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Brethren tell why they don't go to church

By Dixon Cartwright

Jim and Barbara Damiano of Contoocook, N.H., are members of that substantial scattering of God's people they call the SAH-COG, or the Stay-at-Home Church of God. The Damianos haven't attended church anywhere since May 6, 1995, their last Sabbath with the Worldwide Church of God.

Since then, friends and acquaintances of the Damianos have taken them to task for not attending anywhere, and Mr. Damiano explains that he has found it difficult to make other people understand why that, so far, he and his wife have chosen not to affiliate with any Church of God organization.

One reason he and his wife are cautious about their next step is the former teaching of the WCG that equated "loyalty to church government" with "loyalty to God."

A major influence on the Damianos during their WCG years, said Mr. Damiano, was former WCG evangelist Gerald Waterhouse, who for decades traveled a worldwide circuit delivering a message that encouraged loyalty to the structure of the Worldwide Church of God and imparted his vision of the government of God during the Millennium.

"We remember what Mr. Waterhouse said about supporting God's chosen leader through thick and thin. We believed it was indeed God's will when he described how we should never decide on our own to leave the fellowship of the Worldwide Church of God, even if the leader goes astray, because Christ is the head of the church and He would correct the problem."

Mr. Damiano said Mr. Waterhouse "trained us to look to Mr. HWA and then Mr. Tkach as being God's anointed, to whom we should always be loyal."

So the Damianos wrote Mr. Waterhouse two months after they left the WCG, asking him for advice. He noted in his letter that he respected Mr. Waterhouse for forsaking retirement benefits and walking away from the WCG and affiliating himself with the newly formed United Church of God.

"But," he said to Mr. Waterhouse, "I and many others who might like to be a part of what is happening in United find it very difficult to deal with this past understanding, which upholds loyalty to a human representative of God up there with any of the other of God's commandments and acts of His will."

Mr. Damiano wrote Mr. Waterhouse because "he was the one who was in the forefront of this instruction in the past." He suggested that Mr. Waterhouse publicly answer his letter, perhaps on the Internet or in some other form of open communication to the brethren, but Mr. Waterhouse did not immediately respond.

After the Damianos contacted this newspaper, an In Transition staffer E-mailed Mr. Waterhouse, who responded to questions about the Damianos' situation with a statement he wrote for this newspaper he titled "Why I Left the WCG and Joined the UCG."

In it, the UCG elder said the turning point for him came Jan. 7, 1995, when "it was officially announced" that "the WCG no longer believed the Sabbath and Holy Days were required for Christians."

At that point Mr. Waterhouse said he determined that the Worldwide Church of God had "moved off of the foundation of God's Church and coming family," and, "therefore, I knew support to the WCG could not continue."

Four months later he attended the organizational conference of the United Church of God in Indianapolis and was impressed with the "obvious intervention" and "unifying spirit" evident in that meeting. He says he is happy with his decision to affiliate with the United Church of God and has witnessed "astonishing progress in what has been accomplished" in 16 months in the UCG.

(In Transition publishes Mr. Waterhouse's article in its entirety.)

Meanwhile, Jim and Barbara "patiently wait" for God to show them the proper course of action. He wrote the following letter to the brethren to explain a point of view many who fellowship with a congregation or Church of God organization may find difficult to understand.

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