Report on "Possible Instrumental Music Debate"

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

In the November 13, 1969 issue of TRUTH MAGAZINE I wrote about a possible debate on mechanical instrumental music in worship with either Tom Burgess (author of Documents on Instrumental Music) or with Charles Dailey (editor of The Pattern, and editor of Burgess' book). I stated in that article that information would be passed on to the readers of TRUTH MAGAZINE as it was received.

It had been my understanding that both Burgess and Dailey wanted to debate some of us who are opposed to the usage of mechanical instrumental music in worship. Dalley stated in a letter to me that Burgess' book "affirms that it (i. e. mechanical instrumental music----CW) is a command of God." However, Burgess privately has told me that the word "commanded" is too strong a word for him. So far, I have been unable to find out exactly what the difference is between Dailey and Burgess in regard to whether instrumental music "is a command of God" or not, but if they make this difference clear, I also will pass that information on to you.

Word From Tom Burgess

A letter received today (December 29, 1969) from Tom Burgess states: "I believe that you asked if I would make a short statement regarding my disposition concerning the debating of the instrument question. I did find out that an offer was made to debate the matter with my name used as one possible participant--but this offer was made nearly three years ago and then retracted after one year I believe.

Regarding myself, I would simply state, I do not wish to debate the question of the use of instrumental music in worship of God.' I believe that is a sufficient statement and I suppose that conditions and circumstances in the future could alter my disposition but that is the way I feel at the present."

Earlier Tom Burgess had written to my brother who lives in Mooresville, Indiana also. Since the letter was prompted by my November 13, 1969 article, there are a few things from this letter I think should be made public. Had not the impression been publicly left by some that Tom Burgess wanted to debate the instrumental music question and the inference left that none of us opposed to instrumental music in worship would meet him, it might not be proper to quote from a private letter. But a good deal has been said about this possible debate. Tom Burgess says that the debate proposal was not of his doing. But it should be kept in mind that he wrote an entire book attempting to prove that mechanical instrumental music was lawful. Dailey said, "The book affirms that it is a command of God." Burgess denies that his book "affirms that it is a command of God."

Tom's letters are not dated, but shortly after the appearance of my November 13th article, he wrote my brother, Mike Willis. In that letter he referred to a private discussion he had conducted with Ferrell Jenkins. Burgess says, "I make it plain that I felt very strongly that debates have not in my opinion done good but rather some harm." He then referred to a telephone conversation that he and I had. Regarding this conversation, Burgess stated "When Cecil telephoned me I thought that I explained to him explicitly that it was not me who had made overtures or challenges to debate the subject but rather I had been asked about it by brethren who agreed with the position taken in my book and by those who opposed it and in all cases I had turned them down categorically."

So the latest word from Tom Burgess is that he "categorically" refuses to defend in public debate the position that he advocates in his book, Documents on Instrumental Music. Furthermore, until now he has not explicitly stated wherein he differs with Dailey's summary of his book in which Dailey said, "The book affirms that it is a command of God." Burgess either agrees that instrumental music is a "command" of God, or he disagrees with Dailey's statement. Before this exchange is over, we might, have the chance to hear a Burgess - Dailey debate on whether mechanical instrumental is "a command of God" or not.

So in case someone tells you that Tom Burgess wants to debate the mechanical instrumental music question, you can now tell them that you know that is not true. Burgess has refused "categorically" to affirm that mechanical instrumental music "is a command of God."

Dailey is Silent

Now what about Charles Dailey? Having heard about Dailey's desire to have someone defend the "anti-instrumental music" position, I wrote him to find out the particulars about his proposal. In a letter dated November 10, 1969 he wrote to tell me about Burgess' book. Dailey said, "I did devote about a year of editorial work to a definitive statement of our position on instrumental music entitled Documents on Instrumental Music by Tom Burgess." Dailey declares that Burgess "wrote the most thorough going book on instrumental music that has ever been produced .... The book affirms that it is a command of God."

It is a little humorous to find that a man who spent a year editing a book containing "a definitive statement of our position" did not even himself understand the thesis of the book. For Dailey declared that "The book affirms that it is a command of God" and the author Burgess denies that he made such an affirmation.

On November 12th I sent to Charles Dailey a copy of TRUTH MAGAZINE containing the article about a "Possible Instrumental Music Debate." I attached to that article the following brief letter; "Enclosed is an article which I wrote in the paper which I edit. I thought that this article might help to expedite the arrangement for a discussion on the mechanical instrumental music question. It might work out best for you people to arrange the discussion out there, and for us to arrange for one back here. You might prefer to conduct one out there, and to have Tom Burgess do the one back here. Such an arrangement would be acceptable to me. Please indicate how you propose we proceed from this point toward finalization of debate arrangements."

Until now, I have not heard a word from Dailey regarding this letter or the article. If someone tells you that Charles Dailey wants to debate some of us on the instrumental music question, remind them that he has in his possession a letter and my TRUTH MAGAZINE article in which I accept his debate proposal. In my TRUTH MAGAZINE article I explicitly stated, 'I hasten to accept his invitation."

Current Developments

At present Tom Burgess has "categorically" refused to debate, and Charles Dailey has made no response of any kind to either my letter of November 12th or my TRUTH MAGAZINE article. Earlier I stated that when both Burgess and Dailey refused to engage in such a debate, then we can talk about somebody else.

Dailey has written a good deal in which he has tried to make people think he wants to debate. I think his writings must have been pure bluster. He does not now act like he would like to engage in such a discussion.

Dailey did say in a letter dated July 10, 1969, "However, I am going to send your letter to a man who speaks for some in the Christian church and who has been looking for a debate with a man like yourself. His name is Dwaine Dunning of Scottsbluff, Neb. He will probably be contacting you for either a written or oral debate." After both Burgess and Dailey have "categorically" refused to debate and that fact has been made clear to the public, I will be glad to receive correspondence from Dwaine Dunning or someone else regarding a "Possible Instrumental Music Debate." But I might add that if Dailey sent my letter to Dunning on July 10, 1969 as he said he was doing, as of December 29, 1969 I have not heard a word from Dunning either.

I would like to see someone affirm that "It (i. e. mechanical instrumental music---CW) is a command of God." Burgess says he "categorically" refuses to make such an affirmation. So far Dailey will not say a word. But if and when Dailey also "categorically" refuses to affirm this "definitive statement" of their position, then I will be glad to negotiate with Dunning.

But right now, I want to let Dailey stew a lime. Either he has been putting on an insincere front about wanting to debate, or he is willing to meet us and to affirm that "it is a command of God." Dailey is the man I now want to hear from.

And TRUTH MAGAZINE readers, we will keep you posted on further developments.


February 26, 1970