After his stay in United, he was for two years a member of the Church of God an International Community, with David Hulme as pastor.
Then Mr. Billingsley founded the Church of God Established in Modesto and, most recently, the Church of God Faithful Flock.
March 2014 interview
This writer for The Journal and Mr. Billingsley visited by phone on March 25, 2014. During that conversation Mr. Billingsley responded to questions for this article.
The following is based on that interview.
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The Journal: Which town in Oklahoma are you from?
Don Billingsley: I was born south of Oklahoma City about 90 miles and east of a little town called Marlow and near a small community called Doyle.
The Journal: You were married for more than 60 years?
Mr. Billingsley: Yes. Madeline and I were married 61 years and 4 months. She had a lot of health problems and just couldn't really go a lot farther. She was ready to die.
At the last Feast of Tabernacles where we attended in Tucson just prior to her death [in 2007], she just wanted to go home and die, and that's what she did. She was ready.
The Journal: Several of the splits from the Worldwide Church of God say they're faithfully carrying on the work that God accomplished through Mr. Armstrong starting back in the ’20s and ’30s. And you also say that about your efforts.
For instance, Gerald Flurry says he's Philadelphia [see Revelation 2 and 3], Roderick Meredith says he has the largest concentration of the Philadelphians in the Churches of God. The new Cogwa [Church of God a Worldwide Association] group says something similar, as do many of the other groups.
Can they all be right? What is the difference between you and these other groups?
Still holding on
Mr. Billingsley: Well, the thing of it is I'm still holding onto the truth that God taught us through Mr. Armstrong. Some of those have deviated from it.
With Mr. Flurry, he claims he is That Prophet [John 1:21], which the Bible shows clearly refers to Jesus Christ, so he cannot be That Prophet. I don't know that he realizes it, but that's really blasphemy.
And Gerald Flurry did edit the Mystery of the Ages [a book Mr. Armstrong wrote], taking out the parts that would be in conflict with what he believed of himself.
He claims to be That Prophet, but Mr. Armstrong said there would be no prophets because we have the prophecies of the Bible at this time and so have no need of a prophet.
That pretty much takes care of Gerald Flurry as far as I'm concerned. I don't know whether I mentioned much [in Mr. Billingsley's autobiography on one of his Web sites] about United and what I believe about them.
Believer in government
I think basically they [the United Church of God an International Association] have come to be a Protestant church.
I was with them for about three years because I didn't know what else to do. I didn't want to be a head of a group. That never entered my mind.
I believed in government, so whenever everybody left [when many people left the Worldwide Church of God in 1995] I felt, well, this is where the evangelists are going, so this is where I should be.
So I went and stayed and stayed and hoped there would be changes. When it came to the point I realized they're not going to change, they're just moving farther away, I had no choice but to leave.
David Hulme in ’98
The Journal: They moved farther away from what?
Mr. Billingsley: From the teachings God inspired through Mr. Armstrong.
The Journal: So then where did you go?
Mr. Billingsley: I went with David Hulme [in 1998] because he said he was going to follow the teachings of Mr. Armstrong. But he began to deviate, and it came to the point I couldn't stay there [in the Church of God an International Community] either.
So then it looked like, to obey fully the teachings that we were taught through Mr. Armstrong, I was going to have to walk it all by myself. So that's what I've done and what I'm doing.
The Journal: So none of the groups was close enough to the legacy of Mr. Armstrong for you to feel comfortable supporting them.
Mr. Billingsley: I visited with Mr. Raymond McNair in 2006, two years before he died, and he asked me privately: Don, do you know of any of these groups that are right?
And I said no, and he said, well, I don't either. So he felt the same way.
The Journal: So no one measures up?
Mr. Billingsley: I think all of them basically have a lot of the truths, but on the other hand there are some truths they haven't accepted and some they rejected, including Mr. Armstrong.
The Journal: They rejected Armstrong as a truth?
Mr. Billingsley: They rejected him as God's apostle and they don't really want anything to do with him. In fact, I think they're afraid of him.
What makes Mr. Armstrong right?
The Journal: So what in your opinion makes Mr. Armstrong right? Why couldn't it be that members of the Churches of God are to progress beyond some of the things he thought and preached? Cannot there be growth in understanding beyond 1986, when Armstrong died?
