The Usual Type Gospel Advocate Operation
It gives me no pleasure but a great deal of pain to present the information which follows. I regret having to defend Florida Christian College and myself against reckless and unwarranted attacks. I refer specifically to the fifth derogatory and destructive attack on Florida Christian College and me appearing in the Gospel Advocate within eighteen months. This editorial denouncement was in the January 28, 1960 issue and was written by the editor, B. C. Groodpasture.
Until the editor's last attack I have thought it the part of wisdom to remain silent. With his most recent, however, this religious paper editor has seen fit to leave his readers with the impression that I have virtually turned FCC over to the Episcopal Church and have made it the training ground for Episcopalian priests whose work, the editor allows, is the evangelization of Temple Terrace and the Tampa area. In his attack, he places me in the same company with Judas Iscariot who sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver and with Joseph's brethren who sold Joseph for 20. In addition to this he likens me to Solomon, who, in his old age, built high places where idols could be worshipped by their heathen devotees.
In view of the fact that some people accept as truth anything they read in the Gospel Jdvocate when written or sanctioned by its editor and since the last blast is such an complete misrepresentation of what actually happened and of mv motives in taking the action I took, I feel that in behalf of both truth and FCC I should make some repIv to the editor's utterIv unfounded-in-fact accusation and insinuations. Various communications media are being used to accomplish this.
On February 17 the article below, "A Statement and a Reply," was mailed to the Gospel Advocate editor. His office received the letter February 23. In a covering letter I requested that he inform me when I could expect this article to appear in that paper. To date (March 23) the article has not appeared and I have received no reply from the editor. It is apparent that he has no intention of publishing it. On March 2, ten days after he received my letter and article, his paper carried another statement insinuating and reaffirming his earlier charge that Florida Christian College is "one in which to train Episcopal priests. It is further obvious that relatively few of the same persons who have read his paper's five separate attacks on FCC and me within the last eighteen months will ever know that the Advocate editor was completely mistaken in his implications and that at the top of his voice! There are not less than a full dozen statements in the editor's most recent writings about FCC and me which are wholly without foundation in fact! (See evidence below).
A full month after I had corrected the matter about which he was seeking information, a staff writer of the Advocate was still attempting but unsuccessfully to "cooperate" with the same local Episcopal priest with whom I am alleged to have successfully "cooperated." He was "digging up" a story which would "hang" me before GA readers. More than two full months elapsed before the GA editor reported the matter in his paper. The editor did not tell about his own staff writer's unsuccessful but attempted "cooperation." Instead, he spent two pages telling a hear-say report and then cautiously concluded, "President Cope . . . did, if all reports are true, cooperate, at least indirectly, to help 'train priests' in the tenets of Episcopalianism." Did you get that, good people? "IF ALL REPORTS are true" President Cope did what? He "COOPERATED!" And HOW? What METHOD of "cooperation" did President Cope employ? Ah, it was the "INDIRECT METHOD" for he "did cooperate indirectly" but admittedly only "IF all reports are true!" The "if" makes the whole report hypothetical and the "all" with the "If" necessarily implies that the GA editor has passed on something to his readers which, by his own published statements regarding his own published hear-say evidence, possibly abounded in unfactual and therefore false information. Yet the editor deliberately planned and executed his plot by publishing hear-say material two full months after the "indirect cooperation" had ceased. Yet the editor's same reporter has recently written a page and a half in the GA to convince GA readers that Nashville, Tennessee, does not need to be saved from such spiritual leadership!
At the very time the editor and his reporter were attempting to "make out their case" for GA readers, they both knew I had made correction of what the editor terms "an unusual type of cooperation at FCC." The editor was not content to tell his readers that, in his judgment, Jim Cope had made a mistake and corrected it. Rather the GA editor became the judge of Jim Cope's conscience and proceeds to inform his readers about his judgment.
