Letters & Responses

We print a representative sampling of our mail—both 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.

MS-Word Bible Available

Letter: September 16, 1996

I have recently finished putting the King James Bible on disk and am willing to offer it free to any Servants' News readers who want a copy. I use Microsoft Word version 6 on a PC (the default "save" was to just plain Word, which someone at work says should work on any version and on either Mac's or PC's, but I don't know enough about computers to promise that it will).

Anyone interested can contact me:

—Will Benedetti

2557 Bexley Park Road

Columbus, Ohio 43209


Response: Thanks for your offer to serve. I believe your MS-Word Bible will be usable by both IBM and Mac users. You may have to select an option to create an IBM-format floppy disk, as most IBM users cannot use Mac disks. Most wordprocessors updated within the last year or two will read MS-Word 6.0 files.


Brethren in Malaysia

Letter: September 10, 1996

Dear Norman:

Recently Myron Martin of Patriots of the Kingdom sent me parts of the June issue of Servants' News which I find informative. Earlier on, I've come across a feature story of you and Servants' News in In Transition as well.

I was disfellowshipped by Malaysian WCG pastor Yong Chin Gee in August 1992 for questioning church authority and spreading CGI and PCG literature to a few members. He was allowing his wife's close friend in the church to sell vitamins openly on the Sabbaths then!?!

After I decided not to attend their so called God chosen feast site in Phuket, Thailand, my wife and I were put out of the church. So my family kept the '92 feast alone by ourselves in Malaysia, after almost 20 years as faithful WCG members?

Anyway, the purpose of my e-mail is to ask for a subscription of your Servants' News magazine. Presently, I'm receiving the Philadelphia Trumpet, Prophecy Flash, World Ahead, Good News & the Pure Truth magazines and would like to add Servants' News to the list. Lah! [Malaysian: Wow!]

Thanking you in advance and may Yahveh continue to bless you and your family for being His faithful servant in the end-time!

With Christian love.

—Bob Lim Pang Ooi, Malaysia

Response: We will gladly send you Servants' News. We appreciate Myron Martin's work in alerting Sabbath-keepers to the diversity of information available to them. We pray that you will be able to use your knowledge and communications skills to help other Maylasian brethren through the difficult times. We do not mean for you to set yourself up as "their new spiritual leader," but simply to provide information about what other Sabbath-keepers are doing and studying, and to encourage them to read their Bibles and let the holy spirit teach them. —NSE

Enjoyed Oklahoma Feast

Letter: October 13, 1996

Hi Norman,

I hope all went well on your return trip from the feast and I hope the tapes of the readings and sermons are clear and useable. Tommye and I just wanted to say thank you for your hard work in organizing and coordinating everything at the Feast. It was a very enjoyable Feast and it was a challenging feast. After hearing the subjects expounded we have plenty of study ahead of us to either reinforce what we have believed or to consider where we might have been holding on to wrong concepts. In either case we have been challenged to know whereof we speak and to prove all things. I consider this feast a success.

—Gene Phelan, Texas

Response: We had a very enjoyable return trip. Thanks for all of your help with the sound system and in other areas.


Likes Speedy Response

Letter: September 10, 1996

Mr. Edwards;

Thank you for your rapid response to my request for the issues of Servants' News. My wife called me at work today to tell me that they arrived already. The listing of Feasts sites will be very helpful. Again Thank You Very Much!


—Jack Connors

Response: We are happy that your response was so quick, but it does not happen to everyone. We usually send out literature twice each week. If your letter arrives on one of the days that we are mailing literature, your response is likely to be faster. Also, it depends on how busy your and my post offices are. The less-expensive rate we use may go as fast as first class if they are not busy—but it can take two or three weeks at a busy time. —NSE

Praising Jesus in Music and Spring Missouri Doctrinal Meeting

Letter: October 12,1996

Dear Norm and Marleen,

Thank you so much for all the work you put into the Feast. Everyone I talked to said this was the best Feast they've had in years. Whereas in years past we went away from the Feast feeling spiritually hungry, this year we came away feeling spiritually stuffed. We're very excited about all there is to study in the next year.

