Letters from our Readers - Part 1

Mission impossible?

From all the articles that I read in The Journal, I haven't heard one at all address that "the mission of preaching the gospel to the whole world hasbeen accomplished."

The reason I state this is because:

  • The mass exodus from the WCG.
  • The present condition of the church has reached its peak in the "Laodicean Era" (Revelation 3:14-22).
  • While the WCG was preaching the majority of the truth in the past of "the good news of the Kingdom of God," it finally stopped in North America after60 years of public preaching by radio and TV (January 1934 to September 1994) and 40 years in Europe by radio, TV, satellite (January 1953 to February 1993) by the program known as TheWorld Tomorrow.

Plus, we know from Isaiah 66:18-19 that not all the nations will hear the gospel preached to them, like China. This is a new phase that the Church ofGod has entered, and we really need to trust God for what we are going through for better or for worse, since we await that great day anxiously of His return to be at one with Him(Zechariah 14:9; Ephesians 5:31-32).

Well, how many of you think that the mission has been accomplished?

Robert Stos

Krapinske Toplice, Croatia

Short article writer

Just to let you know that Dave Havir's small articles [on page 3 of each issue] have had a big impact, at least on me. Keep up all the good work, allyou TJers.

Bruce Lyon

El Cerrito, Calif.

He who laughs lasts

Thank you for your efforts to present all sides. Since many today prefer to knock Mr. Armstrong, would you please publish this poem I wrote in hisdefense.

Sling all the mud you want to sling

About Herbert Armstrong and the past.

It sure won't change a single thing

When you hear that loudest trumpet blast.

Is there anyone out there grateful, till

The day we see our Lord in the sky,

That Herbert A. made sure he taught God's will:

Keep the Feasts of God! and the reasons why?

That's the trunk of the tree, what we need to know,

To be part of the Kingdom we all seek:

Seven times a year! Holy! help us grow,

And a seventh-day rest every single week!

Doesn't matter to God, things that Herbert A. lacked,

Or attacks on a dead man-to him nothing new-

All the gossip, the critics, the yakkity-yak-yak:

"They did it to Me, they will do it to you."

Sling all the mud you want to sling,

Dig your own grave, write your epitaph.

When you see the arrival of Jesus, our King,

Herbert A. will be with Him and have the last laugh.

Lucille Boone

Bath, Maine

Speak no evil

I am deeply disappointed in The Journal. Your subtitle is News of the Churches of God. Even when I disagree with articles, such as those of thecalendar, I like knowing what others believe. But you crossed over the line when you printed Brian Knowles' article concerning Mr. Armstrong ["Former Plain Truth Editor Remembers Mr.Armstrong," Sept. 25]. That was not news; that was gossip.

Proverbs 18:17 states: "The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him." First of all, Mr. Armstrong has beendead for nearly 12 years now and cannot defend himself. Second, what was the purpose of the article? To smear Mr. Armstrong?

We read one man's recollection of events that happened many, many years ago. I cannot think of a single good reason for publishing that. Mr. Armstrongwas not perfect; he was human. If there are people who deify him, that is their problem, and I do not think printing an article like that one will tear him down in their eyes.

For many others who believe he was a man of God, though human and a man who sinned, again, what was the purpose of printing it? I would really like toknow the rationale behind the decision to print that.

Can you just imagine if a disgruntled former employee of King David decided to write his account of the adultery-murder in David's life? God put it inthe Bible in context of David's whole life. Please drop the gossip-type articles and just print the news of the Churches of God.

Name withheld

Via the Internet

Thanks to Brian Knowles

I am a Ph.D. student at Kansas State University and a member of the Independent Churches of God. Thanks to Brian Knowles for his awesome articles inThe Journal and other publications! I appreciate his style and insight.

Richard Griffiths

Manhattan, Kan.

Offer accepted

I'm taking you [Jamie Cartwright] up on your offer to contact you, but I'm sorry I am computer illiterate, so I must jot a note. (I also can't send aTV because I'd be in trouble with your dad.)

But I did want to tell you how much I enjoyed your article in The Journal ["How Popular Holidays Affect Feast- and Sabbath-Keepers," Sept. 25]. It wasvery interesting, humorous and filled with a great deal of insight!

I am really proud of young people like you who honor God by keeping His ways in such a pagan world. You are to be commended for your faithfulness. Iknow God the Father and Christ our Savior are very proud of you.

Continue to hang in there, Jamie, and please write some more articles. You probably have a future in journalism.

Mrs. Janet Kottke

Big Sandy, Texas

Evil associations

I read your [Jamie Cartwright's] article "How Popular Holidays Affect Feast- and Sabbath-Keepers" in The Journal (Sept. 25). As I live outside theU.S.A. I get my copy later than you Americans probably do, so I only just read it today (Oct. 30).