And what procedure did the editor and his cohorts follow to "make out his case?" Well, they used the "direct cooperation" method when dealing with the Episcopal priest and other "witnesses" but the "indirect operation" method was employed when an alleged effort was made to get "any information" from the FCC faculty. According to the written report of the GA staff writer, we are told that this writer did not "personally" contact members of the FCC faculty. Rather, he declares, he requested a gospel preacher to come to the FCC campus and talk with several members of the staff and to several students. Then by phone and letter this "good friend" made his report to the GA staff writer. This, dear reader, is the GA usual "indirect cooperation" method! Yet this same reporter spent several days in Temple Terrace and adjacent area after he heard of my alleged "indirect cooperation" and before he told the Episcopal priests that he had "been uable to get any information from the faculty of Florida Christian College." Two months later when he wants to make "direct explanation" about his own "Indirect cooperation" with FCC staff and students he decides to employ the "direct operation" and then writes me that "it is poor grace for you to accuse me of lying."
Why did the editor not use the "direct method" to get his information from me? It could not be because he cannot use a typewriter for his editorials reflect his ability in this field. It cannot be because he does not write letters for he was writing and scattering the newspaper clipping about the matter several weeks before his editorial attack. (In one letter he even asked for an "explanation of the Episcopalian lectures" at FCC. Yet after he received an official explanation he continues to leave the impression that his published report was accurate). It cannot be because he doesn't speak or hear well by telephone for he called an FCC student 1000 miles away from Nashville and after making his "inquest" promised the student that he would personally guarantee his future schooling if the "information" the student gave him involved the student in trouble with the FCC faculty. It is clear that the editor is adept in the use of the "direct method of cooperation" when he wants to employ it. It is equally clear that he can use the "indirect method" when he gets ready to tell his readers about "an unusual type of cooperation at FCC." The editor employs the "operation method" that gets his job done regarding FCC and me in this instance just as he has been doing in the minds of his readers and office visitors for the past ten years. This is the usual GA "direct operation" method!
One other point needs to be remembered when one reads the GA report of "an unusual type of cooperation at FCC." It should never be forgotten that while the GA editor condemns me for selling floor space to Episcopalians, he and his company continue to sell Clarke's Commentary, Barnes' Notes, and the Book of Mormon to anybody who has the money to buy them. And does he or does he not peddle the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer? Can it be bought through the GA Company or the editor? Does anybody seriously believe that the GA Company is about to cease selling the Book of Mormon? Likewise it is worthy of note that while the GA staff writer was helping to "make out his case" against me for selling floor space to the Episcopalians he owned stock in a Florida carpet company which for years has been selling, among other items, carpeting to cover of all things, the floors of Episcopal Church buildings! Recently he disposed of his stock. In the GA of March 2, 1960, this same man who unsuccessfully attempted to cooperate with the Episcopal priests wrote an article titled "The Saviors of Nashville." One of his very pungent observations was, "It may be argued that 'one's practice does not prove his doctrine wrong.' Yet, if one does not practice what he preaches he is a hypocrite."
If the GA editor wants his readers to know the whole truth about the matter he has seen fit to spread as "hearsay," he will publish the article he has had since February 23. If he does not publish it, he will answer to God for his deed and his motive in doing what he has done. On March 14, in an effort to determine if the GA editor was going to act in terms of my request of February 17, the Chairman of the FCC Board sent a wire to the editor. This time, almost a month after my original letter, the FCC Board Chairman asked when we might expect the article to appear. The next day the editor's secretary wired that the editor was out of the city but was expected back the last of that week and said he would reply later. Since no reply has been received (the FCC Chairman asked for the reply wire to be sent collect), I am taking this means of presenting the article I asked the GA editor to publish but about which, to date, he has seen fit to remain silent both to the FCC Board Chairman and me as to the time we might expect it to appear.
With deep regret I give answer to certain allegations made against Florida Christian College and me in a two-page editorial of the Gospel Advocate of January 28. The ill effects of these charges upon us are as far-reaching as the influence of the editor and his paper.
In making out his case the editor quotes a news article from the Tampa Tribune of October 31 and two letters allegedly from an FCC student whose name was not given. His editorial of anonymous quotations and comments abounds with these and similar expressions: "maybe my opinions are wrong," "apparently ... .. what I consider," "although I know nothing about it . . . I highly suspect," "President Cope . . . did, if all reports are true." I particularly regret that the editor did not inquire either of me or any member of the FCC administrative staff regarding any of the allegedly "factual" information he published nor did he seek from me or them either confirmation or refutation of the derogatory state merits he has caused to be circulated.
