Letters from our readers

Just in time

Re issue No. 29, June 30, page 13, "Postponing: It's Just a Matter of Time," by Darlene Warren:

What a refreshing breeze to offset the hot, humid air of disagreement, disgruntlement and dissension among the Churches of God. I only hope all the readership and/or contributors of viewpoints can lighten up for five minutes by reading your delightful article. From now on I think I will respond to those who ask me about calendar cogitations and legal ruminations: "Personally, I follow the Potluck Method."

And what do you know? I will have created yet another schism--all by myself. Thanks for the lighter side.

Jerry McClenagan

Amarillo, Texas

What's happening?

I read with interest David Sheridan's version of the Living Church's struggle to control the corporation in the British Isles ["What's Happening With Living in U.K.?," May 31].

My wife and I are both British born and U.S. citizens and observed the WCG's presence in Britain since the early '60s. We have been members of the Global and Living headquarters churches since their moving to San Diego in '94.

[The Global Church of God established headquarters in San Diego in 1993. A split in Global resulted in two churches headquartered in San Diego in 1998: Global and Living. Since then Global has disbanded and its elders have formed the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship, Fort Worth, Texas. Living is still based in San Diego.]

We [in Living] have been hearing reports of Mr. Sheridan's disruptive behavior for some time. In his rebuff of Mr. [Roderick] Meredith's recent action against him, Mr. Sheridan mentioned discussion of his own past sins but did not describe his criminal record and time spent in prison.

Those who have known him over the years also claim Mr. Sheridan was never ordained in the church. Perhaps he would care to comment on these points before attempting to condemn Mr. Meredith's actions in any further editorials.

Of course, we as Christians can overlook a repentant person's sins, but unfortunately, as Mr. Sheridan is well aware, neither the church nor the British government can look favorably upon someone with a criminal record holding a position in a corporate body that must be seen to be above reproach, given the scrutiny each "American religion" undergoes in the British Isles.

We should bear in mind Mr. Herbert Armstrong's teaching that the church is not a corporate organization; it is a "spiritual organism."

Mr. Sheridan refers to Carl McNair coming to Scotland and treating the running of the corporation as subject to that in the United States.

May I say we must also obey the law of the land, but we must submit ourselves to those ordained loyal evangelists Christ has placed over us to run the spiritual organism. The corporations are in existence only to support the structure of the Body of Christ and to satisfy the authorities in each country.

Mr. Sheridan seems to place so much importance on his involvement in the setting up of the U.K. corporation that he forgets this vital point and is now fighting against the establishment of a respectable leadership in the U.K. by any part he has played in the blocking of Doug Winnail's transfer there.

No doubt the British consulate in Los Angeles would have contacted the LCG company secretary in the U.K. in order to verify Mr. Winnail's transfer application and offer of employment.

As one who has established corporations in the United States and Canada and executed intercompany transfers (of personnel from one country and one corporation to another), I can tell Journal readers that everything on that application is thoroughly checked in both countries.

I hope Mr. Sheridan will accept the church's ruling in this matter and cease to hinder the work of the Living Church of God in the British Isles, leaving the final judgment of his treatment to Jesus Christ.

Brian Harris

Oceanside, Calif.

Because of the seriousness of Mr. Harris's allegation that Mr. Sheridan has served time in prison, The Journal asked Mr. Sheridan for a response to that specific part of Mr. Harris's letter.

If Mr. Sheridan wishes to respond to the other points in Mr. Harris's letter, he is welcome to submit comments to be considered for future issues.

"Brian Harris should be made aware of two very important points," Mr. Sheridan responded: "(a) that God has called more people who are sinners than who are not; and (b) it is an offense in the U.K. and Northern Ireland for any person who has gained any information about a person who has been rehabilitated in terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Acts to divulge in any manner such information on pain of being convicted and they themselves become a convicted person. It is very sad when people feel they have to resort to this level of smear . . .

"A person who descends to the level of repeating gossip with the sole purpose of diverting people's attention away from the truth of a message and onto the messenger reveals a lack of integrity both morally and spiritually.

