C. Wayne Cole writes open letter explaining decision
TYLER, Texas--Longtime Church of God member and former Worldwide Church of God evangelist C. Wayne Cole--in a letter dated July 13 to the council of elders of the United Church of God, an International Association--informed the 12-man council of his decision no longer to align himself "exclusively" with the UCG-AIA.
In the open letter, which Mr. Cole also released to The Journal, he writes that he and his wife, Doris, wish the UCG-AIA well, but he expressed disappointment that ideals he said he heard espoused at the church's founding conference in Indianapolis, Ind., in the spring of 1995 have in large part been discarded by the church.
"The course of conduct and the fruits borne thus far in the short history of The United Church of God AIA appear to say to us that we were misled by the wonderful words spoken in Indianapolis," he wrote. ". . . In spite of the beautiful and inspirational principles enunciated, there was not a commitment by those responsible to follow up on those founding words of encouragement. Had we been told that another hierarchy was going to be formed that would hold the power and potential to abuse the people of God, then we may have asked God to grant us 'a little more time on the sidelines.'"
By "sidelines" Mr. Cole was referring to 16 years, from 1979 to 1995, when he and Mrs. Cole didn't attend church anywhere.
In 1979 he had served as an evangelist in the WCG for many years and had held various posts including director of church administration. In 1978 and 1979 he was direct personal assistant to WCG founder Herbert W. Armstrong. But in January 1979 Mr. Armstrong fired Mr. Cole for, as some reports put it at the time, trying to take over the Worldwide Church of God.
As a result, some church members over the years have been critical and distrustful of Mr. Cole, having heard only the WCG's side of the events that quickly led to the WCG's going into receivership for several months beginning in 1979.
Mr. Cole, who was baptized in 1948, denies that he tried to take over the WCG. He says that circumstances, events and certain officials at Pasadena, Calif., church headquarters in 1979 worked to remove him from his post, his ministry and his membership in the WCG.
The Coles moved to Tyler, Texas, soon after his termination and affiliated with Garner Ted Armstrong and the Church of God International for six months. Then they attended nowhere--while operating a successful real-estate business--but "worshiped God and observed the Sabbath privately," Mr. Cole told The Journal, until the Day of Pentecost 1995, when they began attending with the United Church of God Big Sandy.
The UCG Big Sandy, after three years as part of the UCG-AIA, as of May 16, 1998, is no longer associated with the UCG-AIA. Until a few weeks ago, even after the recent split in Big Sandy, Mr. Cole continued to attend church with the new Big Sandy UCG-AIA congregation. But beginning in July he has attended with the UCG Big Sandy.
More details of Mr. Cole's decision regarding the UCG-AIA are in his letter, which is reproduced here in its entirety. To contact Mr. Cole, write him at P.O. Box 131198, Tyler, Texas 75713, U.S.A.
Following is the text of the letter, dated July 13.
An open letter to all concerned:
In January 1979 the most traumatic experience of my life resulted in my being terminated from the work I loved and had devoted my life to serving and to my being disfellowshipped from the Church of God that my wife and I had labored long and hard to serve with our whole hearts. Had this series of events been a result of rebellion and disloyalty, it may have been easier to bear. However, when you know that the charges were false and contrived, then that is a little more difficult. With whatever personal mistakes I made, I did look to Mr. Armstrong as God's chosen servant to lead His work on earth, and I was going to stand firm for the integrity and accountability of God's work.
After the stunning shock of reality hit us, my wife, Doris, and I knew that bitterness and resentment would only be self-destructive! We knew that our hurt would not touch those guilty of the godless and needless acts of condemnation! Rather, we knew a bitter heart would eat away at us, very likely causing us to "cast away those pearls of great price" God had revealed to us. Then the next thing would be for us to begin to "blame God" for our misfortune! The end result of this whole frame of mind would be our loss of eternal life in the great and glorious Kingdom of God. This course was totally unacceptable!
