Carl Ketcherside's Strange Views of Fellowship (I)

Ray Ferris
Elgin, Illinois

For many years the name of Carl Ketcherside was equated with an extremely conservative position among the Lord's people. In recent years the complete reverse has been true. In other words, Brother Ketcherside is now one of the most liberal among those who have ever been called out of the world and into the body of Christ.

Recently, having gone to the city of Temple Terrace, Florida to attend the annual lectures on the campus of Florida College, I was treated to a sample of the extremity of that liberal persuasion (Please read the article which appeared earlier in this paper as an introduction to this one and as a background for the meeting at University Church in Tampa on January 25, 1972.) It will be impractical, if not impossible, to attempt to notice every point of disagreement in this brief article but several major issues will be set forth.

Clouding the Issue

In his opening remarks brother Ketcherside made reference to his happiness at a change in attitude that be proposed to see in the school now and the last time be bad been to the campus. (Remember this was not a school meeting nor function in any way.) He claimed three men - Pat Hardeman, Bill Humble and G. K. Wallace - followed every movement then. The purpose of this strategy of brother Ketcherside was not clear. Why refer to these three, none of whom would likely come to a function of Florida College now? Any response about this matter by brethren Turner, Pickup and Jenkins would not be understood nor likely appreciated by the young men he is working on in Tampa.

Carl Ketcherside argued vehemently for many years that such a school as Florida College not only must not be linked to the church in any way, but denied that it had the right to exist. He is fully aware of the determined efforts that have been made all through its existence to keep the school entirely separate from any church. Why would he begin his speech linking the school to this function of the church? No honorable reason comes to my mind.

It took Carl about ten minutes of his speech to tell us how much he loved all of us. One young lady was overheard saying it was protested so much and so long that she could not help but wonder if he really meant it. If one really loves another, and acts as though he loves another, it doesn't take a lot of telling to get the point across. "Me thinketh he protesteth overmuch."

Who Is In The Fellowship?

Several passages of scripture were cited as the basis for a new concept of "fellowship" that would heal all of the divisions (24 were claimed as existing) in the, "great restoration movement." The key to the argument is found in the idea that men are called into the fellowship of God and His Son, Jesus Christ, by the gospel. I Cor. 1:9 and I John 1:1-4. Brother Ketcherside stoutly claimed that he accepted "without quibble" what the Lord said about being called into the fellowship, but we will note that this is not quite true.

There are few of my brethren who would likely argue that any fellowship men might have with one another would have any significant spiritual meaning unless one had first been called into the fellowship of the Lord. However, as strange as it may seem, in essence Carl Ketcherside denies this very point. He has stated in writing that he has fellowship with individuals who have not been baptized into Christ because they are his brethren in prospect, and he defended the practice on this occasion!

Carl said he had never implied that anyone was in "the fellowship" who was not baptized (immersed) into Christ. However when he speaks of fellowship that he has with "believers" who have not yet been immersed for the remission of their sins, we wonder what this does imply! He attempts to justify this practice, as noted, by calling them brethren in prospect, and he stated bluntly that such an individual was a child of God! This question occurs to me: Is this individual in fellowship with God? Or does Carl's abounding love just enable him to include in his fellowship those whom God has excluded?

Is Division Ever Right?

In 2 Tim. 2:15, Timothy is instructed to "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth." (NASB) Notice that needing not to be ashamed and approved to God are linked with proper handling of the word of truth.

In his speech Carl made much of the point that division is terrible (we all agree on this point) and stated very dogmatically that no division is ever approved in the New Testament. Now I invite you to read these words with me: "For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also factions among you, that they that are approved may be made manifest among you." I Cor. I 1: 18-19 (ASV) - God hates only one thing that I know of worse than division, or factiousness, and that is peace at any price, unity in error, doctrine of the devil that has been espoused by brother Ketcherside and his followers! When this doctrine is accepted we will have a condition of unrestrained error of any and every sort being fostered among us while the teachers of it cry "Peace, Peace, when there is no peace." Jesus indicated in Matt. 10:34 that the sword of His truth (His doctrine) would cut sharp lines of division among the closest of ties, but this will be true only when men use it and use it accurately.

Withdrawal Of Men is Not Judgment By God

Carl Ketcherside has mistakenly equated the withdrawal of fellowship by Christians with the pronouncing of an anathema of judgment against a brother, and then the ex- communication of men from God, it appears. We are finite mortals who cannot help but accept into our fellowship those who are not in God's fellowship because we cannot determine when one has responded from the heart to the call of the gospel into the fellowship of God. In like manner, we are subject to mistake in matters of "disfellowship." But we do not affect thereby the relationship of that child to his father  God.

To deny that we are to follow the teaching of the New Testament in examining those that are within "our fellowship," and excluding from it those who walk disorderly as measured by apostolic teaching, is to be guilty of a denial of the plain teaching of the apostles as revealed in scripture.

He said our problems in all of the "24 fragments of the restoration movement" were problems in the fellowship and not of the fellowship; that fellowship has nothing to do with instrumental music, Herald of Truth, cup's and containers, classes, etc. If I understand his position, he is equating "fellowship" with a covenant relationship with God in Christ. It is, of course, true that every one who has truly accepted the call of the gospel is in that relationship and therefore in fellowship with God. Thus every man born into the family of God is in this fellowship. But numerous passages indicate the partnership and sharing we rightly have with one another in practices that are according to truth, as well as sharing from which we must refrain, when to do otherwise would constitute the practice of and/or endorsement of error. Several such passages are noted elsewhere in this study. Note the endorsement James, Peter and John gave to Paul and Barnabas in their work is referred to as the giving of "the right hand of fellowship," in Gal. 2:9. In Acts 15:36-41 we have a record of a sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas that resulted in the severing of an "area of fellowship" that had been practiced before and was being contemplated again.

Scope of Fellowship of Brethren

Fellowship among brethren is an area that sweeps the entire spectrum of that which is forbidden, that which is indifferent, and that which is unquestionably right and required. We must have a joint participation with fellow saints in collective worship and work. Which particular saints, if they are engaged in scriptural practices, is a matter of indifference. Partnership with saints in unlawful teaching and practices, or endorsement of such unlawful' teaching and practice is forbidden. Read again such passages as 2 John 9-11; 2 Thess. 3:6-15; Titus 3:10; Rom. 16:17-18; 1 Cor. 5:9-11 and Matt. 17:15-17.

In not one of these areas is my practice to be equated with the righteous judgment of God and to be an indicator of divine approval or disapproval; nor does my practice alter the relationship of another saint to his God. God knows the hearts of men! All who are in Christ are subject to error and become involved in sin periodically G John 1:8). But the practice of what is believed to be wrong will condemn one's soul before God (Rom. 14:23); and the endorsement and encouragement of sinful teaching and practice is to share in the guilt of the teaching and the practice (2 John 9-11). There are times when silence is a tacit endorsement of evil, if one ought to cry out against the unrighteous practice. Note Ezek. 33:7-20 and the action of Paul with Peter in Gal. 2:11-14.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 23, pp. 10-12
April 13, 1972