Letters from our readers

Cartoon of the mind

Thank you, Earl Cayton, for your cartoon in the Jan. 31, 2001, issue of The Journal.

My first reaction was: You've got to be kidding. The travel trailer is to be hauled behind a car or truck, so the closest church is wherever you travel with it.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized this is what Church of God people are becoming focused on instead of God and all the wonderful things ahead.

Come on, people. Think about it. Mobility of the mind is the most important.

Sylvia Houseman

Coos Bay, Ore.

Pay the Bill

I believe that people like myself in the independent movement have helped to solidify the Church of God Corporate Organizations (orgs). Many of you are responsible for this too. What follows are the sociological reasons this has happened.

Within any human group (family, church, tribe) are norms that are shared expectations of behavior. Any person who deviates from them calls into question the basic values of the group.

Groups in general--as is the case with the orgs--rarely like to have their basic values questioned. It makes them nervous.

Sociological studies have repeatedly shown that, for rules to exist, deviant members must be punished by the group. In our COG culture this has usually been through shunning by disfellowshipment or the denials of status, privilege or rights to serve. The severity of punishment usually is determined according to the following criteria:

  • The more "primary" an org is felt to be by its members, the more severe the punishment will be.
  • The less status that a deviant member has, the less tolerant an org will be toward him.

(Example: A leading evangelist or apostle makes a ridiculous doctrinal statement, but this is allowed by the group. Let an everyday member do this in a sermonette, however, and the retaliation is swift and hard.)

  • The more authoritarian an org is, the less tolerant it is towards any who display any deviation from its norms.

I am happy to report, however, that, while the deviant shakes everybody up, he actually performs a valuable function for the orgs.

For one thing, the deviant relieves tension by acting as an acceptable outlet for group frustrations.

Second, deviants help the orgs unite in times of uncertainty and change.

Even if an org suffers internal debates about important issues, it can feel commonality and unity by despising the COG deviants.

Third, uniting against deviants by asserting common ideals gives group members the reassurance of a solid front and strengthens the sense of togetherness and worthiness.

For these reasons independent COG attendees will always be viewed as second-class Christians and outrightly demonized by the orgs, or at the very least they will be ridiculed by them with such terms as "Garage Church of God."

However, I do take personal credit for helping them coalesce and feel a sense of worthiness.

My invoice is in the mail.

Bill Lussenheide

Menifee, Calif.

What would Mr. Armstrong do?

Because Nisan 15, the first annual holy day in 2001, falls on a Sunday, some reason that the 50 days to Pentecost should be counted from after the last and only weekly Sabbath in the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

The only apostle thus far of God's end-time Church, Herbert W. Armstrong, never counted Pentecost this way, nor does the Bible. Nor does the longest-standing evangelist still walking in Mr. Armstrong's footsteps. Nor does the largest organized remnant of the now-scattered church Mr. Armstrong founded.

In 1994 the first holy day of Unleavened Bread, Nisan 15 (March 27), fell on a Sunday, exactly like it does in 2001. The majority of those members who still held fast to what the already-deceased Mr. Armstrong had taught observed Pentecost on Sunday, May 15, not on May 22, as some now count.

Furthermore, the same configuration occurred twice during the lifetime of Mr. Armstrong when Pentecost was observed on a Sunday: in 1974 and 1977. Therefore he was aware of the situation and established how it should be handled.

The principles I cite here are derived from what Mr. Armstrong taught and did.

  • Nineteen seventy-four was the year Mr. Armstrong closely examined the issue of Pentecost and changed its observance to Sunday after keeping it on Monday for probably four decades. He may have initially kept it on Sivan 6 as the Jews do.
  • In 1974 the first holy day of Unleavened Bread (Nisan 15) fell on Sunday, April 7. Herbert W. Armstrong and the church observed Pentecost on Sunday, May 26, that year, not on June 2, as some now count.
  • In 1977 Nisan 15 was on Sunday, April 3. Mr. Armstrong and the church observed Pentecost on May 22, not May 29.

These three examples, spanning 20 years, show the church observing Mr. Armstrong's Bible-based teaching of how Pentecost should be counted.

