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The Journal: Letters from our readers - Issue 111
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Letters from our readers

Wrong about the calendar?

I can see the thought police are alive and well in many of the COGs. The disfellowshipping of elder Dan Cafourek is a sad example.

Creative thoughts are apparently targets for punishment. It's no wonder that growth in most of the COGs has been incremental. Why would God call people into a fellowship that only wants to be an oppressive Big Brother?

I have long felt that calenders are taken much too seriously. Icreated a booklet called Calendar Considerations. If someone wants to know why I celebrate Pentecost or Passover the way I do, or why the feast days I celebrate are not the same dates as the preprinted handy calendar card they may have, then Igive them the booklet.

But I do not actively distribute it.

Why? Because I could be wrong. I was wrong for 19 years. I could be wrong again. It's up to us only to celebrate God's days to the best of our ability and the best of our knowledge. God does not hold us accountable for what we do not know (Luke 12:48).

Wily Elder
North Miami, Fla.

Getting it

I've been reading the latest Journal. I want to commend you for speaking out on the way the UCG leadership has dealt with Dan Cafourek and for carrying his open letters. Hopefully, someone there will "get it."

I've known, liked and respected Dan and several of his siblings for decades. I remember a number of lively conversations we had. I also know and respect many of the leaders of the UCG. Some of this division seems so needless.

Duncan MacLeod
Kingston, N.H.

Authoritative calendar

John Veal asks (in a letter in the March 31 issue) how opposing statements (in 1974) by Herbert Armstrong can be reconciled.

He quoted Mr. Armstrong as writing: "The first day of the new year begins near the spring equinox--when the New Moon usually is first visible to the naked eye at Jerusalem"--and, apparently contradictorily, "The Jewish Calendar used by the Jews today is correct."

The Jewish calendar year begins on, and is calculated from, 1st Tishri, called Rosh Ha Shanah (New Year's Day), due to a tradition that Creation began then. However, Tishri is still the seventh month and Abib the first month.

The new moon usually is not first visible on 1st Tishri (or 1st Abib). In 2006, for example, 1st Tishri (Trumpets) will begin at sunset on Sept. 22, but the new moon will not be visible until the evening of Sept. 24.

Mr. Armstrong reconciled this problem in 1981, when The Hebrew Calendar: Authoritative for God's Church Today! was published in response to "the now numerous sects that do acknowledge God's Sabbath and His annual Holy Days" but are not "willing to submit to the authority of the calendar God authorizes to measure time."

Mr. Armstrong continued: "The Pharisees put major emphasis on precise visual observation . . . So whenever the first faint crescent of the seventh new moon of the year was seen just above the western horizon after sunset, they declared that day to be . . . the Day of Trumpets . . .

"God of course had to correct that--and He did! The Romans finally put an end to visual observation of the new moon by the Jews . . .

"It is not required that the first faint crescent visible in Jerusalem always be declared the new moon.

What is important is that the authority to declare it arises from Jerusalem! The authority of Jerusalem in the person of Hillel II did speak in AD 358-359 to authorize the present Hebrew calendar throughout the future until such time as a new court sitting in Moses' seat be re-established in Jerusalem."

(Texts of calendar articles, 1940-1986, are at

Question: Why did Christ keep the calendar of the Pharisees?

Peter Cross
Manchester, England

Hillel was a genius

Just some thoughts on the unfortunate situation between Dan Cafourek and the UCG ministry [see the April 30 issue of The Journal]. I can see from Dan's posture that it is perhaps best that he work in an environment different from the UCG at present.

What I find curious is how a "doctrinal matter" on which we have so little solid scripture can become so powerfully divisive. This isn't the only case.

If we'd honestly lay out all the scriptural references that have bearing on "the calendar," we would see that God has left us much to do with respect to making judgment calls.

There is no sacred calendar per se. Irrespective of whichever method one prefers, what we have and have always had is a compilation of determinations by the people with expertise and interest in such things. The observationists are as dependent on having to make judgment calls as much as, and even more so, than calculationists.

Thankfully, we had a genius (Hillel II) who had the talent and foresight to set up what we know today as the calculated calendar to cover that period of history coming when there would be no Sanhedrin to officiate in such matters.

Hillel's work has proven to be extraordinary, considering how long a time it has remained relatively "in tune." (Some people who don't like the term "relatively" need to get used to it because there is no calendar that is perfect as some choose to define the word.)

