Letters from our readers
Exaggeration for effect
Regarding Joseph Tkach Jr.'s statement quoted [in "WCG Leaders Speak on Heaven and Hell, Other Doctrines on Bible Answer Man"] in the April 30 issue, that in two years the Worldwide Church of God has added 13,000 members in Angola:
We had a good laugh-all of us-in January 1995 at the regional directors' conference in Pasadena when we were given a glowing report about the Angolans, who had been reading literature that was 10 years out of date. The literature they had was from Mr. HWA's time, and they were enthusiastic about the Sabbath and holy days and grateful for the knowledge that God expects His people to keep these days.
One of the Angolan groups had even named its small church by including mention of the Sabbath in the name of the church.
Of course, with all those changes they may not have been as enthusiastic about being part of the WCG if they had been reading post-1995 literature, especially the quote that Wednesday is just as good as Saturday for assembly, worship and prayer.
I have never received any answer re how vigorously the WCG "new" old truth has been promoted to the Angolans, freeing them from their (by WCG definition) "minimization"-of-Jesus'-sacrifice beliefs they had obtained from reading old lit.
I attend an unaffiliated congregation called the Indian Springs Seventh Day Church of God. We are about four miles south of Chattanooga, Tenn., on U.S. Highway 41. We have Sabbath services at 11 a.m. and Bible study about 12:30 p.m. For information, call me at (423) 629-5711 or 629-8373.
Our open-forum Bible study is unique in this area. All are welcome to come and express their views, and I hope we can all help each other understand our Father's Word better.
Other groups in the Chattanooga area include Global Church of God, Church of God International, Worldwide Church of God, at least one other independent group, and an in-home Bible-study service.
East Ridge, Tenn.
In a letter published in the April 30 edition, Jacques Gauvin writes about gravity, light and time. He suggests that God would rule time on a different scale from what we are accustomed to.
I would like to recommend two interesting books on creation and time: The Creator and the Cosmos, by Hugh Ross, a Ph.D. astronomer and Christian minister, and Genesis and the Big Bang, by Gerald L. Schroeder, a Ph.D. and physicist and a Jew who is familiar with translations of Genesis made in prior centuries by Jewish sages. Even the translators of the NIV have rendered the Greek phrase pro chronon-ainlon as "before the beginning of time" (2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2).
Two famous mathematical physicists, Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, have written about gravity and time in popular books. Dr. Penrose is not ashamed of writing about the Creator and how special our creation is (The Emperor's New Mind, pp. 339-344).
In his letter Mr. Gauvin proposed that light attracts light and that gravity is a component or quality of light. These proposals are contrary to contemporary theory and experimental evidence.
Unfortunately, the only books I know of that present the correct relationships between light and gravity are incomprehensible to the general reader (Gravitation, by Misner, Thorne and Wheeler, and Gravitation and Spacetime, by Ohanian and Ruffini).
Regarding gravity, matter and energy, ministers in the WCG have stated that the energy in the universe came from God's Spirit at creation. Jewish sages have interpreted the Torah as stating that God created the universe out of nothing (ex nihilo).
Two mathematical proofs (solutions to Einstein's equations) of the ex nihilo interpretation are given in the cosmological journal General Relativity and Gravitation. The first is by Nathan Rosen, a colleague of Einstein, in Vol. 26, pages 319-321 (1994). The second is by F.I. Cooperstock, same volume, pages 323-327.
In other words, God created the universe by His Spirit, but not from His Spirit. It is an infinitely greater miracle to create something out of nothing than out of that which previously existed.
While God's dimension of time always existed, our dimension of time began with creation.
Robert J. Romagnoli
Dept. of Physics and Astronomy
California State University
We received the free issues of THE JOURNAL (issue No. 1) and greatly appreciated them. They were displayed at our church gathering for others to take. You sent a similar amount to another member, and he had his on the table also. What few were left were taken by another member to put in a local coffee shop.
Robert and Charlene Goodwin
Sample copies of issue No. 1 of THE JOURNAL are still available. Please write P.O. Box 1020, Big Sandy, Texas 75755, or email@example.com to request single or multiple copies if you would like to distribute them to potential subscribers.
More on holy-time bull's-eyes
Though I can see how Jason Churchill ["Comments on the Calendar Articles," April 30] and others imagine I sought to discourage people from studying calendar questions in my article "God's People Should Not Let Calendars Divide Them" [March 26], that was not my intention.
My primary motive in writing the article was to expose the important theological implication of the idea that, even though God has not revealed critical methods in creating a luni-solar calendar, He nonetheless expected us to figure out how to hit seven holy-time bull's-eyes, and if we do not find a way to do this we are all sinning.
My fundamental conviction is that the just and loving Father revealed in the Bible would not treat His children this way. If this is true, then it seems incumbent upon us to examine the scriptural evidence to see if perhaps we are not thinking correctly when we view His annual feast days as properly falling within seven preestablished 24-hour holy-time slots.
My article would have been complete, I think, had I not even addressed the issue of the weekly Sabbath and contrasted it to the annual days. But to provide background I did so, and this seems to form the heart of Jason's concerns about my article.
His contention seems to be that, since an international date line has been established by human beings, this human convention must have interfered with the seven-day cycle established from creation, at least in regions away from the Holy Land.
Therefore, he reasons, if the weekly Sabbath is not so certain as to timing, it is incorrect to see it as fundamentally different from the annual days, which are also uncertain as to timing.
Though this was surely not his intent, it is clear this reasoning does not elevate the status of the annual feasts so much as it diminishes the status of the weekly Sabbath.
