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

[ Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 ]

Guns and butters

The UCG published an essay by it Robert Dick in the New Beginnings newsletter titled "Guns or Butter?" The message was that United cannot afford to have a bigger presence in mass media at this time because of the necessity and expense of employing a large field ministry to tend the scattered flocks.

I see the point Mr. Dick is trying to make, but I wonder if his reasoning is not based on faulty premises. Mr. Dick uses the example of the early ministry of Herbert Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong would raise up small congregations through evangelistic campaigns. But, without ministers to guide them, these congregations would quickly wither or split through internal strife. This lack of ministers is what led Mr. Armstrong to see the need to begin Ambassador College.

Mr. Dick implies that, if the UCG ministry is spread thinner, UCG flocks will suffer the same fate.

But is it right to compare the novices in the faith whom Mr. Armstrong brought in with the UCG congregations of today, which are mostly populated by members who have been in this faith for 10, 20 or more years? If UCG churches need intensive ministerial care to keep them from falling away, that is a sad commentary on the education members got while in the WCG.

It would seem to me that by this time, as the apostle Paul suggested in Hebrews 5, they ought to be teachers, not little babies needing constant feeding and diapering by paid nannies: the overseers.

Members and former members of the WCG did not flock to United as had been hoped. In the beginning stages of the UCG, it was apparent that the need for ministers was overestimated. That error should probably be corrected. It has been stated by United's detractors that the UCG was started as an employment agency for dispossessed ministers. If United does not face facts and downsize, it will lend even more credence to this criticism.

For a real-life example, let's look at the Church of God International. Garner Ted Armstrong started that church with a few hundred people, and in 17 years it grew to about 4,500. How did that growth happen? The CGI had only a handful of full-time ministers on the payroll. Almost all ministers were volunteer elders in the scattered congregations around the world. In this way, fully 50 percent of CGI income could be devoted to producing TV and buying TV time and publishing, making tapes and buying postage to distribute it all.

There is a lesson here. If mass media are what a church desperately wants to do, they can be done. But that church will probably need to have fewer paid ministers eating up the tithes.

Perhaps it is God's will that United look at alternative ways to preach the gospel, ways that don't cost as much, techniques more suited to local efforts.

Perhaps United really does need all the ministers it has. I certainly can't predict what would happen if the smaller churches were reduced to in-home groups viewing sermons on video.

Mr. Dick may be right, or partially right. However, if those in United are spiritually mature, they should be able to get along with somewhat less ministering.

In the WCG we were almost encouraged to use the ministry as a crutch, to tell us what, when, where and why to do things. We need to be learning to let Christ direct us from within by the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps a reduction in full-time pastors would be the goad that many need to seek a closer, more direct relationship with God and Christ, instead of relating to Them mostly through human representatives.

The older sheep ought to be able to take up the slack, guiding the younger and weaker sheep. This might be the best of both worlds: More money would be available to publish the gospel, and the brethren would be forced to grow in maturity by learning to care for one another, spiritually as well as physically.

Eric Anderson

Ankeny, Iowa

The head of a woman

Rick Stanczak, Ron Dart and too many others have fostered and promoted the notion that "husbands have authority only to serve, not to command (their own wives)," and this unscriptural statement: "So spouses should not think it is their job to correct their mates."

I have a friend (by association, having the same Spirit as Christ) who was called personally by Christ (Isaiah 49:5-6; Acts 13:47; 9:15; 22:21; 26:16; Galatians 1:1, 15; Ephesians 1:1; 3:8; 1 Timothy 1:11; Romans 11:13; etc.), whose credentials, calling and commission far exceed "these," the private, secular, self-appointed, so-called authorities, teachers and scholars.

What he wrote and is preserved for us today is called by the apostle Peter "Scriptures" (2 Peter 3:16). This man was not ever guilty of watering down God's Word, as the aforementioned men. Let's see what His writings say about the relationship a woman must have with not only Christ but her husband:

". . . Christ is the head of every man; the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God."

". . . Any woman who prays prophesies when she is bareheaded, dishonors her head [her husband]; it is the same as [if her head were] shaved."

". . . For a man ought not to wear anything on his head, for he is the image and glory of God. But woman is man's glory; for man was not created on account of, or from the woman, but woman from man, therefore she should have a covering on her [bare] head [as a symbol] to authority . . ."

". . . Does not the native sense of propriety itself teach you that for a man to wear long hair is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair it is her ornament and glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. Now if anyone is disposed to be argumentative and contentious about this, we hold to and recognize no other custom than this, nor do the churches of God."

Dean Neal

Carson City, Nev.

More on Elijah

James K. Bartholomew of Everett, Wash., raised some questions regarding Elijah on page 5 of the Jan. 30 issue of The Journal.

A superficial reading of Matthew 11:9-15 can lead us to assume that Christ called John the Baptist "Elijah." Christ ends with "he that hath ears to hear, let him hear," which is a warning to read the passage more carefully (Matthew 11:15).

True people of God do not have the Muhammad Ali syndrome; they do not go around calling themselves "the greatest." Notice how the apostle John coyly alluded to a disciple whom Jesus loved in John 20:2 and 21:7, 20. John also states that this disciple leaned on Christ's bosom at the last supper.

