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Organizers of Dallas, Texas, symposium
and ART Ministries shooting for something new

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Organizers of Dallas, Texas, symposium
and ART Ministries shooting for something new

by Dixon Cartwright

DALLAS, Texas--When his friends warn Al Carrozzo that any new effort at organizing Church of God members is doomed to fail, he tells them he's determined to get it right this time.

Seventy-five-year-old Mr. Carrozzo, from Escondido, Calif., his son, Tom Carrozzo, 54, of Sherman Oaks, Calif., and their friend Art Mokarow, 80, of Montgomery, Texas, conducted a conference, which they called a symposium, in a Dallas hotel Jan. 30 through Feb. 2, 2008.

The stated purpose of the Carrozzos' ART Ministries, formally known as Associates for Restored Truth, was to attract leaders of Sabbatarian and other churches and ministries to talk about the theme "Law and/or Grace."

But it was also to discuss the possibilities of providing Christians, especially Sabbatarian Christians, with resources to raise their level of biblical studies and theology.

Toward the end of the conference, The Journal interviewed Al and Tom Carrozzo in the Carrozzos' suite in the Rosewood Crescent Hotel in Dallas, the location of the meetings.

A clearinghouse

The Carrozzos founded ART Ministries "probably in October" of 2007, Tom Carrozzo said.

"I can give you a vision statement: We want to be a repository and clearinghouse to gather in all the information and advanced thinking from all the scholars, teachers and doctors of divinity, and we want to come to a common conclusion on our various issues."

There's nothing like biting off as much as you can possibly chew, this writer commented after hearing the vision statement.

The two men acknowledged that no one, to their knowledge, has had much success unifying anything or anyone in the various Sabbatarian Church of God communities, but they insist they're trying something different, something that might actually work.

For the representatives of churches and ministries that work with ART Ministries, to "unify," they say, doesn't mean their groups need to "merge."

"Based on the feedback," says Tom, "everyone [at the Dallas conference] was able to freely express their ideas and points of view, without any prejudice or agenda on our part. From that point of view I think the symposium was a smashing success."

Where we are

When describing exactly the segment or segments of Christianity the Carrozzos consider their target audience, Tom stated that "we're talking about Sabbath-based groups because we're starting with where we are. We're not going to exclude anybody, but we have to have a methodology."

They have made contact with groups that carry the name Church of God, such as those descended from the Worldwide Church of God and some of the Church of God 7th Day groups, but also Seventh-day Adventists and Seventh Day Baptists, Tom Carrozzo said.

"But at the symposium we also had as a speaker Avraham Gileadi, a Latter-day Saints [Mormon] follower," he said, "and we're going to be opening it up to everybody."

A superchurch in Chicago has expressed interest in activities of ART Ministries, he said, "and we have people with backgrounds like Dr. Ron Moseley, a former Baptist, so we have a mix."

The younger Mr. Carrozzo said he believes part of the "restoration process"--Christians calling truces with each other--"is that more and more people are moving away from the paganistic doctrines and moving toward the truth."

He mentioned the mass changes of mind recently evident in some Sunday-observing churches on the U.S. East Coast that decided to change their day of worship to the Sabbath.

"So we're kind of starting with our natural base but aren't limiting it to anything," he said.

Other believers in God

What about Sabbath observers who aren't Christians? The Journal wanted to know.

"I'm glad you brought that up," said Tom. "It'd be the same approach, where we start out with our natural bases. That's down the road, but I believe Zechariah 12 is premillennial, and there are going to be a world of Jews who are going to embrace Christ as Messiah, and that's how we'll have worldwide religion."

(Zechariah 12:10 quotes God saying He "will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced.")

"The Jews will lead us into the truth," Tom continued. "They know more about the Hebrew God than any of us, presumably."

Well, then, as long as we're talking about a big tent, The Journal decided to ask about other religions: faiths and philosophies outside Christianity and Judaism.

"We've gone into the little-more esoteric aspects," Tom said. "We're not going off on the deep end, but we're not afraid to look at anything, including mystic studies."

19 presenters

Tom's father, Al Carrozzo, said the highlight of the Dallas symposium as far as he was concerned was the presentations from the 19 representatives of quite a range of Christian ministries.