So what was there to do? Start another "branch church"? It seemed to me there were too many of these "splinters" and "twigs" already. I said at that time and still say, "The last thing the world needs is the Church of C. Wayne Cole." And to me that is what it would have been. Oh, yes, we realized that it might have been "successful," if "success" is defined in numbers of people and resources in dollars. Such a course would have more than likely been adequate for our support. But this course of action was also totally unacceptable.
Doris and I believed with all our hearts that the Worldwide Church of God was the present-day organization in the succession of the church Jesus promised He would build and that would never die. We were very much aware that some in the leadership of the church surrounding Mr. Armstrong were not Spirit-led and Christ-centered, but it seemed clear to us that God had not "moved His candlestick" to another organization or corporate entity. And, as time passed, it became clear that we could not hope to have reconciliation with the Worldwide church of God, at least for the foreseeable future.
Out of bounds?
So it seemed the only course left was "sit on the sidelines and wait"! One of my favorite verses had been for years Lamentations 3:26, which states, "It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord." Now I was going to be tested, whether or not I really believed this and could live by it! God was going to have to make His will known, whether or not He had something He wanted me to do in His service. I was not going to usurp it, start another "splinter group," nor was I going to work with one of the existing groups broken off from the WCG. So we waited! Doris and I still believed in the basic teachings and traditions of the Worldwide Church of God. We took the Passover by ourselves every year! We struggled to remain faithful to God, without the fellowship of the church, even if so very imperfectly.
In early 1995 my daughter and son-in-law in the Worldwide Church of God mentioned the shattering events that were occurring in the church. They told us about the course changes being made that were turning the church from the teachings and the traditions of Christ to a more "acceptable position in the eyes of mainstream Christianity." They also told us about a conference of elders that was to convene in Indianapolis. Victor Kubik, whom we had seen at a reunion on the Ambassador University campus a year or two previously, called and invited us to attend this upcoming conference in Indianapolis. It seemed that "something big" was about to happen. Being self-employed, we felt we could arrange our workload and spare the time, so we decided to attend.
We were excited, enthusiastic and very nearly overwhelmed at what we witnessed in Indianapolis. The sheer number of elders, wives and other members present was an inspiration even before anything was said. It seemed clear that a most significant event was transpiring before our very eyes. Here assembled seemed to us to be the nucleus of the continuation of God's work on earth. As He had promised, "the gates of hell will not prevail against His church."
The leadership of the Worldwide Church of God was apparently abandoning the fundamental teachings upon which the church was built, effectively bringing about the "death of the church we believed to be the true church." But, faithful to His Word that His church would not die, here seemed to be the group, voluntarily assembled and largely at personal expense, that was going to be used by Christ Himself to continue His work in the "end of this age"! The emotions of all seemed most genuine at the time we arrived in Indianapolis. The humility of those planning the conference seemed very real. Nobody knew what God would provide, how many people would show up and just what the attitudes would be. It seemed to me to be a very humbling experience to walk into that meeting room and see just how many ministers and wives God had called there.
As we thought about these meetings, the encouraging things that were said and the actions of devotion and humility that seemed to occur, it appeared God was in the process of "transferring His candlestick" to another entity. We prayed about this, thought about it and talked at length about it, as I know many others were doing. Without thought for position, recognition or direct involvement as one of the ministers or leaders, it seemed clear to both my wife and me that we wanted to fellowship with these people of God. Finally, after 16 years on the sidelines, we would once again be a part of the very Church of the Living God in this end of the age. There was a sense of "first love" all over again. Fellowship with the Church of God in the Big Sandy area was wonderful, fulfilling and exciting. Preaching the occasional sermon, after so many years of remaining silent, was exciting--it was nervous--time like it had been for me as a young man many years previously--it was an emotional time, and, I trust, it was an edifying time to others as it was to me.
