The Indianapolis Debate 1964

Wm. Wallace
Indianapolis, Indiana

A. C. Grider has been on the trail of the Indianapolis intriguing, W. L. Totty, for several years. Twice Grider has flushed his prey once in Corbin, Kentucky, next in Meridian, Mississippi. But the trail always led to Garfield Heights in Indianapolis where Totty takes refuge in his Totty community over which he has reigned for 28 years. Grider finally realized his ambition to get into Totty's den, after putting the man "under pressure almost to duress."

The two men debated in the Garfield Heights building December 3 and 4, 1964. The proposition involved church care for children and non-saints. Totty, contending for church responsibility to non-members, based his affirmation on interpretations of Romans 12: 13, 20, 2 Corinthians 9: 12, 13, Galatians 6:10 and James 1:27. As to the Roman references he made a vague point regarding ministering to saints and being good to enemies, apparently meaning to assert that "doing good to enemies" involved church financial help for non-saints.

On 2 Corinthians 9:12-13 Totty claimed that "all men" means or indicates non-saints and that the church should glorify God in liberal distribution to them. Galatians 6:10 was declared to be addressed to the church and thus the church is obligated to administer to the physical needs of all men.

Totty contended that James 1:27 refers to church action. This affirmation was based on the argument that "himself" could mean "itself," that "your assembly" in James 2:1-2 is the church; therefore verse 27 of James 1 includes church action. Totty spent much time on 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, after asking Grider if this passage constituted an exclusive pattern. Grider answered that it was an exclusive pattern as to how the church gets its money. Totty's response evaded Glider's answer and he worked on the assumption that ( rider meant 1 Corinthians 16: 1-4 was an exclusive pattern for spending church money.

Totty made passing reference to a few other passages in ambiguous attempts to bolster his contentions as to church action and all men.

The greater portion of Totty's time was given to the characteristics and tactics for which he is infamous. He accused Grider of lying, of doing what a hypocrite does, of changing positions, of getting caught in his own "guile." He accused preachers of taking everything they can get while kicking out babies. He told hypothetical stories of a ragged hungry boy being turned away and of an injured child being refused church help. He declared Grider was not a saint, that he was "thick headed" and that Grider had caused division "every chance he had gotten." He charged that the Meridian, Mississippi church building was taken by brethren who came in like a group of porcupines. He repeatedly pounded his fist on Grider's table and tried to display showmanship.

Grider effectively clarified his position and defined his proposition by declaring his belief that ( 1 ) the church can help saints meet their obligation to their own children, ( 2 ) the church can help saints meet their obligations to children who become their responsibility, and (3) the church can help saints meet their obligations to any or all children. Tottv did not deal with this. This clarification is quite significant to some conservative brethren who were concerned over the propositions Grider signed.

Grider pointed out why Galatians 6:10 is meant for individuals and why 2 Corinthians 9:13 means all other saints. He presented a detailed chart outline on James 1:27, proving its application to individuals and bolstered his point by statements taken from the works of Gus Nichols, Guy N. Woods, James Bales, Lard's Quarterly and others. Totty attempted to answer but he lost the crowd and the argument, and himself, I think, in an attempt to verbally diagram the sentence.

Grider indicted the Garfield Heights church under the warnings of Matthew 7:21, 1 Corinthians 4:6, 1 Peter 4:11 and 2 John 9, with regard to church support of institutions and non-saints. He pointed out how the real issue, that of money sent to benevolent societies, was hidden under the propositions Totty authored.

As to the passages introduced by Totty, Grider showed that contributions were raised from saints, sent to saints, and received by saints. Grider is a master at repartee and turned most of Totty's thrusts to Totty's detriment. One occasion especially stands out. Totty had displayed a sack of fertilizer and an empty milk carton, accusing churches of buying food for lawns while refusing to buy food for babies. Grider noted that the milk carton was a container for "skim milk" and observed that this was indicative of the institutional business--60% of church money going to overhead, only 40% actually getting to the children--skimmed milk indeed!

Who can the church help? This is the question that stands out when the propositions are stripped of emotionalism. This Grider aptly set forth. He presented the numerous New Testament passages dealing with benevolence and thus displayed the pattern of church support of saints.

The debaters disputed each other's contentions about grammatical matters, and exchanged accusations as to the signing of propositions and parried over other matters. But it was evident to this writer that the real issues still involve church support of benevolent societies.

Totty has built a reputation for dogged determination in fighting his opposition, but it appears he would rather avoid A. C. Grider. Toward the end of the debate he tried to shake Grider off his trail by sicking on Grider the "man without a country," that lonely lone horse of Louisville, Kentucky -- Joe Cox. But I suspect that Totty will have to spend the rest of his days trying to avoid Grider, for Grider has a standing challenge of 7 5 debates for Totty. In fact, Grider goaded Totty into signing to defend the teaching and practice of Garfield Heights. So brethren who may be harassed by Totty's obnoxious inaccuracies can leave him to the gentle mercies of Grider's pen and polemics.

I have found that Totty's influence, so far as Indianapolis is concerned is in Garfield Heights and out of the city limits. Whatever concern or excitement he arouses is created somewhere else than Indianapolis, and respect for him is but little, outside Garfield Heights, so far as this city is involved. This is the reason why Indianapolis churches are reluctant to endorse anyone in a debate with W. L. Totty.

While somewhat chagrined over the propositions, conservative brethren have reason to be content with the job Grider did in the debate. It appears to me that now is the time to swing the discussion back into the channel where flows the real issues -- institutionalism in which churches contribute to and work through society boards, and centralization in which churches surrender funds to a regional or national sponsoring church. The reasons the liberals have insisted on debating such matters as involved in the propositions of the 1964 Indianapolis debate is--they know it is easier to appeal to the heart than it is to the mind.

About attendance: About 900 people attended each night. Conservative preachers outnumbered the liberal ones by at least three to one. It seemed to me that the audiences were divided into two equal parts in sentiment, but I suspect that those who approved of Totty's performance, or were satisfied with it, numbered far less than an equal part.

Truth Magazine IX, 4: pp. 5-7
January 1965