It has remained the task of humans to put together a workable calendar from the best data available, from a little piece here and a little innuendo there compounded under a heavy overlay of necessary assumptions and best judgments.

Then Dan cites "adjustments" to the Hebrew calendar that are by now becoming necessary, because the calculated calendar in use over the last millennium is slipping out of sync with astronomical observation.

Well, we need also to keep in mind that we are standing behind one group of zealously religious unconverted men who may have done their best and now are looking to jump behind another group of unconverted men as though they were spiritually superior.

All the while, we have the astronomical events that happen all the time to cross-verify the calendar in use.

I've heard of no one who has been charting the differences or lack of them between the calculated calendar and the observational one. (Of course, strict observation is not a calendar per se, because it determines the date today, not dates for coming weeks or months.)

We also have a certain wild card in the trigger mechanism of the abib [barley]. That one can differ due to weather and is not strictly tied to astronomical factors.

The abib can affect which year we "intercalate," which effectively "postpones" the start of the new year one month. It accomplishes on a more indefinite and irregular basis the same thing that the calculated calendar does on a predictable basis. Either way, we must intercalate seven years out of every 19!

Much of this little problem of ours is that we were not adequately educated in these matters under the WCG. They exceeded our collective comprehension level back then.

We set our minds on a declared "doctrine" that at best was the collective judgment calls of the best minds, who also had other little considerations to factor in, such as a wrong time for Passover, the wrong date for starting the (as they see it unnecessary) count to Pentecost, and other things, such as there being no two sabbaths in succession.

Thus there was the need to offset the start of the calendar year one day (or sometimes two) so as to make that not happen (what we refer to as a postponement, a word I didn't hear until 1996 after 34 years in the WCG).

This situation as developed that we see in Dan's two articles shows the spittle spatter on both parties. Both need a good sharp slap up the side of the head. This matter needs addressing in a more appropriate forum.

Rich Traver
Clifton, Colo.

Classification clarification

In issue No. 110 of The Journal [dated May 31] there was a write-up on the fifth annual One God Seminars in Atlanta, Ga., in which I was the dissenting presenter (my presentation can be found at

I was somewhat distressed to read that I had been classified as a unitarian with an Arian perspective. I don't believe this is an accurate representation of my doctrinal position on the nature of Jesus and would like to clarify a few points in this brief letter.

A unitarian is typically defined as one who proclaims that God is one as opposed to a trinity or binity and believe in the moral authority of Jesus but not in His deity.

It is also typical of unitarians in the Church of God community to deny Jesus preexisted; that is, to deny that he lived prior to His human birth.

This view was certainly representative of all those who considered themselves unitarians at the "One God" conference held in Georgia earlier this year.

I, on the other hand, believe that Jesus is in fact a deity or an Elohim. I believe Jesus to be preexistent and that He is of the same kind, to use the term from Genesis, as Yahweh.

Since the vast majority of unitarians in the Church of God community deny Jesus' preexistence as well as His deity, I do not believe I fit into the classification of a unitarian.

Regarding my being described as an Arian, the teachings of Arius are notoriously difficult to precisely define since the vast majority of the information we have regarding their beliefs was written by their adversaries.

Thus I resist classifying anyone as an Arian since we don't know exactly what their entire belief system was regarding the nature of Jesus. What is the most widely recognized doctrine of the Arians, however, is that they believed Jesus to be a created being, similar to the angels.

Personally, I do not believe Jesus to be created, but rather begotten, literally born of Yahweh. According to my scriptural interpretation, I consider this to have taken place at a time in eternity's past before the creation.

I, like the Arians, don't believe Jesus to be eternally preexistent but that there was a definite point in the distant past when Jesus attained consciousness separate from the Father.

However, unlike what is widely regarded as the Arian doctrine, I believe Jesus to be born of Yahweh, not created, and that He is thus a divine Elohim of the same kind as Yahweh is.

To my knowledge, there is no record of the Arians believing this pivotal doctrinal distinction.

Some see no difference between created and procreated. Personally, I see a huge distinction. I derive this belief of Jesus' primordial birth from a number of passages, perhaps most notably Psalm 2:7; 110:4; and Proverbs 8:22-31.

To my knowledge, my doctrinal position on the nature of Jesus is somewhat unique and in many ways defies classification. I would consider myself a Binitarian since I believe there to be two Elohim--Yahweh, the Father--and Jesus, His Son.

