Letters from our readers

Just in time

Re issue No. 29, June 30, page 13, "Postponing: It'sJust a Matter of Time," by Darlene Warren:

What a refreshing breeze to offset the hot, humid air ofdisagreement, disgruntlement and dissension among the Churches of God. Ionly hope all the readership and/or contributors of viewpoints can lightenup for five minutes by reading your delightful article. From now on I thinkI will respond to those who ask me about calendar cogitations and legalruminations: "Personally, I follow the Potluck Method."

And what do you know? I will have created yet another schism--allby myself. Thanks for the lighter side.

Jerry McClenagan

Amarillo, Texas

What's happening?

I read with interest David Sheridan's version of the LivingChurch's struggle to control the corporation in the British Isles ["What'sHappening With Living in U.K.?," May 31].

My wife and I are both British born and U.S. citizens andobserved the WCG's presence in Britain since the early '60s. We have beenmembers of the Global and Living headquarters churches since their movingto San Diego in '94.

[The Global Church of God established headquarters in SanDiego in 1993. A split in Global resulted in two churches headquarteredin San Diego in 1998: Global and Living. Since then Global has disbandedand its elders have formed the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship, FortWorth, Texas. Living is still based in San Diego.]

We [in Living] have been hearing reports of Mr. Sheridan'sdisruptive behavior for some time. In his rebuff of Mr. [Roderick] Meredith'srecent action against him, Mr. Sheridan mentioned discussion of his ownpast sins but did not describe his criminal record and time spent in prison.

Those who have known him over the years also claim Mr.Sheridan was never ordained in the church. Perhaps he would care to commenton these points before attempting to condemn Mr. Meredith's actions in anyfurther editorials.

Of course, we as Christians can overlook a repentant person'ssins, but unfortunately, as Mr. Sheridan is well aware, neither the churchnor the British government can look favorably upon someone with a criminalrecord holding a position in a corporate body that must be seen to be abovereproach, given the scrutiny each "American religion" undergoesin the British Isles.

We should bear in mind Mr. Herbert Armstrong's teachingthat the church is not a corporate organization; it is a "spiritualorganism."

Mr. Sheridan refers to Carl McNair coming to Scotland andtreating the running of the corporation as subject to that in the UnitedStates.

May I say we must also obey the law of the land, but wemust submit ourselves to those ordained loyal evangelists Christ has placedover us to run the spiritual organism. The corporations are in existenceonly to support the structure of the Body of Christ and to satisfy the authoritiesin each country.

Mr. Sheridan seems to place so much importance on his involvementin the setting up of the U.K. corporation that he forgets this vital pointand is now fighting against the establishment of a respectable leadershipin the U.K. by any part he has played in the blocking of Doug Winnail'stransfer there.

No doubt the British consulate in Los Angeles would havecontacted the LCG company secretary in the U.K. in order to verify Mr. Winnail'stransfer application and offer of employment.

As one who has established corporations in the United Statesand Canada and executed intercompany transfers (of personnel from one countryand one corporation to another), I can tell Journal readers that everythingon that application is thoroughly checked in both countries.

I hope Mr. Sheridan will accept the church's ruling inthis matter and cease to hinder the work of the Living Church of God inthe British Isles, leaving the final judgment of his treatment to JesusChrist.

Brian Harris

Oceanside, Calif.

Because of the seriousness of Mr. Harris's allegation thatMr. Sheridan has served time in prison, The Journal asked Mr. Sheridan fora response to that specific part of Mr. Harris's letter.

If Mr. Sheridan wishes to respond to the other points inMr. Harris's letter, he is welcome to submit comments to be considered forfuture issues.

"Brian Harris should be made aware of two very importantpoints," Mr. Sheridan responded: "(a) that God has called morepeople who are sinners than who are not; and (b) it is an offense in theU.K. and Northern Ireland for any person who has gained any informationabout a person who has been rehabilitated in terms of the Rehabilitationof Offenders Acts to divulge in any manner such information on pain of beingconvicted and they themselves become a convicted person. It is very sadwhen people feel they have to resort to this level of smear . . .

