History of the Church in Nashville and this Issue of Truth Magazine

By Ron Halbrook and Harry E. Ozment

This issue of Truth Magazine carries articles by men in the Nashville area. Before moving to Nashville, the present writer knew of only one or two churches in this area holding to the old paths-though, in reality, there were many more. Our faith cannot stand in numbers, but we can rejoice to know of the good work being done by those of. like precious faith. Elijah must have been both surprised and encouraged to learn that there were 7,000 times as many as he thought who had not bowed to Baal. A native preacher in a foreign land had been told that only a handful of churches in America opposed centralization and-institutionalism. He was surprised and encouraged to see the number of church ads in just one issue of a journal published by faithful brethren! We hope, this issue of Truth Magazine will enlighten and encourage. We would like to be enlightened and encouraged by seeing such special issues prepared by men in other areas: Along with the history and progress of the work in Nashville, the timely articles presented by Nashville brethren should be of benefit.

Elsewhere in this issue, Steve Wolfgang deals with the history of gospel preaching in Nashville up until about 1940. During the premillennial controversy of the 1930’s, some brethren showed a spirit of laxness and compromise in the Nashville area. Also, there seemed to be a growing indifference in the mid-1940’s. Another portent of future trouble was the effort of men like Robert Alexander of Abilene Christian College (Abilene, Texas) and A. C. Pullias of David Lipscomb College (Nashville) to get colleges into church budgets. In the first half of the Twentieth Century, brethren generally defended the right of colleges which taught Bible (along with secular courses) to exist as individual enterprises and adjuncts to the home. Church donations to such institutions were considered unscriptural. (We do not mean that whatever was the “traditional” position determines what is actually scriptural.) It is also true that some brethren felt such donations were only inexpedient (see N. B. Hardeman, Gospel Advocate, May 29, 1947, p. 371), or else were both scriptural and expedient. Several brethren thought there was a “difference between making a donation to something and supporting that something as a regular responsibility of a church” (G. C. Brewer, Firm Foundation, June 10, 1947, p. 3). Brethren like N. B. Hardeman apparently had this ,supposed distinction in mind when they said they were opposed to the “policy” of putting the college in the church budget. (Robert E. Henson worked and traveled with N. B. Hardeman of Freed-Hardeman College for many years; Henson told me he saw Hardeman discuss the school with brethren after services in many small country churches and accept a contribution either from the individuals or the church treasury. Yet neither Hardeman nor the college advocated the “policy” of the college in church budgets. Similarly, the acting. head of the Bible Department of Harding College told me in 1966 that Harding would accept church donations but had no “policy” of soliciting them. But C. R. Nichol said he promptly returned any donations sent from churches when he was in college work. (See Firm Foundation, May 20, 1947, p. 1.) Finally, some brethren felt the colleges had no right to’ exist under any circumstances; this has been called the Sommerite view, though Daniel Sommer did not hold it himself in the latter part of his life. Sommer’s extreme view was probably a reaction to some extreme things said by brethren appealing for funds for colleges, as can be seen in A Written Discussion on the Bible School Between Daniel Sommer and J. N. Armstrong (1908).

G. C. Brewer’s public appeal for funds to support Abilene Christian College during its 1938 lectures, included a call for church donations. W. W..Otey was in the audience and repeatedly challenged the scripturalness of such action through journals like Firm Foundation. Otey had controversy with Hardeman also. The Bible Banner hit this issue very hard in the 1940’s, trying to get men like Hardeman and some other Nashville figures to clarify and defend their position in favor of church donations. The Gospel Advocate had spokesmen who opposed any church donations to colleges in men like Foy E. Wallace, Jr. (1931 editor) and F. B. Srygley (long-time writer). But when B. C. Goodpasture became editor in 1939 (a position he still holds in 1975), the stage was set for removing such opposition from the pages of the Advocate. Of course, H. Leo Boles and other Advocate writers had supported the view that churches could donate to colleges through the years (“Colleges and Church Autonomy,” Gospel Advocate, Feb. 25, 1937, p. 6). When the Gospel Guardian of May 1949 appeared, publisher Roy E. Cogdill, editor Fanning Yater Tant, and co-editor Foy E. Wallace, Jr. were united in opposition to such donations. To the writings of these men were shortly added those of Cled Wallace, R. L. Whiteside, and others. In the past, Cled had written “Sword Swipes” in the Advocate, Whiteside had served as “Query Editor,” and Cogdill had written “Texas News and Notes.”

