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Letters from our readers - Issue 91
Encouraging Communication among the Churches of God
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Letters from our Readers


The July 31 issue of The Journal inadvertently made an error in the article beginning on page 1: " K.C. Church Marking Seven Years of Unaffiliation, Recounts Several Problems Faced by Independents." The error is in stating that the UCG-affiliated congregation (of Kansas City) has an attendance of 50 to 70. It is the independent Church of God (the one the article is covering) that has that attendance figure.

Bill Stough
Lonedell, Mo.

Remembering Ray Dick

Regarding the death of Ray Dick [see " Raymond C. Dick Dies," page 1]:

I remember Mr. Dick well from my student days in Pasadena. He always had a pleasant smile and easy demeanor. He was comfortable to be around since he assumed no rank or importance.

He was a fixture in the old press building, where I worked for several years, either in the mailing department or as a student supervisor in the mail-reading department. He seemed to be a solid Christian gentleman.

I wasn't around him much thereafter but always respected him. I'm sorry he died, but it appears that his suffering was brief.

Kenneth Westby
Auburn, Wash.

Note from Mr. McNair

Responses to our articles in The Journal have been very encouraging. I will quote a portion of one response: "Greetings, Mr. and Mrs. McNair: . . . We have been reading your articles in The Journal. They are very informative, uplifting and inspiring. I personally have gained much from reading them and feel that my understanding has grown in light of the age we now find ourselves in.

"We have friends who now are reading your articles in The Journal, and they too are inspired and are thankful for your work.

"How is your health, and also Mrs. McNair? . . . Is there a Web site? How may we obtain our own articles? We look forward to hearing from you . . ."

Brethren, I hope all of you have checked out our Web site ( I think you will be quite pleased to peruse our home page.

Raymond F. McNair
Temecula, Calif.

End of an era?

It seems that the time of large COGs being run like business corporations is coming to an end.

Most of the large COG organizations have also in times past, and in the present, made money the most important thing and have developed the coldness that goes along with big money-making corps.

Many of the bigwigs in the larger orgs have to live a yuppy lifestyle, close to international airports, with all of the accompanying perks.

They can love you one day and kick you off the cliff the next, or you can be a beloved son of the group one day and a marked heretic the next day, and they never want to see you again.

This is diametrically opposite to Christ's words when He said, "He shall not quench a smouldering wick," and you shall not "lord it over one another like the heathen."

It is amazing that some of the latter-day COG groups try to equate what they are doing with the true, good works of Daniel, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Christ and Paul. We can expect worldly, uncalled, unconverted groups to do these things, but not the COGs. It looks as if James 4:1 is coming to pass more than we could've ever imagined.

Jack and Wanda Hertzog
Roswell, N.M.

Where are they now?

I enjoyed reading the commentary by Ellis Stewart, " The Pharisees Were Jesus' Object Lesson," in the May 31 issue of The Journal.

Ellis makes some good points but at the same time left me a little disappointed. All he gave us was a recounting of 2,000-year-old history. What about the modern-day Pharisees who rule many of the COGs today?

I am, of course, speaking of those men who are so-o-o concerned with their own man-made rules and regulations that they have forgotten entirely to exercise justice, mercy, faithfulness and love--so much so that they recently forced the resignations or fired at least three good men simply because they didn't get prior permission to do what all Christians should be doing as a matter of daily life.

I guess I can understand Ellis's reluctance and/or unwillingness to offend his former colleagues in the various splinters from the WCG. Many of those men who were pharisaical in the WCG are now doing the same thing in the halls of power in the splinters.

For instance, a known sexual predator has been a recognized speaker in at least three separate COGs and a credentialed minister in one of them. The leaders at the time knew what was happening but did nothing. In fact, when witnesses and victims complained, they were marginalized and sometimes thrown out of the church.

I have personally talked to some of the victims and witnesses who verified this behavior, not only of the offender but also of the ministry. The Journal even ran an ad in its classified section some years ago [in the June 1999 issue], placed by a private investigator, looking for more of his victims.

Yet long after this ad was published the person in question was still preaching in one of those organizations.

More up to date, we now have three alarming cases in one of the larger, but different, COGs.

In a Pacific Northwest congregation a stalker is allowed to roam up and down the aisles during services hunting for a married woman (not his wife), declaring to her that "you are mine." This harassment has been tolerated for quite some time.