"A person who descends to the level of repeating gossipwith the sole purpose of diverting people's attention away from the truthof a message and onto the messenger reveals a lack of integrity both morallyand spiritually.

"Christians must not look upon a repentant person'spast sins but rather should be striving to strengthen such a one in theirresolve to change, by their prayers and also by providing practical helpand support."

Restoring to fellowship

Thanks for the continuing coverage of cases like the TimLindholms' and David Sheridan's ["Members' Suspension Appeal Unsettledand Unsettling After Three Years," June 30, and "The Living Churchof God Detonates in United Kingdom," May 31].

There are obvious parallels between how the Living Churchof God has treated David Sheridan and how the UCG-AIA has an opportunityto treat the Lindholms.

In a larger perspective other issues are involved thatare showing distinct differences between the LCG and UCG-AIA that transcendthe important issue around the Lindholms. I would like to illustrate someof these differences.

As we have seen with the recent case of Raymond McNair[see "CGCF President Resigns, Moves to Living Church," page 1of this issue], it is possible for the LCG to make open and substantialrepair with someone who was essentially disfellowshipped and marked fromthe congregation, even without a formal procedure of appeals.

However, in Mr. McNair's case it was essential for himto unconditionally surrender completely to the entire list of requirementsas laid out by Roderick Meredith, Carl McNair and Richard Ames. We couldexpect future cases in the LCG to be heard similarly, and whether completesurrender would be required or not would depend on who was hearing the case.

The Lindholms have been presented a specific list, and,as they have indicated in their response, they agree with the points asstated except for the one concerning Bible study in their home.

In general, their disagreement touches on whether UCG-AIAmembers can be involved in spiritual production (permission is obviouslyless than the outright expectation of members being able either to evangelizeor produce spiritual materials).

Over the past five years I have had spiritual interactionwith many members of the UCG-AIA through the Internet, and through thisexchange I have come to agree strongly that the governance model of thetraditional WCG was not a one-size-fits-all model that works in every case.

At issue in the Lindholms' case is the extent to whichmembers will be involved in either home Bible studies or other spiritualoutlets, including the production of spiritual media (because what's thedifference between saying it and writing it down?).

In offering to hear all cases, the UCG-AIA is already demonstratinga more open and procedurally based governance structure, even if perhapssome may want peer groups (other members) to hear the case.

By contrast, the Living Church of God accepted Mr. McNairbased on the critical fact that the governance structure as implementedby Living is superior and represents God's will. Based on the apparent cultureat the LCG, David Sheridan would have to at minimum do a complete retractionof previously printed statements and come to unconditionally accept thetranscendent authority of the American LCG over the British LCG.

Additionally, let's not forget two important underlyingconcepts in incorporating churches: (1) the validation and establishmentof spiritual authority and (2) the collection and distribution of money.Both issues are "established" by the right to incorporate.

Given the issues at hand, it appears the UCG-AIA can reestablishthe Lindholms to fellowship after being more specific, not on Bible studies,but on the more sensitive and pressing issues of spiritual authority andmoney.

Finally, here are my own viewpoints on these issues. Ibelieve that ministry does not result from a salary and title; instead,I support what the Christian world calls "the priesthood of believers";namely, that the membership of the church has the individual and collectivecommand from Jesus Christ to spiritually witness both in person and throughmedia.

I believe the structure of the New Testament church (regardlessof century) is necessarily almost flat because in any century each believerhas direct connection to Jesus and the Holy Spirit (the veil being gone).

I believe that evangelism cannot be a job that we pay otherpeople to do (through tithing or any other means), because when Jesus spokein Matthew 28 he was speaking to individual Christians.

And, when it comes to restoring to fellowship, I believeas per the early WCG writings that the community or congregation has tobe involved and essentially know the issues and as a group accept or rejectcertain members to fellowship.

Mark Tabladillo

Dunwoody, Ga.

Coffee's on

When the United Church of God, an International Association,formed, its purpose was to hold onto our foundation. It was also to havea different atmosphere from the WCG. The flock was to have more input. Thecongregations were to have a say in their operation.

What has gone wrong? Has the UCG-AIA lost its way?

