The Journal: News of the Churches of God at

Ex-CGI ministers create new church at Tulsa meeting

By Dixon Cartwright

TULSA, Okla.--Twenty-seven ministers who only weeks ago resigned their membership in the Church of God International (In Transition, March 25) conferred here April 12-14 to reach for a consensus that will best allow them to serve their congregations and preach the gospel.

They agreed to support an information center in East Texas, a newsletter published by the manager of the center, and the commissioning of one of the independent churches, the Tulsa congregation, to serve as a business office to handle funds necessary for the center's operation.

Otherwise, the churches--some 40 or 50 of them at this writing--will independently and autonomously follow their goal of preaching the gospel locally and to the world.

In the wake of the shake-up prompted by recent events affecting the Tyler, Texas-based Church of God International, the elders, from congregations in several countries, have declared their independence from Tyler CGI headquarters and are in the process of building a loose affiliation of independent Churches of God.

They have decided to call themselves collectively simply The Churches of God, although individual congregations and sometimes groups of congregations have more specific names, such as the Tulsa Church of God.

"We agreed on that name, The Churches of God, and we agreed unanimously to adopt the same statement of beliefs we adhered to in the CGI," said Lawrence Gregory, Tulsa pastor.

Shades of opinion

Some elders, such as Tom Justus of Springdale, Ark., in comments during the sessions advocated strict autonomy for each congregation.

Others, including Les Pope of Oklahoma City and David McBride of England, encouraged their fellow ministers to remain independent but consider some sort of centralized structure, or "clearinghouse," as one man put it, that could disseminate information and ideas to the other congregations in the affiliation.

The ministers met Friday evening April 12 to plan the agenda for the next two days in the building owned by the Tulsa church. They agreed on seven areas of discussion: organization, Feast sites, local evangelism, audio- and videotape programs, booklets, lists of congregations and ministers and the pros and cons of local formal incorporation.

"We agreed that the information center would be located in Hawkins, Texas, and have an 800 number," Mr. Gregory said. "The mailing address will be in Tulsa. The reason for the difference in locations is just that we wanted checks and balances. We didn't set up a headquarters in Hawkins, Texas."

Saturday's sessions included Sabbath services at 1 p.m. for the visitors and Tulsa brethren, who number a little more than 100. The conference boosted attendance on the Sabbath to 193.

The Tulsa church, which meets in the northeast part of the city, separated from the CGI just six weeks before the conference. Since the Tulsa brethren had already incorporated locally and bought the building, the congregation, with almost no loss of membership, continues to meet in the same facility.

The prominent roadside sign that once said "Church of God International" now announces to visitors that here meets the "Tulsa Church of God."

Opposition to structure

The most vocal proponent of congregational autonomy during the conference was Mr. Justus, who opposed a central structure that would formally and regularly extract funds from its supporting churches.

"I am against setting up any kind of an organization that we would funnel money into," Mr. Justus said. "We can start off with the best of intentions in the world, but then the organization becomes a god. Maybe that won't happen in the first year or two, but it will happen."

Mr. Justus doesn't say Christians should not preach the Word in all nations. "We've got a job to do, and that's preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God. But we're already doing it on an individual basis."

People who think the work of the Church of God must be directed through a headquarters and a hierarchy are "brainwashed," Mr. Justus said. "We think we have to have a great work and a centralized board. I'm tired of that word. The seven churches of Asia didn't have a board."

Mr. Justus repeatedly referred to the example of the autonomy of congregations of the Church of Christ, saying that, though each Church of Christ congregation operates independently, the congregations cooperate and have grown steadily over the years. Universities and other schools, for example, are supported by members of the Church of Christ, but they are sponsored by individual congregations, not by the church as a whole.

Opening a can of worms

In partial disagreement with Mr. Justus were two members of a long-time Church of God family, Les and Charles Pope, father and son.

The older Mr. Pope made a presentation and showed an organizational chart to explain how a central structure would assist the independent churches. Mr. Pope acknowledged that he was "about to open a can of worms" by mentioning organization. "That word has upset a lot of people," he said, "but there is a good side to organization."

He drew a chart on a board that represented each independent congregation under God. A second chart showed an office structure with lines indicating personnel assisting the independent churches.

Hierarchy happens

Mr. Justus then reiterated his opposition to central structure. "I've been a part of it," he said. "I've sat there."

Mr. Justus, who served as a member of the board of directors and the ministerial council of the Church of God International for several years, said: "We've created people who think they have to have tapes and papers. They forget about Christ and Him crucified. We've got to have a booklet for this and a booklet for that."

He quoted Ephesians 5:27 and said, "Let us stop speaking of some organization as the church or the work. If local congregations preached the gospel, a hierarchy wouldn't happen."

Mr. Justus, owner of a printing company, recently reprinted an old public-domain booklet by WCG founder Herbert Armstrong. He produced 1,000 copies, he said, "and now the Bible Sabbath Association wants 5,000. My cost is only about 15 cents apiece."

The elder from Arkansas said he is not against booklets, broadcasts or cooperation. But "go very slowly before we start creating a body of elders or anything else. Every person in here has got somebody [back in the congregation at home] who can make a good radio broadcast. Let him do it."

Arthur Hulet, an elder from Stillwater, Okla., spoke next, calling for some kind of structured association. "We've accomplished a lot," he said, "but we've gone about as far as we can go. You have to have organization or we'll never get the job done."

