Uncovering Our True Identity in Messiah, 5 City Conferences
First Fruits of Zion, a Messianic Jewish group, is sponsoring a conference on the relationship between the Torah (the fundamental Hebrew scriptures) and the Messiah (Yeshua or Jesus). While Servantsí News probably does not agree with everything taught at these conferences, we are sure that most Sabbatarians will learn things that they have not known before. Each conference will run from Friday through Sunday, costing $55.00 per single or $85.00 for two. Single days are available for $25.00. Special meals and Israeli entertainment are available from $12.50 to 20.00. The schedule is:
July 25-27, Los Angeles, CA
August 1-3, Seattle, WA
August 8-10, Toledo, OH
August 10-15, Denver, CO
August 22-24, Boston, MA
For more details and registration information, call 800-775-4807.
Missouri Spring Feast Meeting
On April 25-28, the Eldon, Missouri Church of God Fellowship hosted a "mini-conference" at the Lake of the Ozarks State Park (Friday evening through Monday nightthe Last Day of Unleavened Bread, Hebrew calendar). About 50 persons participated in the event, some camping in the rustic cabins of the private campground, while others stayed in nearby motels.
The purposes for the occasion included praising our Creator, fellowship, presentation of Biblical subjects, making new friendships, and enjoying recreation and rest. Worship services included traditional Sabbatarian music and modern praise music. The musical ensemble included guitars, a keyboard, and brass instruments. The young people sang "Hey Jonah" for the last day. Bible classes were provided for all ages on the weekly Sabbath and holy day.
A lot of family activities were available. Volleyball was the most popular attraction for the older youths and adults. Other activities were: campfires, sing-a-longs, card games, etc. Excellent buffet-style meals were provided for all by the Mayhew, Sash, and McCulley families.
Speaking sessions were all followed by audience questions and discussions. The speakers and subject included:
Norman Brumm spoke twice, once on Unity Does Not Require "Political Oneness" and on the Definition and Meaning of Putting Out Leaven.
Jim Cowan spoke on the Hebrew Wedding Ceremony and how it is helpful in understanding many Biblical statements and prophecies. While the wedding ceremony is not explained in any single chapter, nearly all of the details of wedding ceremonies recorded in the Bible are in agreement with the Hebrew practice. As their wedding is the long-anticipated event of many young people, so does Christ look forward to the marriage of his Church. The covenant between Christ and the Church is like a marriage contract. The phrase "you were bought at a price" (1Cor 6:20) is a reference to paying "the bride price." In the Hebrew wedding, it was the groomís job to prepare a bridal chamber at his fatherís house: "In My Father's house are many mansions... I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2). The Hebrew groom was not allowed to go and get his bride until his father said it was time: "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only" (Matt 24:36). Jim Cowanís talk included many more similar parallels.
Norman Edwards spoke on The Need to Learn and Be Able to Teach others as they are ready to learn.
Wes Gordon spoke twice, the first shorter presentation was What did Christ Write in the Sand? His second presentation was The Five Elements of Covenants as applied to Biblical covenants. They are: Transcendencethe issue of who is ultimately in charge. In most Biblical covenants, it is the Eternal. Hierarchythe structure of people involved in the covenant. People need to know who will represent the one in charge and who they will "report to." Ethicsthe rules and terms of the covenant. Sanctionsthe penalties that will be enforced if the rules are broken. Continuitythe manner in which the covenant can change or end. Wes Gordon went on to explain some of the scriptures relating to the covenants and the changes made between the "old" and "new" covenants.
Dannel Roberts spoke on the Biblical Story in the Stars. He talked about the constellations and how their origin might be from the Eternal, not from paganism or mythology (Job 9:9; 38:31; Isa 13:10; Amos 5:8). Much of the information came from E. W. Bullingerís book Witness of the Stars.
John Sash spoke on the Chronology of Christís Death. His explanation of Christís last supper is different than most Sabbath-keeping groups. The most straight-forward reading of the synoptic gospels indicates that the disciples asked about preparing the Passover meal on the 14ththe day that the Passover was to be killed (Matt 25:17; Mark 14;12; Luke 22:7) Most writers (included this one) have had to conclude that these statements have very generalized or symbolic meaning in order to place the "last supper" on the early night part of the 14th and our Saviorís death the next afternoon. John Sashís presentation places the last supper at the end of the 14th and our Saviorís death on the 15th. He did have an explanation for the scriptures (primarily in John) that appear to conflict with this. (Servantsí News intends to give this view more study.)
Greg Walburn spoke on the Puzzle of the 613 Commandments. He explained how these Torah commandments are classified: some are applicable only to Priests, some only to Levites, some only to people living in the Land of Israel, some only to men, and some only to women. He gave some traditional Jewish explanations of how they are observed.
Ron Wilson spoke on Law and Grace. He spoke of the difficulty experienced by some people that grew up with the belief that God loves them only if they adhere to a long-list of partially humanly-devised laws. A lively discussion followed.
