Letters & responses
We print a representative sampling of our mailboth positive and negative. We do not include names unless we are fairly sure that the writer would not object. To avoid any difficulty, writers should specify how much of their name and address they would like us to print. We include our response to each letter in this type-style. We have selected a title for each letter for easy reference. If writers supply their own title, we will be happy to use it.
Answers to Questions & Anointing
Letter: April 28, 1996
By way of introduction, I am a baptized member of the Church of God. I have attended services since the summer of 1975. Like so many others who have corresponded with you, I left the branch of God's Work wherein I was originally called (the WCG) in late 1994 after over two years of witnessing that group's apostasy. I had proven (against my better judgment sometimes) every doctrine that I believed from the Bible. It was because of this that I was so befuddled by the mass deviation from Truth that occurred during the early 1990's. I was one who truly believed the Pastor-General was being fooled as the congregation was being deceived.
The purpose for writing this letter is to "vent some steam" which has been building up as I have sought answers to questions (thus far unanswered) from a larger of the offshoot organizations which has formed from the WCG. I fellowship and attend with a GCG group in this area, though I have plainly stated my decision not to be counted as one of their members. I was relieved somewhat in reading the March/April Servants' News (Pg. 22c.) to find that mine are not the only queries going unaddressed.
It seems to me that there is a need to have an autonomous government in the Church of God at the local level for the necessary administration of such matters as anointing the sick (per Jms 5:14) and ministering to the needs of the unfortunate and poor, (per Acts 6:1-3 & Deut 26:12-13). I see this as much more advisable than awaiting an "anointed cloth" from a thinly stretched ministry, or hoping the needs of the poor among us will be handled by "headquarters." Personally, my days of awaiting an "anointed cloth" (which seems a dubious interpretation of Acts 19:11-12 at best), when there are elders present in the congregation to fulfill Jms 5:14, are over. Why are these simple instructions so difficult for "H-Q" to understand?
It is my hope and prayer that much of this uneasiness will be settled in the Churches of God. If those who picture themselves in authority would merely internalize the admonitions that they "preach at the laity" week after week, much good could be accomplished... Practice what you preach!
As I wrote to San Diego: "If you are given lemons, why not make lemonade, instead of waiting around and hoping God will provide some oranges?" (My paraphrase of an old HWA saying.) My other favorite adage being, "which college did Jesus go to...or Peter...or HWA for that matter?" (Per the desire of some for ministers with AC credentials.)
May God continue to bless your endeavors. Your fruits are evident in this area, and I hope elsewhere.
Your brother in the Church of God, Richard A. Heath, Ft. Pierce, FL
Response: It is understandable that a small ministry may not be able to respond to every letter. Servants' News is months behind in responding to some long letters and articles. But we are very different from hierarchical groups which will not allow their members to openly talk about or teach subjects unless they are approved by headquarters. If members write about their doctrinal understanding from the scriptures and cannot get an answer, then they are officially forbidden to discuss or practice what they believe is the truth of the Bible. On the other hand, serving ministries (like Servants' News) may take a while to study and answer questions, but we encourage people to learn from others and to practice what they believe the Scripture sayswhether or not we ever agree or answer.
We agree with you about the "dubiousness" of the "anointed cloth" interpretation of Acts 19:11-12. There is nothing at all about the cloth being anointed in these verses (or any other verse). This was a tradition started in the Worldwide Church of God, which the Eternal honored. I remember cases where myself and others were healed in this manner, although the healing often took place when the person asked for the "anointed cloth," not when the cloth actually arrived. We find numerous physical methods used in the Bible as a part of miraculous healing: a serpent on a pole (Num 21:7-9), washing in the Jordan river (2Kng 5:10), Peter's shadow (Acts 5:15) and mud made from spit (John 9:6). There is no more of a Bible command to send "cloths" to the sick than there is to send mud from spit. The WCG could have just as easily done that. In Matthew 8:8,13, the centurion's servant was healed at a distance by command with no physical sign at all.
