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: February 24, 1998
Dear Mr. Edwards,
Just a quick note to let you know how much I appreciate receiving Servants News and wish to help in a little way. It is so uplifting to read other COG brethrens letters and to begin to understand all the problems that have been rampant for years (and I was so unaware). Thank you for your service.
Carolyn Ardeeser, Florida
Response: Thank you for your letter. Many people tell us that the letters are their favorite part of SN. We also were unaware of the COG problems for many years. Yet, when we learned about many of these issues that were largely being ignored, we were compelled to share them, hence, SN began.
Letter: March 11, 1998
Editor, Servants News
Craig Whites letter about creating a Trans-organizational Doctrinal Journal hit a chord with me. Back in the 70s, the idea of a learned journal for the Worldwide Church of God was born, and quickly aborted.
The problem was, the only things that could be published were those which confirmed, or shored up, the status quo. The status quo was whatever Mr. Armstrong said it was on a given day.
Today, we have a whole "Pod" of churches all coming out of the same tradition, who hold only slight variations on the same doctrinal themes.
The major bone of contention within these groups is ministerial and organizational authority/structure, not whether or not to keep Shabbat, the feast days, or believe in the doctrine of the US&BC.
The only way a journal of this type would be meaningful is if it encouraged a truly open forum discussion about doctrine within the Pod. So long as it was edited to "preach to the choir" it would be largely meaningless. Iron sharpens iron. The way we are all sharpened is to allow our ideas to be challenged. Worldwide Church of God "theologians", for example, should be allowed to enter the discussion about whether or not a non-Jewish Christian is required to keep the feast days, the Sabbath, tithing, etc. etc.
The goal should be to arrive at objective exegetical truth on any given subject through the most rigorous and disciplined thinkingnot merely to confirm the status quo. In other words, the aim should be to follow Truth wherever it leads and hang the political consequences.
It is very unlikely that any of the main Pod churches would support such a journal since it would not be in their political interests to do so. Doctrine, as much as anything, is politicized in churches. It is determined more on grounds of interests (i.e. money, following & power considerations) than on objective study. As I have said for years, where people stand on issues is determined mainly by where they sit in relation to them. Where you stand is where you sit!
Intellectual and exegetical honesty is a rare phenomenon in church hierarchies. If a given insight threatens the status quoespecially a leaders status, credibility, or access to funds, it will be quickly dismissed. If it looks like it will alienate a conditioned and generous following, it will be labeled heresy, foolishness, or liberalismor worse. Whole sections of Scripture are commonly glossed over because, if faced squarely, they would undermine some aspect of church dogma which is viewed as "trunk of the tree". Traditional explanations follow a traditional pattern from which deviation is rare.
I agree with Craig that such a journal is desperately needed within the Podif for nothing else but apologetic purposes. But I have no confidence that it would be sustainable if edited to be a truly open forum for doctrinal discussion. If it could not be sustained by subscription prices and advertising, it would die a quick death, because it certainly wouldnt be subsidized by Pod member hierarchies unless it supported what they already teach.
Brian Knowles, California
Response: We very much appreciate this letter coming from you, the former editor of the WCGs Tomorrows World magazine, and other publications. We agree. One of the main points that Church organizations use to keep members is the claim that they have nearly all of the right doctrines and can explain them from the Bible. The free and open Bible study that you describe would quickly show that it is very difficult to justify certain teachings of organizations from the Bible.
As an example, suppose this journal were started and was read by a significant percentage of members and ministers in various organizations. Suppose someone wrote an article showing how the Greek New Testament text simply does not have a separate word or expression for "deacon" and "minister"the two are the same. Would all of these organizations suddenly combine these two positions, or would just some of them do it? Would the organizations that did not change then appear unbiblical?
The truth of the matter seems to be that organizations are not a bit interested in changing their practice based on what outsiders may teach themno matter how obvious the teaching is from the Bible?
Letter: March 10, 1998
Dear Brother Edwards:
This is a belated thank you for sending me Servants News. Though I have not written to you before, I have read each issue with interest and found much in it to increase my understanding of how others feel.
I observe that your paper is aimed primarily at former WCG members, and I appreciate your efforts in trying to get them to recognize each other as fellow believers, even though they may have varying ideas. Though I have never been a WCG member (I have been a Seventh-day Adventist since 1938), my oldest brother has stayed loyally with the WCG. And as editor of The Sabbath Sentinel for 25 years, I had the opportunity to know and accept as brothers and sisters many folks of other Sabbatarian groups.
May I give a few observations?
The WCG leadership seems to have thrown out the baby with the bath-water in making some of its doctrinal changes, though admitting that some of their beliefs were not correct is commendable. And the hierarchical aspect of their organization hasnt changed: Members are now arbitrarily getting booted out of the church for things that were recently considered orthodox. Is blindly accepting a leaders beliefs a good thing?
I am amazed that some of the questions your readers are asking are similar to those a few SDAs are posing:  Should we accept what church leadership proclaims as "the truth" without searching Scripture to check it out?  Should our denomination change to a more congregational, rather than hierarchical, form of government?  Is there room for us to have members who believe most, but not all, of our creed?  Should the clergy have less, and the lay membership more voice in decision making?  Is it possible that we do not have a monopoly on biblical truth?  Is it possible that we are not, in ourselves, the "true church"?
I am wrestling with these questions while trying also to remain a faithful member of my local congregationpeople whom I love. We are now in an interregnum period between pastors. The former pastor knew of my theological quirks and respected me despite my having them. But what about whoever follows him?
I am intrigued with the idea expressed in some of the letters to you of home churches. But I see dangers in them of one forceful person taking control, of petty differences splitting them, or lack of specific goals.
Id like to hear your comment on some of the points I have mentioned. Thank you, and may the Lord bless your needed ministry.
Eugene Lincoln, Maryland
Response: I appreciate your letter very much. You are right about the WCG. Numerous doctrines that they teach today would have caused a person to be booted out if he espoused them 15 years ago. Conversely, people who proclaim certain 15-year-old doctrines of the WCG are now getting booted out. Both sets of doctrines cannot be rightthe WCG has taught error part of the time, and they have disfellowshipped people for believing truth.
