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.
Letter: March 10, 1996
Dear Mr. Edwards,
Thank you again for all the hard work you put into Servants' News every month. It seems like every issue gets better, and the "grumbling and negativism" that I commented on several months ago seems to have all but disappeared, supplanted by even more quality Bible studies that really inspire one to get into God's word and dig for every ounce of truth.
I wonder where Dr. Bacchiocchi got his numbers in the Feb WCG crisis article? Have that many people really left in the past year? If so, I would have to believe that a large portion of them are staying home or are meeting in small non-aligned groups, as the membership of the main spin-offs put together doesn't approach anything near 50,000. But I don't imagine Worldwide really wants anyone to know how many have left, either, so it may be difficult to get an accurate count.
Please accept the enclosed donation to help cover your costs, and if you would, please send us the following literature: [titles deleted].
Thank you. Yours truly,
George (and Kay) Paetzman
112 Carden St, Hendersonville, TN 37075
Response: We have seen and heard a great many different estimates of how many members have gone to different places. Only our Father in heaven really knows who had gone where. The methods used to count attendance vary so widely between the organizations, that it is very difficult to reconcile. We will briefly describe some of the problems involved.
Reported statistics do not always differentiate between baptized members and people attending (both baptized and unbaptized). Methods of counting vary greatly. Some organizations actually count how many people attend each week (or the average attendance for the month) and total it for all of their congregations. Others give statistics based on membership lists from headquarters. Once a family begins attending, they are listed as members on headquarters filesbut if they attend multiple groups or stop attending completely, they will still be listed as a member for many months. Some organizations assume that anyone to whom they send a sermon tape must be sitting down listening to that tape on the Sabbath as "their service"not realizing that many people get tapes from multiple organizations and listen to most of them while driving, doing housework, etc. (At least one group assumes the average household is 3 people, so they multiply their tape mailing list by 3 and count them as members.) Finally, some groups count everyone on their mailing list.
We personally know of cases where people quietly stopped attending the WCG, but are still on their membership list. They began visiting one or more other groups and were placed on all of their membership lists. Other people were disfellowshipped from the WCG or asked to be taken off of their membership list and do not want to be on any other group's membership list, even though they attend somewhere every week.
Since the headquarters of most organizations base the need for a "field minister" (and sometimes his salary) on the number of people in a congregation, ministers tend to count everyone that they can and are slow to remove people from membership lists. In an effort to look successful, headquarters organizations tend to use the highest of all possible attendance figures.
We do not know exactly where Dr. Bacchiocchi got his figures or what the real numbers are. But nearly every week we receive a subscription request from someone that had left the WCG to keep the Sabbath at home, not knowing of any other group that his beliefs would allow him to attend. If we think that His Body is one particular human organization that all the faithful must join, then the situation looks rather miserable. If we realize that His Body is made up of members bound together by the holy spirit and that He is capable of leading His people whether they be in big organizations or tiny groups, then we have nothing to fear.
Letter: March 5, 1996
Dear Mr. Edwards,
The December Servants' News gave me the idea to make this request. I would very much like to locate and correspond with other CG brethren who are of Jewish heritage or have a deep appreciation of Christianity's Judaic origins. It is through study of Jewish culture that God began to open my eyes to His Truth back in 1970, and it has remained integral to my religious expression ever since.
Unfortunately, this has been met with both ridicule and hostility in the church organizations to which I previously belonged (WCG, CGI). I have investigated various "Messianic" groups but find them uncomfortable because of Protestant Evangelical influence. It is my hope to find other like-minded church brethren to share with and encourage one another in our modern "Diaspora." Your help by publishing this letter would be greatly appreciated.
221 Ivy Street, Rossville, GA 30741-2031
Response: We hope you will receive some responses. Many people now realize the first century "church" was essentially Jewish in charactersome enemies simply considered it another Jewish "sect" (Acts 24:5). Unfortunately, we live nearly 2000 years after that time and there is much erroneous Jewish tradition to sift through (very similar to the erroneous Catholic and Protestant tradition we must sift through).
We have found the same difficulty with some of the Messianic Jewish movements: they accept the trinity, "heaven and hell," "law nailed to the cross," "once saved always saved," and a host of other doctrines from protestantism. Two groups that we have found different are: Restoration Foundation, PO Box 421218, Atlanta, GA 30342 and Genesis 2000, PO Box 561476, Charlotte, NC 28256. We do not endorse everything these groups teach, but we have found much of their information helpful.
