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Letters from our readers - Issue 113
Encouraging Communication among the Churches of God
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Letters from our readers

Back in Philadelphia

A recent issue of The Journal has much to say about disfellowshipping and marking of what the churches call dissidents, causing division, etc. [see "Disfellowshipped Elder Requests Apology From Church" and "Disfellowshippers Should Take a Break," The Journal, April 30].

I have supported God's church for 45 years, and I still support God's church.

The law used by the Churches of God today to disfellowship members is a corruption of the Law of Witnesses Christ restored in His church through His Elijah.

The Law of Witnesses is a great law that protects ministers' credibility from abuse. This same law also protects church members from unscrupulous ministers. God is not a respecter of persons. I could not say the same about some ministers.

About nine years ago at the second Feast of Tabernacles I attended in the Philadelphia Church of God, I was summoned to appear before the Feast coordinator. No reason was given. So I said to friends I was with: "I smell a rat here. I believe I will need witnesses" (as required by the Law of Witnesses).

When asked, my friends readily agreed. When going to the interview I was confronted about why I had my companions with me. My reply: "These are my witnesses!"

When we faced the minister, I was charged with calling my accuser names. To which I replied: "I have my witnesses" (as required by the Law of Witnesses). "Bring in my accusers and let them accuse me to my face."

My accusers were people I had never met, let alone got to know. Caught off guard, they did not have the time to coordinate their charges. The charges against me did not stand, because their witness did not agree. This is a case of the Law of Witnesses being used to thwart an unscrupulous minister.

A.D. 2003 was my final Feast of Tabernacles with the PCG. I was to confront this same minister again. This time I was one of the witnesses.


This time there was a vendetta between this same minister and another minister who was a very popular minister who built the church up that he was shepherding to become the largest country church in Australia, and Australia is a big country.

He was told by the minister he was disfellowshipped for causing division in the church, and he was summoned to appear before this minister following the afternoon service of the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles.

I had got to know this minister very well and, having been told of the animosity that existed between these two men, had told him, "Never go into a summonsing to appear without witnesses" (in accordance with the Law of Witnesses).

He remembered what I had told him, and he asked me would I be one of his witnesses, to which I readily agreed.

When it became time for this minister to go into the summonsing, I was standing near the accused.

When his accuser came along and asked the accused, "What are these men doing here?," referring to the accused's witnesses, I answered that question, "We are the accused's witnesses!"

To which he replied, "We do not need witnesses!"

I responded, "Without witnesses you can say whatever you like."

To which he said to me, "Are you saying that I would do that?"

To which I replied, "No! But it can be done!"

Now he left us and went to consult with his assistant minister. Soon he returned. Now the charge against my friend was downgraded. They were now having a counseling session with the accused, which did away with the accused's witnesses.

After the service I went to the motel where I was staying. I was informed by the accused that he would call and tell me how the counseling session went after it was over.

About 7 p.m. the accused came to my motel. He told me the counseling session went very well. The differences were all settled. He was no longer disfellowshipped, and they all shook hands.

I replied, "A thousand will believe him, but I will not."

This was my second encounter with the accuser. Next morning, on the Last Great Day, the accuser confronted me and asked me had I been talking to the accused this morning, to which I replied, "No, I have not!"

So he repeated what the accused told me, and we also shook hands. I did not meet the accused on the Last Great Day.

Three weeks later at 11 a.m. I received a phone call from the accused. He had just received a call from his accuser to tell him he was disfellowshipped and marked for causing division and divulging what was confidential at the counseling session.

I will add that the accused was now living more than 120 miles from his church and he had not come in contact with any of the members during that time.

The accuser was no longer dealing with the accused's witnesses. As I suspected, as soon as the accused returned to his home, the accuser rang him and disfellowshipped and marked him by telephone.

A few days later I was also to receive an expected phone call, disfellowshipping and marking me, because I was a witness for a minister, as is required by the Law of Witnesses.

I use the example quoted here to show that the Law of Witnesses, when implemented as God intended, is an excellent law and protects both ministers and lay members. God is not a respecter of persons.

Unfortunately, too many ministers and members use the Law of Witnesses as a club to inflate their own egos.

The Law of Witnesses has not been properly used since the death of the Elijah. Unfortunately, it has been abused rather than used correctly.

