Top 5

Who are the top five individuals from the Stone-Campbell yesterday every person in Churches of Christ should know?  Can be 19th-20th century, preacher, publisher, editor, male, female, white, black, whatever.  I’m concentrating on Churches of Christ, so 20th century Disciples are out of bounds.  Other than that, the field is wide-open.

You get 5, and only 5…so who do you pick?  Explanations aren’t necessary (welcome, solicited, but unnecessary), just names.

I’ll leave it up here at the top of the pages for a little while, and then I’ll share a bit more about why I ask.  Ben Wiles gets the prize for answering first…which consists of my hearty congratulations… 🙂


9 thoughts on “Top 5

  1. The bigger explanation is why certain people aren’t on the list, but here goes.

    1. Alexander Campbell
    2. David Lipscomb
    3. Marshall Keeble
    4. N. B. Hardeman
    5. Barton Stone

  2. Thanks Ben. Fine suggestions.

    I agree about the details of who and why. That I think is a series of posts unto itself. I’ll share more in a few days…in the mean time hopefully the other three readers of the blog will chime in.

    Hope things are well with you and yours.

  3. We should think carefully before engaging in these kinds of exercises, lest we find ourselves arguing about “who is the greatest in the Kingdom of God.” In any case, most of these lists tell us more about the persons making the choices than they tell us about those who are chosen. Are the “top five” our “favorites”? Are they the “most popular” or “most powerful”? Are they “foundational”? What is it exactly that would cause us to distinguish a historical individual as someone whom “every person in Churches of Christ should know”?

    You are “concentrating on Churches of Christ, so 20th century Disciples are out of bounds.” i should add that “Churches of Christ,” as distinguished from “Disciples,” are a twentieth-century phenomenon, and that places all nineteenth-century characters out of bounds. i should stipulate that David Lipscomb (1831-1917), James Alexander Harding (1848-1922),
    Austin McGary (1846-1928), Jefferson Davis Tant (1861-1941), and Daniel Sommer (1850-1940) are “foundational” figures for the Churches of Christ. They engineer the division of Churches of Christ from Disciples, and they unwrite the peculiar, unwritten creed that still underwrites the identity of Churches of Christ and distinguishes them from Disciples and all other “denominations.” Yet they are all nineteenth-century men. Tant and Sommer, who live longest into the twentieth century, indisputably have the mosr influence among twentieth-century churches, but by 1920 they are already “historical characters” and increasingly confined to the margins, even on their own turf, increasingly known only in caricature.

    Who then are the persons who got us to where we are from where the “founders” were? They are many more than five, but we might distinguish five whose ideas, words, and actions influence the faith and practice of Churches of Christ , for better or worse, to this hour. i list them in alphabetical order. Let others engage in the fool’s errand of determining the “greatest.”

    — Marshall Keeble (1878-1968)

    — William Carl Ketcherside (1908-1989)

    — James Lacy Lovell (1896-1984)

    — Foy Esco Wallace “Jr” (1896-1979)

    — Robertson Lafayette Whiteside (1869-1951)

    Keeble is the most productive evangelist among Churches of Christ, in numbers of converts and in the influence of his ideas and his rhetoric. He is the only preacher of African descent that many “Christians” of European descent know by name.

    Ketcherside begins as a “Sommerite” and a “boy evangelist” more sectarian than Daniel Sommer, even attempting to “disfellowship” Uncle Daniel himself. At the same time, he is a remarkably productive evangelist in the midwest, as well as an editor, author, and debater. As he evolves intellectually, Ketcherside becomes an ecumenical and irenic exponent of a “Christian unity” of all baptized believers.

    Lovell is an editor and missionary entrepreneur who sells missionaries, missions, causes, projects, and ideas just as effectively as he sells the products of his employer, E I duPont deNemours.

    Wallace begins (as does Ketcherside) as a “boy evangelist,” becoming an impassioned editor and controversialist, loved by those who agree with him and hated by those who do not. His ideas, his rhetoric, and his behavior come to define the public image of the Churches of Christ in his time and ours, within and without.

    Whiteside is a student of Lipscomb and Harding who reveres his mentors even as he revises and repudiates many of their most basic ideas. After briefly serving as a college president — a job he clearly despised — Whiteside as an author becomes the intellectual engine of the movement that Wallace so clearly represents as a preacher. His writing defines the faith and practice of the Churches of Christ in his time and beyond.

    May God have mercy.


  4. And the other three chimed in! Thanks, Chris, Carisse and Don.

    Don, I agree with your caution. I will post some along those lines in a few days. I’m as uninterested as you in discerning who is the “greatest.”