Letter: March 8, 1996
Attn: Norman Edwards and Norman Brumm
Let me congratulate you both on a superb issue of the Servants' News (Feb 96) and encourage you to continue standing firm against those who would misread what you say or misunderstand your intentions. Lamentably, far too many folks in the churches of God seem to automatically believe that if a person steps out on faith in Christ, that person has a hidden agenda of some sort and is obviously seeking to gain power over the brethren. To all those who are exclusivists and authoritarian, and so reason this way (and you know who you are) Isay "give it up, already." Isn't it fairly clear that Christ is cleansing His sanctuary of all wrongdoing and law breaking, not to mention lawbreakers? And that He won't quit until the job is done? We should rejoice in this.
The sanctuary is the Holy Place. That's where true Christians, those in Christ, abide today. Christ is the only door to the sanctuary, and we enter through Him, not by following any law, any man, or any organization. Once inside the Holy Place, we must be obedient to Christ our King, and if we are not, then out we go, sooner or later, perhaps even before the wedding feast, through the same door we came in. When Christ was on Earth before, He ran the lawbreakers out of the temple physically, and now He is doing it again, but this time it is spiritually. Judgment has begun at the House of God.
We, in our separate camps, readily give lip service to a number of truisms: Don't believe me, believe the Bible; Don't follow me, follow Christ; We really don't believe we're the only true Church; etc., etc., ad nauseam. Spare me. But when we catch someone else actually trying to do what many of us profess to encourage, we revoke his license to hang around in our midst, in our church. That person's ideas are feared, mostly, I think, for a distinct lack of real confidence in Christ that he will give His followers discernment. As a result, that person is either rejected outright, or simply given the cold shoulder (but we like to call it "protecting God's sheep"). And those who do this are proud to be in "God's Church." But make no mistake. There is a serious warning in what's happening today. Those who practice the subtle art of hidden, covered up, or denied sin, especially on the corporate teaching level, may find themselves rightly squirming in the spotlight for a time just where they should be, then they'll wind up on the outside of the spiritual body of Christ, looking in. Every man's work, personal or corporate, will be tried by fire. And it won't matter whether or not we're warming a pew in someone's personal church. The Lamb's Book of Life is a roster of all God's children, and it is up to date. Christ knows and cares very much about every one of those who are His, even if we do not.
So continue telling it like it is, gentlemen. The truth, even though it it sometimes painful and often threatens our comfort zones and minor kingdoms, is necessary in this day of division and unity. God's purpose will work itself out here down below. All things work together for good to those who love God.
May God bless you and yours all the days of your lives.
F. Paul Haney
P.O. Box 370,Watertown, CT 06795
Response: We agree that this is a time of cleansing and making the Bride ready. If the Eternal worked only through a "hierarchical government", we would expect the cleansing to occur by "the human head" issuing orders through the hierarchy and those members and ministers that did not comply would be put out. But what has happened? We have seen error coming from hierarchies and members looking into the Bible and having to decide who they will obey: self-professed leaders or the scriptures.
You bring up an interesting point about "seeking a following". There are so many scriptures warning us about false priests, prophets, and ministers that are primarily interested in seeking money (1Sam 2:29; Is 56:10-12; Ezk 34:2-3; Mic 3:5-11; Matt 23:14; 24:48-51; Rom 16:18; Phil 3:18-19; 1Tim 6:5-10; Tit 1:11; 2Pet 2:14-15; Jud 12). Today we find "ministers" in organizations that receive good salaries, lease cars, a separate festival allowance, tithes from local members gardens and a variety of free services from local members. Usually, the value of this compensation is not disclosed to the membership. Yet these organizations point to a non-aligned teacher that is unpaid or paid a low, disclosed amount and say: "he is just trying to attract followers and money for himself."
This controversy could end if all ministers and Bible teachers disclosed their salary and benefits. If a leader cannot tell his followers that his salary and benefits are Biblically proper compensation, then he probably should not have them.
All of these things do take time to understand and realize. We should be patient with people that are slowly coming to see these things.
Letter: March 5, 1996
To the Editor:
You probably won't print my letter in your paper because it might hurt you selling these "quote" Servants' News.
A question I would like to ask you. What is the difference in a tale bearer or gossiper going from house to house spreading gossip and you sending this paper in people's homes, or for that matter a person getting this paper from you for the purpose of reading this gossip?
