Letters from our readers
The May 31 Journal reported that the South Texas Church of God would have a Feast site at Wimberly, Texas. I'm one of two elders in the STCOG, and we as a congregation will not have our own Feast site this year as we did last year. We plan to attend at Big Sandy with the United Church of God Big Sandy.
After reading several times Mike Summer's letter, "The Unpardonable Sin," March 30 Journal, I felt that I must write because he counsels so wisely. I plead for more of this kind of letter. We who are alone on the Sabbath after seeing the error of the WCG and their offshoots derive guidance by being reminded of just what Christ told us by His example.
Mike's statement--"They say they forgave him [Garner Ted Armstrong] but enacted the same penalty they would have enacted if they hadn't forgiven him!"--causes us to think deeply and assess our own attitudes.
Muriel J. Crawford
Peterborough, Ont., Canada
My first contact with the Church of God was in 1961, then I was baptized in 1966. During the 1980s I traveled extensively and was privileged to visit churches in all the states of Australia and in New Zealand, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Mauritius, Jamaica, Jerusalem, Hannover, Paris, Manila, Yugoslavia and many parts of England, Scotland and Ireland, as well as much of the U.S.A. and Canada.
Then in 1987 I moved to England and attended the WCG regularly but was disfellowshipped in January 1991 because I asked a few questions. I was prominent in Spokesman Clubs and did sermonettes sometimes.
Then I was able to really start the Philadelphia Church of God in England, being authorized to lead that group by Gerald Flurry [the PCG's founder]. I had to organize the Feast in Christchurch, and my wife and I did all we could to get the PCG going well. All this took hours of work, and this was done willingly.
Then in 1996 we asked some questions and, even though we gave most of our life savings to the PCG to show our loyalty, we were disfellowshipped.
Then we joined up with Global but still asked some questions. Global did not disfellowship us, but did ask us not to attend meetings until we were sure about the questions.
Since then we have been among the lost and scattered and fellowshipping with others who had likewise been disfellowshipped or who had just stopped attending the bigger groups. We still fellowship regularly on Sabbath days.
We find that when we are on our own or with a small group in a home we are learning more about God and His Word. We are not restricted by what any organization of men says or wants us to believe. We have realized that God in His love and wisdom has seen fit to scatter the true believers so they can look to Him and Him alone.
It seems as if paid ministers want people to adhere to their rules, but a minister was to be a servant and not a boss. Jesus Christ, Yahshua, was never a boss or director. He was a servant and taught His followers to be servants.
It is possible to look back to the history of the church. Herbert Armstrong did a wonderful job in getting out the gospel, and this required an organization with money to spend on radio and TV and for the extensive travels that he made all over the world. Now the gospel has been preached to the world, and a few believed. Now has come the time for each person to be tested to see if he is worthy to be a part of the bride of Yahshua.
The true church is a spiritual organism and not a physical organization. Each person must be tested and corrected. This is the time of the Laodicean church, when the faith of many is weak and they depend on men and money, but in Revelation 3:19-20 all those whom Christ loves are rebuked and chastened, and those who accept this are invited to be with Christ.
Surely this is better than being in a human organization. We are as children awaiting the spiritual birth, and as all children we must be taught and corrected. Hence we see the need to be separated from the big organized churches.
Early this month we wrote to Gerald Flurry in a last-ditch effort to try to get him to correct some of the faults of the PCG. There is no answer yet. But then a friend sent me a copy of The Philadelphia News with an article by Mr. Flurry showing that they disfellowship in love.
At the time, disfellowshipment is devastating and the victim receives no love; he realizes that the church that he thought had love has only hatred towards him. But in the long term we come to realize that God has been correcting us so that we are now free from that church organization. But we are still members of God's true church.
Then we can be thankful to God for chastening us and holding onto us. Then we can pray for those who are still regulated by the organization that they may one day see the truth and return to God and His Son, Yahshua.
In that article Mr. Flurry says that God the Father has a plan and a family, and He has to disfellowship people from His family. Even in the true family situation, one never hears of a father kicking out one of his children. He will often have to correct a child, but a father does not kick them out.
Mr. Flurry then says that God disfellowships in an act of love. One day the same Gerald Flurry will have to account to the Father for what he has said. He says that disfellowshipping expresses God's family love.
Any minister should be able to satisfactorily answers a person's questions from the Bible, but when a pet theory of that church organization is at stake then they just refuse to answer a question and put out the person asking the question. Jesus Christ always answered questions, and these answers often put the questioner in his place. But, when the stability of the organization may be at risk, ministers will not answer. They think that the organization is more important than the truth.