One of the arguments given for counting 50 days from the Sunday after the Passover season has ended is that the only weekly Sabbath during the seven days of Unleavened Bread 2001 is the final day of the festival.

That viewpoint fails to note the emphasis in Leviticus 23:15-16. The counting is to be done from a Sunday involving the wave-sheaf offering.

Put another way, the real question is: Which Sunday is wave-sheaf Sunday this year? Once that is determined, Pentecost can be calculated properly.

Leviticus 23:4-8 outlines when and how Passover and Unleavened Bread are to be observed. Verses 9-14 show that the Israelites were not to eat what they reaped until the priest performed the wave-sheaf offering and associated rituals.

To fully understand what was commanded, one has to refer to Israel's first Passover in the Promised Land, recorded in Joshua 5.

Verse 10-12: "So the children of Israel . . . kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month [Nisan] at twilight on the plains of Jericho. And they ate of the produce of the land on the day after the Passover [that is, on Nisan 15], unleavened bread and parched grain, on the very same day [the 15th]. Now the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten of the produce of the land . . ."

Taking into consideration the laws already cited, it is obvious this first Passover in the Promised Land establishes the pattern for us--specifically for 1974, 1977, 1994 and 2001.

In order to eat of the produce of the land on Nisan 15, Joshua and Israel had to have the priest perform the wave-sheaf offering on the same morning. It had to be the day after the Sabbath. Therefore it had to be a Sunday, the same day of the week the wave-sheaf offering occurs this year and the same day of the week it occurred during 1974, 1977 and 1994.

There's no indication other than that righteous Joshua correctly obeyed God's instructions about this matter.

Since that first Nisan 15 of Israel in the Promised Land had to be a Sunday, Nisan 14 that year was a weekly Sabbath, just as it is in 2001. It is after that Sabbath, in such years, that the 50 days to Pentecost are to be counted.

Nisan 14 is the weekly Sabbath that started the Passover season during Israel's first Passover in the Promised land as well as in 1974, 1977, 1994 and 2001.

Therefore, were he alive today, Herbert W. Armstrong would observe Pentecost this year on Sunday, May 27 (or Sivan 5 on the Hebrew Calendar), 50 days after Nisan 14--not on June 3, which is 57 days after the Sabbath to be counted from.

May 27 is the day the longest-standing evangelist walking in Mr. Armstrong's footsteps, Dr. Roderick C. Meredith, and the Living Church of God he oversees, will observe Pentecost 2001. It is the same day Leslie McCullough and the largest organized remnant of the now-scattered Church Mr. Armstrong established, the United Church of God, will observe. It is the same day anyone holding fast to what Mr. Armstrong taught, and the Bible commands, will be observing.

Geoff Neilson

Fish Hoek, South Africa

50 and counting

Careful reading of Leviticus 23:9-23 has convinced me that the Day of Pentecost for A.D. 2001, which we in the United Church of God plan to observe on May 27, is a week earlier than the date mandated by Scripture.

The key to this conclusion is the ordinance of the wave sheaf, from which 50 days are to be counted beginning with that day as day No. 1.

Leviticus plainly says the day of the wave sheaf is the day after the Sabbath. Since the only weekly Sabbath within the Festival of Unleavened Bread is the final holy day, April 14 this year, this would place the wave-sheaf ordinance on Sunday (as it always is), April 15.

Seven weeks from this Sunday brings us to June 3, 2001, as the Day of Pentecost, not to May 27. To pick May 27 means one has to calculate the wave sheaf as being on April 8 this year, the day after the Sabbath before the festival began. A Sabbath before the Festival of Unleavened Bread was never chosen by which to determine this ordinance.

Passover day falling on the weekly Sabbath is not a valid Sabbath from which to establish this ordinance.

I would love to be proven wrong, so please tell me if I am.

Don Davis

Tucson, Ariz.

Please see page 6 for a summary of several perspectives on determining the date of Pentecost this year.

Jacob's birthright

I take exception to some of what Gary Muzzelo wrote to Brian Knowles about reading The Thirteenth Tribe ["The 13th Tribe," Feb. 28, page 5].

