Letters from our readers May 31, 1998
(Part 1 of 3)

[ Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 ]

Editor's note: Below are the letters that appear in the May 31, 1998, issue of The Journal, along with many more letters we might have published in the same issue had there been enough room.


The Web site listed in The Journal of my articles, Where Are We in Prophecy Now?, was incorrect. [See Mr. Neilson's letter, "You've Been Warned," page 2, March 30]. The correct address is

Geoff Neilson

Cape Town, South Africa

Turning United

In my opinion The Journal appears to have neglected the most important thing in United's current situation, namely that a minister at the top agreed with a handful of other ministers shortly after the start of United in 1995 to try to turn United into a "man at the top" church, doing away with the council of elders' authority.

When David Hulme was removed, his followers mounted a vicious attack on the way the council handled things to make them look discredited and convince people that one man at the top (i.e., Mr. Hulme) was better than a council.

In Britain, literature discrediting the council was sent out while all the time (though Britain was still under the council) the council's literature and viewpoint were held back and prevented from going to members, so the British members could see only the British trustees' point of view.

Is this a godly way of doing things? I leave you to decide.

David Young

Edinburgh, Scotland

Message from Indy 1

I thought in light of what has occurred over the past three (plus) years, and in particular the past few weeks, it might be good to contemplate this "Indy memo," which Victor Kubik read at the close of the 1995 Indianapolis conference [which founded the UCG-AIA in May 1995] as his parting words to all us who attended. It might be interesting to know what its [unnamed] author thinks now.

"Can it [the UCG-AIA] ever be that cohesive, Christ-led entity that we all want so dearly? Or does Indy seal our fate to fractions and factions? The hopes are high, the stakes are critical. Indy will be either a dawning of a New World Tomorrow, or the proof of our folly.

"Pie in the sky is what the detractors say. Some of them are us, you know. Our 'leaders' have already laid foundations and are even laying superstructure. The meek words of just a few weeks ago--'We've just started this in case it's of any help, but we'll gladly dissolve it'--are seemingly replaced with corporate structures lauding the wisdom of 'follow me.' Has 'unity' already slipped to a cliche, a buzzword of egotists? I've seen that once people invest time, money and gain supporters, they 'have God's blessing.' After all, they prayed about it.

"Dissolution of their structure for a greater cause becomes too great a defeat. The show must go on.

"What is Indy? It's a chance for a ground-up, New Testament­organized body of believers.

"What will Indy be? I know what you and I want it to be. But do you know what many see it as? Separate leaders of several preformed groups pushing their system at each other, followed by the winner selling it to the ministry. The ministry is invited to view the outcome and cast in their lot, depending on who 'wins' and if they like the smell of it.

"Who loses if Indy falters? The churches back home. The little flocks who are staking their faith in Indy. The loyal pastors who have forfeited everything to wait on Christ and to come learn His will for their next step. I hope He's there. He resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.

"Just some concerns and fears . . . I don't know what it will be, I know what it might be and what it can be. I'll be there in support. Be careful who gets control. Make sure it's God."

John Gordon

Portsmouth, N.H.

Cardinal sin

To the UCG-AIA council of elders:

By what authority are you doing this? There is not one spiritual biblical example that your actions can be based on. Your actions are based solely on your UCG-AIA constitution and bylaws as you plainly stated in your letter of ultimatum to Big Sandy, which stated that the spiritual church must be subject not only to the constitution but also the "bylaws" of the UCG-AIA.

You men, then, after delivering your ultimatum, turned your back on the spiritual flock of Christ and walked away to your newly organized church in Gilmer.

Do you men really still consider yourselves ministers, elders, deacons and "shepherds" who were set in the very Church of God to administer to the saints? I do not!

By your actions against the church, through and by the authority of your revered constitution and bylaws, you have in my eyes abdicated your offices. I will offer you a suggestion. Because of the methods by which you wield the authority of your UCG-AIA constitution and bylaws against the church, you need to rename them the UCG-AIA Talmud and Traditions.