    You got me on the 19th-20th century distinction 🙂

    All: I’m not surprised to see a few names in common. I’m still fishing for suggestions, even if you agree with what has been posted above. I’ll leave the post ‘sticky’ for a few days yet, at least over the weekend.

  5. Who should people among “Churches of Christ” know from their Stone-Campbell heritage? I take the question to mean that even 21st century members of Churches of Christ might should know about some 19th century people as contributors to the history of Churches of Christ and not simply those in the 20th century who shaped and gave identity to Churches of Christ (which is what I take Don’s list to be).

    If the former….then…

    1. Alexander Campbell
    2. Benjamin Franklin
    3. David Lipscomb
    4. Foy E. Wallace, Jr.
    5. Marshall Keeble.

    If the latter (Don’s list)…then…

    1. Marshall Keeble
    2. Foy E. Wallace, Jr.
    3. Robert L. Whiteside
    4. B. C. Goodpasture
    5. G. C. Brewer

  6. If, as our beloved John Mark wishes, we are to think of nineteenth-century persons who make truly significant contributions to the history of Churches of Christ, then surely he is right to think of David Lipscomb. Wallace “Jr” and Keeble are born in the nineteenth century, but do their work in the twentieth. Alexander Campbell (and Barton Warren Stone, whom JMH does not mention) are subjects of romantic rhapsodies in almost every “Restoration history” textbook, classroom, and symposium, but they are almost entirely irrelevant to what the Churches of Christ became in the twentieth century, honored more in the breach than in the observance. Benjamin Franklin is an important contributor to the arguments of the nineteenth century, but for twentieth-century Churches of Christ his influence and significance are eclipsed by his successor and intellectual heir, Daniel Sommer.
    It is Lipscomb and Sommer, along with Harding, McGary, and Tant, who are “foundational” for Churches of Christ.

    AC’s most lasting “contributions” to Churches of Christ are painfully ironic, illustrating the cultural limitations of his “reform”: his lifelong penchant for debate and conflict; his denial of a living, active Holy Spirit in his debate with Nathan L Rice (1843); and his endorsement of the American Christian Missionary Society (1849). His intelligent if inevitably inconsistent attempt to rely on “the Bible alone” could be his most enduring and useful contribution to Churches of Christ, were anyone willing to take it up. It is perhaps here that we may see most vividly the breach in the observance.

    For the twentieth century — the real “Churches of Christ” — JMH brings forward Benton Cordell Goodpasture (1895-1977) and Grover Cleveland Brewer (1884-1956). These are both interesting choices, especially as they interact with Wallace “Jr” and Whiteside, and — in Goodpasture’s case — with Keeble. Goodpasture is a practical politician, a practiced user of power, but it is, after 1939, power derived from his position and not power that he brings to his position. Both Goodpasture and Brewer find much of their identity in their association with the “Gospel Advocate,” but the “Advocate” makes them what they are; they do not make the “Advocate” what it is. They have neither the “charisma” (in a worldly sense) of Wallace “Jr” nor the intellect of Whiteside, and it shows. What they have is the “Advocate,” and its increasingly tattered reputation.

    It would be interesting to look at all the editors of the “Advocate” after Lipscomb and Sewell, to see what each of them was able to do with what he had been given. i think that the real power of the twentieth-century “Advocate” rests in Jephthah Clayton McQuiddy (1858-1924) and his benighted heirs. They are worthy of careful study.

    God’s Peace to you.


  7. Don,

    You are always so helpful in your assessments, generous in your comments and beloved by many of us! Thank you.

    I chose Benjamin Franklin over Daniel Sommer because Franklin gave Sommer his power base as well as his theological trajectory. Further, Franklin had a powerful influence on leaders in the deep south (e.g., James A. Harding) unlike Sommer himself. I tend to think Sommer was rather marginalized in the 20th century and what staying-power he had is essential the hangover of Franklin.

    I chose Alexander Campbell not because of his later legacies, but because of his fiery Christian Baptist, his “restoration” motif therein and his baptismal theology (as well as his ecclesial forms) which do shape Churches of Christ in significant ways. They understood the “ancient order” as the “ancient marks of the true church” which is different from Campbell but they got them from Campbell.

    Your point about G. C. Brewer is well-taken. I considered him the most dubitable of my choices in the “top 5.” I think he merits consideration because of his politics (anti-communism), his moderation which is reflected in Harding College and places of influence, his innovative methodologies (from multiple cups to large buildings [Union Ave. in Memphis] to sponsoring congregations to churches contributing to schools, etc.).

    Ketcherside may be a better choice as he points Churches of Christ in a new direction in the late 1950s, but his influence was marginal until the 1980s it seems to me (at least in my own experience and assessment). Nevertheless, he is an understandable and credible choice for the list.

    Interesting “stuff” to think about….

    Blessings to all,

    John Mark

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