From the words you wrote you seem like a really intelligent young woman, even though only 13. Although I did not grow up in the church, I can imaginethe difficulties for those in the church who go to school, although I did start attending when I was at university and had problems there.

The rest of the world cannot understand why we don't follow in their foolish ways because they are blinded, and if we were not in the church then wetoo would perhaps be going the same way as them, even if we did not enjoy such things as Christmas, Halloween, Easter, etc.

God has truly blessed you with an understanding of His way of life, and I hope He will reveal much more to you and will be able to use you in His workin an important way.

I kept the Feast this year in Louisville, Ky. It was a great Feast, although I saw all these stupid pumpkins everywhere and stupid signs saying "HappyHalloween." People just don't seem to care about the evil associations with this particular festival, which to some is the devil's day.

That is not so bad here in England. The main emphasis now is on Guy Fawkes Night. The article above yours on the same page in The Journal explainsmore about that.

Anyway, loved your article. Keep on writing good ones!

David King

London, England

'Tis the season to be silly

Hello there, Jamie, from subtropical heat and humidity in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

Enjoyed your article on "popular holidays" in The Journal [Sept. 25]. Even adults have that problem. We are approaching the "silly season," and mywife, who works full time, has an office of 12 ladies, and no doubt Christmas will come up this year. So she has some ideas from your experience!

Be encouraged that you are not the only technologically deprived teen in the world. We even have some of those with weird anti-TV parents down here.In fact, they even do-horrors of horrors-home-schooling! They do have video games and, despite their deprived upbringing, two of the girls are already applying for the QueenslandConservatorium of Music. So let's hear it for no TV.

I couldn't, of course, live without it-mind you, only for documentaries and sports, of course!

Keep up the writing. Must be in the genes.

Graemme Marshall

Pastor, United Church of God

Brisbane, Australia

Popular holidays

Hey, Jamie! Guess what? I went to church today and in the teen Bible study they read your article ["How Popular Holidays Affect Feast- andSabbath-Keepers," Sept. 25] from The Journal. That was really good. Everyone thought it was so funny too! You have got a real talent in that area, so keep it up. Great job,Jamie!

Joy LaBissoniere

Knoxville, Tenn.

Sabbatarian singles

Your publication has been pivotal in adding subscribers to the Sabbath Singles Connection, since it's not really getting too much announcement time inthe organized Churches of God, which is too bad since it can serve so many Sabbath singles regardless of affiliation.

Please thank all those responsible for helping out with the update on the SSC, and thanks to you all in general for your much-needed publication. Keepup the good work.

Mike Kawasaki

Biggs, Calif.

First-century Atonement

This is an appeal for help with a study I have been doing but have had no luck on finding information about it. I hope that The Journal and itsreaders might be able to help. I've been trying to find out how did the first-century church keep the fall feasts. I have E-mailed three ministries but got no reply. I am particularlyinterested in how the early church observed Atonement.

Paul Shaw

8924 Cherokee Trail

Tyler, Texas 75703

Scott Ashley communicates

Thanks to you and the rest of the staff for your continual efforts to keep us informed of developments and news events in the Churches of God. Iespecially appreciated Scott Ashley's essay on communication [Aug. 29, page 12]. His mention of the events of 1978-79, beginning with the ouster of Garner Ted Armstrong and the receivershipcrisis, brought back all-too-familiar memories.

Most loyal members accepted what Pasadena fed them and fell in line to fight the authorities. As for me, events leading up to the receivership made meall the more suspicious that we were not getting the whole story.

Those events led me out of the WCG in early 1979 and into the Church of God International, where I remained for the next 16 years. Like Scott, I wouldalso like to see someone write a book explaining what really happened while trying as much as possible to avoid personal bias. Probably a number of individuals are out there who could shedlight on the subject. Many of them are still active in the ministry of the various Churches of God. The only downside of such a project is that it could open some old wounds that we'd liketo see healed.

Knowing of your need for more subscribers to The Journal, I am enclosing $18 to cover the cost of a year's subscription for someone who desires it butcan't afford it. It's another way of saying we must not slide back into the dark ages of censorship and managed news.

Larry Evans

Bloomington, Ill.

Thought cop

I just read Scott Ashley's "information" article that was posted on Vic Kubik's Web page [which was reprinted from "On Communication: Are the BrethrenFriends or Servants?," published in The Journal of Aug. 29]. I totally agree with its contents.

(I once told Dr. [Herman] Hoeh that I thought I had become the Winston Smith of the Worldwide Church of God, as working for The Worldwide News in thelate 1970s and early 1980s was truly a mirror of Orwell's 1984 mind control).

