By Cecil Willis
Elsewhere in this issue is the first of two articles by Dorris Rader of Tullahoma, Tennessee. The material contained in these two articles first was distributed in Tullahoma and vicinity in tract form. The leaven of the “Unity Cult,” as Brother James W. Adams correctly has labeled it, already has been at work in Tullahoma. In fact, the Tullahoma, Tennessee church may be the first congregation among faithful brethren to be divided over Ketcherside’s variety of “Unity.”
Brother Ketcherside assays to be greatly concerned about unity within the Body of Christ. He constantly is telling us how many different “factions” we have in the churches of Christ. All the time, he assiduously is working to add one faction more to whatever the correct number of “factions” there may be. This new “faction” may correctly he called “The Unity Faction.” Brethren seem unsure about how many “factions” there are among us. I saw one reference recently that said there are 50 “factions” among churches of Christ. Brother Ketcherside usually says there are about 26 “factions.” It is highly probable that he is not counting the one he has worked to create since 1957.
Some naive brethren among conservative churches seem to think that the “Unity Cult” could not possibly affect us. To think it cannot hurt us makes us all the more vulnerable to this “faction’s” insidious workings. Those who have sympathy for the “Unity Cult” certainly would never concede it poses as any threat to us. Those who think it has not already made serious inroads among us simply have their heads in the sand. The editor of one weekly paper circulated among us wrote me and said, “. . . I wonder if you are playing politics . . . for business reasons?” No, Brother editor, I am not playing politics, and one would be rather stupid if he undertook to expose the “Unity Cult” for business reasons. It seems always all right in his own eyes for one person to indict the motives of another. We are charged with discussing Ketcherside’s “Unity Cult” “for business reasons.” Might not one just as well raise the question of the hesitancy of these brethren to state unequivocally in print where they stand on the “Fellowship” question, and attribute their reluctance to “playing politics for business reasons?”
As I write this article, the Gospel Guardian has just announced that Editor William E. Wallace and Associate Editor Edward Fudge intend to reply to some of the questions, which we have raised on these pages regarding where they stand on the Ketcherside-Fellowship question. Brother Fudge has, until now, flatfootedly refused to state whether he considers Brother Ketcherside to be a false teacher or not. I certainly hope we can find out the answer to that question in the article or articles he intends to write. It also will be interesting to find out from Brother Fudge if he considers the institutional and sponsoring church issues to be of sufficient consequence to cause a breach of fellowship. If he says that he does consider them to be grave enough issues to justify division in the church, then some of his past doings and sayings are going to require a heap of explaining. Whenever he tells us whether he considers these matters to be of sufficient seriousness to justify the division that has occurred, I will be prepared to lay before the public some items that will require a good deal of explaining by Brother Fudge. I have no hatchet to grind with Brother Fudge; I simply think he has played footsie with various kinds of liberals too long, and needs to let brethren know assuredly where he now stands on the matters. Perhaps he has changed and now does take a strong stand against liberalism and liberals, and against the latitudinarianism of Brother Ketcherside. I think I would be among the gladdest, if Brother Fudge does take a good firm stand.
If you think Ketchersidianism cannot hurt faithful churches, let me suggest you talk with the brethren at Tullahoma, Tennessee, or at Tuscaloosa, Alabama, or at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, or at Dayton, Ohio. Or, talk to some of the worried fathers and mothers whose sons or daughters have fallen already for his smooth line. Perhaps a score of young and not-so-young preachers already have “gone out from among us” to join the newly formed “Unity Cult.” Nearly fifty preachers who have worked with faithful churches have been seriously affected by the sweet-talk of the, “Unity Cult,” though hopefully, some of these are still teachable. These facts are recited simply to prove to brethren that we are not warning about a nonexistent danger. Several brethren have written or talked to me to verify that some dear one of theirs already has become entangled in the maze of sophistry regularly recited in Mission Messenger, or some of its journalistic side-kicks, like Restoration Review, or Integrity, or Mission.
It certainly is paradoxical that the next division that very likely will occur will be over error that poses under the guise of “Unity.” If the doctrines promulgated in Mission Messenger were implemented among us, we would find ourselves fellowshipping Baptists, Disciples of Christ, Mormons, Adventists, United Pentecostals, Apostolic Pentecostals, Jehovah Witnesses, Christian Church, and every other denomination that practices the immersion of believers and that claims to believe in the Lordship of Christ. Though Brother Ketcherside will very likely deny it, he would have us all merge into some mystical union that he would call “non-denominational.” but which really simply would be the interdenominational ecumenical church which certain segments of Protestantism have sought to establish for nearly half a century. The very thing that Brother Ketcherside seeks to achieve was being lambasted as “Union,” not “Unity,” when I was just a boy. Gospel preachers back then were not about to fall into the local “Ministerial Association,” nor were they disposed to draw up a compromise pact with denominationalism.
Brother Ketcherside and Brother Leroy Garrett have made some tremendous changes since I first knew them. I think I liked them better “back then” than I do now. But, these brethren have a lot more changing to do, if they ever intend to become consistent! There is not a way on earth they consistently can refuse to fellowship the “pious unimmersed.” I talked some years ago with one of the then budding “Unity Cult” preachers, and atter a few hours of discussion, I finally got him to make the following concession, as he sought to maintain some semblance of consistency. He said, “I would not say a Methodist is not my brother.” He already had swallowed the “brother-in prospect” quibble. While he would not say that the Methodist was not his brother, yet he absolutely refused to say that the Methodist was his brother. Brother Ketcherside is still hedging around on this issue. He refers to the “pious unimmersed” as his “brother-in-prospect.” But there is not an atheist, infidel, or agnostic in the country who may not in the same sense be called his “brother-in-prospect.” If Ketcherside ever proposes to fellowship all of his “brethren in prospect,” he may as well join the Universalist denomination. But mark my word, and see if Ketcherside and Garrett do not eventually accept the “pious unimmersed” as brethren, as about a thousand Disciples of Christ churches now do. And until they accept the “pious unimmersed,” they are going to remain the most inconsistent of the inconsistent.
Take a look at the shambles the “Unity Cult” already has left some formerly faithful churches in, and then determine if you should not also join in the fight to keep doctrinal relativism out of the churches. After all, congregational division perpetrated by a so-called “Unity Cult” would be the most ridiculous kind of division. The seeds of the iniquitous “Unity Cult” are being sown broadcast, and some of them are finding lodgement in the hearts of brethren who, until now, steadfastly have contended for the truth. Do not be deceived by the smooth talk and fair speeches of the ringleaders of the “Unity Cult. – As I heard Bill Wallace tell Carl Ketcherside at the Birmingham debate in 1957: “Carl, I’ve got your number. You are just a smooth heretic.” And as the “Unity Cult” fits itself into the sectarian mold, it even fits Ketcherside’s definition of a heretic. But it would be good once more to hear the Gospel Guardian sound forth clearly on a controversial issue, wouldn’t it? Perhaps they will do so in the articles promised by Brother Wallace and Brother Fudge. As Robert Jackson frequently says, “We shall see what we shall see!
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 40, pp. 3-5
August 16, 1973