Combining these facts, we deduce that John is speaking of himself. Likewise the Son of God deprecatingly called himself "the son of man." Realizing that men of God did not toot their own horns, let us read Matthew 11:9-15:

"But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."

This passage starts out talking about John the Baptist, but in verses 11-15 Christ shifts the focus to Himself (without saying. "I am the greatest"). Christ refers to Himself in the third person. "Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (verse 11).

Is this saying that John was the greatest one born of a woman? If it is, then the Bible is wrong, Scripture can be broken, and you might as well throw away your Bible and your faith. Christ clearly was born of a woman (Mary), and Christ clearly was greater than John. What Matthew 11:11 in fact is saying is that there is none born of a woman greater than John, except Christ Himself. The Nestle Greek interlinear says "but the lesser in the kingdom of the heavens, greater he is."

Who is the "lesser in the kingdom of the heavens"? None other than Christ Himself, the lesser of the two God beings. Christ is less than His Father, "for my Father is greater than I," Christ said (John 14:28).

On more than one occasion, Christ equated Himself with the Kingdom of Heaven. Speaking to the Pharisees: "Behold, the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21), meaning within your midst, or among you, as other translations state.

The Kingdom of God certainly was not within the Pharisees, but Christ, as the king of that kingdom, stood among them, in the midst of them.

Thus, when Christ states in Matthew 11:12 that "from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force," he is speaking about Himself as suffering violence, and violent men were trying to take Him by force.

The it can equally be translated "him" in this verse. It was "from the days of John" that the Kingdom suffered violence. This happens to be when Christ began His ministry.

Christ met opposition from the start. We cannot deny that holy men of old suffered persecution and martyrdom. Something unique was occurring since or "from the days of John." Here we have a direct assault, by Satan, on the King of the Kingdom, or Christ Himself. Until Christ came to earth, the Kingdom was immune from attack, since Satan was confined to earth:

"For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Matthew 11:13-15).

Many Old Testament scriptures predicted the coming of Christ. "Until John" means until John, too, prophesied of the coming of Christ. "And if ye will receive it, this is Elias." The one whom they all prophesied about is Elijah. It was Christ of whom they all spoke. Christ was the Elijah "which was for to come." Christ is employing a common idiom of the day by referring to himself in the third person. "And if ye will receive it [Him], this [same One speaking] is Elias, which was for to come."

In Matthew 11:11-15, Christ is referring to Himself, not John the Baptist. From the context, therefore, we see that "this is Elijah" refers to Christ, not John. In verse 11 it is Christ who is the greatest born of a woman. It is Christ who is the lesser being in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The focus is on Christ. So, from the context, "if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come," refers to Christ as being the Elijah (Matthew 11:14). In context, the one being spoken about is Christ and His first coming.

Talking about John the Baptist, Luke 1:17 says, "And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17, Malachi 3:1).

This verse does not say that John was the prophesied Elijah, rather that John would go "before Him in the spirit and power of Elias." John the Baptist went before Christ in the spirit and power of Christ and God. John admitted that he had no spiritual power of himself, but that He who came after him did.

Although Matthew 17:12 states that "Elias is come already, and they knew him not," some still insist that one of the two witnesses will be the prophesied Elijah. The first problem is that "Elijah is come already" in 30 C.E. This was "before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord" (Malachi 4:5).

Christ will further fulfill this verse by appearing again in heaven "before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord" (same verse). Christ's parousia, or sign in the heavens, will precede His standing on the Mount of Olives by a couple of years. The disciples actually asked Christ two questions in Matthew 24: (1) "What shall be the sign of thy coming [parousia]?" and (2) "of the end of the world?"

Matthew 24 explains only the events leading up to Christ's parousia (heavenly signs foreshadowing Christ's return, or the sixth seal of Revelation 6). Matthew 24 does not cover the remaining events leading up to the end of the age. Revelation 7 onward describes the end of the age. God's people are protected from the seventh seal until the end of the age.

Christ is the Elijah. His first and second comings were prophesied in Malachi 4:5: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord" (Malachi 4:5).

God the Father sent His Son as the Elijah, to turn the heart of the people to Him (the Father). "The great and dreadful day of the Lord" refers specifically to the wrath of the Father (same verse). Christ is sent to earth to prepare the earth and the hearts of men to receive the Father lest the Father smite earth with utter destruction (verses 5-6). It is not so much the wrath of Christ as the wrath of the Father that could result in the utter destruction of earth.

The very name Elijah means "God the Lord," or "the Lord [is] God." Christ's first coming began the process that His second coming will complete. He is turning people from false religion to the true Lord and God: the Father. What Elijah of old, in type, did, Christ does a thousand times more powerfully. He is the Elijah, prophesied to come and restore all things for God the Lord (Elijah).

Steven Thomas

Cape Town, South Africa

More on Elijah

I would like to comment on the Dec. 18, 1997, article "Herbert W. Armstrong Was Not the End-Time Elijah."

When I first heard Mr. Armstrong on the radio 25 years ago, he challenged me about God and the Bible in a way that no minister had before or has done since. His unique ability to teach in a clear, logical and easy-to-understand way made the Bible come alive for me. He helped me develop a relationship and faith with God. I believe that all I know about God and His Word and His work came from Mr. Armstrong.