I just wanted to make a couple of observations. It is a falsehood that unity means we have to all speak the same thing. I think everyone present at Martin's Landing [place of Oklahoma Feast site] believed a little differently from everyone else. Yet we assembled in unity and respected each other's different beliefs. Had one person risen and demanded that all believe a certain way, disunity would have resulted. Although we all disagreed to some degree with each of the presentations, most of us were very glad to hear and consider what was said. On the other hand if any one of the presenters had demanded we all conform to his teaching, I think most of us would have walked out. But since we were all on equal footings, we didn't fear, have reason to distrust, or feel compelled to be defensive towards any of the speakers. We wanted others to believe as God led them, but we wanted to be left alone to believe as God led us. Lastly, I wanted to mention the music. I realize there were some murmurings in both camps. Personally, the reason Debbie and I did not sing certain songs was that they overly praised "Jesus, Jesus" to the exclusion of God. Debbie and I felt this was a reflection back to the Protestant misconception of the Messiah, Christ. We could not in good conscience sing them. It did not offend us if others sang these songs, but by the same token, it should not offend those others if we chose not to sing them. To ask us to all sing them for the sake of unity would be like asking all the vegetarians in a group to eat meat or all the meat eaters to be vegetarians for the sake of unity. It would be better to say if it offends you to eat meat, then you better not eat it, and if you do eat meat, then don't make it a stumbling block to your brother.

Response: I understand your decision not to sing some of the hymns if you do not think they are appropriate. I had trouble singing some of them because they do remind me of some congregations I attended years ago where "sweet Jesus" was someone who would make everything better without any learning or changing on the part of the individual. However, the hymns we used did not have any incorrect Biblical message as far as I know.

You are right in that almost all praise in the scriptures is directed toward the Father, yet there are specific verses that direct praise toward His Son: (Rev 5:12, Phil 2:9-11, Luke 19:38-40). In our Feast song book, the older traditional hymns praised the following entities: God/Father-8, Jesus/Christ-23, Lord-5, none-3. Of the modern "praise and worship" music in our book, God/Father-8, Jesus/Christ-5, Lord-15, none-2. Where "Lord" is praised, it is often difficult to tell who the author had in mind, since this term is commonly used in the King James New Testament for both Father and Son. The modern lyrics, which were more often simply words from Scripture, praise "God" more than "Jesus". None of the 8 Dwight Armstrong songs (with words from the Psalms) refer to the name Jesus. Our different appreciations show why it is good to use a variety of music and not worry about who sings what.

Letter (continued): We're very excited about what's happening among God's people. Several of us, including you, have mentioned getting together during the Passover Festival, possibly here in Missouri. Let's have a seminar over one of the weekends during the Feast and advertise in "The Servants' News," "In Transition," "The Sabbath Sentinel," and "Friends of the Sabbath." Rather than having representatives of the various organizations speak, let's do the opposite. Let's invite all, but emphasize that no organization will be represented. Then, let's ask the attendees in advance what issues they want to have presented. We'll do our best to have at least two knowledgeable presenters give differing views on each issue. One could speak for 30 minutes, then the other for 40 minutes, then the first speaker for 10 minutes. Afterwards the audience could question the speakers and give comments. Look at all the issues that God's people are currently discussing and trying to resolve: tithing, Passover, Pentecost, typology of the fall Feast, calendar, government, who Christ was, 100 year period, covenants, music, gospel, eschatology— this is only a partial list as you know. The goal in all this would be to provide a forum whereby God's people can be exposed to the scholarship on both sides of currently debated issues to help individual Christians in growing in grace and knowledge of the Lord.

I think a lot of people want to hear these issues discussed in an open forum. United buries them in committees and Global buries whoever brings them up. The Friends of the Sabbath has a different agenda, that of showing what Sabbath keepers have in common. Many of the issues that face Christians from the WCG are not addressed in open forum. I think the interest in such a forum would surprise all of us. People could use their Festival funds which would allow more to attend. The various negative considerations dealing with organizations would be eliminated because no organization would be represented. There are several of us here in Missouri who would be willing to do a lot of work to make this a success.

Let us know what you think of the idea, what support you could give us, and what ideas you have to improve it. I think the time is ripe and opportunity is knocking. We hope all is going well for you and your family. Please say hi to the Dewey's for us.

—-John & Deb Sash

RT 3 Box 327-1

Eldon, Missouri 65026


Response: I would be very interested in helping to promote such a meeting and might be able to come. Missouri is a good centrally-located place where many people could drive to. Your suggestion for the format is good. Some complex doctrines, like the nature of God, and the counting of Pentecost may need several sessions, with each one focusing on a particular aspect. I encourage anyone who would be interested in presenting a topic to write directly to you. Most people going to listen will want to know what the topics will be before they make plans to go.

