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WCG pastor general tells church members to resume tithing

By Scott Ashley

Two years ago, the leadership of the Worldwide Church of God denounced tithing as legalistic and obsolete, part of the Old Covenant made with ancient Israel. This month WCG pastor general Joseph Tkach Jr., citing the church's desperate financial condition, called on members to resume tithing immediately.

In the January 1997 member and coworker letter, Mr. Tkach wrote: "Brethren, I'm calling on every man, woman and child in the church who loves God and is grateful for his love and salvation to begin tithing faithfully."

"If all of us are truly doing our part, this church will be able to produce the necessary gospel materials for Bible teaching and outreach and support its congregations with trained and effective pastors, as it ought to be able to do."

Mr. Tkach lamented the organization's continuing financial troubles, noting that "our church is laying off ministers and having extreme difficulty paying for the upkeep of the headquarters property pending its sale, and a large number of members have simply decided not to tithe."

The letter followed by about a month the announcement that the church would close Ambassador University at the end of the spring semester unless a buyer could be found and that the church-owned property there would be sold.

Example of Abraham

To justify a resurrection of the tithing doctrine, Mr. Tkach cited the example of Abraham as one who practiced tithing before the institution of the Old Covenant.

"As you know, our church was once caught in the legalism of the old covenant three tithe system, and by God's grace we have been delivered from that," he wrote.

"But we must not forget that the principle of tithing itself remains appropriate for Christians. As my father explained, tithing is legalistic for those who make it that way by trying to earn merit with God. But Abraham, the father of the faithful and the one whose children we are if we have faith (Galatians 3:7), tithed long before the old covenant."

Referring to tithes and offerings as a member's "responsibility to God and to the church," Mr. Tkach warned that "I have to tell you, when you decided to hold back tithes and offerings from God, you are deciding to close up your heart from doing your part in spreading the news of what God has done in your life."

The letter concluded with the plea, "Let's get on our knees and decide before God to put him first in every part of our lives, including tithing. We will find that the frustration and pain of constant downsizing will be replaced by steady growth and gospel outreach!"

60 percent want traditional dates

In a related story, The Worldwide News reported in its Jan. 21 issue that a registration fee will be required to register for the 1997 fall festival and requested donations to assist those unable to afford the fee.

No fee amount was given, since "the actual figure will be based on projected expenses divided by expected attendance." Attendance for the 1997 Feast was projected at 16,000 to 20,000.

The article also summarized results of a survey given to WCG members regarding their preferences for timing and manner of observing festivals throughout the year.

The "traditional dates" were preferred by 60 to 65 percent of respondents, with roughly a quarter opting for evening services and a quarter wanting to observe the festivals on "the weekend nearest the traditional dates."

In stating that "our goal is to make worship opportunities available for the largest number of people we can," festival planner Mark McCulley wrote that the WCG intends "to observe the Feast in a carefully chosen number of locations, meeting for eight days of worship, fellowship and other focused activities."

He also stated that pastors will be given "tools for planning local observances of the Feast on the weekend of Oct. 17-19 so as to maximize the positive impact on the attendees."

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