I have often asked myself what my life would have been like if I had not heard God's truth from Mr. Armstrong. I believe I wouldn't have my wonderful wife, our two wonderful children or the joy of my life, our 7-year-old grandson. No, I believe I would have ended up with a chemical dependency that is so prevalent in my family and not have the wonderful life that I now enjoy.

Yes, you can go on writing your articles. Go ahead and point out Mr. Armstrong's flaws, faults and sins. Maybe you don't want to believe that Mr. Armstrong was the end-time Elijah. He may not have been for you, but he was to me.

Dean Hardester

Estacada, Ore.

Oakland­San Francisco report

Recent events [see articles beginning on page 1] have resulted in the loss of about half of the Oakland­San Francisco congregation of the United Church of God, an International Association.

Oakland and San Francisco had each been a separate congregation before our split with the WCG in 1995. Before that split we had about 450 people in the two congregations, which was one circuit under pastor William Bradford. When we joined the UCG-AIA in May 1995 we had just over 300 people combined in one meeting place in Oakland on the first service, continuing to this day under Mr. Bradford in one meeting place.

A few weeks ago, when not in combined services with our current other circuit congregation (San Jose area), we had a count of fewer than 150. The most recent count I heard of the Church of God [the new group recently formed by friends and associates of former UCG president David Hulme] for our area was just over 150.

Of the previous normal attendance of six elders in Oakland, one of the local elders has gone with the new group. Before the split we also had six deacons in the Oakland congregation of United. Four of the deacons have also opted to go with the new group.

Bruce Lyon

El Cerrito, Calif.

What's up, duck?

If it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it must be a duck. So goes the maxim that has been applied to everything from political-campaign rumors to the latest Washington scandals. There is something about this folksy-sounding little quip we like: It makes difficult things sound simple and easily discerned. Best of all, it implies that we have within our five senses all the resources necessary to see through the most clever disguises. Harry Houdini and P.T. Barnum would have loved this one.

Unfortunately, this tendency to oversimplify complicated issues has a sinister side to it. This method of detection is especially flawed in matters requiring spiritual discernment where the natural man is woefully ill-equipped. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against . . . spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12).

Paul, however, suggested that the true Christian would not be lacking in those skills of spiritual discernment (2 Corinthians 2:11).

Knowing that he has but a short time, Satan has intensified his campaign of deception and extended it to the most surprising places, even into the ministry (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

Rich and influential deceivers had infiltrated the first-century church like wolves in sheep's clothing. They had seized control of the congregations and expelled the true ministers of Christ along with His faithful followers (essentially ensuring their silence). History has a way of repeating itself, and too often we see the same trends today.

But how can a sincere Christian avoid these deceptions and avoid following a deceiver? Paul said, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). Apparently Paul expected converts of Christ to follow him only "as" he followed Christ. John admonished his followers to "try to the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (John 4:1).

Neither Paul nor John seemed to take issue with individual personalities, but with false teachings and false doctrines. In the two verses following John's admonition, he opposed a false doctrine about the divinity of Christ that was creeping into the church.

Rather than taking a live-and-let-live approach to these false doctrines--making the excuse that unity is more important--John, instead, actively opposed them. Often we hear people say, "Oh, doctrine is so divisive. Since we're all going to the same place anyway, why don't we put doctrine aside and just love one another?"

On the surface, this sounds great. But history shows us that the church was most unified when it shared a consensus in Bible doctrine, and it was most divided in times of doctrinal confusion. Furthermore, let's remember that true doctrine is based upon the laws of God, which teach us how to "love one another." True doctrine unifies; it does not divide.

Let's be honest about this one thing, though: When people leave a congregation, it is rarely over doctrinal disputes. More often it is over personalities and problems with administration.

By the same token, when they select a new church home, they are prone to choose it based on those same criteria. This is precisely why we are so easily deceived. We lack the spiritual discernment to judge spiritual matters and are, therefore, led about by every wind of doctrine.

We lean to our own (carnal) understanding, not God's; and we vainly attempt to discern spiritual principles with our five physical senses. Can we begin to see the incongruity to this kind of reasoning?

Paul warned, "But though ye, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8).

When Christ spoke of those who had eyes, yet could not see, and ears, yet could not hear, He was not engaging in double-talk. There is a spiritual discernment that the natural, carnal man lacks. The problem is that we are still too carnally minded.

Satan is a master of disguise. If we are the type of people who judge by appearances, we can be deceived. We may follow a man who looks like a minister of God to a place that looks like a Christian church and associate with brethren who look like God's people. It's all very cozy, and it can be damningly deceptive.

Frequently now people who consider themselves Christians are involving themselves in unholy matrimony (dare we suggest such a thing exists?). No doubt they justify these direct violations of Christ's clear instructions in Matthew 5, Matthew 19, Mark 10 and Luke 16 in the consolation that they look like godly marriages.

The Bible must remain the only standard for the Christian. It declares, "To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isaiah 8:20).

The message, not the appearance, is all important. If it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, it may be a duck. But, then, it may be a master of disguise.

David M. Cameron

Springfield, Mo.

God planned it

I attend the United Church of God. I had originally planned to send copies of this letter to all the major groups that had split off from the Worldwide Church of God. Instead, I am sending this letter to The Journal.