At the same time, in the Eastern United States, a local elder is in the habit of fondling young girls.

When the mother of one of his victims complained to her pastor, was anything done?

Yes, action was swift. The mother was suspended, and remains suspended from attending services. Meanwhile, the leadership of the organization is working hard to hush it all up.

Also in the Eastern United States a person has just been disfellowshipped because he expressed opinions that the leadership didn't agree with, not at church services but on an Internet forum. Apparently this organization is going to the extreme length of trying to control other people's thoughts.

Perhaps Ellis didn't mention these modern-day pharisaical examples because he has no knowledge of them. However, many who read this letter will know exactly what I am referring to because the incidents have been widely broadcast on the Internet of late.

So, Ellis, even if you are aware of some of these things, thanks for drawing our attention to the lessons to be learned from the Pharisees. Unfortunately, you missed a golden opportunity to point out the Pharisees who inhabit positions of power and prestige in the man-made religions of today.

Bob Etheridge
Victoria, B.C., Canada

Commentary on commentary

I usually don't comment on other people's writing, but some of Brian Convery's statements in his article [in the Connections advertising section] in the Jan. 31 issue of The Journal, "A Sabbath Day Interview About Passover," seem to be in error.

He states: "Nowhere is 'erev' or 'bein not ben' used to describe any portion of the daylight time of a day." I call your attention to Jeremiah 6:4:

"Prepare ye war against her; arise and let us go up at noon. Woe unto us! For the day goeth away, for the shadows of the evening [ba erev] are stretched out."

There are no shadows after sunset since there is no sun to make shadows, so this is scriptural proof that ba erev, or "evening," can mean late afternoon, before sunset.

Brian's explanation of ben ha arbayim or bein not ben also seems to be in error. He goes through many extrabiblical arguments and examples, but it is clear from the Bible itself what bein not ben means.

There were four things that were to occur at the time known as "between the evenings," or ben ha arbayim. It was the time of the Passover sacrifice (Exodus 12:6), the time of the evening sacrifice (Exodus 29:39), the time the lampstand in the temple was trimmed and lit (Exodus 30:8) and the time the incense was offered (verse 8).

The time of the sacrifices, both morning and evening (thus the time of the incense) was also the "time of prayer" for the Jews.

When was this? Acts 3:1 answers succinctly: "Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the "ninth hour." This was at 3 p.m.

Also, Exodus 29:38-41 describes the daily offering of two lambs, the first in the morning and the second (or "again") in bein not ben. If the second was offered after sunset, then it would not be in the same day, but the next day. And, if the evening sacrifice was the "first" of the day and the morning sacrifice was the "second," then the Bible is inaccurate in its description of the timing of these events.

Of course, all this stems from Mr. Convery's mistaken assumption that the "Last Supper" occurred the night before Christ was crucified and was a Passover meal or celebration. He ignores contemporary historians like Philo and Josephus and other commentaries that dispute his ideas.

There are many, many commentaries (and extrabiblical historians) that disagree with Mr. Convery's assumption that the evening sacrifice occurred after sunset, and there is much more evidence to contradict Mr. Convery's argument, but I will not go into it here.

Fred Schatz
Middletown, R.I.

Sense of humor and sensibility

Regarding the controversy and "offense" [as evidenced by letters to the editor in the June 30 issue] caused by John Sash's article in the April 30 edition ["What Is Woman if Not the Mother of All Harlots?"]:

John Sash is a fine Christian man who respects the role of women, and that respect is a lot more than was shown by the vaunted church leadership of previous ages of the church (specifically speaking of the 1960s through 1980s) and probably most other eras as well. He has a wonderful Christian wife who has supported him in his stand for the truth, especially since the fracturing of Worldwide.

I will admit it has been maybe five or six years since I had a personal conversation with him. That was at the Feast at Grand Lake of the Cherokees in Oklahoma one fall. But I suspect that he is same fine Christian man with a droll sense of humor that some seem quick to misunderstand and criticize.

He also was a presenter within a year or two of that at a Friends of the Sabbath convention in San Antonio, Texas, in late December one year.

One memory of John Sash that I have is that in the old Worldwide days, at the Feast at Lake of the Ozarks in the fall of 1978 (or maybe 1979 just after Garner Ted Armstrong had been thrown out of the WCG for what would be the last time), he and I encountered each other walking out on a sermon.