What is the difference in your paper and the "National Enquirer?" Your paper is only different in that it is for God's people, people who wouldn't dare read the "Enquirer."
You publish in the front of your paper Deut 8:3, "We believe in living by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God."
If you do, maybe you need to reread these scriptures. Lev 19:16, Prov 11;13, Prov 18:8, Prov 20:19, Prov 26:20-22 and the whole chapter of James 3.
You may say your paper enlightens people. Then print things like Philippians 4:8.
I'm sorry I saw your paper: you quoted things in it that you never even got first handsometimes it had come down through 4 or more people. I had to ask: "Is this God's way."
I would close by asking you and your readers that maybe we need to read the Beatitudes once again in Matt 5.
I hope you see the harm you're doing to God and his people.
Response: We hope we can give a satisfactory answer to your questions. We do believe in living by "every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God," but it is obvious that not every scripture applies to every situation. We are told to "pray always" (Luke 18:1), but Joshua was once told to stop praying and go take care of a problem (Josh 7:10-13). We find numerous instructions to love and be patient with others, but when Joseph understood Potiphar's wife's intentions, he didn't discuss the matter, he fled.
Most of the scriptures you cited dealt with "talebearers." A talebearer or gossip is someone that tells stories of doubtful truth or stories that are true, but do not need to be told. The purpose of the "National Enquirer" and other similar papers is to make money for the publisher. I once saw a headline that said "Grandmother Gives Birth to Eggplant Shaped Like Richard Nixon!" I doubt that story was true. Other headlines are often about celebrity marriages, divorces, etc. There is some chance these are true stories, but does anyone need to know them? Whoever told you that I am "selling" Servants' News is a talebearer because it has always been given away freelyas page two of every issue so states.
Servants' News deals primarily with spiritual articles and positive news about the brethren. Nevertheless, when there is sin among us, we cannot just simply think positive thoughts and hope the problem will go away. The story has to be told and the problem has to be dealt with (1Cor 5:1-5). We have not received any letters or calls correcting any of our statements made about Garner Ted Armstrong. The only thing we printed that we have found to be in error was his letter to us claiming that the FBI had the video and was involved in a covert investigation. We have now viewed the video ourselves and have verified the statements of the previous witnesses. Since the CGI board of directors has not removed Armstrong as a leader, we are conveying accurate information to people that need to know so they can make decisions about who they will support and where they will fellowship.
The beatitudes and Philippians 4:8 are wonderful scriptures to read, especially for people that are greatly tempted to sin: "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthymeditate on these things" (Phil 4:8).
Letter: Feb 9, 1996
There are a few things I find in your recent Servants' News that are disturbing.
# 1. Your glowing report on Jubilee '95 despite the fact it featured two speakers, Drs. Ernest Martin and Bacchiocchi, who both hold views that are contrary to "classic" Church of God teachings (necessity of the Holy days, non-trinity, clean & unclean meats, etc.). Hypothetically, why not include people like Billy Graham or some other main-stream Protestant to talk about grace? To my knowledge, Seventh Day Adventists hold to most of the mainstream Protestant beliefs. I am familiar with Martin's teachings and he says the "mature" Christian is not bound to observing anything. He does, however, encourage avoiding the pagan holidays. I enjoy your newsletter, but perhaps I've missed the point, are you serving all Sabbath-keepers or are you oriented towards Church of God people?
# 2. I've noticed Servants' News is not afraid to confront "touchy" issues (UCG doctrines, Garner Ted, etc.), but I wonder why you haven't asked Ronald Dart to be truthful about his recent change in ministries? Mr. Dart bows out of CGI citing poor health and stress, then goes and starts a whole new organization. That doesn't seem to make sense. Do you at Servants' News engage in selective criticism?
In closing I'd like to again say that for the most part I enjoy the "News" but these are some concerns myself and other Church of God members have had.
D. C., New York
Response: Our "glowing" report about Jubilee '95 was primarily concerned with the way information was shared and that so many people from different religious backgrounds were listening. This is a great difference from hierarchical organizations where leaders sometimes "proclaim truth" for their organization and members must either accept it or leaveno matter what the Bible says. Some of the people teaching certainly believe some incorrect doctrinesI was probably one of them.