"Christians must not look upon a repentant person's past sins but rather should be striving to strengthen such a one in their resolve to change, by their prayers and also by providing practical help and support."

Restoring to fellowship

Thanks for the continuing coverage of cases like the Tim Lindholms' and David Sheridan's ["Members' Suspension Appeal Unsettled and Unsettling After Three Years," June 30, and "The Living Church of God Detonates in United Kingdom," May 31].

There are obvious parallels between how the Living Church of God has treated David Sheridan and how the UCG-AIA has an opportunity to treat the Lindholms.

In a larger perspective other issues are involved that are showing distinct differences between the LCG and UCG-AIA that transcend the important issue around the Lindholms. I would like to illustrate some of these differences.

As we have seen with the recent case of Raymond McNair [see "CGCF President Resigns, Moves to Living Church," page 1 of this issue], it is possible for the LCG to make open and substantial repair with someone who was essentially disfellowshipped and marked from the congregation, even without a formal procedure of appeals.

However, in Mr. McNair's case it was essential for him to unconditionally surrender completely to the entire list of requirements as laid out by Roderick Meredith, Carl McNair and Richard Ames. We could expect future cases in the LCG to be heard similarly, and whether complete surrender would be required or not would depend on who was hearing the case.

The Lindholms have been presented a specific list, and, as they have indicated in their response, they agree with the points as stated except for the one concerning Bible study in their home.

In general, their disagreement touches on whether UCG-AIA members can be involved in spiritual production (permission is obviously less than the outright expectation of members being able either to evangelize or produce spiritual materials).

Over the past five years I have had spiritual interaction with many members of the UCG-AIA through the Internet, and through this exchange I have come to agree strongly that the governance model of the traditional WCG was not a one-size-fits-all model that works in every case.

At issue in the Lindholms' case is the extent to which members will be involved in either home Bible studies or other spiritual outlets, including the production of spiritual media (because what's the difference between saying it and writing it down?).

In offering to hear all cases, the UCG-AIA is already demonstrating a more open and procedurally based governance structure, even if perhaps some may want peer groups (other members) to hear the case.

By contrast, the Living Church of God accepted Mr. McNair based on the critical fact that the governance structure as implemented by Living is superior and represents God's will. Based on the apparent culture at the LCG, David Sheridan would have to at minimum do a complete retraction of previously printed statements and come to unconditionally accept the transcendent authority of the American LCG over the British LCG.

Additionally, let's not forget two important underlying concepts in incorporating churches: (1) the validation and establishment of spiritual authority and (2) the collection and distribution of money. Both issues are "established" by the right to incorporate.

Given the issues at hand, it appears the UCG-AIA can reestablish the Lindholms to fellowship after being more specific, not on Bible studies, but on the more sensitive and pressing issues of spiritual authority and money.

Finally, here are my own viewpoints on these issues. I believe that ministry does not result from a salary and title; instead, I support what the Christian world calls "the priesthood of believers"; namely, that the membership of the church has the individual and collective command from Jesus Christ to spiritually witness both in person and through media.

I believe the structure of the New Testament church (regardless of century) is necessarily almost flat because in any century each believer has direct connection to Jesus and the Holy Spirit (the veil being gone).

I believe that evangelism cannot be a job that we pay other people to do (through tithing or any other means), because when Jesus spoke in Matthew 28 he was speaking to individual Christians.

And, when it comes to restoring to fellowship, I believe as per the early WCG writings that the community or congregation has to be involved and essentially know the issues and as a group accept or reject certain members to fellowship.

Mark Tabladillo

Dunwoody, Ga.

Coffee's on

When the United Church of God, an International Association, formed, its purpose was to hold onto our foundation. It was also to have a different atmosphere from the WCG. The flock was to have more input. The congregations were to have a say in their operation.

What has gone wrong? Has the UCG-AIA lost its way?

