The Taylor Boulevard Trouble
James P. Needham
INTRODUCTION: Since knowledge of the recent trouble at Taylor Boulevard church of Christ is rather widespread, it is thought that a general resume of the difficulty will be of benefit. Space will not permit a thorough discussion of all the ramifications of the trouble, and those interested in such may obtain further knowledge by writing the author of this article.
I. THE TAYLOR BOULEVARD CHURCH: The Taylor Boulevard congregation has been one of the best in the world in days gone by, though this is not to give the impression that she has not had her share of trouble. A few years ago it got into the news because its preacher, James A. Warren, embraced outright modernism. This resulted in a division in the congregation with wounded feelings (which were later healed). Grover Stevens was called to preach for the Taylor Blvd. church immediately following that difficulty. He did a masterful job during the six years he labored with them. He put the congregation on solid scriptural ground, and it grew until it was necessary to have two Sunday morning services and erect a larger building. In this process, the church decided to employ another preacher to assist in the double services, and to make one available to preach in difficult fields.
Accordingly, Harold Hazelip, then of Owensboro, Ky., was called to work with brother Stevens. He was a young man with outstanding pulpit ability, and did a good job in opposing error and defending the truth in this area. About a year later, Grover Stevens moved to Texas due to the ill health of his wife. This left what was possibly the largest church in the state in the hands of a young preacher (then in his early 28's). For several years he continued to stand for the truth, and wield a tremendous influence in a wide area. When the present problems came along, he stood firmly against all liberal innovations, but as time went on, the trouble developed about which we are now writing.
II. WHAT WAS THE TROUBLE? (1) The Pastor System: Harold Hazelip, the young boy wonder, could not stand the prestige passed on to him by the leaving of Grover Stevens, nor could the congregation (including most of the elders) resist the clever efforts of an ambitious young preacher to gain control of the congregation. Finally, four of the five elders got to the point that they were reluctant to carry on a business meeting without Hazelip's presence, and if they did, and someone said anything about the preacher, they would have a special meeting when he returned so he could defend himself. In business meetings where he was present when questions were directed to the elders, they would say "Brother Hazelip will answer for the elders". The pastor system was developed at Taylor Boulevard, and became one of the prominent causes of the recent division. Four of the five elders became rubber stamps for a designing young preacher.
(2) The Preacher's Education: As long as Harold Hazelip did the work of an evangelist, everything went well at Taylor Boulevard, but when vanity walked in and took possession of him, he suddenly decided that he needed an education commensurate with his INHERITED prestige, so he enrolled at a Baptist seminary in the city and got educated in the wisdom of man which is foolishness to God (1 Cor. 3: 19). By the time he had graduated, symptoms of softness and the characteristics of Baptist preachers were appearing. His preaching became general rather than specific, his militant spirit in opposing error gradually disappeared, and he was as silent as the tomb on current problems. Finally, he openly embraced liberal views, though many of his deceived followers have not yet realized it. His influence is now with liberalism and his services are in constant demand among the liberal churches and colleges, such as the Vultee church and David Lipscomb College in Nashville, Tenn.
Being a graduate of a prominent seminary, an educated man, his natural characteristics of snobbishness and conceit were nourished to an even more noticeable degree, causing him to look down his nose at those who did not have such formal training. He considers himself an intellectual! This elevated him (in his own eyes) above his fellow preachers, and it became noticeable that he, Wesley Jones, H. A. Fincher, Bill Humble and Pat Hardeman (most of whom are educated men) formed some rather close ties, and those of this number who lived in the city, formed a little "mutual admiration society" with expressed designs to settle all the problems of all the churches in Louisville. (They have hardly succeeded, however. Fincher split Haldeman Ave., Hazelip split Taylor Blvd., Wesley Jones was fired from West End, and Bill Humble went liberal and left the city to get a Ph.D.)
(3) Lording Elders: The young preacher directed his puppet elders (four of five) with skill, who in turn, forded HIS WILL over the congregation. Several things prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt: (a) they testified under oath that they had no obligation to take ANYTHING to the congregation in making a decision. (b) They wrote a creed-letter forbidding members to discuss current issues by ALL MEANS, and threatened with "immediate discipline" all who disobeyed. (c) They attempted to cancel all scheduled meetings. (d) They deposed a brother as a deacon and teacher without consulting one of the elders or the congregation who had chosen him and without discussing it with him. (e) They attempted to withdraw from four brethren (including three deacons and one elder) without admonishing them to repent, pointing out their offenses, consulting the congregation, or making any charges against them! If they were not LOADING elders, what would they have to do to be such?
III. THE CLIMAX--DIVISION: The above-described events happened over a period of about three years. The loyal brethren within the congregation (about 200 of them) tried desperately to hold the line, but the preacher's grip on the majority of the eldership and congregation was much too strong to be broken. They went as far with the situation as conscience would allow, and the thing broke out into the open when the highhanded majority of the eldership attempted to cancel a meeting, which they had scheduled with Robert Jackson. The loyal brethren invited him to come, while the preacher (Hazelip) through HIS ELDERS told him not to come. Brother Jackson chose to come, and the meeting was announced and held but without attendance of the majority faction of the elders and their followers. They, in turn, under the leadership of Harold Hazelip, called a special meeting of approximately 45 handpicked men at the Beechmont Woman's Club (rented in Hazelip's name) to map strategy in handling the loyal brethren.
All the elders except one had now forsaken the church, and hence additional elders were needed. Accordingly, the church announced that on a given night certain men would be appointed as elders and deacons if no scriptural objections were lodged. The faction sent a protest, but NO SCRIPTURAL OBJECTIONS. The additional elders and deacons were appointed and began to function by announcing separate services from the faction the next Sunday. These separate services continued in the building for approximately one year.