Actually, we find no command in scripture to repeat any of these physical acts that the Eternal used in the process of some healings. Rather, we are told that the elders should be called, they should pray and anoint, and we should acknowledge our sins to each other (James 5:14-16).
Who are elders? Older, wiser, experienced people, usually menthough the Greek word, presbuteros, is used once for women (1Tim 5:2). How can we know that elders were not some office that men were "ordained to?" Since the time that the Eternal told Moses to gather 70 elders to help govern the nation (Num 11:16, Ex 24:1), it was understood that they were older men. These men have played a primary role in governing the Israelite nation and in local synagogues. The term is used dozens of times in the Gospels to refer to the leaders of the nation of Israel, and still used in that sense in Hebrews 11:2. It is inconceivable that such a well understood and often used term would be changed to an "ordained office" in a few decades. The sense of Tit 1:5 is to "set in place older, wiser men," not to "appoint a man to the "office" of elder.
With this understanding, it is clear that any older man can pray for and anoint another brother that is ill. James goes on to say, "Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective" (Jms 5:16)not limiting this power to any age or sex.
This last verse contains a point that seems to be ignored by manythe confessing of our sins (not other's sins) to other brethren. Why is that necessary or important? First of all, because the Eternal says we should do it if we want to be healed. But it is a very hard thing to doit is hard to admit to our friends that we are sinning. We would rather pretend that we are "pretty good." Nevertheless, when we become skilled at hiding our sins from others (like only yell at our family members when no one outside is present), we also become skilled at hiding them from ourselves. We all know that our Father sees everything that we do, but since he does not comment on our everyday actions, we are often not embarrassed to do things that He sees, but we are embarrassed to do things that people see. It is easy to get comfortable with sins that are known only by ourself and the Eternal. But if we confess them to others; the need to make progress in growth seems much more urgent.
The mailing of anointed cloths from a central headquarters, or its authorized ministers, does tend to cause people to look to a church organization to dispense healing, rather than to the Eternal. If a sick person lives too far away for the elders to physically anoint him, he can still use letters, telephone or e-mail to ask them to pray and to confess his sins to his brethren. There is no scriptural command to send a cloth, mud, a snake on a pole or any other thing that has once been involved in a healing.
Glad to Get the Facts on GTA
Letter: May 10, 1996
We have been searching various outreaches that can help our newly formed fellowship we started due to the abuses in Ted's church. I am very impressed with Servants' News and the articles are sure to help us as we feel our way along without leaning on some "corporate church."
I enjoyed the letter by Mr. Paul Haney. He made a poignant observationthe way it really is! When our church [Church of God, International] split, it was "let's all be Christiansnothing personalwe can still see each otherno hard feelings." Within two weeks we had leprosylocks changed on the buildingmy coffee cup winds up on someone's porch. Amazing study in character and group dynamics! You never know people until something likes this occurs.
Regarding the letter that accuses you of gossip. Anyone who had taken a sociology course knows when information is suppressed, people must rely on word of mouth. People need to know the truth and "gossip" is the only way to find things out. By comparing various stories, the truth will come out. People under the heel of communist rule will testify to that. As far as the videobefore I had seen it, I wasn't sure if it was true. All along people said, "Get the facts." The video is fact. Personally I had assumed CGI was adhering to the "church guidelines" they publishas it turns out, GTA [Garner Ted Armstrong] is disqualified on about four points of their standards.
Anyway, the air is cleaner and the water is pure and fit to drink in our fledgling little fellowship. Even though we don't have a great work going on TV, I believe God approves of us and will bless the new little independent groups and when the time is right will give us a job to do. Thanks for being a supporting friend in a time when we really need it.
Wayne Schatzle, West Chester, OH
Response: Thank you for your letter. My Random House dictionary defines gossip as "idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others." If Sally tells you about Martha's wild affair with Jim, and you do not know Martha or Jim well enough to help them, that is gossiptalk that should not have happened. But if Martha or Jim lives next door or are one of your children's teachers, then you may need to know.