Sights on the Feast

The ministers also discussed sites for the Feast of Tabernacles, only five months away. Several had already arranged for Feast locations in their areas. The assembly voted to support the sites that had already been arranged for, although each will be organized by a local church and its members, not by the information center.

Described were sites in Florida, California, England, Canada, Missouri and Oklahoma.

Door left open

Some attenders said the proceedings got off to a bumpy start but leveled out over the three days of meetings.

"I think the conference was an excellent example of men coming together without deferring to only one leader," said Norman Edwards, publisher of Servants' News, Springdale, Ark. "While there was some confusion in getting started, the overall result was certainly better, I believe, than if just one man had run the conference."

Mr. Norman thinks the new affiliation called The Churches of God can work with other ministries in the near future. "They have left the door open to do that once they're stabilized. I think they have a system that could easily work with people who are not from a CGI background."

Steve Andrews, an elder in the Tulsa church (ordained during the conference's Sabbath services), said after the final session April 14 that, "yesterday we were still spinning our wheels, but we made good progress today."

The upshot of the three days of discussions is that the independent churches will not set up a formal centralized organization but will voluntarily support a service center, to be set up and operated by Ian Hufton in East Texas, where Mr. Hufton lives. He will be assisted by Rosy Halley, who worked with Mr. Hufton when he was employed at CGI headquarters as mail-processing manager.

The ministers appointed a committee to oversee the information office and financial procedures made up of Les Pope, Mr. Justus and Tom Whitson of Houston, Texas.

The conference charged the service center with providing communication through a newsletter, compiling an inventory of tapes and printed materials, coordinating communications about the Feast, drawing up congregation and members lists, handling personal correspondence and directing inquiries to the appropriate churches, facilitating communication between individuals, host groups and congregations, ensuring its own financial accountability and drawing up financial-policy statements.

Most tithe money is to stay in local churches for evangelistic efforts. Congregations may support tape and print ministries of their choosing.

The conference wants ad-hoc committees to look into youth services and missions.

Who was there

Attending the conference were the following men. Each is an elder unless designated "host." "Observers" were nonparticipating attenders of the conference, some ordained, some not:

Mike Anderson, Springfield, Mo.; Steve Andrews, Tulsa; Charles Beyer, St. Joseph, Mo.; Julian Cruz, San Antonio, Texas; Pat Dennis, Coffeyville, Kan.; Floyd Dodson, Arkansas City, Kan.; Don Duchene (host), Chatham, Ontario; Norman Edwards (observer), Springdale, Ark.; Bill Faith, Florissant, Mo.; Bill Fowler, Wichita, Kan.; Lawrence Gregory, Tulsa.

Also Jeff Henderson, San Francisco, Calif.; Ian Hufton, Hawkins, Texas; Arthur Hulet, Stillwater, Okla.; Jim Ingle, Eldon, Mo.; Tom Justus, Springdale, Ark.; Ron Kearney (church representative), Phoenix, Ariz.; Eugene Lamb (host), Denver, Colo.; Clarence Lucas, Bedford, Texas; Bill Luecke (host), Hays, Kan.; Frank Marang, Coffeyville; Robert Malone (host), Shreveport, La.; James McBride, Billinghay, England; Donald Miller (host), Summersville, Mo.; Ed Nelson (observer), Carterville, Ill.

Also Earl Newkirk (host), Smithville, Mich.; Dave Nix, Fredericksburg, Va.; David Palmer, Vancouver, B.C.; Charles Pope, Midwest City, Okla.; Les Pope, Oklahoma City; Gary Porter, Pocatello, Idaho; John Shavers, Albuquerque, N.M.; Keith Slough (observer), Manassas, Va.; John Trescott (observer), Anadarko, Okla.; James Ussery, Little Rock, Ark.; John Waller, Piedmont, Mo.; Darryll Watson, Mary Ester, Fla.; and Tom Whitson, Houston.

Local mass evangelism

Tulsa pastor Lawrence Gregory, who is employed full-time as family-services manager for Rose Hill Memorial Park here, expressed excitement "at the possibilities ahead of us as we look to God to open doors and allow men of gifts to be used.

"It's no longer just one man doing television or one man doing radio, but the door is open for God to show how many people can do these things. And we haven't lost the vision of mass evangelism locally and mass evangelism internationally."

Mr. Gregory, who with his wife, Janice, has seven children and nine grandchildren, says he believes the churches "are going to do everything we can to allow Christ to direct us. It's easy to send money in for one person to sit in front of a camera, but now we've got our work cut out for us."

"If you want to look to the original church and the commission and the way the early Christians operated, going out two by two," said Mr. Andrews, "I think the individual churches can function in the same way all over the world.

"We may be independent, but we know people in Canada, in England, in Australia. It's just a matter of all of us working toward the same ends."

There is also nothing that says the independent churches cannot each do tape, radio, television or publications, said Mr. Andrews.

"It's just a matter of God's Spirit leading godly men and women who have the will to do His work wherever He wants it to be done."

Church Links  -  Addresses  -  Church Logos  -  Finances  -  Photos  -   Memorial

The Study Library  -  In Transition  -  Messages Online  -  Live Services

Back Issues  -  Subscribe  -  Email List  -  Ad Rates  -  Site Map

© The Journal: News of the Churches of God