We can thank God for His love and wisdom in scattering the end-time church so that every person can grow in faith and love without being confined to an organization. Mr. Flurry says that 95 percent of God's people have been disfellowshipped because it is a family matter. Mr. Flurry has disfellowshipped over 70 percent of those who were at some time in his church, but God our Father does not do this.
God will help us to separate from human organizations, but He makes sure that we are all part of His true church. As Peter said in 1 Peter 2:4-5: "We are disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious. Ye also as lively stones are built up a spiritual house-acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."
The real overcomer
Congratulations on your excellent coverage of UCG Big Sandy's and Dave Havir's courageous stand against attempted centralized takeover. All the divisions and splits of the past few years show us that something is drastically amiss in current church government.
As a member of an independent ex-WCG/CGI Bible-study group, my advice to members is that they really work at being overcomers.
When we discovered that our leaders were causing dissension and division rather than unity and harmony, we undertook our own in-depth research into the subjects that troubled us. In doing so, our spiritual learning has advanced dramatically.
Whereas our former spiritual leaders seemed content to keep us spiritual babes, we have since overcome several of their major errors, doctrine by doctrine, on our own. Any member or group that is willing to put on its thinking cap can do the same.
It would not be profitable in this forum to go into the doctrinal errors we have so far overcome, but a major one is that, after personal conversion, the Bible teaches that we are to continue diligently to work out our own salvation, rather than mindlessly and contentedly sucking our thumbs and imbibing only spiritual milk. No minister can work out our salvation for us, even if he means well.
The importance of doing this lies in the fact that there are orders and degrees in the resurrection that require godly qualifications too many of us are neglecting, unless we diligently search the Scriptures daily (not weekly) after the example left us by the Bereans and boldly face up to the truths we find there, as they did. This is the way of the real overcomer, the only way, in fact, it can be done.
Another view from El Paso
I read Charles Bassett's letter in the May 31 issue of The Journal. I feel several errors should be pointed out in his letter, since I too was there, knew the facts and did not go along with having David Hulme as my new dictatorial leader.
There's nothing wrong with The Journal's way of reporting. People give opinions all the time in other newspapers; why can't they in The Journal? Heather van Doorn stated the facts as she saw them.
Also, nowhere in the article did anyone call the people in El Paso senile, although judging from this man's letter perhaps it is the case.
Second, Steve Elliott constantly tried to turn the members against many publications, The Journal and Servants' News, especially. He also bashed living-room groups and various unaligned projects. Now, Charles can say that they think for themselves, but I was a witness to most if not all of the El Paso congregation (except for the few who left) taking Mr. Elliott's word for it and turning against those very same things.
He says the UCG never explained the removal of David Hulme, but that is not a fact! The UCG sent a letter to everyone stating that "at some point in time Mr. Hulme decided that he disagreed with the method of governance set up in our Constitution and Bylaws, which he had helped to write."
He also "was not willing to submit to the Council's direction as outlined in our Constitution and Bylaws."
What this means is that Mr. Hulme thought he could ignore any decisions made by others through the voting system of the UCG if he didn't like them. What this creates is another system in which one man rules.
Obviously, then, Mr. Hulme would have to be removed or the UCG as we know it would be completely obliterated. An example of this is when the majority of the general conference of elders voted to move the home office to Cincinnati. Mr. Hulme utterly refused!
The next item I wish to comment on is the statement that they're not following a man. What else can you call it when they leave an organization that already has a variety of ways they are preaching the gospel (a magazine in several languages, several booklets, a Web site with all the booklets, weekly sermons and more, ads in Reader's Digest, etc.) because Mr. Hulme (one man) will do it so much better?
Charles also says that they aren't following a dream, but is it reality to believe that a few people can finance the extremely high cost of television today? Look at how long it took Global, and that church has many more supporters than Mr. Hulme does.
Furthermore, if so many in the El Paso congregation were considering going to Global, why didn't they? Then they could have just helped keep Roderick Meredith's telecasts, which were already being broadcast all over the United States, on the air. Doesn't it seem illogical to spend all that money to put out their own, which will basically be the same, when Global is already doing it?
As for his complaints that the UCG has not been open enough, it seems odd that he would affiliate himself with a hierarchical government again. We all came out of that and know the corruption and secrets that can happen when one man rules. Look at the world's dictatorships throughout history if the example of the WCG is not enough proof.
Finally, to believe that top-down governments don't have conflicts and problems, then why did the WCG fall?
Before I close, I want to comment on the article about David Hulme's new Web site on page 10 of the same issue. He says he is most excited about it.
Excited about what? Everyone has a Web site now. He goes on to call it a "new opportunity," "a new venture" and "significant." How ironic that he leaves the UCG, which has a Web site preaching the gospel to the world, so he can start his own. He acts as if it's never occurred to him that one could do this, although he was the president of a group that has done it for years!