Why the editor did not see fit to contact me for a statement as is the usual custom of newsmen reporting on controversial matters I do not know. Nevertheless, here is my response to his editorial titled "An Unusual Type of Cooperation at FCC."
Last October a neighbor of mine, who is an Episcopalian, approached me asking for permission to use one of our classrooms for a night class in which he and some other members of that church would privately study with their new preacher. I told him that under no condition could we make the space available gratis. Before renting the room to him, I made it clear that neither the College nor I would do anything that might leave the impression we were either endorsing or encouraging Episcopalianism. Lest there be any misunderstanding about it, I announced the arrangement at chapel assembly to both faculty and students, explaining that this was a private meeting and this action was not to be interpreted as my personal or the College's endorsement of Episcopalianism. After I became aware of the news article in the Tampa Tribune of October 31, 1959 (1 did not know about it till nearly 3 weeks after it appeared), I called my neighbor and terminated the agreement explaining that the news article did not correctly represent our original agreement. I further explained to him that as a result of the Tribune article, some people might conclude the Florida Christian College was endorsing and encouraging the spread of Episcopalianism. Following this conversation, I received a check from my neighbor for the rental to that date. I also announced in chapel assembly to the faculty and student body that this agreement has been terminated, stating the reasons above as the cause for such termination.
1. ADVOCATE REPORT. The anonymous student's letter said that I, James R. Cope, was approached "upon the subject of acquiring a meeting place for the local priests so that they may be trained and strengthened in their beliefs, which eventually they intend to use in 'evangelizing' the Tampa area, thus leading multitudes of people astray from the word of God."
THE FACT. I was never approached about a place for the training of priests to 'evangelize' the Tampa area. Some members of the Episcopal church wanted a private class at night with their preacher.
2. ADVOCATE REPORT. "James R. Cope also stated that a written contract had been negotiated with this organization."
THE FACT. I have never stated that there was a written contract for there was none. I had a verbal agreement with a neighbor.
3. ADVOCATE REPORT. "The leader of the Episcopal church in this area approached him (James R. Cope)" and, "But this arrangement with the Rev. Dr. Pennell did not last long."
THE FACT. The arrangement was made with a neighbor of mine. I never had any contact with Mr. Pennell concerning this either before or during the time they met on the campus.
4. ADVOCATE REPORT. The contract has been terminated "not because the President of the College experienced any compunctions of conscience or upsurge of convictions against it but because 'so many had so much to say about it.' "
THE FACT. I am judged as having had no conscience in this matter. Without pressure from any source, I terminated the arrangement because of the implications of the Tribune article. This action demonstrates my conscience and was taken two months before the Advocate article appeared.
5. ADVOCATE REPORT. The student's letter is quoted as saying "Because so many had so much to say about it, I just told them they had to leave and they left and that's all there is to it."
THE FACT: In my announcement to the faculty and student body, I referred to the Tribune article and said the agreement had been terminated, lest there be left the false impression that we were encouraging Episcopalianism. Nothing was said about "so many had so much to say about it."
6. ADVOCATE REPORT. "Then he sort of stormed out apparently to save face."
THE FACT. Announcements normally are the last thing during chapel assembly, and it was so this day. I left the assembly as I usually do after announcements and know not where the "stormed out" idea came from.
7. ADVOCATE REPORT. That I am demonstrating "a 'modern' type of liberalism" by cooperating "at least indirectly to help 'train priests' in the tenets of Episcopalianism" by renting of the room.
THE FACT. I acted on a principle which would permit me to sell services or products, right within themselves, to any one without endorsing his activities. It is the same basis on which a church might sell its properties to a denomination but not endorse the error taught. Under the same principle, an individual Christian may own a company or stock in a company which sells carpets, pews or other equipment to a denomination or the Gospel Advocate Company or any college bookstores might sell, without correction, literature such as Clarke's Commentary, the Book of Mormon or Barnes' Notes. When a church rents a meeting house or a hall from the Adventists or Masons, does either of these groups in any sense understand that they are " cooperating" to spread what they consider "our" peculiar doctrine? Are they "cooperating?" If so, from the basis upon which I am condemned, would this be the devil 'cooperating" with the Lord's people to destroy himself?
8. ADVOCATE REPORT. My motives are compared to the brethren who sold Joseph and to Judas who betrayed the Lord and that my action involved more than a financial transaction.