The Bible is our map, our guide, through all areas of ourChristian life. Our shepherds need to follow the same examples as we dofrom the Scriptures. Can they treat others (members) any way they want?Can they show disrespect and a lack of love (agape)? They preach to us aboutshowing love to others. Aren't they to practice what they preach?

From the articles in the June 30, 2000, issue of The Journalconcerning the suspended (not disfellowshipped) UCG-AIA members still unresolvedafter three years, and the attitudes concerning the Milwaukee split as reportedin the Dec. 13, 1999, issue, it appears that they aren't practicing whatthey preach and haven't learned from past abuses.

Our local congregation (UCG-AIA) is dysfunctional. I wonderhow many others are.

The light of support that my wife and I have for the UCG-AIAis dimming. It can't be business as usual. Shepherds, wake up and smellthe coffee!

Name and location withheld

Strong personalities

This is just a few lines to offer words of encouragementto Tim Lindholm and his wife and the other families who have been caughtup in this terrible situation, which clearly has gone on for far too long[see "Members' Suspension Appeal Unsettled and Unsettling After ThreeYears," June 30].

It is also to state that you have clearly taken a bravedecision in printing an article that draws attention to a body to whichmany of your readers belong. We pray that you will not become a victim ofthis situation purely because you have maintained editorial integrity byreporting the facts as known by you.

Several points have emerged from my reading of both thearticles covering this matter:

  • The length of time this issue has taken to get to the stage it is now at is a disgrace. Such delay could easily be avoided if, not only proper procedures were in place, but if time limits for each step were included.
  • Both the main parties to this dispute are clearly men with strong personalities. They both need to humble themselves in the sight of God and seek a speedy resolution in the interest of unity and harmony.
  • Clearly the pastor must not only show a willingness to act upon the instruction from his superiors in the administrative hierarchy to reconcile outstanding differences, but also realize that there is a great onus upon him as one who holds himself out as a minister of Jesus Christ to resolve this matter in a way that is pleasing to Christ.

The UCG-AIA is not the only Church of God organizationthat suffers from problems that have their basis in men's misunderstandingthat, while there is a hierarchical structure involved as of necessity inthe administration of the corporate body, this structure does not extendto the spiritual structure; that is, the Church of God.

One man may indeed be an apostle while another may be anelder, but both can function in unity and harmony only when they truly serveChrist and each other without seeking preeminence or glory for themselves.

The greatest cause of divisions in the Churches of Godis the unwillingness of men (and women) to truly serve one another. Rather,they allow themselves to be served. We all need to recognize this failingin our lives and seek to emulate the example Christ set for all of us.

David Sheridan

Haddington, Scotland

Yes or no?

After reading Eric Snow's last letter to the editor ["AltruisticPaternalism," June 30, page 2], I would like to ask Mr. Snow if hewould be so kind as to answer a couple of simple questions regarding whathe thinks ministers have the authority to do.

  • Do ministers have the authority over a member's salvation?
  • Do ministers have the authority over what a member reads?
  • Do ministers have the authority over what a member believes? Do ministers have the authority over a member's choice of spouse?
  • Do ministers have the authority to tell prospective members they need to divorce a spouse before they can be baptized?
  • Do ministers have the authority to break up families?
  • Do ministers have the authority to decide if a member is ready for baptism?
  • If ministers have the authority to decide when someone is ready for baptism, and since baptism is a salvation issue, doesn't that mean that they would in fact have authority over their salvation?
  • Do ministers have the authority to prevent a member from partaking of the Passover­Lord's Supper?
  • Do ministers have the authority to separate anyone from God?
  • Do ministers have the authority to tell members whom they can and cannot have fellowship with?

These are just a few simple questions I'd appreciate afew simple answers to.

Bryn Hendrickson

Brooklyn Center, Minn.

1 Timothy 5:17 mistranslated

A few comments on Eric Snow's letter of June 30 seem appropriate.Anyone discussing the "role" of elders understands that whereelders exist there necessarily exists the counterpart nonelders. So Mr.Snow's Hebrews 13:24 reference was superfluous.

Relevant to the discussion is how elders are "to lead,"whether eldership constitutes a higher spiritual "class," as Mr.Snow believes, and whether "spiritual labor" is to be done onlyby a small segment of the spiritual body.