If one of my children was regularly in the custody of a known pervert, I would certainly want someone to tell me as soon as they found out. I can forgive this troubled person and hope that he overcomes his sin, but I would still protect my children in the event that his overcoming is not quite complete yet. Similarly, if we are responsible for teaching some of our Father's spiritual children, we do not want to place them in the spiritual custody of a teacher that does not meet the Bible standard for a teacher.
Do not be concerned that you do not have a great work on TV, there are many other ways a work can be done. If, after several months, your group is not doing anything to reach out and help teach others, then I think it would be good to take some time to pray, study, and ask the Eternal to show you what to do.
An Honest Exchange of Ideas
Letter: March 12, 1996
I really like what you're doing with Servants' News, and I like the way you're going about it.
Very commendableI think.
It's a pleasure to see someone providing an objective and impartial open forum where an honest exchange of ideas/opinions/learning/etc. is taking place.
What a valuable service and work!
Please continue this taskwith God's help and the blessings of His favor.
Well done/keep it going!
Mike Sorgdrager, Sioux Falls, SD
Response: Thank you for your encouragement. There are now several other newsletters doing very similar things. Praise the Eternal! The world could use hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people teaching the Bible and pointing to the Messiah as leader. But when a man is seeking a following after himself, he wants to be the only voice.
Liked In Transition Article
Letter: May 8, 1996
Dear Mr. Edwards:
We were members of WCG for 33 years, baptized in July 1962. We left WCG about three years agoshould have left that organization long before then.
Just read the article " Servants' News Marks First Year" in the April 22nd issue of In Transition. It is most interesting and it's great to see the study and hard work you are doing and publishing to help God's people. Would you please put us on your mailing list. [literature request omitted] We have been getting tapes from Jim Rector for some time.
God bless you in every way.
Mr. & Mrs. Edward D. Colston,
Response: We have received a lot of requests for Servants' News from the In Transition article. In Transition could consider Servants' News a "competitor" and ignore us, but they are committed to serving the Eternal's people by providing as much useful information as possibleeven when that means writing about other similar publications.
[ In Transition is a monthly publication available from PO Box 450, Monroe, Ind. 46772. $10 for 6 issues, $18 for 12 issues.]
Point 6 for Passover Article
Letter: May 6, 1996
Dear Mr. Edwards,
We are writing in response to the excellent article in the March/April issue of Servants' News entitled "The Lord's Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread." We were thrilled to see the Passover presented from God's point of view without human interpretation.
We would like to add point 6 to the article "Plenty of Passover Papers" which deals with the controversial issue of the events surrounding the Messiah's last meal with His disciples in the beginning of the 14th and the Passover on the following evening.
If anyone has any comments on this point or would like to add more to it, please direct all correspondence to either Servants' News or our address, below.
Point 6. The Jews were keeping the Passover at the correct time and the Messiah was eating the "Passover offering for sin" with His twelve disciples in the beginning of the 14th of Nisan.
Supporting verses "emphasis added."
Ezk 45:21-22 In the first month, in the fourteenth day of the month, ye shall have the Passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten. And upon that day shall the "prince" prepare for himself and for all the people of the land a "bullock" for a "sin offering."
Lev 6:25-26, 29 Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, saying, This is the "law of the sin offering:" In the place where the burnt offering is killed shall the sin offering be killed before the Lord: "it is most holy." "The priest that offereth it for sin shall eat it:" in the holy place shall it be eaten, in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation. "All the males among the priests shall eat thereof: it is most holy."
Lev 7:7 As the sin offering is, so is the trespass offering: there is one law for them: "the priest that maketh atonement therewith shall have it."
Christ the "prince" had prepared a place for them to eat this meal. He was the "priest" who was offering the "bullock for sin" as well as the one who offered Himself as a Passover "lamb" the next evening at sunset, the time appointed by God for the "Passover sacrifice."
John 15:16...I have chosen you and "ordained" you....
Christ had "ordained" the twelve. They are the "priesthood" of the New Testament Church of God. (This also explains why only the twelve were at this meal as the Passover sacrifice in the end of the 14th is a family affair kept in small family groups with women and children included.)
