Letters from our readers
Brethren, take care
I am writing this letter with great sadness and concern from heart. It was the worst of events happened to Americans. We were literally shocked and despair. This happens in my country too; the Islamic outfits have done such similar events in India in my own state too. Many were killed. This is the height of human carnal nature. I pray for the relatives who have their dear ones killed. Please take care. I pray for you all. We know the answer to these events which would be highlighted during the coming feasts. I love you all. Please pray for us. Thanks. Happy Sabbath.
The church after 9-11
Look at the similarities in the state of the country before Sept. 11 and in the state of the church now. This country had the luxury of quibbling about things that after 9-11 became meaningless.
What happened to this country could happen to the church in ways we can't even imagine, just as we couldn't have imagined before 9-11 what would happen to the World Trade Center.
My fear is that if something dire were to happen to members of one faction of the church there might be those who would say that this was a sign from God that they weren't part of the true church, thereby pushing us further apart as opposed to pulling us together. Wouldn't that just be typical?
We no longer have the luxury of sitting back and waiting for the church to unify. We can't be passive Christians. It's my opinion that we must proactively reach out to our brethren in other fellowships in order to achieve unity.
There is strength in numbers, physically and spiritually. Our collective, unified prayers would be far more meaningful, powerful and sure. We can't afford to be spiritually weak in these uncertain times. Time is working against us, and we've got to get together, if not physically then most certainly spiritually, so that we as God's church can be as strong and as pure and as humble as possible each time we come before Him.
Here's what we can do right now:
Pray that God will forgive our arrogance and self-righteousness for not acknowledging His people around the world in fellowships and churches other than our own. Pray for the unity of God's people. Pray that we can be of one mind and one spirit. Pray that God would pour out His Spirit on all of us.
Americans received a wake-up call on 9-11. The country has pulled together in ways it never had to until now. People are giving of themselves like never before to help those who were victimized by the terrorist attack in New York. Hyphenated-Americans became Americans. Total strangers became as brothers, all with a common goal: to help one another. Maybe more important, they united to fight a common enemy.
The spiritual parallel to what has happened in America should be a startling wake-up call to the church. The people of America have united with purpose. The hyphenated Churches of God need to unite now, with purpose, while we can yet initiate unity on our own.
We have a multifaceted, extremely cunning common enemy, and we stand a far better chance of overcoming him if we strive to strengthen each other daily in heartfelt prayer.
We must be able to depend on each other as if there were a crisis, because, in fact, there is a crisis: in the world and in the Church.
We can weather a crisis if we are united before God, but we may not be strong enough to weather it without everyone pulling together.
Now is the time for brethren to take it upon themselves to unite in spirit and purpose. In the immortal words of Benjamin Franklin, we must all hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately.
We as the Tupelo, Miss., council and congregation wish to remark on the article "Congregation Requests Pastor's Resignation" in the Aug. 31 issue of The Journal.
Quoting from a minister who has been recently "relieved" as an elder in the United Church of God an International Association: "Walking away from things that you feel are wrong is one way of avoiding, but it is not a way of dealing with error. Too many people get out of the kitchen when it gets a bit hot, instead of looking for solutions to cool or change the environment in the kitchen for the better. In all things, we like to be solution-bound, not problem-bound. We need people to be strong and courageous in working out solutions, no matter how seemingly impossible the odds are against them."
We strongly feel this way as a congregation and as a council.
Dave Havir [pastor of the Church of God Big Sandy] contacted, by phone, Terry Beam, a deacon in the Tupelo congregation, in early August on having The Journal write an article on the recent happenings with Mr. Mitchell's resignation. He stated that there were rumors going around and that it might help to dispel any rumors.
Mr. Havir was told that the congregation would have to be asked if they objected to this article before an answer was given. The congregation was receptive to the article only if it would dispel any rumors and to Mr. Havir's visit to help comfort any feelings the congregation was having.
Some in the congregation did not wish for this article to be published to begin with but felt that if it would help with any unnecessary rumors it would be okay.
The advisory council, put in place by Ed Mitchell [whom members of the congregation asked July 28 to resign as Tupelo pastor], was comprised of the same people who make up the financial council in the Tupelo church, with the exception of two people, Sue Dees and Rudy Beam.
Everyone present at the meeting with Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell on July 25, and everyone present at the July 28 Sabbath service when Mr. Mitchell was asked to resign, were members of the financial council with the exception of Sue Dees, Rudy Beam and Tommy Surratt.
Mrs. Dees was out of town during the two meetings but was called by a council member when she returned home and told of Mr. Mitchell's resignation. Rudy Beam was informed of the meeting with Mr. Mitchell on July 25 and was present at the July 28 services. Mr. Surratt was present at the July 25 meeting with Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell but was out of town during the July 28 services.