Mike Snyder

Via the Internet

New moons and the Sabbath

Someone has just sent me several issues of The Journal. I am an ex-WCG member (came out in 1972) and have been teaching theology for many years. Is itpossible for me to ask in your paper a question of the Sabbatarian community in regard to their understanding of Colossians 2:16? I have followed the various arguments about how totranslate the verse, but my question to you all is this:

If the enemies of Paul are trying to interfere with the legitimate, Christian observance of days, then it is obvious that the Sabbath day, new moonsand feasts were all being kept by Paul's community.

If, however, Paul is warning against the enemies who are trying to impose Sabbath, new moon and feast on the Pauline community, then obviously theseobservances were not being kept in the Christian church.

Paul lumps the Sabbath, holy days and new moons together as one thing: a (singular) shadow. They obviously all stand or fall together. SinceSabbatarians presumably believe that Paul was defending observances in Colossians 2:16, and not warning against them, do present Sabbatarians follow the New Testament practice ofcelebrating the new moons? The new moons are no less in Paul's mind than Sabbaths and holy days.

Anthony Buzzard

185 Summerville Dr.

Brooks, Ga. 30205

What will Diana think?

I think perhaps the best reply to the person who gave Aaron Dean such a hard time about whether Princess Diana was converted is that she was notbaptized nor had had the laying on of hands or, for that matter, had shown any real interest in religion. [See "Elder Addresses New Group," Sept. 25, page 1.]

The tenacity and pugnaciousness of the questioner over such a trivial point is truly astonishing. This brings to mind a question that should perhapsbe more edifying. When Princess Diana comes up in the resurrection and learns about the church and its history, what will she think of us?

Will she think that we were a place where someone like her who suffered an eating disorder, was tortured by a disastrous marriage and attemptedsuicide more than once could have survived and thrived?

Will she say she could have found the nurturing and comfort that she so craved in our midst?

Or will she find significant parallels between the atmosphere in the church and the environment she was trapped in in the monarchy: an environment ofcriticism and proud condescension that made her so sick?

Will she say that we were a place where those she took such a personal interest in, the weak, the poor and afflicted, could have been not justtolerated but understood and protected?

Are we, the Churches of God, like the monarchy in some sense? We know we have been given a special place in history with special duties and blessings.Is our pride in our knowledge of the truth holding us back from developing a Christlike attitude? Will Diana rise in the resurrection and, like the Queen of the South, condemn us becauseeven without the benefit of conversion she can see our sins so clearly?

Susan Herrmann

Louisville, Ohio

The third angel

In the article by Ian Boyne ["Essay: Has the Centralized Church Organization Had Its Day?," Aug. 29], he appeared to be defending the "organizational"approach to and the need to spread the gospel by unified effort. I would like to refer your readers to Revelation 14:6. I suggest "the church" of today may not accomplish the commissiongiven to the apostles.

George Goltry

Golden, Mo.

A reply to Mr. Dart's reply

I write in response to Ron Dart's article "A Reply: Has the Centralized Church Organization Had Its Day?," The Journal, Sept. 25.

Concerning Mr. Dart's views on evangelism, he mentions that half the members of the WCG came into the church from personal contact, but he omits tosay that of that half the vast majority were family members (1 Corinthians 6:16).

I agree that we should encourage all to get involved and use their talents. However, most people's experience of personal evangelism is disappointingin that it results in few, if any, conversions.

Also, Mr. Dart goes on to compare the WCG's growth rate with the SDAs' and Baptists'. Surely this is comparing apples with oranges: I think it fair tosay that (generally speaking) the SDAs and Baptists are not God's people whereas the WCG is (was).

Concerning Mr. Dart's views on government, in particular a "centralized hierarchy," he seems to apportion blame to the system. I believe that this isa mistake. Let me give two examples:

nSince the New Testament church had the apostles to guide matters, presumably it had the right form of government (for its time), whatever form ittook. Yet by the end of the first century the church was scattered and overrun by heresy. Even the apostle Paul felt abandoned (2 Timothy 4:9-16).

Now, was the system of government they used at fault or the people?

nMost people would agree that God has a centralized, hierarchical form of government in heaven, with at least three tiers: Father, Son and angels.This system of government must be perfect (for the heavenly realm, at least). Yet under this form of government occurred a disaster on a far greater scale than the "WCG disaster" whenLucifer and his angels rebelled.

Again, I ask, was the system of government at fault or Lucifer and his angels?

Surely, the sensible conclusion to draw from all this is that ultimately no system of government will truly succeed if the leaders or those who aregoverned are fallible.

Finally, Mr. Dart's claim that "there is one fact that seems beyond dispute" that "in the end the WCG was a monumental failure" is very much indispute. If it were God's purpose to build the WCG into a great organization like the Roman Catholic Church or the Baptists, then I agree. If it were God's purpose to use the WCG to bringhundreds of thousands or millions to conversion, then I agree.

But, if it were God's purpose to use the WCG as an instrument for a time to bring tens of thousands to conversion, then the WCG was a resoundingsuccess!