The Bible is our map, our guide, through all areas of our Christian life. Our shepherds need to follow the same examples as we do from the Scriptures. Can they treat others (members) any way they want? Can they show disrespect and a lack of love (agape)? They preach to us about showing love to others. Aren't they to practice what they preach?

From the articles in the June 30, 2000, issue of The Journal concerning the suspended (not disfellowshipped) UCG-AIA members still unresolved after three years, and the attitudes concerning the Milwaukee split as reported in the Dec. 13, 1999, issue, it appears that they aren't practicing what they preach and haven't learned from past abuses.

Our local congregation (UCG-AIA) is dysfunctional. I wonder how many others are.

The light of support that my wife and I have for the UCG-AIA is dimming. It can't be business as usual. Shepherds, wake up and smell the coffee!

Name and location withheld

Strong personalities

This is just a few lines to offer words of encouragement to Tim Lindholm and his wife and the other families who have been caught up in this terrible situation, which clearly has gone on for far too long [see "Members' Suspension Appeal Unsettled and Unsettling After Three Years," June 30].

It is also to state that you have clearly taken a brave decision in printing an article that draws attention to a body to which many of your readers belong. We pray that you will not become a victim of this situation purely because you have maintained editorial integrity by reporting the facts as known by you.

Several points have emerged from my reading of both the articles covering this matter:

  • The length of time this issue has taken to get to the stage it is now at is a disgrace. Such delay could easily be avoided if, not only proper procedures were in place, but if time limits for each step were included.
  • Both the main parties to this dispute are clearly men with strong personalities. They both need to humble themselves in the sight of God and seek a speedy resolution in the interest of unity and harmony.
  • Clearly the pastor must not only show a willingness to act upon the instruction from his superiors in the administrative hierarchy to reconcile outstanding differences, but also realize that there is a great onus upon him as one who holds himself out as a minister of Jesus Christ to resolve this matter in a way that is pleasing to Christ.

The UCG-AIA is not the only Church of God organization that suffers from problems that have their basis in men's misunderstanding that, while there is a hierarchical structure involved as of necessity in the administration of the corporate body, this structure does not extend to the spiritual structure; that is, the Church of God.

One man may indeed be an apostle while another may be an elder, but both can function in unity and harmony only when they truly serve Christ and each other without seeking preeminence or glory for themselves.

The greatest cause of divisions in the Churches of God is the unwillingness of men (and women) to truly serve one another. Rather, they allow themselves to be served. We all need to recognize this failing in our lives and seek to emulate the example Christ set for all of us.

David Sheridan

Haddington, Scotland

Yes or no?

After reading Eric Snow's last letter to the editor ["Altruistic Paternalism," June 30, page 2], I would like to ask Mr. Snow if he would be so kind as to answer a couple of simple questions regarding what he thinks ministers have the authority to do.

  • Do ministers have the authority over a member's salvation?
  • Do ministers have the authority over what a member reads?
  • Do ministers have the authority over what a member believes? Do ministers have the authority over a member's choice of spouse?
  • Do ministers have the authority to tell prospective members they need to divorce a spouse before they can be baptized?
  • Do ministers have the authority to break up families?
  • Do ministers have the authority to decide if a member is ready for baptism?
  • If ministers have the authority to decide when someone is ready for baptism, and since baptism is a salvation issue, doesn't that mean that they would in fact have authority over their salvation?
  • Do ministers have the authority to prevent a member from partaking of the Passover­Lord's Supper?
  • Do ministers have the authority to separate anyone from God?
  • Do ministers have the authority to tell members whom they can and cannot have fellowship with?

These are just a few simple questions I'd appreciate a few simple answers to.

Bryn Hendrickson

Brooklyn Center, Minn.

1 Timothy 5:17 mistranslated

A few comments on Eric Snow's letter of June 30 seem appropriate. Anyone discussing the "role" of elders understands that where elders exist there necessarily exists the counterpart nonelders. So Mr. Snow's Hebrews 13:24 reference was superfluous.