He then says, "Think about it-we are now broadcasting worldwide daily with a message from the Word of God, free of charge."
That's why so many people have Web sites. It's not a new concept.
To you who work so hard producing The Journal, keep up the good work, and forget the criticism from others.
I have noticed that quite a few people in the Church of God groups live in a bubble, their own little world. They do not know how to communicate what they think and feel without being wishy-washy and beating around the bush or losing their tempers.
A case in point: I had a misunderstanding with a person in the church. He (or she) let his emotions get the best of him by letting his bowels get in an uproar and going off like a snapping turtle. Subsequently, I was unable to get a word in edgewise.
We need to submit ourselves to God and pray He will help us mold and change our character and behavior in a way that He wants it to be. When we run into a problem with someone, we ought to ask ourselves what would Jesus Christ do in this situation and control our emotions and temper, not letting it control us.
Roderick Meredith, Garner Ted Armstrong and Ronald Dart have said many a time that no matter how much you know about the Bible if you don't try to put it into practice and live it and change our character and behavior for the better, we will not be in the first resurrection. That should be one of our main focal points, not prophesy or church government.
Lesson on law
I was disappointed to see the letter by Orest Solyma regarding organizations and constitutions [May 31]. He states that he has a church of some 50 people in attendance each Sabbath and he is not incorporated, nor has he any constitution but the Bible. He states that fact as a seeming virtue. This letter can be described only as an irresponsible exercise of authority and trust. It is necessary to draw the attention of the readers to important aspects of the laws of the commonwealth and also of the United States of America.
It is a breach of the Commonwealth Crimes Act to urge anyone to breach the laws of the commonwealth. It is a matter of law that associations in this country [Australia] must be registered to undertake normal functions of associations. In the United States of America it is a permitted for church organizations to be unincorporated if they have budgets or handle moneys of less than $10,000. This ceiling does not apply within the Commonwealth of Australia. We have no option but to register and incorporate in both countries and comply with the laws.
Considering the tithe structure, groups in excess of three working families would probably exceed this limit in the United States. Thus there is a legal requirement to register for most working groups. This is to protect the people against improper action.
In Australia, financial institutions are prevented from opening bank accounts unless organizations are registered. Banks may open up accounts to hold moneys pending registration but not operate the account. If the bank has opened an account, it is because it has been told that the organization is to be registered. If the moneys are channeled through the account of an individual, there is a serious problem.
To conduct marriages one has to be registered as a religious or civil marriage celebrant. To be authorized to conduct religious marriages under the laws of the Commonwealth, the association must be registered with the relevant authorities, and the association then certifies the celebrant.
Civil celebrants are restricted, and thus, as a rule, the association has to comply with the procedures of associations under incorporation to be allowed to conduct marriages. Once you leave one organization, your ability to marry as a celebrant is terminated until the new organization certifies you and you are reregistered by the attorney general. An organization has to be in existence itself for 12 months before it is eligible to certify a religious celebrant.
All organizations registered as associations are then required to submit constitutions under the Corporations Act. These constitutions have requirements placed on them by law. These simply cannot be ignored. Such items are the conduct of the organization, office holders, seals, amendments, rights of redress, the financial year for audit purposes and dispersal provisions.
The accounts are required to be kept according to law and audited on an annual basis by a qualified auditor. There are also legal requirements regarding taxation, insurance, indemnity and finance.
To assert that one can simply call oneself the Church of God at "wherever" and simply set up as a minister and conduct marriages without registration, constitution and books of account is not only contrary to law but gross irresponsibility and may actually be fraudulent, depending on the way the funds are collected, handled and used. It is certainly damaging to the trust of those involved and invites government intervention. It brings the other Churches of God acting according to law into disrepute.
The problems in the Church of God regarding organization and administration stem in part from the blatant disregard for the law taught and practiced in the WCG system in past years. From the documents obtained from the Australian Securities Commission and the State of California, it appears beyond doubt that Herbert Armstrong signed false documents and undertook activities contrary to law and was condoned in these aspects by the higher ministry and the people involved. To be fair to the brethren, they had little knowledge of the improper activities going on. The higher ministry, however, knew of much of it and not only condoned some of it but some actually participated in those activities.
The constitution of the WCG, which was its protection, was fraudulently done away with. For these reasons constitutions are vital, and they must be enforced by the brethren. For this reason they are required by law in this and other countries, and people who disregard those laws find themselves in serious trouble. In fact, if the brethren of the WCG enforced their own constitution, they would never have lost control of the church to Mr. Armstrong and the former administration and subsequently the Tkach administration. They could still recover it if they had the intellectual honesty to admit the earlier fraud and ask for Supreme Court orders in the matter.