Mr. Billingsley: Well, I go back to the Bible. I fully believe Mr. Armstrong was Elijah to come and I believe Malachi 4 verses 4 through 6, and you can carry it forward to Matthew the 17th chapter, where the disciples asked Christ about what the scribes taught about the Elijah coming and Christ said, yes, he is coming and he's going to restore all things.
When you look at the previous chapter, the last two or three verses, it's in the context of Christ returning back to this earth.
So I fully believe with all my heart, because I have proved it, that what he [Mr. Armstrong] did teach is correct and realize that he was a man that I don't think the others had any right to deviate from in their teachings.
Another remnant of 7,000
The Journal: Are you familiar with the phenomenon of WCG members who disagree with the new doctrines but don't believe they should leave the WCG [which in 2010 became Grace Communion International]?
Mr. Billingsley: Yes, one of the members who's with us now was like that.
I want to clarify one point about Mr. Armstrong's teachings. I believe what the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 11 about God having a faithful remnant today, and Paul referred back to Elijah the ancient prophet where Elijah he felt he was all alone.
But God said, no, there are 7,000 others who have not bowed the knee to Baal and have not kissed him.
I believe the same thing. I believe there are about 7,000 people or so out there scattered as God said we would be at this time who are truly of the truth.
I think there are little groups here and there that I don't know anything about that are still scattered and that are of the truth.
We have a little group with us out of Belgium who are that way. They have an elder over them and he's carrying on. There's not much I can do for them due to the fact of the geography and the French language. Nevertheless they wanted to be a part of it.
Sept. 18, 1975
The Journal: We believed in the ’50s and ’60s that God's work would be accomplished in a few years. We thought we would flee in 1972, that Jesus would return on Sept. 18, 1975, the Kingdom would set up, the Millennium would begin.
These things haven't happened. Will they still happen and happen the way we thought?
Mr. Billingsley: Yes, with the exception of the timing.
The Journal: What will be the timing?
Mr. Billingsley: I think we're getting very close. I think there are things we've got to watch for that will tell us about when the time is coming.
Then there's the prophecy in Daniel that teaches about the sacrificial offerings. There will be a temple that will be built, and we won't know about the time Jesus Christ will return until this begins to take place.
That could be within another 10 years or 12. I'm just not sure, Dixon. I'm not sure.
Mr. Tkach's mission
The Journal: If Mr. Armstrong had not appointed Joseph Tkach Sr. as his successor, who should he have appointed? How would the events of the church have worked out differently, do you think?
Mr. Billingsley: I think God was behind it [Mr. Armstrong's appointment of Mr. Tkach] because the church had to be scattered. We find that in 2 Thessalonians 2. That could not have happened with any of the other evangelists being appointed.
Aaron Dean said he knew that Mr. Armstrong had different evangelists in mind every month who he would appoint to take over [after he died], and he knew that when he came to the right one God would let him die.
So when he came to Mr. Tkach he died. Mr. Tkach was exactly the man needed to scatter the church, and he did.
The Journal: Does that mean Mr. Tkach is not guilty of any malfeasance in leading the church down the slippery slope of apostasy, as many people in the splits believe happened?
Was he morally and ethically innocent of any wrongdoing in the doctrinal changes and scattering because God was using him for that purpose?
Mr. Billingsley: God permitted the apostasy and scattering in order to fulfill prophecy. 2 Thessalonians 2 shows right in the first couple of verses about the coming of Jesus Christ and the events that would follow. A major event was that the church would be scattered. Daniel 12:7. Ezekiel 34. Jeremiah 23 verses 1 and 2.
What about Ted?
The Journal: Would things have worked out more simply and better had Mr. Armstrong and his son Garner Ted been able to work their personal problems out in the late 1970s?
Mr. Billingsley: Well, I think Mr. Armstrong came to the conclusion before he died that his son had never been converted. I can't fully answer that, but I do know that Mr. Tkach was a man just like Judas Iscariot, who was a man that God permitted to do what he did.
Relationship with Loma
The Journal: Do you believe, as some people have said, that Mr. Armstrong's first wife, Loma, was a moderating and calming influence on her husband who if she had lived past 1967 would have inspired the church's history to turn out quite differently?
