Loose! Loose! Loose! (Report on Unity Forum In Huntsville, Alabama)

By Robert F. Hendrix

NOTE: (R.L. Kilpatrick, editor of Ensign (formerly Ensign Fair], recently organized one of W. Carl Katcherside’s Unity Forums in Huntsville, Alabama. A printed announcement gave this objective: “To open the avenues of communication between churches of the Restoration Movement, denominational churches, and individuals in the interest of Christian fellowship and brotherly love. ” The report filed here was made by Robert Hendrix, faithful preacher for the Gooch Lane Church of Christ near Huntsville. Often confused with another faithful preacher named Roger, Robert had done most of his preaching among churches in middle Tennessee and north Alabama.

Brother Hendrix is well qualified to analyze the current misnamed grace-unity movement. A fine son of his was tragically disturbed by the Ketcherside-Fudge doctrines and ended up forsaking the gospel of Christ entirely. Brother Hendrix said in a note accompanying his article, “If I had known this early in the game, I believe we could have had more success with helping him. ” This tragedy was unfolding during 1973 and was one of several such instances known to me personally which motivated me to publish reviews of Ed Fudge’s doctrines that year. To those who believe Truth Magazine `jumped the gun” and also dealt too harshly with the Fudge influence, let me say that for many like brother Hendrix’s son we acted too late and were overly patient. These latter are the faults, not those imputed by certain critics, for which I seek God’s mercy.

In his personal note, brother Hendrix added these comments on the Unity Forum: “At each session they served coffee and other free refreshments and overwhelmed everyone who attended with courtesy . . . this is what impresses those who are not spiritually minded and sets them up for converts – then to feed them with such hogwash as `do your own thing and you are still our brother’ keeps them hanging on. You would have believed that you were at a performance of the PTL Club by the way each session started, with Dr. Don Finto whooping it up with `praise the Lord’ exclamations, spontaneous singing, chanting of Scripture, hand clapping, closing eyes and singing, etc. Ed Fudge was there two nights along with . . . a few from Athens. It makes me terribly sad to see the deceit of the unknowing visitors taking place right before my eyes, for there are always some present who don’t know the right hand from the left. ” Brother Hendrix asked in one of the sessions if the man who had been lauding all the denominations thought that “the Lord planted the Methodist Church, Christian Church, etc., ” especially “in view of Matthew 15:13. ” He admitted that the answer is, “No. ” These comments accurately portray the technique of the so-called grace-unity movement. The unwary are subjected to a subtle combination of gushing courtesy, the popular do-your-own-thing philosophy, and an informal entertaining atmosphere which brings the worship of God down to the level of a high school pep rally. Ron Halbrook)

On the dates of April 15-17, 1980, brother W. Carl Ketcherside was featured in parlor “A” of the Von Braun Civic Center, in Huntsville, Alabama, in a “Christian Unity Forum.” As I sat listening, recording, and taking notes of what occurred in the 7:30 Tuesday and Thursday evening sessions, and listening and asking questions in the Wednesday and Thursday 9:30 morning “Open Forum Discussion” sessions, the words at the heading of this article came to my mind. From some of the notes I am now rereading about what went on this week in this “Christian Unity Forum,” the following line appears on my note pad, “I feel that the thrust of this forum is shouting, `Loose, Loose, Loose,’ and we can have unity among all of our brethren.” Regardless of the subject of any of the five sessions that were carried out this week, without exception this thought seemed to jump out and grab you! I do not believe as brother Ketcherside, the featured speaker, and Joe Black (minister of the Cahaba Valley Church of Christ, Birmingham, Alabama), master of ceremonies and panel member on Open Forum Discussion; Don Finto (minister of the Belmont Church of Christ, Nashville, Tennessee), song director for all features, and panel member; and Bud Plaster (pastor of the First Christian Church or Disciples of Christ, Jackson, South Carolina) panel member, that the solution to uniting the religious world today is to “loose where Jesus did not loose.”

At four of the five sessions which I attended (I missed the Wednesday 7:30 p.m. gathering), the thought was expressed and stressed that we “should love everybody,” “all of God’s children are in some kind of error” (none is perfect), and consequently there is “liberty in Christ,” so we should be “loose” in our thinking on whom we can fellowship.

Brethren, I believe in and stand whole heartedly for “losing where Jesus loosed.” I also believe and preach the other side of the coin; Jesus taught in the same connection with losing that the faithful should “bind whatsoever had been bound in heaven” (Matt. 18:18). Paul charges that preachers should “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” (2 Tim. 4:2), and two-thirds of that charge is not loose, loose, and exhort! We had better be courageous and faithful to point out sin wherever it pops up, and condemn it, as well as encourage and exhort wherever the situation is worthy of it, and be sure that the authority for doing both is God’s Word rather than the “think-so’s” or beliefs and feelings” of men.

It was obvious that the leaders in this Christian Unity Forum as well as the majority of those in attendance (possibly 150-200 was the largest attendance at any one session) were of the following opinions: (1) The body of Christ is made up,’ of “baptized believers in Jesus Christ.” (2) These “Christians” are in every denomination and regardless of what name one wears (Christian, Methodist, Baptist, etc.) or whether he insists on using the instruments of music, and many other things, he should be considered a bother with whom we are in fellowship in serving Christ. In the 7:30 p.m. opening address, “The Fellowship of Life,” the featured speaker used the church at Corinth as an example of how Christians should be loose and feel free to fellowship just about everything. He said (and I quote from my tape), “Now just remember this, 1 Corinthians 1:9, God is faithful by whom ye were called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Now that was said to the church of Corinth, and the church at Corinth was a real doozie of a congregation. I want you to know that I have seen a lot of real congregations in my life that would rack your soul, but I have never in all the born days of my life, I have never seen one like Corinth. ” He went on in his great oratical style to expound on their being divided four ways over men, having lawsuits, believing in no resurrection, abusing the Lord’s supper, and practicing fornication and idolatry. His purpose was to leave the conclusion that we are entirely out of harmony with the scriptures to think we can’t fellowship just about everything and everyone today. This is the note on which the forum began and ended.

Brethren, let us not be taken by the smooth speech of men regardless of their supposed sincerity. God did not condone and fellowship those groups of sinful men in Corinth, neither will he do so in regard to the same sins today. He told the church to “. . . put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (1 Cor. 5:13). This clearly shows that those who refuse to repent after proper discipline – both instructive and corrective – are considered to be disorderly (2 Thess. 3:6), and with such, Christians are “not to eat” (1 Cor. 5:11). Yes, brethren, being as narrow as “truth” (Jn. 17:17) as well as “losing where God has loosed” is the basis of Christian Unity.

Truth Magazine XXIV: 28, pp. 459-460
July 17, 1980