Letters from our Readers - Part 1 of 4
Editor's note: This electronic version of the letters for the Feb. 26 issue of The Journal contains more letters than does the Feb. 26 print version. This version includes the letters we would have run if we had had enough space.
Jan Zijderveld assistance fund
Who does the check need to be made out to contribute the Jan Zijderveld assistance fund? [See "Dutch Employee Fired; Brethren Coming to His Aid," Jan. 30.]
Harrison Clouthier update
I would like to submit a thank-you to all those in the Churches of God for their prayers for my boys and my family during our trial. Below you will find a birth announcement and update that you may publish:
"Drs. Stephen and Melissa (Chalmers) Clouthier of The Woodlands, Texas, are happy to announce the birth of their identical twin sons on June 20, 1997. Harrison Mathew weighed 1 pound 10 ounces and was 12 inches long, and Andrew Stephen weighed 1 pound 13 ounces and was 12 inches long. The boys were born at 25 weeks gestation.
"Andrew died July 1, 1997, of renal and congestive heart failure secondary to a bacterial infection. Harrison was released from the hospital Oct. 15. He now weighs over 11 pounds, with his kidneys miraculously healed, his lungs continuing to heal and the scarring in his left eye (post-surgery) resolving. At this point it does not appear that he will even need glasses. Our family would like to thank the brethren from around the world for their prayers, cards and gifts."
Offensive pictures deleted
I am writing to tell all of you some really good news! There is a Web site on the Internet that has an anonymous webmaster who claims he is a member of the WCG. I sent two E-mail messages to his Internet provider and they responded with some very good news.
The result: Within several days the offensive clip of a man urinating on a picture of Mr. Armstrong was removed.
How many more Armstrong bashers are there left? Maybe one less or at least one who ought to be shamed by having his Internet host slap him on the wrist for his vulgarity.
Please rejoice with me and pray to God and Christ that they will bless me now and in the future for successfully defending the man they used for over 50 years to proclaim the true Gospel of the Kingdom of God to the world--a man who, like Christ just before His crucifixion, has had most of friends and brethren turn their back on him and what he preached!
Enough is enough
Reading through these articles about what is going on with the splits in CGI, UCG-AIA, etc., makes a person become agnostic. I really wonder if there is a God sometimes. I read the Bible and I wonder why people insist on reading some man's (or men's) interpretation of what it says instead of reading it and understanding the text as it is written. If the Bible is God-inspired, HWA, GTA, Don Ward, Dave Havir, Ron Meredith, etc., have totally screwed it up. I hate religion! [Expletive deleted] religion!
Do you know that your ministry has a friend in the form of Wayne Schatzle, Freedom Biblical Information Center? Wayne, on his own initiative, distributes little cards. Then, when later contacted, he sends out a catalog on which your ministry's name and address appears.
Are cards a realistic form of advertising? I believe they appeal to those seeking the truth. If God can use radio, as He did in my own case in the past, I believe He can use little cards to call people. For some people little cards can be even more effective; for example, those who don't tune the radio dial.
In my own case and in my own area, I've tried sponsoring a radio program and a series of newspaper ads, with not-impressive results, and it cost more money than I could really afford. I feel by spreading these cards there exists the potential to just be able to do something, at least, and to reach the seeker among the unchurched or possibly the wayward exWorldwide Church of God member who may have lost his bearing.
Wayne suggests sticking these cards (or cards like them) in your wallet and as you go about your business stick them up on bulletin boards and other appropriate places. I've even stuck them up on the corner of mirrors in the men's room. Wayne has suggested sticking them in public-library books.
What if you do not agree with or are not sure about all of the ministries listed in Wayne's Freedom catalog? Then you can write him about your concerns, or you can print your own cards, with your own address.
This point is do something.
Of course, you can do nothing or file them away in a pile of papers and think about it (which amounts to the same thing).
This may be a way for the split and fragmented Churches of God to work together in a small way.
They say business cards are the cheapest, most effective form of advertising. Wayne has gotten a pile of responses in the year he has started distributing cards. You may never see the person who picks up your card till the Kingdom comes!
We get mail
Holy moly! To all of us who have been in the WCG for more or less than Dave Havir has, what do you think comes immediately to mind upon reading the heading "Brethren Must Always Be Looking to God's Apostle"? [The Journal, Jan. 30].