As the time passed, so did much of the initial enthusiasm that had been shared by so many brethren. By the time the general conference of elders convened in Cincinnati [in December 1995], just over six months after the Indianapolis session, it was apparent that something was wrong. It seemed terribly unfortunate that in so very short a time the attitude of humility witnessed in Indianapolis appeared to have turned into the mentality of an ego-driven, power-hungry corporation. Many elders and wives present in Cincinnati were disappointed, disillusioned and discouraged. Even though it had been stated very clearly in Indianapolis that another hierarchy with a pastor general at the head would not take place in the United Church of God AIA, it now appeared by late 1995 and into early 1996 that a hierarchy was exactly what was in the formation, albeit not expressed in those terms.
Year of contrasts
Indianapolis and Cincinnati were such contrasts! The meetings in Indianapolis produced enthusiasm, excitement, a spiritual "high." The former regional pastors, who were leaders, who conducted the sessions, were open to suggestions, to humble disagreements, to the expressed needs of all to learn and grow together, to be patient with one another, to trust in Christ and let Him lead the way. On the other hand, at Cincinnati, I personally did not find this same attitude present. And many, many others, without solicitation, expressed the same concerns.
Right from the Sabbath services at the beginning of the Cincinnati conference, the difference in attitude was profound. Instead of hearing from council members expressions of thankfulness for the members of Christ's Body "hanging tough" and bearing up well through the many trials inflicted upon God's people, it seemed the comments tended to lash out at any who would dare to criticize. Critics were accused of having "bad attitudes." Disagreement was referred to as "the rebellion of Korah." Many of the comments we heard in Cincinnati did not seem to be consistent with what we had heard in Indianapolis. We got the distinct impression the speakers wanted to "set the stage" for the meetings to follow and were effectively saying, "We don't want to hear your criticism and your disagreements--we don't want to learn from your input--we'll do it our way!"
Notwithstanding, following the Cincinnati conference, believing that members of the council would still accept constructive criticism--believing that they wanted to hear what the elders of the church had to say--that they were willing to listen attentively to the comments of those who had voted for them, I wrote a letter to the members of the council of elders. I felt that, because of my background in both tenure and in senior, leading positions in the church, God held me responsible for offering some comments about what we witnessed in Cincinnati. Frankly, it's easier to say nothing. Why subject yourself to being told "you're in a bad attitude"? Why bother to take the time to offer suggestions? Why not just tell yourself, "It's not my problem anyway, so keep your thoughts to yourself"? But does this show any love and concern for the church? I didn't feel it did, so I wrote my letter, expressing what I believed were essentially the missing ingredients in Cincinnati. I believed faith was not very well exhibited. Trusting in a system whereby we believe God will make His will known through the ballots of His elders takes a great deal of faith! And it appeared to me that this element of faith was not well manifested.
The apostle Paul wrote in Hebrews 11:6, ". . . Without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is . . ." When we truly know God is present in our activities it would seem to me that we would most certainly not have any kind of manipulation, rigging, campaigning or otherwise attempting to "pull the strings" in an effort to determine the outcome! Such actions could in no way be based on living faith!
I also wrote in that letter, dated Dec. 11, 1995, that Scripture clearly tells us "in the multitude of counsel there is safety." But counsel that does not offer disagreement, criticism, a dissenting view, certainly will not produce safety. The counsel that produces safety is further described in Scripture as the concept of "iron sharpening iron." And grinding away on a piece of iron produces friction! But it accomplishes the purpose.
However, rather than being received with gratitude, that letter was viewed as negative criticism. But I tell you for a certainty and most emphatically that it was not negative. It was written from the heart of someone who deeply wanted the United Church of God to succeed. And, further, from someone who wanted no position or office but who would with his whole heart support the ones in leadership roles as they fulfilled their duties with devotion, faith, trust, a proper fear of God, and would with a deep love and care exercise stewardship in the oversight of the people, the resources, and work of the living God.
We believed the United Church of God had been granted a wonderful opportunity, by Jesus Christ Himself, to provide an inspiring alternative, a refreshing and Godly place of worship, to hundreds, thousands and even tens of thousands of brethren who were deeply hurt, disillusioned, turned off, staying home, withholding offerings and in general were wondering "what in the world is God doing" as they witnessed the destruction of the church they had attended for so long a time.