Those who were outspoken in favor of church donations to colleges were also convinced that churches could support benevolent institutions such as orphan homes. But the latter was not the center of controversy in the 1940’s around Nashville or anywhere else; for instance, in a lengthy article on the college issue, G. C. Brewer said only this on the orphan home, “And he (W. W. Otey) must surely tell us about Orphan Homes” (Firm Foundation, June 10, 1947, pp. 1-3). In the 1950’s, certain men who favored church support of colleges began to press more and more the argument that if churches could not support colleges, they could not support orphan homes. Many brethren were told in the 1950’s that the whole issue amounted to this: men like Robert Jackson of Nashville simply did not believe in helping poor little orphans.

In the late 1940’s, Willard Collins and A. C. Pullias directed expansion programs for David Lipscomb College. They raised money from church treasuries or from individuals-either way they could get it. Some Nashville churches like Old Hickory did not give from the treasury, but the members would agree to give so much as individuals and would even raise money doorto-door. Pullias told Rufus Clifford that though “we” were not strong enough to really fight premillennialism, “we ‘are” strong enough to fight in favor of church support for colleges. In the ,early 1950’s, Pullias preached strongly in favor of church support of orphan homes in an effort to get the treasuries opened to colleges as well. As the 1950’s wore on, there was less use of any preachers in Nashville who opposed the college in the church budget. An open breach was appearing.

Open forums were held at the David Lipscomb College lectures in 1954; Robert Jackson and C. E. W. Dorris attended and asked some questions. A panel.,of elders on how to select a local preacher said an “anti” should not be hired. Jackson asked them to identify an “anti.” Jack Boyd, an elder from Ashland City, said if the local elders were challenged and the preacher disagreed with them, that was “anti-ism.” Then he added, “We heard that you were ‘anti’ and now we know you are.” Public marking would continue in the 1950’s; Robert Jackson stood firm throughout these years, supplying strength and encouragement to many in and around Nashville. About 1956, the recreation craze started and ‘Widened the breach. Rufus Clifford had gone to Lawrenceburg in 1951, but moved back to Nashville in 1960. As his stand became more known, he too was marked. He had many meetings cancelled in the period between 1959-62. The lines were tightly drawn during this period. Harris Dark preached at Franklin Rd. and other places in Nashville; his influence was a major factor in helping brethren understand the issues in the 1950’s. During the heat of the battles in the 1950’s, only a few churches in Nashville stood against digression: Franklin Road, Riverside Dr., Joseph Ave., Eastland Ave., and Millersville. Several of the 100 churches in Nashville and Davidson County took no distinctive stand of any kind; but, in the latter 1950’s some churches like Duke St. were known to be standing firm and new works like Due West and Perry Heights were started as the result of outright division (Due West out of Madison and Perry Heights out of Donelson). A liberal group now meets at the old Joseph Ave. building.

Some of the reasons which have been suggested for the strength of liberalism in Nashville (and other areas) are: (1) Gaining control of elderships. Through the influence of the Gospel Advocate and David Lipscomb College, enough elders were reached to gradually cut off men among the churches who opposed institutionalism. Ultimately, -the elders, ,college, and paper stood together as somewhat of an interlocking unit. (2) The influence of well-known preachers who came out in support of liberalism one by one. Men like George DeHoff, John D. Cox, Paul Matthews, and Leon Burns were considered stalwarts; the position these men took was followed with little question in too many cases. (3) The college training of preachers to accept the idea of church donations to colleges. Ira Douthit told Rufus Clifford in about 1950 that through the influence of preachers the colleges trained, the college brethren would take control of the churches, hold sway over them, and get the college in the budget. Douthit indicated the process would take about 25 years. Clifford said in January of 1975, “It has come in these 25 years!”