Changes Continue in WCG
We continue to receive numerous reports of changes in the WCG. We visited a local congregation ourselves a few weeks ago. We cannot explain every change in detail, but we will summarize the major ones. We would like to start by saying that we heard private statements in the late 1980ís from Joseph Tkach, Jr. and Michael Feazell that they intend to make the WCG into a "mainstream Christian denomination." Obviously, that would mean accepting the Trinity, Sunday-worship, Easter, etc. The idea sounded so ridiculous to WCG members at the time, that no one would believe us when we said itso we decided to stop saying it.
Two years ago, the WCG explained their doctrine on worship time: God can be worshipped on any day and local congregations are free to set service dates and times based on the local needs of membersnevertheless, they were Sabbath-keeping by tradition. While many of the WCG members still strongly believe in the Sabbath, others do not. The WCG Geneva, Ohio congregation separated itself from the WCG and became a Sunday-keeping church last April.
In May, Jeff Molnar, pastor of the Dallas WCG congregation, announced "Beginning Sunday, June 15, Pentecost, we will begin to hold our weekly celebration service on Sundays at 11:00 AM" Why? He answers in a letter:
Our primary reasons are these:
1) Evangelismremove the Saturday barrier as we try to reach out to the masses of un-churched in Dallas.
2) Family attendanceon any given week it seems that 1/3 of our congregation is absent do to children's ballgames, school activities, work, etc.
Secondly, are we "discarding" the sabbath? No, "we" aren't, but we do very much believe the position of the WCG (and the Bible) that the weekly 7th day sabbath observance is no longer binding on Christians. Jesus Christ is our sabbath rest on all days. In Him we find "rest for our souls" (Matt. 11:28-30) at all times.
While we at Servantsí News disagree with this approach to the Sabbath, we do agree with some of the other changes made within WCG church services. When we visited the Flint, Michigan WCG congregation, we were impressed by the involvement of the membership in their services. They used modern lively praise and worship music in their serviceswe believe this is more in line with the descriptions of worship music found in the Psalms. They had a time when people were invited to pray for others in need. A team of members selected a short but very powerful video which served as the "sermonette." The attitude of the people was largely friendly and diligent to serve the Eternal. Yet some people clearly were having trouble with their headquarterís doctrinal changes.
The changes at headquarterís have truly been massive. Ambassador College, Imperial Schools, The World Tomorrow Broadcast, the Good News magazine, and the distribution of Herbert Armstrongís works are now gone for good. The "child, lion and lamb" symbol has been replaced by a Protestant cross. The Pastor Generalís Report has been replaced by a new publication, Crossroad. Only the Worldwide News (the church newspaper) and the field ministry survive in roles similar to their previous ones.
The "Plain Truth Magazine" has survived in name, but is utterly unlike the Magazine that was produced for over 50 years. It is now a separate organization ("Plain Truth Ministries"), has a subscription price and plenty of advertising. "Christian products," other ministries, and even gold investment have been advertised. A substantial portion of articles are written by people who have never been associated with the Worldwide Church of God.
Joseph Tkach, Jr. is in complete control of the organization, both legally and as a matter of practical fact. This is amazing when one considers that he was not even regularly attending the WCG when Herbert Armstrong died in January, 1986. Michael Feazell, believed to be the architect of many of the WCGís doctrinal changes, appears to be easing out of the WCG administration. A recent Worldwide News announced that Feazell's duties in Church Administration were being absorbed by his staff and Joe Tkach, Jr. Mike Feazell has been seen attending the nearby Sunday-keeping Lake Avenue Congregational Church on more than one occasion.
What is the new mission of the greatly-reformed Worldwide Church of God? Apparently, it is to help bring their Sabbath-keeping off-shoots back to "mainstream" Christianity. This has been informally announced at various WCG congregations. Also, various off-shoot congregations have reported WCGmembers beginning to visit with them for the first time in two yearstrying to rekindle friendships and establish new relationships.
We believe these rekindled relationships will be good. Brethren on both sides will have a chance to discuss the Bible and learn from each other. WCGmembers need to see that the Eternal works outside the WCG. Others need to realize that the Eternal still loves and works with people in the WCG. We need to be lights to those people, not sources of confusion or hostile debate. This sounds like a good time for brethren everywhere to know their Savior, their Bible, and why they believe what they believe.
Norman S. Edwards
The Feast of Tabernacles at Ocean Shores, Washington.
To the best of our knowledge the feast site at Ocean Shores will be the first of it's kind. We are providing a site where people can gather together and learn from one another (both Messianic and Christian). We are doing our best to bring special speakers in that should inspire and educate all of those who attend. This year's speakers include : Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, Eddie Chumney, Ken Westby, Doug Dolly ... and more.
Ocean Shores is located on the Washington coast. We hope to attract around 500 (the site will accommodate 1000). We have prepared a housing packet that we can send you. Let us know the address you would like us to send it to and we will send it right out.
Rick Richardson (SCGI)
P.O. Box 111
Auburn, WA 98071-0111