Since my last position with the WCG was when I was in charge of ministerial training worldwide, we had a great deal in common.
He said he felt I was a realist and eventually asked if I would be part of the CG7's new research committee. I told him I would be happy to.
Later Mr. Roberts sent me a book he had written about pagan beliefs and the truth. It is one of the most concise books on the subject, and I highly recommend it.
Over the following few months our phone conversations ran into hours. We were having difficulty finding any disagreement.
Our major area of agreement was that Christians had to keep the Ten Commandments in their hearts to be saved. That was exactly what Christ told the rich man so he could receive salvation.
We both agreed the Sabbath was the seventh day and no man had a right to change it.
He acknowledged that the holy days were not required for salvation. Some of the CG7's pastors tell their congregations to believe they have to keep the holy days, while other ministers tell their congregations they do not.
Some, however, memorialize the days as shadows or prophecy.
The CG7 churches based in Meridian are a mixture of independently associated groups with no ranks or hierarchies. They are all brothers and sisters in Christ. The ministry is looked upon as those with ministerial gifts.
Don Palmer is president of the Meridian-based CG7. He told me he does not have the gift of preaching.
When I spoke with both Tom Roberts and Don Palmer, we found ourselves in scriptural agreement. It was almost unbelievable how much we agreed biblically.
They have a firm belief that every Christian must have the freedom to grow spiritually, and all Christians are at different levels of spiritual understanding.
This is the reason the Meridian organization's churches are not denominations but are associated and enjoy the freedom to grow spiritually.
The Camp Meeting
During those communications Tom asked if I would speak at their coming Camp Meeting, which ran June 28 to July 7, 2007.
This CG7 is now called the CG7 Meridian. Each Meridian Camp Meeting is a week when members who can attend travel to near Boise, Idaho.
Boise is the location of the association's headquarters, where it has its publishing company. The CG7 has a large piece of property with a church building, tabernacle for large groups and cafeteria building.
Tom told me there are as many as 300,000 church members worldwide. More than 200,000 of those members live overseas. The largest congregation is in New York City. The state of New York has four churches, with almost 4,000 members.
There are other organized Church of God 7th Day associations, such as the one based in Denver, Colo., but they are not officially associated with the Meridian group. Each functions independently.
The Camp Meeting generally features morning services from 10 to noon and then in the evening beginning at 7 o'clock.
The afternoons are reserved for functions for youths, special church meetings or free time.
While attending the Camp Meeting services, I heard no demands for money, although a donation box was available. The membership is much like WCG people. Most are everyday, hard-working folks.
Some pastors receive support from their congregations, but many have outside jobs.
This is exactly how Paul said things should be. In 2 Thessalonians 3:8-9 the apostle said: "Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought [free]; but wrought with labor and travail night and day that we might not be chargeable [responsible] to any of you."
Now read your biblical answer why ministers should work with their hands: "We do this, not because we have no power or right, but to make us an example unto you to follow us."
The preaching ministry is not a rank. It is to be an example of Christ and more of a servant. People follow the ministers as guides, not lords. They are to be honored for their service, even when working with their hands.
When Paul said in verse 10 that "if any [man, including any in the ministry] would not work, neither should he eat," that means if the ministers refused to set an example of working they should receive nothing from the people for their sustenance.
The CG7 ministry certainly exemplifies Paul's command to the ministry and God's people. Don Palmer, president of the entire CG7 Meridian organization worldwide, and Tom Roberts both have outside jobs.
Don, Tom and I spent an afternoon discussing the CG7 and what it is about. We compared my personal experience with the RCG/WCG.
I found Don to be an extremely humble man, not seeking any gain from the church, interested only in following Christ's examples.
He is a wise man, with life's experience, and is extremely patient.
He has a ranch and a business as a crop analyst. He loves the outdoors including the wilderness and says he wishes he had lived 150 years earlier.
Tom works as a substitute public-school teacher, and his wife works for a mortgage company. Tom is scripturally knowledgeable and earned his doctorate in Hebrew and Greek from the University of Athens in Greece.
Tom receives a small salary that probably covers only his gas and minimal upkeep of his car.