You asked: "Is blindly accepting a leaders beliefs a good thing?" If following Christ and the Bible is the most important, then the answer is "no". If remaining in a specific human organization is most important, then the answer is "yes". But when one has been in a specific organization for many years, and have many friends, it is not easy to leave over one doctrinal problemfriends may not see that one problem as important, and may decide to stay. If hundreds of doctrinal problems develop, then many people will probably want to leave, but even then, they will not all be ready at the same time. As you mentioned, when a new Pastor comes, things can change suddenly. He can alleviate a lot of previous tensions, or he can "come down hard" on people for differences that the previous pastor accepted. To answer your numbered questions:
1) People usually join Sabbatarian church organizations because they verify the doctrines taught there in the scriptures. Why should they stop checking things once they are members? The church leaders should either be able to clearly answer Bible questions about a specific doctrine, or allow members to believe whatever they want on a subject.
2) In the New Testament, there were leaders directly chosen by Christthey were taught by Him. These leaders named a few other leaders, such as Timothy and Titus. But there was never any promise of "offices" where successors would be named throughout the generations. Both hierarchical and congregational government can be abused. The main way to prevent bad leaders is for each member to look to the Holy Spirit for guidance as to which people have spiritual gifts of leadership. People should cooperate with what they believe is righteous leadership, and not cooperate with groups they believe to be seriously flawed.
3) Some people in Romans 14 clearly believed they should not eat meat and some believed that they should. Paul told them to try to respect each others practices and not offend. However, if each group were trying to force the other to adopt their own practice, the group would be so contentious that it would have to split. We should be willing to work with other brethren as long as they are not a corrupting influence and are willing to work with us in peace.
4) I do not believe that the Bible makes a distinction between "clergy" and "lay members"these terms are not in most Bibles. There are no words with these meanings in the Greek. People should seek to work with leaders gifted by the Eternal, not someone credentialed by an organization. (For more information, read our paper, How Does the Eternal Govern Through Humans?)
5) No organization has a monopoly on Biblical truth. No group has a monopoly on the original language texts of the Bible; they are scattered all over the world. Nearly every Church organizations doctrines are a mixture of doctrines from previous organizations and their own understanding. Most organizations occasionally make doctrinal changesthey change to a doctrine that someone else (either in their own group or another) has already believed for many years.
6) Romans 11:1-5 shows that Elijah did not know about 7000 men who were trusting in the Eternal, and indicates it would be that way in the Church. The elect will be gathered from the four winds (Rom 24:31). These and many other scriptures indicate that true believers will not be in one central organization at the time of the end.
I have struggled through these questions, and have talked to hundreds of other people who are struggling with the same thing. It is hard to walk away from what we have known for so many years, but it is wonderful to see that we are beginning to trust Christ to lead, rather than rely on human organizations that often make promises that they cannot keep.
Letter: March 17, 1998
Thank you for an excellent explanation of the Y2K bug (year 2000 article in December 1997 issue). I made several copies and shared it with many of my friends and family members and was surprised with the reactions I got.
Most gave me a blank stare as in disbelief: the ostrich syndromeor the self-denial syndrome. Or "the government is well aware of this problem and will correct it before anything happens." Or Bill Gates already has a program for it and he is waiting for the last minute so he can cash in big time. Or "you dont really believe this will happen, do you?" "Youre more naive then I thought" etc. etc.
Well, I did my part of sharing vital information with othersnow I must do my part to get ready for the worst and hope and pray for the best. Since no one knows exactly what will happen on that day and there are so many unknowns, (and there are various conclusions and opinions on this matter) I must do my best to be prepared and be ready. I only hope and pray that all those who have been alerted to this problem will take heed and also prepare for it.
This makes me wonder if people, especially Christians, will be asleep when the real tribulation is at our door. If we cannot see the writing on the wall about the Y2K problem and all its indications, how are we going to see the end times indications when they become clearly visible?
What worries me is that when the year 2000 is near and most of what you wrote in Servants News begins to happen, we will have widespread panic. The panic can be more devastating then the Y2K problem.
If people wait to the last minute (and all indications are that they will), I imagine millions of people rushing to the grocery stores, banks, etc. to hoard every single item on the shelves and withdraw their money from their banks. It could collapse our economy. Imagine this scenario worldwide!
As you said, we must "start now" not only to prepare physically, but most importantly spiritually. We better be the closest weve ever been to Christ and our Father before the year 2000. If we start now to get close to God, we will be ready to withstand what is coming and to stand firm on Christs protection and promises.
Please continue to inform and update us on this very important issue. When you write a second article, please include a more extensive section on physically getting prepared (a list of things to do and have) before that eventful day nears.
Angel Gonzalez, New Jersey
Response: I plan to write another article sometime this year. It is amazing how many people think this problem cannot happen. There certainly was no conspiracy behind itmost management knew nothing about it before 1990. But, our world now runs on an accumulation of 40 years of hardware and software, some percentage of which will fail in the year 2000. The effect will be disastrous, because it will happen all at once.
Here is a hypothetical story to help people get a physical grasp of the problem. It is almost as if a bunch of evil electric-motor manufacturers got together in 1960 and said: "We will randomly put a bomb in about 1/3 or the motors we make and set it to go off January 1, 2000." If such a plot were just now discovered, how could we go about finding and fixing or replacing them all? Small electric motors are in cars, airplanes, kitchen appliances, medical equipment, elevators, toys, soft-drink machines, etc. They are in places that nobody thinks about. Even if the existing manufacturers repented and agreed to help defuse the problem, they cannot possibly find all of the problems in time.
Computer hardware and software companies (including Bill Gates) cannot solve the problem today. Like the motor parable above, defective computer hardware and software is scattered throughout the world and nobody knows exactly where it is. Why? 1) Many of the companies that made it are out of business. 2) The other companies have almost no organized records of which products were 2000-compliant and which were notthey were not testing for that. 3) Of the products that they know wont work, they have no sure way of knowing where all of them are now.
There is no "solution" to the year-2000 problem. There are only ways to reduce its effect. People who are responsible for computers should fix them as quickly as possible. Everyone should be ready to survive a while with a low-technology existence. December 31, 1999 is a Friday night. We would hope that the world will be full of sober people trying to deal with the problems, not a bunch of drunk people "celebrating" the new year.