How to act
Concerning Don Hooser's letter ["Slightly Different Viewpoint," April 30, page 11]: I can appreciate that you, Mr. Hooser, are bold enough, or should I say mature enough, to read The Journal. Thanks for giving some possible reasons for the applause concerning Dixon Cartwright ["Two Journal Writers Removed," March 30].
But why are you asking him to apologize for taking a proper stand? Why didn't you take the high road and ask the ministers to apologize? It seems clear they were in the wrong. It's no wonder the ministry can't regain the respect it once had. The ministers are still trying to wield gentile-fashion control. I'm glad you want more openness, but are you willing to fight and take a stand like Barnabas?
So many have been brainwashed for so long that they have to follow every order or directive given by a minister. When someone decides to exercise his or her God-given freedom to call into question an order given by a minister, the minister doesn't know how to act and is quick to label such a person a rebel.
So come on, Bob Dick and Joel Meeker. Say it in bold print in The Journal: "We were wrong; we acted like jerks; and we are sorry."
To Tony Stith ["God Is Quite Big Enough to Handle It," April 30, page 3]: This is wonderful advice to independents and made a courageous admission.
To Don Hooser ["Slightly Different Viewpoint," April 30, page 11]: I suggest that the apology needs to be directed to Dixon Cartwright. What a shame indeed that the UCG chairman would mistreat a brother.
Overview of things
The recent shakeup in the UCG-AIA has caused confusion and sadness. I cannot understand why The Journal is ostracized by some and hope you and your team are not discouraged or deterred by them. The ministry in the Churches of God must realize that members are more alert and thinking than they were in the past WCG days, and they want a balanced picture of what's happening.
You must have heard this many times before, but I just have to say it again. The Journal is important to those, especially the scattered ones, to keep abreast of the happenings in the Sabbath-keeping organizations. It helps us to have an overview of things and to make careful and balanced decisions.
What happened to you and Bill Stough at the UCG conference was unfortunate and should not have taken place at all. I hope both of you are not discouraged. Keep up the good work. We need you and your team to keep The Journal going!
The good of the work
The various Churches of God in their literature discuss a subject called government. The only way "to do the work" is through a centralized headquarters church. The idea is that "bigger is better." But at what expense do we do this work?
Are the laity once again to be asked to sacrifice for a large corporate structure of church government? The idea of bigger is better has even infiltrated our dogma and theology.
My contention is if we do not maintain a strong, viable local church congregation, then the failure of a central theocratic type of government is inevitable. In the past (25 years for me), I watched as first one local-church program after another was sacrificed for the "good of the work." What did this accomplish?
We spent millions of hours and dollars at the expense of our local congregations, youth programs and families. The result was catastrophic to our congregations and churches.
My personal denomination was shanghaied by a handful of people who gained control over the church government. They then decimated the church doctrine and looted the church treasury.
Have any of our churches ever been a dominate church? In ancient church histories you learn our churches have always had the status of a remnant church, a persecuted minority. We are a minority of a minority. The ancient Waldensians of the Piedmont area of Europe could maintain only small congregations for fear of the centralized dominant church.
The congregations are and always will be the foundation of all our denominations. Without strong congregations, the headquarters church will soon wither and die. The strength of any church comes from a faithful laity versed in the Scriptures, prayer and giving.
Thanks for the recent issue [May 31] featuring the split of Big Sandy's United congregation. It meant a lot to read the details because we moved to California only one week before the split after living in Big Sandy for eight years.
Little did I know that, while I was battling El Nino and moving boxes that were multiplying faster than loaves and fishes, our brethren in Big Sandy were facing a far more serious trial.
The letter of May 13 from Bob Dick to Big Sandy United members stated that the members of the congregation "view themselves as an independent congregation that has merely chosen to affiliate with UCG-AIA." Mr. Armstrong always taught that if you start with a false premise you cannot help but reach a false conclusion, so I'd like to clarify the above statement.
First, it was news to most of the Big Sandy congregation that it views itself to be an independent congregation, given the fact that 70 percent of its tithes were sent to the home office to the tune of a third of a million dollars in the last year. In light of this, I would think that United would be praying for more of these "independent" congregations.
Second, there is no such thing as "merely deciding." You decide to do something or not to do it. The word merely was used, I believe, to downplay the Big Sandy congregation's decision to join United. I only wish the home office had given the decision the same respect that the Big Sandy congregation gave it when it decided to become a United congregation.