So the majority of the financial council, which looks over financial affairs of the Tupelo church, were present and aware of all details pertaining to Mr. Mitchell's resignation and all details leading up to his resignation.
We are disturbed by the article and the implications it presents: that the Mitchells are the victims and we as a congregation need to apologize.
When the advisory-council members were interviewed by Mr. Havir and Dixon Cartwright on Aug. 24, evidence of other problems with Mr. Mitchell were presented! These problems were considered hearsay and not provable. Therefore they were not permissible for the article. The incident involving Sarah Groves, the widow mentioned in the article, was not the only incident involving Mr. Mitchell. Her case was just the final straw that broke the camel's back.
The Journal interviewed people such as Skeets Mez, who has not had any dealings with our congregation for years. He was interviewed as Mr. Mitchell's character witness. If we had known that character witnesses were admissible, we would have had several present on behalf of the Tupelo congregation.
We admit that some things on our behalf as a council could have been handled a little differently but felt that according to 1 Timothy 5:19-20, 1 Corinthians 5:3-13 and Exodus 22:22 we were doing as we were instructed by the Bible in this case.
We were very hurt and saddened to have to deal as a council with Mr. Mitchell in the way we did. We had every intention to try to salvage Mr. Mitchell, but Mr. Mitchell was unwilling to admit wrongdoing on all incidents presented to him.
Due to rumors, gossip and hearsay, we felt an article was necessary to set the record straight. Many are disturbed that the article was presented in the manner that it was. True justice requires all the facts.
If this letter can sharpen and help The Journal become a better beacon for reporting, it will have served its purpose.
Individually, collectively, we've been disappointed and hurt. Our goal is to move on towards that beautiful kingdom.
The Tupelo congregation:
Rudy Beam, Becky Beam, Terry Beam, Sondra Beam, Bill Goff, Evelena Goff, Betty Graham, Russell Manning, Sarah (Groves) Manning, Paul Montgomery, Ruby Reese Montgomery, JoAnn Simmons, Tommy Surratt, Phyllis Surratt, Wayne Thompson
United Church of God Tupelo
The Journal welcomes letters, including the above comments and clarifications from the United Church of God Tupelo (not affiliated with the United Church of God an International Association).
However, since The Journal believes the above letter contains some inadvertent inaccuracies that pertain to The Journal's involvement in the Tupelo situation, it offers the following observations:
The Journal takes full responsibility for the article, which ran on page 1 of its Aug. 31 issue. The Journal's editor and publisher, Dixon Cartwright--not Dave Havir--made the decision to report on the Tupelo story and publish the article.
Mr. Cartwright decided to travel to Mississippi and visit Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell and attend Sabbath services with the Tupelo congregation. When he heard that the Tupelo congregation had invited Mr. Havir to speak on Aug. 18, he at first decided to visit on that Sabbath. When Mr. Havir postponed his visit to Aug. 25, Mr. Cartwright also delayed his visit a week.
Had the Tupelo congregation not invited Mr. Havir, Mr. Cartwright would have visited anyway, probably on Aug. 18. He would have reported on Mr. Mitchell's resignation and would have requested interviews with him and the members of the Tupelo advisory council.
The Journal gathers from the above letter that the Tupelo brethren believe they had the option of forbidding The Journal to publish an article. Although The Journal is grateful for the opportunity Mr. Cartwright had to sit in on and report the meeting between the council members and Mr. Havir, Mr. Cartwright had planned to attend Sabbath services anyway and write an article on the situation, whether the council members, Mr. Mitchell or Mr. Havir authorized it or not.
I say amen to the comments of Sue Dees and Dave Havir concerning the incident in Tupelo, Miss., as reported in the Aug. 31 issue of The Journal ["Congregation Requests Pastor's Resignation; Both Sides Want to Move on After Separation"]. The ultimate problem in Tupelo, inadvertent slander, is all too common in the Churches of God, and we can all learn from it.
Speaking of the incident, Mrs. Dees said, in part: "First of all, I think it should have been handled. That's the problem. It wasn't handled. I think if everybody had been able to hear both sides of the story we would not have heard all that bad stuff to begin with."
She addressed allegations of lying. "Can we entertain the concept that maybe both sides did not lie? Maybe, rather than telling a lie, they were seeing something in a way different from the way the other person saw it. Is it possible that the two sides can look at the same set of circumstances in two different ways and come up with two different conclusions or even honestly report what seems to be two different sets of incidents?"
Wow! Thank you, Sue Dees, for this invaluable insight. I want to shake your hand someday.
Mrs. Dees went on to say that if you have a problem with someone you should go to that person and say, "This is a problem; let's work this out."