THE FACT. Mine was "solely a financial transaction" as shown in No. 7. The complexion of this situation was changed by the appearance of the news release which could be interpreted as something more than a financial arrangement. Therefore, I terminated this agreement. From the first there was more than just "financial transaction" involved in the case of Joseph's brethren and Judas. Joseph's brethren were motivated by a spirit of vengeance and Judas by greed. I deny that I was motivated by either of these. The Lord says, "Judge not, that ye be not judged."
9. ADVOCATE REPORT. "Does money, like love, 'cover a multitude of sins?' "
THE FACT. Obviously, no. I deny that greed for money led me to violate a principle. As shown in No. 7, I violated no principle. The fact that I canceled, without pressure, the agreement because of the possible erroneous implications of the Tribune article shows that money was not the consideration.
10. ADVOCATE REPORT. Florida Christian College engaged in 'helping to train priests' and establish an Episcopalian church in Temple Terrace."
THE FACT. No priests were trained and no encouragement was given toward the spread of Episcopalianism.
11. ADVOCATE REPORT. "President Cope cooperated with the training of Episcopal priests."
THE FACT. These people paid for the use of the facilities and in no way did I encourage them in their work. I made it clear to my neighbor and at our assembly that this was not to be interpreted as college or personal endorsement.
12. ADVOCATE REPORT. By implication, what I did is said to be equivalent to Solomon's helping "to establish the worship of Shemosh and Milcom and other religions in Jerusalem!"
THE FACT. I Kings 8:4-8 is cited but probably I Kings 11:4-8 is intended. A reading of this passage shows that Solomon in his "decadent and apostate days" helped to establish the worship of Chemosh and Milcom and other religions in Jerusalem. How was this accomplished? Solomon provided the high places for such! The passage must be misapplied to fit my case of renting facilities to the Episcopalians. Solomon gave money or its equivalent; we received payment. Are brethren helping to establish error when they sell a building they are vacating to a denomination? Did Solomon rent or give."
Not one time in all his reportings on alleged happenings at FCC has the editor of the Gospel Advocate ever written me asking for factual information or verification. I would gladly have furnished him with the facts had he asked. In the last case more than two months elapsed after the cancellation of the arrangement and the appearance of the Advocate editorial. Why? The anonymous student certainly did not contact me and neither had any student made my comment to me regarding this matter until after the Advocate editorial appeared. When I was written about this matter, I replied to the inquiring brother telling him what I had done. This information I would have provided gladly to any interested party.
I do not know what "other sources" the editor has available to him but one person did become most interested in the matter. This preacher, a former employee of FCC and at last report a staff writer for the Gospel Advocate, wrote the Episcopalian preacher, Mr. Pennell, asking if they had been denied the use of College facilities and if he would provide it copy of the written contract. Mr. Pennell replied that the area of this man's competence to inquire into this matter was unclear. This brought it second letter from the same source to Mr. Pennell arguing that:
1. He was competent to inquire and as a former employee of FCC was still interested in the school and its progress.
2. He further stated that FCC "is a church related school and donations to support it come from every state in the union" and that "the major support . . . in times past has come out of Tennessee." Surely this writer knows that FCC is not church related for it was he that wanted the charter revised some years back lest it would be misinterpreted to mean that FCC is church related.
3. He stated "I have been unable to get any information from the faculty of Florida Christian College because they have involved themselves in a public relation difficulty that is embarrassing both you and them." Every faculty member and every administrator denies that this man has sought to obtain any information from him regarding this matter.
I would like to observe further that the Advocate editor and the anonymous student writer both admit their material should fall in the category of "hearsay." Note the use of these expressions: "maybe my opinions are wrong," "apparently," "what I consider," "the many churches that seemingly banded together," "although I know nothing about it . . . I highly suspect," "President Cope . . . did if all reports are true." These and similar statements demonstrate the fact that they need further verification before reporting on matters to the public. Especially is this true when the results of such "heresay testimony" would he the defaming of the character of both Florida Christian College and its President.
In the language of scripture, "Wherefore, putting away all falsehood, speak ye truth each one with his neighbor: for we are members one of another" (Eph. 4:25).
Truth Magazine IV:9, pp. 15-20