Please read Genesis 21:9-21. Abraham's seed was to become as the dust of the earth. Genesis 13:16 and 28:14 have to include the Arabs (Ishmael), the Egyptians (Hagar), Jacob's son (Esau), the Turks and Israel (12 tribes).

In Genesis 13:14 Abraham stood in the land of Canaan. As far as he could see in every direction, the land was given to Isaac, Jacob and so on by birthright (Genesis 17:16-19).

If we back off and look at the whole picture (Genesis 16:12), it sure seems to fit the whole Arab presence, does it not?

Levi Kuhns

North Lawrence, Ohio

The messed-up Middle East

In his critique of my January article, Gary Muzzelo ("The 13th Tribe," Feb. 28, page 4) makes many valid points. The tactics used by some of the more-radical Jews in seeking to wrest Palestine from the British mandate were indeed shameful--and inexcusable.

Even the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin stooped to terrorist tactics early in his career.

In my book, terrorism is a great evil no matter who practices it. It is a tactic of cowards. When Israel does it, Israel is wrong. When the Arabs do it, the Arabs are wrong. It can never be justified, no matter who does it.

I recently read a report in which it was said that Israel's new prime minister has sanctioned the use of torture of prisoners suspected of terrorism. This is fighting one evil with another evil. Torture and terrorism are two of the greatest evils ever invented by the darkened mind of man. Both should be outlawed and punished swiftly whenever they occur.

The fact remains, however, that Israel is a legally constituted nation whose citizens come from many countries. God gave a certain geographic area to Israel in perpetuity. No matter whether Israel is in the land or out of the land, it's still Israel's land until God says otherwise.

I have not read the book The Thirteenth Tribe, so I cannot comment on it. As to which peoples of the world are true Israelites and which are not, I have no special expertise. Perhaps others who have read it would be willing to comment on it.

I do know one thing: Cohanim--priests--have been genetically identified and can be traced through their DNA. It remains to be seen whether the same kind of genetic identification can be achieved with the other tribes.

Until the Arab peoples are willing to recognize Israel's right to exist as a sovereign nation, peace will never happen in that region. Yasir Arafat is a two-faced thug and nothing more. I have zero respect for him. He wants one thing: to drive Israel into the sea and take over Palestine for himself. That is clearly articulated in the Palestinian National Covenant, of which I have a copy.

What he is doing now is part of a "phased plan" to take over the land of Israel. It has nothing to do with peace.

The nationless Arab peoples who look to Arafat for leadership are his victims, not his beneficiaries. He is largely responsible for their plight, which is indeed tragic. Both the children of Israel and the children of Ishmael deserve better than they get in the turbulent Middle East. Ultimately we are all accountable to God for how we treat each other, individually and nationally.

If I read my Bible correctly, it's going to take the return of Messiah (Zechariah 12-14) to straighten things out in the messed-up Middle East.

Brian Knowles

Monrovia, Calif.

Beyond the media

I am pro-Israel. I read two Israeli newspapers daily. I subscribe toE-mail updates from numerous Web sites such as and I know which writers ofop-ed pieces are hawks and which are doves.

But I notice a disturbing trait among some who are pro-Israel. Palestinian Arabs are dismissed as terrorists or nonentities.

The Palestinian Arabs watched as Zionists moved to Palestine in the 19th century. The Zionist movement created jobs for Palestinian Arabs. More Arabs moved to the area as laborers.

They were not blessed with good leadership. The mufti of Jerusalem sided with Nazi Germany. In 1947-48 the Arabs were told by their leadership that the Jews would be pushed back to the sea. They were encouraged to flee from their homes. Don't worry. They would soon be back.

Instead, what happens in wars happened to the Palestinian Arabs. They and an equal number of Jews living in Arab countries became refugees. Israel took in the Jewish refugees, tripling her population in five years.

But the Palestinian Arabs were not welcome in Arab countries. Gaza became a large refugee camp under Egyptian control. Jordan controlled the West Bank and did offer the Palestinian Arabs citizenship. Yasir Arafat and the PLO repaid Jordan by attempting to take over the government.

