza to a Don Quixote, so he alternates between the two. In his Hamlet role, Brother Ketcherside has his audience shedding crocodile tears over the murderous desecration of spiritual Zion by the party-spirited brethren, and pledges himself with the fervor of an inflamed patriot to her liberation even unto personal martyrdom. As cynical as I may seem in my appraisal of him, he almost has me ready to go out and buy a wreath to lay at the foot of his cross. However, before I commit myself to action, Ketcherside adroitly changes his role and has his audience in gales of laughter evoked by thinly veiled contempt and ridicule. He is now the stolid and patient Sancho Panza grinning and bearing with the comic antics of the Don Quixote's of the second, third, and fourth generations of "the heirs of the Restoration Movement." To this sort of thing, we have been treated over and over again both from the speaker's platform and in the religious press for about fifteen years by our erstwhile friend and erring brother, W. Carl Ketcherside, and we have finally had enough particularly since he has turned his attention to the subversion of young preachers among the conservative brethren. Later, I shall deal with this under the title, "Subversion in Five Easy Lessons."
Problems in Reviewing Ketcherside
I have committed myself to a review of the man, the mission, and the message of our neoCalvinistic unity-fellowship cult spearheaded by Ketcherside. Such a review has its problems. (1) Ketcherside has been writing and speaking along these lines for fifteen years. Imagine the task involved in reviewing that much material within the scope of a reasonable number of short articles.
(2) Ketcherside's movement is a thing. He has evolved slowly but surely toward a more and more liberal stance and the end is not yet. A few years ago in Oklahoma City, he told Floyd Thompson and me that he never sang with Christian Church people when they used a mechanical instrument. Ketcherside was at this time in a unity meeting with the Central Christian Church of Oklahoma City. Floyd Thompson was in a meeting at 10th and Francis where I was the local preacher and we attended the afternoon services of Ketcherside's meeting. We observed that he did not sing and asked him about it. However, at the January 1972 lectures at Florida College, Ketcherside attended and spoke in a local church building in a forum arrangement, and in response to a question, he indicated that he now sings with these people who employ mechanical accompaniment. Too, he is fast evolving in the direction of the acceptance of the direct 4 operation of the Holy Spirit even to the point of accepting the validity of miraculous manifestations. This is also true of his friend and colleague, Leroy Garrett.
(3) Ketcherside refuses to debate. He has become too pious and loving for such. I rather think a better explanation is the old adage, "Discretion is the better part of valor." Or, one might more crudely say as he has probably remarked in the past relative to teachers of denominational error, "He does not debate for the same reason that a muley cow doesnt hook." He prefers dialogue with audience participation, which never results in a reduction of issues to their basic elements and a clear-cut, definitive exposition of the truth concerning them. Dialogue is excellent for study purposes and the stimulation of inquiry and thought, but truth is forged in the white-hot flame of direct confrontation of concept with concept in orderly debate.
(4) Ketcherside casts himself in the role of an apostle of love and his opposition in the role of schismatic demagogues. I take a dim view of Ketcherside's protestations of brotherly love. My Lord said, "By their fruits, ye shall know them." At the 1972 lectureship at Florida College, Brother Ketcherside came on the campus of a private institution built and maintained with the money of people who believe and practice that which Ketcherside seeks to destroy and conducted a group discussion with students in a dormitory concerning his views. He did this without so much as approaching any of his brethren (whom he professes to love so dearly) who are charged with the administration of the college and who are held responsible by its board and donors for the use of its properties. If Brother Ketcherside occupies a valid, spiritually respectable position, why does he engage in and encourage clandestine meetings and underground subversion? Yet, many are deceived by his sanctimonious prattle. Brother Ketcherside's love is the same in kind as that of Joseph Fletcher of "Situation Ethics" fame. Fletcher modifies and rejects truth on the basis of subjective love in the realm of ethics. Ketcherside does precisely the same thing in the realm of doctrine. With Ketcherside, doctrine is relative and situational. Subjective love is supreme.
(5) One has difficulty in knowing where to begin in a review of Ketcherside, his mission, and his message and in what order to proceed. He states so much error with the air of finality that a separate review of each erroneous statement would require a book as large as an unabridged dictionary. The task is to reduce his contention to its basic elements and deal with them and to examine the goal of his mission for its scriptural worthiness. Too, there must be an examination of the means of solution which lie suggests for divided Christendom to determine their scripturalness and efficacy.
As a beginning, I shall deal in my next article with the Ketcherside views concerning unity among the people of God. He projects a solution of division on the basis of what lie chooses to call, "Unity in Diversity. " Like a Roman Catholic priest explaining Roman Catholic error to a "Protestant," Ketcherside is less than forthright. In argument, he takes and would have others take what neo-orthodox theologians call "a leap of faith"-a conclusion reached without adequate supporting evidence. This we shall demonstrate. Divorce Ketcherside from his emotionalism, showmanship, cliches, and sophistry and there is little left. He does not constructively build bridges to cross chasms of division. He simply invents "seven-league boots" and steps blithely across them.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 25, pp.6-7