David P. Reeve

Melbourne, Australia

Under the umbrella or the rain?

The current argument for and against a centralized church organization (The Journal, Aug. 29 and Sept. 25) by two extremely zealous and giftedministers of the Church of God is quite enlightening.

Ian Boyne [Aug. 29, page 13] has apparently had remarkable success in his area with local evangelism, attracting many to his Bible lectures. Itappears there is an enthusiastic and developing group of followers ready to take Christ's message to the world under a hierarchical structure of control.

On the other side, Ron Dart [Sept. 25, page 13] envisages the spread of the gospel by many separate, strongly equipped Bible congregations able toconvict by word of mouth (or word of media) in personal evangelistic style.

Each has its merits.

However, after enjoying 25 years of WCG membership, from 1969 until 1994, and having witnessed the gradual imposition of changes to doctrine, I tendto agree with Mr. Dart that a powerful central governing body is not the way to go. It has been tried and found lacking in proper biblical directives (See Matthew 20:25-28).

If we study the methodology of the early church of A.D. 31 onwards, we see the type described by Ron as "one that couldn't keep its mouth shut," amethod definitely not encouraged by the hierarchy of my former association. The disciples were on fire for their belief. They spoke about Christ in season and out of season.

Turning to the first chapter of Paul's letter to the church at Thessalonica, we see this attitude described beautifully and graphically. Verse 5 says:"Our gospel came not to you in word only" (as in the pages of a church magazine left in a doctor's waiting room), "but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and in much assurance," bettertranslated "with much confidence and full abundance."

And, because of Paul's and Silvanus's and Timothy's enthusiasm (verse 6 continues), "you became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received theword in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you were examples to all . . ."

It continued to spread like a forest fire: Verse 8: ". . . In every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not tospeak anything." Mr. Dart has often stated that his goal in his Christian Educational Ministries is to make himself redundant.

Even under severe opposition and shameful treatment, "we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God with much contention" (1 Thessalonians2:2). Read the rest of the chapter to get a fuller picture of their gospel work.

What is sorely needed is a penetration of believers, empowered by the Spirit of God, preaching the truth and always willing to share that with others.A veritable fabric, separate yet Spirit-connected, each a force de frappe.

And do you realize one of the best aspects of this idea? This time they won't have a powerful central headquarters ready to thwart the zeal of thoseready to do a real work for God.

I wish both Ian and Ron continued success with their work. As long as God is in the picture, great things are bound to happen.

Hugh Robertson

Brisbane, Australia

Elijah still to come

Since the Elijah to come was to restore "all things," those who claim he has not yet come are saying Herbert W. Armstrong hardly preached any truth(and they barely know any) because he couldn't have taught (and they couldn't have heard) "all things" yet to be restored.

That the Elijah has not come is a major lie the devil would like every member of God's church to believe.

The truth is Herbert W. Armstrong was the Elijah to come, regardless of his being a man of like passions as we are and regardless of anyone else'sfeelings, experiences or lack of understanding about his identity.

Whatever Christ meant by saying that John the Baptist was the last prophet, it has to be conceded that the apostle John later produced the propheticbook of Revelation-and Christ predicted the even later Elijah to come would be a prophet in the end time who would restore understanding about the prophecies previously given-before thegreat and terrible Day of the Lord. Precisely what Mr. Armstrong did.

Unless he had, there would be no Spirit-filled true Christian left alive by the time Christ returned, and therefore God would be compelled to utterlydestroy earth's wicked population, as in Noah's time.

If John the Baptist were the Elijah who restored all things, what need was there for Christ's ministry of teaching? In any case, Christ predicted theend-time Elijah would come after John was dead (Matthew 17). Therefore, as John said, he was not that Elijah, although Christ showed he was a prototype of him.

I have never idolized or worshiped Mr. Armstrong and don't personally know any church member who ever did. God alone is to be worshiped, as Mr.Armstrong always taught.

Geoff Neilson

Olivedale, South Africa

Confusing point

I'm constantly amazed at the number of letters to the editor that continue to confuse the spiritual organism with a physical organization.

I suppose it comes from the idea that we've all grown up with that a church was a building you went to, hence we go to church. Indeed we still saythat instead of more correctly saying something like "going to Sabbath services."

We are the church! We can assemble. But to say we are going to ourselves sounds a bit silly. When God called us into His church, we confused theorganizations comprising that group of called-out ones as "the church." That was never the case any more than any building with a steeple on it is the church.

We seem to need to make the people God has called into some physical entity. They are not! Nor will they ever be! The church is spiritual as God isspirit, and His church therefore has to be spirit. To try to limit it to some physical entity is putting that entity in place of and before God and therefore breaks the First Commandmentand often the Second as well.