I'll bet most of you have thought the Big Sandy congregation to be a bunch of independent, renegade upstarts. Actually, they are just a bunch of down-to-earth folks who don't do lunch or wear power ties. They are working-class people who aren't lulled by smooth words or fancy rhetoric; otherwise they would be at Worldwide. They value candor and honesty and, by all accounts, were disappointed at the lack of straightforward answers given by the visiting members of the council of elders on May 9.
Why was Dave Havir removed? Was it really about paperwork not being turned in on time, as Dr. Don Ward alluded? Could we have really reached that level of red tape and bureaucracy in only three short years?
Some of you may wonder what Dave Havir is really like. I'm sure that he is not without fault, but, then, I know that Dave Havir would be the first to say that. Although he is an enthusiastic minister, he is also a self-effacing person. More than anything, I would say he is a servant. In fact, in my 26 years in the Church of God, I've never had a pastor who was more of a servant than he is.
If someone is sick, he is there. In the hospital? He is holding the member's hand when he goes into surgery and still there when he comes out. When we were moving he showed up on our doorstep more than once to ask if there was anything we needed.
The second trait that I would use to describe Dave Havir will really shock many readers. He is a terrific peacemaker, though not compromising on doctrine. He is always preaching to his congregation the importance of building bridges between the Sabbath-keeping congregations of God. He respects others rather than tolerating them, and in a small town like Big Sandy that is critically important.
Big Sandy is like no other congregation in the Church of God. It has a population of only 1,300, yet half of its residents have been in the church at some time or other. You have Worldwide, Global, Church of God International, Philadelphia, Church of the Living God, Messianic Judaism, Sacred Names and countless other groups as well as living-room congregations. Imagine all of these people living side by side as neighbors, working side by side as employees. It is no wonder that Dave Havir goes to such lengths to promote respect for others' beliefs and harmony within his congregation.
That is why it was such a shock when United disallowed the Big Sandy congregation to continue as part of its organization. It cited the congregation's local board and bylaws as the main reasons.
Why did United feel that it had to split the Big Sandy congregation? The answer puzzled me until I read thoroughly the transcript of the May 9 meeting between the Big Sandy congregation and visiting council-of-elders members. I was shocked to find that by their own admission some United council members don't know what took place in the Indianapolis meeting where United became an organization.
Les McCullough began the meeting by stating: "We were not in Indianapolis. I know nothing of Indianapolis."
Leon Walker added: "I have no knowledge of Indianapolis whatsoever . . . I do have the videotapes . . . I've never had the chance to view them. I should have done so by this time, I suppose . . . Frankly, I never considered from my point of view that Indianapolis was that relevant."
Surely anyone employed by United and serving in a governing capacity should be required to view the tapes. How in the world can we expect these gentlemen to uphold the spirit of Indianapolis when they don't even know what took place there? Why do they find Indianapolis irrelevant, and why did they join United if that is how they feel? After all, that is the opening chapter of United's history.
I believe this has created a great gulf between many of the United congregations and the council of elders. Before I became a member of United, I made time to view every one of the tapes of the Indianapolis meetings. I wanted to know what happened there because it was extremely relevant to my decision to join United. Remember that the vast majority of United's membership joined immediately after the Indianapolis conference. I have to believe they liked what they heard or they would have joined another existing group such as Global.
Many United members found the decentralization of authority and emphasis on a serving home office rather than a headquarters to be appealing. The idea of local-church boards and members' input and the Indianapolis spirit of openness and candor were for many a refreshing change. Therefore, I find it distasteful when governing council members show disrespect for the Indianapolis conference by being willfully ignorant of it and explaining they were not present and find it "irrelevant."
I find it sad that United's council of elders drew a line in the sand and invited a congregation to cross it, especially when more than 90 percent of the members wanted to be a United congregation. It reminds me of Joseph Tkach's visits to Big Sandy when he would say, "If you don't like it, why don't you leave?" I wondered why he didn't value the members more. Old habits die hard, if they ever die at all.
In the Bible I see the example of the good shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to seek the one he felt was going astray. Notice that he didn't invite it to go over the cliff to keep it from joining the other 99. Christ showed a shepherd's accountability for His flock when He said, "Those whom you gave Me I have kept and none of them is lost except the son of perdition . . ."
It is true that God calls us a little flock. With the mind-set and heavy-handedness of United's president and council of elders, it seems they are bent on insuring that United will remain, indeed, a very little flock.
With love to all our dear friends in Big Sandy, wherever you have chosen to attend ...
Jesus in His ministry emphasized saving sinners and leaving the secure sheep to rescue the lost sheep (Luke 15). He also condemned the religious leaders of His day for hypocrisy and pride and putting their laws ahead of God's laws. Paul emphasized in Corinthians that Christ is not divided.
