By Connie W. Adams
Word has gone out far and wide that the long and eventful life of the beloved Homer Hailey came to an end on Wednesday, November 7, 2000. He was 97 years of age with his life spanning most of the twentieth century. A product of the southwest, he remained in heart and spirit a cowboy. His character was honed by early poverty, religious conflict, love of teaching and preaching and by the multitude of friends (and some enemies) he encountered over the years of his life.
For many years he was a well known and popular preacher of the gospel. After he began teaching at Abilene Christian College and later at Florida College, his summers were always spent in gospel meetings throughout the nation. Many young men sat at his feet in Bible classes and found use for what they learned all over the world. It was my personal privilege to know brother Hailey well and to have studied under him at Florida College in the early fifties. I found him to be not only a stimulating teacher but a warm and understanding counselor. He gave me good advice before we went to Norway to preach. While still his student, he gave me much help at a time of personal dilemma as to how far to proceed in the entertainment business and what effect that might have on preaching the gospel or even remaining faithful to the Lord under all the pressures and temptations which attend that kind of life. I shall ever be grateful.
His greatest work perhaps was done and shall remain in the numerous books he wrote, some of which remain classics in their field. His work on the Minor Prophets, Isaiah, Job, the Gospel of John, and the Book of Revelation are truly classics. They deserve a place in the libraries of those who seriously study the Bible.
During much of his life he entertained a view on marriage, divorce and remarriage with which many brethren, including this writer, disagreed. For many years he held this as a private conviction and stated to me in the early 50s, when I asked him about this subject, that he was not preaching on this over the country and that he knew many brethren did not agree with him. He did state that if someone should ask him his views on the matter, he would be frank to tell them. Somewhere in the mid-to-late 1980s he became more outspoken on the subject and even published a book on The Divorced and Remarried Who Would Come To God. This resulted in published opposition to his view that the alien sinner is not subject to God’s marriage law until he becomes a Christian. This writer was among those who reviewed his position. A firestorm grew out of the effort of some to explain and defend their continued fellowship with him after this evident shift in his practice from private conviction to public advocacy. From that has sprung the controversy over Romans 14 and its use in regard to the issue of marriage, divorce and remarriage and the limits of fellowship. Along with that has come a controversy over what constitutes a false teacher. It has been hard for some to separate their love and admiration for a beloved teacher from the issues of scriptural teaching involved.
I do not believe that Homer Hailey ever intended for there to be contention over him and what he believed. Further, it is this writer’s view, for whatever it is worth, that Homer Hailey never needed anyone, however well-intentioned, to fight his battles for him. That runs counter to everything about the very makeup of this rugged individual of the old west. What these well-meaning brethren did was to make brother Hailey an issue instead of the position he took on the disputed subject. It grieves me to think that some who did not have the privilege of knowing and studying with this warm and wonderful man, will judge his whole life and teaching only in terms of this controversy.
The editor of this magazine has been severely criticized for running ads for some of brother Hailey’s books on the ground that it is inconsistent to publish material which opposes the position our brother took on that one subject while advertising his books on the other hand. As was pointed out earlier in this notice, his work on these other subjects was outstanding, and Bible students for years to come should have access to his work. I cannot recommend his book on divorce and remarriage. But I surely can recommend his many books which have nothing to do with that subject. Putting one’s book in your personal library for study purposes is not equal to inviting one to occupy the pulpit in a local church. It does not constitute endorsement of error on any subject.
It personally saddens me that he became the subject of so much controversy late in his life. He continued to study and write until near the end. He maintained a kind and generous spirit. My own correspondence with him was always pleasant, even when it dealt with the disputed subject. He was what he was. He said what he believed. He spent his life challenging all who knew him to study the Bible, believe it and obey it. He would have been among the first to agree that none of us should “think of men above that which is written.” For my part, I will treasure the opportunity to know and study with this good man while remaining in opposition to what he taught on divorce and remarriage with all of the fallout that has produced. Some men cast longer shadows upon the pages of religious history than others. Such was the case with Homer Hailey. We leave, as we must, the record of his long life in the hands of a righteous Father who always judges according to truth (Rom. 2:2).
P.O.Box 91346, Fern Creek, Kentucky 40291