Editorial: Spiritual apartheid not biblical concept
Tim McCaulley is an investigator for the Florida Department of Professional Regulation. He lives with his wife and two children in Florida. He has been a member of the Church of God for 29 years and attends services with the UCG-AIA.
By Tim McCaulley
JACKSONVILLE, Fla.--One of the things that impresses many who begin attending the Sabbath services of the various Churches of God is that they base so many of their teachings on scriptural authority or example.
Most of us in the Sabbatarian Churches of God feel a justifiable pride in pointing out to others that we seek to subject our lives to the revelation of Scripture. It is liberating to have the veil of deception yanked away from one's eyes and begin to see things for what they really are from a godly point of view.
Further, we believe that, wherever man's customs and practices are either contradicted or condemned specifically or in principle by Scripture, such practices should have no power or authority in the life of a Christian.
Christ told the Pharisees that by the teaching of their traditions they were making null and void the commandments of God (Mark 7:6-9).
We have learned much as members of the various Sabbatarian Churches of God, but perhaps we should, to quote Herbert Armstrong, "blow the dust off our Bibles" and, to quote the apostle Paul, "go onward to perfection" (Hebrews 6:1). In our desire to teach others, perhaps we have neglected to learn and apply all that is available from the revelation of Jesus Christ contained in the Bible.
What is the Church?
Scripture teaches that "the Church" (ekklesia: No. 1577 in Strong's concordance and spelled with a capital C in this article) includes all believers (1 Corinthians 12:12).
Many of the organized Churches of God (all of whom routinely refer to themselves as "the Church") are corporations whose membership by corporate bylaw is at best limited to those who are "credentialed ministry" and at worst (as in the case of Herbert Armstrong during the receivership of the WCG by the State of California in the late 1970s) consists of an individual in whose hands is the absolute power to compel all employees to pledge a loyalty oath to himself.
Why do the corporate-church members exclude the nonordained brethren who support their church organization from their corporate fellowship? Scriptural example offers no support of the kind of spiritual apartheid that is practiced by the Church of God organizations.
These corporate churches have regular conferences, general assemblies, council meetings and such during which their brethren of the nonordained variety are forbidden to observe and told only what the corporate church wants them to hear.
In Acts 15:22 we see an example where the selection of a delegation to explain a doctrinal decision on circumcision was made by the apostles, elders and the whole church assembled at Jerusalem. Where is the custom of a separate ministerial organization that excludes other brethren from its membership in scripture?
Rite of ordination
These corporate entities that call themselves "the Church" recruit and confirm their members by a rite called "ordination."
This ordination usually consists of the corporate member to be selected by the ordained brethren and called up before all his nonordained brethren, whereupon other duly recognized fellow corporate ordained members come forward and participate in the laying on of hands upon the corporate member-to-be, whereupon he is now a member in good standing of the corporate church, into which he has been inducted.
The corporate church members believe and tell their nonmember brethren that this is God's doing. To suggest that the setting apart of ministers could be done any other way would probably be considered only so much heresy by the corporate members and most of the nonordained brethren who are their loyal supporters.
Yet, if we look at the book of Acts, we note that Paul, Barnabas, Simon, Lucius and Manaen were set apart and had hands laid on them by the entire church (meaning all the brethren) at Antioch. The brethren were inspired to do so after they had fasted and prayed about the matter (Acts 13:1-4).
It is also interesting to note that WCG founder Herbert Armstrong was similarly set apart for his ministry as recorded in his autobiography (chapter 24). All the brethren attended the meeting of the Oregon General Conference, and when the time of ordination came all the brethren laid hands on Mr. Armstrong and prayed over him, asking God to separate him for the ministry.
His conversion to the doctrine of the hierarchical organization at the hands of Herman Hoeh and Roderick Meredith is documented in Dr. Meredith's 1993 edition of the Global Church of God's publication Church Government and Church Unity.
It can also be discerned by perusing the type of articles often written by both Drs. Hoeh and Meredith and published in the early through late 1950s in The Plain Truth magazine.
Dismiss, decredential, disfellowship
The church corporations routinely dismiss from employment, decredential from the ministry and disfellowship from their church (which they refer to as "the Church") all whom they do not like for whatever reason.
This is then announced to the membership and the nonordained brethren who support the corporate church with the admonition that the whys and wherefores of such actions are none of their business or at best that they should just pray for their fallen brother.
