Test [prove] all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1Thes 5:21–23)
by Don Smith
I came into WCG in 1968 and left in 1994 and just moved next door, becoming a member of United Church of God, an International Association at its beginning.
During the Feast of Tabernacles I was asked a question pointed toward God’s Government. At first I thought the Scriptures had little to say on the matter of government—boy, was I wrong! Soon I could see the workings of politics within the local church. When United started in Cincinnati we had full power over the local church. Soon the power was taken from the Local elders, but we still controlled the tithe. But that was soon to go, when the minister, one Sabbath after services, asked for a vote as to whether to keep control of the tithe, or have us send it to headquarters. The brethren voted away their control! I was soon in trouble for being critical of what was going on, and was trying to keep the church independent of the corporation.
I was getting fed up with the control that was moving in. I was listening to other ministers’ tapes and reading their material, and soon decided to go with Fred Coulter after the Feast that year. But I didn’t last that long; God convicted me and made me ask myself why I was going to waste my time going to the UCG Feast of Tabernacles. About the time I decided to leave UCG the minister asked for another vote, as to whether we remain an independent corporation, or come under the corporate blanket of UCG-AIA. Over half voted for the UCG. I didn’t even vote, having already decided to leave. And did.
[The fact that the ministers ask the members to vote on these changes shows one of two things: 1) They believe the members have some authority and so they must ask them to voluntarily give it up. Or, 2) They do not believe the members have any authority, but they are asking them to vote anyway so as not to offend them. If the leaders did not believe members had any authority and were not fearful of losing members, they would simply make the changes “on the authority of God” and trust God to keep His members together and their organization funded. — NSE]
The majority of us in the Church of God came out of the world or a world church, making our concept of Churches and Church government, the same as the world’s; we had no idea as to how God rules—and most still don’t! Christ revealed God’s type of government to His Apostles and they had trouble with government in the Churches of God .
So many of the brethren are badmouthing HWA and the WCG over the wrongs that took place. As for myself, I thank God for putting me there, and for the ample portion of truth and error I experienced. Now I am able to discern between the two. I must say, “experience is a great teacher”.
When WCG splintered I went to the UCG Cincinnati congregation; we had the control of our tithe and decided how much would go to the headquarters. This gave us control of our local church. But pressure was applied and the church voted away their power! I left, for I’d learnt I could walk.
If each congregation belonging to a corporation would hold total control over their church congregation as well as have a voice in the government—and not give it to the corporation—the governing body of the corporation would walk softly.
Disfellowshipping should be the responsibility of the brethren of each congregation or fellowship group—even to the removal of the minister. This act does not remove anyone from God’s Church.
Brethren who put themselves in a corporate church and under the authority of a man or a council, are not under the authority of God’s government, but that of men! The men in positions of authority in the corporate body, have authority only in the matters of corporate body. The only authority they have over the brethren is the ability to remove them from the corporate body—not from God’s Church.
Independent Church of God groups have full authority to remove ministers, or any other member from their group, deciding as a group. The minister alone has no such power.
God allowed Satan to use HWA to build the WCG and instill the same Pope-ish government in his [HWA’s] Church. And God set many brethren of His Church within this power structure of Satan, in order to teach them by experience—a hard teacher. God did use HWA to teach, but his teachings were a mixture of good and evil. When Mr. Armstrong died, God allowed Satan to bring down the corporate structure (WCG), it had fulfilled God’s purpose. The Church of God members that were once in a corporation, were now on their own—they would have to decide for themselves! They were no longer spoon fed by the ministers of the corporate hierarchy—unless they decided to follow another man!
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure (Phil 2:12–13).
Ministers along with other members of the corporate Churches who believe that they or any other man is the head of God’s Church under Christ, do err. By our considering the created thing all around us we can know this is not true; have you ever seen any multi-headed creature? I have not.
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Rom 1:20).
The Church of God is the body of Christ—and the Scriptures state that He is the head of the Church. Giving all of these different men authority over all of these different Church congregations, would make it a multi-headed monster! God’s Church has only one head—no more; anything having more than one head is a freak or a deformed monster!
All of us who were under HWA’s authority put ourselves there mistakenly thinking that he was doing God’s work and it made him a great servant of God. But was he? Only God knows; God also uses Satan (Job 2; 1Kngs 22:20-22), but what does that make him?
Corporate heads of “Churches of God”, do not allow the ministers in their hire to teach anything that they have not okayed. This is in fact saying, “I/we are the head of this church, you take orders from us—not from God or His word!!!” You know what? They are right, it is his/their corporation, not God’s Church.
Corporate “ministers” believing they are physical heads and have the rule over God’s Churches, are deceiving themselves!
When any man points out a truth or error to anyone in God’s Church, he is pointing out a truth of God and if it draws that person away from the corporation, it is not taking away from God’s Church. But it in fact is directing them toward God and away from a man’s rule.
As a whole we were deceived by Satan the Devil while in WCG. When you are deceived, you don’t know it! Because HWA taught us much truth of God, we believed he could do no wrong! He lived high on the hog, but had a kind of fellowship with peons—and we ate it up! Our tithes and offerings were what built the colleges and supported Mr. Armstrong’s world travel. Being a part of all this made us feel important, turning our attention away from those who were living in near poverty, somehow seeing it as good to suffer for the wealth of the work!
But when our eyes were opened, many became bitter toward God! God did not deceive them—Satan did! Even to this day as I read in The Journal and Servants’ News, there are those who are yet deceived by Satan’s lies, even to say that HWA taught the whole truth of God, and do not discern the Scriptures correctly, quoting many scriptures out of context!
There are yet so many who turn to a minister wanting to know if this is true or that is true, taking their answer as gospel! The Scriptures tell us to work out things pertaining to our salvation ourselves.
Test [prove] all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1Thes 5:21–23).
We cannot prove the things of God by the words of men. We prove the things of God by the Scriptures and following the lead of His Holy Spirit.
Did you ever notice that when someone has been put out of the church, the rest of the brethren are commanded to not have any contact with them? If they do, they too will be put out of the church?
Why do the leaders of their church do this? It is because they do not want you to hear the disfellowshipped person’s side of the matter! Did you ever hear about anyone in any of the corporate Churches of God being able to take a dispute to the whole Church? I have not, even though this is what the Scriptures say to do (Matt 18:15–17). Or have you ever heard of a corporate Church of God minister being put out of the Church by the congregation? No, for the brethren have no authority in that corporation. Now if the brethren are the body of Christ and that body is His Church; and the Scriptures are the word of God, and they say that the church body has the authority to put out any brethren who cause dissent, then the minister is not above any other member of the body. Do the Scriptures speak of the ministers of Satan?
I am with a fellowship group that receives tapes from Fred Coulter. Fred also pays for our hall rental. We count ourselves as part of the Christian Biblical Church of God.
We have an open door policy and welcome any who choose to come to our services. We have one ordained elder. But we as a group have the power to put out any whom we decide can cause problems that we cannot solve, and can ask them to leave. The brethren can go and come as they choose, it is between them and God. We also fellowship with other fellowship groups of CBCG. We are all free to express our own understanding of scriptures without the fear of being put out of the group.
— Don Smith