We will pray that the Eternal makes this conference possible if it will be good for the brethren. We encourage everyone to contact the Sash's with topics they would like to hear or present.


Many Have Sacred Cows!

Letter: September 9, 1996

Religious people have many sacred cows in their lives. Sometimes they are recognized as such and sometimes they continue to worship them with their time and efforts. If the cow is sacred to them they will probably take offense very easily. However, Jesus just spoke the truth because they needed to hear it, even though those religious Jews became offended. Keep it coming!!!

Your friend in Christ, —Jerry Laws

Response: Thank you for your continued encouragement. Our Saviour acted as a shepherd, guiding and sometimes pushing His sheep where they ought to be. When they were drifting into danger, he had to push hard. —NSE

Sacred Names, Calendar Issues

Letter: July, 1996

Greetings Mr. Edwards,

I want to thank you for sending me the Servants' News and thank you, Mr. Brumm, for calling my attention to it.

I am very encouraged by the overall tone of tolerance and acceptance that is conveyed by your publication. After leaving WCG, I began worshipping in the Names and have been condemned by those in many Church of God fellowships for that practice. Your update of open and non-aligned feast sites included three sites with which I have had contact where they do worship in the Names and that pleased me very much.

It is obvious that you are promoting unity, but the right kind of unity. Unity where we can all support one another because of our common beliefs, not unity which is forced upon us by having to all follow a creed outlined by a single man in a position of authority. Yahshua said that was the way of the gentiles, their leaders liked to "lord" over them. We on the other hand are to be led by Yahweh's Spirit as individuals.

Are you interested in receiving articles for publication? I have researched the "calendar" since 1974. Since that is an area of major interest for me, I would gladly prepare an article for publication, but only if you are interested. I know that this subject can also cause division and can understand why you might opt not to publish anything pertaining to it. Let me know.

Thanks again,

—Thomas J. Bailey

Response: We are interested in publishing information about sacred names and about the calendar. Unfortunately, we have similar problems with both of these issues: most articles we receive tend to support one particular view and then go on to condemn everyone who is not worshipping in that way. We have received long papers supporting over a half dozen pronunciations for the names of the Father and His Son, and maybe a dozen different calendar systems. Most of the articles support their view from scripture and history, but they usually do not explain how all of the other views are wrong. Actually, it is evident that most of the writers have not heard of some of the other views. Also, some of the articles leave some important questions unanswered—that does not mean the article is wrong; there may be a good answer—but it does make the article difficult to publish.

We do not think it would be helpful to our readers to publish all of the papers we have and let them sort it out for themselves—it would be expensive to send out all 500 pages or so and not many would have time to read it. At some point, we hope to read through all of the papers, throw out the obvious error, summarize the important points and present the results to our readers. We may come to a definite conclusion or we may not.

We would be interested in publishing an article on these or other subjects if it contains solid, provable information that would help our readers gain understanding without condemnation. Our 10-page Biblical Calendar Basics article is an example of one way to do this.

Please let us know the nature of the article that you intend to write before you spend a lot of time writing it for us.

Thank you for your interest in teaching others.


Starting a New Congregation

Letter: August 20, 1996

Mr. Edwards,

I don't know if you remember me when we met [location withheld]. The minister here has decided to join another organization and we have decided to go independent. However, we have some problems that we are dealing with. I hope that you can give me quick answers to the following questions to help us on our way.

1) Should women serve on the Church board?

2) Should the board be selected by lots? Or is that a process with which the Eternal will help us only as a matter of last resort when we are unable to agree otherwise?

3) Should women be able to vote?

4) We are looking to make certain we don't have the top down government problems that have plagued the churches in the past. But how do we decide who should take on a leadership role with regards to ministry or pastoring?

I recognize that all of the members have the gifts of the Spirit and in our congregation we have a number of individuals who can give sermons. Whoever ends up in a leadership role with this regard will likely work in a very collaborative fashion, but someone has to act in a role of leadership. How do we decide?

Your answers to these questions as soon as possible, would be helpful as we are trying to decide these things on the upcoming Sabbath.


