To Set The Record Straight:Recent Studies With Homer Halley On Divorce And Remarriage

By Ron Holbrook, Harry R. Osborne, Lee Stewart, Tim P. Stevens

(An advance copy of this article was sent to brother Hailey with our request that he prepare any comment or response which he would like to have published along with this article. He declined to offer anything at this time but is “more convinced now than ever before of the truth of the position I hold.”

The reader should be aware that the four authors of this article have checked and cross checked each other as to the facts recorded here. We have not contrived to make anyone appear good or bad, but have labored to be as objective as possible. Our aim is to supply the reader with accurate information and to let him reach his own conclusions about the course followed by the people involved in this matter. Above all, we urge every reader to focus his faith in the principles of truth involved rather than in the person involved [see 1 Cor. 4:6].)

Over the past few months, each of us has received a number of calls about our recent studies with brother Homer Hailey regarding the issue of Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage. Brother Hailey says that he also has received inquiries from all around the country. We have become aware of a number of stories being circulated which do not accurately present the facts. Our purpose in this article is merely to inform all who are interested with the facts. As Christians, all of us have a responsibility to halt rumors which Satan may use to injure the cause of our Lord. We have serious differences with brother Hailey’s teaching upon this matter, but we are trying to study the question in an effort to unite upon a “thus saith the Lord.”

Our respect for the good work of brother Hailey in so many areas of Bible teaching continues to be beyond our ability to express. His tireless efforts in studying and imparting the truths of God’s Word demand the thanks and admiration of every child of God. Three of us (R.H., H.R.O, & T.P.S.) have had classes under him and have stood in awe of his command of the Scripture and ability to expound upon it. It is a source of deep sorrow to all of us to find ourselves publicly differing with brother Hailey. This is not a place that we sought. Each of us would prefer not to be involved in this problem, but we feel compelled to teach that which we believe to be true when called upon to do so. We hope that we will come to see as one on this issue with brother Hailey and be able to add a hearty “Amen” to the other’s teaching.

The Background

In early March 1988, brother Harry Osborne held a meeting in Belen, New Mexico. The evening that he spoke on “The Family,” it was requested that he briefly discuss the subject of marriage, divorce and remarriage. The request came from some of the members who feared that one young lady, recently converted, was in an unscriptural marriage. In the sermon, Harry showed that only the innocent party in a divorce for the cause of fornication had the right granted by God to remarry while his spouse was alive (Matt. 19:9). He also taught that both alien sinners and Christians are under that same law. Under the reign of Christ, God has only one marriage law for all humanity. Therefore, if two people continued in a marriage which did not comply with Christ’s teaching (whether the marriage occurred before or after baptism), they would be living in adultery.

After the sermon, a young lady came to talk with the local preacher, Lee Stewart, and brother Osborne. She said that she was in a marriage which did not comply with Christ’s teaching since her, husband had been married twice before and was divorced for a cause other than fornication. The woman expressed her intent to put away the husband if it was necessary that she might be right with God. This conclusion was reached upon her understanding of the Scriptures involved, not by further teaching of brethren Osborne and Stewart.

The next day, a couple who had come from a liberal church told the young lady that her husband’s situation did not matter since it all happened before she was baptized. The couple cited brother Halley as teaching the same thing. (He had expressed this to them while visiting in their home during a gospel meeting he held a few months earlier at Belen in October 1987.) The last day of the meeting in March, brethren Osborne and Stewart tried to reason with them to no avail. Several times, brother Hailey’s name and influence were used in opposition to the teaching of brethren Osborne and Stewart. When brother Osborne departed Belen, he left the matter in the hands of the local brethren for them to discuss and resolve.

Presentations By Brethren Halley and Holbrook

About a week after the meeting, brother Osborne received a call from Tim Stevens who got the work started at Belen in June 1987. Tim explained that there had been much disagreement among the members over the issue. Therefore, they had decided to study it more thoroughly. They were searching only for truth. Brother Stevens said that brother Hailey was coming to Belen the next day to teach his views on the issue to the church. The meeting was arranged in lieu of a previous plan for several of the men to spend a day with brother Hailey at his home in Tucson, Arizona, to learn about his views. Brother Hailey offered to save them some money by coming to Belen where all who wanted to hear his position could do so.

In view of the impending meeting, brother Stevens and Harry discussed the advisability of having Harry come for an informal discussion so that he could defend the truth which he had only briefly taught during the recent gospel meeting. The question was how best to provide the church with a thorough presentation of both views. It was finally concluded that it might put the cause of truth at a disadvantage for a young man like brother Osborne to dispute with one of brother Hailey’s age and wisdom. Brother Hailey also expressed serious disagreement with any format which included a second speaker to review and answer his presentation.

Therefore, brother Hailey alone presented his views and answered questions in a two and one-half hour session on March 22 which was video taped with brother Hailey’s knowledge and consent. This meeting was conducted at the regular meeting place of the Rio Grande Valley church of Christ in Belen, New Mexico, with an open invitation for all the members to attend (approximately 8-10 members were present). in a straight forward manner and without rancor, brother Hailey taught that alien sinners are not amenable to the law of Christ on marriage.

Some in the audience that day immediately felt the church at Belen had been “straightened out” on this issue by brother Hailey while others felt the need for further study. Although brother Hailey meant well, there was greater confusion among some in the church than there had been before he came. Clearly, the matter was not resolved, but needed further study.