We just went through the Passover season; March 28 was the first day of the sacred year. About three years ago most of us did not know where we were going to go or what we were going to do. The very foundation of the doctrines that we believe in and have proved to be true were threatened.

We had reached a crossroads: Do we stay with an organization that is obviously going stray, or do we leave?

That we have been willing to sever ties, no matter how much it hurt, to live a certain way and worship a certain way I am sure has made God proud and shown Him those who love the truth.

Now the church has reached another crossroads. The events of the last three years have left all of us wondering what happened and why.

God allowed of this to occur; He did not turn His back and then turn around again and say--oops--the leaders of the WCG led it astray. God knew they would lead the church down this path. He planned it; He allowed it to happen.

Down through history, God's people have been tried and tested so that He would know those who follow Him.

We have left and settled into groups. Now what? How do we get the gospel out? How should the ministry feed the flock? How should a church government be structured? Who should have the final say in everything regarding the church? Should television be utilized? Should the Internet play a crucial role? How can this become a worldwide work again? Will we ever have the strength we once had?

I do not know the answers to these questions, and from what I have read in The Journal neither does anyone else. In many of the articles, groups are looking to other churches for their answers: The Baptist or Pentecostal or Adventist church did its ministry this way, and they have had success.

But shouldn't we in God's church ask instead how does God want it to be done or if the gospel is even to go out into all the world at this time or has this already been fulfilled by Mr. Armstrong?

What we have not heard for a while is that Christ is the Head of this church. He will lead it in the right direction if we let Him. If Christ is the Head, the government will not matter. The Spirit of God will lead if we allow and want it to.

We had problems before because the church leadership began moving away from Christ. God's government is from the top down; He works us into His plan.

Looking at the things going on with the groups, there is much confusion. Satan works through anger, hurt feelings, spite, jealousy, greed and confusion, and he is having a field day. We have allowed petty and foolish arguments and contentions to separate us. We are one people, just as the tribes of Israel were one nation. We are many groups and tribes, but one church. We were all given one baptism, one Spirit. We teach the same things; many of us even use the same hymnal.

Then why the arguments? Why does one minister say, "You should not go to such-and-such church; you should pick one congregation and stay with it"? If I go to United one Sabbath and to Global the next, where is the harm as long as the same God revealed truth, and the Spirit of God is there? While we argue, time is passing.

The first thing we read in the Bible is about baptism. The earth was made without form and void, and the waters covered the face of it. Water is a cleansing agent. It is the universal solvent. When the earth came out of the water, it was cleansed.

Passover pictures the commitment that we made at baptism. We became committed to follow God's way, no matter where it led, even to death if necessary. How can we say we will follow God to death and not get along with our own brethren?

This festival season, I would like to implore every one of God's churches, ministers and members alike to pray for God to intervene in His church. I hope that we will begin to pray for unity and that the teachable attitude will again enter into God's people. With humans this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

Stephen Carroll

McKee, Ky.

Mother ship on track

I would appreciate your including this letter, but I want to remain anonymous, lest I get in trouble, because I am still a member of the Worldwide Church of God and don't want to leave.

God raised up the Philadelphia era of His church through Herbert W. Armstrong. The great falling away has occurred.

The WCG is off track. God used John the Baptist to prepare the way for Christ's first coming. He will use Elijah the prophet and his assistant (the other witness) to prepare the way for His second coming.

Will God send these two witnesses soon (within a few months or years) with supernatural power to put the WCG on track--not back on track because we have never been on track completely--then to prophesy to the world for three and one-half years?

Will most of the scattering church come back to the "mother ship" after God sends the two witnesses and help finish the work, then go to Petra for the last three and one-half years of final training?

Will the ones who don't come back become the scattered Laodicean church, which testifies against the counterfeit church and the beast system during the tribulation?

Until God sends a strong leader with supernatural power to the parent church, the splinter groups are going to continue to splinter. True Christians have gotten to the point where they will not follow Jesus Christ through a human leader unless he has supernatural power and they know beyond the shadow of a doubt that he has been sent from God.

What church most needs Elijah the prophet to restore the truth? The WCG. If God were to send Elijah to a splinter group, which one would it be? Weren't we taught never to leave the church that God raised up through Mr. Armstrong, no matter how far off track God allowed Satan to pull it?

God has allowed Satan to scatter the WCG and deceive 80 percent of the ones who have stayed. He is going to use Elijah and the other 20 percent to help that 80 percent get on the right track. Then the scattered church will start coming back, and new people will come in.

A lot of the changes were good, but they have thrown out the baby with the bathwater to be accepted by mainstream Christianity. They are gradually losing sight of God's great master plan to reproduce Himself by substituting the Sabbath and holy days with Sunday and the holidays. But the good changes have made the people who remain good, warm, loving, down-to-earth people who are not as critical and judgmental as they used to be.

The church is not controlling people's lives anymore. There is a lot more openness, and we don't have to fear the ministry like we used to. Just about all the dictators have left. It would be stupid of me to join a church in which are the dictators who left.

The Global Church of God has more of the truth and is less divided than any of the other splinter groups. If God sent His prophets to a splinter group, it would probably be Global. But God works in mysterious ways, so I believe He will send Elijah and his assistant, with supernatural power, to the WCG.

Then we'll go down to Petra and finish building the city that TBN [Trinity Broadcasting Network?] will start building soon with the help of the Jordanian government as a refuge for the 144,000 Jews.