Your brother in the Messiah,

(name withheld)

Response: As soon as it is ready, we will send you our new piece of literature, entitled Starting a Sabbath Service. This should cover many of the questions that you are asking. We will E-mail you the incomplete version that we have now—it should be of some help.

I think your decision to become independent in your situation was wise. It is not good when a local congregation is "tossed from group to group"—especially if this is done without the members request or knowledge. The purpose of local congregations is for fellowship, learning, and to help teach others—not to direct funds to a specific organization. If some people in a local congregation push to join a specific organization, it often ends up splitting the group again—the ones who are not ready to join, leave. By being independent, you can solidify your local congregation and then decide to work with other groups as it makes sense to do so.

I will address each of your questions, but I think you are probably trying to start your group too fast. I will insert one of the early sections of my new paper here:


Start with the essentials of a location, a time to meet, songs to sing, scripture to read and messages to give. Let the spending of money and the development of more complex plans and policies wait until the need arises. Do not start your group by collecting money, writing a "doctrinal statement," printing stationery, instituting various programs or by designating people for various "offices." If the heart and core of your service is not group worship, praise and study, no amount of organization or documents will make the service any better.

You do not need to name, register or incorporate a group in order to begin meeting. (Some countries may absolutely require some form of registration before any public meetings take place, but they are in the minority.) Again, starting with these physical questions detracts from the forming of a spiritual congregation—which should be your purpose. If you start by setting up a board, offices, and an organizational structure, you may create something that will be hard to undo. Let everyone get to know each other and recognize each other's gifts before they decide who they want to do what.

You can start a service simply by having a meeting with most of the people and deciding where and when services will be and who will speak. If you are worried that someone may try to "take over" the first meeting, then invite a member from a nearby congregation to come and chair the meeting.

As meetings continue, many physical and organizational questions will be raised and they can be dealt with as necessary. Problems that never come up do not need to be solved. We can use the meeting place as an example: Before searching for a hall and all that entails, try meeting in a home. If that becomes unworkable, then look for another place, if the home continues to be adequate, you have saved a lot of time and money.

(end of quote from paper)

I think the above is very important. You need to realize that the "Church" are those people with the holy spirit, and you do not need to have some kind of documentation or structure for the people to meet. Nevertheless, I will answer your questions:

1) I would prefer to use the term "elders," or "council" rather than "board" which is not in the Bible. I think you should create a group like this only if your congregation is too large for everyone to meet together to decide issues. If there are 12 adults in your congregation and you create a governing body of 7, that means essentially means that 5 are shut out from decision making. On the other hand, if there are 30 adults, then a smaller group seems to make sense.

The whole emphasis in leadership is to find people who have the gifts of administration and service. The democratic idea that every little interest group should have a voice in governing is not in the Bible. If your congregation has several left-handed people, you do not necessarily need at least one left-handed council member. If you have racial or ethnic groups present, you do not necessarily have to have one of each of them on the council. Though historically most groups of elders were men, there is no specific forbidding of women to be present. However, the same advice should be taken as for other special groups: do not try to put one on the council just so you can have one. If a left-hander, Ice-lander, woman, or man is the best person to do a specific job, then they should do it. If people complain "we need more women on this board," I think it is a mistake. If they say "Theodore is not fulfilling his job well and we think Brenda would do much better," then they may have a point.

2) When lots were used in Acts 1, the apostles had already done a lot of selecting on their own. It did not seem to be a matter of disagreeing, but more a matter of no one knew who was the right man for the job. If everyone is simply trying to get the job done and there is no spirit of control or contention in your group, it may work to simply sit down and decide who will take care of what. The choices may be obvious. If there are several people who might be similarly qualified, they may agree to take turns at a job or they may wish to cast lots. However, if there is a spirit of contention in your group—disagreement about who should have what job, people who are afraid someone else will get a certain job, then you may want to avoid the contention and cast lots for leaders. This must be done with an attitude of humility, asking the Eternal to solve a problem that the group cannot.

3) The purpose of governing is not to get your share of power, but to get the necessary work done. All people with the spirit of God should take part in the voting—though people who are not regular members or not familiar with the issues should abstain from voting. The American practice of encouraging others to vote for you does not belong in a congregation. Again, the purpose is not to gain power of the "elected" but to find the best person for the job.

