Worldwide Church of God
Following is an article that appeared in the May 10, 1997, Los Angeles Times. Emphasis added in boldface by SN:
BELIEFS: Association grants full membership. Pasadena-based church has revamped teachings and apologized for ‘false doctrine.’
by Larry B. Stammer,
Times Religion Writer
Marking a major milestone in its movement toward mainstream Christianity, the once cultish Worldwide Church of God has been accepted into full membership by the nation’s largest association of evangelical churches.
Officials with the National Association of Evangelicals said Friday that they had voted overwhelmingly to admit the Pasadena-based church into the fold after a detailed examination of its doctrines.
Best know for its Plain Truth magazine and teachings of its late founder, Herbert W. Armstrong, the Worldwide Church of God has undergone dramatic changes in its doctrines over the past several years. The group once rejected the Christian Trinitarian doctrine of God in three persons as pagan, and taught that tithing and the observance of the Saturday Sabbath were necessary for salvation. Church members also did not observe the Christian holy days of Christmas and Easter.
"They have changed," said David L. Melvin, vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals, during an interview Friday from the association’s headquarters in Carol Stream, IL. "It’s not a new day of compromise and opening our arms on NAE’S part. They have become a different body. God has really transformed them."
In the past several years, the church has revamped its beliefs, even as the leadership apologized to mainstream churches and its own members for teaching "false doctrine" for so long. The Worldwide Church of God now believes in the Trinity and, like all evangelical as well as old-line Protestant churches, teaches that salvation is achieved by God’s grace through faith alone. Moreover, a number of its congregations have begun to celebrate Christmas and Easter. Don Argue, president of the evangelical association, said Friday that other Christians had long been praying for friends and relatives who were Worldwide Church members. "We see the dramatic changes that have occurred among our friends as God’s continuing efforts to bring renewal and revival for his glory," Argue said.
The evangelical association, which includes 43,000 congregations nationwide from 49 member denominations, has been closely following developments in the Pasadena church for a year and a half. Formal examination of its teachings began within the past six months, and the Worldwide Church of God officially asked for membership early this year, Melvin said.
The changes, instituted by Armstrong’s successors, resulted in a major schism within the denomination. Tens of thousands of members broke away and organized splinter churches, precipitating a financial crisis.
Since then, the church has undergone dramatic cutbacks in staff and budgets, and its showcase campus has been put up for sale. The church reports 73,400 members worldwide, compared with the 104,000 it claimed before the doctrinal changes.
Greg Albrecht, director of church relations, lauded the evangelical association’s vote, which took place April 15, but the announcement was delayed until Friday.
"It’s historic...because we have been an exclusive, separatist group not seeking any kind of affiliation or accommodation with what we’ve called ‘the world,’" Albrecht said. "On our part it signals a new openness and a realization that we are not the sole body of Christ. We’re simply by his grace a small part of it.
Albrecht said, however, that his church’s acceptance does not mean it has completed its "transformation."
He noted, for example, that the headquarters congregation last month marked Easter in its first ever "Resurrection Sunday" service. He said a number of congregations are beginning to meet on Sunday as well as holding the traditional Saturday services.
"There’s a dynamic journey that the Worldwide Church of God continues to be on," Albrecht said. "I think our journey is going to continue for some years to come as we deal with who we are and where we’ve been and where we’re going. We don’t have by any means completion right now."
Sermon Transcripts for the Deaf
Printed transcripts of some of Ronald Dart’s sermons are available free of charge to deaf brethren. Also, people who can receive e-mail may receive a free electronic copy. Ten sermons have been completed, and many (but probably not all) of Ronald Dart’s future sermons will also be transcribed. Ronald Dart is the founder and principal speaker for Christian Educational Ministries (CEM). Please write:
Sabbath Assembly of God
POBox 748, Dellslow, WV 26531
Singles Meeting Singles
With smaller congregations and smaller feast sites, it is very difficult for Sabbath-keeping singles to meet each other. We know of two individuals who are trying to help this situation. The purpose of these services is to make new friends. Some relationships may grow into marriages, but please realize that neither the people who run these services, nor Servants’ News, nor our Father in heaven are promising you that you will meet "the person of your dreams" from these services.
Most of the feedback about these services has been positive, though some people participating in them have received unwanted religious literature. While we have not heard of any problems worse than the above, we are aware that sexually immoral people or con-artists will also sometimes use this kind of service. We highly recommend that people who use these services do not go out alone with or send any money to people they have met only through these services. If you do start a long-distance relationship with someone that seems to be leading to marriage, we highly recommend that one (or both) of you move so you can live in the same geographical area before you decide to get married. This gives you a chance to establish several common friends who know both of you and can give you counsel. The biggest problem with pen-pal relationships is that there may be huge areas of life that the couple is ignoring, but they are blinded by their desire for each other and they have no common friends who can see the problems and point them out.