A lot of Protestants think they will be raptured to heaven before the tribulation but God will protect 144,000 Jews in Petra during the 1,260 days, so the Protestants feel an obligation to help prepare Petra for the Jews.

In the meantime, most of the churches will continue to downplay and water down prophecy and world events like they have since Mr. Armstrong died. It really got underway with the "Fun With Prophecy" sermon Ronald Kelly gave several years ago. Now they are advocating the "Millennial Madness" video.

Name and location withheld

Silent about resurrection

In regard to resurrection observance, I think Christ thought we would be appreciative enough for eternal life to want to voluntarily express our gratitude by celebrating His resurrection, so He said nothing about it.

But, knowing people want to forget the unpleasant, Christ commanded us to remember and honor His suffering and death: the price He paid for our eternal life.

Ed Nelson

Chesterfield, Mo.

Allowed confusion

I would like to clear up what I believe to be a misconception regarding the timing of Christ's death on the stake of crucifixion. There appears to be some great confusion about whether Christ died on the 14th of Nisan or the 15th. I believe He died just before the evening of the preparation day of a high Sabbath. I believe this high Sabbath to be the second Sabbath of the Days of Unleavened Bread. Therefore He died towards the end of Unleavened Bread rather than before it started.

My belief is that Christ did not die on the 14th or 15th; I also think, therefore, that He actually ate the last Passover meal with His disciples, contrary to what many believe. Can you take me up on the challenge that I may have discovered the truth at last?

I also think, in retrospect, that God allowed this confusion to take place to honor the corporate efforts of the Church of God's need to observe the foot-washing ceremony on the 14th, as we've traditionally kept it, and to keep the Night to Be Much Observed 24 hours later, which I now believe to be the true Passover night on which Christ at the last meal with His disciples.

Paul Christophy

London, England

People problems

"To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards of men" (Ellen Wheeler Wilcox).

In Transition and The Journal were used so the lack of knowledge would not destroy us. They relayed to us sadness and joy, as well as divisions and triumphs. They passed on the information we needed to assess and understand the divisions.

My family's choice was based on the Bible's exhortation to stand fast and hold the traditions we had been taught. Along with others in a basement 240 miles away from home, we found that freedom of speech was alive again, and we could worship once again as we were taught.

The church we attend is without question based on the doctrines and traditions of our past. Should the resurrection of the brethren who died in the faith take place tomorrow, they would recognize the church today.

Our church does have its problems: people's problems. Those are almost impossible to erase because living in society takes its toll on our attitudes.

I hope your publication will continue to promote and encourage freedom of speech. The integrity to relay the truth is a must. Our resumes as kings and priests must have truth as an established practice in spite of the cost. We are being groomed for a new world order in which the sin of silence and the fear of standing by the truth will be a curse of the past.

Randy Samson

Prince Albert, Sask., Canada

Respecting people

Since the first appearance of The Journal I have enjoyed the reading of this magazine. It gives an honest and open view of what is going on in the several Churches of God.

I am grateful, that The Journal exists, although I could not help that I found the news about the UCG-AIA a bit overdone. At last I understand this now. This had to be so, so that the readers would have been informed about the not-so-open mindedness and the not-so-united structure of the UCG-AIA. The reports about my fellow countryman Jan Zijderveld especially put a lot of question marks in my mind ["Dutch Employee Fired; Brethren Coming to His Aid," Jan. 30].

(However, I do admire Mrs. Monica Kieffer for the, in my opinion, open and objective way of reporting. And I do know that this type of reporting is painful for the reporter.)

However, the happenings at the Louisville conference ["United Conference Meets for Fourth Time; Council of Elders Chooses New President" and "Two Journal Writers Removed," March 30] rang a lot of alarm bells. With careful reading of The Journal, I could deduce that there were about a 300 elders with their wives assembled and this all at the cost of the money from the tithes and offerings of the members and coworkers.

A member also wishing to attend had to pay for his own traveling and lodging costs. Then during the session it was suddenly declared that the nonelders had to leave the conference.

I have never ever seen such a respect of persons during any conference, and that especially towards members who were paying themselves to be there and paying also for those elders who apparently do not want to see the money-givers there.

I noted that no resolution was passed to exclude nonelders and observers. In my opinion the reporters' removal was contrary to proper procedure.

Furthermore, I have also deduced that quite a few of these elders have also a salary paid by the UCG-AIA that is also from the tithes and offerings of the members. So quite a few were paid for their time, travel and lodging.

Any nonordained member had to sacrifice part of his income for being there. In this I am reminded of Hebrews 13:10: "We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle."

It looks like the times of the Middle Ages, that one has to pay for his own hangman or had to pay for food and shelter when imprisoned.

If this organization, the UCG-AIA, will continue to follow this path, then they will be instrumental in the prophecy about the scattering of the sheep.

The sheep are being and have been trained to turn against people without considering the merits of the issues involved, as they did against The Journal and its writers. Indeed, it appears many now turn against any who stand for the truth of the faith regardless of politics or persons.

So I would strongly recommend that The Journal continue in bringing the news as it should be: open, honest and calling things as they are without any respect of persons.

The sheep have to know what is going on, what they can expect and how they have to prepare themselves if they come to the conclusion that they have to pay, pray and have no say.