Kevin and Ada MacPherson
257 Fitzroy Street, Summerside, PEI CANADA C1N 1H9
Response: Thank you for your additional understanding of the New Testament Passover. It is an idea that I have not heard of before. I have not studied it thoroughly, but it appears to be compatible with some of the other late-14th Passover positions. I will certainly give it much consideration in my Passover studies.
I do disagree with your last two paragraphs that state the twelve apostles were the New Testament Priesthood. All of the brethren are the New Testament priesthood (1Pet 2:5,9). The Greek word translated "ordain" in John 15:16 is tithemi, which means "to definitely put something somewhere." It has no connotation of a religious ceremony or making someone a priest. The same word is used in these mundane circumstances: " put him in prison" (Matt 14:3), "took away his corpse and laid it in a tomb" (Mark 6:29), and " laid the foundation [of a house]" (Luke 6:48).
Actually, every place we find the word "ordain" in the New Testament, it is translated from a Greek word that has another, more often used, meaning. We are sending you a copy of our article that explains these mistranslations entitled How Does the Eternal Govern Through Humans?
Why Lambs Selected on the 10th?
Letter: April 10, 1996
Please make sure we're still on your mailing list as we never received the March/April issue of Servants' News.
Five households, about 25 people, attended our first fellowship on the First Day of Unleavened Bread. At least that additional number expressed support and the desire to attend in the future. Our format and purpose is quite different from the traditional churches. What is said from the lectern does not carry the weight of ecclesiastical infallibility. Every male has the right to make a twenty minute presentation on whatever he wishes. Immediately afterwards anyone in the group may briefly comment. We all have the right to speak up and to disagree. We have a song service and a Bible reading service.
We are not calling ourselves a church, but rather a fellowship. We encourage each other to visit the groups around us. We are assembling together twice a month late on the Sabbath in order to allow us to attend with other groups, engage more in Bible study at home, and spend more time with our families on the Sabbath. In the future we can always change the schedule. We are not competing with the churches but providing a structure whereby members have an outlet for open discussion that is not currently possible in the traditional groups.
We do not take tithes. Without clear Biblical instruction on how Christians are to use the tithe, we do not feel we should "add" to the word of God by specifying how attendees in our fellowship should use the tithe. Hall rental of $45 is the only expense. In the future we want to advertise our fellowship in the community and we can use tithe contributions for that. We see a lot of potential in the local area.
We have a written code of procedure that ensures the rights of the people and prevents anyone from "bullying" his way over others. The person selected to preside over the fellowship is selected by lot from three members selected by all members. He serves a term of six months and his main function is to help ensure that the services are conducted properly and orderly.
We feel the trunk of the tree is the Ten Commandments and Jesus Christ. The other doctrines are branches and twigs. If we are going to discourage or encourage attendance on these branches and twigs, we are needlessly dividing ourselves. We encourage study, discussion, and conviction on doctrines classified as branches and twigs, but we insist that we each extend to others the same right to hold to convictions as the others extend to us. We can be totally dogmatic in our view, but we can't insist that our neighbor hold the same view. It's treating our neighbor as we would be treated.
