Letters from our readersCorrection The introduction to the article "Phoenix Brethren Sponsor Guardian Speaker," The Journal, Feb. 28, stated I am the pastor of the Greater Phoenix Church of God. Though I am a minister, I have not been named pastor by the congregation. Thank you for your good work in keeping the Churches of God informed.
Bob Simpson Mesa, Ariz.
Eagan, Minn.No shortage Regarding the article in the January edition of The Journal on the situation in the UCG British Isles ["UCG British Isles Settles Down After Recent Events"], it is saddening to read that there has been no shortage of people willing to run to The Journal (column 3, page 5) with their "reports" during the previous few months. I also note that The Journal's anonymous source claiming to be "close to the situation" made another judgment about what he believes to be John Jewell's motives re the Fenneys. When people take it on themselves to publicly judge another from the convenient position of hiding behind a cloak of anonymity, then this tells me more about the "accuser" than it does about the "accused"!
Manchester, EnglandList of disfellowshippable offenses The article about the problems in UCG Great Britain ["UCG British Isles Settles Down After Recent Events," The Journal, Jan. 31], saddened me. I am aware of some of the problems in my homeland the past couple of years, and the article not only omitted a number of facts, but it was a gross distortion of the facts. It failed to mention that Barbara Fenney appealed her disfellowshipment to the Ministerial Review Committee in the United States, which along with the Ethics Committee upheld John Jewell's action to disfellowship her. It also fails to say that Mr. Jewell and others bent over backwards for months before disfellowshipping Barbara and suspending David Fenney from his ministerial duties. The charge that Mr. Jewell's actions were because of the Fenneys' charges of fiscal misappropriations by Mr. Jewell is also false, as were their accusations. The Fenneys objected loudly at the Feast on the Isle of Wight in 2001 to a number of things on the Feast video, especially to prophetic references made by UCG council member Dick Thompson. These objections were heatedly made to myself and Frank Jarvis (a UCG U.K. elder and council member) by Mr. Fenney right after the showing of the video. After the Feast I and others received long E-mails and charts from Barbara Fenney trying to prove the church's teaching on Europe and prophesy wrong. If they had acted in the same way here, they would have been disfellowshipped immediately. At the Feast in Grange last year, the Fenneys were heard by myself and others telling people they planned to get rid of Mr. Jewell and Mr. Jarvis at the annual general meeting. I and others related this to UCG council member Aaron Dean. A number of the U.S. ministry attending the Feast at Grange are well aware of and were witnesses to the Fenneys' conduct: The Fenneys at times left before services and went to an independent site they were attending in Kendall. In 1998 the church in my homeland was torn apart, and without John Jewell's leadership there would be no UCG U.K.! The church there prospered and grew under his leadership, with an unpaid ministry. Mr. Jewel has been replaced by Peter Hawkins, who is receiving a salary of £30,000 ($50,000), high by British standards (compared to recent ads for management jobs in British papers, which offer salaries of £15,000) paid by UCG U.S.A. The McCanns wished the Jewells a happy retirement! I thought they knew the Jewells better than that! There is still a work to do, and I would expect nothing less of the Jewells than that they would continue to do what they have always done for the many years I have known them; that is, to focus on and work diligently in preaching the gospel whenever and wherever they can.
Hopkinsville, Ky.Restless brethren I received the January issue about a week ago. I read your report on John Jewell. What a shame. This is what happens when the UCG council (and the church as a whole) shirks its duty to maintain righteousness and justice in the church. The Lord raises up an adversarial spirit among us that stirs up unrest.
Hamilton, Ont., CanadaEvents of many years An article in the February issue of The Journal ("Events of '94-'95 Traumatized Big Sandy WCG Brethren") helped me gain insight into your newspaper and the people publishing it. You will recall that when I first made contact with you I posed the question of whether you are genuinely interested in the people of God or merely interested in publishing controversial articles to propagate a publication. This article helped me see that all of you were as traumatized by the apostatizing of God's church as the rest of us. The blessing that those of you in Big Sandy (and other local congregations) had was each other to help or lean on. But there were many, perhaps thousands, worldwide who had to face this crisis alone, and many still have not been able to get over this hurdle so as to get on with their quest for salvation. Reaching these brethren is one of the primary thrusts of the Living God Ministry, which we are conducting. Many scattered splinter groups have tried to survive spiritually, but competition and strife seem rampant. It seems that far too many ministers view the people as if they were their personal possessions, as was the practice and attitude in the WCG all those years. God's people do not belong to the minister. They belong to God but have been entrusted to Jesus Christ, who in turn entrusts them to His Body, the church. I absolutely believe that many of my former colleagues need to bitterly repent of the spiritual hurt they have caused to the people of God by the abuse of their "authority." They need to study what God says in Hebrews 13:17; 2 Corinthians 10:8; 13:10; 1 Peter 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:7; 2 Timothy 2:23-26; and Matthew 20:25-28. I believe that every minister should look into the mirror of the Word and ask himself point blank: "Where is the proof of my ministry? What evidence is there that the Almighty God ordained me?" If there is no concrete evidence of this, then that person had better do some deep searching of his soul.