Hmm, that sounds familiar, doesn't it? Jesus Himself told us to do just that. Notice Matthew 18:15: "Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother" (NKJV).
I can see three possible responses if we choose to obey this command of Jesus: (1) Our brother could tell us to get lost; (2) he could admit the fault and apologize; or (3) we could find that there was a misunderstanding on our part.
As Mrs. Dees put it, "two sides can look at the same set of circumstances in two different ways and come up with two different conclusions."
If, on the other hand, we choose to disobey Jesus and not go to our brother, just "you and him alone," but instead go to someone else, we do not know which response will happen. If it is No. 1--that is, a misunderstanding on our part--we are slandering our brother, "and whoever spreads slander is a fool" (Proverbs 10:18).
In the same article Dave Havir said something to the effect that Sabbath-keepers can be some of the sharpest-tongued people anywhere.
Sorry, guys, but I can't defend us on that one. It seems that we actually love to hear and pass on "all that bad stuff," as Sue Dees called it. Sadly, many times we don't even know if all that bad stuff is really true or a misunderstanding on someone's part.
Here's a suggestion. When someone comes to you with all that bad stuff simply ask him if he has gone to his brother or sister, "you and him alone." If he hasn't, then neither of you really knows if what you are saying is true or a misunderstanding.
You certainly wouldn't want to be someone who spreads slander. Explain to the person that he may be slandering the other person. If everyone responded this way, this type of vicious relationship-destroying sin would soon stop.
Mr. Havir went on to say: "I am a Sabbath-keeper, but I'm tired of Sabbath-keepers who slander me. I do not worship with Sunday-keepers and have no intention to, but I love being around Sunday-keepers who treat me right." Who can argue with that?
He added that the Sabbath is an important sign, but "not the sign. You know what the sign is: the sign of love."
He was referring to John 13:34-35, where Jesus said: "A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
Do we show love by slandering one another? Shouldn't we be building relationships or, as Jesus put it, gaining our brothers and sisters rather than destroying each other with slander?
Sure, I realize that some in the Churches of God slander maliciously, especially the Diotrepheses among us "who love to have the preeminence" (3 John 9), and they have their reward.
But, as Mrs. Dees sadly points out, many slander unknowingly. It's a shame, too, because in the end slander is still slander, and God's Word doesn't have much good to say about those who spread it.
I have noticed that some among us are teaching that God's people can join the military to fight in war. Have they forgotten that God has called us out of the world to enter into covenant with Him? Nations have kings or leaders and governments in place and military to fight in battle. Our King rules from heaven, and we are to look to the government in heaven.
When the Israelites wanted a king over them, God said they had rejected Him. God's people are once again beginning to turn from Him and look to the national king. Do we also want the king to take our sons to make instruments of war and go into battle? (1 Samuel 8).
God has a special mission for the called-out ones. That mission is to be learning His way and preparing to rule with Christ. We don't learn that way while making instruments of war and fighting in the many wars that are coming upon the world.
In R.C. Dick's lengthy essay regarding the place of safety for the elect (Sept. 30, page 7), it appears he supports the familiar and flawed two-stage return of Jesus Christ to earth, but with a double twist:
Mr. Dick proposes this scenario based on pure speculation and an apparent misunderstanding of Scripture, certain passages in particular.
Sorry. There will be but one return of Jesus to earth, and that return will be as a thief in the night or "at an unknown time." It will not be a guerrilla-type covert rescue landing or mission after which all the evil witnesses are killed. It will not be to scoot people off furtively to a hole in a mountain, as though God or Christ were unable to protect them where they stand.
Was not Daniel in the midst of physical danger?
Peter writes that this singular visitation of Christ will be both as a thief in the night and as a noisy event. That is, no one knows when Christ will come, but when it happens everyone will know; every eye will see Him (Revelation 1:7; 2 Peter 3:10).
In 2 Peter 3:4 Peter explains that his discussion of the "day of the Lord" here is in response to scoffers who were saying, "Where is the promise of His coming?" So this event represents the much-heralded second coming of Christ, which is defined as the "day of the Lord." It will be both surprising and awfully noisy.
Paul echoes Peter's understanding. Paul testifies that the day of the Lord combines the thief-in-the-night surprise visit and great noise with destruction (1 Thessalonians 5:2).
The day of the Lord is the day on which Christ returns suddenly to earth. It is the same day on which His saints will be resurrected and "changed." Ultimate salvation (resurrection to immortal life) and sudden destruction will take place on that same day (Acts 2:20-21; 1 Corinthians 5:4-5; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
Punishment arrives on "that day" (2 Thessalonians 1:9-10).
Who shall be punished "when He comes, in that day"? The returning Jesus will punish those "who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" in that day (verse 8).