"You shall have no other Gods before Me," says our Creator, and that includes organizations pretending to be His. To a great degree they may be madeup of members of His church, but none of these organizations is His church. Look up the word church in the Bible and ask yourself if any organization does any of the things mentioned there.For instance, people pray; organizations do not pray.

Is it wrong to have or be part of an organization? No, as long as it is simply to comply with the laws of the land and provide a framework in which tooperate. But, when it takes on a life of its own and its leaders and members begin to think it is something, then we can be assured it is nothing and will come to nothing.

Name withheld

Washington, D.C.

Almost ready to work together

Thank you for the Sept. 25 issue. I really appreciate the diversity and depth of the material, even if I don't agree with everything. I especiallyfound the articles by Ron Dart ["A Reply: Has the Centralized Church Organization Had Its Day?"] and David Barrett ["A House Divided: Outsider's View of Churches of God"] righton.

I get tired of the excuses so many make about why they can't get up and use their God-given capabilities and show some leadership in helping to pulltogether God's people in some constructive way. If we would only individually and collectively get on our knees and ask God's will, we could do wonders, even if we are not to do somevisible "work" at this time. Can't we trust God to lead us?

I sense that others are getting to this same point and ready to work together toward a common goal.

Rodger Sandsmark

Simsbury, Conn.

The church's biggest problem

I am writing this brief note to express my gratitude for the time and effort you and the staff of The Journal have put in. It is great to see a trulyopen forum of discussion on a variety of issues from different people. Publishing the good, the bad and the ugly may not always be "uplifting" (a term frequently used as a club, I'venoticed). However, we are all better served by candor.

It is also good to see The Journal opened even to "outsiders." David Barrett's article on "A House Divided" [Sept. 25] was interesting. I fear he alsohit the nail squarely on the head! The biggest problem, and evil, in the "Church of God" is pride. I really hope people can shelve their prejudice over Mr. Barrett's religious backgroundand read his article carefully and prayerfully.

Andrew J. Jackson

Houston, Texas

Thankful for the smorgasbord

I recently heard an astounding figure regarding the many split-offs from the WCG. About two years ago there were more than 300 organizations includinglocally incorporated churches. Recently a man told me that it was more like 500!

Most of these groups have similar doctrines. Some have nearly identical beliefs but have different ideas regarding administration, government, etc.Often a sermon given to one group could be given exactly the same way to another and the audience would love and appreciate the sermon just as much.

Most members of the various groups know this. Many go from one service to another and hear sermons on different topics on the same day. Most of thechurches welcome the roving members, hoping that they will remain in their church organization.

While attending the Feast, a number of people introduced themselves to me as "nonaligned" or "independent" or "one of the scattered brethren" or with"no particular organized church" or "a smorgasbord Christian."

Many brethren lament and are in anguish regarding the situation. They see nothing good in that "God's people are so divided." But, if we draw theanalogy of the smorgasbord, we may see something positive in all of it.

When I ate at home, my mother fixed a certain menu and that was it. Monday night was spaghetti night, Tuesday meat loaf, etc. But what if I wanted achef's salad instead of spaghetti. Then what?

Too bad. I had only one choice. Some mothers don't offer any variety at all.

However, a smorgasbord offers many choices. You can choose that salad, this meat dish and those vegetables and have a number of choices regardingdrinks.

Today many brethren choose to avail themselves of a variety of spiritual food. This can happen when a minister has pet peeves and harps on aparticular subject.

It is important to give a local church a wide variety of biblical subjects that will feed the flock. But to a large extent many members feel that theyhave not been spiritually nourished and would like to have the freedom to choose spiritually nourishing food. They need it to grow.

An individual Christian knows whether he is growing and knows when he needs better nourishment. What would happen if that Christian were forbidden toget what he or she needed? Maybe some ought to thank God for the smorgasbord!

David L. Antion

Pasadena, Calif.

Open letter to the FA(W)DL

I would like to address the Full Autonomous (Wootenite) Democratic Liberals in the United Church of God: Your days are numbered.

As the United Church of God matures as a church, so does the leadership. The day of local boards and ministerial puppet play is over! This is not anindividualistic church; it is a united, collectivistic church. There is no room for the "Mauldin Church of God" or the "Coleman and Board Church of God."

What you need to realize is that your impression of Indianapolis was a false interpretation. Teamwork and strong leadership shall prevail in theUnited Church of God.

My appreciative thanks goes out to Larry Greider and Don Hooser, whose faithful service and leadership will pay off in the success of this church! Godbless you!

Paul Felten

Roseburg, Ore.

The '95 crash

I was an active member with the Worldwide Church of God until 1995, and then everything came crashing down and the brethren fled in everydirection.

I agreed that the church needed some serious changing but not a total overhauling.

I mean it was as if the church had a leaky roof and a couple of broken windows that needed replacing, but they didn't have to rip out the foundationto make the needed repairs.