Eugene, Ore.A 14-15 question I have enjoyed John Warren's history series in The Journal. In the February installment he mentioned a private meeting on April 1, 1995, held by George Crow and listed 14 of the supposed 15 people in attendance. He wrote: "One more person attended the meeting, but no one seems to be able to remember who it was." After the article came out I learned the identity of the "other person." It was Don and Carol Walls of Gladewater. Obviously, that makes 16 people. Either one of the other people listed was not in attendance or there were at least 16 people there. Either way, I wanted to mention Don's and Carol's names for the historical record.
Big Sandy, TexasAnother 14-15 question One part of Robert Thiel's article in the Feb. 28 Journal confused me. He presents a numbered list of accusations against Herbert W. Armstrong and then proceeds to defend the late founder of the WCG. His numbering goes from accusation No. 7 to accusation No. 9. He has no accusation No. 8 in his article. I am left to deduce one of the following: o The Journal edited out accusation No. 8. o Robert Thiel originally had an accusation No. 8 but couldn't defend Mr. Armstrong on that point. It would be interesting to know what that accusation was. o Robert Thiel can't count.
Carrollton, TexasEditor's note: If Dr. Thiel cannot count, then neither can The Journal's copy editor. Both, in the numbering process, miscalculated. Even though the essay stated the existence of 15 numbered accusations, there were only 14. No. 9 was really No. 8, etc.
1675 CR 2101
Palestine, Texas 75801, U.S.A.God in a man suit Any challenge that suggests variations from beliefs held from our calling can bring enlightenment or prove that we have been on the right track all along. The one-God issue is one of those that sets teeth on edge and tears at the foundation of the faith that it was God in the flesh who died on the stake and not just a man. In defense of those today who claim Jesus is not God, they apparently do accept Him as the Savior. One who claims that Jesus is not God recently wrote me that, if He were, He would have to be God in a "man suit." I commend the writer, for I believe that is exactly the case. The Christ was God in a "man suit," and by donning that suit He solved all the issues and answered all the questions relevant to the salvation of those in whom the spirit of holiness dwells as it did in Him. The one who would pay the price for man and become the High Priest had to place His own eternity on the line, and He did so by the trial He suffered at the very end. Can God die? Of course not. Did God die that day in A.D. 31? Of course not. God no more died that day than those who also have the spirit of holiness in them will die. The "man suit" gave the Christ a recognizable identity. He demonstrated the day He died and by His resurrection that we too are in a "man suit" and can join Him in eternity, with a recognizable but spiritual body. Our ideas, doctrines and traditions of men, as the Christ called them and condemned them, can have the effect of trying to cramp the style of God in some, those whom Christ called the "little ones." We who write must therefore be very careful, for it would be better if we had a millstone hanging on our neck than to offend a little one.
Barton, Md.Law and order James McBride brought out some good points in his letter concerning Christians and war ("Drums of War," The Journal, Feb. 28). Individuals who entered into a covenant relationship with God at baptism and received within them the Spirit of God live by the words of the New Covenant. It might be helpful for individuals who are uncertain about what a believer's position should be towards the military and those in power to read the scriptures in Matthew 5, 6 and 7. Since the bread and wine we partake of at Passover are very much connected to our covenant relationship with God, scriptures in John 14-17 might also be helpful. Human governments and the military are not in a covenant relationship with God but exist to keep a certain amount of law and order since many are so evil that they could unleash complete destruction to the earth. Believers neither march and demonstrate against existing powers nor join in the many wars that are coming upon the earth.