Mr. Snow states: "The Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich Greek-EnglishLexicon plainly indicates that the NASB has correctly translated the mostcontroversial word in this verse: 'Let the elders who rule well ...'"

The "controversial" word Mr. Snow refers to isproistemi. Lexicons of New Testament Greek, including Bauer's, collectivelygive proistemi definitions like "to care for, to give aid, to giveattention to, to be active in helping, to do good." They also showthe classical "to rule" definition.

The fact that the term was used of rulers in the ancientgentile world in no way supports rulership within Jesus' Body. We see inLuke 22 that these gentile rulers exercised authority over people and demandedtitles of honor such as "benefactor": one who "cares for"the people. Jesus deplores this exercising of authority while taking ontitles like "benefactor" or "minister."

In Matthew Jesus says we are not to be "called Rabbi;for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers"--showing that brethren,under Him as Head, are of one class: brothers.

Yet, in Hebrews 5, brethren are rebuked for having notyet developed as teachers. Teaching is a function in the church, but notto be a title, rank or class.

The only authority a teacher has is God's Word. The apostlesperformed a special function in delivering His Word to us. Teachers mustspeak according to all that the Word of God commands. Anything taught thatdoesn't square with God's Word should be discarded.

Assuming 1 Timothy 5:16-17 refers to the plurality of eldersin each congregation having a spiritual role, let's investigate whetherproistemi indicates they are to care for their brethren or to rule overthem.

It should come as no surprise that Bauer assigns 1 Timothy5:17 to the "to rule" definition; he does this whenever eldersare specifically mentioned in the context.

However, there is absolutely no grammatical reason forthis assignment. Proistemi takes a genitive inflection with either definition,just as the English always takes the objective case ("rule/care forthem," not "rule/care for they").

Bauer's decision here is theologically based, not basedon any "syntactical/grammatical reason," as Mr. Snow wrongly assertsin his Internet paper. No such reasons exist.

Most lexicons are written by men who consider themselvesto be part of a "clergy" class. So it's no surprise that, likesupporting the personage of the Spirit, etc., they usually support hierarchyin the body of brethren, disregarding Jesus' admonitions.

1 Timothy 3:4-5, which is concerned with the several eldersof a congregation, sheds light on the ruling-over-vs.-caring-for question:

"For if a man know not how to rule [proistemi] hisown house, how shall he take care of the church of God?"

The word for "take care of" here is epimeleomai,meaning "to take care of a person or thing." Epimeleomai neverconnotes "to rule" or to manage people like pawns on a chessboard.

Nobody would ask: If a man know not how to repair car motors,how could he possibly grow a flower garden?

Paul uses proistemi in the sense that corresponds to epimeleomai,whose only other New Testament use concerns the good Samaritan "takingcare of" the wounded man.

Paul doesn't compare apples and oranges or mechanics andgardeners or rulers and carers. The gist must be that, if a man does noteven rightly care for his family, how could he be expected to care for (alongwith the plurality of other elders) his brethren in a particular congregation--withproistemi meaning "to care for" or "to actively give help."

Here is a passage in which elders are instructed to activelycare for their brethren:

"I have coveted no one's silver or gold or clothes.You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to themen who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard inthis manner you must help the weak [astheneo] and remember the words ofthe Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than toreceive'" (Acts 20:33-35, NASB).

New Testament lexicons give this word (astheneo), whichmany Bibles translate "weak," the definitions "economicallyin need, poor, economically weak, needy," etc. (Herodotus, in his Histories,uses astheneo to describe the poor who couldn't afford costly methods ofembalming.)

The context also supports the economic sense. Paul didnot say that, as he had worked to pay for the needs of his traveling companions,these elders were also to labor to preach to people.

That would make no sense. If that had been his intent,he would have said something like: "I have spent many hours counselingpeople and encouraging them. In all this I have given you an example thatby doing the same you should strengthen the weak."

The group of elders from the Ephesus congregation wereto financially support their poor brethren in the same way Paul had providedfor others: by earning money with their own hands.

