The Hartford Forum

Hiram Hutto
Peoria, Illinois

Hartford, Illinois is a small town just across the fiver from St. Louis, Mo. It is the site of the annual "Hartford Forum" conducted by the church there and for the most part presided over by W. Carl Ketcherside. This year the Forum was held December 29-30 and was indeed the scene of many strange "sights and sounds," at least to me. I heard things from elders and preachers that 10-15 years ago would have been virtually incredible. And when I say "elders and preachers," I do not mean members of what is normally thought of as "denominational" churches. I mean those who are reputedly members of the Lord's church.

Just let me list some of the "strange things" that I heard taught by these men:

1. An elder in the Central church of St. Louis appeared as a part of the Forum and not only spoke so as to teach that the gift of tongues was still available; he further claimed that the Bible taught such and he himself had been enabled to speak in tongues! I did not get there early enough to hear his speech but id hear him defend such later. And when I discussed it with his preacher, he said that the Bible says, "Forbid not to speak in tongues." Selah!

2. Neal Buffalo, who is an elder in the church in Conway, Arkansas, appeared on the program to teach that the theory of evolution is not at variance with the scriptures but is in harmony with them. Of course, when he got through defining the "scriptures" it's very little wonder that he thought so. To him, the account given in the word of God--Genesis 1-11 -- isn't really "told like it is." Not on your life. You see, the creation account given in Genesis 1 and 2 is a wonder that he could "harmonize" the two. He was willing to sacrifice the truth of God for the "assured results" of science (falsely so-called).

3. Dwayne Dunning----a preacher for the Christian Church--was assigned the impossible task of proving that the use of instrumental music in praise to God is a scriptural practice. In the early part of his speech he dealt with the argument that instrumental music is unauthorized by the New Testament. He did so by saying that in such case it's no, worse than congregational singing; it isnt authorized either. Somehow or other the argument that one thing is all fight because it is no worse than something else doesn't do much for me. It sort of leaves me Cold. If the scriptures do not authorize them, they should be avoided. Under them, they should be ' 't questioning he stated that off-hand he didnt know of anything else that could be practiced without authority, but that he was sure he could think of something. And I don't doubt it for a minute.

I asked Dunning that since the NT requires us to "teach and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs," could we not do this by congregational singing; would not this at least be one way of fulfilling this scripture; and he admitted that it would. That being true, congregational singing is authorized. His problem, as so many others, is that he does not understand the subject of "Authority."

And speaking of instrumental music--a preacher, supposedly a gospel preacher, and I had a kind of private discussion about this subject as it related to the OT Psalms7 I pointed out to him that there were a number of things done in OT worship that surely he could not do today---for instance, animal sacrifices. BELIEVE ME WHEN I SAY, I COULDN'T HAVE BEEN MORE WRONG! This fellow actually told me that there would be nothing wrong with a Christian's offering up an animal sacrifice in praise and thanksgiving to God providing that it had nothing to do with forgiveness, blood atonement, etc. W.0 W!

4. Sometimes people will accuse Bro. Ketcherside of fellowshipping nearly anything. He would probably deny that, but one of the speakers did indeed state that anybody that accepted the Lordship of Jesus Christ was his brother and in fellowship with him. I asked him about fellowshipping (with money) a Presbyterian preacher who accepted the Lordship of Christ but taught and practiced infant baptism, about the Catholics, etc. He wasn't too much in favor of supporting him with his money, but he left no doubt with me that these were in his fellowship.

Yes, I heard some strange things in Hartford, but out of it all there was one thing obvious to me. In this matter of fellowship, if there has been any changing and moving--and there has---it hasn't been done by the Christian Church. They still occupy the same ground they always did; the moving has been by bro. Ketcherside and those allied with him. And this movement has not been toward the truth. Rather it has been toward the Christian Church and the embracing of their false positions.


April 9, 1970