The Palestinian Arabs were chased north to Lebanon, but they remained in refugee camps in Jordan. Some Palestinian Arabs persevered, got an education and went on to become part of Jordanian society. Some migrated to other countries and moved on with their lives.

The Palestinian Arabs left behind in refugee camps became pawns to be used against Israel. That occurrence was a master stroke. The Palestinian leadership told them that all would be well when they could move back to their homes.

A journalist asked a refugee woman about the Israelis. She screamed that the Jews had taken her jewelry when she had to leave her home in 1948. The Israelis probably had not taken her jewelry, but 50 years later she was convinced they had.

They became people with only one hope. Mr. Arafat kept that hope alive. They would return to the homes they left behind. They would get their own state.

The intifada of the past six months is the reaction of a segment of Palestinians who believes force will get them their state. It worked in Lebanon.

The average Palestinian Arab in the West Bank and Gaza just wants to have a job and take care of his family.

Please go beyond the Israeli media and read The Jordan Times and The Daily Star. Educate yourself as to what the average Arab is thinking, what problems in society he is concerned about.

I am pro-Israel politically, but I am also pro-Arab. I look toward to the time when we all can sit down as friends, willing to learn from each other.

Kathleen Hoffart

Hampton, Minn.

Don't put it off

Renew my subscription! The essays are excellent (some very much so in spiritual food). Love the letters to the editor.

Why doesn't someone--scholar or theologian--figure out the calendar once and forever according to our Father's instructions in the Bible so that all celebrate His feasts at the same time?

What? Are we kids? How long must we postpone?

Basil Hronchak

Sandy Hook, N.Y.

Darlene's column

The last two issues, February and March, have been especially interesting. Darlene Warren's column [in the Connections advertising section] is one of the first I read. It gives me a good laugh every time.

Scarlett Stough

Lonedell, Mo.

Share the wealth

In support of the article "Paul Said Leaders Should Directly Support the Poor," by Garry Pifer [Jan. 31, 2001], I would like to add that Matthew 6:19 reads: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break in and steal."

Also: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (verse 21).

And: "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (verse 24).

Too: "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7:15).

Paul said: "I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock" (Acts 20:29).

Does this sound like what happened after Herbert Armstrong passed away and about 400 churches sprang up so their leaders could get a share of the tithe money?

Frank Miller

Cedarsburg, Wis.

Over the line

Thanks again to Alan Knight for his recent essay, "'Grace Alone' Discussion Confuses Salvation With Justification," in the Feb. 28 issue of The Journal.

Many of us have not only read of the apostasy in the early church but have personally experienced it in our generation. That apostasy was not introduced by doing away with the Sabbath.

As Alan implied, we can see apostasy coming long before it gets to the point of dumping the Sabbath.

Once a teacher begins to suggest that evangelical Protestantism is a bona-fide form of Christianity, he has crossed over the line into teaching lawlessness. He is implying that one can break the commandments of God and be a part of the faith and Body of Christ.

We should have learned by now that such a teaching is dangerous and something we should flee.

Marj Coulson

Edgewood, Md.

Witnessing to the world

I am writing in response to Horst Obermeit's article, "Here's How to Comfort and Not Comfort at a Funeral," in the March 30 issue.

I recently left the Philadelphia Church of God and can tell you that what Mr. Obermeit wrote about that ministry's handling of funerals is right on the mark. PCG ministers do use every funeral as an opportunity to preach, rebuke and get their views across to the grieving listeners.

I remember my first PCG funeral five or six years ago. An elderly man had died after a long illness. He was the only one of his family in the PCG.

Edmond [the location of PCG headquarters in Oklahoma] sent down a 28- or 29-year-old recently ordained elder to conduct the funeral.

He began a long sermon about sin and the penalty of sin, as well as the resurrection and the return of Christ. But he went too far with the preaching of sin to these mostly unconverted people, who were there to remember their loved one and friend.

I winced all through the message because I could tell it was bothering some.

The funeral was a graveside service, so some of the friends and relatives walked away and waited for the hellfire and brimstone to pass, then they came back. It was embarrassing.