There is no introductory description of New Testament "elders,"so it can be assumed that their function was an adoption of the role ofthe elders of Israel. Neither the elders of Israel nor of the early churchhad what we might call "jobs" as elders; they just were the eldersof the congregation or community.

Elders had been around a while, having adult children whowere believers (Titus 1:6). They were locally established. There were severalin each church. As we read in 1 Corinthians, the whole church was involvedin worship services with members' spiritual gifts; the several elders weren'tburdened with sermon production.

Acts 20:33-35 underlines that there were no career eldersin the early church.

Paul encouraged all the Corinthian brethren to seek thegift of prophecy. He said, "You may all prophesy one by one, that allmay learn and all may be encouraged."

The first all is the same group as the second and thirdall. There was not a select group that learned and was encouraged.

Hebrews 10:25 says when saints assemble they are to exhortone another. The one exhorted submits to the exhorter, and they both, inexhorting each other, submit to one another. But all are to edify the church.

It is a misguided notion that anyone who exercises giftsof the Spirit must be in some position of authority over those who benefitfrom the exercising of those gifts.

As to Romans 10, Paul's argument is that the gospel ofsalvation through Jesus had not been far away and inaccessible to Paul'sfellow Israelites, Paul himself having been one of the preachers of it.

The example of Acts 8 shows all the brethren, except theapostles, going about preaching the gospel in Judea and Samaria.

Ephesians 4 says God gave the original apostles and othergifts for the purpose of equipping all His people for "the work ofministry."

The idea that only a small percentage of saints are tospiritually minister is not of God. It developed during the early dark centuriesof organized religion. People were persuaded to give up on the Sabbath andother laws because they had submitted to a hierarchy of men rather thanto God.

Yes, there is division of labor, with all given a differentspiritual gift or gifts for ministering. We all need to become spiritualexperts, not sitting nightly in front of sitcoms while paying some preachersto tickle our ears.

Name withheld


It's just war

It is interesting to compare the approaches of Anton Bruggerand Ron L. Dart in two successive issues of The Journal ("They FollowedTheir Faith," by Richard Nickels, Jan. 31, 2000, and "CEM FounderAnswers Questions About Sabbath Observance and Christmas Music," Feb.29).

Over the years I have discussed Mr. Dart's approach withCOG members, and briefly by E-mail with Mr. Dart himself, which he courteouslyacknowledged.

In running his ministry for the last several years, hehas not selfishly aggrandized, as have the Church of God groups. He is notprimarily interested in getting someone into his group. He shoots straight,such as when he discussed his belief of a "just war" in the Feb.29 article.

He openly says what he believes, so we can freely discussthese two approaches to the commandments: Mr. Dart's and Mr. Brugger's.

Anton Brugger was a German Seventh-day Adventist who refusedto join the German army at the time of World War II. His church, which hadopposed killing and Sabbath-breaking, capitulated in the face of opposition.It supported and joined Hitler's army.

Very few of its members refused to compromise; most changedtheir beliefs in this time of persecution. Herr Brugger was executed forrefusing to compromise his obedience to God's law and his service to Christ,his Master.

On the other hand, Ron Dart promotes the approach of convenientobedience. The Church of God International, which Mr. Dart helped establish,has long advocated the practice of working on the Sabbath if that seemednecessary for an individual until God could make it easy for that individualto obey the Fourth Commandment.

Mr. Dart has said that if he could save someone's lifeby telling a lie he would do it in an instant: The Good Lie.

He has said that it is always right to defend yourselfif someone is attacking you. Kill him before he kills you. If the bombsare dropping on your head in London, then it must be right to kill thosewho are bombing you.

In each of these examples, the absolutes of the law--keepthe Sabbath holy, don't lie, and don't kill--are overruled by the judgmentof the individual in the situation.

The WCG, as I understand from some articles, has a somewhatsimilar approach. Its leaders say that the absolute law of the Ten Commandmentswas replaced by the law of love. This means that in any situation the individualdetermines right and wrong according to his judgment with the love thatis in him.

The WCG, though, places no value at all on the Ten Commandments,while the approach of Ron Dart gives support to the Ten Commandments andoverrules them--that is, breaks them--only when necessary. This approachamounts to advocating lawfulness without having the inconvenience of alwaystrying to obey the law: convenient obedience.