Relevant to the discussion is how elders are "to lead," whether eldership constitutes a higher spiritual "class," as Mr. Snow believes, and whether "spiritual labor" is to be done only by a small segment of the spiritual body.

Mr. Snow states: "The Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich Greek-English Lexicon plainly indicates that the NASB has correctly translated the most controversial word in this verse: 'Let the elders who rule well ...'"

The "controversial" word Mr. Snow refers to is proistemi. Lexicons of New Testament Greek, including Bauer's, collectively give proistemi definitions like "to care for, to give aid, to give attention to, to be active in helping, to do good." They also show the classical "to rule" definition.

The fact that the term was used of rulers in the ancient gentile world in no way supports rulership within Jesus' Body. We see in Luke 22 that these gentile rulers exercised authority over people and demanded titles of honor such as "benefactor": one who "cares for" the people. Jesus deplores this exercising of authority while taking on titles like "benefactor" or "minister."

In Matthew Jesus says we are not to be "called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers"--showing that brethren, under Him as Head, are of one class: brothers.

Yet, in Hebrews 5, brethren are rebuked for having not yet developed as teachers. Teaching is a function in the church, but not to be a title, rank or class.

The only authority a teacher has is God's Word. The apostles performed a special function in delivering His Word to us. Teachers must speak according to all that the Word of God commands. Anything taught that doesn't square with God's Word should be discarded.

Assuming 1 Timothy 5:16-17 refers to the plurality of elders in each congregation having a spiritual role, let's investigate whether proistemi indicates they are to care for their brethren or to rule over them.

It should come as no surprise that Bauer assigns 1 Timothy 5:17 to the "to rule" definition; he does this whenever elders are specifically mentioned in the context.

However, there is absolutely no grammatical reason for this assignment. Proistemi takes a genitive inflection with either definition, just as the English always takes the objective case ("rule/care for them," not "rule/care for they").

Bauer's decision here is theologically based, not based on any "syntactical/grammatical reason," as Mr. Snow wrongly asserts in his Internet paper. No such reasons exist.

Most lexicons are written by men who consider themselves to be part of a "clergy" class. So it's no surprise that, like supporting the personage of the Spirit, etc., they usually support hierarchy in the body of brethren, disregarding Jesus' admonitions.

1 Timothy 3:4-5, which is concerned with the several elders of a congregation, sheds light on the ruling-over-vs.-caring-for question:

"For if a man know not how to rule [proistemi] his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?"

The word for "take care of" here is epimeleomai, meaning "to take care of a person or thing." Epimeleomai never connotes "to rule" or to manage people like pawns on a chessboard.

Nobody would ask: If a man know not how to repair car motors, how could he possibly grow a flower garden?

Paul uses proistemi in the sense that corresponds to epimeleomai, whose only other New Testament use concerns the good Samaritan "taking care of" the wounded man.

Paul doesn't compare apples and oranges or mechanics and gardeners or rulers and carers. The gist must be that, if a man does not even rightly care for his family, how could he be expected to care for (along with the plurality of other elders) his brethren in a particular congregation--with proistemi meaning "to care for" or "to actively give help."

Here is a passage in which elders are instructed to actively care for their brethren:

"I have coveted no one's silver or gold or clothes. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak [astheneo] and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'" (Acts 20:33-35, NASB).

New Testament lexicons give this word (astheneo), which many Bibles translate "weak," the definitions "economically in need, poor, economically weak, needy," etc. (Herodotus, in his Histories, uses astheneo to describe the poor who couldn't afford costly methods of embalming.)

The context also supports the economic sense. Paul did not say that, as he had worked to pay for the needs of his traveling companions, these elders were also to labor to preach to people.

That would make no sense. If that had been his intent, he would have said something like: "I have spent many hours counseling people and encouraging them. In all this I have given you an example that by doing the same you should strengthen the weak."

The group of elders from the Ephesus congregation were to financially support their poor brethren in the same way Paul had provided for others: by earning money with their own hands.