The fact is, international date line or not, Scripture says two important things about the weekly Sabbath that it does not say about the annual days:
nIt says God sanctified the seventh day of the week itself at the creation of the earth. Scripture nowhere says God ever did this with the 15th day of the first month or the 10th day of the seventh month and so on.
nIt includes the weekly Sabbath in its fundamental code for life and worship, the Ten Commandments. There is no mention in the Fourth Command of the annual days, and it is an assumption without internal evidence that they are somehow included within it.
About my article Jason Churchill wrote that I made "a dangerous and unwarranted leap in concluding that 'Scripture nowhere says God has sanctified the feast days themselves, as He has sanctified the seventh day of the week.' That is an artificial distinction invented by Mr. Fakhoury. It is not a distinction that is expressed in the Bible."
If he meant by this that it is not a distinction explicitly made in Scripture, then perhaps he is correct. But certainly such an inference is warranted given that the weekly Sabbath was established at the very creation of the earth, and at that time, Scripture says, "God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it."
I did not invent this; it is what Scripture says. I also did not invent the fact that God is nowhere shown to do this with any of the annual days or that God did not include the annual feasts within the primary moral and worship code of Scripture, the Ten Commandments.
For me these are primary facts that inform my view of the days given in Scripture. Their fundamental importance just seems obvious to me. But others, like Jason, evidently do not feel this way, and I'm not sure how to help them feel otherwise.
But this isn't to say critics of my article do not quote scriptures to suggest there is no fundamental difference between the weekly Sabbath and the annual feast days. Privately Jason Churchill and others have been quick to point out Nehemiah 8:9-11 and Nehemiah 10:31 as proof of their position.
To some degree I invited this upon myself by claiming in my article that nowhere in the Bible can you find the annual feasts called "holy days." These passages obviously prove me wrong on this point, and this was clearly an oversight on my part.
But my article's thesis that the annual feast days cannot be shown to fall within seven preestablished 24-hour holy-time slots does not depend upon whether the words holy and day can be found together somewhere in the Bible. Nevertheless, it is important to address what is happening in these passages of Nehemiah.
First, what is happening here? Judah had just returned from exile in Babylon. Generations had passed that knew neither God nor His laws; this is why the Jews were allowed to be taken into captivity in the first place.
As Ezra began to read the law to the people, they were very attentive (Nehemiah 8:3); they wanted to hear what the law had to say because they didn't know what it said. Until this point this generation did not understand God's ways, days or laws and was evidently discovering them anew as the people read (verses 7, 12-14).
As part of that discovery, Ezra informs the people that, believe it or not, this very day was a sacred feast day, according to the law! And the people had better heed it! So the people kept the feast day (verse 12).
Now, if you were speaking to a large group of formerly rebellious people and trying to persuade them that this was one of God's sacred days that needed to be kept so they might not return to captivity, you too might say something like what appears in verses 9-11 and Nehemiah 10:31.
As I pointed out in my article, there is certainly a holy intent and purpose for the annual days (Leviticus 23:4). Here we see Ezra and the priests making that unmistakably clear to the post-exile generation.
Moreover, we need to consider who Ezra was and the nature of his ministry. Did God reveal knowledge to Ezra about the essential nature of the annual feasts that was hidden from Moses, the one to whom God personally revealed them? There is no evidence of this in the Bible.
Ezra was a righteous man (Ezra 10:1) and a priest (Ezra 10:10) who filled an important leadership vacuum in Judah at a critical time in its history. But there is no evidence that Ezra received any revelation apart from what was explicitly written in the law of Moses.
The text of Nehemiah 8 is explicit, in fact, that Ezra was a scribe whose sole aim was to convey the teachings of the law of Moses to the people (verse 4 and following verses). And the law nowhere says that the seven annual days fall within slots of holy time that must be found with a flawless luni-solar calendar, which was the fundamental contention of my article.
Festivals in the New Testament
I feel that Mr. Fakhoury's interesting and informative article in the April issue ["Observances in the New Covenant: A Biblical Review"] goes astray when he says Eden represents all rest, because Adam needed to keep the garden by working. Humans in whatever state have always needed Sabbath instruction.
The article assumes that Adam would or could never repent.
Mr. Fakhoury, thank you for your effort, but this portion really seems to weaken your point.
We would like to subscribe to THE JOURNAL. We are also interested in purchasing a full run of In Transition.
Dr. Massimo Introvigne
Center for Studies on New Religions
THE JOURNAL is a separate publication from In Transition, which published its last regular issue in January. THE JOURNAL'S address is P.O. Box 1020, Big Sandy, Texas 75755. In Transition, which is still selling back issues, is at P.O. Box 450, Monroe, Ind. 46772.
Protestants and Easter
I cringed when I saw the [April 26] article about Joseph Tkach Jr. at Easter sunrise services in the WCG. The mainstream Protestants don't know better. Doesn't he know better? Shame, shame on him.
Ezekiel message and the gospel
I was impressed with the article "Writer Urges Consideration of Ezekiel Message," by Craig White, in the April 30 issue of THE JOURNAL. I was moved with his ability to capsulize the difference between the Ezekiel message and the gospel message and his focus on how and why Mr. Armstrong felt so obligated to proclaim these messages.
Many writers have attempted to explain Mr. Armstrong's messages as they were presented in The Plain Truth and the broadcasts. I feel Mr. White's article gave the best analysis on these two phases of Mr. Armstrong's work that I have read.
I hope THE JOURNAL continues to provide its readers with more such articles.
Ellis W. Stewart
Big Sandy, Texas
Those naughty almanacs
Regarding "Wade Cox Says Heavenly Signs Show Months (Gen. 1:14)" [an interview with Mr. Cox, who is administrator of the Christian Churches of God] in the Feb. 26 issue:
Understanding the start of months in the Bible depends upon understanding the following:
nThe movement of the earth-moon combination as it travels around the sun and that neither has a completely circular orbit. (The northern hemisphere has a longer summer than the southern by some 3.5 days.)
nThat the earth-moon combination orbits the sun, and the position of each in relation to the sun varies, with the moon being farther from or closer to the sun as it circles the earth.
nThat the astronomical new moon is a modern invention accepted by the International Astronomical Union in 1935, following the work of Blagg (England) and Mueller (Germany). The book Popular Astronomy and the Orbs of Heaven, by O.M. Mitchell, L.L.D., revised by the Rev. L. Tomlinson, M.A., January 1860, makes it clear that at that time the new moon was the visible crescent.