It is the goal of Servants' News to serve people with the holy spirit, wherever they may be. We serve mostly "church of God" groups because we are most familiar with the issues facing them, but we would like to encourage cooperation among all believers, not just the ones we know best. When Herbert Armstrong was first baptized, he did not keep the holy days. Was he unconverted until he did? When Armstrong abandoned his Biblically sound 1939 government principles for a hierarchical government, did he become unconverted? I do not think so. Similarly, if Drs. Martin and Bacchiocchi do not keep the holy days, must they be unconverted? I do not believe it is my decision to pass judgement on them.
I think we make a mistake if we say someone else cannot be converted or used by the Eternal unless they "understand as much truth as I do." Who is to say that the Eternal is not using Dr. Bacchiocchi to teach the holy days to the Seventh Day Adventists? Could this exchange of ideas also bring him to see other errors taught in his organization? While I do not agree with many of Dr. Martin's conclusions, I do find his research valuable in some areas. But let us suppose there was a speaker at one of these conventions that you felt was simply not worth listening to at all, you would be perfectly free to skip his sessions. Is not a conference worthwhile if you learn from 14 out of 16 speakers?
In regard to your point #2, I was also amazed at the sudden change in Ron Dart's approach. He resigned because of severe stress and cardiac arrhythmia. He assured us saying "I sincerely hope to maintain a warm and friendly relationship with the CGI in the years to come..." In his very next letter, he announced a "tape program," a "newsletter," "literature," "Sab bath school materials," "an alliance of ministers," "a package of assistance for those who want to start a small church" and "a lot of other ideas in the works (including evangelistic outreach)." Weeks later, when the GTAstory became common knowledge, people wondered why Ron Dart had completely hid this major problem and why he had received such a generous severance package from CGI. A lot of people asked Dart those questions and he answered some of them in his March 1, 1996 newsletter.
I have devoted little space to these difficulties because Ron Dart has printed nearly all of the factshe is not involved in a coverup campaign as we found with Garner Ted Armstrong. I certainly do not understand why Ron Dart felt no need to take the GTA problem to "the church" (Matt 18:15-17) after his efforts to deal directly with him failed. If the situation was so bad that a "shepherd" had to "flee the wolf", who's job was it then to warn the sheep? The wolf's? How does this fit in with his "warm and friendly relationship with CGI?"
On the other hand, we must realize that we all make mistakes. I supported hierarchical governments for years and never questioned what I was doing. On the positive side, I am very happy to see Ron Dart leave nearly 40 years of hierarchical government to serve congregations as they want to be served. We and others have made suggestions to Ron Dart and he has listened. We need more leaders to do this rather than less!
Letter: March 4, 1996
Dear Mr. Edwards,
I am responding to your article Beware of Friendly Visits in the February issue of Servants' News. Along with all the other articles, this one is very eye-opening. Although I can't say I'm very surprised with its content.
It is upsetting, to say the least, to see that we, the members of Christ's Body, are still looked upon as dumb sheep who have to be told, at every turn, what and what not to do. I see the old WCGmentality is still alive and well.
This very attitude totally negates the fact that God Himself is living and "breathing" in each and every one of us who has the Spirit of God within.
We have the mind of Christ (Phil 2:5, 1Cor 2:16) and He is living inside us (Gal 2:20). How careful we should be in how we treat one another. Each of us, as members of Christ's ekklesia, are learning and understanding at different levels and we're told not to judge another person for we cannot read their heart.
It is totally wrong to label someone a wolf simply because they question.
Are we not to prove all things including "church government" and the time honored and cherished system of tithing? (Remember, it's not just a single 10% in question here but an additional second and a third tithe plus generous offerings.)
Have we ever tried to prove or disprove this system from the pages of the Bible? Where are the clear scriptures concerning this major doctrine? It seems to me that hazy implications should never be used to establish a major doctrine which drastically affects so many people.
As most people know by now, WCG abused this system and many people have suffered untold hardships trying to pay up to 35% (and sometimes more) of their gross income only to be told they were at fault if they did not prosper or their blessings were spiritual. All the while, those living off the tithe weren't obligated to pay a second or third tithe and were living in comparative luxury. They bound burdens on us that they were not willing to bear. (Sound pharisaically familiar?)
So, whether we agree or not with the existing organizational structures and their method of survival, we should be able to question, prove, or disprove without being labeled a wolf and being dealt with covertly and deceptively.
