By Cecil Willis
Without doubt, one of the most interesting subjects of our time for character study is Reuel Lemmons, editor of the Firm Foundation published at Austin, Texas. Regardless of how one attempts to add up the totality of what Lemmons says, it does not make sense to any completely rational being. One brother told me recently, “Reuel Lemmons can come nearer to sitting in his own lap than any man I know.” Or as another put it, Reuel Lemmons has the great ability to be “equally strong on both sides of a question.” And Reuel Lemmons has been on both sides of nearly every important question which has been before the brotherhood in the last quarter of a century.
In the April 11, 1972 issue of Firm Foundation, Brother Lemmons published an article which he entitled “Butcher Shop.” in this article he devoted some attention to the trip to the Philippines which Brother Roy E. Cogdill and I made in early 1970. He also paid his respects to the preaching efforts made by several faithful brethren in South Africa, to Brother Leslie Diestelkamps sacrificial work in Nigeria, to the commendable and long-time work done by Brother Ben Shropshire in Hawaii, and to the efforts of a few other faithful brethren in other parts of the world.
In substance, Brother Lemmons said that we had merely butchered up the evangelistic work done by liberal brethren in various parts of the world. I sometimes am accused of being too rough on some writers whose productions I review editorially in this magazine. In order that you might see my reason for dealing I rather stringently with editor Lemmons, I want to quote quite liberally from Lemmons ignoble article entitled “Butcher Shop.”
Lemmons said that our efforts constituted a “tragic butchering of the body of Christ,” and that “Brethren who love the church will not do this sort of thing.” You see, he already has told his 20,000 readers that we do not love the Lords church. He states that there have been dozens of reports in recent years “of mission efforts being split by hobbyists,” and that “hobbyists . . . prey upon weak and unstable converts. And they actually gloat over the number of them they can turn from the Lord to hobbyism.” He refers to us as “the anti-orphan home anti-cooperation movement.”
Leslie Diestelkamp, Ben Shropshire and other such faithful preachers can well take care of themselves in any exchange with Lemmons, and he knows it. Particularly in this article do I wish to respond to what Lemmons had to say regarding the trip made to the Philippines by Roy Cogdill and me. Note his remarks.
Our Philippine Trip
“Perhaps the most glaring example is the relatively recent church-splitting journey made into the Philippines by Cecil Willis and Roy Cogdill. Willis magazine gloated over the fact that they had converted over 20 preachers…. What these men actually did was just about stopping all the gospel preachers in the Philippines from preaching the gospel and set them to fighting each other.”
He refers to brethren in faithful churches as “this faction.” Lemmons uses about every opprobrious term to describe us he can think of, stopping just barely short of four letter words. Yater Tant, in referring to Lemmons article, said: “In it our Texas brother has quite a bit of fuming and fulminating (and castigating just short of cussing). . .” (Gospel Guardian, May 4, 1972). Tant also added, “His writing almost shows signs of hysteria. He should watch this. Apoplexy is dangerous at any age, but can be downright ominous as one approaches that three-score mark (he will be 60 years old come July 8).”
Lemmons continued his severe castigation of us with these words: “Support is being sought for this faction. How much more noble it would be if all this energy had been spent in preaching the gospel of Christ and the conversion of honest men to him, rather than to a hobby. About the most ridiculous thing we can imagine is to go into a foreign, and even heathen, land and preach to natives that they should not support orphan homes and Herald of Truth! The natives probably think both are heathen Gods that are not supposed to be worshiped any longer.” Lemmons states that liberal brethren “feel that the kingdom of heaven is a vineyard where men labor in peace, love and unity; not a butcher shop.” Lemmons charged that we turned the native Filipino preachers into men who were “flaying the jungle with denunciations of orphan homes, Herald of Truth, and each other.” He adds, “If brethren cannot come to agreement on these issues they can at least desist from the practice of making raids on each others camps. . . .” Now there are a host of these unbecoming and misrepresenting remarks which need some attention.
Now For the Truth
First, let it be clearly understood that Roy Cogdill and I did not introduce the institutional controversy into the Philippine Islands. The liberal American missionaries did that! For at least 13 years before any American conservative brother went to the Philippines to preach the gospel, there were faithful men among the native Filipino preachers who opposed the sponsoring church and the church support of human institutions. Many of the faithful preachers there came out of the Christian Church, and they had already learned enough about the dangers of centralization and institutionalism to know they were wrong. These faithful native Filipino preachers had suffered the same kind of ungodly misrepresentation and abuse as is characteristic of Brother Lemmons attack on us.
Brother Lemmons hardly ever gets anything he writes exactly right. Now and then he approximates the truth in an article but I used to hear my father say, “Even a blind hog will now and then find an acorn.” Let it be clearly understood that Brother Cogdill and I made no effort whatever to go among liberal churches in the Philippines. We only went to those places where we had been invited and to which we had been specifically requested to come. Our only contact with any liberal preachers was with a few of those who came to hear us when we spoke in faithful churches. In fact, the liberal American missionaries severely criticized us because we did not come to see all of them while we were there. Of course, they could as easily have come to see us, if they wanted to see us. They knew we were coming. Within five minutes after I arrived in Manila, I was handed a copy of a scathing literary attack which had been made upon us by the liberal American missionaries, which attack bad been circulated throughout the Philippine Islands prior to our arrival.