Letter: April 17, 1998
My wife works for a small oil company as the "accounting department". This company has a special software package that is sold to small oil companies for oil and gas revenue and gathering. The company was informed today by letter that this software is not Y2K compliant and it will not operate after year 2000. If their company wants to update, the package will be available June 1998. If the company doesnt update then, the software company will get to them as an opportunity becomes available, and if their system crashes because the oil company did not upgrade, then they are on their own. This was very specific, in no uncertain terms.
My wife has been trying to get the owners attention on this matter and has been told that "its not a problem, we just bought you a brand new computer." Typical ostrich syndrome. Now they get a reality check.
Response: We have heard many similar stories about the problem of computers failing in the year 2000. Some companies and people are hard at work on the problem, others want to pretend it will go away. There are others, like your wifes company, that have done something to solve the problem, but do not realize that they have not done enough. One person told me that her business computer had been tested for year-2000 compliance and passed. What she meant was, her hardware had been tested. But she uses software that bills clients based on the date. When I asked if her software was year-2000 compliant, she again assured me that her computer had been testedshe did not grasp the fact that bad software on good hardware will still fail. Both your wifes company and this company will have to do their accounting manually if they do not fix their systems before year 2000they have almost no chance of getting computer help in January of 2000.
Another friend told me of one mortgage-service company that is rushing to make sure they are year-2000 compliant as early as possible. Why? So they can advertise it and pick up business from some of their competitors whom they think cannot be ready on time. The question is, will these competitors admit that they are not ready and lose nearly all of their business? Or will they pretend that they are going to be ready until it is too late to transfer the business in an orderly way?
We hope our readers continue to think about getting a supply of emergency food, cash, and other essential resources for what is certainly going to be a difficult time for the world, now only 20 months away.
Letter: April 11, 1998
Last week I received in the mail a mass-mailing post card inviting me to attend Easter Services. The church is a local non-denominational group. I was compelled to call the church to inquire as to how they have come to celebrate a holiday that is not in the Bible.
After speaking to two ladies that could not help me I was finally forwarded to the pastor of the church. He was a very nice fellow with an English Accent, very willing to discuss the particulars concerning the Easter Tradition. After a brief discussion (15-20 min.) to my amazement he admitted to me that we are currently living in a "post Christian era"! I was impressed that a man who pastors a church will admit such a thing. He told me that we are currently in a "traditional era" of religion. He also stated that he could not teach the Bible the way I was explaining it (that Easter is not biblical) because it simply would not be accepted. That because the people of his church (and most of the world) are so tied to the tradition that the understanding that I presented him with would be flat-out rejected.
Ending our conversation he thanked me for stretching and challenging his mind to the understanding that I presented to him. He thanked me for calling and we closed on courteous terms. Just thought Id share this with you. Thanks for reading this.
Robert Pinto, San Jose, California
Response: Thanks for the note. It shows how much work there is for people with our knowledge to do. I think most "Christians" believe they are doing what God instructs from the Bible. If not, they think that the Bible has authorized their church to implement whatever practices they have. Your letter shows the work that Sabbatarians have cut out for them. The world needs a lot more teachers who have learned what they know by studying the Bible, not by studying man-made "improvements" on the Bible.
Letter: March 18, 1998
The latest issue of the Servants News was truly a God-send! I appreciated the article on "Where does Judaism Fit into NT Teaching?" by Norman Edwards. We have been going through that very thing in our own Bible studies. It is just amazing how God works these things out.
Marla Prouty, Washington
Letter: April 12, 1998
Greetings Mr. Edwards,
Thank you very much for the Servants News I have received during the last years. The Judaism article was written with good background information. I agree with you that we can learn much from the Jews. I have read the commentary from David Sterngreat background information. I have his Jewish NTvery good. This perspective of NT translation is very helpful for gentile believers. Its a pity that the WCG under Herbert W. Armstrong never learned some of these things. Norman, I have more learned from the Bible after I have left the WCG (1982) than in the WCG.
Groups that never look at outside material will only promote the philosophy that "we are such a special group." They will never learn from obvious things that outsiders have to say. Look at Flurry, Meredith, Garner Ted and other founders from WCG splinter groups.
Norman, as author and publisher you have to know that you are responsible for all articles you are published. In the masthead (page 2) you use "Yeshua". This is the correct name of the Savior Messiah. Its your responsibility, even in articles from other authors, to clarify, when the name Jesus, Christus or other wrong names are written, that the correct name is Yeshua. You should follow a correct line in this way when you have personally recognized the real name of the Messiahaccept no other standards as valid. The Creator Yahveh and Yeshua dont allow false names!!!
In other things we can be a multi-cultural societydifferent meanings and thinkings are O.K. (but this is another theme). But when you have learned the Truth, Norman, then hold the Truth and say the Truth. Say not "Jesus" or other names than Yeshua when you are convinced that Yeshua is the correct name. This is good advise from me!
For three years I have published a monthly paper in Germany. After three years I have learned the thinking of the most of my readers. Most WCG or former-WCG members are very narrow-minded. Most believe only what they have learned in the WCG. The Germans are a special kind of people in this way, unfortunately.
For people interested in reading German Bible articles, I have a Homepage with lots of Zip Files to download:
http://ourworld.compuserve.com/Homepages/Juwelen [NB: URL no longer valid]
A surfer can get to more than 500 pages via my web-sites. I will revising the appearance of my web pages soon.
Alexander Gonska, Cologne, Germany
Response: We agree with your comments about learning from other sources. The Holy Spirit should help us discern truth from historical sources, not hide from them.
Regarding names, the Chaldean and Greek portions of the Bible do not attempt to transliterate (convey the sound) of the names of the Father or Son in the Bible. The Greek New Testament uses theos for God and Iesous for Jesus. Yet, the Greek New Testament does transliterate less important words such as Abba ("father"), Armageddon and Abbadon. It is possible that Hebrew names for God were in the original New Testament, but the Eternal has not chosen to make any copies of these writings available to us. It is hard for me to insist that Servants News writers use Hebrew names when the Eternal has not insisted on it for those whom he used to copy the scriptures. (Also, I have seen so many papers on the exact pronunciation of the namesYahweh, Yahveh, Ee-ou-ah, Jehovah, Yeshuah, Yashuah, YeHoshua, etc. Exactly which names would I have to insist upon?) However, if you or anyone else are convicted of using certain names for the Father and Son, please do so!