Please do not be fearful of using these services, but pray for guidance and wisdom from the Eternal. Part of spiritual maturity is learning to deal with "real people" situations such as these. This service is free, though donations are accepted:
RT 3, Box 129-A
Morgantown, WV 26505
The following service provides free introductory information, but charges $24.00 per year for its main publication:
Sabbath Singles Connection
3229 Larkin Road
Biggs, California 95917
UCG-AIA Conference Results
The United Church of GodAn International Association held its annual conference this March 8-10 in Louisville, Kentucky. All of the paid and unpaid elders were invited to attend the conference at their own expense. The purpose of the meeting was to vote on business of the church, hear messages from leaders and fellowship. Over 360 voting members were present, some connected via telephone hookup.
The results of the votes were:
Yes No Issue
333 9 Technical constitution amendments.
321 37 Measure to extend the provisional amendment process.
310 55 Strategic plan passed.
307 59 Operations plan passed.
208 156 Budget for 1997-98 passed.
194 165 Budget resolution passed.
190 170 Decision to move office to Cincinnati, Ohio.
154 210 Constitution amendment to Section 9.1 to prohibit officers from serving on the council.
125 241 Constitution amendment to Section 8.2 to impose council term limits.
122 240 "Sharing" resolution (affecting local-church involvement).
The first seven items were introduced from the home office. The first four passed by a large majority as expected by Home office. However, the budget votes were a much closer contest27 changed minds could have sent them in the other direction. The last three items were introduced by elders using the UCG constitutional process to put items to a vote. While none of these items passed, the votes appeared close enough to make the amendment process "worth a try" in the future.
The seventh item, the decision to move to Cincinnati, went against the home office’s desires. The budget contained only $50,000 for the movenot near enough for a long distance move. Steve Andrews, UCG-AIA treasurer, prepared a study attempting to show the vote might be invalid because the technical definition of a member "present" and the fact that some voting members were hooked up via telephone. News of this study reached the Internet and the rumor mill and was seen by many as a political attempt to change the consensus of the elders. Whether or not the point had technical merit, the UCG-AIA council of elders (12-member) passed this resolution:
"Whereas questions regarding the balloting procedures, conduct, and results thereof at the General Conference of Elders meeting in Louisville, KY have been raised; now therefore it is hereby resolved that the Council of Elders confirms the validity of the said procedures, conduct, and results of all ballots of the 1997 annual meeting of the General Conference of Elders of the United Church of God, an International Association as reported by the Secretary of the GCE on CC:Mail [the church's E- mail network] on 3/12/97 a copy of which is attached and made a part of this resolution."
Many "Church of God" leaders have been confident in the past that the Eternal would lead "through one man". It takes some time to get used to the idea that he can also lead through many. In both cases, we still must compare decisions made with the Scriptures and what the holy spirit says to us.
IBLC: New People, New Courses
The International Biblical Learning Center (IBLC) produces college-level Bible courses for Sabbatarians. It was founded in June of 1996 by Dr. John Merritt, John Robinson, John-Barry Skidmore, and Dale Stogner. Dr. Donald Ward, former president of Ambassador University, was hired to manage it, having his first-year salary ($48,000) paid as a one-time pledge by three individuals.
Lacking any such guarantee for the second year, Dr. Ward intends to depart from IBLC on June 30 in order to "earn a living for my wife and me." However, as it becomes possible he intends to continue to be involved in the production and distribution of Bible Courses, possibly starting a new organization tentatively called the "Center for Biblical Studies."
Present IBLC students need not be concerned as all of the courses made this first year will still be offered by IBLC (and by any new organization that Ward might start). New IBLC courses are still being produced, and new instructors are still being added.
The latest IBLC course is Marriage and the Family: Practical Training for Good Relationships, taught by Dr. David Antion. Some items being taught in this marriage course: preparation for marriage including date and mate selection, assertive training techniques, stages of marriage, resolving marital conflicts, role of good health, qualities in satisfactory marriages, creative ideas for teaching children, ways to discipline, recommended readings, and much more.
Other courses now offered by IBLC:
The Book of Revelation: Don Ward
World Religions: Gary Antion
Life and Teachings of Paul, Part 1: Ronald Dart
The Book of Daniel: Donald Ward
Introduction to the Old Testament: Mark Kaplan
Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ: Donald Ward
Principles of Prophecy: Donald Ward
Introduction to Paul: Ronald Dart
Church Eras: Donald Ward
Place of Safety: Donald Ward
Seventy-Weeks Prophecy: Donald Ward
For Information Contact:
International Bible Learning Center
7 Berean Way
Hawkins, Texas 75765-0851
(903) 636-4155; Fax: (903) 636-4098
web site: at www.iblc.org