This goes back to one of the basic arguments in Eden. Satansaid Eve and Adam could be as gods, knowing good and evil. The differencebetween God and every other being is that God determines right and wrong,with the law of God. The way that any other being can claim to be God isto determine, apart from Him, what is good and evil.

This is what situation ethics and the WCG's law of lovedo: They take away the determining of right and wrong from God and giveit to each individual.

He says, "You shall not lie." You say, "IfI can do good by telling a lie, then I shall lie."

He says, "Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy."You say: "If I don't work on the Sabbath, I will lose my job. ThereforeI will remember the job and keep it holy until they don't conflict."

He says, "You shall not kill." You say: "Sometimesit's necessary to kill. Therefore I will kill only those who deserve tobe killed."

This is the ultimate idolatry. You have taken the veryplace of God Himself in decreeing right and wrong.

Mr. Dart mentioned just wars and unjust wars and that hewould have fought with Britain against Germany in World War II.

That creates an interesting scene. Ron would have beenfighting his just war against Anton Brugger's German SDA churchmates, andthey would have been fighting their just war against him. We know they thoughtit was just, because they did it. And they were against Anton for not helpingthem.

That Hitler might have shot them had they not supportedhis war helped influence their opinion of what was just, in the same waythat German bombs falling on Ron Dart, had he been in London, would haveaffected his opinion. But that's the way the human mind works, swayed bytemporal circumstances--as opposed to the mind of God, which is unvaryingand absolute.

So we could have had these two Sabbatarian elements fightingwith each other on the Sabbath, each believing in Christ, each being carefulwhat it ate in its rations because of belief in clean and unclean meats,and each believing that when one killed the other one the other one wouldonly be asleep in Christ and not floating off to heaven.

Possibly both could have gotten together on the battlefieldduring a lull in the killing for a short Sabbath service and sung old Baptisthymns together, similar to what happened in World War II at Christmas, andthen gone back to their just war. Bang, bang, brother.

So we are presented with this strong contrast. Anton Bruggertried to obey the actual written commandments, as Christ did. Like Christand many others through history, he was killed for it. On the other sidewere those who, based on their individual judgment, decided to overrulethe Fourth Commandment and the Sixth Commandment and participate in a justwar, and indirectly helped execute Anton.

Those who rely on their individual judgment to overrulethe Commandments do not rely on God. They figure they have to tell a goodlie because God's not going to do anything. They reckon that they have tobreak the Sabbath sometimes, because if they obey the Sabbath they willlose their job and God will not help them. They know they have to kill beforethey are killed, because there is no possibility that God will step in andprotect them.

God will not save Britain, so Ron Dart has to. If theybelieve in such a powerless God, how is it they believe He will help themafter they die?

A just war is just the same old war man has had all along.People have always thought their wars were just. The approach of convenientobedience is the same old teaching the world has had all along: that itis somehow better to break the Ten Commandments than to keep them. Eve andAdam thought they would be better off by disobeying Yhwh. Christianity disregardsthe "Old Testament Law." The WCG's new truth is simply committedCommandment-breaking, with lots of love.

Convenient obedience--obeying only when it's easy, avoidingthe tests by caving in--is not really obedience at all. Most of all, convenientobedience robs Christians of their greatest opportunities to show theirlove for God, which fulfills the first Great Commandment and the First Commandment.

It seems that all the apostles experienced martyrdom, eventhough John lived through his. Why did God allow these enormous tests intheir lives?

When the rocks knocked Stephen in the head, and he lookedup and saw the heavens open to him, that inconvenient moment was the greatestin his life.

May each of us have the same kind of belief in Yhwh Godas the martyred apostles Stephen and Anton. This war that we fight to obeyHim is the only just war there is.

Dan L. White

Hartville, Mo.

Just unbelievable

It is unbelievable how demonic your tabloid, The Journal,has become. It is obviously another tool of Satan's for the further andcontinuing destruction of the people of God. It's perversion at its worst.Please cancel my subscription immediately.

Terry J. Irwin

Stevensville, Mont.