It is sad to hear about the WCG-teaching-only attitude of your readers. One would hope that lessons could be learned from seeing what has happened to the WCG. We cannot remember any other requests for articles in German, but we encourage you to keep working. The Eternal may shake up the German people and cause some of them to seek Him. Hopefully, you will be ready to serve them when they are ready.
Letter: April 20, 1998
It makes no difference to me that you wont print an article because of your bias against Mr Armstrong. But be consistent. God was angry with Moses and wouldnt let him walk into the Promised Land, which doubtless affected the faith of some of Gods people. So stop publishing anything Moses said directly or indirectly.
I really have more confidence of seeing HWA in high office in the Kingdom than I do of seeing you above him in rank. He remains the most important member of the Church of God in the 20th Century. The Elijah-who-has-comewhom you will have to one day acknowledge as fulfilling that office. Mark my wordsbecause I will remind you of them in the Kingdom.
Geoff Neilson, South Africa
Response: I still distribute literature that Herbert Armstrong wrote, and I publish things that speak positively about him. However, I refuse to publish articles that consider his writings Scripture or claim that they are all "inspired". Herbert Armstrong and his writings are very far away from Moses and the five books he wrote. Here is why:
A high percentage of the five books of Moses are direct quotes of the words of the Eternal. If we believe that Moses and the scribes through the centuries conveyed these words correctly, there is no debating them. Most of the rest of the contents of these books is history, some of which is confirmed by archeology and other ancient writings. We have almost no "doctrinal opinions" of Moses. The latter books of Moses do not correct errors that Moses made in earlier books "before he had a complete understanding". In contrast, Herbert Armstrong virtually never claimed to be writing words directly spoken to him by the Eternal. Armstrong wrote his best understanding of the scriptures and history, some of which may have been inspired by the Eternal. At other times, he obviously was not inspired: he had failed prophecies, doctrines based on erroneous Bible translations, and doctrines which he changed. During his life, Armstrong taught three different methods of keeping Pentecost. Moses was never in doubt. Armstrongs teachings caused the breakup of many sound marriages because one mate had been previously marriedhe later determined that was a mistake. Moses had no such mistakes. (We could list other examples, but this is enough.)
The writings of Moses that we have are Scripture. Each individual can trust them. Whereas the individual must compare the writings of Herbert Armstrong to Scripture to see if he can trust them.
Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, and Christ all lived a life-style rich in direct contact with God, but were all relatively poor. Herbert Armstrong claimed almost no direct contact with God, but appeared to be obsessed with wealth. Furthermore, the scripture never states that salvation or even eternal reward depends on our acceptance of some human leader. We must accept Christ as our way of salvation, and beyond that we are judged on how we treat everyone else.
Lastly, I do not understand this preoccupation of some former-WCG members with those who will have "the highest position in the kingdom." The Body of Christ requires a diversity of functions (1Cor 12). If I am to be a part of the Temple that our Savior is building, I know that He will judge me in perfect righteousness, and place me where I best fit in his Temple. I strive to be a profitable servant and do the most I can with what He has given me. However, I will be perfectly happy if Herbert Armstrong, you, and a host of other people have a "higher" position in the Kingdom than I do. Several times, Christ had to remind his disciples not to debate about "who is the greatest". The Bible points out the mistakes of many ancient leaders; many writers, including myself, point out the mistakes of some modern day leaders. The purpose of this "mistake pointing" is not to pass a judgment on the persons life, but to prevent others from repeating the same mistakes.
"Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each ones praise will come from God" (1Cor 4:5).
Letter: April 19.1998
To Whom It May Concern:
At the present time the UCG-AIA is undergoing a schism over the issues of church government and administration. The fundamental dispute surrounds three basic issues:
1) Should the churchs HQ/HO be on the West Coast, or in the Midwest?
2) How much should be spent on preaching the Gospel (by media work) compared to feeding the flock (through a paid ministry)?
3) How much centralization and decentralization in preaching the Gospel should exist between HO efforts and local evangelism?
The side thats presently departing from the UCG-AIA wants a West Coast HQ, a centralized media work that eliminates most or all local evangelistic efforts, and more spent on preaching the Gospel compared to what is presently being done, by eliminating a number of the paid ministrys positions. On the latter issue, Steve Andrews advocated eliminating 33 full-time ministers in the UCG-AIA, and giving the average minister 3 congregations to tend, and some churches be downgraded to video groups. By these moves, the media budget would be increased from a shade over $2 million to $4.4 million. This trade-off Bob Dick called "Guns or Butter?" ("New Beginnings," 2/9/98), between having more paid ministers or spending more on preaching the Gospel.
The removal of David Hulme from the UCG-AIAs presidency, combined with the reelection of all Council of Elders members, showed that the more decentralist element was in a strong majority in the General Conference as a whole. Now, the reality is that what the pro-centralist side wants already exists: Its called the Global Church of God. It has a West Coast HQ, a major and centralized media effort, and considerably more (as a percentage of its budget) devoted to preaching the Gospel. According to Larry Salyer, by his calculations, some 42% of the GCGs budget was devoted to preaching the Gospel compared to a 4% figure by one calculation that the UCG-AIA was committing to this (See Robert Thiels article in "The Journal," 1/30/98). So now, why doesnt the side which is now leaving join the Global Church of God? Why reinvent the wheel? Do we really need yet another COG corporate organization, one with a form of church government thats between Global and the UCG-AIAs?
Now Roderick Meredith has admitted that he made mistakes when he was superintendent of the ministry in the WCG, that he was too hard-driving. Hence, the GCG is not run like the WCG was in the 1960s. Its Council of Elders can fire the Presiding Evangelist. From my worms eye view as a UCG laymember, it seems the only reason for forming yet another COG is to avoid the leadership of Dr. Meredith, believing that he hasnt changed.
I ask those who are leaving to avoid creating yet another COG, but join one which already exists. Otherwise, it appears personality conflicts among the ministry are the only reason for the separate COGs in this regard. Why split up friends and family yet another time, over administrative matters?