I would like to add to what Richard Wiedenheft wrote in his excellent article, "Passover: Shadow of Our Savior." He wrote that the lamb was set aside on the 10th and kept until the 14th in order to observe whether it was healthy and for the children to become attached to it. I question whether these were the main reasons. What if the lamb was not healthy? There were no provisions to select another lamb the day before the Passover. What if certain Israelites had no children? Many of us make personal pets of animals, but was this the intent of the three days? I think there is a lot more to the three days. I would like to build upon Mr. Wiedenheft's brief connection of the keeping of the lambs to the ministry of Christ. Here's how. A careful reading of Exodus 10, 11, and 12 shows very clearly that the three days of darkness immediately preceded the Passover. The lambs were kept during this same three day period. Ex 10:21-23 states that a thick darkness that could be felt covered the land of Egypt three days and that no one arose from his place, but the children of Israel had light in their dwellings. Ex 10:24 through 11:8, not including Ex 11:1-3 which is a parenthetical insert, records the last conversation between Pharaoh and Moses. Pharaoh calls for Moses at the end of the three days of darkness. Pharaoh tells Moses to never see his face again. Moses replies that Pharaoh is correct that he will never see his face again because at midnight God will destroy all the firstborn of Egypt. Moses leaves Pharaoh in great anger. The Passover was that night. Ex 12:21 picks up the story flow where Moses commands the elders of Israel to kill the Passover lambs. Ex 12:1-20 is an overview of the Passover festival. Thus, the Israelites selected a lamb on the 10th. Sometime on the 11th the three days of darkness began. Three days later brings us to the 14th. The symbolism is very rich. The Passover lamb pictured Christ. Egypt pictured slavery to sin, darkness, and death. Christ pictures light and life. Christ preached for three years, three symbolic days. (Christ's ministry lasted three years, not three and a half years as some mistakenly assert.) Matt 4:16 and Luke 1:79 quote Isa 9:2 that the people who sat in great darkness and the shadow of death had light. Christ, the lamb was that light. Christ told his disciples to walk in the light while He was present. Israel had light in their dwellings the three days they kept the lambs while Egypt was in darkness. John is replete with Scriptures showing Christ is both the Lamb and the Light: The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness does not comprehend it, only spiritual Israel could see and walk by the Light. "Light came into the world but men preferred darkness because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). Christ said if anyone walked in the night, he stumbled because there was no light in him. Christ said He came as a light into the world that whoever believes in Him should not abide in darkness. At the end of Christ's ministry as that Light, He was sacrificed as the Passover Lamb.
We see that the three days of darkness symbolized the spiritual darkness and death that is Egypt. Israel had light in their dwellings because of the lambs which symbolized Christ. At the end of the three days the Passover Lamb, Christ, was slain to release them from Egypt and to show God's victory over Egypt.
I thought Jack Lane's article was an excellent example of the dilemma facing Church members between works and grace. I noticed several breakdowns in logic in his article. We definitely do not have the last word on law, works, faith, judgment, salvation, etc.
In Christian fellowship,
John Sash, Eldon, Missouri
Response: You have made a good point about the lambs that we have never heard before. While your understanding seems far more significant, it does not appear to invalidate Wiedenheft's points. The Eternal gave everyone the command to teach our children His law (Deut 6:7), even though some that heard it did not have children. Also, if they found their lamb to be sick, they could simply share a lamb with another family. If they baked a little extra unleavened bread, everyone could be full on half as much lamb. The decision about how many people a lamb would serve was completely up to the people (Ex 12:4).
As far as Jack Lane's article is concerned, I am sure that he would be glad to hear from you directly.
Please Send Servants' News
Letter: January 4, 1996
Friends of the Brethren,
I am a sad and disillusioned former member of the Worldwide Church of God. Please put my name on the mailing list for your newsletter, Servants' News.
M.K., Hastings, Ont, Canada
Response: We will be glad to do so.
Vertical & Horizontal Government
I'm extremely excited to find unbiased publications concerning God's truths. Your comments concerning governance of God's people (everywhere) are interesting to me.
Please allow me to be a subscriber to Servants' News, and, if possible, to receive all back issues and future issues. Also a copy of How Does the Eternal Govern Through Humans." The subject needs (seems to me) to be made more clear.... In an attempt to grow (spiritually) continually, I feel I need all the (godly) and physical input available. I would appreciate it if I could be a contributor to this work of God. Revelation comes from God in many phases and sources. Keep up the (exhaustingly) good work.
God's "true church" is not (in my mind) any one building (organization) but His elect who remain true in the faith. All organizations fall short compared to God's Kingdom and the rulership of Christ. The Jews once held the superiority attitude, yet God opened His Kingdom (through Jesus) to the Gentiles! All of His Commandments, etc. were for Man (Humanity). QuestionIf all the "Ours is the Only True Church" believers were huddled in one large place (like the place of safety), would there be room for other truth keepers, or would they be turned away? Governance is not salvation. Endurance in the Word, retention of God's Spirit, growing and bearing fruits, continual turning away and strivingSpiritual submission and the Love to please God is where it's at! Governance, Vertical or Horizontal? Bah! Be Vertical by standing up for the truth. Be Horizontal by laying down our life for Jesus and seeking His Government.