Bonne A. Rook

Via the Internet

Fined for home Bible study

On Sept. 15, 1997, Aymee and Abel Cepeda of Dade County, Fla., were fined $500. Their crime? Holding a Bible study in their home. Local officials said "conducting religious services in a residential district was an "unauthorized use" of the property.

Natives of Miami and the descendants of Cuban immigrants, the Cepedas didn't think such a thing was possible in America "I could not believe that in the United States we could not have a small religious gathering in our home," Aymee told me. "We were disillusioned and shocked by what happened."

The plight of the Cepedas, who are appealing the fine, is more than just a study of twisted zoning ordinances. It outlines why the State of Florida needs the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to protect our constitutional rights.

In 1878 the U.S. Supreme Court established what it called a "strict scrutiny" test for violating a person's exercise of religion. That meant the government needed to demonstrate a compelling governmental interest" if it violated someone's religious freedom. Only in instances of public safety, health or welfare, or when the constitutional rights of others were at stake, could government restrictions be imposed. That was the legal standard up until 1990, when the Supreme Court dropped the "compelling interest" standard in favor of an easier-to-satisfy rule in Employment Division vs. Smith.

The new test provided a much lower level of protection for religion. Congress, however, understood how this court decision eroded religious rights and would burden all faiths. In response, it enacted the RFRA of 1993, which revived the "compelling interest" standard. The law had nearly universal support as it sailed through the U.S. House on a unanimous vote and received a resounding 97-3 vote in the U.S. Senate. It was one of the few times traditional opponents like Sens. Jesse Helms and Ted Kennedy agreed on something, and groups as diverse as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Baptists also supported it.

But now the Supreme Court has struck down RFRA with a 6-3 vote in City of Boerne (Texas) vs. Flores. Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, said that Congress had no right to enlarge upon or make substantive definitions of religious liberty.

By declaring RFRA unconstitutional, the Supreme Court opened up the possibility that our religious freedoms might be seriously curtailed. According to Professor Robert George at Princeton University, Catholic students could be forbidden to wear the rosary around their necks in public schools; religious organizations could be required to hire openly homosexual employees even if that practice goes against church teaching; and religious activities in prison could be abolished.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court struck down RFRA, it did leave the door open for states to pass similar legislation. Rhode Island and Connecticut have already passed equivalent bills, and others are in the process of becoming law.

We here in Florida need to take similar action. As a diverse state with many faiths, everyone should have their First Amendment freedoms protected.

The government should be required to offer a compelling state interest" before it limits the exercise of religion. An unlikely coalition of 77 organizations supports this type of legislation including the ACLU, Christian Life Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and the American Jewish Congress.

On March 23 the Florida Constitution Revision Commission rejected putting a RFRA-type Constitutional Amendment on the November ballot. But Representative Bob Starks (R-Orlando) has introduced a similar bill in the state legislature, and Senator John Grant (R-Tampa) has proposed one in the Senate. The best solution to protect religious freedom would be for the legislature to pass a joint resolution to amend the state constitution. Floridians like Aymee and Abel Cepeda should not be harassed by government officials for simply exercising their constitutional rights.

Mark W. Merrill

Florida Family Council

Tampa, Fla.

The preceding letter is reprinted here by permission from the April 27 issue of The Santa Rosa Press Gazette, Milton, Fla.

Appearance of rudeness

I was disappointed to read [March 30] about the two Journal reporters being ordered out of the United Church of God general conference of elders on March 8. This appeared to be very rude.

The Journal is not a tabloid. In Transition and, later, The Journal have done an excellent job of keeping us informed about the various Churches of God during and since the WCG breakup in 1995.

Many of us especially appreciated the article in The Journal about the background of David Hulme's firing by the council of elders of the UCG [Jan. 30 issue]. This article was especially important because the UCG was (and still is) tight-lipped about the reason for Mr. Hulme's firing.

Perhaps if the UCG appointed a talented PR person to work with the media it would improve the image of the UCG.

Earl L. Cayton

San Francisco, Calif.

Take on Louisville

After reading Don Hooser's viewpoint as a minister of the incident in Louisville ["Slightly Different Viewpoint," page 11, April 30], I would like to offer a viewpoint from a member.

Mr. Hooser stated that he "asked God to forgive him if any part of his attitude was wrong." He stated that he was "not sure" if he clapped. He "thinks" his attitude was such-and-such.

Here is my question as a member: If he is not sure he was wrong, if he is not sure he clapped, and if he can't even be sure what his own attitude was, then how can he be so sure that Dixon Cartwright was in the wrong and should apologize? Is he even sure he was there?

He wants his friend Dixon to apologize, but I did not see a request from him that Bob Dick or Joel Meeker apologize for their actions. Why not? Are our leaders so above reproach that they can't set the example and apologize? If Mr. Hooser really wanted to see a Christian example set, then why not ask everyone involved in the incident, including the applauders, to apologize?

Mr. Hooser said Dixon's apology "would show that he is more concerned about the peace and welfare of the church than he was about his own hurt feelings."

Where is the apology from our leaders that would show peace and welfare for the church? Mr. Hooser also stated "that as Christians we [meaning ministers] would set the example."

What kind of example did one of our leaders--a member of the council of elders who started the ruckus to begin with--set?