All together now, 1-2-3, Herbert W. Armstrong!
For 27 years we meekly obeyed and prayed. My excuse was that I was stupid and didn't know any better. I was told to grow in grace and knowledge according to HWA and his Pastor General Reports and desk-pounding sermons. But now, with eyes opened and a straightened-out mind, I'm understanding what the true gospel is all about.
Question: Did this revelation of the "True Apostle" come suddenly to Dave, or was he afraid to reveal it as long as Herbert was alive? And just wait till you get all that mail from die-hard Armstrongites.
You probably won't print this, but I'd just love to hear Dave Havir's response.
Journal of experiences
This newspaper is my lifeline to the "plain truth" of the activities of God's people today. It is truly a journal of the experiences as they unfold before our very eyes.
It's a blessing of mercy we can't pinpoint the prophetic events as they occur, but we are told to watch. The Journal allows for us all to do that. I hope we can have the wisdom to discern. Godspeed to all of you on the staff who provide the paper, also to writers Don Ward, Dave Havir and the many others. Be of good courage.
The nonteam work of the '70s
First, I'd like to thank editor Dixon Cartwright for doing such a great job in presenting my Basil Wolverton article in the Jan. 30 issue. I, and many others, will always remember Basil and his family with deep affection.
Second, I want to express appreciation for Ken Westby's candor in his lengthy interview piece in the same issue. Even though I was part of the headquarters nonteam in the mid-1970s, I had no clue about much of what was going on in the field. Whether you like or agree with what went on in 1974, you have to admit it was part of our common church history.
It is important that the facts be known. If anyone ever writes a comprehensive history of the Churches of God, Mr. Westby's interview should be included. All of those who broke away in 1974 are to be admired for their courage and willingness to risk all by standing on principle.
My final comment relates to a short letter from a reader named Keith E. Peterson. He asks, "Who is Gary Fakhoury?" Then he takes Mr. Fakhoury to task for presuming to write "spiritual" articles without first being ordained. He then pledges allegiance to Global.
Keith, give me a break. Where is it written that a person must be ordained to write an exegetical article? And why is "who" Gary is important? Truth is truth. The ordained ministry does not have a corner on the market. Everyone who has access to Scripture has access to truth. The Holy Spirit, by which we understand truth, is not limited to the ordained ministry. (I can even name one ordained minister who told me he believes he was never converted.)
Some of the most exegetically ridiculous things I've ever read have been written by ordained ministers. And some of the world's greatest Bible scholars and exegetical writers have never been ordained. The notion that only the ordained ministry --i.e., priesthood--can interpret or explain Scripture or doctrine is part of the reason the Protestant Reformation occurred.
Keith, I really believe you ought to rethink your comments.
Please pass our compliments (or is that complements? I can never remember, but then I'm just a flaky artist. Worse yet, I'm a cartoonist) to Brian for an excellent article on my father ["Friend of Basil Remembers Encounters With the Toon Man," Jan. 30]. I think my father pegged Brian immediately as a person with a keen and sophisticated sense of humor. However, that didn't stop my father from unleashing Wolverton humor on him.
Someday I would like to compile my dad's letters to several people. If it's not too much trouble, maybe Brian can Xerox me a set of what he has.
I'll send a copy of the paper to my mom. She'll love it.
Also, my complements (compliments? The dictionary is right here on the shelf, but it's just too much effort to reach for it. An unambitious lot, us cartoonists) on your objective reporting regarding the complex and divisive issues facing this particular part of the Christian church.
One small point in the Wolverton article: The picture shown and described in the caption as Lena the Hyena was in fact not Lena. It was the cover of Mad No. 11--similar to Lena but not Lena. I can send you a picture of the real Lena, if you're braced for it. [The picture of Lena arrived at The Journal; it's reprinted on page 3 of the print version of The Journal.]
I want to thank the staff of The Journal for the good job it did in covering the story of Mr. Hulme's termination ["Why Would Council of Elders of United Remove David Hulme From Presidency?," Jan. 30].
Some people would like every detail revealed, but we should understand this was an employment situation and employers have legal, and should have moral, obligations to protect their personnel.