If an organization believes certain things, should it not be glad to have opportunity to prove its doctrine? Why should they try to privately quell any challenge?
Certainly, it is not the standard of handling disputes that Christ gives us in Matthew 18, is it?
The admonition of 1 Timothy 5:19-20 actually gives the members the right to bring a leader before the congregation for a judgement. This would be totally alien and unheard of in today's hierarchical churches of God.
Yet, we are not to question?
It is somehow ironic that we are still looked upon as dumb sheep who have to be "led" by someone ("ministers") in some kind of authoritative government. Leaders are to lead by their examples, not by authority and power (1Pet 2:21, Matt 20:25, Luke 22:25, 1Pet 5). Where were these leaders while we were being butchered and mauled by the "government" of WCG? Who "led" us to see this apostasy and "led" us out of it? Where are those brethren who listened to their leaders and stayed put?
We, the body of Christ, have emerged from this battering a whole lot wiser and wary. We are no longer the naive, trusting little sheep with no mind of our own.
Mr. Edwards, I hope you and others will continue with your service of helping to keep us informed. We must all make our own personal decisions before God but we must have information sufficient to do so.
In response to the article on Nicolaitanism, it is noteworthy that in Rev 2:13-15 the condemnation of this doctrine follows Christ's encouraging words that the church of Pergamos had held fast God's name and had not denied His faith. If Nicolaitanism had been idolatry and adultery, could Christ have said "you have not denied my faith?" It seems like this was intertwined with the worship of God which would substantiate the clergy/laity concept.
Enclosed is a donation to help in your service.
Thanks much. Sincerely,
T. R., Hamilton, AL
Response: We generally agree. For years, the WCG required members to tithe at least 20% every year and 30% in the third and sixth year out of seven. In addition, people were encouraged to give generous regular offerings, holy day offerings, emergency fund contributions and building fund contributions, though we have never heard of anyone being disfellowshipped for not doing so. Many people prospered under this system and many met financial ruinwe have no estimates of the percentages of each.
It is also true that ministers in the WCG were required to pay only a first tithe. An 8% of salary "Feast allowance" was given to them. They never paid third tithe. Some WCG look-alike organizations still maintain this policy.
We do believe much clarification is needed in regard to these doctrines. The phrases "second tithe" and "third tithe" never occur in the Bible. The Bible gives specific instructions for a tithe in "the third year," but says nothing about "the sixth year." Some of the WCG tithing doctrine was drawn from the apocrypha and Jewish sources. What many people do not know, is that there are several different understandings of tithing in these sources and the WCG chose the most expensive one. One principle that nearly all of these sources agree on and that the Bible never denies: tithes were paid from agricultural products by the people that owned land. Wage-earners did not tithe on wages.
We have not studied this issue enough to write conclusions, but there are many questions to answer. When we raise tithing questions, we also like to point out that the WCGdid many good things with its money. It is certainly wrong for an organization to demand more money than the Bible specifies, waste half of it, and "do the work" with the rest. But it is equally wrong, if not more so, for an individual to keep all of his resources and do absolutely nothing with them.
We continue to be amazed, as you do, at how many of the WCG-splinter groups still want unquestioning obedience. For years they taught that all that members had to do was follow the government and God would see that the men at the top were corrected. Yet, they all agree that it didn't happen in the WCG. We all have some learning to do!
Thank you for your comment in the Nicolaitan doctrine. We did not see this, but it certainly strengthens the understanding conveyed in our article.
Letter: March 18, 1996
Dear Mr. Edwards,
I have enjoyed reading your "Servants' News" for a while now, and it has given me pause to think about some of my closely held beliefs. I hope you will take the time to read this letter to completion. I am responding to an article that carries your byline.
We all (Sabbatarians) believe the Sabbath is a commandment from God. Many have taken the time to point out that nowhere except in the area of Hebrews, is the Sabbath spoken of as something we are supposed to do. People wheedle Hebrews to say whatever they want so they don't have to do the Sabbath. Yet you and I take God's word from the beginning as binding.
In your article you state that tithing is not taught. Let me correct you, if you will. Jesus NEVER directly said to keep the Sabbath,. Yet, he did tell us to continue to tithe. Mat 23:24 and Luke 11:42, Jesus pointed out the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders, yet he said they were right in that they DID tithe. Why will we fight to keep a commandment not repeated in the NT (Sabbath), yet strive to disprove clear instructions from our Lord?