The most-asked question by the flock is why are they doing this to us? It is evident that the four obvious reasons for this betrayal of Christ's church are as follows: (1) ego, (2) vanity, (3) power, (4) 30 pieces of silver.

I hope your 30 pieces of silver are going to be sufficient because that's all you men have left. What's really astounding is that you seem to be obvious to the fact that you are shooting yourself in the billfold every time you tear another flock asunder. Mind-boggling.

As I was finishing this letter, I received and read your letter on the David Hulme issue, and on page 2, last paragraph, behold there it is again: Mr. Hulme is not submitting to your almighty constitution and bylaws: the cardinal sin against the council.

After reading that statement, I sympathize with Mr. Hulme. You used your constitution and bylaws against him just like you are using it against the church.

Also in that letter, on page 3, I quote: "A Unity Statement was developed. It was signed by all Council member."

Then on down two paragraphs you quote from your Unity Statement: "As a member of the Council of Elders I am committed to pursuing godly unity which is essential in the Church. I therefore renounce division and schisms as a means of solving our differences just as the Apostle Paul powerfully wrote in I Cor. 1:10-14."

Do you see that? "I therefore renounce divisions"? That is exactly what you just did to the Big Sandy church. You people are beyond explanation. What you say and write, and then what you do, can be attributed only to split personalities like Jekyll and Hyde.

You men must realize that you have lost all credibility. Your actions against the church and bald-faced lies like the ones you told at the Big Sandy meeting have voided any credibility you may have left. Example: Your statement, "We didn't know Big Sandy was an independent congregation."

The only positive aspect of this whole fiasco as I see it is that you and your constitution and bylaws are out of our life, and that's good riddance. Now this flock can get back to preparing itself for Christ's return as Mr. Armstrong instructed us to do.

In closing, I fervently pray daily that you wake up. Can't you see that you are ripping the church apart with the unyielding "or else" ultimatums you are imposing on the flock and doing it by the authority of your continually referenced constitution and bylaws?

Your actions against the church can be compared to the Inquisition, but this one is more deadly. In the first one only physical life was lost. But, with the upheaval and turmoil you are creating, many of the weaker brethren have stated, "No way can this be God's church," and are walking out of the door, never to be seen again. You have extinguished their spiritual life. You had better open your eyes to what you are doing.

Gene and Janet Kottke

Big Sandy, Texas

How to avoid splits

What causes splits and divisions? Doctrine, personalities and differing modes of governance are only part of it. Mel Rhodes' article "How Long Will Scattering, Disillusionment Continue?" (The Journal, April 30) fell short of stating the real reasons behind the continuing division within the Church of God in the last 25-30 years.

Simply stated, the core of the problem centers on pride, spiritual idolatry and a general lack of repentance on the part of God's people. To have harmony and reconciliation among God's people, all of us must be willing to give up something: our pride.

It is because of our sins and the sins of those who shepherded us in years past that we are the scattered Church of God. Unfortunately, few elders and other brethren can see this problem for what it really is. Therefore, the splits and divisions will continue (Garner Ted Armstrong, David Hulme) until we collectively realize that our sins and the sins of the ministry have brought us to the place we are today.

The sooner we realize this, repent and turn toward God and each other, instead of idolizing and following men and their organizations, the sooner peace and reconciliation will come.

Rick Beltz

Portland, Conn.

The radical center

I read the article by Ian Boyne about ministerial authority that appeared in the Feb. 26 issue and just had to make a few comments and ask some questions on the subject.

I'm not writing to proof-text those who believe the doctrine of centralized church government into rejecting it. I'm not going to get into this because (1) much more learned men than I have written and preached extensively on the subject and (2) I have realized that there is no point in reasoning with a centralized-church-government liberal.