As of January 1975, including old and new works, the following established churches are standing against institutionalism, centralization, and social-gospel practices in the Nashville area (Davidson County and area): (1) Franklin Road, (2) Riverside Dr., (3) Eastland, (4) Perry Heights, (5) Brentwood, (6) Hillview, (7) Broadmoor, (8) Kemper Heights, (9) Millersville, (10) Glencliff, (11) Lakeview in Hendersonville, (12) Tulip Grove in Hermitage, and (13) Duke St. Other good works could be added by reaching a little further beyond the Davidson County lines, such as East Cheatham, two Franklin churches, Dickson, and, in Gallatin, the Long Hollow Pike church. Our purpose is pot to present an exhaustive account nor a “complete and official” list of churches, brethren, or anything else. Our aim is to give a sketch of the background and some idea of the work being done in the Nashville area.

Nashville-area brethren who have articles in this issue of Truth Magazine include Howard See of the Eastland church. Harris Dark, Dorris Billingsley, and others helped start Eastland in 1948. A debate with Pentecostals was recently held there. The Eastland church sends support to gospel preachers in various areas in addition to supporting a young man (Steve Woodruff) who is working part-time alongside brother See. The article on early church history in Nashville is by Steve Wolfgang who works with West Main in Franklin. West Main was begun in 1950 by members from the old Fourth Ave. church where such men as E. A. Elam, Hall L. Calhoun, James E. Scobey, and F. W. Smith (an editor of Gospel Advocate ) had labored. In spite of a “swarming” in 1973 which began the Royal Heights work, West End has maintained about 140 in attendance and $400.00 contribution per week. David Lanius, who has an article on the perennial problem of neglecting the assembly, labors with the Millersville church. This work began in 1953; Billy Harrell preached to a group of 50 at the first service. The work in Millersville, is stable, self-supporting, and active through a radio program among other things, with an average attendance of 115 at the Sunday morning service.

Billy Ashworth, Wolfgang’s father-in-law, has written on “Negotiation or Confrontation.” He preaches at Oak Ave. in Dickson. Robert Jackson had been the first preacher with the Academy St. church which began in 1952. When the building burned in 1967, the church moved to the Oak Ave. location in a new building. Sunday morning attendance is 270; several men are being aided including Steve Bobbit who is being wholly supported in his effort to establish the work at nearby Waverly. Brother Ashworth is recovering from a recent heart attack. Baptists, brethren, and bus ministries receive attention in the article by Dan King of the Long Hollow Pike church in Gallatin. When that work began in a converted dwelling in 1967, it was known as the Bales St. church. The name changed when they moved into the new building in 1972. From the original attendance and contribution of 33 and $61.00, they have grown to 70 and $290.00 respectively. Ron Halbrook works with the Broadmoor church (formerly Ewing Lane). This congregation began in 1962 and moved into a new building in 1971. The program of work has steadily increased at Broadmoor; for instance, the entire membership is taking a Bible correspondence course with a view to enrolling friends and neighbors shortly. Sunday morning attendance is 130-140.

Ronald Mosby writes on how we know God’s mind. In the latter part of 1974, he began preaching with the Brentwood church which was formed by a “swarm” from Franklin Road. Brentwood first met in 1973, using the basement of a Methodist building; a large horse barn was purchased and renovated to make an excellent meetinghouse. The work is already self-supporting, having 90 members and over $700.00 weekly contribution. Rufus Clifford, well-known gospel preacher in middle Tennessee, writes on a much needed topic, “The Creed That Needs No Revision.” In 1973, brother Clifford went with a group from West Main in Franklin to establish another sound work to be known as Royal Heights. Besides a daily radio program, Royal Heights has been supporting a large number of men. The attendance averages 240. Harry Ozment, who aided in preparing this article, labors with what began as the West Side church in 1966, became Lakewood in ’67, and is now known as Tulip Grove (since 1974 when they moved into a new building). Attendance has grown from 15 in 1966 to over 100 presently. In Nashville, as elsewhere, much of the good work being done is known only to God. Much is being done, but much more remains to be done.

Truth Magazine XIX: 28, pp. 435-437
May 22, 1975