By Cecil Willis
Elsewhere in this issue I am re-printing an article that was written by my friend, William E. Wallace, Editor of the Gospel Guardian. This article entitled “The Political Mr. Willis” appeared in the November 22, 1973 Gospel Guardian, and constituted the first in three very harsh articles written by Brother Wallace attempting to reply to some of the things which have been written in Truth Magazine by Brother James W. Adams and me regarding some positions taken by Brother Edward Fudge, Associate Editor of the Gospel Guardian, on the subjects of grace, fellowship and some related issues.
In this article entitled “The Political Mr. Willis,” it appears to me that Brother Wallace stooped to an all-time low in journalism among faithful brethren. Bill Wallace and I have been friends for nearly twenty years. I do not intend to let what he says in a few articles written under great pressure, and possibly while his blood pressure was considerably elevated, destroy my friendship with him. In case you do not take the Gospel Guardian, I suggest that you write for the issues pertaining to this discussion. Two other lengthy, but similar articles, appeared after the one reprinted in this issue of Truth Magazine. Please write the Gospel Guardian and request the other two articles that followed in this series. The last article that appeared that I have seen as I write this article on December 15, 1973 was received yesterday. It is dated December 13th. Bill’s December 13th article filled five pages of the Gospel Guardian. I believe his other article appeared in the December 8th issue of the Gospel Guardian, though I do not have a copy of it before me as I write. It will be dealt with later.
In the Masthead of the Gospel Guardian, I do not see any single issue price listed. Perhaps they will send you copies of these issues free. But if not, please purchase them. The address of the Gospel Guardian is Box 858, Athens, Alabama 35611. Several other articles have appeared since April, 1973 pertaining to this discussion on fellowship. Preferably, you should read all-of their articles on that subject. I cannot speak for them, but Truth Magazine will now send you completely free of charge the entire series of 20 articles by James W. Adams, plus the articles by Ron Halbrook, and those which I have written, so long as our supply lasts. In my judgment, this entire series of articles is tremendously important to every brother interested in keeping up with what is going on among churches opposed to congregational support of human institutions and to sponsoring churches. If you have not kept up with the discussions in past months, you need to catch up. So please write both the Gospel Guardian and Truth Magazine for copies of pertinent issues. Ours will be sent free, as long as our supply lasts. Of course, I have no authority to offer copies of the Gospel Guardian free to you. Purchase them, if you must, but be sure you read Brother Wallace’s three articles, beginning with the November 22nd issue.
To “fill in” anyone who has not kept up on his reading, let me simply state that a discussion has been going on for several months regarding the position of some brethren on the subject of “Fellowship.” Particularly under fire, from many sources both oral and written, has been the position of Gospel Guardian Associate Editor, Edward Fudge. In order to try to clarify Brother Fudge’s position, within the last two weeks Editor Wallace has spoken at Expressway church in Louisville, Kentucky; Indianapolis, Indiana; Hobart, Indiana; Lufkin, Texas; and somewhere in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. At the Louisville discussion, which was the only one I was able to attend, ‘due to some necessary minor surgery, I publicly offered to pay the fare to get Brother Edward Fudge present for such a discussion, since it was evident to all present that it was primarily Brother Fudge’s position that was under fire. Brother Wallace stated publicly that he thought it would take considerable “smoking out” (his terminology) to get Brother Fudge into such a session. I even offered to provide some of the heat necessary to “smoke him out” and to get him into one of these discussion sessions, and asked Brother Wallace if he would agree to provide the other necessary heat to “smoke him out.” After some hesitation, Brother Wallace stated that he would not promise then and there publicly to help “smoke out” Brother Fudge.
There have been some remarks made by Brother Wallace indicating that some of us had misrepresented Brother Fudge, and that we had made derogatory remarks regarding Brother Edward. Though the tapes of the Louisville meeting have not yet been transcribed, I am prepared to state now that Brother Wallace said more derogatory remarks concerning what Brother Fudge believes, and concerning his inability or unwillingness to state clearly what he believes, than any of us, or all of us combined who have criticized Brother Fudge’s position. As soon as the tapes are transcribed, I will document this statement.