The speaker had made a particularly asinine statement about the divinity of one Herbert Armstrong ("Of man born of woman, there has not arisen a greater than Herbert W. Armstrong"), and neither of us could stomach that day's services after that.

Out of several thousand there (and many will remember how large that "tabernacle" building was), I think we may have been the only two to do that. Somehow we did not get called down for our "heresy."

Anyone who honestly read to the end of John Sash's article could see the point he was making: that the Orthodox Jews and too many alleged Christians have put down women too much over the centuries, even unto our modern era.

I would say to those who cannot or will not understand honest satire (look up the definition; in part, it means to make fun of some aberration by also making fun of yourself): Get a sense of humor.

Mac Overton
Gilmer, Texas

Poison of Laodice

The city in Asia Minor known as Laodicea mentioned in Revelation 3 was named after the infamous Laodice, the woman Herbert W. Armstrong referred to in his booklet concerning Daniel 11:6, The Middle East in Prophecy.

Remember, Laodice was the one who had her husband, the king of the north, Antiochus II, poisoned, and she killed Bernice, the daughter of Ptolemy Philadelphus, the king of the south.

Are the traits and actions of Laodice some of the same traits and actions of the Laodiceans of today?

Wake up, those who were called through Mr. Armstrong!

Never forget the spiritual Philadelphus, our modern-day father in the faith--Mr. Armstrong--and never underestimate the hatred and spiritual poison of Laodice who wants the spiritual heritage of Mr. Armstrong all for herself!

Again, I say, wake up!

Donald Raymond Wheatley
Via the Internet

Mystery of the age

Dave Havir posed the question: "Where is God's government on earth?" [" Who in the World Is the Angel of Laodicea?," The Journal, July 31].

Why should we make the expression "God's government on earth" into a straw man that we can set up or knock down at will?

In Mystery of the Ages Herbert W. Armstrong stated that God placed Lucifer on the earth to administer God's government.

Then, when he rebelled, God created mankind to restore God's government on earth, but Adam also rejected God's government.

Mr. Armstrong also spoke of God's government being in the true church. If Adam rejected God's government on earth, how can it be on earth in the true church? Can we accuse Mr. Armstrong of cognitive dissonance?

Not necessarily, since he equated God's government with God's rule, which we can accept or reject.

In 1978 he wrote that he had to put the church back on track, since it was in the process of rejecting God's government.

Where is God's government today? It is wherever people have accepted His rule in their lives. Thus it is wherever we want it to be.

Kemmer Pfund
Big Sandy, Texas

Have faith

Dave Havir aired his lack of faith that Herbert W. Armstrong was right about there being seven eras of the true church, and the existence of God's government in the church, in " Who in the World Is the Angel of Laodicea?" (The Journal, July 31).

Since Mr. Armstrong was the originator of the church era that preached the gospel of God's truth to more people than any other organization in all of history, it is no stretch to believe that he correctly identified himself as the messenger to Philadelphia. No one else can be a greater representative of that era.

The next most prominent witness in the church to date has been Garner Ted Armstrong (who could not have preached without his father's leadership and teaching). No two witnesses in our day have preached the gospel more widely or brought more people into the true church.

The latter Armstrong eventually transgressed and disregarded the government of God over him in the church, thus setting the pattern for division in the church, and thereby starting a new church and era that wasn't Philadelphian. When he started his church, Garner Ted had half the evangelists follow him. This was no small thing. Could anyone else more widely represent Laodicea?

"Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein" may mean God intends resurrecting these two witnesses for that commission. The word rise (egeiro) can mean "be resurrected," as it does regarding Christ in Matthew 17:23.

Therefore, since all things are possible with God, the angel of Laodicea may yet prove to be Garner Ted Armstrong resurrected (with some public display proving he is finally submissive to the God-ordained church government exercised by his father).

Geoffrey R. Neilson
Fish Hoek, South Africa

Get the point and get the facts

While I believe that people have the right to express their opinions, I continue to be disappointed by the letters published by The Journal from individuals who either miss the point or do not get their facts straight about what I write.

A letter in the last issue (July 31) was typical. South African Geoffrey Neilson, after citing some statistics I had cited, wrote, "Dr. Thiel claims that [viewer] response [to the Living Church of God's telecast] is better than Herbert Armstrong and Garner Ted Armstrong received. That is not the plain truth!"