However, I differ with most Binitarians in that I do not believe Jesus was eternally preexistent but that He was begotten of the Father before any other thing was created.

After contacting Journal editor Dixon Cartwright, I understand completely why he and his staff chose the terms unitarian and Arian in the article to describe my doctrinal position.

Dixon informed me that, since The Journal has been in print, he and his staff have defined God as having the noteworthy attribute of being eternal from everlasting. Since I do not believe Jesus to be eternally preexistent, I fell into the category of believing in only one God, according to his view, and was therefore considered a unitarian.

He also believed that I seemed to fit into the category of an Arian since I believed the Messiah to have been brought forth from Yahweh.

I respectfully disagree with these classifications and wish to express my thanks to him for allowing me to clarify my doctrinal position.

Brian L. Fulton
Maricopa, Ariz.

The Journal thanks Mr. Fulton for his clarification, although this newspaper still believes Mr. Fulton, by definition, is a unitarian.

Mr. Fulton states above that the "vast majority of unitarians in the Church of God community deny Jesus' preexistence as well as His deity," but The Journal is not sure that is accurate. It is true that the unitarians The Journal has most often mentioned do not believe that Jesus preexisted, but many Church of God members, including the Christian Churches of God based in Australia and numerous others, are unitarians who do believe Jesus had a preexistence. The Journal doesn't know whether the unitarians who do not believe in preexistence are a vast majority or not.

Mr. Fulton reasons that, since the vast majority of the COG community's unitarians deny Jesus' preexistence, then he is not a unitarian. Whether Mr. Fulton's premise about the vast majority is accurate or not, The Journal believes Mr. Fulton's conclusion is a non sequitur.

The Journal is happy to agree with Mr. Fulton that this newspaper needs to be careful how it uses the term "Arian" and appreciates the distinction he makes regarding birth vs. creation.

More on Brian's farewell

In regards to Bill Stough's response to the article "Over and Out" by Brian Knowles [a letter titled "Thinking Is Good," page 2, The Journal, May 31], I would be grateful to share the following concerning two specific areas.

First, I was the one who asked Brian to clarify and respond, as he chose to do so in the article with an apology [see "I'm Sorry. Over and Out," by Mr. Knowles, April 30 issue, in which he apologized to Journal readers and "to the hierarchy of United" and announced he would no longer write columns for The Journal].

Brian and I have been friends for a long time. We mutually respect each other, sharpen each other, and each of us has expressed such brotherly affection to each other.

We do not agree on certain things, but our respect for one another helps us both see the full circle of an issue we are discussing, and we are both better off for the journey and vision.

I confronted Brian when his previous article ["What Will Life Be Like After the Church Wars?," Feb. 28 issue] stated the following: "The largest of them [churches descended from the Worldwide Church of God] are run by ecclesiastical warlords who cling tenaciously to the Armstrong legacy, having made it their own."

Since the UCG is presently the "largest," I was very concerned over the implications.

Brian assured me he did not at all have the UCG on his mind when he wrote it but understood the power of the pen and how many would read and deduce "United."

I expressed to him my concerns, and he, being who he is in character, was very willing to correct it.

I chided Brian for the word "demanding" in the article [Mr. Knowles had written in his "Over and Out" farewell column: "I responded by E-mail to the {then-unnamed Journal reader's}  letter, and it was followed by two more letters demanding that I 'make it right'"], but that is no big deal and not the point.

So, yes, it was a UCG pastor, me. It was done between two friends with history.

He was my teacher in AC as well. I was not trying to "control" anything but just make things right.

Bill brings up one other issue I need to address, in his second letter, in the same issue ["Frozen Frames of Mind," page 18, May 31]. He refers back to a GCE [UCG general conference of elders] meeting in 1998 when Dixon Cartwright and himself were asked to leave a meeting.

When they refused, they were asked by security to leave, which they did. [See "Two Journal Writers Removed," The Journal, March 30, 1998.]

At the time, United was going through its painful problem with its first president. I know this was an awkward time for United, and it was seeking privacy with issues that were churning.

That being said, I do not condone what took place. I personally apologized to Dixon and his wife and assured him many of us at the GCE felt awful that it happened, and I asked that my apologies be passed on to Bill.

Bill, may I publicly apologize to you as well for that incident. I am so truly very sorry. Again the same to you as well, once again, Dixon.

Stuart Segall
Eureka, Calif.

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