The loyal brethren called this writer to work with them as of April 15, 1961. This was used by the faction as an excuse for filing a civil lawsuit against us in which they asked the court to award them "exclusive rights to the property", and by false statements to the court obtained a restraining order against us that prohibited our using the building for our separate services. The loyal brethren asked for a hearing on the restraining order before the judge, and when they answered the false charges against them, he modified the restraining order and included the faction under it as well, demanding that both groups be given equal rights in the property until the suit could be heard.
We had made several attempts to settle our difficulties with the faction, but to no avail. We made them an offer to buy the property, or sell it to them, but they refused. We urged them to meet with us and discuss the matter, but they would not. We asked them to enter into arbitration where we would select a brother, they select one, and these two select a third to hear and decide the matter, but they would not. We begged them not to take the matter to civil court, and after they did so, tried to get them to take it out and received the reply, "we want the court to settle it". The lawsuit put us in the position of either giving them the property and pleading guilty to the false charges made against us in the lawsuit, or being dragged into court to answer. We chose the latter and proceeded with plans to answer the suit. We filed no counter-suit-- we sued for nothing; we simply answered the false charges contained in the ungodly suit they filed. Only one action was involved; not two as is claimed by some.
In preparation for the court hearing, we took depositions from some of the leading members of the faction. They showed up rather badly on the stand. They contradicted each other, and themselves. They told things that obviously were not so, and some used language we would not print in this paper! ! ! It became evident that they did not have a case, so they became very anxious to settle with us before the trial. We settled with them for a rather low figure when compared to the value of the property. We moved out, and now have a very adequate building in a choice location, and are experiencing a rapid growth.
IV. UGLY! INCIDENTS: During the course of these difficulties, the loyal brethren were treated rather ugly at times. Some were assaulted bodily; others were called rather uncomplimentary names. Anonymous letters and telephone calls were received by the dozens at all hours of the night, and many of the faction picketed our services upon several occasions.
V. OBSERVATIONS: Several things have been learned through these difficulties, and new questions have arisen. We ask your careful consideration of them:
(1) Is it a violation of 1 Cor. 6, to simply answer a suit such as this one? Can it rightly be said that a brother GOES TO LAW, when he is TAKEN to law? We as defendants did not petition the court to settle our differences, or to award to us exclusive rights in the property. We were DEFENDANTS, defending ourselves against the false charges made against us. Should we have done this, or pleaded guilty to the charges by failing to answer?
(2) Were we obligated to give the faction MORE than they had asked for on the basis of the instruction of Matt. 5:40? That is, should we have not only given them the church building, but also our homes or automobiles? Doesn't Matt. 5:40, say that if a man go to law and TAKE AWAY thy coat, give him thy cloak also? According to some, this passage obligates one to give the plaintiff the COAT and the CLOAK when he goes to law, and before he takes the coat, but the text says if he goes to law and TAKES the coat, give him the cloak also.
(3) Is it right to give the building to a group of suing apostates without resistance or any effort to retain it? It is contended that it is unscriptural to make a contribution FROM A SOUND CHURCH TO A SOUND CHURCH to preach the gospel, but some contend that it is alright (in fact we are obligated) to give a $100,000 building to a bunch of liberals to fight the truth and promote institutional error, if they happen to sue us for it! WE CANNOT MAKE A CONTRIBUTION TO A SOUND CHURCH TO PROMOTE THE TRUTH, BUT WE CAN GIVE AN APOSTATE GROUP A HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLAR BUILDING TO PROMOTE ERROR! If we give a group of liberals one building because they sue us for it, and build us another one, what do we do five years later if another group of liberals decides they want it too, and sues us for it? If giving it up is right, about all the true church will ever do is build buildings for the liberals because they certainly don't have any scruples against suing us for them. There are those who are quick to say that it is silly to fight over brick and mortar, but let us not forget that more than brick and mortar is involved. The brick and mortar were bought with the Lord's money, and there CANNOT be any difference between misappropriating the Lord's MONEY and misappropriating WHAT IT BUYS (brick and mortar or what have you). If one would not be willing to make a contribution of several thousand dollars of the Lord's money to an apostate group, why would he give something worth that much to them that was bought with the Lord's money? Where is consistency?
CONCLUSION: The questions posed herein deserve some prayerful consideration from all brethren everywhere who are standing for the truth against present innovations, This writer knows of some 4 or 5 lawsuits filed by the liberal brethren during the past year and a half, and I am of the persuasion that we have only seen the beginning. Many more will be witnessed before matters settle down. The best way to encourage such litigation is for us to let the apostates know that if they will sue us, we will give them the buildings. When this word gets around, lawsuits will break out like measles all over the land.
It is a distinct honor for this writer to be associated with the Expressway church of Christ, and to have assisted them through these difficult times. It is a solid church with a militant spirit, and from the beginning has been interested not only in opposing error on the local front, but also preaching the gospel at home and abroad. In her support of me personally, she has made it possible for me to hold seven meetings during the past year in places that otherwise could not have afforded one. She has an open pulpit with a standing invitation to any reputable person to show us wherein we are failing to meet with God's approval. The fight has been hard, but the results have been more than worth what hardships have been experienced. Liberalism is isolated, marked, and silent in Louisville. Many able preachers with sound churches to back them up stand ready to meet error where and whenever it chooses to do battle. During the past year we have mailed almost 80,000 bulletins to people in Louisville and other places, and our program calls for more expansion of our work as growth at home makes it possible. We believe we are on the Lord's side, for by what other means could we explain our receipt of so many blessings.
Truth Magazine VIII: 2, pp. 15-18 November 1963