The plain truth is that is not what I wrote, plus he missed the point.

I cited the LCG's Wayne Pyle, who keeps such statistics for the LCG (and, to some degree, did so for the WCG), and wrote that, on a proportional (per member) basis, the responses the Tomorrow's World program of the Living Church of God gets are actually higher than the Armstrongs generated while they were in the Worldwide Church of God. That article also mentioned that the baptismal rate among respondents is actually a bit higher in the LCG compared with the old WCG.

My point was that if independents and small groups (such as Geoffrey Neilson's) would actually support the LCG our total impact would be greater than it is.

Instead, many like to point out that our total impact is but a fraction of that of the old WCG.

Well, unless God causes certain miracles to occur and changes that, the only way the LCG's total impact will greatly increase is if more people support us, since we have only a fraction of the membership of the old WCG.

Since January 1999 the LCG's Tomorrow's World program has generated more than 400,000 responses, which I still believe is pretty good for a group that has only about 7,000 in attendance (including children).

Perhaps this newer statistic will persuade Mr. Neilson and others of similar mind-set that the LCG is still making progress and that perhaps they should support the LCG's efforts to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom to the world as a witness (Matthew 24:14).

Robert Thiel
Arroyo Grande, Calif.

Shut-down interruption

I had an experience yesterday that got me thinking about something I hadn't thought about.

I was about to jump in the shower after doing some yard work with my grandfather (age 79) when I happened to look out my bedroom window to see him lying on the ground.

I ran outside and he appeared dead: no pulse, no breathing, blue-purple color. So I ran in to call 911.

When I got back outside I started to do CPR (I'm not trained). Just then a guy on a bike stopped to help, and he just happened to be an off-duty paramedic.

So we both did CPR and were getting a little bit of results. When the paramedics got there, they took over and did their thing.

It didn't look good and I figured he was already gone. Yet his heart started beating again, although he needed a breathing tube.

In the emergency room my grandfather responded to my voice, but he still wasn't all there.

By late afternoon he was breathing on his own, after he overpowered the nurse and took his tube out, and was able to talk.

As a result, I contemplated all day trying to figure out when the human spirit leaves our body.

The conclusion that I came to was that it must leave upon brain death, the complete cessation of all electrical activity.

Even though my grandfather had quit breathing and his heart had stopped (for one to two minutes is my guess), there was still enough electrical activity in the brain to still have the spirit engaged.

An analogy came to mind that helped me to grasp this.

I've always thought that the computer is a good way to explain some things about us, and it has proven so once again.

We all know the steps to properly turn off the computer. Then Windows does its little shutdown thing to get everything set and logged on to the hard drive.

That's where my grandfather was when I and the paramedic intervened.

His computer (body) was in shut-down mode, and his Windows was doing its final log to his hard drive (spirit). But we were able to switch from shutdown to restart (something you can't do with a computer).

That's my theory anyway.

Michael Turner
Plano, Texas

Remember Ezekiel 34

Why is the Church of God so divided? For years my husband has said that the ministry was the problem. I resisted this notion, but recent issues of The Journal have finally made me realize the truth of that statement.

The problems in the UCG with Jim O'Brien, Guy Swenson and Bill Jacobs are just the latest examples in a long line that started in the 1990s. These men seem to put their personal agendas and desires above their responsibilities to the flock of God.

I am not a member of the UCG, but I fail to see what is going to be accomplished by further dividing God's people. This is the inevitable result of these men's actions.

I daresay that these men would not have insisted on doing their own thing when Herbert Armstrong was alive. Since his death everyone seems to feel free to do what is right in his own eyes. We know where that got Israel, and the fruits today are obvious for anyone with eyes to see.

I'm not trying to attack these men personally. I'm sure they have good intentions.

However, Ezekiel 34 should be a sobering warning for anyone who serves in the ministry. I hope that in the future we can try and bring God's people together instead of continuing to pull them apart.

Francine Prater
La Feria, Texas

Gag me with an order

Is there ever such a thing as a good gag order? I haven't seen such a thing so far. [See " Church Lets Elder Go When He Disregards Its Gag Order," The Journal, May 31.]

