By Cecil Willis
Occasionally there are reports heard that one hopes are untrue. Such is my attitude toward a report made by Leroy Garrett concerning a discussion that he had a few months ago with Bill Wallace, Editor of the Gospel Guardian. In the September, 1972 issue of Restoration Review which Leroy Garrett edits, Brother Garrett told of a visit to Lufkin, Texas for one of his “mini-meetings” (that’s what Garrett calls them) on his favorite theme, “Fellowship.”
Garrett stated that “Lufkin is the only city of any size in Texas, I think, where the ‘antis’ (conservatives) are in the majority.” I am not familiar enough with Texas to know whether Garretts analysis of conditions in Texas is correct or not. Leroy then proceeds to explain why the conservative influence is so strong in Lufkin. There is only one “mainline” (thats Garretts definition of “liberal”) church in Lufkin, while there are four or five other congregations “of substantial size” which are conservative.
Garrett explains the reasons for these conditions in Lufkin: “Leading figures of the anti persuasion have been associated with Lufkin: Yater Tant, Roy Cogdill, Charles Holt, William Wallace, and in an earlier day Cled and Foy Wallace. For some 20 years it was the home of the Gospel Guardian and the cradle of the Guardian angels.’ ” Garrett assures us that he loves “all our angels, anti as well as pro, and no longer allows folk to draw lines of fellowship for me ”
Then Brother Garrett details incidents concerning “a delightful and brotherly visit with Bill Wallace, editor of the Guardian, who related to me the story of the paper’s move to Athens, Alabama. He also told me that he is reexamining his own position of fellowship, suggesting that he finds it too difficult to live with his present position. He is not likely to go as far as to embrace Carl Ketchersides and my position, he observed, but he is moving in our direction.” (My emphasis-CW).
Garrett then states: “I wished that our brotherhood could see the Bill Wallace I then saw, not an ‘anti’ but a brother beloved who needs God’s grace just as we all do. Well, we are all changing and growing, and that’s what happens when Jesus comes into our lives. So Bill Wallace is changing, and the Guardian, and Lufkin. And from what I know that reaches me far beyond Lufkin, much of the ‘anti’ brotherhood is changing.”
As many of you know, Bill Wallace and I worked very closely together in the publishing of Truth Magazine, beginning in 1962. After several years, Bill was employed to manage the business affairs of the Gospel Guardian and soon thereafter purchased the Gospel Guardian from Brother Yater Tant. Leroy Garrett categorically states that “Bill Wallace is changing,” and so is the Guardian and that Wallace is moving in the direction of Ketcherside and Garret on the fellowship question.
Shortly after Bill purchased the Guardian, he traveled around the nation a good deal, and while doing so, was feeling “the pulse” of the brotherhood, as he expressed it. After he had felt the pulse of a good many brethren, he then proceeded in some articles to tell us what the brotherhood thought. During the time he was “feeling the pulse” of the brotherhood, Bill spent a night at my house. He and I spent most of the night in discussion. From his published reports, I could not detect any registration at all of my pulse, if indeed he even took it!
However, Bill said enough then to cause quite a few brethren to be apprehensive about where the Guardian might go, with Bill at the helm. Without exception, those whom I heard express apprehension considered themselves to be friends both to Bill Wallace and of the Gospel Guardian. Bill’s “pulse of the brotherhood” articles seemed to shake the confidence of a good many brethren in where the Guardian would stand, under Bill’s direction.
A little over two years ago, during the Florida College Lecture Program, I asked Bill to walk down by the Hillsborough River to talk with me. I confess that I too was one of those very apprehensive about what Bill had said, and told him so, in our discussion that (Jay. Finally, Bill summarized the situation in these words: “Truth Magazine takes the hardline approach on fellowship, while I we’ would take the more liberal approach.” At that time, I interpreted the “we” in Bill’s remark to mean just “Bill Wallace.” I did not then think there was anyone else connected with the Gospel Guardian who would take anything like a liberal stand on fellowship.
But with the passing of time, the personnel of the Guardian staff have undergone a drastic change. Excepting Yater Tant, gone, for the most part, from its pages are the names and writings of the men who made the reputation for faithfulness which so rightly had been attributed to the contents of the Gospel Guardian. Instead, in the places on the staff of the older stalwarts are two younger men. Each one of these men has somehow created a reputation for himself as having at least some sympathy toward the Ketcherside position on fellowship. I do not charge that either of them agrees with Ketcherside’s position 100% but as Garrett expressed it concerning Wallace, they seem to be “moving in our direction.”
