Philadelphia Church of God founder Gerald Flurry
in Texas for campaign, talks about lawsuit
(Part 1)
By Dixon Cartwright

TYLER, Texas--Gerald Flurry, founder and pastor general of the Philadelphia Church of God, preached two sermons here the evenings of Feb. 22 and 23 as the main events of his new "America in Crisis" campaign.

Mr. Flurry, at age 63 the leader of 7,000 Church of God brethren who attend congregations sponsored by the Edmond, Okla.-headquartered PCG, spoke out on the immorality of America and called for Church of God members and people everywhere to recognize the importance of Herbert W. Armstrong and two books, Mystery of the Ages and Malachi's Message.

Mystery of the Ages (originally published by Dodd, Mead & Co.) was Mr. Armstrong's magnum opus. He wrote the book in 1985, completing it just months before he died. Mr. Flurry later wrote Malachi's Message in 1989. PCG prospective members are counseled to read both books before being invited to Sabbath services.

Mr. Armstrong, who died in January 1986, was the founder of the Radio Church of God, which became the Worldwide Church of God in 1968. The WCG, over the years, has spun off hundreds of mostly Sabbath-keeping groups. The largest are the United Church of God, an International Association, headquartered in Milford, Ohio, and the Philadelphia Church of God.

(Until recently the Global Church of God, Escondido, Calif., was the second-largest WCG offshoot, but that changed when Global founder Roderick Meredith and Global separated last November and Dr. Meredith founded the Living Church of God.)

Mr. Flurry's ministry has not been without its controversies. He and the PCG are accused of exclusivism, legalism and a narrow interpretation of Scripture that incorporates extrabiblical writings on a level with the Bible. His detractors also accuse him of placing too much emphasis on, or even worshiping, Mr. Armstrong.

Mr. Flurry denies he places too much emphasis on Mr. Armstrong and his writings. Mr. Armstrong was the end-time Elijah of Scripture, he says, quoting Matthew 11 and other references, and the brethren of the Churches of God, as well as the masses of humanity, will have to come to realize that.

Open meetings

Although Mr. Flurry is criticized for not having an open-door policy for Sabbath services, the meetings here were wide open. Attenders did have to call an 800 number beforehand to request tickets, but they were readily available.

Both nights' services began with the remarkable range and intensity of soprano Paula Malone of Edmond, who rang the rafters with "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Speaking before Mr. Flurry on respective evenings were Mr. Flurry's son Stephen, who serves the church as managing editor of its flagship magazine, The Philadelphia Trumpet, and Ron Fraser, who pastors congregations in the Midwest and Southwest and directs the news bureau at church headquarters in Oklahoma.

Mr. Flurry spoke of his happiness at the Feb. 8 court decision in Los Angeles in favor of the PCG in its efforts to widely distribute Mystery of the Ages. (See also The Journal's interview with Mr. Flurry beginning on page 1.)

In introducing his father, Stephen Flurry mentioned that, with the February issue, for the first time since its founding in February 1990 The Philadelphia Trumpet had reached the 100,000 circulation mark. Indeed, circulation has doubled in the last nine months.

A growing part of the distribution nowadays is by newsstand. That's evident to residents of East Texas, who see the Trumpet ubiquitously displayed at stores, gas stations and airports, many times alongside the United Church of God's magazine, The Good News.

Also, like United, the PCG plans to make use of Reader's Digest ads to expand circulation in this country and elsewhere.

"As Trumpet readers," said the younger Mr. Flurry, "we certainly do consider all of you as part of our extended family. If you're not a subscriber, join the family, then tell your friends about it as well."

Stephen introduced his father as a "voice crying out again in the tradition of Herbert W. Armstrong." Mr. Armstrong has been dead for 13 years, but his message lives on because of Gerald Flurry and the Philadelphia Church of God, said Stephen. "Gerald Flurry was a student, or a disciple, you might say, of Herbert W. Armstrong."

He noted that his father had graduated from Ambassador College in 1970, then entered the full-time ministry of the WCG, which sponsored the college.

The WCG fired Mr. Flurry in 1989, said his son, because "he held fast to the teachings of the late Mr. Armstrong while the church Mr. Armstrong had raised up was rapidly turning away from those teachings."

The WCG's splits began in earnest in 1993, and in 1995 the largest spin-off started: the United Church of God. But in 1989, although the doctrinal changes that were to come were not as apparent, Gerald Flurry (said his son) "saw what was happening" and acted accordingly, founding the Philadelphia Church of God Dec. 16, 1989.

Gerald Flurry speaks

Early in his sermon Mr. Flurry quoted Mr. Armstrong as saying in 1981 that moral decay was becoming more dangerous than a nuclear weapon. The Philadelphia leader picked up that theme and ran with it, talking about the scourge of pornography, even criticizing the hotel in which he was conducting his campaign. The Sheraton, he charged, makes millions of dollars a year from renting "adult videos" to its customers.