Eric V. Snow, UCG-Lansing
Response: Why did not Gerald Flurry join Fred Coulter when he left the WCG? Because he believed God had inspired him with Malachis message and chosen him to be a leader. Why did not Rod Meredith join Gerald Flurry when he left the WCG? Because Meredith disagreed with some of Flurrys teaching and because Meredith had worked with Armstrong for many years and thought he was far more qualified to run "the work". Why did not the UCG ministers join Rod Meredith? Most disagreed with his government or had bad memories from the past.
The truth of the matter is that there are over 100 splinter groups from the WCG (contact Servants News for the "WCG Splits Paper" if you are interested). People start new groups because
The problem is not as much with the starting of a new group, as it is with the effort to convince people that they cannot fellowship or share activities with other groups. The solutions to the above numbered problems should be as follows:
David Hulme apparently believes that God has chosen him to lead. I think we should take Gamaliels advice in this case: "And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow itlest you even be found to fight against God" (Acts 5:38-39).
Letter: March 17,1998
To "LikeMinds" Internet List:
I feel the need to express my (and my wifes) concerns about recent happenings in the UCG and also feel "qualified" to write about such. I have been associated with the church (i.e.. Radio, Worldwide and now United) for over 52 years now, with the sixth generation of my family presently attending. I also feel our service in the church and to the brethren should be without question.
It was a refreshing change to be a part of those first in attendance at United services (we have been through the hullabaloo in the 50s, the fiascos of the 60s, "witnessed it first hand at Big Sandy", was on the visiting teams, helped baptize over 300 people, etc. etc. etc.) thinking the problems of those years were gone....ha, what a rude awakening! Some have reverted to the same old thing of striving for the top seats instead of seeking to serve, both on the COE and in the local churchesvery sad!
One of the more astounding things at present is, so many are engaged in following and answering to men. We only answer to Christ and should follow and emulate Him with every moveman cant give us squat! Christ didnt appoint the apostles to be control freaks over the "little people", as we have been called many times recently.
As was said in a recent letter we received, "why cant ministers minister, instead of administer? Why cant local elders (older men) advise from humble experience? So much time is spent fighting and jockeying for that upper seat or control of all the marbles, (dictating to the congregation what we can or cannot read, what we can or cannot listen to) when it could be better spent in outgoing concern and love for one another. Why cant we agree to disagreeworship God together in a "live and let live attitude"? Be mature, stop judging each other, begin treating one another with respect.
Why cant we let Christ do the judging, making us over in His image, through the perfect spirit of God?
With all due respect, I do hereby resign from all duties and responsibilities in the United Church of God (this shall include the position of President of the local board).
Dave Burton, Salem, Oregon
Response: As each additional congregation or group break-up is reported, the importance of being with the "one true church organization" decreases in the minds of many. Individuals doing what is right and following the Eternal becomes increasingly more important.
Letter: March 1, 1998
Greetings to you and your staff from Canada! I just wanted to take some time to thank you for the fine job you are doing through Servants News. Enclosed is a small gift to help meet the expenses of serving so many of us with your publication.
The last issue I received (Dec 1997) was very informative and interesting. I would like to comment on one article from page 15 titled: UCG-AIA Moves Toward Isolation. First, let me state I am a member of the United Church of God here in Canada. While I enjoy fellowshipping with our small group here, I cannot help but be concerned by what seems to be an exclusive and controlling attitude by some in our organization. Why would anyone request Mr. Kubik remove links to other sabbath-keeping groups from his web-site? That amounts to arrogance and plain selfishness. Has somebody recently discovered that we are now too big and important to associate with other "lesser" sabbatarians?
When we (and this applies to any group, not just UCG) try to equate loyalty with unconditional and exclusive support of our particular group, we are treading on dangerous ground. The danger of trying to enforce loyalty to an organization is that we run the risk of putting loyalty to the group above loyalty to God. If loyalty to anything or anyone (church organization, minister, mate, money, position, etc.) impedes or transcends our loyalty to God, then we are committing idolatry (Exodus 20:2-3). We do need to have a certain degree of loyalty to our group, but it should never interfere with our ultimate loyalty to God.
One wonders when some of our people will wake up. Are we any different from the average consumer practicing brand loyalty when we display subjective and seemingly subconscious devotion to some people or individual? When we try to promote our brand name such as UCG, GCG, WCG, PCG, CGI, etc., as being better than the rest or as the only true church, then we are no different from Mrs. Laundry Consumer who will use no other detergent but "Tide."
Do we ever stop to think how God feels when He sees the many Brand Managers (Church Leaders) competing for market share (membership, tithes & offerings) among the many brand loyal consumers (brethren loyal to their particular church)? It would do us well to consider that Paul had to rebuke the brethren in Corinth for this competitive spirit which is carnal to the core (1Cor 3:3-9)! Why dont we focus on God rather than men and organizations? If we concentrate on being loyal to God then much of the problems and animosity within and between the various groups would vanish in no time. May God bless your efforts.
Kenroy Allen, Canada
Response: I completely agree with your analysis of the situation. Most of the problems are not arising from church leaders who want to "be bad to members", but from leaders who are used to solving their problems with an administrative decision that everyone used to honor. When people thought that the WCG was the "only true church". most stayed there no matter how offensive the decisions were. These church leaders simply are not used to thinking about how their decisions will impact others because they rarely had to think about it before.
It is a scary thing for both members and leaders to realize that the Eternal is not promising to judge them favorably just because they are a part of the right church organization. People are slowly beginning to realize that whether or not they treat others according to Bible principles is what matters, not their position in some group. We all have a lot of repenting and changing to do, but that is why the Eternal continues to work with us.
Letter: March 11, 1998
Can I just correct something in your article on UCG, page 20-21?
You state in the second column that "Hulmes primary platform seems to be to preach an Ezekiel warning message .....similar to that of HWA and GTA."
This is not correct. Although DH wanted to do his own TV program, he did not believe in the Ezekiel warning message. In fact, he was very concerned that no one watching should be offended by his message. This is one reason why the Council rejected his pilot programit was too weak. DH seemed to have no interest in prophecy.