That's really ridiculous, isn't it? Well, I'm one who's just staying at home now and studying everything concerning the Churches of God-Sabbatarianismin general-and everything I can get my hands on concerning the ancient apostolic church.

Thank you again for your hard work and labor and concern. Melvin Rhodes is brilliant! Lee Lisman is wonderful. Scott Ashley, Mac Overton, DixonCartwright, Linda Moll Smith, Gary Fakhoury and all the rest are great.

Wally Byers

Holland, Ind.

Currently alternating elders

We are so blessed in our small congregation (Hood River, Ore.) to have Dean Wilson and Howard Davis alternating. Such powerful sermons! I've beenassociated with the church nearly 50 years already!

My comment for the members in various congregations who seem to have differences with the local ministry and council members, etc., is they shouldspend the time on their knees humbly asking God to work things out instead of causing divisions. Where is their faith?

Elsie Turkovsky

The Dalles, Ore.

Church news

I hope The Journal can continue because it is the only source available that can keep so many of us updated about what is happening in all thedifferent groups.

Laura Reimann

Pasadena, Calif.

Problem with Matthew 28:19

I read your article by Gary Fakhoury on the history of the Trinity [July 31] with much interest.

I was baptized in 1970 (WCG) after being called out of the Lutheran Church, in which the Trinity is a core doctrine.

As I was being baptized and heard Matthew 28:19, a red flag went up with the thought: I thought they (the WCG) didn't believe in the Trinity! But thenI quickly rationalized that the WCG knew what it was doing. Consequently I put my question on the back burner for years. But every time I read or heard that verse I stillwondered.

Then, thanks to the apostasy in the WCG, many of us started seeking answers to longtime questions. My interest was aroused when I read Robert Taylor'sarticle "What Name Should Be Used in Baptism?" in the May 1995 issue of Prove All Things, that part of Matthew 28:19 was a later church addition.

Acts 2:38 gives us a perfect example of a "formula" used in baptism in the early church and a formula still good today!

I am happy to see this issue discussed and coming out into the open, rather than just following "church tradition." It is time to prove allthings!

Gloria Neely

Tucson, Ariz.

Squashed hedgehog

I'm bored, frustrated and fed up. The only training I'm getting to become a priest or king or to reign on the earth (Revelation 5:10) is to sit like azombie for an hour or so every week (for the last 20 years and now the approaching Feast?). I'd get more stimulation being a squashed hedgehog.

Roj. Beaumont

Steyning, England

Making a move

In the spirit of the United Church of God's founding conference in Indianapolis, Ind. (in 1995), UCG members and congregations in the U.S.A. arewilling to play host to home-office employees and their families for overnight stays during the office's move from Southern California to the mandated new home-office site of Cincinnati,Ohio.

The willingness of these UCG members and congregations corresponds to UCG president David Hulme's recent cost-cutting trip to India (and a proposedfuture trip to Malaysia).

The cost of the mandated office move has been cited as being as high as the ridiculous figure of $500,000.

Those knowledgeable in nonprofit organizational moves cite a figure of $200,000 as being more realistic for a church like the UCG.

The current UCG budget, the UCG official home-office-relocation fund and the new home-office pledge drive [The Journal, Aug. 29, page 15] currentlytotal over $100,000, making a move in the summer of 1998 a viable and necessary possibility.

Paul Kieffer

Bonn, Germany

Attention deficit

Melvin Rhodes, in his latest presentation on homosexuality in The Journal, Aug. 29 ["We Need to Pay Attention to Whatever We're Reading," page 3],evidences some frustration that there are a number who fail to understand what he is saying.

May I present some reasons for this. There is a deep-seated concern (and quite rightly so) among God's people in the face of ever-increasing advocacyof homosexuality by our Western (Israelite) governments and following from this a corresponding insidious infiltration of the fabric of our society.

However, there is a central reason for this credibility problem that is at the heart and core of the whole homosexual debate, and Mr. Rhodes revealsthis unwittingly in his writings.

This is the lack of a clear, unequivocal, biblically sound statement on the matter. This may sound too simplistic, but please bear with me as I wishto show how the present social climate is preventing just that.

Yes, there is indeed a lot I don't know, as Mr. Rhodes points out, especially about this subject, but the biblical passages relating to it are simpleand profoundly clear, even to the God-rejecting society around us. The intellectual movers and shakers, the trendsetters, the lawmakers, media personnel, etc., perceive Scripture as thelast-in fact, the only-bastion against full public acceptance of homosexuality, which of course it is.

What has been the approach, then, of these same people over the last two decades? To undermine the credibility of the scriptural passages that dealwith this subject, of course. ("Paul had his hang-ups, you know," which is tantamount to blasphemy.)

The central attack on the Old Testament passages has comprised, in the last few years, an insistence from the scientific community that homosexualsare genetically predisposed to homosexuality, thereby portraying the harsh God of the Old Testament as One who really doesn't comprehend His creation.