4) It is fortunate that you have a number of people who can speak. Any one of you could make a speaking schedule. Many of the responsibilities that are traditionally assigned to a pastor can and probably should also be shared:

baptizing: Any of the elders (older, experienced men) can do it.

anointing the sick: Any elder can do it.

counseling: Let people choose their own counselor—the decision is theirs.

disfellowshiping: This should be done by the congregation (Matt 18:16-18).

marrying: Can you find any scripture where a minister, elder, or anyone "married" people?

funerals: This is essentially another speaking assignment.

There is still a need for someone to coordinate all of the other functions of people serving, but it is indeed more like a shepherd—occasionally guiding—than the captain of an army. I suggest you share the responsibility until there is either a clear need for one person or until it is obvious that the Eternal would like a certain person to do it. I know of local groups that have operated for years with no one man in charge—our High Priest is in charge.

Let me know how it all works out.


Many Questions About Sabbath Services, Including Role of Women

Letter: September 5, 1996


I have been giving this subject [How the Eternal Governs] thought for years. I must say that you have done a very good job of covering it.

Here of late I have been thinking that we need to get more in touch with the way the "Jews" did things. It is because we do not really understand the way the synagogues work, why the Jews do (or don't do) certain things that we miss things in the scriptures. One of the things I feel is causing us problems is the old WCG standard church format. Children feel excluded from church, and are put out of the church before they can even join. I have mentioned this within the Global organization and while it has not fallen completely on deaf ears, I just don't think they get it.

Response: You are quite right. The role of most children and teens in services is being quiet and maybe putting money in the basket on holy days. All of the other activities a group may organize are nice, but what do we hope to teach our children? Join the XXX Church of God because it has a good baseball league and picnics? Usually, once a year groups will have a "youth day" and let them take part in services—proving that they can contribute—but then deny them the opportunity most of the year. There seems to be far too little interest in letting children contribute to services.

Letter (continued): I must also admit that I am not comfortable with leaving GCG and the camaraderie offered. But, I am not in favor of things that are done by many of the individuals.

Response: "For whatever is not from faith is sin" (Rom 14:23). I think most people are better off attending and serving somewhere rather than nowhere. If you are learning, growing, and serving somewhere, then continue to attend. If you are not, then ask the Eternal to show you something new.

Letter: I have been thinking long and hard about things and I am not comfortable with many things. One of which was how long I stayed in WCG before I finally said enough! I should have exploded long before I did, and today would. I have felt for a long time that we as individuals must take ownership of this way of life, not have some one tell us how to live it. I guess I am saying that we must become responsible for our lives (an interesting thought considering that God says "Work out your own salvation..."). Yet it was so hard to do with people telling us that we had to follow a governmental structure.

Response: I have often asked myself, "Why did I simply go along with the crowd for so many years?" The answer is that the WCG did teach a lot of truth and did do a lot of good. The "do it our way even if you cannot see it in the Bible" mentality crept into the WCG over a long period of time, not suddenly. Most of us were busy serving or busy with our own concerns and not really studying independently and asking for the inspiration of the holy spirit.

Letter: At any rate, after reading your article/paper, I have some questions I must ask:

Speaking in tongues leaves me troubled. I know that there are some who "speak in tongues" and I know that when they are recorded, what is played back at a slower speed is not very pleasant to listen to. So, what I can't come to grips with is why God would say that He is not the author of confusion, yet have people speak in tongues such that there is no one in the audience that speaks that language. I believe you can see the problem that my logic points to. Lack of understanding makes it difficult sometimes to see the logic of something, so I am asking you to assist me with this one. You have obviously given much thought to this, and so I would like your input.

Response: It seems many who claim to have the "gift of tongues" do not—they have a counterfeit. I have heard of cases where this speaking has been recorded and played back at faster, slower or backwards and words praising Satan are completely distinguishable. If we follow Paul's admonition to always have someone interpret when another speaks in tongues, we will not have difficulty (1Cor 14:5-13, 27). If this person has a genuine spiritual gift, the words of the interpreter should reflect the words of the Eternal. The congregation can "judge" this, just like they would judge the speaking of prophets (1Co 14:29).

Letter: In the area of Prophecy, I realize that there are prophecies in the OT about people of various ages prophesying in the end times. What good are prophecies, particularly of private interpretation? What kind of prophecies would one expect? Why would God do this?