The UCG council has the right to terminate employees and the responsibility to handle it professionally. I am pleased with the way the council handled this sensitive situation, and I wish Mr. Hulme the best in whatever role he plays in the future.
Dr. Bacchiocchi's book free via E-mail
Thank you immensely for sending me the latest issue of The Journal, which included my article ["The Soul Debate: Is There Conscious Existence After Death?," Jan. 30]. The whole issue was informative. It amazes me how much information you are able to gather. Undoubtedly this project must take a lot of your time, but you are rendering a valuable service to the various Churches of God.
You may wish to inform the readers of The Journal that they can receive the whole text of the book Immortality or Resurrection? A Biblical Study on Human Nature and Destiny (304 pages) free of charge via E-mail. With the help of two fast computers, we are now E-mailing an average of 200 copies of text per week to people around the world. Readers of The Journal can E-mail me their request at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will gladly E-mail them the complete text of the book free of charge. Thank you for sharing this information with your readers.
It is my fervent hope and prayer that this timely study will help not only Adventists but many members of the Churches of God to understand how the biblical wholistic view of human nature affects our wholistic understanding of this present life and the realistic vision of the world to come.
May the Lord continue to richly bless your life and ministry with His wisdom and grace.
The Journal's Dec. 18 article "Pastor Warns of the 'Spirit of Idolatry' in the Churches" by Ron Weinland was a very insightful article! It gave me a deeper appreciation of why God is allowing the scattering of the members of His church.
Additionally, I had requested Ron's four-tape series on "spiritual idolatry," listened to all of them and, subsequently, acquired a deeper appreciation of 1 John and why that book concludes with "Keep yourselves from idols."
I also believe these tape messages helped me to obtain a deeper understanding of what the spirit of antichrist means and how God may be judging the house of God (and it is only one body, with many scattered members) in its current, scattered condition. And a lot of it has to do with people relationships (how we treat one another), which may be more important than we realize.
I highly recommend any readers interested in knowing more about these principles to, as Ron encouraged, request his four-tape series.
Richard Pinelli transcript
A transcript of a sermon by Richard Pinelli [director of ministerial services, United Church of God] given Dec. 27 in Webster, Mass., was posted recently on an Internet forum. Because even midsentence digressions were transcribed, I assume the transcript to be accurate and comment accordingly.
I do not know Mr. Pinelli and make no personal critique of him. Brian Knowles, in an article in The Journal about his mentors (July 31), says: "Under Richard Pinelli I learned what it means to be a servant, . . . to care more about the welfare of the people than about my own."
I don't question Mr. Knowles assessment but comment on the message because it seems representative of the organizational thought inherited from the WCG.
Mr. Pinelli: "The whole work of God functions toward what? The restoration of what has been taken away from this earth, and what has been taken away from this earth is the gospel--excuse me--is the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is that government, and that government is what God is having us preach and proclaim."
The whole work of God functions toward the restoration of government? Although not without minor validity, this narrow definition of the Kingdom is used to support a ruling body in the church, and it sadly limits the rich meaning of the gospel message.
Mr. Pinelli (after quoting 1 Corinthians 12:4-6): "Then he [Paul] talks about the fact there are administrations, there are diversities of gifts, there are diversities of operations in that one and selfsame body. And he goes on to show that all do not have the same office."
Some use the word administration, or office, when the word referred to in verse 5 as "administrations" is actually diakonia, meaning "services." This does not indicate office or rank. All have different, not higher or lower, services to perform. We are all different parts of the Body that follows the head, Christ.
According to Paul's analogy, there is no physical head, only Christ, and equal body parts. Every Christian is to serve a spiritual service. "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Peter 4:10).
While insisting that Paul is outlining a pecking order in the Body, rather than explaining service functions, some preach at their brethren about rank and government instead of edifying them.
Mr. Pinelli (about the Protestant Reformation): "Authority has been successfully challenged, and now the humanistic philosophy, the rejecting of God in favor of a way centered on human reason, on human values, has risen up in the world that we live in. It has been quietly, during that period of time when Luther was at work, developing . . ."
This arrangement of words implies that Martin Luther rejected God by challenging the authority of the Catholic Church. I do not contend that Luther was converted. But, rather than reject God (as he knew Him), Luther understood he had a direct relationship with God, independent of any pope or organization.