Unfortunately, Mr. Rhodes has unwittingly contributed to this latter fallacy in his writings. In his March 26 presentation ["Dumbing Down of U.S. Nota Sign of Progress"] he used the analogy of alcoholism, and in speaking of alcoholism he stated that "many are born predisposed to it." He then went on to say, "In exactly the same waythere are 'Christian homosexuals.' "

Now, in his Aug. 29 presentation he states, "I did not say that people are predisposed to homosexuality!"

Quite correct, he didn't say it, but what sort of message did people get when they read his analogy? He made no attempt to undeceive the reader onthis vital point, and it's only now, when pressed, that he makes a clear statement that people are not predisposed to it. This is an unfortunate reinforcement of a false message. I'm notsaying it's intentional, but those who will only ever read the March 26 presentation are nonetheless left with "a message."

Unfortunately, many even in the Churches of God now believe this fallacy: that homosexuals are genetically predisposed to homosexuality. This bringsus face to face with a conclusion vehemently denied everywhere: that homosexuals are ultimately to blame for their own condition. Establishing where a problem lies must surely befundamental to overcoming it.

What, then, of the God who said in Leviticus 20:13 that they shall surely be put to death? No vacillation here. These words can appear shocking in thepresent politically correct environment we live in. How long before government manages to get those words expunged as "hate material"?

Far-fetched? Hardly! There are recent instances where churches have come under direct attack (actually surrounded by state troopers) for preaching andpublishing those words.

I see we have a new expression now: "same-sex attraction." Isn't it wonderful how newsspeak solves the world's ills? Paul calls it "vile affections"in Romans 1:26.

Yes, indeed, Mr. Rhodes, there's a lot we don't understand. Perhaps if we start with a full biblical exegesis, our understanding mightgrow.

Maxwell McFeat

Palmerston, New Zealand

Letter from Sardis?

Ian Boyne's essay on centralized government [Aug. 29, page 13] made a rather sweeping conclusion; namely, that "we are going back to exactly theposition that the Church of God (Seventh Day) held and still holds . . . Though the WCG was founded in 1934 (as the Radio Church of God), it is more widely known all over theworld than the Church of God (Seventh Day), which has been around since the 1800s. Mr. Armstrong recognized the CG7's weakness back then."

In view of the fact that the Church of God (Seventh Day) has 125,000 in attendance worldwide, 40,000 of whom are in Mexico alone, I find Ian'sstatement somewhat ludicrous. These are the numbers recently released by John Crisp, U.S. Conference administrator at church headquarters in Denver, Colo.

It is true that the Church of God (Seventh Day) did not have a slick publication or television program, nor did it spend millions of dollars on ratherunproductive campaigns throughout the world. Probably 99 percent of its growth can be attributed to personal evangelism, which does indeed take longer to bear fruit. The internationalconferences of the Church of God (Seventh Day) are totally autonomous and rely solely on their own funds to preach the gospel. And they are doing quite well!

Ian is confusing two issues here: visibility vs. church growth. Is the Church of God (Seventh Day) well known to government leaders? The answer isprobably not, because most of the members in the developing nations are in the middle to lower classes, with small church buildings in the poorer areas of a town.

The church has never sought to curry favor with government heads, distribute magazines or sponsor radio programs in the way Herbert W. Armstrongdeemed necessary. And certainly it would seem to me that little was gained by his approach, because, as church-attendance figures clearly showed, the Worldwide Church of God had nosignificant number of congregations outside the United States.

In contrast, most of the congregations of the Church of God (Seventh Day) are in countries other than the United States.

So in terms of church growth Ian's contention falls flat. How many people were actually led to Christ in the many campaigns Mr. Armstrong conducted invarious countries? How many people did the radio programs bring in? In spite of all the money that the WCG poured into its efforts both domestically and internationally, it peaked and beganto decline in the '70s.

Number for number, the Church of God (Seventh Day) has done a much better job of reaching the unchurched in the developing nations.

Finally, I am surprised that Ian, who is a minister in the Church of God International, would take pot shots at the Church of God (Seventh Day). Inits nearly 20 years of existence, the CGI has made no inroads outside the United States and is itself in decline. Jamaica is about the only country that has any CGI presence atall.

Linda Hardy White

Carrollton, Texas

Stormy weather

Although I am concerned by some of the things I read, I am still convinced that your efforts are rendering a needed service. How else would we beprepared for the next "wind of doctrine" headed our way? It's a little like a weather forecast for the churches. At least we can be warned and study before it hits.

Mildred M. Kaping

Shell Knob, Mo.

Mr. Burson, where are you?

