Big Sandy United Church of God -AIA meets for first time after split

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By Mac Overton

GILMER, Texas--Les McCullough, president of the United Church of God, an International Association, welcomed the brethren who came to the Yamboree Exhibit Building in Gilmer the Sabbath of May 16 and thanked them for "helping us to get started on another effort we're going through."

About 150 were in attendance for the first United Church of God -AIA Sabbath service in the Big Sandy after the split that church boards on both sides had explicitly or implicitly agreed upon the day before. Before Mr. McCullough gave the sermon, Karen Pierce sang "The Holy City." The services here on this day included no sermonette.

Mr. McCullough requested prayers for a newborn child, daughter of Amber Owens, and for Amanda Bundy, 6, who has been diagnosed with tumors.

He said all requests for festival transfers for 1998 had been approved. He announced that the "new pastor of the Church of God AIA, Big Sandy, Hawkins, Gladewater, whatever you want to call it, will be here next week."

New pastor for Big Sandy

The new pastor will be Roy Holladay of Fort Myers, Fla., who will be in town through Pentecost before moving permanently from Florida to East Texas.

Mr. Holladay will also pastor churches in Shreveport and Texarkana. Roy Dove, who presently pastors those outlying congregations, is reportedly moving to Amarillo, Texas, and out of the full-time paid ministry of the United Church of God -AIA.

The Big Sandy congregation has about a dozen ordained men. Although some were out of town and therefore didn't attend either of the Big Sandy churches, all but two of those who did attend in the area on this Sabbath were present here in Gilmer.

Mr. McCullough said he didn't know for sure where the Big Sandy congregation would meet next week and that "we found this site at about 5 p.m. Friday."

He said matters are "going very well with the relocation of the new [main] office [of the United Church of God -AIA from California] to Cincinnati. We're very pleased with the way things have developed there." He said the new location has less space but "looks like half again as much space because of the way things are arranged."

The new location will cost about $4,000 a month less than the office in Arcadia, Calif., and, since a rent increase was scheduled to take effect there, the saving will be closer to $5,000 a month.

Mr. McCullough said the church's "What Is Your Destiny?" booklet had been produced in Braille.

He announced that two 60-second television commercials are being produced by a member of the church in Spokane, Wash., who is in the advertising business.

"You all are not going to believe this, but the cost of the ad is two and a half percent of what it cost Worldwide to do the same type of ad," he said.

The "very upbeat" ad series features "The Good News" magazine and will initially be broadcast in the Spokane area, with the broadcast signal also reaching into Canada.

He said the United Church of God -AIA is "allocating the media budget, trying to spread it carefully. We hope to add about 80,000 more names to the Good News list by next April."

Are visitors welcome?

Alluding to the split in the Big Sandy congregation, he said a good friend had stopped by to see him during the previous week and said, "Well, Mr. Mac, what am I going to do? If I attend United Church of God Big Sandy and come visit you part of the time, could I do so?"

Mr. McCullough assured him that visitors from the other group would always be welcome.

"That letter seemed to say we're not welcome," he said the man told him. "Can I spread that around [that visitors would be welcome]?"

(The letter the man referred to was one sent the previous week to Big Sandy church members from Bob Dick on behalf of the United Church of God -AIA council.)

"We're not interested in being vindictive in any way or judgmental in any way," Mr. McCullough said. "Someone else asked me what are the ground rules. Are we letting just anybody attend? Yeah, we are, although we do have differences of opinion, and we felt it would be better to make a separation."

He said that he was "very sorry" about the split, although he felt it "best to make the separation." He said Mr. Dick's letter was not meant to tell people they could not attend the United Church of God -AIA services if they also attended United Church of God Big Sandy services.

He said that a "difference of opinion was creating a parting of the ways."

Unusual times

In his sermon, Mr. McCullough said that "when you look at the news today, it's pretty discouraging."

He was referring to world events as well as news within the Churches of God, he said. "These are unusual times."

He quoted 1 Peter 5:5 about younger people submitting to their elders and being submissive to one another.

He said that in the late 1960s Worldwide Church of God founder Herbert W. Armstrong warned the Worldwide Church of God ministry that Satan would not strike at him but would go after the rest of the ministry and the church.

"I'm not accusing anybody of being of Satan," he said. "People don't have to be of Satan to have Satan influencing them. All fall prey to getting discouraged. I think sometimes we are ignorant of his devices. We unconsciously allow frustrations to discourage us."

The devil "is making a lot of effort to try to delay the work of the church," he said. A "large number of people simply do not believe there is a Satan the devil, but he's been fairly successful in many ways."

But in some ways "perhaps we ought to be encouraged by what we see, because it seems like Satan is working very hard to create trouble. It seems like Satan is really making an effort to try to delay the work of the church."

He quoted 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18 about Satan "hindering" the church.

"He will do anything he can to hinder the real work being done," Mr. McCullough said. "I believe we the people of God have an important work to do. Satan wants very much to keep any kind of real end-time work from being done."

All kinds of things

Satan's devices "can be discouraging, but that has been the history of the Church of God down through the ages. Satan interferes, maybe even stops things for a time.

"None of us are happy with the idea there has been a separation, but it simply does happen . . . We've had our separations over doctrine. We've had our separations over personalities, over people who've wanted to stand up and do big things in their own ways. We've had separations over all kinds of things."

Christ "came not to bring peace, but a sword," Mr. McCullough said.

The apostle Paul understood that he wasn't able to do what he wanted to do "because he was being hindered," Mr. McCullough said. "Satan will do whatever he can to hinder a real work from being done, more especially I think when people really understand what that work is.

"I believe that the gospel must be preached as a witness to the best of the ability of God's people. I think Satan wants very much to keep any kind of an end-time work from being done. Things are shaping up. Problems are developing. In Psalm 34:19 it says many are the afflictions of the righteous.

"Many times when the groundwork is being laid Satan steps in and messes things up. Maybe this shows we're doing something right."

He quoted from a book to show that pastors and other clergymen and churches are being weakened because of the "killing of the prophets," which is a forerunner of national disaster. "The tribe that kills its wise men loses its soul," he quoted the author as saying.

"I'm not trying to place the ministry on a pedestal, but there has to be guidance and leadership shown."

No one wants authority

Over the last several years, "we've been fighting the spirit of division," he said. He said someone at the Arcadia office had noted that many people in the Church of God had never been in the military and that "the military does have a lot that you can learn."

Some people believe that all authority is bad. "Authority is a bad thing nowadays. Nobody wants to be under authority in their life, and that's a shame."

He told the audience that God's calling is "still the same calling. God's still on His throne. Don't we wish he would intervene a great deal more?"

He quoted 1 Peter 4:12 about the "fiery trial" that is the lot of the follower of Christ.

He also quoted verses 13-14: "But rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified."

"Judgment is now on the house of God," Mr. McCullough concluded. "We need to be careful not to let Satan and his devices keep us from being thoroughly involved in the work of God. There is a work to do. We need to be aware that Satan would like to stop it. Christ said 'not My will but Thine be done.' Time is fleeting . . . and we need to be aware that there is a Satan who will do his best to divert our attention to some side issue."

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