America has become a "spiritual pigsty," he said, and its citizens have come to accept that "porn is chic."

America has its crisis of morality, especially involving smut on the newsstand and the Internet, but an even more serious crisis, said the Oklahoma evangelist, involves the people of the Churches of God.

"This world needs to be warned as never before," he declared, but the brethren are too busy fighting among themselves to do the work God wants them to be doing.

That work, Mr. Flurry said, is the proclaiming of a warning, and an integral part of that warning is that "Herbert W. Armstrong was the end-time Elijah."

Mr. Flurry commented that the "top men" in the WCG who surrounded Mr. Armstrong in his lifetime believed he was the end-time Elijah, but most of those men either changed their minds or are knowingly ignoring Mr. Armstrong's pivotal role in prophecy and end-time events.

Mr. Flurry quoted Matthew 17:10-11 and Malachi 4:5-6 to show that someone the Bible calls Elijah would live and do a work in an era long after the original, literal, Old Testament Elijah the prophet had died.

"We [the PCG] do believe with all our being that Mr. Armstrong was that end-time Elijah," he said. "I don't know of any other [Church of God] group that says Mr. Armstrong fulfilled the role that he said he did."

To prove to his audience that Mr. Armstrong was Elijah and that the crisis of morality in America "revolves around that man," he turned to Acts 3:19, about the "restitution of all things." Restitution means restoration, and, if you're going to "restore all things," you have to bring back something that once existed, then later did not exist.

Then he cited verses beginning with Matthew 17 and the transfiguration, the vision that showed Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah. He quoted Jesus as saying, "Elijah shall truly first come and restore all things" (verse11).

"Now, that tells you that religion would be in pretty terrible decay when that man [the end-time Elijah] would come on the scene. This is a major, major pivotal prophecy in your Bible, and Jesus Christ said it has to be fulfilled 'before I return.' Some man, a human being, just like me or you, has to return to this earth and restore all things. You ought to be able to see that unless you're blind."

John the Baptist was a "type of Elijah," said Mr. Flurry, "and Mr. Armstrong was a type . . . There was a first-century Elijah who was John the Baptist, and there was an end-time Elijah who would restore all things. Now, surely if we're sharp spiritually we ought to know about that. It's one of the major prophecies in the Bible."

First Elijah would restore all things in the church, then he would restore all things for the world.

John the Baptist did not restore anything, maintained Mr. Flurry. That restoration had to wait for a "human leader to be raised up somewhat shortly before Christ's second coming to prepare the way for the truth that had been lost through the preceding eras of the church."

Mr. Flurry seemed to be saying that there had to be an end-time Elijah because the Bible said there would be an Elijah that would "restore all things." This could not have been John the Baptist, because, although Jesus called him "Elijah," he did not restore anything. Therefore there has to be another Elijah in the very end time.

Mr. Armstrong was that Elijah because he restored all things to the church. That's something that Mr. Armstrong admitted in Mystery of the Ages.

Mr. Flurry acknowledged that not everyone would agree with him on the identify of the end-time Elijah, "and if you disagree I think we can disagree without being disagreeable."

Yet, when the gospel was preached around the world "and an end-time Elijah died, it was like a countdown to destruction, and these prophecies in Matthew 24 will be fulfilled so fast that your head will spin."

Mr. Armstrong is "like a signal," he said, that means mankind is facing the tribulation and Day of the Lord.

Mr. Flurry quoted from 2 Thessalonians 2 concerning the prophesied great falling away, which he said is fulfilled in the present splits and resplits of the Churches of God whose roots were in the Worldwide Church of God.

Satan struck at the heart of the work that God's people should be doing when he tried to destroy Mr. Armstrong's book Mystery of the Ages, the PCG leader said.

But the favorable decision by Judge Spencer Letts (even though Mr. Flurry expects it may be appealed and go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court) opens the door to accomplishing the end-time work that God wants Philadelphia and the other Churches of God to do.

"There is a civil war going on in the Church of God," said Mr. Flurry, referring to the splits, "and it's over government."

He believes that "95 percent of God's people today are blind." The Church of God, he says, finds itself in the midst of the Laodicean era, as prophesied in Revelation 3. The aptly named Philadelphia Church of God is the core of the Philadelphia era of the church, and if the Laodiceans don't climb aboard they will die physically and--if they don't repent--spiritually.

Somebody, as mentioned in Matthew 10, must take the end-time message of the end-time Elijah door to door, from city to city.

"Is that happening?" asked Mr. Flurry. "Well, of course, I believe these campaigns that we are starting are a fulfillment of this prophecy. I believe I could show you other scriptures to prove that to you. It's a job I believe we will not finish, simply because time is running out. God is not going to hold back anymore; He's going to let things run wild. He says He will let us have leaders who are like little children" who have "no understanding."

God is love, and God doesn't want anyone to suffer, "but what can God do if people won't listen, and what can He do with His own people when they reject Him and choose to be blind?"

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