We are trying to locate Ed Burson. Last week we received in the mail from a friend a booklet that was mailed out in 1989 by Mr. Burson. We tried tocontact him at the Chicago address that was in the booklet, but he has moved from that address. The last place we heard Mr. Burson may be is in Missouri. We are hoping, by putting thisletter in The Journal, that he or someone who knows him will contact us at 315 Connell Ln., Cairo, Ga. 31728. Or call collect (912) 872-3690.

J.T. and Florence Bush

Cairo, Ga.

Good deal

I notice Joe Tkach Jr.'s offer to former Plain Truth subscribers is $16.95 for his new book, Transformed by Truth. This is a saving of $3 off theretail price of $19.99. Good deal! Or is it?

Christian Book Distributors, in its September-October catalog, offers the same book, hardcover from Questar, for $14.95.

Nice to note the milk of human kindness flowing so liberally. I can save at least $14.95 by not ordering the book at all!

Florence M. Call

Spirit Lake, Iowa

For a review of Mr. Tkach's book, see page 13.

The feasts of God

In reading some articles in the Aug. 29 issue of The Journal, one might think the Bible should be interpreted in light of the Jews' religion and thegentiles' religion rather than in terms of what God instructed. The feasts the early Jewish Christians observed are the feasts of God. The instruction God gave to Israel was instruction inthe very best way for men to live together. God loved and gave His laws to them as blessings, to make Israel wiser than all others nations (Deuteronomy 4:5-8).

The Bible gives us God's laws, not Judah's. It is true the Jews added other laws, traditions, customs that hindered the freedom God intended formankind. You have to read books other than the Bible to find those laws. Christ addressed those issues and sought to free Israel from these traditions of the Jews by "rightly dividing theword of God" and showing us how to properly observe the Sabbath (Matthew 12:9-13).

The sacrificial and temple rituals were given to Israel as continual reminders that sin is expensive. If they had to part with a lamb, bullock, turtledove, etc., it cost them money. They also were to ensure that the sacrifice was the highest quality; not just any animal would do. It had to be the best-quality animal.

For anyone who has ever grown up on a ranch, you would know that when a quality animal is born you treasure it. You see breeding stock; you see dollarsigns. To give this as a sacrificial offering would have left a twang in your heart. Sin costs. It was a dear lesson and very effective.

When Christ died, we had an even more precious sacrifice: the Son of God. This sacrifice ought to be even more effective in deterring sin. Considerthe price God was willing to pay to set us free. Certainly the animal sacrifices were superseded now. This is why the book of Hebrews was written: to make that point plain. Some of the Jewsfound it hard to believe.

Galatians and Romans make plain that a circumcision of flesh is replaced with a circumcision of heart: much more effective. I see nothing in the Biblethat indicates any other laws of God were replaced with anything-except, perhaps because we are not living together as a physical nation under one government, we cannot carry out nationalpunishments to deter crime; we must abide by the laws of the land in which we live. Only the state has the right to carry out capital punishments, for the good of society.

However, that does not mean the laws God gave Israel were not good laws. They were excellent laws. If they were kept by any nation today, they wouldresult in the blessings of Deuteronomy 28:1-14. These are laws that bring about what every man wants. "Great peace have they who love Your law, and nothing can make them stumble" (Psalm119:165). We cherish these laws because they are God's.

Studying these laws reveals the mind of God. They make God known to us. The psalmist says, "I meditate on Your precepts and consider Your ways" (Psalm119:15).

These laws tell us how God as a man would act. This is why Jesus kept these laws perfectly. Remember when Jesus said to those who did many things inHis name, "I never knew you"? (Matthew 7:21-23). You cannot know Jesus without knowing the laws of God. They teach us how God thinks. Jesus said, "For I gave them the words you gave me, andthey accepted them" (John 17:8).

He said, "I have given them Your word" (verse 14).

Jesus continually expounded the Holy Scriptures, the Bible, the Law, to His disciples and to those who would listen in the synagogues. He said: "Ihave revealed You [God] to them whom You gave me out of the world. They were Yours; You gave them to Me and they have obeyed Your word" (verse 6).

He said, "May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me" (verse 23). How can we come to complete unity unless we knowand study God's Word?

The festivals are joyous times He gave to us for pleasure and to learn His way of life and plan for mankind.

God said to Moses, "These are My appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies" (Leviticus23:2).

They are a special gift from God. Would you scorn a gift from a king? I think not. How much worse to scorn a gift from God? It is a sad thing toforsake the feasts of God (Lamentations 1:4).

The instruction the gentiles received was the same instruction God originally gave Israel, minus the sacrificial and circumcision rituals and nationalpunishments; that is, stoning. Only now the law was given with the Holy Spirit. We should all treasure God's laws that reveal God's way of life.

What a precious thing to have instruction from the very God of heaven and earth. We should immerse ourselves in His instruction continuously and makeit part of our very being. Only then will we truly understand the mind of God.

Shirley Kale

Pasadena, Calif.

Letters from our Readers - Part 1

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