"Centralized-church-government liberal?" you ask. I'll bet you thought those in favor of centralized church government were the conservatives. Wrong! /As in society, it is the big-government people who are the liberals, and it is the decentralized-government people who are the real conservatives. Those who are the real conservatives in the church need to grasp this concept.

I say this because if you do you will see the parallels between the liberals in the church and the liberals in society. Learn the tactics of one, and you will learn the tactics of the other.

Also, remember that it was men like Diotrephes and the Pharisees who loved to have the preeminence and the best seats; they were the ones putting people out (John 9:22, 34; 3 John 9-10).

Now to my questions:

  • If such ministerial authority exists in the church, how far does it extend?
  • Does a minister have the authority to tell you who to marry? Does a minister have the authority to tell you who to divorce? Does a minister have the authority to tell you to break up your family and to leave your children devastated by such a commanded divorce?
  • Does a minister have the authority to tell you what to read? What to believe? What to think? Does a minister have the authority to tell you where to tithe? Does a minister have the authority to make you sign a pledge of allegiance to the ministry before he will allow you to attend church?
  • Does a minister have the authority to forbid someone from sharing his knowledge of God with others?
  • Does a minister have the authority to tell you whether you are ready to be baptized or not?
  • Does a minister have the authority to tell you with whom you may speak?
  • Just how far does this supposed ministerial authority extend? What is it you ministers want to control, and what are you people who are blindly following these men afraid of?

Some will say that this government question is all a matter of opinion. Well, I am here to tell you that is not true. Church government is a doctrinal question, and the big-centralized-government liberals in the church have held sway with their heresy for far too long. How many more lives need to be destroyed by these thugs before the good people of God's church rise up and stand up to these heretics?

Is that too strong for some of you? I want you to understand something. For those to appeal to the stories of Moses to uphold how God governs the church they had better realize that Moses was a type of Jesus Christ. Any minister who feels he is standing in the place of Moses, authoritatively, is in actuality claiming to stand in the place of Jesus Christ Himself. I don't know about you, but that sure rounds like damnable heresy to me!

I know many people in the UCG-AIA are torn by this issue, and of these brethren I ask: How long halt ye between two opinions? If Jesus Christ is the leader of the church, then follow Him, but if men then follow them. But, remember, you can't serve two masters.

Lest you think you can avoid this issue by saying it really doesn't matter and believing you are insulated in your congregations, I would remind you of the words of Paul: "Do not be deceived: 'Evil company corrupts good habits' " (1 Corinthians 15:33).

If you keep company with the type of people who thinking kick people out of church, or reporters out of meetings they have freely attended in the past, is perfectly fine and even God's will, you need to realize that their Phariseeism will eventually have an effect on you. Paul didn't say evil company might corrupt good habits. He said don't be deceived because evil company will corrupt good habits.

As a good friend of mine says, "the true, and only, leader of the church, Jesus Christ, to whom all authority has been given [Matthew 28:18], is calling His sheep together. All we have to do is walk to the fence and He will carry us over."

These are good words we should all take to heart.

Bryn Hendrickson

Richfield, Minn.

No opinions, please

I read with interest the latest copy of The Journal, April 30. It indicated to me that something is basically wrong with The Journal; that is, printing someone's opinion regarding a church area without checking the facts. A case in point is on page 10, "Observers and Participants Are Divided on Church Split," subhead "El Paso Report."

Most of the members of the El Paso UCG did leave to go with the new Church of God. A lot of us are older, as the article states, but we're not senile, and we do think for ourselves. Steve Elliott has not told us what we can and can't read.

After Mr. Elliott resigned from the UCG, he told us why he left, but he never told us that we should affiliate with David Hulme. That's more than we can say for the UCG council of elders, which never told us why they removed Mr. Hulme as president.