Mr. Billingsley: Naturally, every man leans on his wife. I remember Mr. Armstrong looking down on her while giving a sermon and saying at least one time with tears in his eyes that his wife had been 50 percent of the work.
That has been true with my wife. I think any good wife would be on the same level, whether it be you and Linda or whether it be my present wife [Peggy] and my former wife.
The Journal: What will happen to the churches, the Churches of God? You believe your ministry is true to the founding principles of the end-time apostle, yet your ministry is quite small.
Will things continue as they are over time, or can and will something happen to accelerate events and accomplish the preaching of the gospel to the world in the way we believed back in the ’50s and ’60s it would happen?
Destined to come together
Mr. Billingsley: Mr. Armstrong said before he died that he just didn't know how God would bring everybody together to go the place of safety. He just didn't know how that would happen, with people living in different countries and whatever.
I often think of that in regard to Noah and the ark. How did God bring about all the animals going on board that ark?
They went in as docile animals.
Place of safety
God had an influence on their minds to cause them to do that, and I believe at the right time to go to the place of safety God will bring us all together into one group. I don't see how it could happen any other way.
The Journal: So you still believe similarly to the way we believed years ago about the place of safety?
Mr. Billingsley: Oh, absolutely.
The Journal: Do you still believe in Petra?
Mr. Billingsley: It's like Mr. Armstrong said, if it's not Petra he doesn't know where it's going to be, because that's the only place the Bible indicates.
The Journal: An old friend of yours who lives here in Big Sandy says to tell you hi and suggested a question for you.
Ellis Stewart suggested I ask you about church eras. Since Revelation 2 and 3 seem to be talking to the church in every age, why do you interpret those verses as meaning consecutive church eras down through history?
Mr. Billingsley: The thing of it is, when you study those and put them in those eras throughout history through the millennia, then you can't help but see that each one fits as a particular period of time.
And they lead right on down to the Sardis era, and from Sardis into Philadelphia and to the Laodiceans.
So everything squares up. So that's what God really meant. Mr. Armstrong taught that, and I believe that with my whole being.
Advice for Mr. Armstrong
The Journal: Another friend from this area of Texas, Reg Killingley, gave me another suggestion for a question for you: If you could go back, say, 50 years, what advice might you give to Mr. Armstrong?
Mr. Billingsley: About the only advice I could give would be to encourage him to continue doing what he was doing.
My wife and I went to Pasadena in 1953. We were there until 1960, and I believe we first met Ellis and Pat Stewart in 1958 when they came to be part of the church there in Pasadena.
The college was very small then. I don't believe there were any more than about 40 students at the time, and a very, very small group of people that Mr. Armstrong preached to when he preached.
I came to be a chauffeur of the college, and as a result I got to know Mr. Armstrong very well, as well as everybody who was there.
I could see his humanity, but it never once crossed my mind that he was wrong on any of the doctrinal issues because they all squared. They were right.
But there is nobody perfect. You can look back at Abraham and David and all of them. They had their failings too, but God still used them, because of, you know, their hearts.
Accident in 1958
The Journal: In your biography on your Web site you mentioned the automobile accident in which you were involved with Richard Armstrong in 1958.
You mentioned Richard died in the accident and you said you were responsible for the accident. Is there anything else you'd like to mention about that?
Mr. Billingsley: That was the toughest trial I believe I ever went through. I loved that man. He and I were close friends. I spent time with him.
He was quite different from Mr. Ted Armstrong. He was just so outgoing. He'd come up and hug you. He was just a really fine man.
He was attuned to the church very, very well.
In retrospect, and realizing the point that we have come to, and knowing the way he believed -- he was very, very firm in regard to the teachings -- I believe that had he lived the church would not have been scattered.
I believe that's one of the reasons that God let him die.
The Journal: Because the church needed to be scattered?
Mr. Billingsley: Yes. And, based on hints in Mr. Armstrong's autobiography, I don't think Richard Armstrong believed he would live a long life anyway.
When I weigh everything that's taken place over the years, I just felt so terribly bad because of the fact that God let me be the one involved in the accident for that to happen.
The Journal: Are there other things you would like to bring up in this interview?
Mr. Billingsley: I just wish we were all together. I wish we all believed the same thing.