In the Big Sandy incident ["Largest UCG Church Splits Over Governance," May 31], the UCG-AIA, has hit a new low in putting out a whole congregation. They are causing division and chasing away the sheep instead of putting out the right hand of fellowship. Does anyone think this is the way the Kingdom of God will be run in the Millennium?
We are bringing disgrace to God by our constant splintering and bickering divisions and denominations. We should be beseeching God to intervene to end these divisions and doing our part by letting our pastors in all the denominations (which is another disgrace!) know we are greatly disappointed that they are not trying to unite the Body of Christ.
Prophecy in action
Sharon Bettes' address to Don Ward and the UCG council of elders was most moving ["Journal Prints Transcript of May 9 Questions and Answers," May 31]. Clearly the Spirit of God moved her to address a most critical issue. I have grieved in deep sorrow over the events since Mr. [Herbert] Armstrong died. The actions to which Sharon referred are clearly visible in all the divisions. United is divided; Associated is disassociating; Global is parochial; Worldwide is no longer.
What I see, and what is clearer year by year, is that at the individual level men and women can meet and fellowship peacefully and respectfully. Tragically, the men who have placed themselves on Moses' seat cannot meet and fellowship in respect.
The problems are obvious in every one of the forms of governing bodies: men who in the final analysis are not following the Holy Spirit to do right and care for the sheep, nor for the gospel. Everyone has a track record that is a spiritual horror story. This is Laodicea. Satan has had a field day. We have allowed it.
Consider: The world is actively sinning. One need not be surprised. The nation of Israel (not just the state of Israel) is actively sinning (for those, if any, who still believe in the existence of the 10 tribes). Each one of us sins, also.
But now I say the Church of the Living God is actively sinning in a sinful nation, in a sinful world. The inevitable outcome is that the great tribulation is unavoidable. It is God's wrath. There is much in the Church of God to excite His just fury.
There is a prophecy in action today: "Smite the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered . . ." (Zechariah 13:7). This happened at the death of Herbert Armstrong; it happened with the formation of United; it happened with the formation of Global; it is happening currently in congregations in many places and in all fellowships.
Jesus addressed another issue in Matthew 24:48, that of a wicked servant smiting his fellow servants. I say, with tears in my eyes: My brethren, these things ought not be so!
Finally, let me refer you to the account of Ichabod, where the glory of the Lord, hesitating, reluctantly, loath to leave, finally departed. You will find it in 1 Samuel 4.
Letters show slant?
After reading the letters in the May 31 issue, I must say that I am disappointed. There is so much self-centeredness. I'm afraid that The Journal is turning into In Transition. An obvious slant in opinion has become present.
I pray that everyone out there in Church of God land gets a copy of the United Church of God's new booklet Fundamental Beliefs. This, brethren, is the trunk of the tree! Have we forgotten it? Have we forgotten how liberating and precious this knowledge is?
The answer, unfortunately, is probably yes. Why? Because everyone is more concerned about whether he's being respected or regarded well enough by the ministry and church management. Show some faith, people! Leave that up to God.
The booklet is a watershed in the (United) Church of God. Think of the tremendous benefit this can be to us, as well as to those "new people"-as everyone likes to put it-that God is calling.
We had better cling to the trunk-of-the-tree doctrines, and we had better internalize them-before the time of the famine of the Word comes. Let's get our priorities straight!
A little information
Thank you so much for The Journal. It keeps us informed more than anything or anybody. We get very little information. It is right back to everything is top secret. We don't need to know; just send your money.
I wonder how many ministers are going to split their congregations because there are differences of opinion on government-nothing doctrinal? One of our deacons said recently that people are expendable. What are we getting back to, disfellowshipment? I do hate that word; it makes me feel sick at my stomach. Just wanted you to know how important we feel The Journal is. Great issue this month [May]: thorough investigative reporting!
Which COG will I join?
After reading the letters in your May 31 issue, I wish to make the following statements:
I have just recently resigned from the WCG and asked that my name be taken off its roll. I do not intend to join any of the other "Churches of God" because I can see the infighting and bickering going on in the name of "serving God" and "doing the work."
Perhaps it would help those who are fighting if they would research just a few terms in their Bible (you know, the book we all claim to be using as the basis of our beliefs). I don't think you will find that "ordain," "church government," "headquarters," "from the top down" and many other terms we hold near and dear to us are even to be found there.
The "work of God" is mentioned in several places; for example: "Now the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God engraved on the tablets" (Exodus 32:16). "All men shall fear, and shall declare the work of God; for they shall wisely consider His doing" (Psalm 64:9). "Consider the work of God; for who can make straight what He has made crooked?" (Ecclesiastes 7:13). "Then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labors to discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it" (Ecclesiastes 8:17). "Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent' " (John 6:29). "Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense" (Romans 14:20).