Vic Kapernick
Morgan, Australia

Try these tips

I came into the Worldwide Church of God in 1964 when it was growing 30 percent per year. Contrast that with the stagnation in the Churches of God for the past decade. Even offshoot groups with multi-million-dollar budgets have little growth.

First let's acknowledge that the doctrines of keeping Saturday instead of Sunday, and holy days instead of holidays, are obstacles that can be overcome, as evidenced by years of former growth in Worldwide.

Let's examine three factors that produced growth. By looking at those we may find some solutions to today's lack of growth.

1) Personal evangelism: Ron Dart points out that even when the WCG was spending millions of evangelism dollars a year 50 percent of new members resulted from the efforts of existing members. This was in spite of the fact that personal evangelism was strictly discouraged. What if personal evangelism had instead been encouraged?

What is the lesson for us? Personal evangelism should still work. An impediment today, however, is that Americans are richer--dare I say spoiled?--so that rented facilities are not attractive to them. Thus the need for church buildings. This member has written about that before.

2) Message to those of Bible background: Looking at the NT church, we can see much of its audience was Jews who had Bible knowledge. The focus to them was easier: Their Messiah had come, had died and was resurrected.

What is the lesson for us? John Clayton (of Does God Exist?) put it well: "Evangelism was simpler years ago when Christian principles were assumed and the Christian worldview was predominant. But that is not the case today. Pluralism rules. All religions are seen as legitimate and all roads lead to the same God. Your truth may not be my truth, but they are both equally true. There are no more absolutes."

What to do? Such doctrines as all will have a chance (God will not burn little babies or nice Uncle Bob forever in hellfire), the Sabbath, the holy days--all those instead of negatives can be proclaimed as positives. Why say that? Precisely because they separate us from the crowd.

3) To the gentiles: The NT approach was different to those with no Bible background. They had to be taught things Jews already knew. At Mars Hill Paul said he represented the unknown god and then went on to teach about the Creator. This was something his gentile audience grasped because "some men believed, joining themselves to him [Paul]." Likewise at Lycaonia Paul preached God as Creator of all things.

What is the lesson for us? Creation is an effective way to reach people with little Bible knowledge. Even Christians appreciate creation reinforcement because evolution dominates our culture. During the period of its great growth the WCG produced many programs and booklets about creation. Significant? It may be.

4) A logical presentation of facts: Do you notice a common thread in those three past successes? They all persuaded people with logical information.

All throughout Acts the apostles preached logic. Today we have many more paths to disseminate logical arguments than the apostles did. Most long-time members (like me) were persuaded by logical facts in booklets.

Are we distributing all the booklets we can? Are we using enough local radio and TV? How about ads offering booklets? Are our Web sites full of logical arguments for our strange beliefs?

A puzzle is that many members who no longer have to pay for an expensive headquarters should be able to do more local evangelism. But is it being done?

Brethren, the status quo hasn't worked well for years. Can we do better? Might this letter start a dialogue of ideas and success stories?

C. Frazier Spencer
Anderson, Ind.

Second death

Most professing Christians believe that someday all evil people will be thrown alive into a blazing hellfire.

Which brings us to the second death. Could it be that everyone will experience two deaths?

Romans 6:4 says we are "buried with him [Jesus] by baptism unto death." That's No. 1. Is it not true that everybody dies and is put in the grave? That's No. 2, the second death.

At what point will the evil people be thrown into hellfire?

Oh, well, maybe there'll be a third death. After all, there was a time when we were told there would be a third resurrection.

Most people in and out of the Church of God couldn't care less about such frivolous questions and ideas.

Do you believe in the second death?

Paul J. Herrmann
Metairie, La.

Feast announcement

My wife, daughter and I are keeping the Feast this year according to the 364-day calendar, as we have done for the last three years: Wednesday, Oct. 4, to Wednesday the 11th (LGD) (which has some overlap with the lunar FOT this year) in Destin, Fla.

I am working on my sermons and looking for parking volunteers, and my wife is in charge of the nursery and ice-cream social dance, and my daughter will handle the choir, special music and the talent show.

I will take up an offering on the first and last days. Since my daughter is 3 years old, I don't know which special toy she will put in the offering plate as it passes by.

Although it looks like there will be no hurricane problems threatening Destin this year, with just the three of us in attendance I feel strongly that seating will not be a problem.

