The Paregien Journal – Issue 315 – Dec. 3, 2015
Stan Paregien, Editor
NOTE: See photos of the Tulsa Forum . . . and more . . . at the end of this article. — SP
1973 Tulsa Unity Forum:
Essays by Leroy Garrett,
W. Carl Ketcherside
& Stan Paregien Sr
Unity Forums in Tulsa, Indianapolis & Houston
by Dr. Leroy Garrett
Restoration Review (Vol. 15, Number 7), September 1973
8th Annual Unity Forum . . . in Tulsa
The 8th Annual Unity Forum was held this year on the campus of the University of Tulsa. It was arranged and conducted by a committee of concerned believers, chaired by Larry Bradshaw, a professor at the university. It was well attended, with some sessions attracting 400 or more; and there was enthusiastic response in the sharing sessions and question periods. The speakers were from varied backgrounds of the Restoration, as was the audience, and both speakers and audience had a rather large representation of “Church of Christ charismatics.”
Emphasis was given to questions regarding the Spirit, not only because this is of great concern to many in Tulsa, but because the committee realized that oneness among God’s people is, after all, the fruit of the Spirit.
During the planning stage the committee was resolved to bring J. D. Bales, professor of Harding College, and the controversial Pat Boone together in the large auditorium on the campus of Oral Roberts University. I was not enthusiastic about this prospect, not for a unity forum at least, for there is a different atmosphere created in the big blowout kind of an affair and the humbler type of gatherings of a unity meeting. But the committee was gung-ho for a Bales-Boone shootout, and since I knew both men they handed me the assignment of belling the cat.
I talked by phone with Pat in Beverly Hills and found him most responsive to the notion. In fact he roared with enthusiastic laughter when I informed him that J. D. would be his respondent, going on to assure me that the professor would behave in a manner consistent with a unity effort, an assurance that I did not particularly need, realizing that brother Bales is a Christian gentleman. But Pat was most cooperative, and he was raring to go, convinced that this sort of open and frank discussion is appropriate. He spoke of schedule problems, and offered to approach Oral Roberts as a substitute if he himself could not arrange it.
Then I called J. D., realizing that he might not be able to expend all that energy due to his recent illness. But the prospect of meeting Pat at such a place as Oral Roberts University was sufficient motivation to energize an old warhorse like brother J. D. And I was pleased to note an attitude of love and respect moving in both directions, Pat toward J. D. and J. D. toward Pat.
Pat sent me his schedule for the months ahead, including the time we had set for the unity forum, and there was no way to schedule him unless we simply built the meeting around him. So we resorted to our alternate plan, which I suspect was just as well, and that was to bring Warren Lewis from West Islip, N. Y., who is known to be one of our most knowledgeable men on charismata, and to have Marvin Phillips of the Yale Blvd. congregation in Tulsa, to respond to him.
This part of the program did not seem to satisfy the charismatics, and I am not sure why. Marvin did unusually well, partly due to his irenic spirit and partly due to his more open stance on the Spirit’s work. He believes in a real indwelling of the Spirit and certainly does not limit his ministry to the composition of scripture. But he does not believe the gifts of 1 Corinthians 12 are applicable to the modern church, as does Warren. Warren, too, was brilliant. The disappointment may have been that the issues that most concerned people were never really joined.
Too, I am persuaded that our charismatic brothers, bless their hearts, are very intent upon advancing their cause, and I do not object to this necessarily, if the crusading is not sectarian. Well, the cause was hardly advanced. I was told by several that we had selected the wrong men for the study, and one of our tongue-speakers, who was one of the dearest souls there, was so candid during a sharing session as to express his disappointment with the discussion on the Spirit.
One charismatic brother supplied us with some tongue-speaking, only a sentence or two in a sharing session along with a testimonial, but there was something about it that led some to wonder if this is really what the Holy Spirit is doing. But there was really no untoward incident at any time and a beautiful spirit prevailed throughout.
Perry Gresham of Bethany College was our keynoter, sharing with us his conviction that our great heritage as disciples has within it the healing ingredients that our people so badly need. Perry is as resourceful as he is reasonable, and he has the rare talent of coupling these to charm. I overheard one sister say to him, “You are the most charming speaker I’ve ever heard.” The men were also impressed!
