Response to David Covington's Letter

by Jeanette Cristoforo with "SN" comments by Norman S. Edwards

The author asked us to print this letter in response to David Covington's letter, published in our June 1996 issue. She has been a 10-year WCG member in one congregation; he worked with the many top leaders and ministers. We hope to reconcile these two honest attempts to do what is best for all.

Letter: June 20, 1996

Dearest Brother David,

I have just finished reading your letter of resignation from WCG, published in Servants' News (newsletter). I am deeply troubled and puzzled by much of what you have said in it. I am truly sorry you have felt unloved and unappreciated in your pastoral position. And to hear you say that other ministers have confided their same feelings of being unloved and "trapped" is unimaginable to me.

My association with the church these past ten years as an ordinary member has been totally different than what you describe. I came into the church at age 55, was warmly welcomed, and even received a wonderful, loving letter from Mr. Joseph W. Tkach, Sr. (then Pastor General) at that time. These have been the happiest ten years of my life!

SN: While we have not independently investigated each person's facts, we have heard many similar stories and believe that both Covington and Cristoforo are telling the truth as they see it. How can their impressions be so different? Because much of the WCG teaching is from the Bible and that truth produces a peaceful life—yet each person is free to ignore that truth and practice evil—even though he still may be preaching truth. Also, they were each exposed to different people: Covington worked with the top leaders of the WCGon a regular basis, where Cristoforo worked with a local congregation, a local pastor and interfaced with Joseph W. Tkach, Sr. only by letter. (Nearly all of Tkach, Sr.'s letters were written by someone else.)

We must realize that people can preach truth and righteousness, but not be righteous themselves. The first century Pharisees taught much truth and were considered righteous by most people, but our Savior warned: "Therefore whatever they [scribes and Pharisees] tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do" (Matt 23:3). Also, the Pharisees made a great outward show of righteousness: they blew a trumpet when they gave donations, they prayed in the streets where people could hear (Matt 6:2,5). Today's shows of righteousness are much more sophisticated. Church organizations have video tapes, and letters reviewed by a great variety of people before publication to make sure that there is nothing in them that would offend their audience. Electronic editing today is so effective that it is impossible to tell where the off-color joke, haughty remark or facial sneer was removed from the real message.

Letter: Early this last winter, when I was doing what I could to promote WCG participation in the May 2, 1996 Na tional Day of Prayer, I wrote a letter to Mr. Tkach (present Pas tor General) and suggested that he ask a certain person at headquarters, who is a contributor to The Plain Truth Magazine, to attend the NDP Co ord inator meeting in Colo rado. I received a personal note from our Pastor General thanking me for the suggestion and saying that he had forwarded the materials and information I had sent him to the person I had indicated. End result? Five people from our upper echelon attended! And I have this beautiful, handwritten note that I have added to my correspondence collection. I am nothing more than an old grandma, yet I felt important and loved.

By the way, in case you are wondering, Yes...I went to my local state conference and coordinated with my own county with an evening Prayer and Praise Gathering with nine ministers from various denominations, (including my own minister from my local WCG congregation) each making a five minute prayer. There were two choirs, a vocal quartet, two vocal soloists, etc.. Am I so special or talented to do this coordination? No. But I was the only volunteer, and talented or not, and scared or not, when God spoke the words, "Proceed," to my heart, there was no going backward, especially when he saw I was ready to chicken-out, and had to speak, "Proceed," a second time a little stronger.

SN: We are happy that your service worked out so well. Years ago, the WCG did not allow this kind of individual effort. Covington is not saying that nothing works now, but he is saying that too many individual efforts and official corporate programs are stopped by management before they get started. He gave some examples and he or we could give many more. How would you have felt if you were told not to participate in the meetings that you arranged only a few days or hours before they were to begin?

Letter: In my ten years in the Church I've had only two ministers. Both of them are God-loving, God-fearing men. I can't believe either of them ever had a negative thought such as you describe in your letter. They always projected love, loyalty, and respect for all those at headquarters.

SN: It is wonderful that you had that experience. May the Eternal bless those men for doing a good job. Unfortunately, many brethren have not had the same experience. Local ministers can have the Pharisee's attitude—teaching righteousness but not doing it. A former director of the WCG ministry told me of "ministers" that were so vindictive that if any member ever "crossed them", they would "look for an excuse to disfellowship him until they found it." Some members had to quit their jobs and move their families to another church area so they could stay in the WCG.

Letter: I don't understand why you are in disagreement with Mr. Tkach about the way the money from the Pasadena property sale is to be divided and spent. When I have had the money, I have contributed to the church as I was able. But there were also times when I had to request help myself. The help was always given...both financial and emotional. I find no fault with "the system" because I have seen it work well for many members.

SN: Again, it is good to hear that the men in your area administered assistance fairly. We have heard of many other cases where people who paid "third tithe" for years were denied assistance when they asked for it. From personal experience, I am aware of third tithe money being used to remodel minister's homes, buy airplanes and pay employee health insurance.

Letter: I am concerned that you are "encouraging (WCG) members to leave and join healthy Christian churches where they can find help and healing." Perhaps you haven't noticed, but almost every Christian church of every denomination is having a share in the disputes and the shaking. Many are divided on many issues, including finances, doctrines, and matters of what is or is not morally acceptable in today's world. Some even deny the divinity of Jesus. I have found more "love" in WCG than in any of the churches I've previously attended. When I was sick, someone came and helped me with housework duties. When I was well, I helped someone else in the same way. In some other denominations the only time your absence is noticed is when your envelopes and money fail to show up in the weekly collection basket. But in WCG where I attend, the minister and other members notice and really care if someone is there or not. They call, write, or visit.