Jesus will not plead with these people to understand His gospel on that day and will not assign teachers to work with them. The time to learn is over. Salvation and ever-lasting destruction occur on the same day that the Lord Jesus is "revealed from heaven with His mighty angels" (verse 7).
Instead of sweating over the end-time and place of safety, we ought to heed the words of Christ: "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing" (Matthew 24:45-46).
We should be "so doing" something when Christ returns. We should be concerned about giving food in due season and taking care of those in our charge and, as we are able, physically and spiritually helping the downtrodden.
We should heed the words in Micah 6:8 that direct and require us to "do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before our God."
When we are able to fulfill this particular passage in Micah above all others satisfactorily, then we will have time to waste designing a place of safety and whatnot. Until then it is all vanity, folks. It is all vanity and a grasping after the wind.
F. Paul Haney
Crowding out the righteous
In response to R.C. Dick's essay in the Sept. 3 issue of The Journal, "God's People Must Ask: Where Is the Place of Safety?": I think Mr. Dick's scenario of a room in Mount Zion sounds a whole lot better than some tomb in the rocks of Petra.
However, God is the only one who really knows how and when He will protect His saints from the tribulation.
My dad used to say you can make the Bible say anything you want it to say. That is absolutely true. It is possible to find supportive scriptures to prove any opinion if we pull them out of context or tweak them a little bit to fit our opinion.
However, that approach does not deal with truth.
Mr. Dick's scenario of where and what the place of safety is may be exactly how it will go down, but no man knows for sure.
If God wanted us to know every detail of how He will have it go down, don't you think He would have given us a detailed road map of the scenario?
The reason He didn't is that it would supplant the need for faith. God wants us to believe and trust Him in faith as to what He says He will do, not how He will do it.
If God gave us a detailed map to the place of safety, every Tom, Dick and Harry on earth would swarm in to save his own skin and crowd the righteous out.
Via the Internet
Tell Duane to write
I am getting tired of Duane Giles and his blasphemous comments about Jesus Christ ["'God' Is a Title," Aug. 31, page 4]. It is sad that he has a lack of understanding about what is the greatest truth ever understood. It is this: God is not a Trinity in any form but is a family of uncreated, eternal God beings, and we can be part of that family as immortal creating God beings, as God is.
I have written what I feel is a very important paper, "The Greatest Truth Ever Understood." It answers the questions about the "There is only one God and there is no other God besides Me" statements in the Old and New Testaments. The paper also explains how we can be immortal creating God beings as God is.
Sorry I don't have a computer. I am on a fixed disability income. Please contact me. I am asking for a donation of $3 to mail you a copy of the paper. I am asking Duane Giles to contact me so I can mail him a copy of it.
1046 E. Fourth St.
Cerritos Manor Retirement Home
Long Beach, Calif. 90302, U.S.A.
Practical D&R solution
To us longtimers in the church, Wayne Cole's article on D&R ["Events in WCG in Early '70s Led to Changes in D&R Doctrine," Aug. 31] was quite revealing. Too bad we peons weren't privy to the doubts that existed in ministers' minds back in 1974.
In those days I saw the WCG as equating divorce and remarriage with the unforgivable sin. My solution then: Kill the person you would divorce. The church forgives a repentant murderer, then you are free to remarry!
The only problem with the above concept: The laws of the land frown on murder but not on divorce and remarriage. The WCG seemed to have it the other way around when it came to forgiving.
Edmonton, Alta., Canada.
I'm glad to see you have overcome your bias against articles on the calendar of God. Brian Convery's article in the August issue [in the Connections advertising section] covers the subject magnificently; it should be a big inducement for more people to abandon the current calendar of Judaism presently used by the WCG spin-offs.
East Freetown, Mass.
The Journal has published several articles about the calendar. In fact, the theme of the first two issues of The Journal (January and February 1997; back issues still available) was the Jewish calendar and its postponements.
Hillel and his postponements
Brian Convery's 10-page article on the Calendar of God in the Aug. 31 issue [in the Connections advertising section] proving the first crescent hit the nail on the head as far as we are concerned.
My wife and I have been studying this subject for more than two years and have arrived at the same conclusion.
In contrast, the former WCG and most brethren have been going by the calculated Hillel II calendar with postponements for the feast days, whether aware of it or not.
The question that was in our minds was, What did our Savior do since He observed the law perfectly? It is our belief He kept the first crescent.
It takes courage to take a stand on when to keep the feast days different from when some of our most beloved brethren do. Each of us has to do what his conscience says.
Since we are commanded to prove all things, then don't we earnestly need to study this subject out to show ourselves approved? Mr. Convery's 10-page article may seem daunting, but it is well worth the read with its extensive historical and factual research.
Jim and Patt Steinle
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