Though Brother Wallace stated in one of his articles that I was enjoying this discussion, his statement merely indicates the truthfulness of Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 2:11 indicating that no man can know the heart of another man, unless that man specifically reveals the contents of his heart. The fact is that this necessary discussion has grieved me much; certainly as much as it has grieved Brother Wallace or Brother Fudge. One of my major concerns has been, “Where and when is this discussion going to end?” No answer to that question has yet become evident to me.
One thing is for sure. I have determined that the discussion, so far as my part in it is concerned, will not end until the damaging teaching of Edward Fudge is stopped, and until Brother Wallace quits trying to cover up for Brother Fudge. Brother Wallace has charged that I wanted to run the brotherhood. Once again, he evidences that he does not know a man’s heart. He is as wrong as a man can be about my intentions and desires. He even cites some unnamed brother who is supposed to have said that “Cecil Willis is trying to head-up his, own Church of Christ. . . .” Brother Wallace has permitted himself to believe a lie in regard to this matter. Cecil Willis- abhors as utterly repugnant the thought of any man “heading-up” Christ’s church, and deeply resents the false charge that such a sinister intention might’ exist in his heart. It would be most interesting to know who the “renowned brother among us” is who convinced Brother Wallace to believe this lie. If Brother Wallace will name the “renowned brother,” I will call him what he is: an unmitigated liar! Do you care to tell us who this “renowned brother” is, Brother Wallace? One brother said to me, “I wonder if it is the same brother who said to me in April, 1968 that something is going- to have to be done about the loose teaching being done in the Gospel Guardian:” I pray that it was not this “renowned brother” who maligned me and perjured himself.
It is my, opinion that a corner recently may have been turned in this controversy. Brother Wallace stated in Louisville that if he met the same nearly unanimous objection to Brother Fudge’s teachings elsewhere as he did in Louisville, he would have to “reassess” Brother Fudge’s relationship to the Gospel Guardian. Frankly, I felt sorry for Bill in Louisville. He got punched around in the open forum period like a punching bag. So far as I was able to tell, there was only one person present in sympathy with Brother Wallace’s defense of Brother Edward Fudge. And Bill found out while in Louisville what a number of other brethren already knew: that brother was preaching for a liberal church, though a fairly frequent writer in the Gospel Guardian, and also in the ultra-liberal Mission magazine. Bill told me afterward that learning what he did about the only sympathizer that he had present (so far as I know), he was going to have to “cut him off” as a writer in the Gospel Guardian. Now if you want to see if he does so, watch to see if any other articles appear by young Brother Stephen Goad!
While I, certainly have no aspirations to “head-up” my own Church of Christ,” however, it does happen that I am a member of the Lord’s church. I also attempt both to preach and to write lessons on the gospel of Christ, and to oppose error within and without the church. If Edward Fudge is not a teacher of “pernicious error” (as Brother James Adams has called it), I completely have misunderstood him. Brother Wallace stated in Louisville that he did not know why Brother Fudge cannot express himself clearly. I think the trouble is that he has expressed himself clearly enough that nearly every person present for the Louisville discussion (and there were perhaps 200 present) seemed to understand precisely what Brother Fudge was saying. In fact, Brother Wallace stated Brother Fudge’s position on the imputation of the righteous life of Christ to those who have “imperfect knowledge” and therefore practice instrumental music and institutionalism, and that such persons will be saved by virtue of the imputation to them of Christ’s righteous life. Brother Wallace stated exactly what I had understood Fudge to be saying, and stated it so clearly that so far as I could tell, virtually every person present recognized it for the palpable and pernicious error that it is. Bill took an unmerciful beating in the open forum. He even stated that Brother Fudge, who told us in the November 8th Gospel Guardian how that the “Lord naturally endowed” him with a “gentle” spirit, would have “lost his cool” under the barrage of questions which Brother Wallace had to field in Brother’s Fudge’s defense.
Earlier I referred to my wonderment about where all this discussion might end. I cannot speak for others, and will not attempt to do so. But so’ far as I am concerned, the discussion will end either when Edward Fudge quits teaching ;- his Calvinistic doctrine on grace and his latitudinarianism on fellowship, or when the effect of his teaching. has been so nullified that- young gospel preachers will cease to be destroyed by it. The- casualty list grows increasingly longer. About ten days ago, a young preacher called me late at night, and nearly in tears (perhaps literally in tears), begged me not to let up now. He had just, that night received word from the parents of another young preacher whose faith had been destroyed by the false teaching of Edward Fudge.