Looking for answers
I told a dear friend of mine who no longer attends any group or church, but who still believes pretty much as I believe, that I thought the attendance would start at about 20,000, then soon be 25,000, and within a year over 30,000 would be attending the United Church of God. But, sadly, this never happened. Rather than numerical growth, the attendance figures have diminished. True, all growth is not measured in numbers, but God did say to His servants that they should plant and water and He would give the increase. The increase has not happened. Why? It would surely seem to me that the corporate management of any organization would diligently seek to find the answers to that question! And, then having found them, to rectify the causes! Is leadership in the United Church of God AIA to be charged with the "wasting of the assets" bequeathed on them from corporate inception? A serious enough charge when answering to the stockholders of a commercial corporation. How much more serious when accountable to the Almighty God as stewards of His resources!
During the Indianapolis meetings we were presented with an illustration of an "inverted pyramid." This illustration emphasized that the broad side of the pyramid--representing the general conference of elders--was at the top and below that was any board or council that might be appointed, selected or elected and at the bottom of this inverted pyramid at the smallest point was the administrative and executive staff. This concept was discussed at length and, judging from the applause and comments, received overwhelming support from all who were in attendance.
Though the Indianapolis meetings preceded the formation of the council of elders and the enormous tasks of setting up systems to make the organization function, it seemed clear to all who attended that the corporate body to be formed would be established on the principles enunciated in Indianapolis. This was clearly the impression left by all the former regional pastors and ministers who spoke in Indianapolis and who became the first "interim board" members while there.
I can say with certainty that it was stated in Indianapolis that the new organization, named the United Church of God AIA, would not have a hierarchical form of governance. David Hulme, the newly elected chairman of the interim board, in his closing remarks on the final afternoon of the general meetings, said, "Well, we've embarked on a process of collaborative governance. It's new and it won't be without its problems and rough edges but give it time." Then further he said, "The Regional Pastor structure will no doubt modify as time goes by. It's not a hierarchical structure anymore."
Good words! I believe all in attendance agreed with them! The United Church of God was to function in a collaborative effort. It was not to be a hierarchy. Remember the inverted pyramid illustration? However, recently, on the stage in Hawkins, Texas, during the terrible trauma that was inflicted on this fine congregation [the United Church of God Big Sandy], one of the council members stated, "The governance of the church revealed in the New Testament is a hierarchy." Which is it? Is it a pyramid with the point at the top? Rule from the top down in a highly structured centralized organization? Or is it more like the "inverted pyramid"?
In my study of Scripture, I am fully persuaded that you will find no clearly defined model for the governance of the Church of God throughout all ages! Even the apostle Paul said in his opening remarks to the Hebrews (Hebrews 1:1), "God, who at sundry times in divers manners spake in times past . . ." Is Paul speaking specifically of governance in an organization? No, he isn't. But the principle remains the same. God spoke to ancient Israel in one manner. He spoke to Samuel in perhaps another and to other of the prophets in yet another. He established systems such as the priesthood. He later called Saul in a special manner, renamed him Paul and sent him as the apostle to the gentile nations.
We are given several revealing glimpses into the picture of what the government of Christ will be in "the world tomorrow"! But the government of Christ, that will be brought to all mankind at His second coming, is not on this earth at this time! There are no illustrations, examples, instructions or models in the New Testament to show that the government in the church today is to emulate the government that will come to this earth at Christ's coming.
General conference of Acts 15
Scripturally, we have only one example of what might be described as a general conference. This was conducted during an extremely critical period in the history of the Church of God. As you know, we find this recorded in Acts 15. The subject matter was strictly limited, as Luke recorded it in this chapter, to the questions that dealt with the content of the general message to be preached to the people of the gentile nations that had no knowledge of the Creator God. There is not the slightest hint of any discussion and/or dissemination of any administrative instructions and regulations! Yet it seems to be administration that consumes so much of the time in the general conferences convened by the Church of God today.
