By Connie W. Adams
The September 30, 1996 issue of Sentry Magazine is devoted to a slanderous attack on Guardian of Truth, the staff writers, and the board of the foundation. For many years Floyd Chappelear, the editor of Sentry Magazine, has taken pot-shots at the editor of GOT and some of its writers. These have generally been ignored because they were judged unworthy of comment and would have led to an extended battle to no benefit for the readers of the two papers. When I edited Searching The Scriptures we also were the objects of scattered fire from the editor of Sentry. We chose to ignore it and go on with our work. But this last assault is too blatant to overlook. I have not been asked to say what I am about to say but justice demands that something be said. I bear no ill-will to our brother. He is a man of obvious ability and talent.
A Summary of Charges
In a front page article which covers over four pages of copy, plus other articles which are intended to lend support to his charges, his article entitled “A Call For Concern” contains the following charges against GOT:
We are accused of being respecters of persons.
We have zeal without knowledge.
Meekness and humility are absent.
We are possessed of an arrogant and condescending spirit.
One writer is charged with trying to destroy the man and not the argument.
We keep an enemies list and have a “Craig Livingstone mentality.”
We defame men.
We have slandered an “aged luminary.”
Some of us are so careless with the truth that nothing can be believed which is said by such bullies and cowards.
We comprise a”Christian Cosa Nostra.”
“They have established all of the accouterments of a denominational structure.”
We are liars and have a “frightening mind set.”
The board of GOT Foundation wants to “take over” the churches and “make decisions for them.”
The editor wants to “drive people out of the church.”
We have a “museum mentality” about the church.
“They have succumbed to the ordinary human desire to build some-thing larger than a simple, independent, church of Christ.”
We believe the universal church is made up of local churches.
All of the above is in the editorial. We are also treated to a poem “Diotrephes Is Living,” articles on “The New Denominationalism,” “The Peaceable Kingdom,” “The New Catholicism,” “Making Sense of Romans 14,” “How Shall We Treat Brethren With Whom We Disagree?”, “Edomites Among Us” and inserts on “Watchdogs of the Lord” and an excerpt from a personal letter from Mike Willis to Frank Walton.
Who Are These Men?
Since I serve on the foundation board and am also the Associate-Editor of the paper, I think I know something about the men with whom I work. The Guardian of Truth Foundation is heavily involved in the publishing business. The bulk of our time in meetings is taken up in plans to that end. The nine-man board is made up of Connie W. Adams, Alan Birdwell, O.C. Birdwell, Jr., Dickey Cooper, Fred Pollock, Weldon E. Warnock, Mike Willis, Steve Wolfgang, and Ron Halbrook. Four of these men are business men while the others are gospel preachers. They are honorable men who would not even entertain the idea of trying to structure the church of our Lord into a denomination. All are faithful Christians who are members of local churches where they live.
There are twenty-seven staff writers in addition to Mike Willis and myself. They are: J. Wiley Adams, Donald P. Ames, O.C. Birdwell, Jr., Dick Blackford, Edward Bragwell, Paul J. Casebolt, Bill Cavender, Bob Dickey, Johnie Edwards, Harold Fite, Larry Hafley, Ron Halbrook, Clinton D. Hamilton, Irvin Himmel, Olen Holderby, Frank Jamerson, Daniel H. King, Aude McKee, Harry Osborne, H.E. Phillips, Donnie V. Rader, Tom Roberts, Weldon E. Warnock, Lewis Willis, Bobby Witherington, and Steve Wolfgang. With the exception of two men in their mid-tolate thirties, the rest are men between the ages of 50 and 80. Many have preached over fifty years and several of them for more than forty years.
Now, why name these men? Brother Chappelear charged staff writers with immorality without naming the accused. He said, “Because I do not believe in gossip under the shallow guise of journalism, I will not name names.” No instead, he engaged in innuendo and left twenty-nine men under a cloud of suspicion with his readers. The men he accused repented many years ago for their sins and made corrections with the churches involved. What is now the point of bringing that up except to slander the paper? Anyone who thinks the paper has coddled immorality has not read it with much understanding and knows very little about those of us who carry on this work.
Why name these board members? Because the board has been accused of laying the groundwork for a new denomination. There is not one word of truth in that. It is slander, pure and simple. Not one of these men believes the universal church is made up of local churches. I call on brother Chappelear to apologize for this unwarranted attack and to repent of his sin.
Should GOT Be Criticized?
Absolutely! We are all finite men. Do I think errors have been made in dealing with issues in the past? Certainly. I did not always agree with editorial judgment in handling some things when Cecil Willis was editor and since Mike Willis has taken on that work. I edited a paper for twenty years and I know for a fact that there are difficult problems to handle and in spite of the best advice you can get, blunders will be made. When Searching The Scriptures went out of business at the end of 1992, I was invited to write for GOT as the Associate-Editor and also to serve on the board of the Foundation. I gladly accepted both responsibilities. I had worked as a staff writer for Truth Magazine for eight years prior to editing Searching The Scriptures. Before I agreed to these roles, I met with these men and very frankly discussed a number of things. I came on board with the understanding that I would be at liberty to write what I wanted to say without any muzzle, even to taking issue with the editor or any staff writer.