I am not against witnessing to people in the world. But a funeral is not the proper time or place to do it. The message should be on the hope of the resurrection and how Jesus Christ and the love of the Father make that possible. It should be short and sweet.

Then any relative or friend should be able to say some words if he wants to.

Most of the people in this funeral's audience were at least twice the age of the elder giving the "eulogy." I kept thinking how they must feel while this kid, who had never met the deceased, told them about what horrible sinners they were. It would have been a joke had it not been so sad.

Mr. Obermeit mentioned that the ministers of the PCG made no effort to offer condolences or even contact those in the family who weren't members of the church.

I know why they didn't. The ministers believe they are the only members in the inner court of God's spiritual temple. To them it is practically a sin to do something as simple as offer a condolence to a nonmember, especially if that person is a member of another Church of God. To them such people are nothing but nasty Laodiceans who are to be treated as though they have been marked.

I know this because an Edmond minister said this several years ago in a sermon. He said brethren in any of the other offshoot churches should be regarded as marked and disfellowshipped.

The longer I am out of the PCG, the more I see how hypocritical and arrogant it is, specifically the ministry, which rules by fear and intimidation. Yet most of the lay members are honest, decent and faithful. I hope they wake up in time to see how misled they are.

Now Gerald Flurry is building a headquarters complex and college campus just north of Edmond. Yet we are supposed to be in a time of "no more delay."

Approximately $200,000 homes are to be built on this land for the ministry, and this information comes from a headquarters minister himself; it is not just a rumor.

I urge any PCG member reading this letter to seriously reconsider giving one more thin dime of your hard-earned money to that project.

Michael Daniel

Via the Internet

Readers of The Journal, including PCG elders and other PCG members, are welcome to write letters to The Journal in response to this or any other point of view published in this newspaper.

Condemned for reporting

As The Journal's distributor in New Zealand, I have heard several old-style conservative-type individuals describe to me The Journal the same way someone on an Internet forum on Compuserve described it.

When the article on New Zealand appeared late last year ["New Zealand Member Says Church Not Playing by the Rules," Oct. 31, 2000], I had several contact me and describe The Journal as a "gossip rag."

If something is published that exposes error within the established organizations, and the leadership disagrees with what is written, then The Journal becomes a rag, regardless of whether it is reporting the truth or not.

During 1995 WCG ministers spoke against the Internet and In Transition [an independent Church of God newspaper that published from May 1995 through January 1997] because they exposed error that was being taught by the WCG ministry. The Internet, according to them, became a tool of Satan.

This mind-set has continued with the splinter groups. When I asked those who were critical of The Journal's article on New Zealand where the error was, they were silent. Yet The Journal is condemned for reporting as fairly as possible both sides of some of the divisions and arguments that have occurred within the COG community.

It really concerns me to see how many within the COG groups have developed an attitude that the leaders of some of the groups are right and others who may speak out on issues are the tools of Satan.

As a result of the article in The Journal on the administration changes within New Zealand, I have been told not to attend the United Church of God. You are condemned for speaking out, regardless of whether it is the truth or not.

This is in spite of a legal opinion from the crown solicitor of the New Zealand Companies Office who wrote to state that the UCG-NZ board had a legal responsibility to follow the UCG-NZ constitution in carrying out its responsibilities.

So where are we today? What have we learned from the events over the last few years? Sometimes I think not much at all.

Bruce Porteous

Auckland, New Zealand

Road to Jerusalem

I am writing to as many of you as I can find addresses for, otherwise I would address you all by name.

Bill and our son Monte are going to Jerusalem April 30. To those of you who know Bill well, you know he tends to be outspoken and direct. I request that you put them both in your prayers, that God will give them the boldness to speak out to whomever God directs them without fear--or give them favor and inspire them by His Holy Spirit to say whatever it is that the Father puts into their mouths.

In 1983 God gave Bill the spirit of Elijah. There are those who do not understand this and do not accept it. That is of no consequence, for if it were untrue there would nothing come of this, but, if it proves to be true, and you don't agree, God Himself is still the one in charge.