Brother Wallace referred to me as “The Political Mr. Willis.” Yet he admitted that he was out “feeling, the pulse of the brotherhood” again. If the brotherhood objected too strongly, he was going to have to “reassess” Brother Fudge’s relationship to the Gospel Guardian, and said that if he got in other places the same response that he received in Louisville, he would be forced to ask for Brother Fudge’s resignation. Brother, that- is religious politics! If the brotherhood will continue to tolerate such a false teacher, Brother Wallace will leave him on the staff. If the brotherhood objects too strongly, he will ask for Brother Fudge’s resignation. Talk about somebody being political!
If Brother Wallace meant what he said, and if indeed he can demand the resignation of the son of the major stockholder who owns the Gospel Guardian, then I think we soon will see the withdrawal of Brother Edward Fudge from the staff of the Gospel Guardian. But what of that? Does that solve the problem? If they were to put Ed Fudge in a capsule and shot him to the moon, as long as his false teaching continued to wreck and ruin young preachers, his teaching would have to be opposed. The Gospel Guardian has been one of the primary instruments of Ed’s damaging influence. If Brother Wallace wants to convince brethren he is going to try to “clean house” and get the Gospel Guardian on scriptural foundation again, let him oppose Ed’s false teaching, correct the error taught by Brother Fudge, and try to help salvage some of the’ young preachers on the brink of spiritual wreckage as the result of Ed’s grace-fellowship error. Then I will be among the first to commend the Gospel Guardian, and will do all I can to help it regain the confidence of faithful brethren, which confidence it has lost.
Brother Wallace would have you to believe that I would like to seethe Gospel Guardian die, because this might help Truth Magazine somehow. Wrong again, Brother Bill! I would like to see the Gospel Guardian contend for the truth, and oppose error, like it has in the past, and like it did when it built up the good reputation it once enjoyed, Set the Gospel Guardian on a good sound; militant course, and then ask me to help you promote it. See how quickly I will join hands with you, and try to help it regain the confidence the Gospel Guardian once enjoyed. Set the record straight, set the course straight, and call on me to do anything within my power to help you salvage the Gospel Guardian. You do your part, and then see whether I will do my part. Wonder why I would want to see the Gospel Guardian die, but would delight in the prosperity of Searching the Scriptures, Preceptor, Bible Standard, and every other good paper operated by faithful and true brethren? And just for the sake of the record, let me state that Bill Wallace told me that the CEI Company did over $100,000.00 a year more in business than did Truth Magazine. Brother, “contend earnestly for the faith,” and you will have every ounce of encouragement and assistance I can give you. But early in my life, I committed myself to oppose error and compromise, and I do not intend now to change my course, God being my Helper!
The articles Brother Wallace wrote, and my replies, may sound like we detest each other. That is not the case. After the Louisville exchange, Brother Wallace came to Indianapolis, and went the next day to Hobart, Indiana. On his way back home, he drove considerably out of his way to come by my home to visit me. He told me he had some rough articles coming out about Truth Magazine and me. He urged me not to get too upset over them. He said he hoped to be in contact with me again in two weeks or so, and I hope the contact is made. He wanted to talk to me after a December CEI Board meeting. I promised Bill I would not be unduly upset about his articles, but also asked that he not be unduly upset about what I had to say in response to them. I must confess that his articles were rougher and indicted my motives much more than I anticipated that he would do. But as I agreed, I am not so upset by them that I cannot meet and talk congenially with my friend and brother, Bill Wallace. But there are some other things he said that demand reply, and I intend to correct some other erroneous statements he made.
Meanwhile, write for the Gospel Guardian containing the aforementioned articles, and lets all watch to see if Associate Editor Fudge resigns, or if Editor Wallace asks for his resignation. The CEI Board of Directors consists of four women and one man. I sincerely hope proper steps will be made to regain the good reputation of the Gospel Guardian, rather than to continue to permit it to be used as an instrument through which to promulgate Calvinistic and latitudinarian error, and to instigate compromise with false teachers.
At Louisville, Bill stated it was the intention of the owners of the Gospel Guardian to turn the Gospel Guardian into a Twentieth Century Christian-like, paper. Let me suggest that if you want a Twentieth Century Christian-like paper, you can order the real thing from Nashville, Tennessee. However, I. personally cannot recommend it.
Truth Magazine, XVIII:7, p. 3-6
December 13, 1973