This is still the case, except in navigational terms. Contrary to Mr. Cox's claim, the visible crescent of the new moon is still the basis of the biblical calendar (as opposed to the Hillel or Hebrew calculated calendar).
nWhen the moon is between, or almost between, the sun and earth, it cannot be seen because it has no radiated light of its own, only reflected light. During a conjunction, when the center of the sun and the earth line up, a black circle covers part or all of the sun. Readers will know that this is not every month.
The astronomical new moon is counted from the point of closest line-up and is astronomically point zero, or point 29.5 in the moon cycle. As the moon circles the earth in a little over 29.5 days, the days one, two, etc., of the astronomical moon do not line up with earth days, and the astronomical new moon appears in a different longitude each month. Its appearance has no relevance to time of day.
Within a couple of days the new moon appears as a crescent that is visible with the rest of the disk illuminated by earthshine (explained by Leonardo da Vinci in 1500). Some astronomical associations have observed and correlated the time from the nonvisible astronomical new moon to the visible crescent and the angle at which it is first able to be seen.
nThat there is a progression of the equinoxes. The points where the sun crosses the equator are known as equinoxes (twice a year) because the day and night are equal in length. As the equinox progresses, it moves slowly back through the zodiac for a complete cycle of about 25,800 years.
So the spring equinox was in Aries but is now in Pisces. In about 150 years it will be in Aquarius.
The progression of the equinoxes has enabled scientists to date old Egyptian temples.
nNautical almanacs are only secondary timekeepers. To be accurate, the months and years must have a visible astronomical basis. Clocks, calendars and nautical almanacs are altered from time to time to coincide with astronomical observation.
"The Hebrews needed barley for their Feast of Unleavened Bread to celebrate the commencement of the year in spring. Each year the astronomers watched for the young moon with the horns turned up straight, a sure sign that the spring equinox is at hand. Only at that time of the year, just after sunset, is the ecliptic in such a position that its projection passes near the zenith; and the young moon whose horns always point away from the sun along the ecliptic will point them straight to heaven" (One Day Telleth Another, Stephen A. Ionides and Margaret I. Ionides, Edward Arnold & Co., 1939, p. 67-68).
Looking at some of the statements in the Wade Cox interview:
n"The new moon . . . is a dark circle with an outer rim . . ." (Refer to the fourth bulleted point, above.) I invite Mr. Cox to stand on a hill with me and show it to me.
n"The Calendar was known before Noah." There is no evidence that the cycle before Noah was the same time cycle as any in use today. Are readers aware that scholarly evidence has proved that ancient Israel has used three calendars? Which one is Mr. Cox referring to?
It is also worth noting that the present Hebrew calendar dates from about the time of the return from the Babylonian captivity and derives from Babylon, not from earlier forms of the calendar handed down from before this time. For more information refer to "The Three Calendars of Ancient Israel," Julian Morgenstern, Hebrew Union College Annual, Vol. 1, 1924.
nThe "correct calculation of the Passover or Easter system [was] dependent upon the correct calculation of Nisan."
The Council of Nicea had problems with observation in different longitudes, so it invented the Paschal moon. Its revolution is determined by the calendar. It knows nothing of meridians and is not subject to observation. So the Catholic Church controlled Easter independent of astronomy and separated from the Passover.
n"The Essene had a solar-based calendar of 360 days."
Refer to The Temple Scroll, Yigael Yadin, Israel Exploration Society, Jerusalem, Vol. 1, pages 117-118, 1983. The Essenes had a 364-day year with Nisan 14 on a Tuesday every year (basis for some suggestions that the Last Supper was an Essene meal). Pentecost started from Sunday the 26th and ended on the 15th of the third month, also a Sunday, both Sundays being included in the count to make the 50 days.
The Sadduccees, Boethusians, Samaritans and Karites kept Pentecost as Mr. Cox does, not recognizing Nisan 15 as a Sabbath.
Remember, Jesus said the Pharisees had Moses' seat and that He ate in the house of a Pharisee. Note the Hillel calendar as in use today is recognized as a stopgap until the biblical observation can start again. Any written system that is not observable is equally wrong or more so.
nThe A.D. 30 crucifixion varies from Mr. Cox's original A.D. 31 only because he starts at the wrong time, as has Passover before the full moon. From Farrar, Life of Christ, the calculation for a Wednesday crucifixion comes out at Wednesday, A.D. 31. Various other studies confirm A.D. 31.
nFor details of Jeroboam and his calendar changes and reasons, see King, Cult and Calendar in Ancient Israel, Talion. It should also be noted that idolatry was part of Jeroboam's changes and is contrary to one of the Commandments, whereas the only time frame in the Ten Commandments is to keep the Sabbath.
nWith reference to the Lord's Supper, rather than a new observance look for continuation of what was already in place! After all, Passover was never two days in the Bible!
nThe Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar (Arthur Speer), an extension of the Hillel system, is a calculation for the visible crescent in Jerusalem and is very accurate for that place. It does not reflect local observation, nor does it calculate what cannot be seen. The astronomical new moon is sometimes on the opposite of the earth to Jerusalem as well as in a different time frame.
So let's go out and look, as instructed, and follow the heavenly signs, not some naughty almanac.
The Pimpernel Project
P.O. Box 317
Tamworth, N.S.W. 2340
Unwed fathers should stand out
This is in response to the article about teen pregnancies by Loretta Jacobs (April 30 issue).