Carl Ketcherside spoke unto us a parable, drawn from his boyhood experience, showing that the problem of estrangement between brothers is really a problem of proper relationship with the Father. Carl did not get along with his younger brother until he had a talk with his father, and once that relationship was in good repair and he saw his proper role in the family, he had no trouble accepting his brother, despite the differences. It was sort of a Mark Twain kind of story, with young Carl as obstreperous and cunning as Huck Finn, and it had the Mark Twain wit and humor, as well as his simple profundity. Vic Hunter, editor of Mission, who presided over one of the forums, is considering publishing the parable, so maybe you’ll get to read it.
Waymon Miller, Stan Paregien, and Thomas Langford led us in a helpful discussion of some of our slogans, such as “No creed but Christ” and “In matters of faith, unity; in matters of opinion, liberty; in all things, love.” And one innovative highlight was a discussion on the ministry of women, led by women. RuthAsh of Dallas and Gloria Bradshaw of Tulsa read papers on how they see it (seated quietly behind a table!) and even fielded questions that left no doubt but what there is much yet to be said. Cleona Harvey of Indiana was scheduled to appear also, but was unable to be present.
This particular series of yearly forums will end with ten. The ninth one will be next summer in Nashville, and in 1975 it will end where it began, at Bethany College where the first one was held in 1966.
On to Indianapolis
The North American Christian Convention, which is the major gathering of the Independent Christian Churches, was held just after our Tulsa forum, July 10-1 3, and I was pleased to be among the 31,000 that attended the Indianapolis affair. Upwards of 50,000 registered in the churches, so the number who actually attended was a near record, and the evening sessions had impressive audiences of 12,000 to 16,000. The program book ran almost I 00 pages, so one can imagine the wide scope of the convention, with something for all age groups and all ministries of the church. Over 400 people were on the program in some capacity, not counting the entertainment groups, which helps to explain the large attendance. Too, the leaders seek to make it a family convention, which makes for bushels of kids all over the place who have their own little sub-convention going.
The convention leaders apparently have no idea but what the affair is to be a great gathering of Independent Christian Churches, but those of us who are interested in the unity of our Movement would hope that it could be used for more substantial crossing of sectarian lines than appear evident. True, the NACC has from time to time invited non-Independents, a Disciple here and a Church of Christ leader there, and even an occasional Baptist or Presbyterian; but for the most part it has all the characteristics of one more giant denominational gathering. And with that goes the usual trivia and superficiality that was evident enough at Indianapolis. The NACC leaders have succeeded in achieving bigness, which is a just tribute to a lot of hard work and careful planning, but as to how significant it is to the critical needs of Christian Churches-Churches of Christ is a question.
At one luncheon I overheard a Disciple from Bethany remark that we need an “umbrella convention” where all our disparate groups can feel at home together. My answer to that is that if we all loved each other enough and were really concerned for the prayer of Jesus for the oneness of his people, then we would find a way to make all our great meetings umbrellas, whether they be lectureships in Abilene and Nashville or annual conventions such as the NACC and the International Convention of Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ).
Those of us who are responsible for Fellowship, the new publication issued jointly by concerned ones from our three major groups, passed out sample copies to hundreds of convention visitors. This provided opportunity to get reactions. Some saw it as the most encouraging thing that has happened in our Movement’s history, while many showed little concern. One sister from an enterprising Independent congregation would not even accept a copy once she was told that Disciples had something to do with it. “They don’t even believe in the Virgin Birth,” she assured me, “so I’m not interested in reading anything they write.” The fact that the president of her own convention was one of the editors did not influence her.
On to Houston
Next came a meeting in Houston with a group of Church of God folk. This grew out of a visit I had with Max Gaulke, president of Gulf Coast Bible College, which resulted in our decision to have an invitational unity meeting between some of our people. He invited 12 from the Church of God, while I invited 12 from the Church of Christ, all from the Houston area. We had young and old, black and white, laymen and clergy, students and Ph.D.’s. I was eager for this experience, for I am persuaded that it is this kind of approach that we need more of. There was no advertising and no announcements. It was quietly arranged as one more way to break down barriers and build bridges. No speeches were planned. It was a matter of meeting and sharing together, looking to God’s Spirit to lead us however and wherever.
The first night we encouraged each person within the circle to say something about what God has done in his or her life. It was an important way of getting acquainted.
The testimonials were substantial, encouraging and edifying, leading us to realize that we have so very much in common. The Church of God folk kept expressing their amazement that such a meeting was occurring, for all their previous experiences with our people had been negative.