Response: I did not say that "tithing was not taught," but that there were questions that I have seen few groups attempt to answer. Yes, it is obvious that the Levitical tithing system did continue up until the time of the destruction of the temple. The part that is harder to explain is the claim that tithing changed to the "ministry." Some say that the "change of the law" in Hebrews 7:12 is a change in the law of tithing, but to me the context is the priesthood (not the Levites) and a change in the law of sacrificesfrom animals to the One Perfect Sacrifice. I have not finished my study of tithing, so I have not written on it. I am hoping that some people, such as yourself, would attempt to answer these questions.
Letter: Just because something is not CLEARLY stated in the NT, does not make it void. In Acts 20:34, Paul is talking of how he gave example of how a person SHOULD work to support the weak. Could that not be an instruction on how to fulfill the 3T obligation? Since Corinth was largely, if not all, gentile, could this not have been early in their teaching? Much of God's word was not taught me until I was in the Church. I, personally, did not know of clean and unclean meats before I was baptized. Others did not know of 2nd and 3rd tithe. God reveals things to people as HE sees fit.
Response: I agree completely with you that Old Testament laws do not need to be restated in the NT in order for them to be binding. Yet with tithing, we are not dealing with a continuance of an Old Testament law, but a change of tithing from the Levites to New Testament leaders. Such a change would have had a great impact on that society and should have been a great point of contention. The church would certainly have been accused of being money-hungry and "against the Torah" if brethren were taught to stop tithing to the Levites and to tithe to the "church" instead. The Jewish leaders would have been enraged by this. (If you do not think so, try asking your favorite hierarchical organization if it is all right to teach their members to tithe elsewhere.) Why would they have invented all kinds of false charges against Paul and the other apostles when they could have easily condemned them for teaching men to tithe contrary to the law?
You have stated two possible explanations for the puzzle in Acts 20. First, that Paul's encouragement to support the weak is really a reference to third tithe. This could be possible, but if the Ephesians were tithing it does not explain why Paul was working rather than living off their tithes. Paul was taking a different approach than has been common in "Church of God" groups. These groups tend to emphasize the payment of third tithe (either gross or net), and reserve the right to themselves on how to spend it. (Most organizations take in more "third tithe" than they spend for the poor, so they use it for minister's salaries and benefits.) Your other explanation that Paul had simply not taught tithing yet is hard to accept as Paul just finished telling these Ephesian elders in Acts 20:20,27 that he "kept back nothing that was helpful" and "not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God." If Paul made those claims but had not yet taught tithing, tithing must not have been very important to him.
Letter: You spoke of I Cor 16 as a collection, not of 3T. So what? Does that do away with 3t? There was a famine in Jerusalem at that time. The collection was above other obligations. 3T may not have had enough in it when you consider the level of income of the people at the time. In Jerusalem, they had all in common. Yet they needed help. That should show the depth of the need at that time.
Response: When the Worldwide Church of God took up special offerings for a number of reasons, they were always handled by the same people and process that handled the regular tithe collection. Yet in both 1Cor 16:3 and 2Cor 8:19 we see that a person was specifically chosen to take the gift to Jerusalem. If tithe distribution systems were already in place, why was their a need to appoint a new person to see that this gift was administered fairly?
We will study tithing more as we feel there are many questions that are unanswered. We discussed the issue slightly to show that we felt it was a mistake to immediately assume someone was a "wolf" just because they, too, had unanswered questions about tithing. For the record, we would like to state that it is obvious that much good has been accomplished through the giving of many people and that the New Testament requires that we give our all for His Work (Rom 12:1). We hope no one will use the questions we raise about New Testament tithing as an excuse to do nothing with their abilities and resources.
Letter: As far as the rest of your article, I find it totally slanted. Granted, if you take the tack you do, someone might see something to fear. One who is trying to cause division would be found out and required to leave. If a person has a definite misunderstanding, or disagreement, then it also would be found out and possibly teaching, without offense, could be undertaken.