It is evident that I am not alone in my apprehension about where the Guardian is going to end up standing on the fellowship question. Gordon Wilson, Associate Editor of Gospel Guardian, after receiving many requests that lie do so, recently wrote an article stating somewhat wherein he disagreed with Brother Ketcherside’s position on fellowship. Yet there are those who have left the St. Louis congregation where he preaches, charging that he has been sympathetic with the Ketcherside position on fellowship. Edward Fudge, also an Associate Editor of the Gospel Guardian, for ten years or so has been defensive of Brother Ketcherside and his efforts. In fact, the very first conversation I ever remember having with Edward Fudge was one in which he was defending Brother Ketcherside, while I was opposing him.
With there appearing to be considerable evidence that both Associate Editors of the Gospel Guardian have some sympathy for and affinity to the compromising position on fellowship, and now with the categorical charge by Leroy Garrett that Bill Wallace told him be “is reexamining his own position of fellowship, suggesting that be finds it too difficult to live with his present position. . . . (and) he is moving in our direction . . .” it appears that it is time that these brethren state in no uncertain terms where they stand on this important issue.
Recently there have been articles in the Guardian by both Yater and David Tant on fellowship, which articles I was glad to see. There has been no suspicion as to where these brethren stood on this issue, so far as I know. However, there have been grave doubts in the minds of many brethren for years about where Edward Fudge would end up. It is only recently that questions have begun to be raised about Gordon Wilson’s stance. It is going to take a more complete disclosure than the re-printing of an old article, in tract form, to remove the brethren’s doubts about where Ed Fudge stands. Gordon’s recently published article told some points wherein he disagrees with Ketcherside, but it said nothing about wherein he is in agreement with the Ketcherside position.
The Guardian has sought to clear the air by quoting some old editorials. Bill has repeated what he said a couple of years or so ago. But it seems to me that some comment would be in order about the Garrett claim that Wallace is uncomfortable with the position that he has heretofore held on fellowship, and that he definitely is moving in the Garrett-Ketcherside direction. Bill, if this does not correctly represent what you told Leroy, you should clarify the matter.
For at least five years, I have been very concerned about what appeared to be an inevitable battle among us on the question of fellowship. Somehow I had hoped the problem would go away, but it has not. Consequently, James Adams is even now in the midst of a thorough and extensive examination of the subject of fellowship in his series of articles now being carried in this paper. I sincerely hope that we do not find that our allies in battles past are now our foes on this present important subject. I know of no way to find out exactly where the Guardian stands on this issue than to publicly ask that the Editor and Associate Editors make their position known, loud and clear.
The Gospel Guardian has meant much to me as an instrument through which badly needed truth was propagated, and error of every description was exposed. That is the kind of paper I would like to see the Gospel Guardian continue to be, and that is the kind of paper we intend to strive diligently to make Truth Magazine continue to be. We have no competitive disposition toward the Gospel Guardian. Searching the Scriptures, and the Preceptor, but it is very important that we all strive diligently to hew to the line, and let the chips fall where they may. As I see it, the Gospel Guardian has not yet hewed quite up to the mark on the fellowship question, and I am simply asking that they speak out loud and clear.
Bill Wallace has long been a very close personal friend. My friendship with Gordon Wilson has not been as intimate, but it always has been cordial. My relationship with Edward Fudge has been one in which we have often differed, but on a friendly basis. This article no doubt will stir up a little dust. But an article I was reading just a few moments ago exactly expresses my sentiment. Said one writer: “We detest clandestine consorting with unbelievers while pretending to be loyal preachers of the ancient Gospel. The honest man would rather speak the truth than save a friendship.” Though spoken by a Christian Church preacher as he opposed involvement in the “Key 73” program (about which we will have more to say later), these remarks express my feelings exactly.
I do not charge Wallace, Wilson, or Fudge with consorting with an “unbeliever,” but I must confess that each one has left me a little hazy about where he stands on the Garrett-Ketcherside-Fellowship issue, and I would like to have that cleared up once and for all, and the sooner the better. And if an article that might bring me a few kicks in the shins will accomplish that purpose, it will have been worthwhile.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 25, pp. 3-5
April 26, 1973