The second night we discussed a number of differences between us, and while the exchange was vigorous and frank it was always brotherly and irenic. And some time was spent in a sharing of information, people with different backgrounds probing one another as to what they believed, points of agreement as much as disagreement. We prayed together and rejoiced that God had brought us together. It was observed that this is the unity of the Spirit and that our task is to restore such mutuality throughout our ranks. We were, after all, baptized believers together, which made us brothers, and that for two nights at least we had treated each other as brothers. No one seemed to have any notion that all our differences would have to be settled before we could accept each other as brothers.
I observed an interesting distinction between the two groups that went far deeper than any “denominational” differences. They were people well within the mainstream of their own branch of the Church of God, the Anderson, Indiana group, for they were ministers, professors, administrators, and students associated with their Bible college. Ours was “the dirty dozen” in that for the most part we are not exactly kosher among our own people. Two of our number came from the non-class group. One was a black minister. Four or five were young ministers who, even though in a sense “in”, are among our revolting young princes. One was a bona fide elder from a respected Houston congregation, but one who is a country mile ahead in his thinking and daring. One was a business man and another an educator, both of whom represent the freer church within the Church of Christ. If follows, of course, that such ones are the only ones who would attend such a meeting with any degree of openness.
This made for an interesting study. I discerned more of an inclination on their part to defend prevalent beliefs and practices in the Church of God than on the part of
our people to defend our known positions. We could well be tagged Church of Christ “liberals,” whereas they did not seem to have any comparable group in the Church of God. They were at times a little on the defensive when their status quo was questioned, whereas our people were as quick to criticize some of our practices as they were. It was something like an anti-institutional group of one church in conference with the institutional group of another church.
In spite of all this they were as open as any of us in their fraternization, for they had no problem in recognizing Christians in other churches and enjoying fellowship with them. This means that even at the starting point the Church of God folk have not been as sectarian as ourselves, and they therefore haven’t as great a need for a revolt. We all agreed that it was a delightful and enlightening experience.
In 1959, Leroy Garrett became an advocate for Christian unity among all believers. He edited and published a magazine, Restoration Review, from 1959 to 1992, to spread his views.
Dr. Leroy Garrett died at the age of 96 on Sept. 29, 2015 in Denton, Texas, his hometown for 53 years. Many of his writings can be found at: www.leroygarrett.org .
Please see the photos on the following pages.
Footnotes to the Tulsa Unity Forum
by Stan Paregien Sr.
November 17, 2015
W. Carl Ketcherside
Photo by Stan Paregien
I grew up in a very conservative congregation in Fillmore, Calif. We were pretty sure all other churches were in error of some kind and, therefore, had nothing to do with them. We were going to heaven (maybe, if we worked hard enough) and they were going to . . . well, not that place.
Then in about 1963, while a ministerial student at Lipscomb University in Nashville, I discovered a small, plain magazine in the religious periodicals room of the library. I thumbed through it and was shocked to find the editor arguing for fellowship with the Baptists. Even more astounding, he was quoting from writings of the founder of our college, good ol’ David Lipscomb himself. After pinching myself to see whether I was dreaming, my first thought was that if David Lipscomb came back from the grave today and shared his own words in our daily chapel service or at any local church, he would be disfellowship and escorted off of the campus for teaching “false doctrine.”
I kept reading that little magazine, titled Mission Messenger, and slowly my mind and heart were opened to how really large the family of God is and how wondrously we are saved entirely by God’s grace and our faith, apart from works. Then I began corresponding with that editor, W. Carl Ketcherside, who was previously unknown to me. And from Carl’s magazine, I found out about his friend and fellow advocate of Christian unity, Dr. Leroy Garrett. I subscribed to Dr. Garrett’s own magazine, Restoration Review, and began corresponding with him as well.
Ten years later, at the time of the Tulsa Unity Forum in July of 1973, I was living with my wife and children in Stroud, Oklahoma and working as a college textbook salesman. The Forum was the first and only time I ever met Carl Ketcherside. It was the first of three times I would meet Leroy Garrett. And it was an inspiring time for me to hear them and to actually be on the same program with them.
[I am indebted to Scott Harp for much of the following material about Carl. It is posted as part of the story of Carl’s life and is on a web site at: http://www.therestorationmovement.com/_states/missouri/ketcherside.htm ]
Carl Ketcherside was born May 10, 1908 in Cantwell, Missouri. As early as 1943 he involved himself in radio evangelism in St. Louis, Missouri. For a number of years he conducted a thirty minute radio program called, “The Church of Christ Hour,” that appeared on Sunday afternoons.