Response: The scriptures certainly indicate that there are times when people must be stopped from speaking error or causing division. Titus 3:10 tells us to "Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition...." Matt 18:15-17 similarly tell us to go to our brother alone, go to him with witnesses, then take the problem to the church (congregation). These scriptures emphasize multiple attempts, involving multiple people to tell someone of their difficulties. The GCG article emphasized telling the suspected "wolf" as little as possible and involving as few people as possible. It is those quick and quiet situations that have the most potential for abuse. We have received dozens of phone calls and letters from people attending a variety of organizations that had experiences very similar to the article--they were nicely asked to explain what they had studied or believed, and then they were later informed that they were no longer welcome. We would like to think that people are put out of congregations only for righteous reasons, but it appears that people are sometimes put out because they ask questions that their leaders cannot answer.
Letter: The idea that all of us have been well grounded in the word and need not protection and guidance is ridiculous in the extreme. How is it that we have some 140 different groups which have split off, and several hundred more different disagreements, even in the various corporate bodies? We speak casually of the HOLY Spirit leading us, but obviously it takes more than that or you and I would agree on everything, as would everyone else. Or do you think your way is right and everyone else wrong!!!
Response: Some certainly have not been well grounded, but the way to help people become that way is to publicly answer difficult questions or, if necessary, admit that you do not have the answer. For many years the WCG tried to make sure only one opinion was presented of their members. When new leaders began to reverse many of the doctrines, many members simply continued to believe whatever "headquarters" taught. If we all "followed the government" we could all be unified in the WCG. Is that what you or our Father wants? No, He specifically told us there would be false teachers and divisions to test His people (Deut 13:3, 1Cor 11:18-19). If the number of groups is any indication, I would guess our Father is doing a lot of testing right now. I believe the holy spirit will lead us, but this process takes time. I ask for the holy spirit's guidance when I study, but I probably have 10 years of study that I would like to do right now. There has been nearly 2000 years of copying, translation (including some mistranslation), tradition, and somewhat questionable history that stand between us and the time when our Saviour personally instructed the apostles. If He still claimed all seven of the diverse congregations in Revelation 2 and 3 as His own, we can certainly expect His congregations will be even more diverse today.
For years, I read my Bible to primarily confirm everything that Herbert Armstrong taught. I thought he had nearly all of the truthexcept for a few prophecies that "were not revealed yet." Since I believed what he taught, then I thought that *I* had nearly all of the truth. How simple! How nice! But now, it is evident that Mr. Armstrong's claim that "God governs from the top down and will always correct the man at the top" does not always work. Like the kings of ancient Israel, church leaders seem to do whatever they want. I now realize I was relying on an organization of men to show me truth, not the holy spirit. I believe I learned a lot of truth from Mr. Armstrong, but it took leaving the WCG to let the spirit show me some of the areas where Mr Armstrong and myself were wrong. Today, there are a great many organizations claiming to have nearly all of the truth. And if there is an organization that does, I may still need the 10 years of study I mentioned above to prove that everything they are teaching is true.
Our statement of purpose in the first Servants' News says "We do not claim to have 'more truth' than anyone else." After all, we do not know what everyone else teaches!
Letter: Some of the articles you have published on government seem to have merit at first glance. I find, however, on farther examination, that there is a definite agenda in them. You are attacking the Global organization for their stand. That is unbecoming of a person who claims to be Christian. Disagree, if you will, about the subject, but do not use innuendo and half truth to make your point as you do in this article. Like Paul said, "Should I lie that the truth may prosper? GOD forbid!" (paraphrased) and that is presumptuous of you to suggest that what YOU say, is the accurate truth. I would like to support you in your efforts, but I await your response. Can you address a subject critically with out being critical? Subject without bias?
B. W., Missouri
Response: From experience, I was aware that spy-type approaches were used in many different organizations. I published this article because it was the first time I had seen it so clearly defined in print. The primary purpose was to inform brethren in any organization that such practices really are used. Many people have thanked us for printing it. One long-time GCG member did not even know there was a Ministerial Journal, much less this article. My intention was not to attack the GCG, but to encourage them to change this policy. I and numerous "other witnesses" have written several letters to the GCG headquarters about similar issues over the past year, but have never received a response. Matthew 18:17 indicates that the next step is to "tell it to the church." Printing the item in Servants' News is the best I can do in this regard.
I am not sure exactly which statement(s) you are referring to as "innuendo and half truth." Please let us know. If we are guilty of what you say, we are sorry. I did work for the Global Church of God and serve on their Board of Directors and Doctrinal Committee for nearly two years and believe I am familiar enough with their operations that I am not misrepresenting them in any way.
I will be sending you a copy of How Does the Eternal Govern Through Humans which should help clear up some Biblical government issues.