Response: The Eternal has always helped his servants through difficult times (Amos 3:7). Prophecies in the New Testament were sometimes very local: a warning of a famine so people could prepare (Acts 11:28-30) or the future of a person's life so he could be ready for it (Acts 21:11). We will certainly have many trying times ahead of us and it is nice for our loving father to reach down and tell us what we should be doing.

Letter: How can we bring changes to organizations gently? I notice that you did leave GCG. I think I am starting to understand why, and I can't say that you were wrong. But, how can we as individuals, bring changes about simply? While doing this, since there is a prophecy about the power of the Holy people being destroyed, scattered, etc. in the end days, how can we do a powerful work if we do not combine forces (as it were)?

Response: While I was in GCG I tried to bring changes to it gently, but found that "evangelists of 40 years" were, in general, not open to ideas that did not fit in with their years of experience. Since I stopped working for Global, I have written them several letters hoping they would change at least in a few areas, but again, they cited Herbert Armstrong's methods as the "proven way to do a big work." Why they cannot see the connection between HWA's methods and the way his work ended is uncertain.

If we believe that the Eternal can manage only one human organization at a time, then we should all band together in one. But we find Paul seemingly unconcerned that people were "preaching Christ" for reasons different than his own (Phil 1:15-18). This is in great contrast to the GCG, UCG and other hierarchical groups which are largely commanding local congregations to stop local preaching of the Gospel unless "headquarters approves it." Whether or not more people have begin keeping the Sabbath by local evangelism than by central media efforts seems to be a question they do not want answered.

I believe that the Eternal used Herbert Armstrong to teach much truth to people who had never heard of the Sabbath or many other Biblical truths. Through writing and broadcasting, one man was able to reach a great many. But Herbert Armstrong departed from the truth that he understood about government in 1939 and began to make great claims about himself—claims that John the Baptist or the apostles never made about themselves. Because of this, he died estranged from everyone in his family and nearly everyone in the WCG. Slowly, over a period of time, the Eternal took apart the hierarchical system that Armstrong created—giving the "little ones" time to realize the error of those ways and to change.

I doubt that the prophecy to "scatter" (KJV) or "shatter" (NKJV) "the power of the holy people" is being fulfilled now. I think more people will be reached now by local congregations with the power of the holy spirit than have ever been reached before by electronic media. The prophecies in Matthew 10:23, 23:34 indicate that the gospel will be preached, and we will receive persecution on a city to city basis. As you well know, it is fairly easy for the Federal government to shut down a large single corporation by obtaining "temporary" court injunctions against it while "investigating" it. The corporation can be found innocent in the end, but its inability to operate during the "investigation" can destroy it. However, spirit-filled preaching by a lot of local groups will be much harder to stop—especially if they are unincorporated. It will have to be done on a city-by-city basis.

Letter: I joined Global because I felt that United did not have its priorities correct. Global was doing a work, and I avoided Global at first because of Dr. Meredith's reputation (some of which I had first hand knowledge of).

Now the use of the Internet is going to allow some of us to do some very interesting things (writing articles, doing papers on some interesting subjects, etc.), but, can we really do a work?

Response: While some people are learning Bible truth from the Internet, most Americans still do not have access to it, so any "work" cannot focus on the Internet alone. The one thing that internet has greatly changed is the ability of organizations to "hush up" problems. Years ago, when a person resigned from an organization, people within were told that he had "lost his love for the truth and was bitter against 'the work.'" Today, resignation letters often make it on to the internet and are printed and shared with people in the congregations. Sometimes we read the letter of a man who is "bitter," but often we find a person who has been lied about and had good reasons for resigning.

Letter: I have some serious confusion over the directive to not be involved with vain repetitions and group prayer. I have also wondered greatly just what was meant by "My house shall be a house of prayer" (or some similar translation). The writing of prayers by the Jews and putting them between the stones of the Wailing Wall seemed to me to be an absolute waste in light of the "repetitions", but, after attending church with the SDAs, I am a bit lost here. What further light can you shed on this?

Response: The wording in Matthew 6:7 says avoid "vain repetitions"—repeating something so often that you are not thinking about it. I think this refers to practices such as some Catholics have—saying 100 "hail Mary's" one after another, counting them on rosary beads. In Matthew 26:44 we find that our Saviour repeated the same words, but meaning them. Acts 4:24-30 records a group prayer that included scripture, but other words as well. Many of the Psalms that we sing that have been set to music are called prayers in their titles. Is there anything wrong with singing them many times throughout the years (Mat 26:30). Would it suddenly become a sin if we just said the words rather than sung them? I cannot see how memorized songs or prayers can be called vain repetition if used only once a week or less.