One thing everyone who knows Bill understands is that he does put God first in all things. He has prayed for understanding, wisdom and discernment. I know, because 30 years ago I found his prayer list, and the things on it were just part of the things he prayed for every day.

So, to you brethren who receive this urgent prayer request, please ask the Father to give Bill and Monte the words to speak with boldness. He is not going there as a journalist or tourist but as a servant of Jesus Christ and God the Father. If he fulfills the role of a prophet, then the return of our Savior is very near and at the doors. May God speed that day!

Ruth Phillips

Lakewood, Ohio

God is behind the man

I was loaned a past copy of The Journal (Dec. 31, 2000) by a friend recently and was encouraged to notice a letter from a Charles C. Smith on page 4 in which he equated what he believed to be the "true work of God" with the closeness in beliefs to the "faith once delivered" under Herbert W. Armstrong.

God called me 40 years ago in the days of the then Radio Church of God. Even though some few of our ministers warned us that there would be a great falling away at the end (or in the last era), and seemed to be quoting valid scriptures to prove it, we just didn't get it. It seemed too unbelievable to be true.

They seemed to be exaggerating, but now, after the 14 years since Mr. Armstrong died, it seems those ministers actually had no real idea just how badly the former beliefs of God's people would be devastated at this time.

I believe Mr. Armstrong was a faithful apostle through whom God gave all of us any truth that we still have. Most of God's people would be reluctant to accuse or ridicule the original New Testament apostles, yet they played a comparatively small role in taking Christ's gospel to the world in comparison to what was done under Mr. Armstrong for more than 50 years.

Yet many former ministers and other members regard Mr. Armstrong as a favorite target for ridicule and slander. They are not afraid to "speak evil of dignities."

Of course we must never worship a man or a human organization, but we should worship the God behind the man if we have proven from God's Word that the teachings from that man are biblically sound.

I have done that as regards Herbert W. Armstrong, and I'm sure many of your readers have done so and are also of the same mind. As Satan continues to slander God's end-time apostle, and make those teachings that God gave us through him harder and harder to find, we have found that one of the most extensive sources of that faith once delivered is at the following Web site:

Donald Grieves

Via the Internet

A rock and a hard place

The Feb. 28 Journal just arrived. Eagerly I opened it to read the latest information and the thinking of my brethren. As I did so, however, I was ashamed to find that the front page was adorned with one of the most famous icons of the COG movement [a photograph of WCG founder Herbert W. Armstrong].

I have not kissed the blarney-stone fragment at Texas Tech, nor has tact ever been one of my virtues. Further, I realize that with my first few sentences those of you who need this message the most already have your defense mechanisms up and will have closed your minds to what I am about to say.

Many of us have criticized the Seventh-day Adventists for their veneration of Ellen G. White.

It is easy to take to task the diehards for continuing to support and back WCG-offshoot ministries. But have we not done exactly the same thing with Herbert Armstrong? Our COG organizations vie for the title of who most closely follows the teachings of this man. We even see groups titling their COGs according to how faithful they adhere to the faith once delivered by HWA compared with everyone else!

Virtually every one of us is guilty of worshiping the image, memory and teachings of this man.

If you think for a moment that God is incapable of calling you without some vehicle derived from the WCG, then you are guilty of idolatry. Yet this is the very argument so many put forward to continue this sin.

Some of the symptoms of our idolatry are best seen when we address HWA's name. We say "Mr. Armstrong" or "Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong."

Some groups claim that if we do not believe he was the Elijah to come we are Laodicean and will go into the tribulation, the lake of fire or both.

People will say to those who speak out about the abuse of his ministry that "Mr. Armstrong did not authorize that abuse." Defensive slogans abound: "You are just bitter!" "That is all in the past." "Can't we look to the future?" "You're bashing a dead man." "Mr. Armstrong sinned, but so did we all."

We will not have our idols tarnished.

In the same issue of The Journal, a letter to the editor espouses the writer's faithfulness of his COG to the teachings of HWA. Then Rob Elliott writes an editorial with the title (on the article's second page) "Those Who Honor Mr. Armstrong Grow in Understanding."