Most are Sabbath-keeping, although not all. For example, one speaker (Avraham Gileadi) is Mormon, and another (Anthony Buzzard) is a member of the Sunday-observing Church of God Abrahamic Faith.

"Two outstanding speakers, in my view, were Dr. [Ron] Moseley and Dr. Pieter Barkhuizen," said the elder Mr. Carrozzo.

"Pieter and Dr. Moseley have basically told us whatever they can do they will support us to the ends of the earth," Tom said. "They want to be a part of this."

"As an example of this," Al said, "Pieter was so enthusiastic last night that he said we ought to have a plan and go forward--"

Tom finished his father's thought: "So he [Dr. Barkhuizen] went back to his room and spent five hours putting together a plan that he's going to have to me by Wednesday.

"And what's really amazing is what Dr. Moseley has done with a college. It's the same thing we're wanting to do. We're trying to raise the bar [of theology and scholarship] to a higher quality, and he has the respect of all the learning institutions around."

Cutting to the core

The Journal at this point reminded the Carrozzos that some of their friends had told them they doubted ART Ministries and its efforts would go anywhere.

"This really cuts to the core of the matter," Tom said. "These people talk that way because every one of these people who have started something have stayed with the same hierarchical patterns that limit people's involvement.

"We've entered the era of the individual. Our plan is to empower the individual churchgoer. We educate the pastors, and we educate the people, and people are happiest when they are contributing."

Al Carrozzo credited Mr. Mokarow with emphasizing the need for "people helping people on an individual basis."

The Carrozzos expect to have "at least two to four" more symposiums in American cities in 2008.

Where were they then?

The Journal wondered where Al and Tom Carrozzo have been for 30 years.

"We hear that question all the time," Tom said. "People wonder why we haven't done a thing.

"But we have studied and written, and, in my case, I've had my own personal ministry over the last 30 years."

"We were writing for a little publication of our own back in 1992," Al said, "and it just went nowhere. We didn't do much with it. We let it go."

"The only problem was that nothing we did ever had any kind of momentum behind it," Tom said. "We were willing, but we took the approach that we were going to wait on God.

"So we always remained open and active. I think the best way to answer the question is that God wasn't ready yet.

"We're doing the same things we were doing then: talking and reaching out. But now things seem to be coming together in a miraculous way."

Mr. Mokarow visits Pasadena

The events that directly led to the symposium started when Mr. Mokarow visited Pasadena, Calif., to promote several books he has written over the last few years.

"We went to see him as an old friend," Tom said. "He was going to be in Pasadena. I live 20 miles away."

"We were invited to go into his hotel suite ahead of time," Al said, "and we started talking. I hadn't seen Art in nearly 40 years, I guess, but we were good friends at the college, like during the time we both tried to help Bobby Fischer."

(Mr. Fischer, the international chess champion who died recently, was a supporter if not a baptized member of the WCG in the '70s and spent a lot of time on and near the AC campus.)

"The most amazing thing--and this is why I don't think the meeting in Pasadena was an accident--was that we started talking about what we were doing and researching and studying and believing, and we were virtually on the same page with everything."

Mr. Carrozzo told Mr. Mokarow about his dream of a symposium.

Mr. Mokarow's reaction: "Well, that's a good idea. Let's do it."

And Mr. Mokarow was serious, Al said.

"He drove the process at that point. He was really the force behind it. That was a very significant event."

The future is when?

"Something else happened," continued Al Carrozzo. "We started reading the futurists, the gurus of the future in America; for example, John Nesbitt, with Megatrends 2000, and Patricia Aburdene of Megatrends 2010."

They read other forward-focused volumes, including books by Alvin Toffler.

"But then the granddaddy of them all was Dr. James Canton's Extreme Future," Al said. "That book has what's actually going to happen, what inventions are coming online, the high technology that's coming.

"He [Dr. Canton] says it's going to be a matter of a few years and we'll be driving our cars with water as our fuel."

Tom began talking about biomed and nano technology:

"Instead of having a circuit there, they have a bacterial element that will respond to electrical stimuli."