Possible civil liability is often the excuse given for such a practice (indicating that few, if any, corporate members believe in 1 Corinthians 6 1-8).
Biblical example teaches that any expulsion of a minister from the Church was done in response to personal sin on the part of that elder at the testimony of witnesses. Those so dismissed from the Church were to be rebuked publicly before the entire body for their sins as a lesson to all the brethren that such sins are not to be tolerated within "the Church" (1 Timothy 5:19-20).
Why not meet together?
Scripture teaches that members of "the Church" frequently attended Sabbath services with others who did not share their views and at times were even hostile towards those views (Acts 3:1, 11, 6:8-10, 9:20-22, 11:19-21, 13:5,14, 17:1, 2, 16-21, 18:24-28).
The corporate churches strongly discourage any of their supporters from attending the services of any other corporation. They will not hold joint Sabbath services; they will not even join together for holy-day observances. Some brethren have even been expelled from service opportunities in their congregations by their corporate church brethren for so doing.
Warning about offenses
Christ also cautioned against offenses (Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2). In Matthew's account Christ's warning is preceded by an argument among the disciples over which one of them would be greatest in the Kingdom.
The warning against offenses is followed by the example of the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep and literally heads for the hills looking for the one lost sheep that has gone astray.
What example have these corporations been communicating through the past years? Do they have any fire in their belly to contend for their flock's spiritual welfare the way Peter, Paul and John did?
In Mark's account the warning is preceded by the disciples informing Christ that they caught someone teaching in his name so they forbade him because he was not a part of their group. (Sounds like they believed in government from the top down like many corporate brethren; all they forgot was who was at the top!)
After correcting the disciples for doing such, Christ follows the warning against offenses with another warning that any activity that causes such sin would better be abandoned than accommodated ("If your hand, foot or eye makes you to sin, cut it off or pluck it out").
Are any of the corporate brethren listening to their Savior's warnings and advice?
In Luke's account this warning against offenses is preceded by the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. You know the story. Lazarus sat daily begging alms at the gate of the rich man and made about as much impression on that rich man as a stray cockroach. They both die. Lazarus is in the Kingdom of God, and the rich man awakens to find himself in the lake of fire.
In God's Church who, as a class, are usually the wealthiest, best educated, most connected and privileged? In case you don't get my drift, go read Ezekiel 34:1-6.
Repentance and forgiveness
The warning against offenses is followed by Christ's admonition that any brother who sins against you and then comes and repents and asks forgiveness should be forgiven.
He should be forgiven up to 490 times a day (about every three minutes if necessary), as can be inferred from Matthew's account of this incident in Matthew 18:22.
When was the last time any corporate member ever asked for forgiveness or expressed the least bit of regret or sorrow at his shameful behavior in the tolerating of, if not the actual assisting in, the systematic introduction of heresy into his flock by the WCG corporation "from the top down"? Who among our corporate brethren had the courage, decency or conscience to denounce the apostasy in their midst?
This conspiracy of silence on the part of the corporate members is the greatest unresolved offense against their supposed nonordained brethren of which they have not repented or expressed any noticeable regret to this day.
Yes, it is true that sin is against God and that it is from God that we must seek forgiveness. But offenses and sins are also against our brethren, and our Savior instructs us that we are to forgive such sins and offenses when our brethren come and profess their repentance and ask for forgiveness (Luke 17:3-4).
Does such neglecting of repentance or apology on the part of the brethren of the corporate church have scriptural support? Is there any record of Jesus Christ's approval of such behavior on the part of the corporate members who consider themselves "ministers of Jesus Christ"? Does such behavior towards brethren seek forgiveness and express repentance for offenses?
Read John 10:11-14 and notice the difference between the good shepherd and the hireling.
We have noted and documented in the Sabbatarian Churches of God what we call the "lost century" of the Church of God.
It starts around the time of the death and passing of the apostle John, and when the curtain next comes up 100 years later we find an organization calling itself "the Church" with little resemblance to its biblically documented predecessor.
This is usually considered the time of the beginning of a satanic counterfeit of the true Church of God.
Could such corporate doctrine and practice as has sprung up in the last half of this 20th century be the beginning of a similar, modern-day counterfeit by the great deceiver?
Could we, in the name of corporate efficiency and modern-day legal and business practice, be expelling the teachings and examples inspired by Jesus Christ from the Church of God?
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