I agree that an unmarried pregnant woman has a problem, that it affects others, that such pregnancies may be more prevalent now and that "some in authority . . . winked at sexual impropriety."
I do feel the rest of the article needs addressing. The article reflects a continuation of the age-old attitude of condemning the pregnant, as if pregnancy is the sin. Nowhere that I can find in God's Word is having a child considered to be a sin.
Psalm 127:3 says children are a heritage from the Lord and a reward. He doesn't say what the family must be like.
If we are going to "shame" and attach a "stigma" to all unwed women, then all the unwed fathers must be made to wear a large sign for nine months saying, "I impregnated my girl friend." And, while we are at it, all people who have broken any of God's laws must also wear a sign stating their offense.
The results of many sins are not as evident to others as is pregnancy. But is the woman pregnant because of a sin that she committed? Is it possible she was raped?
Unless we are intimately involved in the situation, we as observers have no right to judge if or by whom or what sin was involved.
Also, how do we know if the person involved has repented or not? Is it our business? If there is ongoing sin involved, then it is the responsibility of those in leadership to take appropriate action. Becoming pregnant while unmarried can stimulate sincere, heartfelt repentance. Should we then "shame" the person to the point that she leaves the "flock" and never returns?
I know of few who have braved the attitudes of the past and stayed where they could learn to be closer to God.
A shower is giving gifts so a baby has clothes to wear, not "honoring" the mother. Why should the child be relegated to wearing "used clothes"? (Ezekiel 18:20). As for making sure the unwed parents "feel the shame and stigma" so others "won't fall into the same immoral behavior," it hasn't worked for 6,000 years. Why should it now?
I personally haven't heard any sermons lately about fornication and its problems, but neither have I attended any teen classes or Bible studies.
I could say many other things, about forced marriages, giving a child up, etc., but this would be too long for a letter to the editor. Enough said.
Remembering the early '60s
I wish to comment on Lee Lisman's article in the April 30 JOURNAL. That article alone was worth the subscription price, and I wish it were required reading for every member including every minister in the Churches of God. Mr. Lisman clearly, plainly and even bluntly gets to the core of what still bothers so many of us.
It seems to be a below-the-surface assumption that there was nothing wrong with the WCG except changing doctrines. But many ministers and other members don't want to look at that. Many ministers want their old lifestyle back. Some of us see everything going back to those old, sick ways again, but who wants to listen to "dissidents"?
I have been a baptized member for 37 years and worked at church headquarters 13 years until 1973. We've been in St. Louis since then. The pattern Lee Lisman describes has happened over and over. In [some areas] one minister after another has betrayed "the sheep." Some of us have gotten so used to it that this latest round was easy. It was old hat.
Those few who survive have learned to be wary.
Until the church looks at what the real problem is, God can never activate us with His Holy Spirit.
Repentance from the heart is possible, and Lee Lisman's article may help, individual by individual. We also need to see the value of THE JOURNAL because that article would never be printed in any official church publication.
I remember a time when it was different. I remember walking about the Pasadena campus in the early 1960s and being a part of the zeal and conviction that was there. All of us, it seemed, were wholehearted in seeking God, in zeal and desire to serve God directly, to love Him, to pray fervently and devote our lives to God, not just to a church.
In those days we did a work that everyone seemed to know about because it went everywhere. Even trucks driving across the frozen northern plains and ships at sea could tune in The World Tomorrow. I used to wonder how this small campus could do so much.
The answer was that "the eyes of the Eternal run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are whole toward him."
Then I watched it all change and another culture slowly arise. That culture is what so many ministers unwittingly long for because it benefited them. But it destroyed what God wanted and stopped "the work."
Many of us may be blind to what I'm trying to state, but Mr. Lisman makes it clear.
Free the captives
Lee Lisman's essay clearly states our mutual sin. Perhaps a few of us will acknowledge our own participation (whether active or passive). If we have godly sorrow, then each of us must begin to actively obey God. It is not enough to refrain from doing evil; we also are required to do good. Those who have stolen must not only stop stealing, but generously give part of what they earn to help people in need.
That principle applies to any sin we have genuinely repented of doing. There is no such thing as a passive Christian, only passive sinners.
We can't change the past, but we can influence the future.
Let's stop hiding in our little church groups or in our homes and begin doing something to relieve someone else's suffering. Start by asking God for opportunities. Start with our own families.
It isn't enough to preach righteousness or listen to righteousness being preached; we must also live it. Read Psalm 15. Read the whole Bible. Do what God requires. Let's stop feeling sorry for ourselves and begin to have compassion on others.
Here in the real world
As a happily unaffiliated member of God's church, I extend kudos to Lee Lisman for his essay in the April issue. My only concern has to do with the concept that apology plus confession equals reconciliation equals continuation of the status quo between the ministry and the "lay people," which in my view is not a viable solution.
To put it bluntly, in the real world if you don't do your job you get fired, apologies notwithstanding. This business of having meetings to determine what salaries are acceptable, where duties are to be performed, etc., is just as, if not more, offensive than not having stood up to be counted when the bilge started overflowing at WCG.
To those who request anonymity for fear of not getting a salary increase, or being sent to some less-desirable location if they speak out on an issue, I can only say what a pathetic contrast to the apostles and other historic leaders of God's people.
Mr. Lisman's essay seemed to convey the impression that, if the ministry would confess its errors and apologize for the misconduct, a reconciliation between the ministry and the people could be achieved. I don't think so. I and many others have come to see that the system was and continues to be fatally flawed. As long as there are those who claim a right to rule over God's heritage and in the process be paid for it, this will continue to be so, and all the apologies in the world will not change it.