Dateless prophecy

"Here's what we plan for the future that's unique," Tom said. "We're taking what we see in Bible prophecy and what's actually going on in the world and we're gathering evidence that our view on prophecy is being confirmed by what's going on in the world."

"We are events-based in terms of prophecy," Tom said. "We don't care about dates. If I hear that anybody has set a date, I automatically question it as being in error."

Further, Tom said, people tend to see only certain types of alleged prophetic fulfillments, such as earthquakes and floods.

"We've got great organizations still talking about the rise of the European Union and Roman Empire," Al said, "and they're in shambles over there."

The 1st-century church "began the most successful movement in the history of humanity," said Tom.

"Emperor Constantine finally realized he could not rid the world of Christians, so he finally joined them.

"I believe that will happen again at the end time, because there's an Elijah in the works. I believe there's a fall harvest."

Armstrong grandiosity

The Journal asked the Carrozzos to elaborate on their personal ministry.

"Personally, I fell prey to something I would call the grandiosity I learned from Herbert [Armstrong]," Al said. "I thought that we needed to be part of some huge worldwide work, but I finally came to the point that I realized that I had a ministry. I had a ministry every day of my life, so that's when I reengaged in the process."

"I became a hospital chaplain for three and one-half years, then went in and started assisting Dr. David Antion in his ministry, and he invited me to speak," Tom said.

"He has me speak now every time he's out of town. I delight in helping the brethren. I anoint people, help them paint their houses, help them move.

"The [Steve] Grishams [a married couple at the conference] asked me to perform their daughter's wedding, and I stayed after the ceremony and met everyone, and they said that just blew them away. Most ministers just do the wedding and then leave.

"Things like that helped me to realize that, Tom, you start where you are. You can have any ministry you want to have."

The younger Mr. Carrozzo stated for the record that his father and he, in 34 years, "have never taken one penny of tithe money and never will."

They have accepted contributions, "but we'll never take any tithe money. We have no desire for personal gain."

Square one

The Journal thought of another question. Movements abound in the modern world that not only pit Christian against Christian but have agnostics and atheists attacking the very concept of religion.

Do the Carrozzos have any plans not only to preach from the Bible but go back to square one, so to speak, and defend the veracity of the Bible itself?

"When my dad and I were doing this alone," Tom Carrozzo said, "our starting point was that the Bible is inspired. We took that for granted.

"The thing about the Bible is that it's unique. It's self-authenticating.

"You have things that were written by dozens of writers who all wrote about the same thing much the same way, even though they were separated by time and distance. They all wrote about the same thing because they were motivated by the Spirit.

"Then there's the historical fact of Jesus as Messiah."

Tom talked about the canon of Scripture.

"The biggest problem today," he said, "is that it's easy to prove the veracity of the Old Testament, but scholars are struggling with the New Testament.

"These are the kinds of things we are going to look into.

"Now, why haven't they been done? Again, God's timing. If God inspires the scholars, then that's God's doing and God has decided it's time."

The world is "entering an age of enlightenment," Tom continued. "The information age is producing the treasures of the mind. It's about information, about individual expression, and that is leading to a great level of spiritual contact."

But "religion has missed the mark. Religion takes the most negative aspects they can find about the Bible. They use them based on the old Industrial Age model of hierarchical structures to have proprietary information they hold as a means of controlling and condemning people.

"Our approach: Start with the leadership, then empower the individual so they can be an entity unto themselves, teaching the truth."

Tom summarized his "personal theology in regards to judging others: I simply think that the church has no hierarchy. If you're not doing something in a church setting to hurt another member, it's really none of my business.

"I'll give you principles, but you do what you want."

Just like topknot

Al said the hierarchical structures of Christianity are destined to "come down."

"An individual is going to be empowered," he said, "and we think that when that happens Christianity is going to come to the fore."

Said Tom: "No significant change in politics, government, education, religion comes from the top down. What we see about the fourth beast is that it will be a Solomonic kingdom, and it will come about in a peaceful way."

Concluded Al: "The thing that will bring peace worldwide can be summarized in one word: love. If that's disseminated and accepted, that will be it."

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