I have written in opposition to the “Questionnaire.” Brother Chappelear said that the editor had called this an “expedient” and then said, “Was the expediency opposed? Of course not.” My brother, I opposed it, face to face and by letter to those who issued it and then I wrote an article in GOT on the subject which the editor carried without change. I have written other articles taking issue with things which have appeared in the paper. I have not been censored and when the time comes that I am, that will be the end of my work here.
Brother Chappelear’s Files
An attack was made on writers for an “enemies list” and a file to use against others. Yet, lo and behold, right in the middle of page 12 of this issue of Sentry there is a box with a quote from a letter from Mike Willis to Frank Walton, a letter dated December 8, 1993. How did a personal letter from Mike Willis to Frank Walton get into the hands of Floyd Chappelear? Floyd lives in Virginia and Frank lives in Arizona. Has brother Floyd kept this on file? Was this an “enemies list”? Brethren have a habit of keeping files of personal correspondence. That is one thing. To compile a dossier on a brother in order to attack him later down the road is something else. I have written in GOT in opposition to brethren swapping personal correspondence all over the country. I do not practice it and do not wish to be on the receiving end of such traded goods. Was there some collusion between these two men? Some power structure in embryo involving two papers?
In traveling over the country in meetings, I meet many people who read GOT and express great appreciation for it. But I also meet a few, usually preachers, who want to know, “How did you ever get involved with that bunch?” Subsequent conversation usually brings out the word “pharisees,” “legalists,” the notion of power mongers, and this very notion expressed by brother Chappelear “the Cosa Nostra.” There is a perception among some preachers that there is something sinister, underhanded, and grossly evil about what we are doing. What feeds this idea? I do not know. But I can tell you as one involved in both the work of the paper and the Foundation, that any such concept is far from reality. The paper has always been militant. Its writers have always dealt forcefully with what has been perceived to be error both without and within. But with very few exceptions (and there have been a few), the issue has been addressed without trying to discredit the men advancing the error. The charge that we have slandered an “aged luminary” is false. I have read every word that has been written in this paper and several others dealing with the position advocated by our beloved brother, Homer Hailey, now well advanced in years. If anyone has slandered him personally, I am not aware of it. The charge is false and is itself slanderous. His position, advocated both orally and in his book, has been opposed and correctly represented. His character has never been assailed and I would be among the first to react in outrage if it were.
“I Do Not Question Their Sincerity”
Our brother tries so hard to appear gracious while he challenges the very character of those connected with GOT. He said, “I do not question their sincerity.” Yet, on the same page he called us a “Christian Cosa Nostra” and said of one staff writer that “he needs desperately to learn to tell the truth” and then described him as a “bully” and a “coward.” So, here we have a “sincere” brother who can’t tell the truth and who is both a bully and a coward. But in spite of those liabilities, he is “sincere.” I dread the day when brother Chappelear takes off his gloves and decides that we are not sincere.
Are the brethren whose articles were published in this edition comfortable with the use made of their material? Do they wish to join in with brother Chappelear in the serious charges he has laid down?
Gossip and Foundation Business
Since brother Chappelear does not believe in gossip, how did he become privy to information which concerns our publishing work? Since he reports about commentary writers and others connected with the commentary series, how did he gain such information and is he certain that he has the story straight? I am very pleased to be a part of the process in the commentary project. It is a massive under-taking involving many writers over a period of several years (probably 15 years at best). The six commentaries which are now in print are excellent works which constitute worthy additions to anyone’s library. We do not think it necessary to screen every decision about writers, format, doctrinal problems in the text, or other business judgments through brother Chappelear or anyone else unrelated to the project. It strikes me that there is a considerable amount of gossip being traded and some who are all too eager to hear it and report it. Would those who have lectured us on love, kindness, respect and honor in dealing with each other, please take this into consideration?
What Shall We Do With Criticism?
All who write in a public forum are subject to review. That goes with the territory. All of us ought to act responsibly “in the spirit of meekness, lest thou (we) also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1-3). But criticism ought to be taken to heart. Is there some validity to it? What changes should be made to correct our course? Is it possible to attack the man and not his doctrine? Do we appear to be cold, harsh and uncaring? Do we tolerate some errors while exposing others? These are legitimate questions and I personally will take them to heart.
But Enough Is Enough
While brother Chappelear has every right to oppose what he believes to be error, he has no right to leave a cloud of suspicion over forty men who deserve better treatment than the September 30, 1996 edition of Sentry Magazine has administered. I for one, am not going to stand for it. It is time to call the hand of this editor. He needs to repent and apologize. We are waiting.
Guardian of Truth XL: No. 21, p. 3-4
November 7, 1996