Oh, yes, reconciliation is possible. As Lee correctly pointed out, we all became a part of the system, and I acknowledge and apologize to those who for one reason or the other left the "fellowship" (not necessarily the church) and who were then blackballed for their beliefs and convictions, many of which, it turns out, were more correct than my own.
I would love to be their friend again and given the chance would be a much better one than in the past. Likewise, those who call themselves the ministry can possibly regain many lost friendships, but they should not expect to be paid for the opportunity, much less to continue the same old format.
R.E. "Bob" Strelow
Views of our history
I have a comment on Lee Lisman's article in the April 30 issue of THE JOURNAL. He mentioned that many ministers didn't stand up with Wayne Cole in 1979 when he "stood there all alone on stage in Pasadena expecting the ministry to rally around him . . ."
If Mr. Lisman is speaking of the morning when the brethren in Pasadena were asked to meet in the Ambassador Auditorium because Mr. Armstrong wanted them to hear from Raymond McNair and Ellis La Ravia, I was there. My memory is that Wayne Cole and many ministers walked down the aisle after the meeting had started and tried to take over the stage from Messrs. McNair and La Ravia but were unable to do so.
I heard later from a worker in the auditorium that they unsuccessfully tried to turn off all sound that morning as well.
I recall seeing Mr. McNair standing against all of them (it seems that there were at least 10 of them) because he was following instructions from Mr. Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong didn't want the state-appointed receiver to take over.
Many of us took part in the sit-ins and showed support at the courthouse as well. Who knows what would have happened to "the work" at that time if we had not been willing to take part?
If Mr. Lisman was there to see this event, his recollections are very different from mine. Maybe others who witnessed this event in the auditorium will write as well.
I read with interest the article written by Lee Lisman in the April 30 issue titled "We Need to Learn the Lessons From Our Church History." Mr. Lisman was able to see the "splinters" in the eyes of the UCG ministry, yet missed the "timbers" in the eyes of the CGI ministry.
Actually, the solution to the lack-of-trust problem, Mr. Lisman, was stated by you in your essay. The solution does not involve public apologies or hanging out the dirty laundry from the pulpit. As quoted from your essay, "in reality, nobody has any power over you except the power you give him. When we know that, then we have taken the first step toward repentance. Repentance can come only through the introspection given by the Holy Spirit. It can come only when we accept responsibility for our own role in tragedies of the past."
Mr. Lisman, I could tell in 1992 that things were "not right" in the WCG. Yet I stayed until 1995. I alone am to blame for that. No minister, no elder, no deacon can be held responsible for the choice I made. No confessions by an elder from the pulpit can remove my responsibility for that. Only I can make the choice to follow God's way of life, and no one else is accountable for that. When each member of God's church realizes this, then true healing will take place. And no amount of pulpit confessionals will make that happen.
Mr. Lisman, I feel compelled to close with your own words from your essay: "What we need, brethren, is to step away and shine the light of God's Word on ourselves along with our organization." Heed your own advice, Mr. Lisman.
May the centrifugal force
be with you
Congratulations on your courageous publication THE JOURNAL, which boldly faces up to issues that matter to all the Churches of God and to scattered members too. I especially appreciated Lee Lisman's timely review (April 30) of our recent history, our sometimes rocky growth experiences and our need for searching introspection and reconciliation with our brethren.
Taking a retrospective view of the Churches of God over the past 50 years or so, one may see a kind of centrifugal force at work that caused the WCG to come apart at the seams and spin off successor entities that in turn often came apart also. What we were witnessing was corporate failure, but individual growth.
As I see it, the 20th-century Church of God organizations incorporated twin basic errors that could not withstand the centrifugal force of truth: (1) that Christians needed to be supervised by corporate hierarchies of elders and (2) that it was required of Christians to send tithes of their incomes to centralized church headquarters.
In the future these doctrinal aberrations will likely be looked back upon for the unfortunate scams (perhaps not too strong a word) that they were.
In the meanwhile, individual Christians who have come through these religious organizations have perforce had to grow, make transitions and personally transcend error to break through to closer approximations of biblical truth. This is the process of Christian education, an individual process that no one, and no professional minister, can do for another. It results in wisdom, always individual and personal.
If we could all be reconciled with one another, what an amazing pool of wisdom and love we should find! But let us take comfort. It will all be there in the resurrection into God's Kingdom, which is after all what it's all about.
To whom we belong
Lee Lisman's essay ("We Need to Learn Lessons From Our Church History" [April 30]) courageously and honestly stated what so many of us thought and were reluctant to put into words. Disappointed and wary of the actions of large organizations, past and present, we turned back to God and the study of His Word.
But, having been dumbed down by the milk of the Word and double-talk during the last 80 years or so in the WCG, some of us were not equipped to effectively study on our own. We have sought out, and found, truly dedicated, Spirit-led teachers.
One such teacher is Fred Coulter, Christian Biblical Church of God, who publicly resigned from the WCG in 1979, stating his reasons and repenting of any part he may have had in allowing the situation to develop.
As his education and training were in the ministry, his resignation was at great cost to himself and his family. For this he has my greatest respect and admiration. Mr. Coulter teaches directly from the Scriptures and patiently instructs us how to avoid the slippery slope of false doctrines by proving all things.
No one "belongs to" the Christian Biblical Church of God. It is made clear to us that we belong to Christ and are members of God's church with all true believers, regardless of corporate affiliation. I expect Mr. Lisman would agree this is like a breath of fresh air after our experiences with hierarchical church organizations.
My thanks to Gary Fakhoury for his two excellent series, on the nature of God [which ran in another publication, In Transition] and, currently, "Observances in the New Testament" [beginning April 30 and concluding in this issue of THE JOURNAL]. Here also is a man who turns to the Bible for doctrine rather than the ideas of man. The excerpts from his study papers will be saved and studied.