Edgewood, Md.Those smirking Chaldeans The antiwar rhetoric in Lewis McCann's letter (The Journal, Feb. 28) sums up the muddled thinking and the confusion in the minds of many who denigrate the United States and Britain for going to war against Saddam Hussein. This is perhaps understandable in society at large but seems less so among Church of God people, who ought to understand the clear message of the Bible that evil must be confronted and eradicated wherever possible. If it is not eradicated, it will just keep coming and coming. It cannot be persuaded, reasoned with or placated. Romans 13 shows that governments have a duty to avenge the blood of their citizens (in this case the direct avenging of the 3,000 souls in the Twin Towers atrocity, in the case of Iraq a preemptive strike to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction at a later date). It is not about private revenge at all, but God requires governments to avenge and protect their citizens against evildoers. For those with discernment it is quite clear this is what President Bush and Prime Minister Blair are doing. Thank God for farsighted, clear-minded leaders who see evil for what it is (as did Churchill, who was constantly denigrated for warning against the evil of Hitler in the 1930s) and have not been duped by the postmodernist, politically correct, liberal, secularistic thinking that has infected even the Church of God. Mr. McCann in no way speaks for all Englishmen (or church members in England) with his anti-Bush, anti-American, pro-European peacenik stance. I find his logic flawed, not to mention his attitude disloyal (he actually calls Britain and America "two rogue states [who will] destroy world peace with WMDs" and says "the beast power will actually be doing 'good' in attacking the U.S.A. and U.K."--for our incursion into Iraq and other things, I assume). Such subjective reasoning, usually based on emotionalism, seeks to make a "moral equivalence" argument on every issue of principle instead of clear-sightedly understanding the difference between good and evil. God said He would wage perpetual war with the sons of Amalek (Exodus 17:13-16), and He would wield Israel as his battle-ax (Deuteronomy 25:17-19). Who is he using to rout the smirking Chaldean in Baghdad? The sons of Joseph--America and Britain--of course.
Preston, EnglandGod bless Those of us around in the WCG in the 1970s and early 1980s will recall Herbert Armstrong proclaiming that "America has won its last war!" This was restated several times in The Plain Truth and in coworker letters of that time. This is a fact that the Armstrong apologists keep overlooking or avoiding. Since Vietnam, the United States has won the Cold War, the Gulf War and the war in Afghanistan. That's three victorious wars. It looks apparent that we will make it four soon. Not bad for a country that was never supposed to win a war again. By the way, may God bless those who are fighting to liberate the terrorized people of Iraq and protect our freedom and safety at home. And thank you to the families here that are making do without their loved ones overseas. Our family appreciates your sacrifice.
Luke and Julie Przeslawski
Eagan, Minn.The best to you and yours We wish you and yours a very inspiring Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread. Our family truly looks forward to the spring holy days, especially since they are a time of renewal of our covenant with our Father and elder brother Jesus Christ. We also like the fact that creation blossoms forth, a time for new life. More important, they remind us of the time we will truly be unleavened in the resurrection. Until that time, we, like you, will continue to stand in the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and God our Father, waiting for their deliverance while we abide in their love and attempt to follow their lead in obedience to our calling. P.S.: This year was the first time we've had to deleaven a Barbie dollhouse (Jennifer's). Hope we got all the bread crumbs.
Gary, Petra, Jennifer and Christopher Staszak
Manassas, Va.Having a ball While the Living Church of God at Joplin, Mo., is to be commended for getting various COGs together ("Joplin LCG Has Annual Inter-COG Costume-Ball Weekend," The Journal, Feb. 28), should costume balls be scheduled on Presidents' Day weekend? Presidents' Day was derived from birthdays, the pagan customs honoring the births of two presidents. Costume balls are an old tradition (for Mardi Gras) kept around the world in the weeks before Lent.
Jan Aaron Young
Yuma, Ariz.Too short Just wanted to say that I read Brian Knowles' piece in the latest issue of The Journal ["Why Go to the Trouble?," Feb. 28] and think he is exactly right. The only problem was the article was too short!