Ken Eary, Sciotoville, OH
Response: We agree with you. "When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice" (Prov 29:2).
Philadelphians =Scattered Brethren?
Letter: April 8, 1996
Dear Norm and crew,
I have just read your March/April '96 Servants' News and was quite astonished to see the article on miracles. You see for some time now I have been showing and telling the brethren at church to start looking closer at the healing, signs and wonders which were done preaching the Gospel in the N.T. It is becoming very obvious that this is going to happen again very soon since preaching the Gospel HWA-style no longer works. Also, today, at a "Friends of the Sabbath Seminar" over and over again, from several different groups, a sense of urgency was conveyed. Time is short and the only way the Gospel will be preached is through the power of God and not TV.
Something I would like to see is a study of the "brotherly love" era of God's Church.
I am beginning to believe this Philadelphia era is different groups cooperating, helping and loving one another. Having grown up in WCG and now attending UCG, I do not believe this has been fulfilled yet.
Please put me on your mailing list. Thanks a lot.
Your brother in Christ,
Ray Sancho, Fowlerville, MI
Response: We have seen thick articles and even books on the characteristics of "Philadelphians" and "Laodiceans" and the speculation as to who they might be. This is amazing when you consider that there are only about two or three verses that really describe the characteristics of each.
In Revelation 3:8-10 we find that Philadelphians have:
1) an open door that no one can shut
2) a little strength
3) not denied His word
4) not denied His name
5) kept His command to persevere
There is an important connection with the "key of David" in verse 7 and Isaiah 22:22 where we find mention of opening and shutting, and the "key of the house of David." Some have said that this key is the knowledge of the "lost ten tribes" of Israel, but would not that be the "key of Jacob?" David was of Judah and his descendants are well known today! But "He who is Holy, He who is True" has the key, not the Phila delphians, so let us look at the direct description of the Philadelphians.
From points #1 and #5 we can conclude that these brethren continued diligently to teach others (Acts 14:27, 1Cor 16:9, 2Cor 2:12, Col 4:3). Point 2 shows that they were not obviously powerful. Yet some church leaders, who have claimed to be "Philadelphian", also claimed to be "the most powerful work since the original 12 apostles." Hmmmm. Are not the Phila delphians a less powerful, humbler group?
To understand point #3, we must understand what is "His Word." The Bible is only part of the "Word of God." If we search the Bible for the phase "Word of God," we find that it refers to many words the Eternal spoke that were not included in the Biblethat Brethren had the "Word of God" within themselves (Luke 3:2; Acts 12:24; 13:5,46; 1Thes 2:13; 2Tim 2:9; Heb 11:3; Heb 13:7; 2Pet 3:5). Not denying the "word of God" is not denying the Bible as well as not denying that He can still speak to us today. To those of a Jewish background, this probably means not denying the spoken words of the Eternal later written down as "oral law."
I am still studying the meaning of point #4. To many people this means we must not forget to use the "sacred names," Yahweh and Yashua, Yehowa and Yehoshua, or some other variant. It is unlikely that using the names "God" and "Jesus" helps to make one Philadelphian as nearly all Christian religions make extensive use of those names.
In summary, Philadelphians have only a little strength themselves, but do not deny His power to work through them and continue to teach others. They make few great claims for themselves, but keep working.
In Revelation 3:15-17 we find that Laodiceans are:
1) lukewarm; neither cold nor hot.
2) saying they are rich, wealthy and have need of nothing
3) wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked
Laodiceans obviously have the wrong impression of themselves; they are the opposite of the way they think they are. This would account for the lukewarmnesssomeone that thinks they are doing very well tends not to work so hard. What is wrong? They think they are richthat they have everything they need. If we take this physically, we could look around to see which groups have leaders and ministers with nice, high-quality houses, cars and clothes.