It was stated in the article that if Mr. Elliott had stayed with the UCG we would have stayed with the UCG. I have news for you. Some of us were waiting until after the Louisville conference and the Days of Unleavened Bread before we did anything. Some of us had already decided to leave the UCG and go with Global. But, with the opportunity to associate with Mr. Hulme--whom we have a lot of respect for--we associated with the New Church of God.

We are not following a man, a dream, an aspiration or the excitement of something new.

We think this is sad, with all the things that have happened since the introduction of false doctrine under the Tkaches and with the appearance of politics introduced into the UCG by voting and not keeping their word that the UCG would be an open and transparent church.

I can't think of a better reason for being a member of the Church of God than the commission to the church: to preach the gospel to the whole world.

Concerning church government: I believe that God's government is from the top down, not from the bottom up, which in most cases leads to conflict.

Charles Bassett

Las Cruces, N.M.

Love to love

A 40-year member of the Church of God said to me recently that, in all his years he has never seen as much love in the church as there is today.

He went on to explain that he is on the mailing list of several Church of God organizations. He also has personal communication with many members of different groups.

He said some love to hate, some love division, and of course some love gossip. Others love to degrade certain ministers and attack their efforts. Many love to talk about someone's sins and faults.

There are members who rejoice when the numbers diminish in other groups, not to mention the love of money and personal recognition along with competition.

Sadly, the old Christian admitted that he too was guilty of some of this unchristian love. But he is trying to repent and walk in the light as Christ is in the light and have fellowship one with another.

I have only been in the Church of God almost three years, and in that short time I have seen a couple of splits in the group I was attending. Members went every direction; some started their own groups.

One minister was even voted out of his own church, which he had founded and built up for almost 20 years. These Christian brothers of his just put him out.

This is a poor example of love and forgiveness. But it is a good way for someone else to get started. It's pretty obvious these people could never have done it on their own. But of course they all say they still love that minister.

I just read a verse in 1 John 3:18: "Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

Helen Koehn

Springfield, Mo.

Small working group

I am grateful for the marvelous job that was done by In Transition, and now carried on by The Journal, in providing us with the information needed during the ongoing upheavals and changes among the Churches of God. As a long-time member of the Worldwide Church of God I, like so many others, found myself disoriented when the problems began and turned to the Internet for support. I benefited from the many forums and exchanges of ideas but still found myself longing for more.

I went with United when it first formed but still found myself with questions and unhappy with the lack of educational and spiritual support coming from headquarters.

Through all this the thoughts pressed upon my mind have been to "study to show yourself approved" and the need to seek out "meat" instead of "milk" in that study. So much energy has been delegated to the administrative power struggles that the need to provide both the brethren and the world with study materials seems to have been lost.

I have listened to all levels of excuses and justifications for the huge amounts of money spent and the low return in value for that money. But, as a result of the Internet, I know all too well that others have accomplished so much more in providing study materials freely to the public and at very little cost.

Recent issues of The Journal have left me saddened by a sense that most of the breakaway churches have lost their direction and are sinking into a collective quicksand. And, from the letters to the editor, I know that there are many others looking for genuine direction and study materials.

Again, I gratefully turned to the Internet and found both at the Web site of the Christian Churches of God ( out of Australia: abundant, in-depth study papers that finally provided me with the "meat" needed in my spiritual diet.

After all the stagnant efforts of others, it was invigorating to find this small group working faithfully to provide the world with badly needed spiritual food. While so many of the churches seem to be caught in an endless loop of discussions over how to achieve the commission of spreading the gospel, the Christian Churches of God have quietly gotten on with doing the job.

Lana K. Boone

Medical Lake, Wash.

About forgiveness

In answer to Bryn Hendrickson's letter ["Just Sit and Take It," page 2, April 30], I am not writing to stir up more controversy. I think there has been enough of that. I believe you [Mr. Hendrickson] have taken Dave Havir's article ["Are You Able to Forgive a Minister?," March 30] out of context. Nowhere do I find in the article the things you say are there.