Dixon, I know that these terrible things are coming, and I know there's a martyrdom coming, and I love all these people, and I just don't want to have to see any of them have to go through that, and I know that unless they begin to really live God's way of life, His truth as God taught it to His late apostle, I just feel sorry and I just wish that somehow we could all come together.
I pray to that end, and I love them.
Sense of frustration
The Journal: When I read your articles in The Journal each issue, I sense that. I sense that you're concerned about the individuals and groups and I don't know if frustrated is the right word but you come across to my mind as frustrated that things aren't going as it would be nice if they would go.
Mr. Billingsley: Mr. Armstrong thought the same thing. Yes, Mr. Armstrong would speak very strongly, but he was speaking a spirit of love, and he would often cry out, you know, to the people that if they would just change they won't have to go through these things that are coming.
Tinker Air Force Base
The Journal: What initially attracted you to Mr. Armstrong?
Mr. Billingsley: I was working in Oklahoma City at Tinker Air Force Base in the security department. Coming off a shift one day, I had a supervisor ask me in front of other men: Billingsley, do you believe in hell?
I said I surely do. He said do you believe people are going to go there and burn forever and ever.
I said I surely do, and he said, well, they're not.
I said, well, you're going to have to prove that to me in the Bible, and he said, well, I can't, but there's this man named Armstrong who can.
Current ban on makeup
The Journal: In your biography, you mention that in your group the teaching on makeup came back into effect. Is the ban on cosmetics for women still in effect today?
Mr. Billingsley: Yes, it is. Mr. Tkach is the one who changed it.
The Journal: But didn't Mr. Armstrong change it back and forth a couple of times?
Mr. Billingsley: I was in Pasadena when Mr. Armstrong first made the ruling [in the early 1950s], and then later on Mr. Wayne Cole and GTA [Garner Ted Armstrong] went over to see Mr. Armstrong over what they felt was a justifiable change [in the makeup rule] and on the spur of the moment he went along with it [in 1974].
Later on he came to realize that he was wrong, so he changed it back again [in 1981].
I understand -- though I don't know the truth of it -- I was told a couple of coeds came up to Mr. Armstrong in Ambassador College in Big Sandy with a lot of makeup on and he was so moved by that that he went right up on stage and told them the no-makeup ruling was back in place again.
Yes, we practice that in this church. That's one of the reasons very few want to come with us. Women just don't want to be without it.
[Editor's note: The makeup rule stayed in place in the WCG until 1988, two years after Mr. Armstrong died.]
What should we do?
The Journal: What would be your advice to individuals and groups in the Churches of God?
Mr. Billingsley: I'd tell them to go back, pick up the book Mystery of the Ages, an unedited one, and compare their beliefs with what God's apostle, His late Elijah, taught.
God used him to teach in that book. Where they discover [by reading that book] where they are wrong, change.
The unedited Mystery
The Journal: We understand that Mr. Flurry, when he acquired the right to republish Mystery of the Ages [a book Mr. Armstrong wrote] and other works by Mr. Armstrong and the WCG, he made several edits.
But you recommend people get the unedited version. Where can they find the unedited version?
Mr. Billingsley: Any number of people still have their copies from years ago.
On the other hand, we've gone on the Internet and have bought copies of that book and we send them out to anyone who makes contact with us who does not have it. We will send it to them for free.
13 Web sites
The Journal: You mentioned somebody gave you 13 of your 15 Web sites.
Mr. Billingsley: That was Frank Olive. He's also our webmaster, who lives in South Carolina.
We have another man who's very good as well who works with our magazine, Mr. Steve Serfontein, who lives in England with his wife and daughter.
The Journal: Anything else?
Mr. Billingsley: We have fond memories of you and Linda and Ellis and Pat. I remember you working with John Robinson in the printing department [in Big Sandy]. That's where I met you, I guess.
The Journal: John was a close friend.
Mr. Billingsley: Sometimes people die early.
The Journal: All the best to you and Mrs. Billingsley.
Mr. Billingsley: The same to you and Linda. Thank you very much.
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Write the Church of God Faithful Flock online at email@example.com or P.O. Box 130, Valley Springs, Calif. 95252, U.S.A.
Following is a list of the church's 15 Web sites:
• sabbathcentral.com and