But the second half makes little sense on a physical level, there are few people that are physically naked, blind and poor, but think they are rich. If we understand this to be a spiritual analogy, we would expect Laodiceans to claim they have nearly all of their doctrine correct and do not need to learn much more. Yet, we would probably find that if we asked these same people difficult Bible questions, that they would be unable to give a sensible answer. And they would be so convinced of their spiritual riches, that they would not even realize they could not give an answer.
Yet, they must be bearing some fruit because point #1 states that they are not cold, they have desire and are doing some good. If we want to find Laodiceans, we must look for people with an inflated opinion of themselvesmaybe they will claim that they are the "primary group through which God is working."
But the good news about all of this is that we do not have to worry about "getting in with the wrong group." Every group is told that a reward will be given "to him [an individual] that overcomes." Even individual Laodiceans are told that the Messiah will come in and dine with them if they will simply hear His voice. Every letter tells every person to listen to every letter to every congregation. They are all examples to all of us so we can examine ourselvesand our congregationand determine if we need to make some changes.
Not All Messianic Jews Alike
Letter: April 23, 1996
Recently one of your readers wrote in and expressed an interest in corresponding with people who are interested in the "Jewish" aspects of our religion. In her letter, she wrote that she had met with resistance within the Churches of God when she tried to introduce these aspects. In your response to her letter, you suggested two Messianic groups that were close in doctrine to the Churches of God and had less of the Protestant teachings than most of the other Messianic organizations. Well, to continue the "conversation," I'm here to dispel a common misunderstanding about Messianic Jewish organizations.
The misunderstanding is that all Messianic Jews believe the same things. And, they are all too Protestant: they believe in the Trinity, the Immortal Soul, etc. While that is mostly true about what the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations teach that is NOT what all Messianic groups teach or even believe. They, too, have splintering factions among them. As an example that most of your readers can relate to, look at the diversity between the Worldwide Church's splinter groups. Although they share many similar doctrines, there are major differences among them as well. And they continue to evolve and splinter. Such is the case with Messianic Judaism. Human nature is the same everywhere, is it not?
As for my personal experience with the Messianic movement, my husband and I (both have a WCG background) have visited the Messianic synagogue in Dallas several times which is a member synagogue of the Union that teaches the Trinity, etc. However, on a more local level, we have been meeting on the Sabbath with a local, independent, non-aligned Messianic fellowship group. They have no minister "assigned" to them from any Messianic group. In fact, they have no teacher at all; they teach themselves. The biggest surprise about this group: they don't accept the Trinity, they don't believe in an Immortal Soul, etc., etc. In fact, each person is on a different level of growth, much like their Church of God counterparts. They did not come into their understanding via Herbert W. Armstrong or any related church, either. They came into their understanding through an independent, non-aligned Messianic ministry in Port Arthur, Texas.
The teacher's name is Joseph Good. His story is also interesting; he was one of the original founders of the Union of Messianic Jews but resigned over doctrinal differences and started his own ministry. Does that sound familiar???
My point is simple: Messianic groups are as different as WCG splinter groups. And within these groups you have individuals who have different beliefs. My hope is that you and your readers will not put all of the Messianic believers in the same category.
In hope of better understanding among believers,
Veronica Smith, Tyler, TX
Response: We thank you for your thoughtful letter. We are amazed how church group "A" can proudly show how their organization accepted "new truth" as the Eternal revealed it, but then turn around and say church group "B" is "unconverted" because they have the same doctrine that church group "A" had until a few years ago. If we are mature in our faith, we must be able to accept and help believers that have less knowledge than we do!
Independent Christian Finds Help
Letter: May 8, 1996
To Servants' News,
Thank you for Servants' News. I am very glad that I heard about the newsletters and I really appreciate them. I left the Worldwide Church of God after attending about thirty years and I am now an independent Christian so this is very helpful to me in my studies.
Hazel Dingman, Stanton, MI
Response: We are glad that you find Servants' News helpful. When you say "independent Christian" we realize that you mean "independent from organizations of men," not "independent from the vine" (John 15:5). When speaking to people that might not understand, it is important to make this distinction.
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