About the only liberal preachers with whom we had any contact whatsoever were eight or ten who came to hear us speak, and to publicly question us during an open forum, at Mlang in Cotabato on the southern island of Mindanao. These liberal preachers had obviously been assigned to attend the daily open forum in an effort to disrupt it. Two liberal preachers came each day, just in time for the open forum, and each day two different liberals attended.
Incidentally, Brother Lemmons states that effective evangelistic work has stopped in the Philippines. That may be true among liberal churches, but it definitely is not true among faithful brethren. While Brother Cogdill and I were in the Philippines for just two weeks, 28 were baptized. Last year, during a one month stay, J. T. Smith and Connie Adams baptized 60 people. James P. Needham and Dudley Spears just returned May 13, 1972 from a one month stay among faithful Philippine brethren. During that time more than 60 were baptized. Brother Wallace Little, in the May 18th issue of Truth Magazine, reported the baptism of more than 80. Literally hundreds have been baptized since our visit to the Philippines. More than 30 have been baptized in each of several different gospel meetings. Liberal brethren may have stopped effective gospel preaching, but faithful brethren have not.
Incidentally, Brother Lemmons contemptuously referred to our Filipino brethren as though they were a bunch of illiterate ignoramuses from the jungle. Such high-handed, condescending and contemptuous treatment has been seriously reacted to by competent and faithful Filipino preachers. Many of the faithful preachers are men with several years of college training. Some are as competent, even in the usage of the English language, as is Brother Lemmons himself. There were several men among these native preachers who had as good a grasp of the scriptural principles involved in the digressions of liberalism as any American preacher. In fact, I got considerable satisfaction out of sitting back and watching the most experienced liberal native preachers take a terrific beating in the open forum from faithful native preachers. Truthfully, I do not think I have witnessed any liberal in this country being more soundly thrashed with the truth than were those eight or ten liberal preachers who came to Mlang to try to disrupt our services.
Talk about importing to the Philippines our American problems! You know what book the liberal Filipino brethren brought with them in order to defend sponsoring church-ism and the church support of human institutionalism? They obviously already had learned that the New Testament would be useless in the defense of liberalism. They had under their arm Brother Tom Warrens lecture book on church cooperation. I was much amused as those liberal brethren were repeatedly chided for reading from the wrong book, if they were going to establish the scriptural authenticity of any action among Gods people. Somebody already had drilled into them the patent little liberal dodges.
Brother Lemmons said the native preachers probably think the church supported institutional orphan homes (and colleges), and the Herald of Truth, “are heathen Gods that are not supposed to be worshiped any longer.” Listen Brother Lemmons, it was not us “hobbyists” who introduced the Herald of Truth into the Philippine Islands. You liberal brethren are the ones who aired it there. Furthermore, the liberal American missionaries brought with them many years ago the sponsoring church -practice, and even the church support of the Bible College at Baguio City. I repeat: WE DID NOT INTRODUCE THESE ISSUES AMONG THOSE BRETHREN. You liberal brethren get the credit for that.
Furthermore, Brother Lemmons said we gloated over the conversion of 20 preachers. Again your facts are badly wrong, Brother Lemmons. There are 68 faithful native preachers in the Philippines who are being supported by faithful American churches. I personally know of that many; there may well be even more -than that. Still there is not a single American “factionist” over there to indoctrinate these brethren, while there are several liberal American missionaries who are blasting faithful brethren in every issue of the Philippine Christian. In fact, that is about all they have had in the liberal Philippine Christian for a good many issues now. Liberal Filipino preachers, and liberal American preachers in the Philippines, are much holder than liberal preachers in America.
Now it is true that Truth Magazine and the Gospel Guardian have, in a very few instances, been sent to certain Filipino brethren as subscriptions have been paid for, either by them or by someone who ordered us to send the paper to someone there. But so have the Gospel Advocate and Firm Foundation. Of course we have taught what we believe to be the truth in the papers we publish, but so has Brother Lemmons in his paper that also goes to some in the Philippines I would presume, since his subscription mailing list is some four times as large as ours.
The truth of the matter is that most of the faithful Filipino brethren who stand for the truth have been taught it, not by any American here or there, but by faithful brethren among themselves. Particularly has Romulo B. Agduma through his mimeographed publications taught the truth on these points. Yet nearly everything Romulo hag printed has been material that he felt conscience bound to write and circulate in answer to liberalism being taught by liberal American missionaries there. Many of the faithful preachers there have taken a stand for the truth, even at the expense of having their support summarily cut off. You liberal brethren, Brother Lemmons, deserve all the “credit” for importing the liberal–conservative controversy to the Philippine Islands, as well as to South Africa, Hawaii, Nigeria, and other spots throughout the world. What seems to upset Brother Lemmons is when some faithful preacher, whether native or American, exposes the errors of liberalism.
(To be continued)
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 35, pp. 3-6
July 13, 1972