Mr. Havir's article was about forgiveness, and he did not mention staying in an abusive situation.

I don't know if you know Mr. Havir or not, but it sounds as though you don't. He is not abusive, and he does not condone such treatment. He has been our pastor for three years in the UCG and several years before that in the WCG. Never have I know or heard of him abusing anyone.

He tells the congregation that if anyone believes he would be happier with another group, then he has the right to choose. We are free to read any written materials or listen to anyone's tapes. We have learned always to compare everything back to the Bible.

I think all of us here in this congregation have had more freedom, care, love and compassion in these three years than ever before. I know I have, and I have been in God's church for 30 years.

Most of all I have learned in the last three years how to have a close relationship with God and to rely on Him and never on a man or organization.

So please reread the article with an open mind and perhaps you will see that it has to do with forgiveness. After all, if we do not forgive we will not be forgiven (Mark 11:25-26; Matthew 6:14-15).

Viola Lehman

Big Sandy, Texas

Scattering means God displeased?

Regarding Melvin Rhodes' article in the March 30 issue ["Why Are We Scattering?," page 3]: Mr. Rhodes said it is "clearly apparent when we look at biblical examples of scattering" that "God's people are always scattered when God is displeased with them."

Hmmm. Not so sure of this.

The five examples of varying degrees of God's displeasure with five of the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 talk of various punishments and results if they do not shape up. But, aside from the Laodiceans (and only when putting other verses together that would indicate their scattering into captivity in the tribulation), I do not see scattering as one of the results of God's displeasure.

Also, there was an early scattering of the faithful, and no displeasure by God is indicated whatsoever. See Acts 8. In facts, this seems to be the one way that God used what appeared as a bad situation for the advantage of the gospel!

These are just some observations. But I would agree that our history for decades, though having some good success in the promulgation of the gospel, was mixed with much ungodliness from the highest levels (humanly).

Mr. Rhodes wrote: "There is nobody who is without fault when we look back at the devastation that has taken place within God's church. Nobody."

If Mr. Rhodes mean that we all sin, I agree. But the context does not concur with my little synopsis. I am sure that various people in the last months or few years of the WCG to now have come along as babes in Christ and have been baptized. They have had the first love we all had. They have not bee in long enough to be part of the problem that has resulted in the scattering of the Church of God.

Mr. Rhodes said that "nobody . . . is without fault . . . Nobody," regarding "the devastation that has taken pace within God's church." So I do not agree with you at all.

I have been a member since 1968. I will take some blame. My personality was as such that I readily took the steep hierarchy-and-command-and-control approach we lived and taught. I fit right in, to a large degree. I wanted to be a career military officer before God got hold of me. So the militaristic and self-righteous who-defers-to-whom pecking-order of God appealed to me greatly. God's truth was much more than that, thank God!

I also got into lock step in the support, follow, obey, never-cross-God's-apostle idea as well, for some years. Finally, after about 10 years, and after seeing various errors in some of our teachings, I began to step back bit by bit from our unbalanced ideas. I began to see some wrong ways of doing things for what they really were.

Only by 1995, with the events that came upon us, did I begin to really come to see many things.

How anyone could possibly expect any normal, average person with little or no biblical background, new to the truth, new with God's Spirit, new in God's ways, and being brought into a very successful pre-HWA organization, how anyone could expect such a person to grasp all or anything that was wrong (under tightly controlled information) and properly deal with it within any reasonably short time--I simply cannot agree with your assessment.

We all sin. All of our sins contribute to any group's problems. But Mr. Rhodes has not approached what he charges in that matter. We must go forward and judge ourselves in a godly way and utilize God's gift of godly repentance--I agree. Although many of us (I include myself), particularly leaders, from the pastor gnarl down must specifically repent of personal involvement in the problems and their results, there are many others who have not been guilty in this situation.