When one studies the scriptural examples of local churches, it appears that these churches had to operate with a large degree of local autonomy and independence. A quick look at a map of the regions served by the Apostle Paul will clearly show that churches were raised up over a very wide area--from the areas of Asia Minor in the east with churches in Ephesus, Laodicea, Colosse, Pergamos and others--then west to Macedonia with churches in Thessalonica, Philippi, Berea and others--in Achaia (Greece) with Corinth and on to Rome. It would seem that time and distance alone, given the modes of communication and transportation available in the first century, would clearly preclude a highly structured, centralized, hierarchical form of control and governance. Yet these churches were bound together in the Body of Christ!
What was it that united these churches with all being part of that "one body," the Body of Jesus Christ? It was the Holy Spirit that God had given to them and which produced the same general fruit through them. From a practical point of view, I believe it would be fair to say that the Churches of God in the first century were much more like an "association" of groups that were united by the divine call from God the Father! And, once that divine call was received and minds were opened to His truth, a brotherhood was created by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It was not a hierarchy! It was not a highly centralized national or international organization. It was not a pyramid!
I know we have all observed, experienced and thrilled to the joy of walking into the midst of a group of God's people that we had never met before and felt like we were right at home. There is something about kindred spirits. You can instantly tell that the Holy Spirit of God in you is witnessing with the Holy Spirit of God in your brothers and sisters in Christ. There is an immediate identity, an immediate realization of "oneness." It is the Spirit of God that unites us--not some corporate charter that we all subscribe to--that makes us "one in Christ."
I am not saying that I clearly understand in detail the form of governance in the Church of God during the first century. But that is my point! It is not clearly revealed and preserved for us in a model we are bound to implement, through all ages. Isn't it scripturally correct to say that the Church of God is an association of churches (plural), even though "one body"? Yes, I think it is! As a matter of fact, during the sessions in Indianapolis dealing with the selection of a corporate name, it was stated: "I think we would all agree that the biblical directives seem to be fairly clear on 'Church of God' or 'Churches of God.'" There did not seem to be a problem with the possibility of a name that implied "churches."
Ray 'Bad Guy' Wooten
That was the impression left with us as we departed from Indianapolis. Ray Wooten, subsequent to Indianapolis, has been portrayed as the "bad guy, preaching 'congregational' independence in the local churches." But Mr. Wooten never said that in Indianapolis. What he did say is that there is a world of ability and talent in the local churches and that talent and ability should be utilized in a much more effective manner than it had been previously used. Mr. Wooten said near the end of his presentation, "Show God that you're with it. Show God that you're not going to become selfish and go off in a corner and have your own little work, separate and apart from the central work that must go on. That's not what we're asking. That's not what we want. It's not what you want. We have to be a part of a national and international work."
I believe what Mr. Wooten said very succinctly was exactly what many, if not most in attendance at those meetings, wanted. Some local freedoms to preach the word, to perform local activities, to collect and utilize funds--including tithes and offerings--to be sure that decisions that affect manpower and other administrative matters would be truly collaborative. Never was it in the minds of those who attended that there should simply be a scattered and totally autonomous group of local churches without any centralized office and larger work that is only possible by working together. Quite the contrary.
I have heard it reported that other members of the organizing team in Indianapolis were so concerned about the nature of Ray Wooten's comments, fearing that they may cause fragmentation, that Mr. Dennis Luker had to get up following Mr. Wooten and set the record straight. Well, I recently reread the entire transcript of the Indianapolis conference and I do not believe that is what transpired. Let me quote from Mr. Luker's comments: "I'd like to add my support to what Mr. Wooten said and just make a few comments . . ." Doesn't sound like "setting the record straight" to me. Mr. Luker did continue to emphasize the need to work together and said a few sentences later, "I don't want to be out there by myself with any group or fragmented group. And I'm appealing to you here, every one of you. Let's work together." I believe we all agreed with Mr. Luker's comments. Ray Wooten agreed with those comments, and in fact Mr. Luker was only supporting what Ray Wooten had said.