SN: Your congregation is an excellent example—one that should be followed. I attended in the Pasadena congregations for most of my adult life and people rarely ever noticed if I was gone. I have attended protestant churches and found some more friendly and some less friendly than the average WCG congregation. Covington's point is well made: if you are in an uncaring church, it would seem to be best to go to another Protestant church that is more caring. But if your local congregation is working for you, why not stay there?

Letter: I like sending my money gifts to headquarters for redistribution because I know the fact of having money to contribute, or not having money to contribute, is more private between me and headquarters and does not influence how my minister greets me and responds to me. I feel "loved" for myself and for no other reason. I repeat: Every church denomination or group has its problems. There are almost always undercurrents people are not aware of. If you are looking for a "perfect" church, you will be greatly disappointed.

SN: We agree that there is no perfect church, just like there are no perfect people. Nevertheless, our Messiah had to warn of the religious leaders of his day that pretended to be righteous: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness" (Matt 23:27). There are times when people must withdraw from religious leaders that are too far away from truth (2Ths 3:6, 1Tim 6:5, 2Jn 1:10-11). You mention one positive aspect of centralized money collection, but did you realize that at times the WCG has given local pastors reports of their members' contributions. At times, they have evaluated ministers by how much their congregation contributed. Also, I have personally seen doctrinal decisions and divorce & remarriage decisions altered when "headquarters" found that one of the parties involved was a "heavy contributor."

Letter: As far as your accusation that there was "no love" from the one you expected love from...Could it be something in your own attitude that prevents you from receiving (or feeling) the love that is there? Are your expectations of getting love exceeding your ability to give and project love to others?

On page nine in Servants' News you reveal a mistake you say our present Pastor General made in front of you and three other men. If the incident happened as you say it happened, it was indeed an error. But how do you know he didn't quickly wish he hadn't said it? How do you know he didn't confess it to God and be forgiven? His mistake was done in the company of four men he knew and trusted and felt comfortable with...only four. But you have broadcast it through this newsletter to many more. The Scriptures tell us "love covers a multitude of sins." So instead of revealing and spreading it, why didn't you cover it with your love? Which of you did the greater sin do you think?

SN: Why didn't our Saviour show love and cover the sins of the Pharisees and avoid offending them? Because they were leading the people astray. "Then the disciples approached and said to him, 'Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?' He answered, 'Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit" (Matt 15:12-14).

Covington seems to have followed the principles in Matt 18:15-17. He took the issue directly to the leaders—both spoken and written. He involved other witnesses at times, yet he was not heard.. Now, he is taking the issue to "the church," the body of believers, in the best way he can. Unfortunately, there is no means whereby the brethren can constructively change the operation of the WCG. Their only definite effect they can have is to stop supporting and/or stop attending the WCG.

Letter: You talk about "rest in Jesus." You speak of love, openness, respect, and honesty that you want from the administration. These are all qualities we hope to find in one another, but we need to be cultivating them in ourselves, too. If you were truly taking your "rest in Jesus" and "Standing up for Jesus," you wouldn't have, and couldn't have, written and published such a letter. It violates everything Jesus taught! We have no excuse to retaliate when ignored and/or wounded! We are taught to forgive! Unless you do what Jesus taught you to do, you are not "Standing up for Jesus!"

SN: "But Peter said to him, 'May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God's gift with money! You have no part or share in this, for your heart is not right before God. Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the chains of wickedness'" (Acts 8:20-23). Luke wrote this rebuke down for millions to read—not to condemn There is a time to stand up for Jesus against evil men! There are at least five other examples where apostles wrote the names of men that caused trouble for the brethren (1Tim 1:20; 2Tim 2:17; 4:10,14; 3Jn 9).

Letter: I am truly sorry you have had the experiences you describe. As far as finding "help and healing" in any other Christian church, maybe you will...and maybe you won't. I tried a few others in my earlier days and then became so disillusioned I quit all churches altogether and stayed home studying the Bible and practicing Christ's teachings without minister, priest, or fellowship for several years. And then I found help and healing in WCG.

I'm sure everyone in my family would be able to testify what my last ten years as a member in the Worldwide Church of God have done for me...I am a better, more genuine Christian person as a result of those ten years.

I hope and pray you will find the help and healing you so obviously need and not just be entering a new round of endless power-plays. I pray the love from Jesus, and of Jesus, will touch your heart in a positive and direct way and heal and comfort you.

Your sister in Christ,

—Jeanette Cristoforo, Sterling,MI

SN: We agree here! When you experienced trouble with some congregations, you sought the Eternal and the Bible, and He placed you where you could grow. While we may not agree with all of David Covington's doctrinal understanding, we highly applaud his standing up for the Biblical principles of justice, mercy, and truth—rather than simply going along with the corporation to keep his paycheck. We believe the Eternal will grant him healing somewhere as long as he continues to look to Him. Every man will be judged by what he says, and the work that he does (Mat 12:35-37, 1Cor 3:11-15). We find no rewards in the Bible for being in the "right group" or following the right teacher. Even the famous letters in Revelation 2 & 3 address individuals 7 times with the same message: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

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