There is no introductory description of New Testament "elders," so it can be assumed that their function was an adoption of the role of the elders of Israel. Neither the elders of Israel nor of the early church had what we might call "jobs" as elders; they just were the elders of the congregation or community.

Elders had been around a while, having adult children who were believers (Titus 1:6). They were locally established. There were several in each church. As we read in 1 Corinthians, the whole church was involved in worship services with members' spiritual gifts; the several elders weren't burdened with sermon production.

Acts 20:33-35 underlines that there were no career elders in the early church.

Paul encouraged all the Corinthian brethren to seek the gift of prophecy. He said, "You may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged."

The first all is the same group as the second and third all. There was not a select group that learned and was encouraged.

Hebrews 10:25 says when saints assemble they are to exhort one another. The one exhorted submits to the exhorter, and they both, in exhorting each other, submit to one another. But all are to edify the church.

It is a misguided notion that anyone who exercises gifts of the Spirit must be in some position of authority over those who benefit from the exercising of those gifts.

As to Romans 10, Paul's argument is that the gospel of salvation through Jesus had not been far away and inaccessible to Paul's fellow Israelites, Paul himself having been one of the preachers of it.

The example of Acts 8 shows all the brethren, except the apostles, going about preaching the gospel in Judea and Samaria.

Ephesians 4 says God gave the original apostles and other gifts for the purpose of equipping all His people for "the work of ministry."

The idea that only a small percentage of saints are to spiritually minister is not of God. It developed during the early dark centuries of organized religion. People were persuaded to give up on the Sabbath and other laws because they had submitted to a hierarchy of men rather than to God.

Yes, there is division of labor, with all given a different spiritual gift or gifts for ministering. We all need to become spiritual experts, not sitting nightly in front of sitcoms while paying some preachers to tickle our ears.

Name withheld


It's just war

It is interesting to compare the approaches of Anton Brugger and Ron L. Dart in two successive issues of The Journal ("They Followed Their Faith," by Richard Nickels, Jan. 31, 2000, and "CEM Founder Answers Questions About Sabbath Observance and Christmas Music," Feb. 29).

Over the years I have discussed Mr. Dart's approach with COG members, and briefly by E-mail with Mr. Dart himself, which he courteously acknowledged.

In running his ministry for the last several years, he has not selfishly aggrandized, as have the Church of God groups. He is not primarily interested in getting someone into his group. He shoots straight, such as when he discussed his belief of a "just war" in the Feb. 29 article.

He openly says what he believes, so we can freely discuss these two approaches to the commandments: Mr. Dart's and Mr. Brugger's.

Anton Brugger was a German Seventh-day Adventist who refused to join the German army at the time of World War II. His church, which had opposed killing and Sabbath-breaking, capitulated in the face of opposition. It supported and joined Hitler's army.

Very few of its members refused to compromise; most changed their beliefs in this time of persecution. Herr Brugger was executed for refusing to compromise his obedience to God's law and his service to Christ, his Master.

On the other hand, Ron Dart promotes the approach of convenient obedience. The Church of God International, which Mr. Dart helped establish, has long advocated the practice of working on the Sabbath if that seemed necessary for an individual until God could make it easy for that individual to obey the Fourth Commandment.

Mr. Dart has said that if he could save someone's life by telling a lie he would do it in an instant: The Good Lie.

He has said that it is always right to defend yourself if someone is attacking you. Kill him before he kills you. If the bombs are dropping on your head in London, then it must be right to kill those who are bombing you.

In each of these examples, the absolutes of the law--keep the Sabbath holy, don't lie, and don't kill--are overruled by the judgment of the individual in the situation.

The WCG, as I understand from some articles, has a somewhat similar approach. Its leaders say that the absolute law of the Ten Commandments was replaced by the law of love. This means that in any situation the individual determines right and wrong according to his judgment with the love that is in him.

The WCG, though, places no value at all on the Ten Commandments, while the approach of Ron Dart gives support to the Ten Commandments and overrules them--that is, breaks them--only when necessary. This approach amounts to advocating lawfulness without having the inconvenience of always trying to obey the law: convenient obedience.