Big Sandy impression
The United Church of God Big Sandy organized as a local congregation before the conference in Indianapolis! Following the Indianapolis meetings UCG Big Sandy incorporated. A board of directors was formed. The church established the proper authority for receipting donations that could be recognized as charitable, religious contributions for the benefit of the giver. The United Church of God Big Sandy operated under the impression it was an "association." It cooperated with and worked in harmony with the home office of UCG-AIA. Members were encouraged to send tithes and offerings to home office. Always, however, the final decision regarding where to contribute was left right where it belonged--with each individual.
We have been attending the United Church of God Big Sandy since Pentecost 1995. Never once did we hear from the pulpit any inferences or encouragement to think locally, to give locally, to withdraw from participation with home office. Rather, hundreds of thousands of dollars were received in the home office from members in the Big Sandy area. Funds were sent to assist less prosperous international areas. The Big Sandy church was being pastored by a "hands-on" pastor who labored long and lovingly in the care of the people. A building program was implemented to provide a regular meeting place in this area that is limited in available facilities--and donations to this fund were above and beyond the normal tithes and offerings of those contributing.
Then, recently, UCG-AIA decided to impose its will on the local church without regard to what the members or the local board wished. Once again we were witnesses to a scenario which in effect stated, "We are in control, we are telling you what to do and when, and there is no alternative." A large, peaceful and, I might add, generous church of brethren meeting together in harmony, in spite of some differences in understanding, was broken asunder. Members were put in a position that required choices as to where to assemble. Despite pleadings from several, including myself, to not proceed with these divisive actions that forced the issue, but rather, if necessary, revisit any problems at another, more propitious time, these appeals fell on deaf ears and were treated as though they were never said.
What has been the result? Loss of membership in the United Church of God AIA. Loss of income that has now resulted in dramatic cost cutting programs, manpower terminations and salary reductions. The fruits of the actions taken by the leadership of UCG-AIA are not good! Almost before a budget can even be finalized and ratified, it seems that it is in turmoil with anticipated income less than budgeted and the prospects looking even yet more bleak.
Certainly, I would not presume to say what is going to happen within the United Church of God. However, frequent reports are now circulating across the nation that "United Church of God AIA will not survive another year"! Is this true? I have no idea! And I can sincerely say I hope and pray that it is not true! But could it be that what was discussed in Indianapolis is yet going to happen, even if by default? Is a United Association of the Churches of God yet to emerge? Are the problems like the current downward spiral--first a loss of membership followed by the resultant loss in income--a direct result of the recent methods of governance as witnessed in Hawkins, Texas? Perhaps not! But the experience in Hawkins is only one in a line of failed attempts to "trouble-shoot" what were deemed to be "trouble areas."
It seems to me that the recent communication regarding "fasts," "cost-cutting measures," "terminations and salary reductions," etc., from home office have contained very little regarding the love and care for the people affected!! Very little if anything is said about what the impact of decisions made by the governing few has on the people of God!!
So much noise
Isn't it interesting that I Corinthians 12 covers much of the New Testament instructions we have about the Church and its organization? This would be one of the first biblical references turned to in any discussion of "church structure or organization." Yet the last verse of this chapter states, "But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way." Ignoring the chapter break (put there by man), the apostle Paul proceeds to explain that "more excellent way." Chapter 13, called the "Love Chapter," clearly lets us all know that even though we may have wonderful organization, great councils, lots of authority, vast knowledge, deep understanding of wonderful mysteries, learned and articulate in the prophecies, etc., "if we have not love, then we become as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals." Just so much noise!
Care, concern, compassion, patience, tolerance, a willingness to serve without thought for self, a genuine love for mankind--especially the children of God--requires more than mere words. James said, "If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?" (James 2:15-16).