Herbert Armstrong was a man: a man with faults and shortcomings and a man who let his vanity lead him into organizing a church into a form of government that he himself at one time knew was wrong.
Did the ministers who left his organization do any better? Is there one that is truly following the biblical directives of Christ Himself on how His church should be organized?
Each seeks followers to line its own pockets and to allow its leaders to continue in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed at the expense of those who pay, pay and pay, not just pray and stay.
Supporting those from whom we get spiritual food is a biblical principal. Tithing to a man or organization is not, since the Levitical priesthood has passed away (read Hebrews 7 carefully).
Christ has replaced that priesthood with another. He is our High Priest, and He doesn't need a tenth of the nation's income to support Him while He serves as a mediator between God and man. In fact, He doesn't need anything from us. Instead, He gives to us His love, His Spirit, His name.
I believe that God allowed everything that has gone on in the WCG to proceed exactly as it has-even Joseph Tkach Jr. encouraging his dad to implement changes that were wrong. God did not cause it, but He allowed it.
When God allowed Joseph Tkach Sr. to die and the junior Mr. Tkach finally was in a position to be No. 1, God allowed the splintering and scattering of the WCG so that people would be forced to get their eyes on God and off of any man.
Some stayed in the WCG and were forced to get their eyes on God instead of believing what some person representing headquarters said. Some went with other groups like the UCG and were forced to get their eyes on God. Some went with other groups but were forced to get their eyes on God. We have had to question our long-held doctrines and beliefs, and, just as HWA used to say, we have been forced to not believe what he said but to blow the dust off our Bibles and prove it for ourselves.
I for one am grateful for the basic truths received from HWA and believe he did point us all back to the Bible and away from the doctrines of this world. How easy it is to point our fingers at someone else and blame them for all the hardships we have faced in life. If I was spiritually abused by ministers in the WCG, so you who followed other men have been abused spiritually in the organization you left the WCG to follow.
We will all continue to suffer abuse if we get our eyes off God and begin to let any man tell us how and when and where to worship God. In spirit and in truth: That is the only requirement Christ gave for how the Father wants to be worshiped. To have anyone between us and God is idolatry, regardless of who he is or who he claims put him into a certain position.
How nice it is and how pleasant to get together with our friends in the groups that have split off from the WCG. It doesn't matter if they are in the CCG, BCG, CGG, UCG, GCG, CGI, etc., when we are with people in whose lives God is working we are with family. There is a closeness and family love that is stronger than blood. It doesn't matter if they are white, black, Jew, gentile, male or female. It is the Spirit of God, His Spirit, His mind, His way of thinking, that binds us together.
Groups that are beginning to realize this won't be concerned if the "man is the head" (another word to do research on; it means "life source," not ruler, in ancient Greek) and with the proper submission of the wife and lay members, etc. They will finally understand what it means that we are all one in Christ. Differences in race, age, sex, station in life, nationality, languages, etc., won't matter anymore.
In Christ all the barriers are removed. We are back to the relationship that Adam and Eve had with God and with each other before they sinned and she was told as a result that her husband would rule over her, just as-because of sin-death had entered into the world. In Christ all things are new.
Let's get on with believing what Christ said and what Christ accomplished for us by His death and resurrection. Let's get our minds off what any group says and get them onto Christ, where they belong. Then we shall truly have peace!
"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).
Zeal for the gospel
I want to thank you for your efforts in keeping UCG members updated on the attempt to take over the Big Sandy church [May 31 issue]. Your efforts are really important because it is easy for misinformation to travel. I was upset by the attempted takeover of Big Sandy and was even more upset when the UCG president tried to cover up the takeover by calling it a transfer when transfer was not even mentioned in the initial letter.
I personally believe the form of government of the Church of God is irrelevant. It is the conversion of the leaders that determines the success of the Church of God. God will bless a converted leader who seeks first the Kingdom and His righteousness and has a zeal to spread the gospel of the coming Kingdom of God.
It does not matter whether it is a democracy, hierarchy or association. He will not bless a power-hungry, egotistical leadership that cannot treat even its own members with Christian respect. In fact, such an attitude in the leadership (actually, management) dooms the organization.
Thanks again for your efforts. Please continue to keep us informed, especially when the next church is attacked.
Links to HWA materials
I want to thank you for a recent update in the "Links" section of The Journal's Web site (www.thejournal.org) where you are highlighting discontinued material written by Herbert Armstrong cataloged from various sources. I think this is much needed because so many groups claim to be of the same tradition and the successor church. Now interested people will be able to compare the quality of material from the UCG, GCG, PCG, etc., with the early writings.
