What Happened at the Florida College Lectures

Harry Osborne

On Thursday, February 8, 2001, brother Donnie Rader had an excellent lecture on divorce and remarriage. I was both there to hear it personally and have a tape of the lesson. If you have not had an opportunity to hear the tape, please get a copy so that you can hear for yourself what was said. You may also read a copy of the manuscript put in the FC lecture book by going to What God Has Joined Together – Jesus on Marriage but please make the effort to hear the lecture on tape as well. When you hear the lecture, you will note that Donnie’s demeanor, tone, delivery and content were exemplary. Having attended the FC lectures and others around the country, I can honestly say it was the equal to any lecture I have ever heard. Since I have been repeatedly asked about the things which happened at that lecture, I am writing this to state the things which I saw and heard on that occasion.

After brother Rader’s lecture, Colly Caldwell commended the lecture and then gave Bob Owen time to respond to a reference made in the documentation of Donnie’s manuscript in the book, though Donnie never mentioned Bob in the lecture. Donnie was told about 5 to 10 minutes before the lecture that Bob Owen would be allowed to give a response and that Donnie would not be allowed a rejoinder. Brother Caldwell told the audience that three men (Bob Owen, Ed Harrell and Earl Kimbrough) had objected to references made to their teaching in brother Rader’s manuscript. While the three men objecting agreed to the decision allowing only one to make oral objections, brother Caldwell did tell the audience that printed material from all three men would be available following the session. At that time, statements from Bob Owen, Ed Harrell and Earl Kimbrough were distributed to the audience as well as a booklet by brother Kimbrough which argues for tolerance of differing views regarding divorce and remarriage from an historical perspective. In fact, brother Buddy Payne (Vice-President and Academic Dean of FC) passed out the statements of Bob Owen and Ed Harrell to those leaving the auditorium.

The statements from Bob Owen, Ed Harrell and Earl Kimbrough are included on this web site. Please compare them to the written manuscript for the lecture book and the tape of Donnie Rader’s lecture. You will immediately note a difference in tone. Donnie made no personal attack upon anyone, but dealt objectively with the issues. Donnie cast no aspersion on the character of anyone, but carefully cited the facts and methodically proved his points on the issues under consideration. Such cannot be said for the statements by Bob Owen, Ed Harrell and Earl Kimbrough as you can plainly see. In their responses, these three brethren freely use pejorative terms like "Phariseeism," "McCartyesque efforts," "extremists," "the council of brotherhood correctness," "clumsy efforts to creedalize," "evil," seeking to "direct the brotherhood" and even go so far as charging Donnie with being among the "liars" of Revelation 21:8. While claiming to have been attacked, it is actually brethren Owen, Harrell and Kimbrough who have engaged in personal attacks and aspersions in a manner not befitting honorable controversy. It is difficult to comprehend why Florida College’s administration would want to be identified with such statements which cast aspersions on a man like brother Rader whose integrity and character is beyond reproach.

Of greater importance, however, is the substance of the statements by Bob Owen and Ed Harrell. They both claim that brother Rader misrepresented them. An examination of the facts will show any fair-minded person that Donnie did not misrepresent Bob Owen, Ed Harrell, Earl Kimbrough or any other man. Brother Rader did not attribute a position to these men and ask the reader of his manuscript to take his word for it. Instead, Donnie let the words of each man declare their views in their own words. In the statements by brethren Owen and Harrell, they never quote from Donnie’s own words, but merely call upon the reader to conclude the actions and views of Donnie based upon misrepresentation. The statements by all three brethren not only misrepresent brother Rader, but the statements also misrepresent the facts concerning the written and oral teaching done by the three brethren as proven by their own words cited in context within Donnie’s manuscript. In the case of the booklet by Earl Kimbrough, Donnie accurately cited the booklet as arguing for tolerance of differing doctrinal views on divorce and remarriage. That point is evident in brother Kimbrough’s citation of selective cases of such tolerance as well as his conclusion plainly admonishing brethren not to silence those teaching different doctrinal views on divorce and remarriage (How Shall We Treat Brethren With Whom We Disagree?, pp. 11-12). Please read the documents for yourself and examine the facts.

The granting of a response by the Bible faculty of Florida College is an action sure to cause much discussion. The decision by the Bible faculty and administration of Florida College to allow brother Owen to make an oral response as well as providing for the dissemination of written responses by brethren Owen, Harrell and Kimbrough suggests a tacit agreement with their charges towards brother Rader. If the Bible faculty and administration of Florida College believed that brother Rader accurately and fairly documented his points, they could have and should have refused any part in any response which misrepresented the truth. Since they provided for such responses in both oral and written form, they willingly took upon themselves a share in the responsibility for it. (It may be noted that Florida College gave no opportunity to Carl Ketcherside or Charles Holt for oral or written response when their errors were exposed on previous FC lecture programs.) Unless they explicitly and publicly repudiate the responses for which they made provision, the administration and Bible faculty of Florida College should be called upon to give an answer for their actions. Surely no brethren seeking to uphold the truth can be defended upon the basis that they make provision for hearing both truth and error without making a defense for truth.

My request of each reader of this article is that you let your voice be heard. After examining the facts fully and fairly, if you are convinced that brother Rader has misrepresented his brethren, please list those misrepresentations and write him to urge that he correct such. If on the other hand you come to the conclusion I believe is overwhelmingly mandated by the facts, please write brother Rader a note of encouragement and thanks for his strong stand for truth and his gentlemanly conduct in the midst of a very difficult situation. His e-mail address is as follows:

Rader, Donnie V.

My further request is that you let your voice be heard to the Bible faculty and administration of Florida College. If you believe they acted fairly and in defense of truth, commend them. If you believe they acted unfairly and in a manner detrimental to truth, urge them to correct their path. E-mail addresses for contacting the administration and Bible department chairmen (present and future) are as follows:

Caldwell, Colly

Payne, Harry E. (Buddy)

Jenkins, Ferrell

Petty, Dan

Again, let us all look seriously and soberly at the facts and come to conclusions on the basis of those facts rather than through fear or favor for any man or institution. Let us be civil and respectful in all communications as well. Open and honest study will further unity and the mending of strained relations. Closed doors and misrepresentations can only lead to worse relations and ultimate division. It is a difficult time among our brethren, but let us have the confidence that "there is yet hope for Israel" if we open our hearts to one another, open our Bibles for study, and examine the facts in an objective effort to know and practice that which is right. These brethren from Florida College have been personally invited to sit down and study these issues. This was also done when differences arose over the error tolerated at Florida College about the creation account. They chose not to engage in open study at that time. We hope they will now engage in such. If you would like to see such an open study on these matters, please encourage brethren Caldwell, Payne, Petty, Owen, Harrell and others to accept the invitation to openly discuss these matters. May God help us all to seek every opportunity to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

[See my material on Fellowship that was presented at the South Livingston congregation in Tampa. These outlines include extensive quotations from material by brethren Owen and Harrell declaring their views on "Fellowship" and an analysis of their arguments.]