Jesus' own beautiful words in Matthew 25:35-40 should give us pause. Let me quote only verse 40, after Jesus had spoken about visiting the sick and those in prison, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, being hospitable, etc. "And the King shall answer and say unto them, verily I say until you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Such words need no explanation by me--the message is loud and clear!
Recently, members of the church were requested to fast. What is the purpose of a fast? Is it not to ask God for correction? Is it not that we want God to show us where and how we need to change? Don't you think the Biblical example is for us to thank God when He gives us that correction? Doesn't it appear to be a contradiction to call a fast--to ask God to correct us--and then label those who took the time and made the effort to write letters of criticism with corrections and/or suggestions as "negative"? Is it not possible that these letters called "negative" may, in fact, be the answers from God that we requested during our "fasting and prayer"? It has been the habit for so long in the church to label any comment, letter, etc., that contains disagreement as "negative." Isn't it time for us to begin to think of these matters as "positive"?
The work of God during this century was built on faith! Mr. Armstrong often told us about his experiences of walking through doors on faith when there were no adequate funds in the bank to pay the bills. He would tell us he didn't go first to the business office to check the accounts when he had an opportunity to go through a door God was opening. He went through the door and then told the business manager we must find a way to pay the bills. Certainly, I believe in plans, budgets and prudent fiscal management. But I also believe deeply that we have to trust God in living faith and show that faith by our deeds before we can expect God to provide the needs.
My wife and I found the "pearls of great price" many years ago and we have no intentions of casting them aside. However, being imbued by the Spirit of God and being a part of the wonderful body called "The Body of Christ" does not imply that "membership in the United Church of God AIA" is an essential ingredient. Jesus said, "Ye shall know them by their fruits," Matthew 7:16.
The actions taken here in Big Sandy are so reprehensible to us, and were so unnecessary, that we cannot give actual or even tacit approval to them. Decisions we have made are in no way based on personalities involved in this matter. We are not following a local pastor. Nor are we following or rejecting a minister of the UCG-AIA. Our decisions are based on principle, on personal commitments and understandings, and we make them with the full realization that Christ will be the final judge of the hearts and attitudes of not only us, but all concerned.
The course of conduct and the fruits borne thus far in the short history of the United Church of God AIA appear to say to us that we were misled by the wonderful words spoken in Indianapolis. That, in spite of the beautiful and inspirational principles enunciated, there was not a commitment by those responsible to follow up on those founding words of encouragement. Had we been told that another hierarchy was going to be formed that would hold the power and potential to abuse the people of God, then we may have asked God to grant us "a little more time on the sidelines."
Purpose of letter
The main purpose for this letter is to inform all concerned that my wife Doris and I will no longer align ourselves exclusively with the United Church of God AIA. We wish the UCG-AIA well. We sincerely hope the organization is able to solve its current difficulties and will yet be able to make a major impact on this world as it preaches and publishes the message of hope and peace that Jesus brought to us! We are not fighting against anyone or any group. Our greatest desire is to be able to meet together with the people of God in peace, mutual edification and, collectively and individually, do the will of God in any work He clearly directs!
It would seem that all would wish to be "free" to assemble with God's people wherever they might gather together. I believe that Jesus said He had sheep in other sheepfolds besides the one immediately at hand. Truly, today, I believe God has sons and daughters in many locations that we may not be aware of and/or recognize.
It is our wish to be able to recognize these members of Christ and to fellowship with them as opportunity provides. That is our intention. We know and love the brethren and the ministry in the United Church of God AIA as well as those in the United Church of God Big Sandy. We also love the brethren in many of the other groups that assemble together, in obedience to God's commandments. Many of these scattered brethren may be "our children in the Lord" as many came into the church where we had the privilege to serve.
May God show us the "way" more clearly, and may He speed the day of His direct involvement on this earth. And may we always be willing to respond when He gives the signals and reveals the steps for us to follow.
My wife and I love the people of God. We love to fellowship with them. But we hate the attempts of man to politicize His Church. God be with us all.
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God