Carl loved reading, but was best known for his writing. He wrote thirty-four books on various biblical topics. For thirty-seven years he was editor of a magazine entitled, Mission Messenger. In his early days, he was as narrow-minded and sectarian as they came.
Scott Harp then explained the great change that Carl Ketcherside experience in his life and preaching ministry:
“The date of March 27, 1951 was of particular importance to W. Carl Ketcherside. A few weeks previous he had answered calls from brethren in Ireland to come and help them in their work. Early on this day, he, with a number of brethren from Belfast, had boarded buses and traveled to Ahorey, the boyhood home of Alexander Campbell. The old Presbyterian church where his father, Thomas had preached in 1798, was still being used by the Presbyterians.
“Permission had been sought and given for Ketcherside and the brethren to conduct a worship service there. Upon entering the old church building he noted a bronze plaque showing the face of Thomas Campbell with the inscription, Prophet of Union. His text was taken from Ephesians 2:14, ‘For He is our peace who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.’ He felt that his reading and discussion was more addressed to himself than to his hearers. He continued the rest of the day repeating in his mind the words, ‘For He is our peace.’
“Later that evening, after returning to Belfast with the brethren, he had left the home of some of the Christians, having eaten supper with them. He began walking for two miles through a strong snow storm toward where he was staying. He said had never felt more alone in the world. He continued during his walk thinking about the events of the day, and the work of Thomas and Alexander Campbell to restore the unity to all believers. He did not sleep all night, soul-searching about what he termed, his ‘sectarian spirit.’
“The following morning he began reading the book of Revelation. When he got to Revelation, and the words of the Lord to the church at Laodicia, the words sunk deeply into him. He read, ‘For you said, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked,’ v.17, and felt that he had been of this mindset in his life and ministry. Then he read the words of Jesus, ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him and him with me,’ v.20. At that moment, the forty-three year old preacher did something he said he had never done. He asked Jesus into his heart. And from that moment on he held to a completely different approach to life, to worship, to Christianity, and to ministry.
“Upon returning to the United States there were still efforts being made to defend positions he had held for so long. As mentioned above there were other debates he held during that next couple of years. However between 1954 and 1957 changes began to take place that little by little caused brethren to see a difference in Carl’s way of thinking. Being so moved and overwhelmed at the memories of his experiences in Ireland, he began reading extensively the writings of the early years of the Restoration Movement. He read the five volumes set of Moses Lard’s Quarterly. He read Alexander Campbell’s Christian Baptist, and as many volumes of the Millennial Harbinger as he could lay his hands upon.
“He quickly came to believe that many in his generation among churches of Christ, including himself, had moved further and further away from the cries for unity being preached in the movement’s early years, and that the church of his day looked nothing like what the early reformers had envisioned. Very quickly he determined never to enter into a debate again with anyone, finding the debating platform more divisive than instructive.” [by Scott Harp]
In about 1969 or so, I came up with the idea of getting leaders from the various factions of the “Restoration Movement” (i.e., Churches of Christ, Independent Christian Churches and Disciples of Christ Churches) to write their views on how we could have greater or at least some unity in our work for the Lord. So I wrote a letter to Carl Ketcherside and asked whether he might be interested in publishing it. He immediately liked the idea and told me to go ahead with the project. The end result was that I collected essays on the topic of unity from 18 different leaders. And Carl Ketcherside and his Mission Messenger press did, indeed, publish my book — Stan Paregien, Editor. Thoughts On Unity. St. Louis, MO: Mission Messenger, 1971. It has been out of print for many years, but thanks to the work of Carl’s family it is now available on Amazon.com as an e-Book.
Carl Ketcherside kept writing his little, non-descript Mission Messenger magazine until 1975. It ended with 8,200 paid subscriptions. He turned to hands-on-work in the inner city of St. Louis, and to speaking appointments in many states and foreign countries. Even many who had opposed his “liberal” ideas in the past started applauding his efforts. Many of his writings are still available in print. See more at http://www.unity-in-diversity.org/ .
Carl Ketcherside developed heart problems and died at the age of 81 on May 25, 1989. Dr. Leroy Garrett, his dear friend for decades, delivered a touching eulogy. Carl’s hometown was Farmington, Missouri, and it is there in the Parkview Cemetery where Carl’s body was buried and a simple, flat marker was placed.