At the end you also mention that CGI and UCG have differences on Passover and church eras, etc. I am not aware of any difference on the Passover; please elaborate. Regarding church eras, UCG has no position, so I cannot see how there is a difference. Perhaps you could let me know what CGI says about both issues.
Response: Thank you for the correction. I have heard David Hulme speak more than once about preaching a unique, well-polished message on TV, and that he felt he was most qualified to do it. I cannot find a source on him preaching an "Ezekiel message". Either it came from someone else who was wrong, or I falsely assumed it. In my opinion, what you have said would actually be worse. It really does not make sense for a relatively small group like UCG-AIA to spend a lot of money producing a top-quality television program that says little different from other religious television programs.
In regard to the CGI issues, CGIs Passover booklet indicates that the Israelites sacrificed the lamb late on the 14th and ate it on the 15th. They believe in keeping an annual memorial observance (or Lords supper if you want that term) early on the 14th, and observe the "night to be much remembered" (which they believe is the Passover) early on the 15th (after sundown). However, the CGI has usually been quite tolerant of individuals who quietly observed other Passover practices or even used other calendars.
Also, the CGI does not believe that the primary message of letters to churches in Revelation 2 & 3 are seven sequential "church eras". They believe the messages are primarily applicable to churches and individuals of every age. Although I know of individuals in the UCG-AIA who still believe that they are the "Philadelphian era", you are right in saying that there is no "official" UCG-AIA teaching on the subject. This will probably not create much of a problem for brethren.
For what its worth, I think the CGI is closer to the truth in the above two areas.
The other area of concern is freedom in local congregations: the CGI has tended to have quite a bit. In some ways, this is very good. People are usually free to talk about or even quietly bring other literature to services. However, some UCG-AIA members may find a very few CGI members "too relaxed": These very few may dress "grubby" for services, smoke, shop on the Sabbath, work through the Feast, etc. I think it would actually do good for people in UCG-AIA congregations to have to deal with these issues--it will help them be more prepared to have new members from the real world. In the past, if a member discovered another member smoking outside of services, he might run to the minister and say, "Mr. Minister, make him stop or kick him out!" It would be much better for the member to learn to discern for himself: Is this someone struggling to quit? Is he flaunting his smoking, or trying to hide it? Does he need encouragement or a rebuke?
Letter: March 9, 1998
I am still outraged and dazed by the conduct of the General Conference of Elders and Robert Dick in the expulsion of "Journal" writers Stough and Cartwright.
I tossed and turned all night, upset at how arrogant the leadership in UCG has become in just 3 short years. How enlightened and humble everyone was back in May of 1995 and how quickly this attitude has evaporated now that a steady paycheck is coming.
I was told, along with many others, that United would offer a new openness and a voice for the membership. No longer would there be back room, closed door politics, "smoked filled rooms". I think it is a shame that United uses a church name so akin to the "United States of America", when it is nothing more than an "Oligarchy".
I cant help but feel a tremendous disappointment, and a "ripped off" mentality. Im feeling strong feelings of expression.
I want to run down a proposed response with all of you and hear your collective thoughts on this idea first.
I value and respect "The Journal" and Mssrs. Cartwright and Stough. I believe the Journal is a necessary estate needed for a proper check and balance of church government. I propose that as many as possible of the "little people" send a tea bag (symbolic of the historic Boston Tea Party in response to tyranny) by mail to the home office of UCG at 444 E. Huntington Drive, Suite 206, Arcadia, CA. 91066-3678.
Written on each bag the slogan: "No tithe-ation without representation! Freedom of the press and The Journal!"
Please advise me with further counsel, ideas and plans. I really would like to pull this off.
Bill Lussenheide, Menifee, California
Response: We encourage your attempt to send a message to the UCG-AIA in this manner. It is an interesting analogy to the USA and England over 200 years ago. However, we need to realize that the UCG-AIA is not really comparable to England. Most of the American colonists were born English subjects. They did not choose the English government. Today, however, people joined the UCG-AIA by choice. They do not need to mount a massive campaign to try to force UCG to change it policies. They can simply choose to attend and/or send their money to the place they believe is most compatible with their understanding of the Scriptures.
Letter: March 10, 1998
I just received the January/February issue of Servants News. I almost fell off my chair when I read the letter from "Canada" on page 28. Their gripes about the "old straight jacket mode of conducting Sabbath services" are virtually identical to mine. Quite frankly, I hate church! Im exaggerating, but not much. I just never found the "stick and stay" routine very uplifting. My kids do hate church (and judging by the number of teens who sit through services hooked up to a Walkman, my boys are not alone!) We have only been to services once in the past 12 months, which was when we met you in Ann Arbor. We cant find a fellowship where we feel comfortable and wanted.
The focus of my prayers this morning was our desire for a new fellowshipone free of the WCG/CGI hang-ups. Perhaps "Canadas" letter is the answer. Would you please forward my address to "Canada"? I would love to brainstorm with them.
JB, (Detroit area) Michigan
Response: We understand the difficulty you are having. It seems that when members of a hierarchical group begin to have difficulties with the groups methods or doctrines, the leaders just respond with more sermons about staying in their group. They never address the real problems head-on because they have never had to do that in the past. But all of the "stay here" sermons with no answers just frustrate people even more.
We realize that you are too far to fellowship with us on a regular basis, but we hope that you are able to find or start a fellowship where you can learn as well as serve others.
Letter: March 16, 1998
My wife and I, and another couple have just left UCG because of the long history of problems. We are going to be getting together for fellowshipping on the Sabbath. Another couple may also decide to join us.
I would like to request your article Assembling On The Sabbath to help us do this correctly. We see the potential for a local fellowship growing to 20 or 30 people here locally in time.
We do appreciate the Servants News and are so glad that there are people such as yourself who are serving Gods Church.You have our sincere thanks.
Dave & Iris Locke, Arizona
Response: We understand why you feel compelled to do what you do. The problem is not that the UCG is full of bad people, but that it has let the concerns of organizations far override the Biblical principle of letting Christ distribute spiritual gifts and letting Christ govern his church.
It would have been interesting if someone at the Cincinnati conference would have asked the elders to raise their hand if they believe that the Eternal had granted them the gift of "pastoring", "teaching", "knowledge", "administration", etc. Those who do not raise their hand for any gift should be asked, "Why, then, are you attempting to be a leader in the church?" Those who do raise their hand should be asked: "If you no longer had any pay or recognition of authority from the UCG home office, would you still try to be serving in a similar capacity?"