F. Paul Haney
Watertown, Conn.John 3 is theology Michael Regan's presentation, "Can Both Sides Shed New Light on the Born-Again Issue" (The Journal, Nov. 30), although well meaning, is a good example of the subtle slide away from the beautiful, clear doctrinal understanding we once had into the muddy waters of diffusion whereby God's truth, hanging there like a sparkling gemstone, begins to lose that luster--becoming vague, doubtful, dispersed, lost in a heap of verbiage and Greek exegesis. If there is one thing about John 3, it is that it is concise and to the point. The analogies used by Christ couldn't be simpler. John 3 is the central text of the born-again doctrine. If one has a correct understanding of John, all other texts falls into line. John 3 is fundamentally a contrast. It sets out in wonderfully terse language the difference between the physical and spiritual, the flesh and the spirit. Verse 6 sums up the contrast. Two births are mentioned: a birth of flesh and a birth of spirit. In verse 8 Christ expounds the state of those born of the spirit. To deflect the clear and obvious meaning in this verse, Mr. Regan states: "Some have argued that the qualities described here can refer only to our rebirth at the resurrection . . . That is refuted by the Son of Man's description of Himself." Mr. Regan then quotes John 8:13-14, "For I know where I came from and where I am going: but you do not know where I come from or where I am going." He equates those words with John 3:8, where Christ, speaking of those born of the spirit, states, "Thou hearest the sound thereof [the wind] but canst not tell whence it comes and wither it goes; so is everyone that is born of the spirit." Can these words of Christ's be applied to Christians as a proof that we are born again now? Just briefly looking at John 8, we see that the context reveals that the situation of which Christ is speaking applies uniquely to Himself. In verse 16 He states, "The Father sent me." We know He came out directly from the Father's right hand. In verse 21 He states, "I go my way." We know that was to His death, resurrection and ascension back to the Father. To apply an esoteric meaning extracted from these words of Christ's in John 8 to John 3:8 is to force a worldly theological concept onto the text that simply isn't there. Verse 12 confirms this. Christ stated He was speaking of "earthly things"--the wind--and our subsequent future existence when born of the spirit. The passage in 1 Peter 1:23 through 2:2 cannot be used as a proof text that we are born again now. Oh, yes, in the KJV verse 23 speaks of "being born again." But let's do a bit of translation hunting. Ivan Panin states: "Begotten again, not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible . . ." The point is that all other passages must conform to John 3, where two literal births only are mentioned. The analogy Peter uses in 2:2 of newborn babes growing is simply an effective analogy of growth into holiness. Peter is not setting out a doctrinal treatise here, as John 3 certainly is. The worldly theological notion of born again now is unscriptural; it carries with it the destructive seeds we see all around: a complacent, self-assured Christianity with a "once saved always saved" mentality.
Palmerston, New ZealandNo distractions I hold a Feast every year and find it inspiring and spiritual. As I am always the only one there, advertising is not required, and halls do not need to be booked. Also, accommodation is optional. No offerings needed. There are no distractions and no false doctrines to corrupt me. It is hoped that at least another 79 people will enjoy the Feast in a similar manner because this is a low-cost, low-budget operation with exceptional benefits.
AustraliaWho did the choosing? I would like to comment on Sandra-Mae Robinson's essay ["The Church Oughtn't to Be Democratic: A Defense of Hierarchy," Dec. 31, 2002]. Sandra-Mae, you said (emphasis mine), ". . . Men from the Levite tribe were the only ones eligible to assume the roles of priests and high priest." That is wrong. Any non-Levite male of the tribes of Israel who was "qualified" (by the rules of the Old Covenant law) to be a "priest" could be one by becoming a Nazarite. Nazarites had rules regulating certain things, such as starting their vows at a specific age and retirement at a specific age, but they were "priests." Paul was a "priest" of the sect of the Pharisees. How could he have been one, since he was of the tribe of Benjamin? Well, Paul had long hair, a special cloak and a belt that showed he was a priest. How was it possible for Paul to go into the synagogues and "speak to the members" if he were not an ordained priest? Jesus went into the synagogues "every Sabbath" and taught the members. He was also a "priest," but of a different party. Recall that Paul "stood" and taught at Antioch in Asia, but Jesus sat in "a chair" (Moses' seat), showing the difference in their ministries before the resurrection. As to the tens, fifties, hundreds and thousands you mentioned: Those divisions were of the physical, civil government. They were not specifically of the division of the religious government. The judges were the heads of both civil and religious governments. The kings were the heads of both the civil and religious governments. As to the captains, see what a concordance says of them. Note Strong's Nos. 3746 and 3733 as opposed to 8269. Obviously one has nothing to do with the other. Consider also that Jesus Christ established a new way of life over what was being practiced by the Jews of His day, who rejected His teachings. Acts 13:1 shows it was