Photo by Stan Paregien
Leroy Garrett earned his B.A. from Abilene Christian University, a Masters of Theology from Princeton University and his Ph.D. in Philosophy and Religion from Harvard University. He and Carl Ketcherside first met at a debate Carl was conducting in Paragould, Arkansas in 1952. They were close friends and co-workers for 37 years, until Carl’s death in 1989.
In 1959, Leroy Garrett became an advocate for Christian unity among all believers, just as his friend Ketcherside had become in 1957. He edited and published a magazine, Restoration Review, from 1959 to 1992, to spread his views.
Photo by Peggy Paregien
Dr. Leroy Garrett died at the age of 96 on Sept. 29, 2015 in Denton, Texas, his hometown for 53 years. His body was donated to science. Many of his writings can be found at http:www.leroygarrett.org . Several of his books are still in print.
I took a movie (video) of part of one of the speeches which Dr. Leroy Garrett made at the Quail Springs Church of Christ in Oklahoma City in the fall of 2006. It is posted on YouTube.
I wrote scores and scores of articles over the years for a variety of Christian magazines. As far as I can recall, here are the only three that appeared in Leroy Garrett’s magazine, Restoration Review:
The first article for Restoration Review was published when I was a senior at Lipscomb University (aka, back then, as David Lipscomb College) and it appeared in the January, 1965 issue on page 17. Please read the footnote that I added to the article.
Here is a satirical article I wrote in the summer of 1965. I had just graduated from Lipscomb University with a major in Speech Communication and minors in Bible and History, and I was living in Albuquerque and just about to begin work on my Master’s degree at the University of New Mexico. while still a student at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn. I sent it to Dr. Leroy Garrett and he published it in his Restoration Review magazine, Vol. 7, Number 9, Sept., 1965.
HOW TO SUCCEED IN
by Stan Paregien
NOTE: The following suggestions were expressly designed for use by young, inexperienced preachers who are seeking stardom in the Texas-Tennessee brand of party politics. However, one may easily adapt these rules to fit any of the other twenty-four factions in the Restoration Movement.
- Send reports of your meetings to at least one brotherhood magazine. Needless to say, one should report only the “great” meetings; those with poor “visible results” are better left unpublicized. For as one veteran preacher knowingly commented after several nights of a gospel meeting had gone by with no results, “We’ve got to do better than this. How will it look in “The Old Repliable?”
While improving your own image, it may also prove to be profitable to mention that “Brother Blank, who is the regular minister at Faithful Church of Christ, is carrying on the work in a fine way.” This tactic is based on the philosophy that “if you scratch his back, he’ll scratch yours,” and it has been found to work quite effectively.
- Attend all of the Christian College lectureships you possibly can find time for. Perhaps all that is said at the lectureships will not be especially enlightening or inspiring — perhaps not even consistent — but you don’t have to agree with all that is taught; just don’t let anyone know about your heretical views! Every faithful preacher knows there are two sides to every question: the wrong way and the party’s way. One who dares to rock the party boat may find himself treading water. Besides, most elderships want a regular party man — a “putty” man — and, remember this, a preacher can’t afford to bite the hand that signs his check.
- Never fail to send in pictures and copy to one of the brotherhood papers (preferably the one which directs the party machine in your area) for any and everything your congregation does — the more exposure your name gets, the better off you are. This word of warning, however, to the novice: don’t capitalize the word “church” when used as the party title. A monstrous mistake like that would very likely start the faithful brethren wondering whether you have “gone digressive.”
- As greener pastures call you from congregation to congregation, always go to a larger church. For the best results, try to end up preaching in Texas or Tennessee and if you can also preach for a congregation located near a Christian College, so much the better. After all, if you are going to work in the Lord’s vineyard, you may as well be in a position to take home a generous share of the grapes.
The only problem you may encounter in this endeavor is the occasional fanatic who will ask why you are preaching to the saved rather than being in a mission area preaching to the lost. Just tell him you think you can do more good where you now work; that will probably hold the questioner until you can formulate a better excuse.
- Choose some prominent preacher’s pet project and get behind it. Then push, push, push to make it a glittering success. In this way the brethren will come to associate your name with that of the more widely known preacher, thereby enhancing your stature in their eyes. You may even come to be recognized as a rising star in the Party firmament.