Here's a quote from Rob's article: "We learned these truths through the teaching of Herbert W. Armstrong."

We have seen the articles and heard sermons on how this or that form of the Babylonian system has permeated our lives, language and culture. Methods of perpetuation of this evil system are pointed out. But do we see the Babylonian modus operandi in our worship as well?

Yes! We see it every time a group defines God's blessing by the number of letters received, pieces of literature sent out or new radio or television stations added or the increase in money coming in.

It is perpetuated when you cower before the latest member letter threatening your salvation unless you send in enough offerings (above regular tithes and offerings, of course) to alleviate the latest crisis in "the work."

It is perpetuated every time your minister says he carries the baton of Herbert Armstrong, and, if you do not follow him, you are rebelling against God.

That is blasphemy, but it is also standard operating procedure. After all, HWA did it, so why not one who carries the baton after him?

We see the system perpetuated when bringing an issue before the church is defined as bringing the issue before some minister. For example, John Ritenbaugh said he was not subject to Matthew 18 because he is a minister.

Most who perpetuate the abuse graduated from the minister mill that was Ambassador College. One "minister" told me the ministry venerated HWA because he was head and shoulders above everyone else spiritually. Now Gerald Flurry wants to create another minister mill to enslave another generation.

What are we to do? What other church believes the basic tenets we believe? A lot of what we believe is believed only by us! Other "Christian" groups are not viable options.

So why would God allow this evil situation among His people--if it is really evil. Maybe all I am doing is venting because I am self-deceived.

There has to be a reason for this and it still be true that we are set apart. I think I know the reason, so here goes.

We are to be kings and priests, not just "ministers." So-called ministers have manipulated people they once considered to be their friends. Many of the brethren have been disfellowshipped, shunned and treated like dirt because they asked the wrong questions. Further, we are told not to accept an accusation against an elder except in the mouth of two or three witnesses.

If you would abuse the position of a minister, then you are unfit to be a king and priest. Do you reckon God would give someone unlimited power when such a person has shown he is all too happy to zap anyone out of existence who would dare cross him?

God will not endow you with absolute power if you are a despot. We had to experience the despotism of Herbert Armstrong's "government of God" to learn firsthand what it is like to be under the heel of tyranny.

If you would cover up ministerial abuse, you are not ready to be a king and priest. That is the lesson of our past. Servants are not despots. Kings and priests are servants first and foremost.

Timothy W. Henry

Sunspot, N.M.

Process of elimination

I was baptized into the WCG (then Radio Church of God) in 1966 and left in 1995 because of the "great apostasy." I have since been associated with various independent congregations as well as sacred-name assemblies. My main calling is to declare the name of Yahweh to my brethren (Hebrews 2:12).

I would like to offer new truth on a subject that has been much-discussed recently in The Journal: ministerial authority. Nearly all the articles and comments agree with my understanding, but no one has adequately addressed the "binding and loosing" scriptures of Matthew 16:19; and 18:18.

Matthew 16:19 says: "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

This has always been taken to mean that popes, apostles, pastors or other "ministers" have the authority to make binding decisions, which we "lay members" are obligated to obey, and the Almighty supposedly backs up these decisions, whether right or wrong.

About a year ago, after realizing that a fallible man cannot have control over my spiritual life, I struggled with the seeming contradiction between the binding-and-loosing scriptures and others that seemed to imply just the opposite.

A couple of scriptures came to mind that seemed to parallel perfectly Matthew 16:19 and explain it simply. Three questions must be answered:

  • What are the keys of the kingdom of heaven?
  • What is binding?
  • What is loosing?

Since Scripture interprets Scripture, see if the following scriptures don't answer the questions:

Yahoshua's [Jesus'] first (I think) recorded "sermon" is in Luke 4:18-19 (where He quotes Isaiah 61:1-2):

"The Spirit of [Yahweh] is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of [Yahweh]."

Isaiah 61:1-2: "The Spirit of the [Sovereign Yahweh] is upon me; because [Yahweh] hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of [Yahweh], and the day of vengeance of our [Almighty]; to comfort all that mourn."