Our site does not allow outsiders to attend, but we will consider attending other sites if invited to preach.

W. Robin Wansley
Via the Internet

The family of God!

I very much appreciated Eric Snow's article "Can Christians Actually Become God?" (The Journal, July 31), pointing out the true human potential, which is indeed nothing less than to become what God is, (a) God (being).

I have no doubt that Mr. Snow fully understands that we are not, in fact cannot, become what or who someone else already is. God the Father is God the Father, the firstborn Son is the firstborn Son, and you and I can (only) become additional children in the one God family.

Those who deny that God is and/or has a family have no right to call God their Father, have no right to call Jesus their elder brother, have no right to call themselves sons (children) of God.

Words such as marriage, father, mother, wife, husband, son, daughter, brother, sister and children find their true meaning only in the context of true family. Using these words, and at the same time denouncing that God is truly a family, is not only illogical and unbiblical but is a contradiction in terms.

I do, however, disagree with Mr. Snow's statement that, "after all, we [meaning Christians] today are of the same species, the same category, that Adam was of."

We are all of the human kind, but, if the Spirit of God dwells in us, then we are begotten children of God and we are already of the God kind, with a claim to deity, for God the Father already sees us in the righteousness of Christ, already sees us as sinless, as was His firstborn Son when He was on this earth--a born human being and a begotten God being. Jesus is truly our example in all things.

Robert Schmid
Westminster, Calif.

Wake up and bring Brian back

In the May issue a letter of mine was published on page 2 and represented on page 1 as a reaction to Brian Knowles' resignation [see "I'm Sorry. Over and Out," by Mr. Knowles, The Journal, April 30]. The fact is, I knew nothing of his "resignation" at the time of writing that letter. If I had, I don't think I should have been so timid.

So often we see others censured, and, because we didn't agree totally with them or for some other reason, we fail to realize that no one totally agrees with us and we may be the next to be censured.

Freedom of speech is a novel thought in the history of mankind, and most see the problems others can cause by what they see as abuse of this freedom but are unwilling to entertain the idea that when others lose freedoms they may be the next.

If not next, we can be sure that we will face the same if we don't conform to the powers that caused others to lose their freedoms, whether it be freedom of speech or some other.

Just what "powers" caused Brian to relinquish his freedom of speech in The Journal? From reading a letter by Stuart Segall on page 19 of the June issue, it would seem Stuart is taking at least partial blame for influencing Brian to "resign."

Stuart speaks of having a close friendship with Brian and apparently has considerable influence over him. I hope Stuart will use that influence and support Brian in reconsidering his "resignation." I don't want to believe that a friend would stand by and see a friend censured, intimidated to resign, disfellowshipped, etc., and do nothing.

Stuart did, in the same letter, apologize for doing something like that some eight years ago. We will trust that Stuart comes through this time.

The silencing of people through the years has taken on many forms, "resignation" being only one of many--crucifying, stoning, disfellowshipping and the like being among them. Some, like crucifixion and stoning, are permanent, while others, like resignation and disfellowshipping, imply temporariness.

Freedom of speech is sacred to the American mentality. When the founding fathers of the United States reluctantly declared their independence from what is now a brother country on the world scene, they did it in part on the justification of these words: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

It might be good at this point to consider that the nation that was brought forth on this precept, in spite of the shortcomings of its people, has been blessed in many ways more than any other nation in the history of nations. Are we among those who consider that liberty should be granted only to those who agree with us?

I speak of all who have kept silent and not resisted this by spoken words and actions. I also speak to Brian, who, as the prophets of old, turned a deaf ear to those who claimed to have all the answers. The ancient prophets, in spite of rebuke, insult and criticism, put their pens to the paper in faith and were not deferred by self-doubts or anything else.

Dave Havir and most everyone speaks to The Journal's audience as being a bunch of 2-year-olds. Brian tried to speak to us as equals. Many responded to Brian as would a newborn babe who is allergic to his mother's milk (that being what some refer to as "the milk of human kindness").

(On the other hand, maybe Dave speaks over everyone's head, including mine. Maybe it is time to go back to basics and work on showing respect for others and not just having respect for our opinions as always being God's opinion.)

In closing, I am wondering why people who consider themselves the most caring people in the world would not flood The Journal with letters of concern and support for Brian.

Phil Griffith
Delight, Ark.

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