"Dr." J. M. Powell Again

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

In the February, 1967 issue of TRUTH MAGAZINE, I had an article about Brother J.M. Powell speaking at what a newspaper account called an "Advent Service" at the United Presbyterian Church in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Brother Powell has since published a statement in reply to my article.

I stated in the February, 1967 article that it is passingly strange that newspaper reporters do a fairly accurate job of reporting most everything, except when a gospel preacher fraternizes with a sectarian church. Then they seem never to get the story straight, according to the preacher. It also is a little strange that these "misrepresented" (?) preachers never ask the paper that is supposed to have made such a tragic bunder in reporting to correct the mistake.

Printed below is the reply Brother Powell made to my earlier article:

A STATEMENT .. J. M. Powell

"It has been called to my attention that some loyal Christian brethren have wondered about what Mr. Cecil Willis wrote about me and the Ohio Valley College in a recent issue of "Truth" magazine.

"From long experience and observation, I am convinced that these "anti" people are not interested in facts. Therefore, what I say here is not intended primarily for them, but rather for people whose ambition is to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

"As a member of the Rotary Club, I come in contact with many prominent people in the city who are interested in Ohio Valley College. Frequently, I'm invited to speak to various groups about the college. Dr. Sam Marshall, a fellow-Rotarian, invited me to come to his church, the First United Presbyterian, and speak to his people about the college. Being unable to accept the first date mentioned by him, I accepted a later date that was acceptable to both of us. This date happened to be just before the Christmas holidays. No one was more surprised than I when the newspaper referred to the occasion as an "Advent Service." About 30 or 40 people were present to hear my speech on Christian Education. The speech is in print, should any person desire a copy. I, of course, went as the President of Ohio Valley College, whose doors are open to students of all races, colors, and creeds.

"It is my intention to speak wherever I'm invited, in the interest of Ohio Valley College. Ohio Valley College is not a church, and should not be so regarded. Those of us who are connected with the college speak to groups and individuals of all kinds, not especially as gospel preachers, but as Christian educators."

President Ohio Valley College, Parkersburg, W. Va.

-BIBLE HERALD, August 1, 1967

You will note in his reply that I am not even referred to in the customary courteous manner as "Brother Willis." To Brother Powell, I am merely "Mr. Cecil Willis." I suppose I should not complain though, since that "Mr." is a great improvement over what some of the liberals have been calling me.

But according to Brother Powell, he did not really speak for an "Advent Service" at all. He merely made a speech about Ohio Valley College. One might get the impression from Brother Powell's reply that Powell would think it to be wrong to have spoken at the United Presbyterian Church's "Advent Service." But that is not what he said. He said he simply gave a "college speech" there. I would have no objection to Brother Powell speaking at a Presbyterian Church or anywhere else; if he told them what they ought to be told (Acts 20:20). But what I object to is this compromising, wishy-washy, fraternizing with the Sectarians, that is becoming so prevalent.

And in case you do not think it is prevalent, read just one paragraph from the November 3, 1967 CHRISTIAN CHRONICLE, from an editorial entitled "Extending Our Influence":

"In the summer of 1966 several brethren ready attended the World Conference on Evangelism in Berlin. This past summer, half a dozen representatives from Churches of Christ participated in the Conference on the Concept of the Believers' Church in Louisville, Ky. Most recently, editor Reuel Lemmons, Professor Frank Pack, and Minister Ed Rockey attended a conference of 40 evangelical churchmen in Washington, D. C."

Concerning this most recent Washington "conference" attended by Reuel Lemmons and others, Brother Lemmons said: "At the invitation of Billy Graham and Carl Henry, we attended a meeting last week in Washington, D. C. which was designed to explore the possibilities, and the extent of different religious groups working together." In this day of "ecumenicity," these men sought some grounds on which they could "work together."