Questions such as these are very important. It is very clear that the early New Testament teachers completely trusted the Eternal to take care of them. Today, we have too many "men with jobs in church organizations". For most, it is the only way they know. But we can all hope that everyone will still see that the Eternal did not essentially put an end to the Worldwide Church of God to see if a half-dozen smaller organizations could start it up again.
I will be the first to admit that home fellowships do not have a track record of all "love, joy, and peace". They also have some self-righteous teachers, hypocrisy, bickering, and many of the problems found in larger organizations. But home fellowships offer a much greater opportunity for the person serious about serving our Savior and developing discernment and spiritual gifts. If a person believes they have the gift of teaching, healing, miracles, prophecy, etc., they can probably find a home fellowship where they can use their gift. If they really do not have the gift, it will be clear to everyone relatively soon. Groups may split up and reform, but those who are seeking the Eternal will learn from each re-configuration. We hope everything goes well in your new fellowship.
Letter: March 12, 1998
Hello Norm Edwards:
In your article "New Leaders & Members for UCG" you made some statements regarding the Church of God, International (CGI) which I feel compelled to respond to. As a member of CGI for ten years and a CGI home office employee for six years, I know whereof I speak.
First of all, regarding the rumored merger between UCG & CGI: I am including with this transmission a copy of our standard statement we send to people making such inquiries, for your information and/or publication. This past Sabbath Mr. Charles Groce addressed that rumor in his sermon. Ill send a copy to you.
Secondly, in your article you stated that "CGI presently lacks a clear-cut mission and direction since throughout its entire past history Garner Ted Armstrong WAS essentially its mission and direction." Now, come on, Norm. Ive noticed in the past your penchant for broad, sweeping, all-encompassing generalizations. This time I thought it appropriate to respond. Such characterizations are seldom accurate and hardly ever fair. Never are they based on fact, but rather a series of assumptions. I can see how someone would arrive at such a conclusion, viewing things from a distance. However, that doesnt make it so. The presence of Garner Ted Armstrong in the CGI did not give us a "clear cut mission and direction." Neither does his absence create a lack of a "clear cut mission and direction."
In your last issue you published a small portion of the considerable information I provided to you which detailed our "clear-cut mission and direction." The implication that we are floundering around, not sure what to do, and lacking direction without GTA, is frankly insulting and we resent it.
Finally, the CGI Board of Directors, Ministerial Council, and Executive Committee have always defined our mission and direction and they continue to do so now.
Eric P. Morris, CGI, Tyler, Texas
Thank you for your interest in the Church of God, International (CGI). No, we are not merging with the United Church of God (UCG).
We have openly and repeatedly stated our desire to establish friendly relations and perhaps even work in cooperation with our brethren in the other churches of God. No one should underestimate our resolve on this matter.
However, no one should misinterpret it either. This is about healing, reestablishing friendships, and building bridges. It is NOT about merging. We are not interested in organizational or corporate mergers with other churches. We ARE interested in conducting our relationships based on Christian principles. It is time to stamp out the spirit of competition and mistrust which has dogged the steps of the churches of God for too long. We intend to do our part. I hope this explanation clarifies our intentions.
Eric P. Morris, CGI, Tyler,
Response: We will list your feast sites the next time we have a major Feast article.
Yes, I did write in sweeping, broad generalizations. I am sorry that I did not more clearly denote them as my opinion. Nevertheless, these generalizations are based on first-hand observations and communications with individuals within CGI. Time will show whether my opinion was right or wrong. But I am quite confident that the structure of CGI, the way it receives and spends money, etc., will be very different two years from now.
I believe that if the CGI leaders pray a powerful "Your will be done" prayerasking the Eternal to show them what to do, that they will be able to bear much fruit over the coming years. I do not know specifically what the Eternal has in mind for the CGI, but the stated plans to recognize and cooperate with other Sabbath-keepers seem like a good start. Another priority would seem to be finding those to whom the Eternal has given spiritual gifts, and letting them use those gifts. I think most church groups falter when they simply cannot accept what Christ shows them is best for them. Christ told a rich ruler to "Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me" (Luke 18:22). He could not bring himself to do it. The CGI may need to move to change things that have not changed in a long timeit may need to change or eliminate some of its ministry and staff, it may need to move to a smaller headquarters building, or any number of things. It may need to consider more local evangelism, or to encourage an even greater toleration for diverse doctrines among its members.
I wish the best for all of those at the CGI headquarters and those whom you serve. We can be aware of the difficulties of individuals and organizations, but we should do more to encourage what is right, and less to complain about what might be wrong! Your admonition is well taken.
Letter: March 13, 1998
Thanks for your response, your words of encouragement, and advice.
For the record, we have made large cuts and have reevaluated many of the things you listed. In 1995 this office employed approximately 40 people. There are now exactly 15 of us. We are all wearing many hats. Yes, we may have to move to smaller facilities. This has been discussed. However, it has been weighed against the fact that our entire 19-acre facility is completely paid for. Local evangelism and other things you mentioned have been addressed (strategies examined, articles published, etc).
We are committed to doing the right thing (I think recent events bear that out), and serving the needs of those people God sends our way. We know this is pleasing to our heavenly Father. We have already and continue to make the adjustments necessary to do that in an efficient, cost-effective manner. Our income has stabilized. All of our members and donors are aware of recent personnel changes. Those who have yet to make up their minds are not contributing anyway.
None of the evil things the idolatrous supporters of GTA have accused us of are true. They are vicious, hateful stories being used as a diversionary tactic, with the intention to divide. People who have their eyes open are able to see that for what it is. When you stand up for and do what is right (as we have done), regardless of the consequences, then everything else will fall into place. Or even if not, your conscience, integrity, and blameless status before God are not compromised.
We also intend to try and make up for past mistakes and shortcomings in keeping with scriptural example. We hope people will give us the time and space to do this without judging, making negative predictions, or being overly critical.
Thanks again for your time.
Just wanted to thank you for the latest issue of SN.