Yes, we must all, like Daniel, acknowledge any and all sin. But the way Mr. Rhodes has stated it is way too general. The pastor general, Herbert W. Armstrong, is chiefly to blame in our current distress. He, along with those who so ardently promoted his office and cultlike status (like Gerald Waterhouse), are chiefly to blame.

The idolatry toward a man and one organization was taught, pressured, defended, expounded, hammered into us constantly: not by all, but by far too many. Many who themselves were steeped in this way probably knew no better.

I do not agree with Mr. Rhodes' general assessment, but many of his other conclusions I thought were excellent.

Bruce Lyon

El Cerrito, Calif.

Way to spread gospel

I recently read where Melvin Rhodes wrote that every time God scattered His people He was displeased with them [March 30]. Although I enjoy the thought-provoking articles by both Mr. and Mrs. Rhodes, this one was not correct. My wife first pointed it out to me, but Acts 8:1, 4 and Acts 11:19, 21 speak of a time when God's people were scattered because of a great persecution raised against the church. However, God used even this trial as a means to spread the gospel and bring a great number of people to the truth.

William A. Conway

Neilton, Wash.

Amazing exposition

The experiences of the Big Sandy congregation, as I've read them [on The Journal's Web site], are so reminiscent of my own experience and of the congregation I try to nurture and help to prosper.

The Church of God in Williamstown (a bay suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) began in April 1997 after my "termination" from the ministry in the UCG-AIA. The congregation has a Web site ( that reveals some of its efforts.

Regular Sabbath attendance is about 50. The church is unincorporated. Its constitution is the Scriptures (Luke 4:4). The brethren are encouraged to use their talents (1 Corinthians 12) and for all to recognize other's talents.

Thank you for the amazing exposition of recent events in Big Sandy. Yet the events, as conveyed, are in themselves not surprising; they are to be expected. The culture of the past has its own juggernaut momentum.

I've learned so much since coming into the Radio Church of God in 1965. On graduating from Ambassador College at Bricket Wood in 1971 (David Hulme was asked to stay another year, since he was not baptized, and Raymond McNair saw potential in him), I was sent to Sydney. Within months I was sent to Auckland as a "ministerial assistant," then fired in June 1972. As one elder put it to me, "You're not fit for the ministry."

In 1977 I was ordained as a local elder in Hobart, then hired in 1979. I was fired from the WCG ministry in 1996 by Rod Matthews because I was consistently preaching (generally obliquely and parabolically) against the heretical subversion carrying on openly since at least 1989.

I came into the UCG on the premise and understanding that we would have an open approach and that doctrinal issues would be fairly and openly discussed. Experience on the nature-of-God committee under the chairmanship of Peter Nathan proved conclusively that I was wishfully deluded.

The UCG National Council (Australia) fired me in March 1997 because I could not "wholeheartedly" agree to the constitution and code of ethics. My argument was that--since these were liable to change, and the Word of God is immutable, though our understanding of Scripture should grow--I cannot "wholeheartedly" agree with the constitution.

To complicate things, our local church was abuzz with considerable discussion about doctrinal issues. Other ministers just wanted to go on with "preaching the truth" and "the gospel." I was asked not to rock the boat. Several local UCG ministers asked me politely to resign.

What has this personal matter to do with Dave Havir? Nothing! Except that it illustrates that nothing has really changed in many years. The momentum of gentile rulership continues to flex its will. It is apparent that Dave Havir is rocking the boat. The brethren in Big Sandy are abuzz with activity. Though there seem to be no apparent "doctrinal issues," there are issues of governance, freedom, equity, righteousness, propriety, honesty, etc. Are these not doctrinal issues? Equity is a word and biblical concept not well understood by far too many.

If it weren't for Dave Havir's apparent good sense and the local board's determination and sense of justice, then those externally involved would have already sent Dave packing and then proceeded to dismantle the board in Big Sandy. Am I to presume that they won't give up any further attempt to convince the congregation that they are "benefactors"? (Luke 22:25).