And thanks to Dixon Cartwright for his comments and reporting regarding the WCG men on Hank Hanegraaff's radio show. It was painful to read, but we have a need to know.
Every article in issue No. 3 is worthy of praise, but for now we'll just say to all thanks for a job well done.
Beware the root of bitterness
One very serious problem emerges as a result of reading letters in Churches of God magazines over the last two years. That is that many people have chips on their shoulders about the way they were treated as members in the organization they previously attended (or currently attend), and these do not seem to have been eradicated, in many cases.
These grudges or bad attitudes are causing roots of bitterness that if left to grow could have very serious consequences (Hebrews 12:15).
Many of us have been treated very badly by church organizations, or people have been "kept down," "trodden on," had our physical lives hurt or ruined and our human potential and talents or jobs stifled. These could make us really hurt about some individual who probably hasn't meant to do us harm. It might have been a minister at the very top, a local minister or a layperson or a church organization.
But with God's help we must not let these swell up like I see in some letters.
We all need to pray that God will intervene and help individually each person who might have this problem or may be developing it. This problem has taken many a person out of church organizations by being bitter in the last 30 to 40 years. It is just that serious. let us pray for ourselves if affected and all individuals who need help, whether attending a church or not.
Another way to pray is for how to approach a person we feel is affected about this, maybe how to open up to him or how to encourage him or how he can use his talents (everyone has some useful talent). Most of the churches now recognize this at last.
God wants to use us more. This is one way we can be effective because this can be a very serious problem.
Never too late
I thought that your article in the April 30 issue re the Tkach and Albrecht interviews on The Bible Answer Man [page 1] was remarkably restrained given the nature of the material.
I noted your reference at the end of the article back to page 1 and the article about the WCG congregation in Ohio that voted to leave the WCG because of the hierarchical approach to government.
I could not help but reflect on the years in the WCG and the research that our people have done into the government structure of the RCG [Radio Church of God] and the WCG.
The current situation we now see and face is the result of the failure of the church to insist that the original constitution of the RCG be followed. The church handed over its entire future and its governance to Herbert Armstrong and the people he surrounded himself with and effectively allowed the ministry to burn the constitution.
If the brethren had defended the constitution, then none of this need have happened. Mr. Armstrong could have been made to perform according to law, which he did not do. Joe Tkach Sr. could never have done what he did, and Messrs. [Joseph] Tkach Jr., [Mike] Feazell and [Greg] Albrecht would have been thrown out on their collective ears.
The means still exist to enforce legally the collective rights of the membership of the WCG and remove the current leadership. To do that the constitution would have to be enforced by writ and the collective property and business of the church examined. This would ensure that the spotlight would be thrown on the legal operations of the churches then and now. It may be that the fact this is not done is because of that reason.
There is no doubt in my mind from the evidence gained from the Australian Securities Commission, among others, that fraudulent documents signed by Herbert Armstrong were lodged with the State of California and the Australian Securities Commission with the intention of controlling the affairs of the church and perverting the course of justice.
A body of people gets the government they deserve, whether in or out of the church. The WCG fell apart because the people allowed it to fall apart through nepotism, respect of persons and plain fraud. We [in the Christian Churches of God] have a statement of beliefs and a constitution that we protect and which in turn protects us. All of our members are given full franchise, and we will not allow the organization to fall into the hands of any one man or group of men or ministry.
Even now it is not, in my opinion, too late to deal with the leaders of the WCG and remove them from control. Perhaps God has allowed this in this fashion because it sifts those in the church according to belief and nature and shows who have the approval of God (1 Corinthians 11:19).
Christian Churches of God
Wishing and hoping
The April 30 issue is terrific, so much to think about. Keep up the good work. It is appreciated!
The article written by Lee Lisman ["We Need to Learn the Lessons From Our Church History," April 30] is something every one of us needs to take deeply to heart. Like him, I have hoped to hear or see in print evidence that the ministry and members alike are willing to change these misguided practices. I'm still waiting.
The church, as spiritual Israel, might reflect deeply on the words of Ezra 9:6, 8, 13, 15; Nehemiah 1:6-11; 9:28-33; and Daniel 9:4-5, 8-9, 13-14, 19.
Then perhaps we will be able to powerfully proclaim the Ezekiel message.
El Paso, Texas
If Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday morning on Nisan 16 on the "morrow" after the day when the first of the firstfruits was offered, will the rest of the "firstfruits" rise from the dead at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:23) on Sivan 6 on the morrow after the Day of Pentecost when the bread of firstfruits was offered?
Thank you for such an informative JOURNAL [April 26]. How else could I have known that I missed out on a sunrise Easter service at Gladewater? Do you know if Worldwide members actually showed up for it?
How soon we forget!
I have enjoyed the various articles on the calendar controversies [Feb. 26 and March 26]: some this, some that. Hopefully the Holy Spirit will guide us into the truth.
You asked me to let you know if I received any response to my letter wishing to hear from other "old-timers" ["Letters," Feb. 26]. Yes, I am well pleased. I heard from east, west, north and south and one from Texas.
They were not all old-timers, but for an old lady living alone it was a pleasure to hear from a young man in Florida, a couple in Sandy, Ore., a lady in Orangevale, Calif., and another lady in Gettysburg, Pa. The couple responding from Texas is old-timers whom I remembered.
How delightful it is, and all because you printed my letter.
Neva (Compton) Squires
2503 E. Villa Maria, No. 314
Bryan, Texas 77802
Over the past two years I have visited many congregations in several states, affiliated and unaffiliated with the various Church of God organizations. Sadly, one common denominator that we've inherited from our collective past is still in unfruitful operation today in many different settings: ostracism.
There is a great need being met in the cases of thousands of our brethren by the church organizations that continue to provide basic training for God's saints.