I know that the gag order is only one tool out of many that a judge may use in a jury trial to cause the verdict of his choice to be the most likely outcome.

The gag order plus the instructions to the jury probably carries more weight in the outcome than the so-called deliberations of the jury. The more I learn about the U.S. court system (the way it works in today's world) the more corruption I see.

Gag orders were common in the old Worldwide Church of God. Most ministers were obviously under a gag order in the '70s not to discuss the misconduct of a top evangelist except to say he was having personal problems. If most of us nonministers had known about the misconduct, we would probably have dumped out of Worldwide right away instead of waiting for the watering-down crew that took over after the death of Herbert Armstrong.

I remember a gag order or attempted gag order happened to a minister who served the Miami and Palm Beach congregations. The method of operation was to gag him and then pull the rug out from under him.

I think there will be a giant harvest of converts when groups learn that they should not try to be a type of warmed-over WCG, complete with a heavy-handed chain of command.

Wily Elder
Miami, Fla.

R-rated schools

Should Christians pull their children out of the anti-Christian public schools? Or should Christians support the government schools?

Because of a resolution at a Baptist convention, as discussed in my editorial in the July 31 Journal, this debate is in full swing.

Immediately after that convention in June, an editorial appeared in the Springfield, Mo., newspaper explaining why Christians should not leave the public schools.

I have heard that Springfield has the highest number of churches per capita of any city in the United States, yet its daily paper is left wing, not owned locally but owned by the USA Today corporate complex. The editorial explained that liberals think the Baptists are extreme and that the public schools are kind of Christian after all.

They then printed a letter from me (excerpted here):

"Regarding Bryan Lewis's fearful editorial encouraging Christians to support the public schools, 'Public Schools and Religion Do Mix Well,' in the June 20 News-Leader, he mentioned that once a year Christians assemble out by the school flagpole.

"This raises the question: Why are the Christians out by the flagpoles? Answer: Because that's the only place in the public schools where Christianity is allowed.

"The first public schools were begun in Massachusetts under the Old Deluder Act to teach students to read the Bible so they could avoid the Old Deluder, Satan.

"Now left-wing judges have decreed that Christ must not be in the schools. But the Old Deluder is there.

"Hey, Christians. Don't worry about the flagpoles. They are upright. But inside the schools drugs are had more easily than on city streets; open obscenities are the cool language; freakin' is the latest dance craze; and sex and sodomy are the religious values.

"Any Christian who sends his child to the godless government schools, and any Christian who works there, is not following Christ."

This letter was followed by vigorous discussion by other letter contributors that continued for about a week in the daily paper.

The left wing has dominated the media and education. Many Christians no longer watch R-rated movies. Now they are seriously discussing whether they should support R-rated schools.

Dan L. White
Hartville, Mo.

Profound responsibility

Jean Updegraff's letter in the July 2004 issue of The Journal gives me another opportunity to address the matter of the next president in the United Church of God.

She wrote: "I believe the decision [about choosing the next president] should rest, under God's guidance, with those who are entrusted with that profound responsibility . . . It is not for us to decide or question the logic . . ."

That's what many Roman Catholics say about the election of a new pope. God guided the decision, so don't question the logic of the decision.

The UCG has elected three presidents in its nine-year existence. Many followers of the UCG say that God guided those decisions, so don't question the logic of them.

Since I am not a member of the Catholic Church or the UCG, I am not predisposed to accept that God is personally directing their personnel decisions.

I realize that God chose King Saul and later replaced him with David because of Saul's sins. Did God personally choose the presidents of the UCG and later replace them because of their sins? That's not what I believe.

The Catholic Church replaces a pope when he dies. United replaces its president whenever the elders decide to do it.

Followers of United need to be careful about proclaiming God's involvement in their selection of a new president. Every time they proclaim God's involvement in the selection of the new president, they are also proclaiming God's involvement in the rejection of the old president. Personally, I believe elders (instead of God) rejected David Hulme and Les McCullough as president of the UCG.

At this time I believe that there are elders in United who want to remove Roy Holladay as president. For the record, in their system that is their prerogative to do so. They have the right to work behind the scenes to remove Mr. Holladay.

Likewise, followers of United also have the right to avoid questioning the logic of such decisions.

Do you know what will be interesting? Some followers of United may someday realize that my article actually helped the UCG in more ways than they can recognize at this time.

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