Letter: Because I am not a Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic scholar, I do not understand some things. Ifind your statements about women in church to be very refreshing, and they tend to fit the understanding I have of us being neither male or female in the kingdom. However, are not women prohibited from speaking (teaching) in "church"? If this is correct, then how can they do scripture reading and a few other things along those lines? On the other hand, could the translations be that far off on this scripture? I personally would like to think so, but, I do have problems with this, and it just may be because I refuse to change unless/until I am thoroughly convicted that the "new understanding" is correct (guess you could say once burned, twice shy).

Response: There is a big difference between speaking and teaching in services. It is clear that women can pray and prophecy in services (1Cor 11). The several King James "silence" verses refer to a "quiet crowd" or "non-noisiness." There was not to be unrelated chatter in the service—a problem that often needs addressing today. (Ask women who have attended services with a full "mother's room"—chatter often makes it tough to hear the service.)

The admonition against women teaching is in 1Timothy 2:12: "And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence." I need to study this more, but it is possible this was a decision for that culture and time. Paul was taught directly by the Messiah and conveyed much of that knowledge to us. Yet there are times that he renders judgments that he says are not specifically from the Eternal: "Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord:... But to the rest I, not the Lord, say:..." (1Cor 7:10,12). If Paul's writings are indeed inspired, then should we not pay attention to what he says is "from the Lord" and which is his own opinion—a judgement for his time? When speaking of women teaching in 1 Timothy, Paul specifically says " I do not permit...". This appears to be another one of his judgments rather than a command of the Messiah. When he switches to another topic in 1 Timothy 3:1, he reestablishes authority for what follows: "The saying is sure:..." (NRSV). Women in Paul's time were not given near as much education as men in the scriptures and it was not nearly as acceptable in that society for a woman to tell a man anything publicly. Was Paul's judgment largely for his time?

While it may be hard to accept that some scriptures are "inspired for a time" and others "eternally inspired," we do find that in some places. In Acts 14:29 people are told to avoid meat offered to idols, but Paul later says it is all right as long as it does not offend others (1Cor 8). If we look at the verses right before the teaching prohibition, we find a list of other things that very few of us do:

I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing (1Tim 2:8-10).

It is a lot easier to be dogmatic about Biblical statements we have practiced, than those we have not. How many men always pray with their hands lifted up? Some do, but even our Savior did not always; once He "fell on His face, and prayed,..." (Matt 26:39). I have never seen anyone walk out of a service because they saw a woman with braided hair, pearls or a gold wedding ring, but Iknow several people who would walk out of a service if they saw a woman teaching. In Ezekiel 16, the Eternal compares Jerusalem to a nicely-adorned woman—with expensive apparel including gold (v 9-14). Paul was probably referring to practices of his day which were seen as immodest by his society. Is the practice of women teaching another one that was unacceptable in his day, but might be acceptable today? I like to go very slowly and do a lot of study before I conclude that a section of scripture is not applicable to us. I think there are some scriptures (1Cor 16:2, 7:32-35, verses about slaves, etc.) that many people agree do not directly apply to our day.

Letter: 6) Your idea on elders I have heard before, and I accepted the arguments of WCG that this is not a valid translation of the Greek. However, it would seem to ultimately be blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (albeit unwittingly). So, how do you explain this in light of James 5:14? We (you and I) had traditionally viewed this as being a person of "elder" rank or beyond. Yet v16 would suggest that this is not the case. Could you address this?


—Mr. T., California

Response: The term "elder" seems to be used consistently throughout the Bible—older wiser men who were entrusted with leadership—whether they followed the Eternal or not (Matt 26:59). An elder was not a "rank" that men were "ordained to." It can be used in the feminine form for women (Tit 2:3). The WCG often sent only one man to anoint a person (though the Greek is plural), and usually ignored the part in verse 16 about confessing faults one to another. I have heard of cases where people have asked "non-ordained" older men (elders) to pray for people with terminal sicknesses and they have been miraculously healed. It would be difficult to convince these healed brethren that they were blaspheming the holy spirit or even violating scripture.

Thanks for the letter, —NSE

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