What came out of this "conference"? According to Carl Henry (Editor of Christianity TODAY), one of the men who invited Brother Lemmons, "It was a great first step toward mobilizing 40,000,000 American evangelicals." This conference was called "to study the feasibility of a formal evangelistic crusade of unparalleled dimensions, perhaps in 1973. And a number of suggestions were offered - also for study - to further Tran denominational evangelical cooperation beyond evangelism" (CHRISTIANITY TODAY, October 27, 1967).

What was agreed upon by this conference? "Out of the discussions came hopeful endorsement of a proposal for a nationwide cooperative evangelistic campaign to be held in 1973, as well as other valuable suggestions  As presently projected, the campaign would enlist churches in all denominations on a voluntary " (CHRISTIANITY TODAY, Oct. 27, 1967).

Our "representatives" at this conference were "CHURCHES OF CHRIST: Reuel Lemmons, editor, 'Firm Foundation'; Frank Pack, graduate Dean, Pepperdine College; Edward Rockey, pastor, White Plains, N. Y." At the meeting "endorsement" was given for a "nationwide cooperative evangelistic campaign to be held in 1973." You "campaign minded" brethren had better get out your 1973 calendars and mark that date so you will not forget it. Some modern Churches of Christ will have to make very few changes to prepare for this "campaign." They already have all the campaign apparatus they need. They will merely have to upgrade it a little.

The brethren in Parkersburg, West Virginia (and a host of other places) already have devised the organizational machinery for an area-wide" campaign. The Churches of Christ in California recently improvised the machinery to have a "state-wide" campaign. By 1973 the "campaign" brethren must upgrade their campaign equipment for a "nationwide cooperative evangelistic campaign." But by 1973 the campaign promoters will have shown the way, and provided the denominational machinery, for these brethren to bear their part of this interdenominational "nationwide cooperative evangelistic campaign."

One would have thought that when plans began to be laid for a nation-wide inter-denominational "campaign for Christ," our brethren would have seen enough and have been ready to forget the whole matter. But not so. After giving what Henry called their "endorsement" to this 1973 proposed endeavor, our brethren have met with these denominationalists again to implement their endorsement.

According to CHRISTIANITY TODAY (December 22, 1967), "Twelve churchmen" (including our Brother Edward H. Rockey) "from nine major denominations" met again on December 2 and 3 "to carry forward the 'Key Bridge' dialogue on possibilities of more tangible evangelical witness and unity in American life. They agreed on the general feasibility of a multi-faceted continental evangelistic drive cresting in 1973, subject to favorable conditions." Henry reported that "No significant differences were encountered in the discussions." Consequently, another "enlarged meeting was projected for March 9 and 10."

Again I say, you "Campaign brethren" had better mark 1973 on your calendar. A significant step will then be accomplished on your way to denominationalism, unless you brethren reverse the trend. If this "Campaign" does not occur in 1973, it is not very far off - unless you change your ways.

Brother Otis Gatewood was one of "our" representatives at the "World Conference on Evangelism in Berlin," referred to in the previously quoted CHRISTIAN CHRONICLE editorial. Carl Henry related this recent Washington conference (called the "Key Bridge" conference) to the Berlin conference in this way: "In some ways the churchmen who gathered at Key Bridge reflected interests already voice through the widely respected World Congress of Evangelism (also called by Billy Graham-CW), held in West Berlin precisely one year ago. But a lot of water has flowed beneath the bridge since then. At Berlin the discussion centered largely on the task and methods of evangelism. In Washington many expressed a degree of impatience with cooperation merely for evangelism - though they are working actively for it - and turned their attention as well to questions of follow-up in the broadest understanding of that term" (CHRISTIANITY TODAY, Oct. 27, 1967).

It does not take much time for a lot of water to flow under the bridge, once you become implicated in such denominational conferences. After you have cooperated in an evangelistic program, what more is there to do? Well, the question came up, "What will we do with our converts?" "If we can cooperate to convert people, can't we also cooperate after we have converted them?" This is the question they were discussing when they came to discuss "follow-up in the broadest understanding of that term."

