Wednesday, February 15, 2012

W. W. Otey and G. H. P. Showalter

            William Wesley Otey had met and liked George Henry Pryor Showalter in Virginia around 1895, if not earlier. G. H. P. preached at the funeral of Otey’s infant son, Showalter Guy Otey, in 1896. Another of Josiah’s sons, Edward Thomas Showalter, wrote a notice about the baby’s death for the Octographic Review in January 1897; he, too, was a preacher, although never a controversialist like his father, or like Otey. Soon thereafter G. H. P. Showalter moved to Texas, where he served as president of Lockney Christian College from 1897 to 1902, and again from 1904 to 1906, the year when he moved to Austin, became president of Sabinal Christian College from 1907 to 1917, and bought the Firm Foundation, which he ran until his death in 1954, publishing both a weekly periodical and numerous books. He also earned a B.A. degree from the University of Texas in 1913. It is hardly surprising that he differed over the value of colleges with W. W. Otey, who never attended one.

Edward Thomas Showalter, c. 1965

            In 1912 Otey fell out with Daniel Sommer, in the course of a debate over evangelistic oversight. Sommer argued that when local elders could not resolve a congregation’s problems, evangelists had the authority to intervene. He attributed to Otey the position that “if they can’t settle their troubles, let them die, while the preacher goes and builds up new churches” (p. 244). As a result, Otey resigned from the Octographic Review and from then on wrote mostly for the Firm Foundation. G. H. P. Showalter had always found the Review’s positions too extreme, and welcomed the new contributor.

Cover of Simplified Bible Lessons (Austin, Texas: Firm Foundation, 1944),
G. H. P. Showalter and W. M. Davis

Advertisement for M. V. Showalter, Divine Biography, from the dust jacket of G. H. P. Showalter, ed., Harding College Lectures (Austin, Texas: Firm Foundation, 1952). Milton Vaden Showalter, another of Josiah’s sons, attended Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee, graduating in 1901. He moved to Texas and taught at Lockney Christian College, where his brother G. H. P. was president. Subsequently he was on the faculty of Abilene Christian College from 1920 to 1933.

            The relationship between Otey and G. H. P. Showalter frayed in 1950, however, over another dispute. In the post-war era, churches had organized missions to foreign nations, and Otey criticized the practice, on much the same grounds as he had attacked supporting colleges, missionary societies, and orphanages: “First, is the method or plan unscriptural? Second, is all the work being done work that belongs to the church as it works?” (p. 431.) I am not qualified to determine what is scriptural, but even I can see that the answer to the second question was negative – a mission in Japan was sponsoring sewing schools, English classes, health centers, social services, commercial classes, and a college. G. H. P. Showalter was supporting these sponsorship projects, however, and he began to close the pages of the Firm Foundation to Otey. Otey made his case in a book, Living Issues, which he published in 1951 with a dedication to Josiah Thomas Showalter. But the personal contacts between G. H. P. Showalter and W. W. Otey came to an end in 1951.

George Henry Pryor Showalter in 1950

            Both were nearing the ends of their lives. G. H. P. Showalter died in 1954, age 84, and Otey wrote a warm tribute on his death, titled “A Great Servant Called Home,” and published in the Firm Foundation. In July 1956, “Minnie” (Showalter) Otey passed away, after several years of failing health. On 1 November 1961, William Wesley Otey himself died, at the age of 94. With his death, one of the last veterans of the great years of the Church of Christ in Snowville passed away.


Faithful readers: 
I will be traveling for most of the next two weeks, and will not publish another post until March 7.

1 comment:

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