Eric P. Morris, CGI, Tyler, Texas
Letter: April 27, 1997
Dear Mr. Edwards,
My wife and I very much appreciate the efforts of you and your family and associates to serve the brethren in Gods Church.
However, there is something that bothers me about your stance on the Passover, i.e.: that the bread and wine ceremony should be kept on the evening of the 15th rather than the evening of the 14th (At least this is what we get from your literature)
If Christ is to be our example and we are to follow Him, how do you explain away 1 Corinthians 11:23 ? The "Lords Supper" most definitely did not take place on the evening of the 15th. If something is a memorial, then you do it at that time it commemorates, not the next night.
We are concerned that Jim Rector and Dean Wheelock also agree with this interpretation of this important part of our commitment to God.
We have learned so many things from the three of you, and have had a lot of things we had come to believe a few years before the big changes started coming down from Pasadena, strongly reinforced. We didnt feel that WCG understood government as far back as 1992. We felt that services were not conducted along Biblical lines around the same time. We tried to keep quiet because we felt that the common good of Gods people was more important than our personal differences with the administration and interpretation of doctrine.
Today, we are essentially alone in our former church area. We attended Global for a while, CGI for awhile, and UCG a few times. All of these churches of men are modeled, to one degree or another, on the false WCG governmental structure. Regardless of what their leaders and members say, this is true. Anyone from CGI who thinks differently, need only send for the rules for local churches from Tyler. Anyone from United can see that theyve essentially built back up a WCG look-alike. Global is trying to do the same, claiming we should follow someone whos been in the "ministry" for 43 years.
I wish the brethren would stop and think, for just one minute. Christ said that the gates of hell would never stand against his church. If WCG was the true church, it would still be doing the same "work" it was doing when Mr. Armstrong was alive. Would God have allowed his church to be destroyed by mere men with false doctrines? If God had been pleased with what we were doing in the WCG, He would never have allowed it to be destroyed. We would all still be together. To be at work building back up a structure of administration and worship that has obviously been torn down by God, or at the least, allowed to be torn down by God, borders on idolatry. I am convinced that we were introduced to an idolatrous form of worship at WCG. Maybe Mr. Armstrong never intended for that to happen, but it did happen.
Which brings me to the next point. It is starting to happen again. Mr. Meredith claims that you should follow him because of his 43 years experience. Members of CGI claim ("Name withhelds" comments in the 4/5/97 issue notwithstanding) we should follow GTA because he never stopped preaching the gospel after he was disfellowshipped back in the 70s. The guy who is in charge at PCG looks down on anyone who doesnt follow him as a Laodicean. It goes on and on and on. Mere men trying to take the place of Christ in our lives. When are we going to learn that the head of the Church of God is Jesus Christ, and that there should not be, needs not be, any human "leader" between HIM and us?
Just maybe the "Ezekiel warning" is meant for the Church! After all we are the people God is concerned about right now; not someone He hasnt called into His truth as of yet. Gods people really need to wake up! In that respect, ministries like your own and Jim Rectors are to be commended. Im sure there are others doing this also.
We are getting farther into the time of the end, and the "Elijah to come" and the "two witnesses" are going to come on the scene. What are people going to think who have corporate church mentality? Will they recognize these men of God? Will they accept the signs that will follow these men? Or are they going to say, "Theyre not from my church"? I hope they are ready to accept these prophets. Its going to be obvious to those who stay close to God, and look only to God and Jesus Christ for their leadership.
But what if its not Garner Ted? Or Roderick Meredith? Or Gerald Flurry? Or any of the United ministers? Or any one of a dozen other people claiming that we should follow them? What then?
I wish Gods people would stop and think. Just for a few minutes. Let GOD show them the truth about what theyre doing. Let Christ show them the true beauty of the one on one relationship He desires to have with each of us. Let ourselves become totally dependent on The Father and The Son and on Them alone. There is no need to be fearful of standing alone if we stand with Them. They promise that They will never leave us or forsake us, no matter what mere men do to us.
If you publish this letter you can use my name. I dearly love my brothers and sisters who have scattered out from the WCG. This letter might turn some or all of them against me. For that I am sorry. Mr. Armstrong did say at one time how difficult it was to unlearn error. Unfortunately, he introduced quite a few of his own.
Please continue in the service you are doing for Gods people. We may not agree with everything you say, but we look forward to your publication every month. Someday Christ will straighten out all our differences and gather us together to be truly one, as He and the Father are one. I look forward to that day.
With Christian Love,
Robert Knarr, Pennsylvania
Response: Your letter was very similar to some of the articles we are running this time. Regarding Passover, please realize that 1 Corinthians 11 never mentions Passover, but says "on the night he was betrayed", which I understand to be the night before the Passover meal was eaten. As I explained in my January and March 1997 article, we believe that bread and wine was a common religious practice of the time, used more than just on Passover. We partake of bread and wine on the early part of the 14th, as Jesus did, and also on the early part of the 15th, the traditional time of the Passover meal (the lamb having been sacrificed in the afternoon of the 14th).
One additional point that was not in that article: The New Testament contains many references to the apostles preaching in synagogues and the Temple after Christs death. If they did not continue to observe the Passover sacrifice late on the 14th, and eat it on the 15th, they would have been "cut off from their people" as the Old Testament commands. The Jews in power did not have authority to kill them, but they could have kept them out of the synagogue and Temple. The NT shows that this did not happened. Furthermore, the converted Jews would not be able to have Gentile converts eat the Passover with them. No uncircumcised person was permitted to eat of it. The church might have recognized the need not to circumcise converts, but the Jews would not recognize any of that. They would have cast out people for letting Gentiles partake of the Passover. So, it is my conclusion that this is good evidence why the 14th is a separate bread and wine service apart from the Passover. Both should be observedsimilar to the way the WCG observed them, but with a different technical explanation.
We agree with what you have said about church organizations. If a righteous, miracle-working man from the Eternal appears on the world scene, the groups will have a terrible time accepting Him. They have always figured that such a person would show up at their headquarters and tell themmaybe even ask their permission to start doing his work. If such a man begins addressing multiple church groups, telling them to repent, how will any groups leader claim absolute authority over his people any more? I think a lot of the members in these groups will recognize an Elijah-figure, but I am not sure about the leaders. May the Eternal open their eyes!