"Now how does Brother J. M. Powell fit into all this?" He apparently is emphatically in favor of it! At least his practice would so indicate. "Well then, what about his strong statement quoted above?" That was put out to quiet the brethren in West Virginia and Ohio. "What does his statement mean then?" Not a thing on earth! "How do you know?" By his practice!

Just two days ago I received the following newspaper report about another appearance of Brother J. M. Powell, this time before the "Good Will Class of Emmanuel Baptist Church." Here is the newspaper account:


"Mrs. Frank P. Nutter was hostess to members of the Good Will Class of Emmanuel Baptist Church Saturday for a 6 p.m. dinner in the church fellowship hall.

Special guests, Mr. and Mrs. James Marvin Powell were introduced. Mr. Powell is president of Ohio Valley College. Miss Grace Gimmi and Steven Gimmi were also guests at the dinner.

Tables were covered with white cloths accented by royal blue streamers through the center. The class colors were also carried out in the floral arrangement of blue and white tinted mums in a white bowl flanked by sculptured white candles that centered the main table. The invocation was by the class president, Loren McDaniel.

Mr. Powell gave an interesting illustrated talk of Mt. Sinai, one of several talks he has prepared, all based on his travels in Egypt and the Near East, and illustrated by pictures he has taken. His outstanding presentation was greatly appreciated by class members and tentative plans have been discussed for Mr. Powell to be on the program at a latter date."

(Parkersburg, West Virginia Newspaper)

You can see his practice has not changed one iota from that with which I charged him in the February, 1967 TRUTH MAGAZINE. His strong disownment in the August 1, 1967 BIBLE HERALD meant not one thing. It was simply an effort to try to get some of the more conservative Ohio Valley brethren off his back. And I hope they now get right back on! He needs their prodding!

Though for some time Brother Powell has been acting President of Ohio Valley College, it was not until November 9, 1967 that he formally was made President. The main speaker for the occasion was Brother Powell's brother-in-law, Brother B. C. Goodpasture, editor of the GOSPEL ADVOCATE.

Ohio Valley College has tried to maintain a public posture of being unequivocally opposed to church support of colleges, but the speaker whom the Board of Ohio Valley College selected for a most important occasion is the outstanding contemporary promoter of church support of colleges. The Board says that which Brother Goodpasture advocates, practices, and defends is sinful! But they want him to speak at the most important event in their school's activities! Then they wonder why some of us cannot take seriously their professed strong opposition to church support of colleges. Their actions belie their infrequent pronunciations.

The people backing Ohio Valley College might as well get set to go where their leaders are going to take them. If they do not want to go there, they had better get off that bandwagon. Ultimately it will lead them to form ties with the denominations. Brother Powell all ready is a favorite speaker for them. The Emmanuel Baptist Church liked his speech so well; they are going to have him back again. Brother Powell will probably say, "Mr. Willis, this was nothing more than another of my 'college speeches.' "But the newspaper said his speech was "'an interesting illustrated talk of Mt. Sinai." I would hate to believe the reporters at Parkersburg cannot tell the difference between an "illustrated talk of Mt. Sinai" and a speech "about the college." Again I say, it is strange that newspaper reporters can report correctly nearly any event, except when a liberal preacher speaks for a sectarian church. Then they get everything reported incorrectly, according to the preacher involved.

What about this latest incident, Brother Powell? Were you misrepresented again? If so, why don't you demand that the Parkersburg paper publish a correction? When I am misrepresented, I want the correction made where the misrepresentation occurred. To illustrate, I would like this article to appear in BIBLE HERALD in exoneration of my charges in the previous article, and in reply to your misrepresentations of me in BIBLE HERALD, August 1, 1967.

It is good to hear from you, Brother Powell. Now may we hear from you again? You are in hot water again!

March 1968