Harper's "Great Day in Athens, Ala."

O. C. Birdwell Jr.
Barberton, Ohio

In the September 29th issue of the Gospel Advocate, E. R. Harper, who spends much of his time promoting the "Herald of Truth," had an extensive report of a day he spent in Athens, Alabama. He labels the report "A Great Day at Athens, Ala."

I was in Athens, Alabama for a meeting with the Locks Cross Roads church the week following Harper's "great day." Also, it so happens that I was born in the county and spent over 25 years in the area. I feel that I know something about the churches in the Athens area. About 25 churches in the county now do their work without donating to benevolent organizations, and do their evangelism without donating to a super eldership like Highland's. Only about seven in the county donate to such unscriptural arrangements. This apparently galls Harper no end. He, and others, have been trying for years to force their institutions and brotherhood promotional arrangements down the throats of these churches, and the fact that they now have a big liberal church in Athens elates them. They have succeeded in driving the wedge that has split brethren in Limestone County. Since Harper was in the county, two churches, to my knowledge, have split.

It is not enough for brother Harper that churches do their benevolent work and evangelism under the oversight of their own elders, they must consent to relinquishing their funds to Highland or suffer an invasion from these men. Yes, these churches, according to Harper, are "anti." Does brother Harper not know that these so called "anti" churches are spending hundreds of dollars supporting gospel preachers all over the world from Athens to Africa; that almost any part of the day a radio broadcast may be heard, paid for by one of these churches; that Harper cannot find an orphan child in the county that is not being provided for? Or does he just not care about this? Do all this, but correctly label 2,000 churches working through one eldership as unscriptural and, according to Harper, you are "anti-cooperation" and deserve to be straightened out!

Brother Harper said in the Advocate article referred to above, that "outstanding leaders among the opposition were present" at the Hobbs street building, and heard him discuss the "absurdities of their position." Yes, and may I add, they had no chance to answer the misrepresentations made and no opportunity to show the unscripturalness of the Highland arrangement. In fact, they were not especially welcome in the first place. A faithful gospel preacher, who in our generation probably has done more for truth in Limestone County than any other man, was told by a Hobbs Street "bully" that if he ever came over again that he would be bodily escorted from the premises. That is the kind of action taken by men who cannot defend what they do by the scriptures. They are not even willing to try to defend their actions. For some time they have had in their possession signed propositions for an honorable discussion and can get a number more signed such propositions, but they reject them.

Contrary to Harper's insinuation, truth has had and is having a mighty victory in Limestone County. The liberal Hobbs Street church has grown and will probably grow some more by pulling the disgruntled out of faithful churches all over the county. But this strengthens and helps faithful churches rather than hinders. Among the many good churches in the county that have had outstanding growth is the Eastside church in Athens. Brother Sam Binkley recently moved from there, and brother Sewell Hall is now the regular preacher. This congregation has had such a numerical increase that it is next to impossible to place them in the building. There will probably soon be another good church in Athens from this growth.

Much more could be said about Harper's statement and the cause of truth in Athens. This, however, is enough to show the division and hate being instigated by Harper and others who demand that institutions and brotherhood sponsoring elderships be supported. We thank God and take courage because of the progress of truth and the stand of faithful brethren in the face of this opposition.

December 1966