This goes back to one of the basic arguments in Eden. Satan said Eve and Adam could be as gods, knowing good and evil. The difference between God and every other being is that God determines right and wrong, with the law of God. The way that any other being can claim to be God is to determine, apart from Him, what is good and evil.

This is what situation ethics and the WCG's law of love do: They take away the determining of right and wrong from God and give it to each individual.

He says, "You shall not lie." You say, "If I can do good by telling a lie, then I shall lie."

He says, "Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy." You say: "If I don't work on the Sabbath, I will lose my job. Therefore I will remember the job and keep it holy until they don't conflict."

He says, "You shall not kill." You say: "Sometimes it's necessary to kill. Therefore I will kill only those who deserve to be killed."

This is the ultimate idolatry. You have taken the very place of God Himself in decreeing right and wrong.

Mr. Dart mentioned just wars and unjust wars and that he would have fought with Britain against Germany in World War II.

That creates an interesting scene. Ron would have been fighting his just war against Anton Brugger's German SDA churchmates, and they would have been fighting their just war against him. We know they thought it was just, because they did it. And they were against Anton for not helping them.

That Hitler might have shot them had they not supported his war helped influence their opinion of what was just, in the same way that German bombs falling on Ron Dart, had he been in London, would have affected his opinion. But that's the way the human mind works, swayed by temporal circumstances--as opposed to the mind of God, which is unvarying and absolute.

So we could have had these two Sabbatarian elements fighting with each other on the Sabbath, each believing in Christ, each being careful what it ate in its rations because of belief in clean and unclean meats, and each believing that when one killed the other one the other one would only be asleep in Christ and not floating off to heaven.

Possibly both could have gotten together on the battlefield during a lull in the killing for a short Sabbath service and sung old Baptist hymns together, similar to what happened in World War II at Christmas, and then gone back to their just war. Bang, bang, brother.

So we are presented with this strong contrast. Anton Brugger tried to obey the actual written commandments, as Christ did. Like Christ and many others through history, he was killed for it. On the other side were those who, based on their individual judgment, decided to overrule the Fourth Commandment and the Sixth Commandment and participate in a just war, and indirectly helped execute Anton.

Those who rely on their individual judgment to overrule the Commandments do not rely on God. They figure they have to tell a good lie because God's not going to do anything. They reckon that they have to break the Sabbath sometimes, because if they obey the Sabbath they will lose their job and God will not help them. They know they have to kill before they are killed, because there is no possibility that God will step in and protect them.

God will not save Britain, so Ron Dart has to. If they believe in such a powerless God, how is it they believe He will help them after they die?

A just war is just the same old war man has had all along. People have always thought their wars were just. The approach of convenient obedience is the same old teaching the world has had all along: that it is somehow better to break the Ten Commandments than to keep them. Eve and Adam thought they would be better off by disobeying Yhwh. Christianity disregards the "Old Testament Law." The WCG's new truth is simply committed Commandment-breaking, with lots of love.

Convenient obedience--obeying only when it's easy, avoiding the tests by caving in--is not really obedience at all. Most of all, convenient obedience robs Christians of their greatest opportunities to show their love for God, which fulfills the first Great Commandment and the First Commandment.

It seems that all the apostles experienced martyrdom, even though John lived through his. Why did God allow these enormous tests in their lives?

When the rocks knocked Stephen in the head, and he looked up and saw the heavens open to him, that inconvenient moment was the greatest in his life.

May each of us have the same kind of belief in Yhwh God as the martyred apostles Stephen and Anton. This war that we fight to obey Him is the only just war there is.

Dan L. White

Hartville, Mo.

Just unbelievable

It is unbelievable how demonic your tabloid, The Journal, has become. It is obviously another tool of Satan's for the further and continuing destruction of the people of God. It's perversion at its worst. Please cancel my subscription immediately.

Terry J. Irwin

Stevensville, Mont.