Throughout his letter Mr. Hooser implied that Dixon was wrong, that Dixon should set the example and apologize. He remarked that Dixon was more concerned about his own hurt feelings than the welfare of the church. How much more judgmental can you get?

Did Mr. Hooser think he could ease the blow by calling Dixon a friend? Mr. Hooser, you should apologize to Dixon. You would think that as a minister you should know that it is God's job to judge, not yours.

It is always the same thing over and over and over again. The members should apologize; the members must turn the other cheek; the member is in a bad attitude; the members need to bow down in the presence of a minister, an elder or a deacon; etc.; etc.; etc. Enough is enough. We are not going to take it anymore.

When will ministers start to take responsibility for their actions?

There would not be a UCG-AIA if it were not for the members. The members were the ones to walk away from the heresy. The members asked you to go with us and teach us. The members were not the ones who had trouble resigning and who for months and months tried to justify the heresy by telling us to be patient and that they didn't mean this and they don't mean that, let's just wait and see, they aren't doing away with that doctrine, etc., etc., etc.

Ministers are supposed to be shepherds who feed and care for their flock. I wonder how some of you shepherds are going to answer God when He wants to know where the rest of His sheep are. Some shepherds had a flock of 200-300 people, yet when it was time to flee the heresy they had only 15-20 sheep follow them. The other sheep are out there somewhere, lost, confused, hurt, scared and angry.

An apology especially from the president and a certain board member would show that the ministers are more concerned about the peace and welfare of the church than they are about themselves. Dixon Cartwright was only trying to get the truth out to the sheep who make up your flock because, as all of us members know, we don't get the truth from our shepherds.

Name withheld

Dallas, Texas

A feather for Grandfather

Will someone please explain what it is about these Journal reporters that evokes such enmity and hostility in people, especially certain ministers in UCG-AIA? I don't get it. I mean the way these hostile UCG ministers act, one gets the impression that those reporters had just tripped their sweet little grandmother to get ahead of her in the potluck line. Can you imagine doing such a thing to your own sweet little grandmother? Perish the thought.

I can just visualize my own sweet little grandmother grabbing me by the scruff of the neck, dipping me into a tar vat and then rolling me through a heavily populated chicken coop, with a foot of manure on the floor, until a satisfactory number of feathers had stuck to my sorry, desperately abused, barely breathing carcass.

By this time I would have been regretting the little miscalculation of slightly underestimating my sweet little grandmother.

Can you imagine your own sweet little grandmother doing such a thing to you? Perish the thought.

The enmity against The Journal just doesn't add up. So, like a good Berean and Missourian, I decided to look into this horse's mouth for myself. That's a scriptural approach for those who like to think for themselves, much to the chagrin of those who like to do our thinking for us.

So, any-who-how, I called this Cartwright fellow: you know, the one who evokes all this enmity from some UCG ministers (in case you forgot) just because he is a Journal reporter.

And you know what? He sounds like a pretty decent fellow: not a sweet-little-grandmother tripper and a potluck-line jumper.

What's that, you ask? How do I know? It was in the sound of his voice. I judge the fruits of voices real well. Besides that, my wife is a Texican, and she says Texicans don't do stuff like that--or else. I had to agree. She had me outnumbered: her one and me one. She was in the majority. I've got to quit handicapping her.

This all makes me wonder: I still just don't get it. I mean this Cartwright fellow--him being a reporter and all that kinda jazz--and we know that good reporters search for facts--and give honest reporting--and--and--you know, come to think of it, some of these certain UCG ministers who have all this enmity and hostility against The Journal act like those who wouldn't be happy campers if certain factual bad news about the UCG were printed.

It might even expose wrongdoing and all that kinda jazz (Ephesians 5:11). You know, folks, it's kind of rare, but I think I'm beginning to get it.

The true-bad-news messenger gives the true bad news to the true-bad-news receiver. Then the true-bad-news receiver attacks the true-bad-news messenger, which is truly badder news than the true-bad-news messenger gave to the true-bad-news receiver in the first place. Are you confused yet? I am. Furthermore, maybe I just don't get it again. I've got to quit outsmarting--I mean confusing--myself.

The moral of this story is for all those UCG ministers who have enmity and hostility for The Journal to start putting their sweet little grandmothers ahead of themselves in the potluck line. Do the same for the crabby, cantankerous, sweet little grandmothers too. It might be good practice for improving your disposition toward Journal writers.

I submitted this satire to two silver-haired Church of God matriarchs (sweet little grandmothers) for their approval. They said: "Go for it, sonny. But remember this. If you change one word it's tar and feathers and the heavily populated chicken coop for you."

I broke into a cold sweat. My mouth felt like cotton. I screamed, "No! No!" Then I heard a soft voice--a sweet voice--a sweet little grandmother's voice. It was the voice of my beloved saying, "Bob, Bob, wake up. Get those feathers out of your mouth and hair. You broke your pillow. Help me pick up all these feathers."

Robert H. Madison

Conneaut Lake, Pa.

The dark side

I have just heard about the incident in Louisville regarding the removal of the reporters for The Journal. How sad.

Once again those who we are supposed to be the light to, and the salt of, hear and see only the dark side of our conduct. I can't help but ask: What is the lasting impression made on the minds of each of the hotel-management personnel, the employees, the security guards (including those sent to remove the offending individuals) and the innocent visitors and guests who overheard or saw or were personally involved in the incident?