Where's the evidence? After all, Richard Pinelli was hand-picked by David Hulme to serve David's intentions of carrying out his belief that he is the only one who has the right of divine rule over the church and that he is the one who must be in the forefront of preaching the gospel.

How often people forget that the gospel is not preached by money, by organization, by advertising, by men, but by servants empowered by the Spirit of God (Luke 24:44-49; Acts 10:44-48; 13:42-52). Can God entrust His sacred Spirit to empower men and women who cannot practice basic elements of Christianity? God is not a fool!

The reason David Hulme was fired by the council of elders was that--let us be realistic--he has been consistently insurrectionist. He hired and fired at will and contrary to agreed directives. He spent moneys heavily, as will be his ongoing custom, without authorization and beyond agreed budget guidelines. This has been reported in The Journal before. Steve Andrews was his helper in these actions. The council knew this all along but was too weak to address it strongly (2 Timothy 1:7).

Unless leading people put basic Christianity into practice, the scattering and disillusionment cannot be stopped. Let's repeat Melvin Rhodes' last two sentences in his article in the previous issue ["How Long Will Scattering, Disillusionment Continue?," April 30] in which he attempts to address the very real problem of scattering and disillusioning the brethren:

"Those responsible should remember Paul's words in Philippians, 'Let each esteem the other better than himself' (Philippians 2:3). God's Word shows the way to end the scattering and the way to reconciliation."

Having done comprehensive study on the ministry (see our Web site for "Shepherds [the Ministry] in the Last Days: Where Have All the leaders Gone?"), and having carefully considered how God teaches His people (See "Confidence in God"), there is no doubt in my mind that the will to choose is much lacking in most (Deuteronomy 32:29; 30:19, NKJV).

This is why people refuse to answer questions, why they hold secretive meetings to determine the fate of other, and why the kind of open discussion evident in Big Sandy on May 4 May cannot happen in many church areas.

Brethren should ask each council member, insisting that all is needed is a yes or no answer: Do you approve of local churches, such as in Big Sandy, having their own local boards?

Questions asked should be tightly framed so that ambiguity in response is quite evidently another way of answering in the negative. Too many will not reveal their real intents, so questions need to be well thought out.

When I was brought before the kangaroo court called by the UCG National Council (Australia) March 22-23, 1997, one issue raised was the disquiet about the free and open discussions and questions raised by the brethren. My response was that I encourage this atmosphere.

How can we get answers if we don't ask questions? Isn't that our approach to Scripture?

Our congregation continues to discuss all issues in open forum. People are free to question anything I say. Most are polite enough to wait until the sermon is delivered. But if someone strongly feels that the question must be asked right away, in the midst of a sermon, I do not object at all. The question is handled before the entire congregation.

Bible studies are open to questions all the time. Three national-council members expressed fear (one said, "That's terrifying!") at such openness. The hierarchical dominance Melvin Rhodes alluded to (see Luke 22:25) is an ingrained cultural inheritance from the past and not a part of the approach of any prophet, apostle or Jesus Christ.

Was Christ afraid of any question? Was Paul? Unless people recognize the ruinous nature of such fear (perfect love casts out fear; 1 John 4:18), and unless ministers recognize the folly of such usurptive-of-righteousness approach, then no effort will prevent the ongoing scattering and disillusionment spreading like a deadly cancer among the Churches of God.

Paul's attitude must be what all servants adopt. Ask your minister how he understands these verses: 1 Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:8. Shouldn't the ministers ask the brethren in open forum what these verses mean to them?

I have to laugh (Psalm 37:9-15; 52:6,7; Ezekiel 23:32-35) when I hear people say that they will preach the gospel when they don't know the primary characteristic of God and His gospel (1 John 4:8,16; John 13:34,35; Matthew 7:21-23). May God bless all who have ears to hear.

Orest Solyma

Melbourne, Australia

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