those having the Holy Spirit who were the ones to "put their hands on" Saul and Barnabas. That means it was the "members," not the prophets and teachers, who did the choosing, or voting. Do you believe only the hierarchical ministers have the right to choose those who have the Holy Spirit? Why does it say in Hebrews that "all" the members "ought to be teachers" if only the hierarchy is allowed to teach? Why does Paul say the "members" ought to "prophesy" if only the hierarchy has that right? Why is it the hierarchy shows forth so few, if any, of the gifts of the Spirit? Look at the seven churches of Revelation. The hierarchy claims it is of that group (usually the churches will say they are "Philadelphian"). But note that no "signs" or "gifts" are shown to be a part of those churches. Yet gifts are the sign that was to follow those who believed the apostles' gospel. Not only were the signs to follow the apostles, but they were to follow those who "believed their report." Herbert Armstrong did not show forth those signs and gifts; the hierarchical ministers are doing likewise. The only authority or rulership that Paul ever claimed over the "church" was that which was backed up by the gospel he preached. He, who "followed Christ," did not presume to claim "judgship" over the followers. His "judgment" was the message he taught. Note that Paul told the Corinthians (all of them) that they should already have judged the adultery between the son and his stepmother. Paul said the congregation should have judged not merely the ministers or rabbis or anyone using any other title. The Bereans searched the Scriptures daily; they did not run to the rabbis or "ministers" to see if what Paul taught was true. Thus they were "noble." Today's COGs are the equivalent of the synagogues of Christ's day. They are of the "Jerusalem church," but the Jerusalem church was not the true church. One last point: How many hierarchies allow a Holy Spiritbegotten member to speak up and teach what they have been learning from their studies?
Lincoln, N.D.Heart transplant Why are the so-called Churches of God divided, lukewarm and rebellious? Is it because we are unhappy about our former leaders' mistakes (the apostle Paul made mistakes too)? Are we upset like Jonah because things didn't happen the way they were predicted to happen? God worked with Herbert Armstrong. If He didn't, then where was He working all those years? Do you know? We look back and resent the money that was wasted, the separatism and the authority. The bottom line was, and still is, you follow what is okay with God or get out. Christ was working there; He was teaching and in control of our leaders. They learned from their mistakes. I believe that everything that HWA taught (after his heart attack) is bound in heaven by God (Matthew 18:18), and we are in rebellion. The head of the church did not change after the death of HWA. We need to go back to our roots (Jude 8; Acts 2:44). We've rejected the truth. Somewhere Christ has transplanted a heart into the church, and we (the cells) are rejecting it. People being called by God need the church. If we don't repent and get united, what do you suppose God will let happen to us?
North Cambria, Pa.A call for a summit I enjoy reading the articles and letters, but the lack of cooperation and unity between the men or women who have started the churches and groups stands out. Just a few short years ago nearly all of these same people were part of the Worldwide Church of God under the late Herbert W. Armstrong and were preaching unity, love and cooperation with each other. I know this because I was a member of the WCG and read and listened to countless articles and sermons from the same men who now seem not to want to even acknowledge each other. It seems like everyone who can get someone to listen to him wants to start a magazine or broadcast to tell the world that if the world would just obey the Ten Commandments the result would be a world of happiness, love, joy and unity. Yet where is the happiness, love, joy and unity among the splits? Before we can preach unity and love to the world, we as Christians should look in the mirror and see if we are loving and united with one another. We who claim to keep the Ten Commandments, myself included, should keep Matthew 7:1-6 and 23:13-30 before our eyes. James 4:1-3 shows why we have battles and fights among ourselves. It's easy to be loving and united with the people in our little circle of friends, group or church, but it takes the Spirit of God in us for us to forgive and forget hurts and bitter words. Before the people who claim to keep the Ten Commandments, including the Sabbath, can unite in forgiveness and love, the shepherds of these people will have to allow the one and only true Shepherd, Jesus Christ, to guide them to come together in a summit and, there before God, ask God to forgive them of words or actions that they may have spoken or done to cause division and to give them the spiritual strength to unite and love one another. I write this not as someone who has turned away from the keeping of the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath or our Savior. I do not write this as a put-down to any group or church. I simply ask that we stop putting our foot in our mouth and start being credible like Jesus Christ.
Joseph Willie Sr.
This issue of The Journal includes many photos and several other graphics, besides the Connections advertising section. Don't forget to subscribe to the print version of The Journal to read all the news and features previewed here.
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God