Mr. Pinelli implicitly held up the Roman Catholic structure as a virtuous model for the structure of God's church.
Mr. Pinelli: "We see this as nothing more than a humanistic influence being expressed in two specific ways. In the diminishing of authority, or the power of the church, and the elevation of the common man and the challenge to the concept of one true church. It is that challenge that I want to talk about today."
Luther did not challenge the concept of one true church. Luther challenged the biggest, baddest organization of his day, the Catholic Church at the end of the Middle Ages. He challenged the false idea of an organization set up by men claiming to be the one true church. This was an empire of power and control. The Catholic Church was an organization far removed from the nonhierarchical Body that Christ established in A.D. 30.
Mr. Pinelli's use of the phrase "elevation of the common man" implies a Roman hierarchical perspective. Christ loathed a division of believers into castes of elevated clergy and groveling commoners.
"Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you" (Matthew 20:25-26). "But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers" (Matthew 23:8).
As early as the late first century, detestable error had begun to creep into the church. In 96 Clement Romanus used the word laikos (laymen) to mark a clear distinction between "ministers" and people. This word and distinction are not found in the Bible.
By the fourth century we see the emergence of a hierarchical religious organization based on the Roman imperial model. The power-hungry organization espoused the primacy-of-Peter doctrine to defend the hierarchy and its dictatorial preeminence over men.
Any not in agreement with Rome, like the Waldensians, were branded heretics. Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica wrote that these "deserve not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be shut off from the world by death."
Luther did not have against the Catholic Church only the abuse of indulgences. His concern was that a self-serving, corrupt organization wrongly claimed an authority "introduced by the ordinance of men." He rightly saw the hierarchical authority as human and not divine. He understood that "Christ requires no vicar." Denying the primacy-of-Peter lie, he declared that "Christ only is the foundation of the Church."
It was not accidental that the Reformation began in Germany; Germans innovated in printing. It was study of the Scriptures that led the people to see that the Roman tyranny was wrong.
No, Luther did not challenge the concept of one true church, but the concept of an organization set up by men, asserting itself as the spiritual Body of Christ. Mr. Pinelli alleges that the problem then, and in the Church of God situation today, was the abuses of those in the system and not the system itself. Herbert Armstrong called such systems a part of Babylon!
As illuminated in the article "WCG Governmental History Traced up to Tkach Era" in the last issue of In Transition [January 1997], Mr. Armstrong admitted in 1975 that he had changed his approach to church government because he "was afraid of losing control." What he wrote in the February 1939 Good News still gives food for thought today:
"Thus was church government introduced into the Western world a century after Constantine . . . The whole thing is false! It is not according to the Bible! It is part of Babylon! . . . Organization and church government has brought us only strife, jealousies, divisions, bitterness! It is not of God, and it can bear no other fruit."
Mr. Armstrong's article can be obtained from Servants' News, P.O. Box 220, Charlotte Mich. 48813.
Mr. Pinelli (quoting The Oxford's History of Christianity): "More and more theologians accepted the idea of the invisible church, an intangible reality above and beyond the fragmented Christian bodies."
Is this not true? God's church is not a visible organization. Publicly, most organizations admit that there are Christians outside of their organizations. But at the same time they urge "their sheep" to remain within their fences and "their" elders to be "committed to" their organizations. In short, they point people to their organizations rather than God and for the sake of their organizations dissect the Body of Christ, segregating a fraction of the ekklesia to their pastures.
Mr. Pinelli: "The Church of God is not a Protestant movement."
Agreed. But neither is the Church of God a hierarchical organization. The Catholic Church has influenced even the COGs of our day to hold to a wrong view of the Body of Christ, cutting the people of God out of the royal priesthood.
Yes, there are elders within the priesthood, whose fruits and gifts are recognized by the assembly. But the scenario of a class of ministers spiritually superior to a class of dormant sheep is wrong. All Christians have been given spiritual gifts and responsibilities, and all had better be exercising them (1 Peter 4:10; Hebrews 6:10-12).
The Bride will not be made ready by corporate control and authority. But God is preparing a people that will be ready to stand and follow Him regardless of organizational attempts to repress the priesthood. And this people will be encouraged by men pointing up and saying, "Behold, your God!"
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God