- Learn to be a “name dropper.” Ordinary brethren — the laity — will tend to be impressed if they think you are on familiar, friendly terms with the big-name preachers. A young minister elbowing for a place in the sun must keep in mind that the firm foundation upon which the party’s system of preacher promotion rests is this inspired principle: “It’s not WHAT you know; it’s WHO you know.”
- Be sure to have your name and picture included in the official preacher’s album, Ministers of Today. After all, what group of elders would be reckless enough to consider hiring a preacher who is not even listed among the approved faithful gospel preachers?
- Learn to use the ecclesiastical vocabulary sanctioned by the Party. The uncrowned king of the Party would be most pleased to send you his ex officio definitions if you will send your word list to him, in care of the party paper which he edits.
However, for those who are too busy to do so, we suggest that every aspiring young preacher familiarize himself with these basic words: First, the word “liberal” may be defined as, “That person (or group) who has something or believes in something which we do not have or in which we do not believe.”
Secondly, the word “anti” may be defined as, “That person (or group) who does not have what we have or does not subscribe to what the Bible says (sometimes maliciously called our “interpretation.”
Thirdly, a word which should be applied quite cautiously is the word, “faithful.” It may be defined as, “Any person (or group) which has what we have and believes what we believe, as directed by the party bosses.”
Fourthly, the term “matter of faith” simply refers to anything which WE believe is taught in the Bible. Conversely, a “matter of opinion” is anything which we are not too concerned about, unless someone tries to bind it upon us as being Scriptural.
Any young minister who wants prominence in party politics will probably find it by following the system suggested above. However, numerous feathers in a party cap will hardly be satisfying to one who devoutly desires stars in a heavenly crown.
Happily, there are indications that many consecrated young Christian men are becoming concerned about the obvious inconsistencies between our preaching and our practicing. They are becoming increasingly aware of their ability to secure spiritual emancipation by throwing off the shackles of tradition forged by the Party blacksmiths. They recognize that, as Emerson said in a speech entitled, “The American Scholar,” “The world is his who can see through its pretension. What deafness, what stone-blind custom, what overgrown error you behold is there only by sufferance. See it to be a lie, and you have already dealt it its mortal blow.”
The eyes of many disciples are moist with tears when they reflect upon the broken hearts, confused lives, and lost souls bobbing in the wake left by preachers in their sacred scramble for the chief seats in the synagogue. But, a system which promotes the preaching of “sweet nothings” and practices party politics instead of Christian principles can expect little else — what was it Paul said? Something about sowing and reaping.
It takes courage, humility, faith, and fortitude for a young preacher to turn from the party’s primrose path to the rugged road of reform and restoration. For the young man who chooses spiritual freedom, the future does not promise a prominent pulpit in Nashville, Abilene, Lubbock, or Dallas, as the following lines by an unknown writer suggest:
“Father, where shall I work today?”
And my love flowed warm and free.
Then He pointed me toward a tiny spot
And said, “Tend that for Me.”
I answered quickly, “Oh no, not that!
Why, no one would ever see,
No matter how well my work was done
In that little place for Thee.”
And the word He spoke, it was not stern,
He answered me tenderly:
“Ah, little one, search that heart of thine;
Art thou working for them or Me?
Nazareth was a little place,
And so was Galilee!”
So, the question for the young preacher to ask himself is this: do you want to follow party preachments enshrined in unwritten creeds, or do you desire to freely explore the forgotten frontiers of faith? Have you made your decision? Who is to reign as king in your life — the patron saint of the party, or the Prince of Peace?
[ NOTE: I confess that my little article, above, written in 1965 is today just a little too satirical for my present tastes. Ah, yes, but that was certainly a different place and time. – SP – Dec. 3, 2015 ]
My article, above, was followed by this one, below, in the next issue of Restoration Review in Vol. 7, Number 10, 1965.
by Stan Paregien
Jeremiah spoke of certain false prophets in his day who were deceiving the people with their prophecies of coming prosperity. The false prophets blinded the eyes of the Israelites with the words, “Peace, peace!” Jeremiah used four concise words to refute such speculations. The weeping prophet of God said, “There is no peace.”
Centuries have passed since the days of Jeremiah, and with that flight of years certain changes have been wrought.
First, the cry has been altered. The statement being shouted from almost every pulpit in the brotherhood is, “Unity, unity!” It would be almost unthinkable for a preacher to hold a meeting and not speak at least one night on “How The Religious World Can Be United,” or some similar topic. The inference —- usually it is a bold affirmation — is that the preacher and the church to which he belongs have the key to oneness.