When brother Stevens first called about the meeting with brother Hailey, Harry suggested that an older man be invited to answer brother Hailey’s teaching. The brethren agreed and asked who could do such. Brother Osborne suggested Elmer Moore and he was contacted. Brother Moore was in Maryland on a meeting and was having some health problems which prevented him from going. The brethren asked for a second recommendation and Ron Halbrook was suggested. Ron agreed to the task and called brother Hailey to express his deep regret for the necessity of differing with him. Ron received a copy of the video tape of brother Hailey’s presentation from Belen, but under certain conditions. It was not to be copied or any quote from brother Hailey published until the church at Belen had written brother Hailey and supplied him a copy of the two presentations (his and Ron’s).

On March 31, Harry Osborne accompanied Ron Halbrook to Belen where Ron answered brother Hailey’s teaching. Ron’s discussion of the issue was also video taped with his knowledge and consent. This study was held at the same place and with the same invitation as the first study. In a straight forward manner and without rancor, Ron taught that God has only one marriage law for all humanity under the reign of Christ.

In a letter from the church at Belen to brother Hailey dated April 13, brother Hailey was encouraged to view the tape of the two presentations to ascertain that he had not been misrepresented or misquoted by brother Halbrook. A response from brother Hailey was requested, but none was made. Out of respect for brother Hailey and in order to give him plenty of time to respond, much restraint had been exercised in withholding the tape from circulation. When it became evident that there would be no response, the church finally decided to release the tape so that “truth may abound.”

In regards to the new work at Belen being confronted with such a difficult issue, the church has been strengthened rather than weakened. This Atustion has forced the brethren there to go to their Bibles and study. Those who have refused to study the issue further have left and reverted into liberalism once again.

Major Differences

Our differences with brother Hailey’s teaching are in three main areas. f7rst, he claims that the alien sinner is not amenable to the law on divorce and remarriage as stated by Jesus in Matthew 19:9 and 5:32 since the passages pertain only to those in the kingdom. Second, he says that 2 Corinthians 5:17 gives the new convert a totally new start in fife including the cleansing of past marnages so that God holds only the present mate to his charge. Third, he takes the position that 1 Corinthians 7:15 gives the right of remarriage to a Christian who is deserted by an unbelieving mate. These positions were all declared in detail by brother Hailey during the session at Belen, New Mexico.

Some brethren may criticize us for waiting so long to publish this report, but there is a very good reason for the delay. We have been exploring avenues for private study with brother Hailey. At one point, it appeared he would study with brother Osborne by letter, but recent communications suggest brother Hailey plans to publish a pamphlet of his views instead. Then brother R.J. Stevens talked with brother Hailey about the possibility of a few days of private study including brethren Hailey, R.J. Stevens, Marshall Patton, Ron Halbrook and Harry Osborne. We thought it was arranged and were waiting for brother Hailey to set the time, but now he says he does not plan to have the study with us. Follow-up appeals by brethren Stevens, Halbrook and Osborne have been unsuccessful. We have tried to leave no stone unturned in terms of openness, willingness to study, private efforts, patience and fairness in dealing with this matter.

An Appeal To Study

All of us need to study these issues carefully and prayerfully. Special attention needs to be given to the concept that the alien sinner is not amenable or accountable to Christ’s law regarding marriage, divorce and remarriage. The seriousness of the issue can be seen from the fact that three families have left the church at Belen because of being convinced that the alien sinner is not accountable to Christ’s marriage law. Among that number is the aforementioned young lady who, at this writing, has left the church and continued to live in an adulterous marriage.

We would not wish to imply that brother Hailey is the only one teaching this view. Material authored by brother Jerry Bassett has recently been given wide distribution in the Northwest advocating the same positions taken by brother Hailey. Discussion of the issue is becoming common in many areas of the country. Tberefore, each Christian should understand the need to study the Word of God to find the truth regarding this subject.

If this issue is a matter of personal faith like the eating of meats, we must receive those who differ with us in the bonds of Christ (Rom. 14.) If this issue is a matter of divine revelation, we cannot extend the right hand of fellowship to those who go beyond the limits of the teaching of Christ (2 Jn. 9-11). Only diligent study of God’s Word will allow each individual to determine whether this issue is a matter of personal faith or of divine revelation. The four of us are convinced that the marriage law of God given through Christ applies to all men and we cannot compromise that law without losing our souls.

Various helps in studying this subject are available. Numerous articles have been written on the question in various bulletins and papers among brethren. We have found a workbook entitled And I Say Unto You. . ., by James 0. Baird, of great help in studying the problem in Bible classes. However, we must not allow ourselves to decide the truth about tins issue based upon winch preacher concludes what. We must let whatever helps we use guide us to an understanding of the text of the Scripture which is the ultimate answer to every question.

While we are saddened at the events of the past few months which have forced the issue publicly, we hope that an open and thorough investigation of the subject will result as we lovingly discuss the oracles of God. We ask for your prayers on our behalf as we attempt to discuss these differences with our beloved brother. Our trust is that God through his providence will bring good out of these efforts that his cause might be strengthened. May God grant us the wisdom to understand his will, the proper attitudes to discuss it, and the courage to obey it.

Guardian of Truth XXXII: 22, pp. 689-691
November 17, 1988