What stumbling blocks were planted in their minds to be overcome when God reveals His plan to them?

Good news travels fast. Bad news travels like wildfire, torching everything in sight, leaving in its wake a blackened and desolate view.

I heard that several individuals clapped a hearty round of approval, that some stood to do this. I see we have not learned much since January 1979, when on a Sabbath afternoon during services Rod Meredith read a hand-delivered letter via Stanley Rader from Mr. Armstrong in Tucson announcing the disfellowshipment of several leading evangelists and ministers.

The attending members rose to a cheering, whistling and clapping ovation of approval as these men were consigned by this act (as we were taught and believed) to Satan and eternal damnation unless they repented of whatever they were charged with and did things the organization's way.

Those who chose to remain seated and silent were ridiculed and accused of disloyalty.

I wish one of those attending had stood and said, "If they go, I go, and I invite all who feel the same way to come along." How easy it is to go along with mob mentality. As the words of the song state so clearly, you've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything.

Gail Donahue

Alhambra, Calif.

What to do if you like grits

After reading Don Hooser's mea culpa for the conduct of the collective general assembly of elders applauding the ejection of Dixon Cartwright and Bill Stough from their question-and-answer session ["Slightly Different Viewpoint," page 11, April 30], I would like to offer my own list of the top seven reasons the applause in Louisville just happened to occur while Mr. Cartwright and Mr. Stough were being accompanied out of the hall by security personnel.

7. The air-conditioning system in the room was turned down too low and those applauding were merely trying to restore the circulation to their frostbitten fingers.

6. The meeting room had lots of flies in it. Fly-swatters being in short supply and bug spray an unacceptable toxic alternative, the gallant men (and some of the gallant women) had chosen to use their hands to rid the area of this public-health menace. The break in the proceedings had given them their first chance to exercise this option and get rid of all those icky flies.

5. Many of the general-conference members and spouses felt left out, and the applause was a nice way to give the whole audience a chance to take a more active role in the proceedings.

4. Some of the council of elders (because of the monotony of the proceedings) were dozing off. The applause was a subtle and discreet way to awaken the sleepy council members.

3. The applause was preplanned to occur during the first prolonged silent period in the proceedings as a way for the collective general conference to find something--anything--on which they could all agree so they could carry out the council's mandated unity pledge. Messrs. Stough's and Cartwright's serendipitous ejection was just one of those interesting coincidences of history.

2. Mr. Cartwright and Mr. Stough had secretly put clap if you like grits signs on their backsides, and the audience was merely expressing its culinary preference for breakfast.

And now the No. 1 reason that the applause in Louisville just happened to occur while the two Journal writers were being accompanied out of the hall by security personnel:

1. Mr. Dick (in the spirit of King Darius; see Daniel 6:1-14) really wanted to find some way to deal with Joel Meeker's parliamentary faux pas, but he couldn't remember exactly why the Meeker outburst was uncalled for, and in his frustration he muttered (slightly off mike), "Oh, crap," which some in the audience heard as, "Oh, clap," and being thus directed complied with their boss's perceived directive.

What makes Mr. Hooser's letter all the more discouraging to read is the reality that he is one of the more discerning of the ministry in United. He is, to date, the only elder to publicly admit and apologize for some of the excesses that he and his colleagues committed in the name of "the government of God" under Mr. Armstrong's troubled last years of administration of the Worldwide Church of God.

It is unsettling to think that one of the brighter and nobler of our shepherds could indulge himself in such an exercise of rationalization over this matter.

There are those in the ministry of Jesus Christ who still don't get it as far as the significance of The Journal and why it is so important to the Sabbatarian Church of God diaspora. They look at The Journal and all they see is a lot of anger, pettiness, resentment, contention, strife, self-justification, accusation and even bitterness. And, in some cases, they are right.

What seems less apparent to our collective ministry (and should be screaming at them) is the implicit vote of no confidence that each reader of The Journal (and every hit on its Internet site) expresses in their failed leadership and shepherding of God's people. Jesus Christ (as Scott Ashley so eloquently wrote in The Journal) treated His disciples as friends and did not withhold from them what He was doing (John 15:12-17).

Does anybody really think that they will learn more (or even just as much) about the goings-on in the various Church of God organizations by reading their member letters and official newsletters or visiting their Internet Web sites? If so, then do this: Go back over the last year and look at all your organization's utterances to you, and then look at The Journal for the past year. Who has been more open and transparent, more honest with the facts, more fair in giving the chance for all sides to be heard on any particular issue?

How many of you would feel as open and free to discuss with your local ministry the burdens that trouble you, the doubts that assail you or the questions that remain unanswered as you are able to do in the pages of The Journal? For too many people to even suggest such a course of action as that with their local ministry is to open them to ridicule at best and to being branded as a divisive trouble-maker and bad influence needing to be watched closely and possibly disfellowshipped at worst.

For too many of God's people The Journal is the friend and confidant that their ministry was supposed to be but is not. Thanks for the chance to sound off. Please keep on keeping on, and should you publish this letter please withhold my name to protect my service opportunities in the congregation from revocation by my well-intentioned pastor.

Name and location withheld

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