What the unsuspecting visitor doesn’t realize is that there may be two or three other congregations of the same church in the community, all of which teach the same “plan” for unity —- yet, not one of these congregations will recognize the other as being “faithful.”
A short investigation would probably reveal that each of these congregations is engaged in a Cold War against the others. They refuse to call on one another for prayer. They often will not even speak to one another. And, if all else fails, they pelt one another with party labels such as, “Liberals,” “Anti’s,” “Digressives,” etc.
There is open division in the body of believers and no one knows it better than the congregations themselves. But, their preachers have the audacity to extend the invitation with words similar to these: “Why not embrace true Christianity by coming out of denominationalism and becoming a member of the church (little “c”) of Christ?”
The plea is immediately given a rubber-stamped “Amen” from the “faithful brethren.” Should an individual come forward and be baptized, he finds himself becoming a member — not of a single united group of brethren, but of a warring faction. It doesn’t take long for the new member to find, as Dean Swift once said, that “We have just enough religion to make us hate each other.”
Secondly, the modern cry is no longer a prophecy. It has, according to many, became a reality. Unity is no longer spoken of as something for which we must continually strive. Rather, it has already arrived.
Such a careless attitude could only be termed absurd by any person with a passing acquaintance of the present condition of the church. Are we trying to deceive others into believing that we stand completely united, or are we trying to pull the wool over our own eyes? If your body received a serious slash, what would you do? Would you look the other way and try to pretend that your life-giving blood were not ebbing away? Certainly not!
Then why do we try to stick our heads in the sand when it comes to the cut and bleeding body of Christ? Our strength, our power, and our influence in the world flows like the mighty Amazon — but, like that great river, our power is untamed, undirected, and useless due to our disunity.
The party spirit is the reef upon which the hopes of the Restoration Movement have been shattered. Now is the time for all Christians to pick up the pieces, to regroup our forces, and to begin practicing what we have been preaching. Only then will we experience the blessings that come when brethren dwell together in unity.
I wrote the following article some seven years after the Tulsa Unity Forum. It was published in the Christian Standard magazine.
Dr. Tom Langford
Photo by Stan Paregien
Dr. Thomas (“Tom”) Langford and his wife Nell were irenic souls long before the term was popular among our people. I knew them first in Sand Springs, Oklahoma in the late 1950s when my parents and I visited my maternal grandparents (John and Vada Cauthen) and, while there, met with the “Non-Sunday School” congregation. Tom was working on his doctorate in English literature from Texas Christian University. And he preached for a “Non-Sunday School” Church of Christ in Prattville, across the Arkansas River from Sand Springs. I remember, probably in late 1958 when asked a girl there named Janice Larremore for a date and we went to a revival that Tom was conducting in a tent over in Sapulpa.
Dr. Langford was a constant influence for brotherly treatment of all Believers and had a wide impact for Christian unity, not just among the “Non-Sunday school” segment of Christianity. He was a professor of English at Texas Tech University and was, for a time, the Dean of the Graduate School. At Texas Tech he received the Faculty Distinguished Leadership Award, the Graduate English Society’s Award for Distinguished Service, the Master Teacher Award by the College of Education and was a member of the university’s prestigious Teaching Academy. He was also a member and served as president of the Christian Faculty and Staff Association.
His Christian articles covered a wide range of topics, and could frequently be found in such magazines as Glad Tidings, One Body, and The Christian Appeal. The Restoration Forum presented him their Restoration Forum Award for his efforts to promote unity and inducted him into their Unity Hall of Fame. He also helped establish a mission work in Kenya in 1980 which has grown now to include work in Uganda and the Sudan. He was an elder for the Church of Christ (Non-Sunday School) at 1701 S. Quaker Avenue in Lubbock until his death. One of Tom and Nell’s sons, David Langford, has been the preaching minister of that church for a long time. David is a talented writer and is also an author.
The Restoration Forum presented Tom Langford with their Restoration Forum Award for his efforts to promote unity and inducted him into their Unity Hall of Fame. He also helped establish a mission work in Kenya in 1980 which has grown now to include work in Uganda and the Sudan.
Dr. Langford was born on Oct. 20, 1930. He died at the age of 77 on May 2, 2008. His wife, Nell, was still living in Lubbock in late 2015.
In 1981, eight years after the Tulsa Unity Forum, W. Carl Ketcherside wrote a brief article about that event.