Church responsibilities in the CG7 are selected by obvious gifts or fruits.
A church council is headed by the president and has six members. That body oversees the needs of the church as a group, but each congregation is autonomous and independent.
In fact, the pastor is chosen from elders--those who are the older, wiser men--by the membership as a whole. Certainly this is biblically correct.
Finally I understood what Mr. Armstrong's article really meant. His 1939 Good News article on church government was biblically accurate. In fact, what he wrote was an exact reflection of the practices of the Church of God 7th Day, whose practices go back to biblical times.
CG7 members until 1938
What I had not known all these decades was that Mr. Armstrong and his wife, Loma, became part of the Churches of God 7th Day in 1927 and were considered members until 1938.
The 7th Day COGs considered Mr. Armstrong to be an evangelist, which is why, in 1939, Mr. Armstrong's article copied the CG7 form of church government.
It was only later that Mr. Armstrong decided to change to a rank system of church Government.
Why? He changed because a rank system could bring money, as tithes, into a central place.
But Acts 6:3-4 declares there should not be any central headquarters to collect money. Money should be collected only in local churches and administered by the deacons.
I was surprised to find that many former WCG members have joined CG7 groups. Most of them had left the WCG when Joseph Tkach Sr. became head of that church in 1986.
I had lunch with a pastor who remembered me from our WCG days. He pastors the same congregation he pastored in the WCG, only now the members are with a CG7.
He asked me to visit and preach at the Feast of Tabernacles even though he knows the CG7 believes that keeping the holy days are not required for salvation. They memorialize the holy days as a reminder of prophecy and of better things to come.
My visit with the CG7 Meridian has made me aware of people in different faiths who want all their membership to keep growing spiritually while experiencing the freedom in Christ that is so necessary if there is to be spiritual growth at all.
Don Palmer said when we parted that we should be uniting Christians and not forming some exclusive clubs. I left in total and complete agreement.
Between 1927 and 1942 Mr. Armstrong was aligned with a Church of God 7th Day organization. The CG7 folks regarded Mr. Armstrong as an evangelist. As he stated many times to the WCG membership, he had earnestly tried to work with Churches of God 7th Day.
It seems there was no divorce between the CG7 folks and Mr. Armstrong until 1938, when the 7th Day churches realized he was functioning entirely on his own and they decided to revoke his ministerial documents.
After 1942 Mr. Armstrong experienced dynamic growth of his Radio Church of God, which was then headquartered in the Pacific Northwest.
By 1950 churches were spawning all over the United States and other countries.
Finally Mr. Armstrong decided to raise up churches worldwide.
Obviously, the Radio Church of God outgrew its evangelical profile so it changed its name in 1968 to the Worldwide Church of God.
No longer attached to the Churches of God 7th Day, the WCG's new government was entirely restricted to principles based on Mr. Armstrong's teachings.
Under such a church government there was virtually no growth in spiritual understanding possible, no matter what the Bible taught.
As decades passed, especially with the death of Mr. Armstrong in 1986, some individuals began to study, and those with God's Spirit began discovering new truths.
Some finally realized, as Colossians 2:16-17 really says, that the Sabbath and holy days are a shadow, or prophecy, of good things to come.
Since they are prophecy, they cannot give a Christian salvation. They reveal the plan of God, but they save no one.
Only the properly understood New Covenant can do that, by God writing His laws in our hearts and minds and giving eternal life.
Its new teachings after Mr. Armstrong died caused many WCG splits. Some retained the old WCG beliefs and practices, and others created personal groups with varied views of their own.
No Acts 15 conference
With the proper mind of Christ (Philippians 5), each Christian should consider the welfare of the other, as did Christ.
During the time of the WCG splits there should have been an Acts 15 type of conference for everyone's good.
This, I found, is something that does indeed take place in the Church of God 7th Day based in Meridian.
Pastors are to be servants (which is what "ministers" means) of the people, with continued spiritual growth until we mature to the stature of Christ (Ephesians 4).
Mr. Armstrong was right when he, in his 1939 Good News article, expounded the true church structure right out of the Bible.
I found that biblically sound structure in action at the Church of God 7th Day Meridian's Camp Meeting.