  • What are the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven? "To preach the gospel to the poor"; "to preach good tidings unto the meek."
  • What is binding? "To heal the brokenhearted"; "to bind up the brokenhearted."
  • What is loosing? "To preach deliverance to the captives"; "to set at liberty them that are bruised"; "to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound."

Note that bind and bound in Isaiah 61:1 are two different Hebrew words, No. 2280 and No. 631 in Strong's. Also, the Greek word in Matthew 16:19 is No. 1210, a different word from No. 1195, which is used in Matthew 23:4 ("bind heavy burdens") and Acts 22:4 ("binding and delivering into prisons"). The latter has the negative connotation of one being bound against his will.

As the above scriptures show, binding and loosing have nothing to do with ministerial authority. They refer to the preaching of the gospel and acts of mercy that go along with it.

If this is the case, is there any authority among Yahweh's people? If so, how much, and who has it?

This has already been quite adequately addressed in The Journal by writers much more eloquent than myself. By eliminating Matthew 16:19; 18:18 from any discussions on church government and authority, we can correlate the other scriptures that actually deal with the subject and come up with a more enlightened understanding of it.

This understanding came to me like a powerful light coming on in a dark room and is a great example of truth setting us free.

Chuck Baldwin

East Ridge, Tenn.

March forward

Thank you so much for your newspaper. After reading it I can see there is still bitterness among the churches and splinter groups. Is this God's way?

Some of the articles in your paper are encouraging. But some are downright depressing.

But we have to keep our chins up, pray more and march forward.

I was 35 when the first copy of The Plain Truth came to me. It was like a rolling ball, and I kept chasing it. I was baptized at age 37, 33 years ago, but never dreamed my life could be so upset by the church.

When the WCG went by the wayside, it hurt a lot of us, but we had to overcome that hurt like many other things and tread on toward our goal.

Now there is no congregation close enough to me that I can attend Sabbath services. I do keep the Sabbath by watching my videos, listening to my tapes and studying my Bible. I can do all this at home.

But I do miss fellowshipping with my brothers and sisters in the church. Maybe in the near future we can all be together as one.

Pherbia Stephens

Lawrenceburg, Tenn.

Leave a message

More than a year ago my perspective of how the "work" is to be done was changed because of an incident that occurred at the Church of God I was attending. After the incident I realized I was doing nothing for the work of God and decided I was tired of doing nothing and wanted to be active in evangelizing.

The first project I began was to write prison inmates, with the help of a person who operates prison ministries in Texas.

I decided to write inmates as a friend, allowing them to share their problems and thoughts and giving them the opportunity to form contacts with Churches of God that offer free reading materials so they can grow spiritually. I found many of them receptive to Christian literature.

The second project I began was to run a classified ad in a local newspaper that reads: "Christian in search of other independent Christian Sabbath-keeper for weekly Bible study. If interested, please call . . . and leave a message."

It worked! At present we have at least four people meeting for Bible study every Friday night. The purpose of this small group is to grow in God's truth and to fellowship.

The third project was not really my idea. I was talking by phone to Tom Justus of the Church of God Sabbath Day in Arkansas. We were discussing the booklets he prints and allows others to distribute free of charge.

I asked if he would mind if I advertised them in my local newspaper. He said that was a great idea, so I began advertising them. He commented that many churches were already doing this.

It worked! Since I started placing the ads, I have received many responses for the booklets I have advertised, and a few people have even requested more than one booklet and asked for additional materials.

I have discovered that, if lay members like me would take advantage of available opportunities for witnessing and using their talents, they could help change people's lives and assist in spreading the gospel.

If Churches of God would encourage and help lay members in their personal evangelism, then the truth might really go out to the world.

I challenge lay members to stop just paying and praying and pray to God to open opportunities for them to use their talents and help preach the gospel.

If you are already doing the work, may God bless you in your personal evangelism. To the Churches of God: I challenge you to assist your lay members in their personal evangelism and encourage them in their work.

If you will do this, you may be surprised what can be done.

Doyle J. Carter

Tulsa, Okla.

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