Unfortunately, a common adjunct to this basic training is that our brethren are led to believe that they have already arrived when they have really only rearrived-at the beginning! If only this basic training were available to everyone who needed it regularly or occasionally as a refresher with no strings attached, then God would be served, because all spiritual growth is to His glory and for His purposes and pleasure.
If it were more common for those who offered this basic training to do so because they truly wanted to further God's purposes for His people instead of that end being obviously secondary to preserving their own prestige and encouraging God's people to remain dependent upon the organization to preserve the comfortable status quo, then we would have a win-win-win situation and God would probably be more inclined to call more individuals into His church.
Is it really any surprise why most of us can count on one hand the number of people who have come to a saving knowledge of God's truth during the past few years?
Instead, today most of our brethren-though many of these could be aided by a little basic-training refresher-have been forced to conclude that the cost is just too great; the politics too thick; the implications of even being a guest necessitate too many disclaimers; and, frankly, the atmosphere just too devoid of uplifting, constructive, inspired content to partake of such basic training.
In today's situation men "lead" various divisions of the Body and abhor the potential for further division within their division, but are quite comfortable with upholding the distinctions of their division by discouraging fellowship across organizational (imaginary) boundary lines, because the existence of their division justifies themselves and their role.
Another, even sadder, division of the modern church is a chronological division of all things! Since the now largely discredited cultic culture of the past exuded an implicit ownership of God's truth and His people, those who wised up to the systemic spiritual paralysis at different times were ostracized by those still under the sway of organizational group-think.
The tragic result of this is that the Church of God landscape is littered with outcasts of whom the world is not worthy. However, even today, when the vast majority of the spiritual organism is ex-WCG, the perfunctory ostracism cultural response has resulted in a little-acknowledged mountain of judgmental sins to be repented of and has created a most difficult barrier to fellowship and worship in large assemblies for the earlier outcasts especially.
Are these 99 sought out? No! They're regarded with suspicion because there's a huge likelihood that they've discovered some of the skeletons in the closets during their sojourn in the wilderness!
There's also the chance that they might remember a remark or two from the pulpit from earlier years that the speaker wishes had been wholly forgotten. But at least one thing will be almost certain: They will have asked themselves:
Just how much of my xCG experience was truly of God and how much was simply me standing in the firing line of the propaganda of men, couching their own agendas in spiritual-sounding language?
Perhaps most tragically, the days of outcast-production are not over! When it is expedient to further corporate goals of uniformity (commonly mislabeled "unity"), more outcasts can be readily made simply by the pronouncement of a few choice innuendoes from the pulpit, and, presto, the old practiced Pavlovian ostracism reflex fires nearly as well as it did a decade ago, and the basest cultural force in our collective COG memory churns out another fresh batch of outcasts.
Yet another schism in the Body being accomplished, those outward bound are now probably tarred with one of the most stinging of COG epithets: They were causing division!
The organizational imperative is allowed to play out to the detriment of the spiritual organism as relationships are ruptured as the leaders of the larger division (church organization) congratulate the shunners for their discernment and faithfulness-never mind that their day will come as God continues to grant discernment to His people.
May the Almighty strengthen the hands of those who seek to serve His people with no spiritual conflict of interest or agenda of their own! May He raise up more and more of such who will not concern themselves with turf battles over the Lord's heritage!
May God speed the day of the truly empowered end-time church (which appears to be taking shape on the horizon) and then the coming of His Kingdom!
Jon D. Pike
First the bad news
I just read Lee Lisman's article ["We Need to Learn the Lessons From Our Church History," April 30], and I want to express my appreciation to him and to THE JOURNAL for making this material available to readers.
Mr. Lisman is dead on target with his observations. We can't ignore what happened or it will happen again. It is happening again. I do remember the "shoulder-to-shoulder" statements he spoke of and the observation that in times past a "totem-pole" structure existed in the church, with members well underground on the pole. This pole has been reerected, and members once again find themselves well underground.
Mr. Lisman's comments reminded me of a chapter review of what we should have learned from our experiences in the Worldwide Church of God. Did we learn the important points when we covered that chapter, or do we have to repeat the chapter?
Unfortunately, I am afraid that to some degree we are going to have to repeat the chapter. The techniques of control and manipulation we were subjected to in Worldwide never ceased but have been carried straight across into all of the breakaway organizations. Why should we expect that, just because ministers changed organizations they would also change tactics, especially when they were well trained in using these tactics and have experienced first-hand how effective they are?
Although many ministers and [other] members are willing to recognize that certain doctrines advanced in Worldwide were wrong, many are unwilling or unable to recognize that there were also certain practices that were also very wrong that must not be continued in the church.
Referencing Isaiah 55:6-9, we are told that it is not just our thoughts (doctrines) that are not God's thoughts, but also that our ways (practices) are not God's ways. We are told to forsake both our thoughts and our ways, to forsake wrong practices, not just wrong doctrines.
This is presented in the context of seeking God "while He may be found," which suggests to me that there is a window of opportunity in which we may find God by forsaking our own thoughts and ways, but which also suggests that there will come a time when God may not be found if we are not willing to do this.
In a recent summary of comments made at a [UCG] council-of-elders meeting, I noticed one individual making a comment to the effect that "if a man owns some sheep . . ." What some have yet to realize is that the ministers and corporations do not and never have "owned" any of the sheep. (In fact, they are fellow sheep.)
However, this is an attitude that has to be overcome before we will be able to change the approach that is taken toward the sheep, including both the minister sheep as well as the member sheep. It must be realized that all members of the church, ministers and [other] members alike, have voluntarily answered God's call and that we all belong to Christ, not to anyone else.
(I remember that God identifies Himself as "a jealous God" and is therefore not likely to view kindly others who lay claim to His sheep or who mistreat them.)