Positive split

I was truly amazed to find various Churches of God doingwhat they believe God wants them to do for the sake of the members of theBody of Christ. Upon reading The Journal, I reflect on the positive resultsthe split from the WCG had brought.

For one, many God-given talents are now apparent.

Moreover, the brethren (this term even now acknowledgesthose from other churches as well) are more tolerant of one another. Theexclusivity (read self-righteousness) that once pervaded God's church isgone except for two or three COGs. Truly the Lord God is mighty! He is great!

Joshua Marquez

Via the Internet

Plain truth about reconciliation

An ad about Garner Ted Armstrong ran in Connections June30 titled: "Garner Ted Teaches the Plain Truth About Reconciliation."

The last sentence states, "... Do you suppose he [JesusChrist] is waiting to see if we will voluntarily reject division and gettogether to accomplish his work in unity and harmony before we can qualifyto be caught up to meet him at his return?"

Then the ad gives contact information and the offer ofa booklet.

How can members in various "branches of God's Church"come together "to accomplish his work in unity and harmony"? Maybehe is talking with leaders of the many branches about uniting under oneumbrella?

I look forward to hearing more about this because surelythe lay members (or whatever we are now) do not have the power or wherewithalto unite all of us. Should we all individually cry out to God "I rejectdivision"? Will that take care of the situation?

Just reading one issue of The Journal and seeing the vastnumber of groups organizing their Feast sites is evidence to me that thescattered brethren can be brought together only supernaturally by JesusChrist. Aren't we human beings (even including the most dedicated and talentedwithin the ministry such as Mr. GTA) just too weak and flawed to bring aboutsuch a monumental feat?

Why would God and Jesus Christ consider any person "notqualified" if he or she can't correct something that was not withinhis or her ability to prevent in the first place?

Among the various groups friendships exist that churchbreakups and continuous splits have not destroyed. These continuing lovingfriendships are a legacy of the Worldwide Church of God. They inspire mealmost as much as the thought of all of us being together again in one largerevived WCG (yes, I miss it too).

Laura Reimann

Arcadia, CA

Who will stand?

In your Feb. 29 issue Ron Weinland is quoted as saying,"But I will stand in the gap." Now the Philadelphia Church ofGod has come out with a booklet, Micah, claiming that Gerald Flurry "standsin the gap" as a definition of "breaker" (Micah 2:13, KJV).

That is the trouble with all these men leading in everysingle group out there. Each thinks God chose him to "stand in thegap."

Ezekiel 22:30 states, "So I sought for a man amongthem who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf ofthe land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one."

Anyone allowing or believing the lie that a man must teachhim and stand between him and God is committing idolatry.

Name and location withheld

Report from Toledo

All of us here want to thank everyone who had or stillhas us in his prayers concerning the separation of our group into smallernumbers [see "Toledo Pastor Disfellowships Board Members; Most of CongregationLeaves," Feb. 29]. Of the 39 people who wanted to continue as we hadstarted, 41 are attending regularly and with gusto.

We determined that love was what we really needed: notjust for each other, but for everyone God is working with.

So we concentrated on the "gifts" aspect of gettingthe will of God done in the group, not depending on only our establishedleadership, but letting those whom God seems to be using have the abilityto show us what they are learning from God.

If you look around you will see almost everywhere, in variousgroups' writings, a mention of "gifts" and what they entail. Weare convinced the way is being shown back to love as the first priority,which causes the gifts to become available to everyone.

Once we saw that tie between love, enabling the gifts towork was the key. We started looking around, and it was apparent that noone else learned it from our situation. But it was there in many groupsand what they were saying. We became convinced God was leading that realizationto many. It reinforces our commitment, and we hope everyone can benefitfrom it.

Back to the basics: love, grace, faith, gifts. WantingGod to cause conditions to exist where we learn His wants seems to be theagenda. We have tried to do it ourselves, and each time, as it grows, powertakes over from love, and failure is assured.

We, when power shows up, want our way, and God's leadershipseems to take second place.

We have a Feast site, which was available within two monthsof our separation, which with the cooperation of others will make 200 orso in attendance. So how are we doing? Blessed.

I write for everyone in Toledo.

Gary Benjamin

Toledo, Ohio

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