Positive split

I was truly amazed to find various Churches of God doing what they believe God wants them to do for the sake of the members of the Body of Christ. Upon reading The Journal, I reflect on the positive results the split from the WCG had brought.

For one, many God-given talents are now apparent.

Moreover, the brethren (this term even now acknowledges those from other churches as well) are more tolerant of one another. The exclusivity (read self-righteousness) that once pervaded God's church is gone except for two or three COGs. Truly the Lord God is mighty! He is great!

Joshua Marquez

Via the Internet

Plain truth about reconciliation

An ad about Garner Ted Armstrong ran in Connections June 30 titled: "Garner Ted Teaches the Plain Truth About Reconciliation."

The last sentence states, "... Do you suppose he [Jesus Christ] is waiting to see if we will voluntarily reject division and get together to accomplish his work in unity and harmony before we can qualify to be caught up to meet him at his return?"

Then the ad gives contact information and the offer of a booklet.

How can members in various "branches of God's Church" come together "to accomplish his work in unity and harmony"? Maybe he is talking with leaders of the many branches about uniting under one umbrella?

I look forward to hearing more about this because surely the lay members (or whatever we are now) do not have the power or wherewithal to unite all of us. Should we all individually cry out to God "I reject division"? Will that take care of the situation?

Just reading one issue of The Journal and seeing the vast number of groups organizing their Feast sites is evidence to me that the scattered brethren can be brought together only supernaturally by Jesus Christ. Aren't we human beings (even including the most dedicated and talented within the ministry such as Mr. GTA) just too weak and flawed to bring about such a monumental feat?

Why would God and Jesus Christ consider any person "not qualified" if he or she can't correct something that was not within his or her ability to prevent in the first place?

Among the various groups friendships exist that church breakups and continuous splits have not destroyed. These continuing loving friendships are a legacy of the Worldwide Church of God. They inspire me almost as much as the thought of all of us being together again in one large revived WCG (yes, I miss it too).

Laura Reimann

Arcadia, CA

Who will stand?

In your Feb. 29 issue Ron Weinland is quoted as saying, "But I will stand in the gap." Now the Philadelphia Church of God has come out with a booklet, Micah, claiming that Gerald Flurry "stands in the gap" as a definition of "breaker" (Micah 2:13, KJV).

That is the trouble with all these men leading in every single group out there. Each thinks God chose him to "stand in the gap."

Ezekiel 22:30 states, "So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one."

Anyone allowing or believing the lie that a man must teach him and stand between him and God is committing idolatry.

Name and location withheld

Report from Toledo

All of us here want to thank everyone who had or still has us in his prayers concerning the separation of our group into smaller numbers [see "Toledo Pastor Disfellowships Board Members; Most of Congregation Leaves," Feb. 29]. Of the 39 people who wanted to continue as we had started, 41 are attending regularly and with gusto.

We determined that love was what we really needed: not just for each other, but for everyone God is working with.

So we concentrated on the "gifts" aspect of getting the will of God done in the group, not depending on only our established leadership, but letting those whom God seems to be using have the ability to show us what they are learning from God.

If you look around you will see almost everywhere, in various groups' writings, a mention of "gifts" and what they entail. We are convinced the way is being shown back to love as the first priority, which causes the gifts to become available to everyone.

Once we saw that tie between love, enabling the gifts to work was the key. We started looking around, and it was apparent that no one else learned it from our situation. But it was there in many groups and what they were saying. We became convinced God was leading that realization to many. It reinforces our commitment, and we hope everyone can benefit from it.

Back to the basics: love, grace, faith, gifts. Wanting God to cause conditions to exist where we learn His wants seems to be the agenda. We have tried to do it ourselves, and each time, as it grows, power takes over from love, and failure is assured.

We, when power shows up, want our way, and God's leadership seems to take second place.

We have a Feast site, which was available within two months of our separation, which with the cooperation of others will make 200 or so in attendance. So how are we doing? Blessed.

I write for everyone in Toledo.

Gary Benjamin

Toledo, Ohio

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