In this context, techniques of manipulation, subjugation and control over others have no place in the Church of God. Rather, the ministers' role is to be "helpers of our joy," which indicates an approach of helping us achieve that which we are already participating in voluntarily, rather than trying to manipulate and control in an attempt to get us to do what we perhaps would not do voluntarily.
(If there is something we should do that we are not doing, then give us the information that we need and give us the opportunity to participate voluntarily. Manipulation and control are techniques used to get someone to do something he otherwise would not do voluntarily.)
However, for this to happen we will all have to mature spiritually to the point we truly do approach one another as brothers, not as overlords and underlings, and also not as the right ones and the wrong ones, where different organizations of God's church are concerned.
The good news is that it is beginning to be possible to find a bright spot here and there where it seems that ministers and [other] members are able to do this. I hope this approach will become the norm in the church and not the exception.
Dana and Eva Francis
Members, United Church of God
Keeping still and listening
It was good to see you and Linda [Cartwright] along with many of my Ambassador College friends last Wednesday, even though the occasion was a sad one, the funeral of Larry Branam. It so reminded me of many worldly families where the only time the feuding members get together and talk to each other is when a loved one dies. At least for a day no one was telling another that he was headed for the lake of fire.
Each of us should start living his or her own life and let others live theirs.
The third issue of THE JOURNAL has, as we used to say, mutually excelled the first two issues. I thought that the essay by Lee Lisman was the best article that has been published in a long time. It really lifted the cloak of righteousness off those . . . shepherds who wrecked the lives of many sincere brethren and then walked away with their severance pay and benefits.
Those . . . helps-for-hire then started preaching doctrines that, when mentioned by members a few short months before, had caused the members to be disfellowshipped by said minister.
The greatest irony occurs when this [minister] starts to threaten those cast-out members of his former group who have been members of his new group longer than he has. A wolf is a wolf is a wolf.
Your article about Joe Jr. and Greg Albrect and their appearance on The Bible Answer Man radio talk show [in the same issue] was also informative. Your method of commenting on the text of the show reminded me of Norman Edwards answering some letters to Servants' News.
Some readers will probably complain about the length of the article, but I thought that it was valuable in showing your readers that what is happening today is no different from what happened in the early church. An organization of men, without the help of the Holy Spirit, will never be able to avoid the physical law of entropy, albeit in the spiritual sense. Talk about some clouds without water!
I would enjoy hearing from friends and former students at mckusheba
Michael C. Kusheba
Referrals for pastors
There is a new resource available for God's people on the Net! It is an unmoderated, free-expression forum that anyone is free to join! The only rule is that we don't want anyone promoting outright heresy or getting into personal attacks against another. Otherwise, people are free to discuss pretty much whatever they want.
It's about time that God's people have an unmoderated forum for discussion. So we invite your readers to log on and enjoy! The easiest way to subscribe is to take your Web browser to the Real Truth Web site at web.
superb.net/rcg. There you will find a choice of two lists to subscribe to.
The Real Truth list is geared to the general public, while the Restoration Times list is for those with some background in God's church. All you have to do is type in your E-mail address and push the submit button and you are subscribed!
If you have only E-mail and not a Web browser, you can still subscribe. Send a message to me at rcg@superb.
net and mention you want to subscribe to the Times list. I will subscribe you manually!
By the way, The Real Truth Web site's library section no longer has a backlog of unindexed articles and booklets. We have tons of material free for the download, including 14 Correspondence Course lessons! Use these for your own benefit, or download them, print them out and use them for your own local evangelism. (Doc versions of some of these materials are on our related FTP site. Directions for FTP use can be found in our library section.)
The goal of The Real Truth site is twofold: to preach a warning gospel message to the world, providing all the support literature people need to learn God's truth.
The other purpose is to act as an online resource for God's people and His scattered churches around the world, providing materials as well as advice from others on evangelism and other topics.
We are also developing a lead exchange. Pastors can be a part of a list for referral of potential members in need of personal counseling. Pastors should send their request to me for inclusion in the database.
By cooperating, God's people everywhere can make a difference, both for each other and the world. All the services offered by the site and Real Truth Ministries are provided free of charge as a public service. No strings are attached, except that we need to check the statement of beliefs of churches participating in the referral program.
M. John Allen
Pastor, Restoration Church of God and Real Truth Ministries
Via the Internet
Serve the Lord of the Sabbath
I found Gary Fakhoury's article on Sabbath and festival observance [April 30] to be thorough and well written. Those who welcome any excuse to throw off the "bondage" of obedience to their Creator will likely not be persuaded. They who fervently desire submission to their Heavenly Father as revealed through His Word will likely be strengthened in their knowledge and conviction.
I would hope that this article would also reach those who never set out to prove the Sabbaths one way or the other and that it would serve to lead them to a decision to choose whom they will serve: the Lord of the Sabbath or themselves.
Thanks, Mr. Fakhoury, for sharing your work.
Readers are sharp enough
You do a remarkably good job, but please consider a couple of improvements. First, the headlines on continued articles are quite misleading; they all look like the start of a new article. The same article or column runs from page to page with totally different headlines, looking unrelated except in the fine print.
Second, I dislike "editorial" comment disguised within a news story. I'm referring to unattributed generalizations that lean one way or another.
For instance, after quoting an individual in one paragraph, the next two paragraphs injected the writer's slant with these nearly verbatim editorializations: "This seems to contradict . . ."; and "[In 1995] it was felt that . . ." Your readers are sharp enough to spot contradictions or have their own "feelings."
It would be fine to either attribute opinion to quoted persons or state the staff's own views in an editorial. But please avoid anonymous interpretations buried in the reportage.
Costa Mesa, CA.
I really enjoy THE JOURNAL. I never subscribed to In Transition so I can't compare the two. I do have to say that THE JOURNAL is well written, professionally prepared and extremely informative. Keep up the good work.
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