Try comparing the early statement of beliefs to other COGs'; there were changes put in some churches' statements of doctrine that will surprise you.
Some titles are especially hard-hitting and controversial. I especially like the Masonic booklet being listed. It will be interesting to see the reaction. I hope you can get the Military Service and War booklet on, which will put the militia types on alert as to what the Church of God has taught on the subject for 140 years. It was the Church of God that persuaded Congress during the Civil War to allow for conscientious objection. If you don't have Internet access, many local libraries now subscribe.
I have always felt that one must figure out just where Herbert Armstrong is in their theology. I see extremes ranging from near worship to demonizing. To many, every word he said or wrote is gospel. To others, he was simply another Sabbatarian and not very original at that.
Personally, I think of him as my spiritual mentor, whom God worked through to bring me and thousands of others to the knowledge of Him. As the advertising genius of the century, he was able to put it all together as no one else. We must obviously continue to grow, but not by tearing down this foundation.
I see continual divergence among the different offshoots to the point where we will no longer be able to fellowship together anymore. I urge everyone to check out these materials and see just what it was that converted the majority of us.
There is also work going on to catalog tapes of radio broadcasts and sermons. Much of what Mr. Armstrong said in the early '80s was never properly analyzed. He went far beyond the "two trees." It is important for the next generation to understand this as well, not to be shackled to past traditions, but to understand their history.
How long is your prayer list? How many updates have you received in the last year?
Our prayer list finally reached a point where it became totally unmanageable. We knew there had to be a better way, so for those of you who found yourselves in the same boat I would like to pass on our solution to this problem.
I obtained 35 3-by-5 cards and numbered each. Next I transferred from our prayer list what we considered the most important and urgent six names or special requests to said cards. All entries were made in pencil. We no longer waited for updates; instead we simply decided to make changes once we felt our prayers had served a purpose.
Although it was a little time-consuming, the cards were easy to program, and this is only done once, since from here on in only one or two changes on each card would probably be necessary. We use a different one each day; the number on the card corresponds to the date of the month.
You will find this system extremely handy, especially when traveling. On a recent eight-day journey we took eight cards. We found them useful in our stateroom and hotel room. We were able to stay on track with our prayers each day. Since we seldom miss asking a blessing on each meal, we would now refer to our prayer card for that particular day before the blessing was said, thus we were able to offer up the same special prayers three times a day.
Our daily prayer program is now an enjoyable habit, and it's always interesting to see whose name will appear on the new card for the day.
Address changes back
Please let your readers know that after July 27 they should continue to send mail to to In Him newsletter to P.O. Box 6553, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands 00804. I am not moving after all. [The information about the address change in the print version of The Journal is now incorrect.] E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your help and support.
The nonsense of hiding behind "executive session" (better read "executive privilege") is absolutely contrary to the open and above-board approach espoused in the early and refreshing days of the new UCG-AIA in 1995 ["Largest UCG Church Splits Over Governance," May 31 issue].
But this is the way it has to be within the corporation as it is structured, you say?
Then restructure the corporation! Abandon the whole mess if necessary. Start over and do better, if that is what is needed. If it is too cumbersome to effect godly changes, then forget the whole thing. It (the UCG-AIA) is, after all, not the Church of God, not the spiritual Body of Jesus Christ. Let's quit kidding ourselves.
The way the United Church of God, an International Association, has conducted its affairs makes me glad I am not an actual member (technically and legally) of this humanly devised corporation.
I truly wish we brethren, not just the elders, were in this together in a brotherly, open, honest and godly fashion. You say that the world is not this way and won't allow it? So what? I am not talking about the world's society.
Don Ward commented that the church is hierarchical according to the Bible. Of course it is (Ephesians 5:21-33; 1 Corinthians 11:3).
But do you see a steeply structured pyramid of a stratified (and rarified) superclass of ministerial aristocracy overlording the rest of the brethren (as well as overloading one another) in the New Testament or elsewhere in the Bible?
My experience with many elders among God's people (not all, but too many) has actually been easy to characterize. Rule No. 1: The pastor is always right. Rule No. 2: But what if the pastor is wrong? See rule No. 1.
Yes, there are elders among the brethren. But we are all brethren! We must treat each other as such, as in Matthew 18 and Luke 17.
We certainly do not get an open, honest, balanced view of things by reading only the approved literature concerning situations in the congregations. This is a most unfortunate carryover from the days of controlled, one-sided and self-serving information.
The Journal is available from P.O Box 1020, Big Sandy, Texas 75755, U.S.A., and http://www.thejournal.org.
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God